There are 43 players in the NFL with more targets, and another 13 players with the same number of targets, as Eddie Royal this season (14). Of those 56 players, only 20 have multiple touchdowns, while Royal sits atop the NFL with five receiving scores.
Going into this season, Royal's career featured one touchdown for almost every 30 targets. This season, he's scoring once every 2.8 targets. To say that Royal's performance has been an statistical anomaly is an understatement. However, that doesn't mean he doesn't have real fantasy value, just that we need to be clear on just what his future expectation should be.
Wide receivers who averaged between 6.5 and 7.5 targets per game last season -- important because Royal is at seven per game this year -- averaged just less than eight fantasy points per game. That projects to about 128 fantasy points for a full season, which would rank just outside of the top 30 options at the wide receiver position.
Because you don't get fantasy points for past production, look beyond Royal's current ranking as the No. 1 overall wide receiver, and instead evaluate him on what his production for all intents and purposes should be -- a borderline No. 3 receiver on a fantasy squad.
Receiving yardage is the most variable form of yardage, which makes sense because so much of it is dependent on where the quarterback elects to throw the ball. Because of this, variations in the number of times a player is targeted by his quarterback can greatly change a player's value. So while your receiver may have scored 10 fantasy points this weekend, you need to know if it's reasonable to expect that he can repeat that type of performance on a routine basis.
If he had one target that he turned into a 40-yard touchdown, you need to realize that he was one quarterback decision away from posting a goose egg. Conversely, if your wideout had 12 targets and finished with 108 yards receiving, his prospects for consistent fantasy production are significantly greater.
Below, you'll see all the players who are averaging eight or more targets through Week 2 and how many of those targets were on plays that began in the red zone during Week 2.
Note: Targets are not an official NFL statistic. Based on the methodology that stat services use, the number of targets listed may be different than target values listed elsewhere. ESPN Stats & Information's philosophy is to count a target when the analyst thinks the pass was actually intended for the player. Therefore, if a quarterback is obviously throwing a ball away, the analyst will not record a target for that pass. This gives a truer representation of what a target is, a pass thrown to a particular player with the intent for that player to catch the ball, and therefore should be more helpful to the fantasy community.
Fantasy insights based on data through Week 2
• For as long as the New England Patriots are without Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman is a clear No. 1 receiver. That being said, expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to blanket Edelman with Darrelle Revis this week, which makes Edelman non-start worthy, even if Gronkowski sits out again.
• For those in deep leagues, Ace Sanders should be on your long-range radar. Much was made of the Jacksonville Jaguars' drafting Denard Robinson and listing his position as "offensive weapon." Sanders has the skills to be utilized in such a multidimensional role, and it shouldn't surprise you if his opportunities rise over the next couple of weeks, regardless of which quarterback is behind center.
• After many seasons of hearing that the Houston Texans didn't have a viable receiving option not named Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins is finally fitting the bill. Hopkins needs to be owned in all formats and has the talent and opportunity to finish the year as the No. 1 rookie wide receiver in fantasy.
• A week after dominating the Green Bay Packers, Anquan Boldin was shut out by Seattle Seahawks lockdown corner Richard Sherman. While the first two weeks of the season featured a display of the extremes of which Boldin is capable, the reality is that his expected production is somewhere in between those two performances. Look for Boldin to produce on pace to be a top-15 wide receiver for the season.
• For those in point-per-reception leagues, Davone Bess has long been an under-the-radar performer. With a move to Cleveland, it wasn't clear if he would still fit that billing. With 18 targets over the first two weeks, it's safe to say that Bess will remain fantasy relevant in those formats.
• If you are debating who the third-best tight end in fantasy will be for the rest of the season, you definitely should be considering Jordan Cameron for that honor. He has caught 14 of his 20 targets for 203 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has very successfully utilized tight ends within his offensive schemes in the past, and it appears that Cameron may very well follow in those footsteps.
Big plays and up close
There were 11 NFL players who totaled three or more rushes that gained at least 10 yards. They were: James Starks (5), Doug Martin (5), Knowshon Moreno (4), Darren McFadden (4), Colin Kaepernick (4), Arian Foster (4), Matt Forte (3), Marshawn Lynch (3), Chris Johnson (3), C.J. Spiller (3) and Ben Tate (3).
Meanwhile, there were only four players with at least two carries that originated from their opponent's 5-yard line or closer. They were Brandon Jacobs (3), Foster (3), Mark Ingram (2) and Ahmad Bradshaw (2).
The demise of Foster has apparently been greatly exaggerated. He finished Week 2 as the only player with at least two runs of over 10 yards and at least two carries from his opponent's 5-yard line or closer. Houston's coaches may make mention of splitting carries closer to 50-50 between Foster and Tate, but when push comes to shove, Foster is their go-to guy.
Many fantasy players are going to utilize high waiver priority on Starks this week. Don't be one of those guys, unless you are desperate for a running back. The Packers are still committed to Eddie Lacy and the best-case scenario for Starks is a timeshare that doesn't involve goal-line action.
"Swings and misses a bit too often" and "doesn't anchor well" were phrases used to describe Montee Ball's blocking skills before the NFL draft. If you want to know why the Denver Broncos are riding Moreno right now, that's all you need to know. While some might expect Ball to get more opportunities if he improves his blocking capabilities, Moreno is taking the choice away from the Broncos coaches with his rejuvenated play.
Johnson and McFadden were usually drafted by unenthusiastic owners this year and while conventional wisdom was that Johnson would have the better season, McFadden is quietly putting up great numbers. McFadden's 79 yards after contact this season trail only Tate (103) and Martin (85). It seems that the Oakland Raiders have found an offensive scheme that works, and McFadden is the beneficiary of that.
Red zone play calling chart
Below is a listing of the percentage of run and pass plays each team has executed so far in the red zone this season. I recommend using it to identify running backs whose values are skewed due to lack of touchdowns -- guys such as Trent Richardson, Daryl Richardson and Alfred Morris fit the bill.
In closing, some shameless self-promotion.
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