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.