The NFL's Top Targets

The NFL's top receivers in yardage and receptions aren't always the most frequently targeted receivers.'s Ed Thompson provides you with a look at the league's current top ten targets, how effective they've been with those opportunities --and which teams have to deal with them next.

If you've been following the Cincinnati Bengals' offense during the first three weeks, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to learn that T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson have had more opportunities to catch passes than the rest of the receivers in the NFL. The Bengals have been averaging 301 yards per game passing, second-best in the league this season.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has tossed 46 passes to Houshmandzadeh while targeting Johnson 40 times during the first three weeks. While Houshmandzadeh has pulled in a league-leading 29 receptions (4 TDs) versus 25 (3 TDs) by Johnson, it's "Ocho Cinco" who is doing the most damage in yardage, piling up a league-best 442 yards at a 17.7-yards-per-catch clip. And he's moving the chains on an impressive 96 percent of his catches -- 24 total first-down receptions, tops in the league.

Next up for the Bengals' deadly duo are the New England Patriots on Monday night. It's worth noting that Johnson's averaging just three yards per catch after the reception putting him in a tie for 95th place in that category, so the Patriots should be more worried about him coming down with the ball than what he'd be doing with it afterwards.

Miami's Chris Chambers is currently third in the NFL as a targeted receiver with 39 passes thrown his way.  He's got a healthy 14.4 yards-per-catch average with just over 71 percent of his catches accounting for a new set of downs for the Dolphins. Despite the solid stats and establishing himself as Trent Green's favorite receiver, Chambers hasn't pulled in a touchdown pass yet.  That could change this week as he faces the Oakland Raiders secondary.

Ravens WR Derrick Mason
Win McNamee/Getty

In Baltimore, Derrick Mason is making his presence felt with 23 catches out of 37 passes that have been thrown his way. But Mason's modest 9.1-yards per catch is second-lowest (to Houshmandzadeh's 9.0) out of the top 25 targeted receivers after three weeks of action. He's caught one touchdown, but has no receptions of at least 25 yards. When the Ravens show up in Cleveland this weekend, the Browns should be more concerned about Mason as a quick-release, underneath pass threat than as a long-ball threat. He's helped move the chains 11 times over the first three weeks.

Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna has been airing out the ball nicely so far this season and his target of choice is Roy Williams. He's tried to connect with the 6-foot-3, 211-pound receiver 35 times -- fifth-most in the league. Williams has responded with a 16.8-yards-per-catch average, buoyed in part by his 192 yards that he's tacked on after the catch (second-best in the league), including a 91-yard touchdown. He has a total of three touchdown catches as he heads into Week 4 action at home against the Chicago Bears.

Here are the other receivers who are leading the league as favorite targets and the teams that they'll be facing this weekend:

6.  Antonio Gates (Chargers) - He's second in the league with an eye-popping 27 catches out of 33 opportunities. The Chargers host the Chiefs.

7t.  Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald - With 32 targets each so far, Boldin has made more of his opportunities, catching 22 balls (3 TDs) compared to just 15 (0 TDs) by Fitzgerald. Boldin is tied with Chad Johnson for most receptions of 25 yards or more with five so far. The Cardinals host the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.

7t.  Donald Driver - Targeted 32 times (20 catches) he's gained 129 of his 265 receiving yards after the catch. The Packers head to Minnesota this weekend.

10t. Kevin Curtis - He's caught just 17 of 30 passes, but he's the only one on this list to make it into the top ten in yards-per-catch average (17.8). He's caught three passes for gains of 25 yards or more, including a 68-yard touchdown strike. The Eagles make the short jaunt to Giants Stadium for a Sunday night matchup.

10t.  Javon Walker - Despite 30 opportunities, he hasn't scored a TD or caught a long pass out of his 19 receptions. The Broncos head to Indianapolis for a late-afternoon matchup with the World Champs.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and are syndicated through's NFL team pages. You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 

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