Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
More than anything else, two things are the driving force behind a given player’s value in fantasy football: skill and opportunity.
In the receiving game, opportunity is readily defined in the targets category. Of course, there are different types of targets. Red-zone looks and deep shots can produce bigger chunks of fantasy points than eight-yard routes across the middle tend to do.
Sometimes skill determines a player’s fantasy performance. Sometimes, it’s not even the player’s own skill that determines it. For example, would you like Larry Fitzgerald on your fantasy team more with Kevin Kolb as his quarterback? Or Kurt Warner?
You’d probably agree with Fitzgerald himself.
Other days, it’s opportunity that dictates what a player’s numbers look like.
Demaryius Thomas and Davone Bess each saw seven targets in Week 1. Thomas finished with five catches, 110 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Bess finished with five catches, 45 yards and no touchdown.
Thomas was taken higher than Bess in most (or all) fantasy drafts.
Is that difference caused by talent or opportunity?
Steve Smith (of the Carolina Panthers) and the Dallas Cowboys’ own Kevin Ogletree were each targeted 11 times during Week 1.
Smith collected 106 yards on seven catches. Ogletree scored two touchdowns and brought in eight passes for 114 yards.
Smith was drafted in fantasy drafts. Ogletree, for the most part, was not.
Now, is that difference caused by talent or opportunity?
The answer to both questions is: neither. It’s a combination of the two elements that create magical fantasy performances.
But for the two elements to combine, there is a need for sufficient opportunity to be involved.
Here are the players who saw the most passes thrown in their direction during Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
A bunch of guys had more than 10 targets in Week 1.
Carolina’s Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, Jermichael Finley, Kevin Ogletree, Victor Cruz and A.J. Green all got 11 looks from their respective quarterbacks.
Ogletree was probably the only one of those names that wasn’t started in the majority of leagues for fantasy owners to reap the benefits of those passes.
Of course, that’s because Ogletree was the only player on this list who wasn’t owned in the majority of leagues. That has already changed heading into Week 2 as the season’s first waiver-wire frenzy takes place.
Were any of these names a surprise? Not really, if you paid attention to the Cowboys last season.
And how could you not? It is, after all, “America’s Team.”
Nine more guys got 10 looks in the first week of NFL action.
The names include: Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Lance Moore, Steve Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Dexter McCluster, Jimmy Graham, Coby Fleener and Rod Streater of the Oakland Raiders.
Now, Streater surprised some people. He was an undrafted free agent who found himself in the starting lineup for an NFL team due to some injuries to receivers in front of him on the depth chart.
He seized the opportunity on Monday Night Football, pulling in four catches for 27 yards and a score. He also helped Carson Palmer convert a 2-point play after his own touchdown.
Making the team was unexpected for this guy before the preseason. But now he’s looking to make a name for himself in the NFL.
Michael Vick completed just three more passes to Jeremy Maclin than he did to the Cleveland Browns. That’s not good.
What’s worse is that Maclin sustained a hip injury during this game and is uncertain to play in Week 2.
I’m not avoiding the Philadelphia Eagles offense based on one poor showing against a team that they were expected to dominate. When Maclin is healthy, he looks like Vick’s favorite target.
That’s enough to create a fantasy-relevant wideout.
With Marshall’s well-chronicled relationship with Jay Cutler, it was assumed that he would lead the game in targets against the Indianapolis Colts during Week 1.
He led his team, of course, but he did not take home the target title with Andrew Luck’s new friend Reggie Wayne on the other sideline.
Marshall was already seen by many as a top-10 fantasy wideout before the season started. At least for one game, those prognostications were validated.
However, his fantasy value post-Week 1 might be higher than it was entering the season because he did make good on what people were hoping to see from him in the first game.
Andrew Luck came out firing to his unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver in his first NFL game. Meanwhile, Wayne looks reborn after having lesser-touted quarterbacks manning the position in 2011.
Wayne saw more targets than any other wide receiver in the league during the first week. That makes him perhaps a colossal fantasy steal as the late-round draft pick that he was. He only caught 50 percent of the balls thrown his way (some in impressive fashion) for 135 yards.
Week 1 won’t be Wayne’s biggest game this year if he continues to get used like that.
Have you ever played against Brian Westbrook (Philadelphia Eagles version) on Sunday Night or Monday Night Football in a PPR league?
You just knew on seemingly every third down that Donovan McNabb was going to throw a screen or a check-down to this guy, and there’s absolutely nothing you could do about it.
Well, you either watched the lead you were nursing evaporate or watched the other fantasy owner pull away with your win.
That’s what it was like for PPR players going against Darren McFadden on Monday night in Week 1.
This dude had more targets (18) than carries (15). He’s a running back.
McFadden finished with 13 catches for 86 yards in addition to 32 rushing yards on 15 attempts.
Who does he think he is, Darren Sproles?