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Fantasy Football 2011 Targets Leaders

Target isn't just a place I buy underwear, video games, and Kraft Mac & Cheese.  In football, targets are very important to fantasy owners because they signify how "on the radar" a player is to his quarterback.

As a wide receiver or tight end you really want your quarterbacks attention.  Maybe you send him flowers, a box of chocolates, and a note saying "Will you go out with me?  Check Yes or No"  I have heard that Brandon Marshall will walk around the locker room in skimpy outfits and dropping things in front of Chad Henne and picking them up.

The best way to get your QB's attention though is to never drop balls.  If you catch a high percentage of your targets, then the QB is going to be like "Oh wow, that guy is the best!  I will hook him up all the time because he's soooo cool!"  Or something like that.  That's how I hear Mark Sanchez in my head. 

So, here are the target leaders for wide receivers after 3 games:

Name Targets
Wes Welker 43
Roddy White 34
Reggie Wayne 32
Andre Johnson 32
Steve Smith (CAR) 31
Brandon Marshall 31
Steve Johnson 30
Mike Thomas 29
Anquan Boldin 28
Calvin Johnson 28

Coming up after the jump we will look at how those wide receivers have utilized those targets and what they mean.

The first thing to notice is that Wes Welker is dominating the lead in targets and dominating all wide receiver categories so far this season.  He's on pace for over 2,400 yards and that obviously isn't going to happen, but if he keeps playing this way he could easily top 1,500.  Welker was targeted 20 times on Sunday against Buffalo.

His catch% of 72.1 is 4th amongst wide receivers with at least 20 targets and he's averaging 10.7 yards per target.  It might seem like Tom Brady spreads the ball around to everybody but Welker gets a target on 32.3% of Brady's throws which is third in the NFL.  Welker did have that 99-yard catch to bump his stats, but it doesn't change the fact that no wide receiver has been used more often this season.

Compare that to a player who has done very little with his targets: Reggie Wayne.  With Peyton Manning at the helm, Wayne was able to catch over 60% of his targets but the relationship with Kerry Collins isn't quite working yet.  Wayne is catching only 43.8% of every target.  His 14.0 yards per catch is the highest its been since 2008, but his yards per target is the lowest of his career.  A clear answer to the question of how badly the Colts wide receivers could be affected by losing Manning this year.

There was also some question going into the year of how much Roddy White would be affected by the acquisition of Julio Jones.  He's still one of the most targeted players in the NFL, even if his target% is down from 31.4 to 28.3.  The biggest problem for Roddy through three games is that he's only catching 58.8% of his targets compared to 64% last year and so far only 8.8% of his targets are attempted at 15 yards or more compared to the 25-30% we are used to seeing from Roddy.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list is Jacksonville's Mike Thomas.  We knew that the Jaguars had no other options besides Thomas, and it shows: He's got a huge lead in the NFL for target%, being the focus of 41.4% of the Jags QB's passes.  So why is Thomas such a disappointment this year?  He's catching only 51.7% of his targets with a paltry 4.8 yards per target.  The Jags need someone to play opposite of Thomas, and they need a QB capable of making catchable passes.

Tight End Leaders:

Name Targets
Jason Witten 34
Tony Gonzalez 24
Dustin Keller 23
Brandon Pettigrew 22
Rob Gronkowski 22
Jimmy Graham 22
Kellen Winslow 21
Jermaine Gresham 21
Ben Watson 21
Ed Dickson 20


Like Welker for wideouts, Jason Witten has got the far and away targets lead for tight ends.  Despite having Miles Austin and Dez Bryant a couple of times, Tony Romo will never forget about his most reliable target.  The Cowboys tight end is thrown to 28.3% of the time.  However, his catch rate of 59.4% is not very good.

Tony Gonzalez might be a surprise #2 on the list, but his biggest problem is also the amount of targets he is able to catch: just 58.3%.  Gonzalez does have three touchdowns this year though, meaning he's been targeted when it counts. 

Dustin Keller isn't just a safety valve for Mark Sanchez, he's also getting his job done: he catches 69.6% of his targets this season. 

The NFL leader in catch% for tight ends with at least 10 targets is Vernon Davis.  He's got 17 targets on the year, which is 23% of the targets in San Francisco, and catching 88.2% of those.  Jermichael Finley is right behind Davis with an 83.3% catch rate on 18 targets. 

Rob Gronkowski should continue to see more action while Aaron Hernandez is out.  And Brandon Pettigrew had a big week this week with 13 targets, catching 11 of them. 

You can find me on twitter @casetines

Numbers courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats