Target Time: Week 3
By Jeff Brubach
The NFL season is now three weeks old and the receiving target data continues to pour in. Many familiar faces, both human and Decepticon, grace our Top Five list this week and have provided fantasy football teams with some much needed stability in the midst of stress-inducing turmoil at the fantasy running back position. Let’s take a look at the top fantasy target options from Week 3, led by a fresh new face on the fantasy scene.
1. Josh Gordon (19 week, 19 season): After enjoying a nice two-week vacation courtesy of Roger Goodell and the NFL substance abuse policy, Josh Gordon was back in the Cleveland starting lineup for Week 3. Gordon’s return, combined with quarterback Brandon Weeden’s injury absence, created quite the agonizing debate for fantasy football owners. Will Gordon see a seamless return after missing Weeks 1 and 2? Will backup quarterback Brian Hoyer be able to get Gordon the ball with limited experience and no running game? These were all valid concerns, but Josh Gordon made them all appear laughable as he looked like an absolute star in Week 3 by hauling in 10 of 19 targets for 146 yards and a touchdown. Feel free to lower your stress level five notches and permanently install Gordon into your starting lineup, where he will remain indefinitely, or until King Goodell hammers him with another suspension.
2(t). Cecil Shorts (15 week, 40 season): After three weeks, your NFL leader in targets is none other than Cecil Shorts of the juggernaut Jacksonville Jaguars. After cleaning up on garbage time targets against Seattle in Week 3, Shorts now sits at 40 targets on the year. Fantasy owners should temper their expectations for Shorts for the remainder of the year for a trio of reasons. First, fellow wide receiver Justin Blackmon will return from suspension next week to compete for targets. Second, Blaine Gabbert is the Jaguars starter for Week 4. Third, Shorts has only caught 19 of his 40 targets due to the inconsistency of the balls thrown in his direction. Don’t sell him for pennies, but Shorts won’t be a fantasy WR1 anytime soon.
2(t). Jimmy Graham (15 week, 38 season): Graham continued his receiving dominance in Week 3 with nine catches and 134 yards to go with two touchdowns. Nothing can stop Jimbo Graham at this point, so expect him to continue his phenomenal performance and complete ownership of the fantasy tight end position. Graham, a tight end, is third in the NFL in receiving yardage after three weeks and is making his 2nd round ADP look like thievery.
4(t). Antonio Brown (13 week, 29 season): Brown erupted in a big way in Week 3, catching nine balls for 196 yards and two scores on 13 targets. This is the type of receiving attention that fantasy owners were expecting from Brown after the departure of Mike Wallace, so let’s hope Large Ben keeps Antonio busy for the remainder of the season. Even with the installation of Le’Veon Bell into Pittsburgh’s offense, their suspect offensive line will likely leave the Steelers trailing late in games and in desperate need of scoring quickly, which will keep Brown very valuable in the fantasy world.
4(t). Calvin Johnson (13 week, 30 season): Not much analysis is needed in the case of Calvin Johnson, as he had a solid game against the poor Washington Redskins defense like we all expected. Chicago is next up for Johnson and the Lions, but does the matchup really matter? Just keep your wallet open and watch the fantasy points pour in.
4(t). Pierre Garcon (13 week, 37 season): Garcon had a nice game in Week 3, and continues to feed off of Washington’s lackluster defense and the inevitable “catch-up mode” that their offense finds itself in each week. Don’t expect that to change, as Washington’s defense isn’t getting any better and Garcon is by far the top option for Robert Griffin III. At 37 targets, Garcon is third in the NFL and will remain heavily targeted as long as he remains healthy. Don’t be fooled, he is a solid WR1 option.
4(t). Stevie Johnson (13 week, 29 season): Johnson is enjoying another fine season and has remained under the radar so far, because every ounce of fantasy energy regarding the Bills has been spent on why C.J. Spiller is ruining fantasy teams. WHY? Answer me! Anyway, Stevie is doing his thing as usual, and this time with a rookie at quarterback. Much like Pierre Garcon, Johnson will benefit from his team’s lack of defensive prowess and the need to move the ball quickly in the second half of games. As E.J. Manuel matures, his relationship with Stevie will only get better. Expect a fourth straight 1,000 yard season from Buffalo’s top target.
Other Notable Target Totals
Nate Burleson (9) was a great Week 3 option and reliable target for Matthew Stafford, but won’t be doing much receiving work going forward with his arm in a cast. Ryan Broyles will step in and deserves plenty of fantasy attention, especially in PPR leagues. Robert Woods (10) only managed to wrangle up two of his 10 targets, which is obviously far from impressive. However, it’s nice to see the youngster gaining the trust of his quarterback in Buffalo. Hakeem Nicks (1) did not catch his one target on Sunday and the only thing he is catching right now is rage from fantasy footballers. With the Giants offense in shambles, Nicks is slumming in WR3 territory at the moment. Denarius Moore (11) had a nice game on Monday night and showed the much preferred side of his maddening inconsistency. Hopefully Terrelle Pryor returns from his concussion quickly and continues to use his best receiving option. Mike Wallace (5) caught only two of five targets after a fantastic (albeit tantrum-induced) Week 2. Like most deep threats without a top notch quarterback, he will be inconsistent this season. Danny Woodhead (8) was tied for the lead among running backs (with Jamaal Charles) with eight Week 2 targets, of which he caught seven. With the Chargers keeping Ryan Mathews in time out on third downs, Woody will hold decent PPR value this season.