Happy Hump Day. As we reach the middle of the week and the quarter mark of the National Football League’s season, it is time to evaluate your team and make some changes. Today we’ll be looking at some pass catchers based on their quarterbacks. The quarterback is the most important position in football, so it pays to have a fantasy option that is catching passes from a quality signal caller.
Gotta have ’em:
1. Antonio Gates
— Quarterback: Philip Rivers
Gates is not even the highest scoring fantasy tight end on his team. That distinction belongs to his backup, Dante Rosario. Rosario played for Gates in a Week 2 win against the Tennessee Titans, scoring three times in that game.
Realistically, those should have been Gates’ touchdowns, and he owes his slow start to a few miscues, an injury and some plain old bad luck. Like all sports players, he is due for a regression and has been playing well below his usual production. Gates has proven year in and year out that he is a stellar fantasy option and Rivers has not neglected to target him, with four vertical passes going his way per game. That is a good statistic for any tight end, and it displays the trust between the talented Rivers and his former number one target. Trade low for this fantasy stud who has yet to find the end zone. This week, both players will be facing a Saints defense that has been a doormat for opponents’ offenses. A huge day is in store for both of them.
2. James Jones
— Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers
This year, Jones has been … well, Jones. Aaron Rodgers’s third or fourth target — depending on who you ask — has either turned in amazing games or mediocre games. He had two touchdowns against New Orleans last week, but two catches for negative-1 yards against Chicago in Week 2. However, Jones has shown he can do the most with his receiving opportunities. His three touchdowns put him one behind four tied league leaders, and the Packers’ offense was built to throw.
Throwing him the ball will be the well-known and well-renowned reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Rodgers. Rodgers has tallied up a whopping 156 attempts through his first four games, good for seventh in the league. Rodgers has been known to tear
defenses to shreds.
After a rough four games against some solid defenses, the Packers will be playing a team that has an average rank in passing defense, despite matching up against two second-year quarterbacks that aren’t known to be gunslingers. Rodgers will have a huge game, and those huge games usually feature 6-7 targets for the opportunistic Jones.
3. Leonard Hankerson
Hankerson has seen a rise in receptions with every game played this season. A relative unknown going into 2012, Hankerson is now a core member of a solid receiving core for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Last week, Hankerson had seven catches for 57 yards and was the most targeted out of all of Griffin’s weapons. Like any great QB, Griffin will start to find a favorite receiver as he gets acclimated to his role. Hankerson looks ready to take that role and run with it.
Hankerson is owned in only 12 percent of Yahoo leagues and 56.3 percent of ESPN leagues. Odds are he’s available, and if one of your key receivers happens to be on a bye week, I suggest you pick him up. He won’t be available for long, as he continues to put up high caliber production.
Add at your own risk:
1. Dexter McCluster
McCluster has been an odd fantasy option. Last year, he ran the ball 114 times for 516 yards in Jamaal Charles’s absence but has only had one attempt for 5yards so far this year now that Charles is back from injury. An extremely versatile player, it appears
McCluster’s talents just aren’t being utilized to the fullest this year.
He hasn’t had a touchdown yet, but this week may be a step in the right direction. Through a quarter of the season, the Baltimore Ravens are fourth to last in passing defense. His quarterback, Matt Cassel, is averaging 264.5 passing yards per game and will be airing it out against an unusually weak Ravens defense. But if the Ravens jump out to an early lead, it will force the Chiefs to throw the ball and try to get on the board quicker. That will open up opportunities for the eager McCluster.
2. Golden Tate
Golden Tate, who will always be remembered for catching a Hail Mary pass against the Packers, has had an inconsistent type of season. Then again, so has his quarterback, Russell Wilson. Wilson is not throwing the ball well, and Tate has only seven receptions this year. Why add him? Because two of those catches were touchdowns.
In a points per reception league, Tate may not be so valuable. His quarterback isn’t exactly a completion machine, and his offense still leans heavily on running back Marshawn Lynch. This week is as good a week to start Tate as ever, though. His team is travelling to Carolina to face a team that ranks 22nd of 32 teams defending the pass. If Wilson can’t take advantage of that, then he’s in for a long season but a short career.
3. Donnie Avery
Picked one spot ahead of Griffin, Andrew Luck was considered the more complete player, with a better arm and stronger decision-making skills. Through four games, Griffin has proven athleticism also matters, and he may have the arm skills to surpass Luck. Luck will look to take back the crown of the top rookie quarterback this weekend against the Packers, and Avery will be helping him out. Avery has been like most receivers on this list: wildly inconsistent. In his Week 2 game against the Vikings, Avery had almost twice as many catches and targets as he the two previous games combined. Maybe he is alternating good games with bad ones. If so, now is the time to start him.
A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 3 print edition. Sebastian van Heyningen is a deputy sports editor. Email him at [email protected]