Over the past four weeks, only five wide receivers have received nine or more targets in every game they have played. The first four on the list should not surprise: Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Larry Fitzgerald. The fifth player wasn't on anyone's radar coming into this season and is still available in almost 50 percent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, which is amazing because he's scored at least one time in each of his last five games. If you don't know who the fifth player is yet, it's Steve Johnson of the Buffalo Bills.
Johnson's emergence, of course, coincided directly with the Bills' insertion of Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team's starting quarterback. While Lee Evans has obviously become useful during the same streak, Johnson has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the NFL over those five games. It's time for everyone to recognize how good Johnson has been and treat him like the waiver wire gift that he is.
The following players are averaging seven targets per game or more over the past four weeks:
Note: For those of you not familiar with the best way to interpret the standard deviation data, all you have to know is that players with large standard deviations (e.g., Danny Amendola) likely have at least one game with that is significantly altering their average, whereas those with small standard deviations (e.g., Terrell Owens) have received basically a similar number of targets in each game. Finally, standard deviation can only be determined for data sets of two or greater, so if a player has only played in one game, his standard deviation is listed as N/A for not applicable.
A look inside some of this week's receiving performances:
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (15 targets; 9 receptions, 101 yards): What a difference Matthew Stafford made. Stafford looked like the real deal for the Lions, a performance which was of course aided by Megatron's skills. With Stafford back, Johnson vaults to the top of the receiver board.
Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers (15 targets; 9 receptions, 85 yards): While the beginning of the season didn't seem so promising for Smith and his quarterback Matt Moore, remember that the two clicked in a big way down the stretch last season. With the Panthers' chances at making the playoffs close to zero, look for the Panthers offense to open up and find out if Moore or Jimmy Clausen is up to the challenge of leading the team next season.
Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals (11 targets; 8 receptions and 147 yards): After missing several games because of injury, Breaston returned with a vengeance. Starting him week to week in anything but a league with 14 or more teams is a rough call, but if the Cardinals can get average play from whomever is playing quarterback, Breaston will prove valuable down the stretch.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts (11 targets; 7 receptions, 78 yards): Garcon now has double-digit targets in two of his past three games. While Austin Collie began the season as a fantasy monster, Collie owners need to be worried about what Garcon's reemergence means for their player.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars (10 targets; 8 receptions, 153 yards): In his first seven games, Sims-Walker averaged 34 yards per game. Don't be too excited by his career day, as he's too volatile to use in any given week.
Davone Bess, Miami Dolphins (9 targets; 7 receptions, 53 yards): I've said it before, but he's still out there in way too many leagues, especially those in point-per-reception leagues. He needs to be owned.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (9 targets; 9 receptions, 65 yards): More telling than Foster's nine targets that, although he was active, Steve Slaton never saw the field against the Indianapolis Colts.
Nate Washington (9 targets; 4 receptions, 117 yards) and Damian Williams (9 targets; 2 receptions, 43 yards): Eighteen targets for just six receptions is extremely poor. If it weren't for the San Diego Chargers completely blowing coverage on Washington's 71-yard score, this duo could have been viewed historically bad.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (8 targets; 3 receptions and 11 yards): Three catches on eight targets for a running back is extremely low. Jackson needs to increase his reception success rate if he is going to hold off C.J. Spiller from taking those targets.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints (8 targets; 7 receptions, 54 yards): Moore has been solid since Reggie Bush's injury opened opportunities in the Saints' passing attack. I don't expect Bush's eventual return to drastically alter how much the Saints use Moore, but it's something you have to watch closely.
Big Plays and Up Close
The following had at least three rushes that went for 10 or more yards (Big Play Rushes) this week: Jamaal Charles (7), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5), Mike Hart (4), Maurice Jones-Drew (4), Cedric Benson (3), LeGarrette Blount (3), Thomas Jones (3) and Kevin Smith (3).
In case you didn't catch it in the above paragraph, Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined for an amazing 10 Big Play Rushes. What you should take out of this is that if you have any running back that is a 1 or 1A option for his NFL team and is playing the Bills, you have to start him, even if that means benching someone like Steven Jackson.
Ryan Mathews received two carries inside the Titans' 10-yard line and converted one of them into a score. Meanwhile, Mike Tolbert converted his one carry inside the 10 for a touchdown. Before this week, Tolbert had the 12-to-3 advantage in the number of those types of carries. If this continues, Mathews could find himself as a viable fantasy option immediately.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: http://myespn.go.com/KenD17.