We never really know when opportunity will strike in fantasy, but we have to be prepared to strike when it does. This week, we get a couple of potential difference makers emerging at the running back position. They all performed well last week, with Branden Oliver stealing the spotlight with his monster day. Andre Williams looked impressive taking over for Rashad Jennings and Ronnie Hillman appears to have yet another chance to prove he can handle the role of feature back. All three will be hot grabs this week well worth spending on, since they all play in solid offenses and all three could conceivably remain valuable all year. Hillman might be the most risky of the bunch, since he has more competition than the other two. Now let's take a look at these and the rest of this week's report.
Bye Weeks: Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints
Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - Bridgewater looked great in his first start before getting sidelined by an ankle injury. He should return this week, albeit in a tough spot against a good Lions defense. If you are looking more long term, then the Vikings rookie is someone to add, since his price will likely still be slightly suppressed coming off the injury. He should remain a solid QB2 option that should start to push for QB1 status as the season progresses.
Brian Hoyer, CLE - The Browns quarterback finally makes the top section of the list thanks to the fact he has shown that he can effectively put up points on a weekly basis and looks very comfortable in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. I’ll admit I have a soft spot for Hoyer, not only because he plays for our hometown team, but he also graduated from my alma mater, St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. The Browns are running the ball well, which is setting up play action and keeping the pressure off. The Browns are heading into a favorable part of their schedule (PIT, JAX, OAK, TB), which sets Hoyer up as a nice emergency or bye-week starter over the next few weeks.
Austin Davis, STL - After mentioning him in Week 4, I’ll admit I neglected to highlight the Rams young quarterback coming off his bye. He did much of his damage last week once garbage time came early against the Eagles, but he has thrown three touchdowns in each of his last two starts. He has tough matchups the next two weeks (SF, SEA), but that doesn’t mean he can’t put up decent QB2 numbers regardless.
Mike Glennon, TB - Glennon has been on the list multiple times this year and he will likely remain here for the upcoming weeks as well. He is kind of the perfect streamer for fantasy leagues. He is a guy you can plug in your lineup on the cheap, and he will get you through with solid results. He’s not going away as a QB2 with upside based on matchups. A tilt against the Ravens this week followed by his bye week will make him a cheap option if you are looking down the road. Following the bye, he will get Mike Evans back to join Vincent Jackson and could go on a nice little run.
I hyped Joe Flacco last week based on the matchup against the Colts as well as a favorable upcoming schedule. Instead of building on his three touchdown day against the Panthers, he came up empty against the Colts. He still has some bye-week upside against Tampa Bay. Much like Flacco, I thought Blake Bortles would have a good showing against the Steelers, but he regressed instead. Zero touchdowns, two interceptions and overall sloppy play. I’m moving on in redraft leagues. Reports have Robert Griffin III possibly back by Week 8. I think it is more likely we won’t see him until Week 11, after Washington’s bye. Charlie Whitehurst performed admirably in relief of Jake Locker, and could draw the start against the Bucs this week, but there are rumblings that the Titans may be ready to see what they have in rookie Zach Mettenberger. Kyle Orton didn’t set the world on fire, but he did look better than EJ Manuel has.
Branden Oliver, SD - While I am happy to have had Oliver in the report the last two weeks, there was no way I saw the breakout that occurred on Sunday coming. It was clear that Oliver was going to get more work in light of Donald Brown’s struggles, but when the latter suffered a concussion, it set the stage for the undrafted running back. He could have the job to himself this week and perhaps until Ryan Mathews returns. I have been pointing out that he was the best bet to fill the Danny Woodhead role in the offense and he looks like he has locked that up going forward which gives him a floor even after Mathews makes it back.
Andre Williams, NYG - Rashad Jennings sprained his MCL and seems likely to be out of action until at least after the Giants Week 8 bye. That gives the bruising Williams the starting job for the next couple of weeks in plus matchups against the Eagles and Cowboys. Williams showed he isn’t afraid of contact as he regularly lowered his pads and took on defenders. If he’s out there in your league, he’s a very strong RB2 the next two weeks, and could continue to hold onto flex value even after Jennings makes it back if the Giants give him a bigger share of the carries.
Ronnie Hillman/C.J. Anderson, DEN - Montee Ball suffered a groin injury that will keep him out at least two weeks and possibly longer. That opens the door for his backups to split the carries and attempt to make a case to cut into the starter’s workload after he returns. After all, Ball hasn’t really been setting the world on fire, scoring only one touchdown on the year, and never eclipsing 70 yards on the ground in any game this year. After running well in relief last week, Hillman seems like the logical choice to assume lead back duties and will be the preferred target of many this week. There is obvious upside for the lead back in this offense, but how much do we really trust that Hillman can make the most of this opportunity? He has fumbled it away before, and will have competition for touches right away. The wild card is Anderson, who didn’t get a chance last week as a healthy scratch, since he is more suited to be the early down/short yardage back. Both backs are worth bids this week, with Hillman worth a significant bid if you need immediate help. The only downside is there is no telling how things will shake out. I haven’t even accounted for Juwan Thompson. For what it’s worth, I will likely throw more cheap darts at Anderson this week then I will big bucks at Hillman.
Benny Cunningham, STL - Zac Stacy appeared to get benched after fumbling last week, and then it was reported that he suffered a calf injury. He should be okay to play this week, but whether the injury was real or he just got benched, Cunningham is in line for more work which should push him into flex/RB2 territory this week.
Storm Johnson, JCK - Johnson was the best rusher for the Jags last week against the Steelers, in his first NFL game, and looks like he has already passed struggling Denard Robinson in the coaches eyes. Toby Gerhart is still the starter, but it seems clear he is miscast in that role and the team knows it. Johnson is more of a depth pick for deeper leagues, due to the crowded committee, but he’s worth a roster spot to see how this evolves.
Bobby Rainey, TB - Doug Martin isn’t getting it done, which opened up more carries for the versatile Rainey last week. He should continue to eat into Martin’s workload and could see a lot of garbage time work since Martin has been pretty lousy in pass protection.
George Winn was the last man standing for the Lions last week and could get some more work this week if Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are still limited. Darrin Reaves will get another start this week if Jonathan Stewart can’t make it back. He has some flex appeal. Antone Smith has been a scoring machine with four touchdowns on only 17 touches. The coaching staff has said it will look to get him more involved, which gives him upside, but he’s still a touchdown-dependent start until we see it happen. Alfred Blue will be relegated back to the bench with Arian Foster back healthy, but on a short week, he could see some action in relief. Peyton Hillis will back up Williams while Jennings is on the shelf.
Odell Beckham Jr., NYG - The rookie made an instant impact in his first game of the season, hauling in a big touchdown pass and adding more speed to the Giants rejuvenated offense. The Giants have two very nice matchups ahead against the Eagles and Cowboys, and run more three-wide sets than just about anyone else in the league. Clearly recovered from his hamstring woes, Beckham’s role should only increase over the next two weeks.
Justin Hunter, TEN - It was only a matter of time before the Titans finally promoted Hunter into the starter’s role over Nate Washington. They finally did just that last week, and Hunter responded with 99 yards and a touchdown. Granted, much of the production came on one long pass, but that is what this kid brings to the field. There are questions at quarterback, and Hunter still only caught three balls, but the matchup versus the Jaguars looks like a great spot to slide him into your WR3/flex spot and hope for him to take his game to another level.
James Jones/Andre Holmes, OAK - Jones is the veteran and de facto No. 1 receiver for this struggling team. Holmes is the emerging talent, who now has a starting job. The Raiders stink, but that means they also throw the ball a ton when playing from behind. Both guys should be owned in most leagues as WR3 options.
Kenny Britt, STL - Britt finally found the endzone last week and was a bigger factor in the gameplan than I have seen all year. His work clearly helped Brian Quick as the defense had to focus on Britt on the other side. With Austin Davis under center, Britt has some value as an upside play to get you through the bye weeks.
Jarius Wright, MIN - The last time we saw Wright and Bridgewater play together, it looked like they were the best of friends. Wright was still involved last week and it might be worth making room for him on your bench in deeper leagues to see if this chemistry with his quarterback is more than a one-week fluke.
Davante Adams, GB - Adams scored last week and seems to have locked up the WR3 role for the Packers. It makes him a weekly boom-or-bust player that could gain steam as soon as he gains his quarterback’s trust.
Allen Robinson has clearly outplayed Allen Hurns and should be able to hang onto a starting job as other receivers return from injury. Louis Murphy will get at least another start in place of Mike Evans, giving him some desperation appeal. The Patriots activated Brian Tyms from suspension and have been looking for someone to emerge as an outside threat. He is worth a flier in really deep leagues to see if he can be that guy. Marvin Jones didn’t make it back as expected and now has to contend with the improved play of Mohamed Sanu.
Dwayne Allen, IND - Allen makes his living in the red zone and is Andrew Luck’s favorite target in close. He is also eating into Coby Fleener’s workload elsewhere. The touchdown upside gives him a more stable floor to go along with better overall play which could have him pushing into TE1 territory before long.
Tim Wright, NE - Wright had his best game as a Patriot with 80 yards and a touchdown, despite playing on less than 25% of the offensive snaps. The two-TE offense was credited for getting Brady untracked last week, so it isn’t that far-fetched to expect more of it, at least for another week. It puts Wright in the discussion as a streamer this week while we wait to see what the “genius” will do this week.
Eric Ebron, DET - The Lions will need someone to step up and fill the void felt by the loss of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. Ebron has the talent to do just that, it’s just a matter of the coaching staff devising a plan to get him involved. He’s worth rostering in the short-term to see if he can take this opportunity to get his season untracked.
Jared Cook is doing just enough each week to be worth considering as an emergency fill-in. Josh Hill will take over for Jimmy Graham for at least one week, so if you need help to cover for the Saints star, his backup could be your best option in deep leagues. Austin Seferian-Jenkins didn’t do much last week but still has some upside if he can get a handle on the balls thrown his way.
Ravens - The Ravens looked pretty intimidating against the Colts last week, creating turnovers and making Andrew Luck look human for a week. Tampa Bay has no running game and Mike Glennon is missing Mike Evans, meaning Vincent Jackson will be shadowed constantly. It could spell trouble for Mike Glennon and paydirt for the Baltimore defense.
Matt Prater, DET - Sometimes the obvious does happen. Rookie Nate Freese and Alex Henery couldn't get it done so the Lions worked out Prater, Jay Feely and Connor Barth with the recently released Denver Bronco coming out on top. Prater will miss the thin air in Denver but he's still an accurate kicker with a strong leg who likely would have been ranked in the top-12 if he began the season with Detroit.
Billy Cundiff, CLE - The Browns return home after last week’s huge comeback win to host their biggest rival in a must-win division game. The Browns can run against anyone but often have trouble on third down, which could set up Cundiff for a busy day.
Last week was a tough one for some owners who might have had to manage multiple bye weeks. This week, things are not so bad with only two teams, the Dolphins and Raiders, out of action. There were plenty of breakout performances by players that have been gaining steam the last few weeks. This could very well be the last week to have a chance to get a share of most of the top targets, and all of the top guys are worth significant bids where they are available. If you have been hoarding some cash, you might want to throw some at a potential difference-maker sooner, rather than later.
Eli Manning, NYG - Manning and the Giants offense finally hit their stride against Washington on Thursday night. There is no reason to think that he can’t keep things humming against the generous Falcons defense this week, which makes him the top choice for anyone looking for a plug-n-play option. Following the matchup with the Falcons, he gets road games against the Eagles and the Cowboys, followed by a Week 8 bye and a home game against the Colts. That schedule means if you have been struggling at QB, you could ride Eli four of the next five weeks.
Joe Flacco, BAL - Flacco makes the list for the first time this year coming off an impressive three-touchdown performance against the Panthers. The schedule sets up very nicely for him the next three weeks (@Ind, @TB, ATL), making him another great pickup for anyone looking for someone who they can rely on beyond this week. Steve Smith has been a huge boost to Flacco’s fortunes, so don’t be afraid to ride the hot hand in these nice matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - The Vikings rookie had a fantastic game against the Falcons in his first NFL start. He threw for over 300 yards and added a rushing touchdown to the ledger. He didn’t throw any interceptions and led his team to an easy victory. But he came out of the game with an ankle injury and has a short-week to get ready to play the Packers on Thursday. Even if he guts it out, he’ll be less than 100%. Then, he gets a couple of tough matchups against the Lions and Bills defenses. He is still worth adding or holding as a QB2 with nice upside. Just realize the immediate future could be a little bumpy.
Blake Bortles, JCK - Bortles had an up and down week, and clearly was outshined by his fellow rookie. He made some poor passes that led to interceptions, but he also showed his ability to make plays with his arm and legs. This week, he gets to face the Steelers, which sets him up for a nice bounce-back week.
Mike Glennon looked solid against the Steelers and should be able to hang onto the job even after Josh McCown returns. If Mike Evans hadn’t hurt his groin, I’d maybe have him higher on the list. Michael Vick is going to get his shot with this offense soon if Rex Ryan wants to save his job. He can be a difference-maker worth making room on your roster for. Ryan Tannehill had his best game of the season but is on a bye this week. Brian Hoyer was settling in prior to the bye week, gets Jordan Cameron back at full speed and has a nice upcoming schedule. Derek Carr’s injuries will thrust Matt McGloin into the starting job. Kyle Orton is taking over for the slumping E.J. Manuel, so he has value in super-deep leagues.
Jerick McKinnon, MIN - We have been talking about McKinnon for the last few weeks as a guy who could explode once the Vikings gained enough confidence to hand him the rock. Matt Asiata will continue to get the goal-line work (for now) but McKinnon isn’t going away after rumbling for 135 yards on 18 carries. Asiata will remain the starter for the time being, but McKinnon has more talent and can still make noise with 10-15 touches a week. It’s unlikely that Matt Asiata is available in many leagues, but obviously in any leagues where he is hanging around he is more than worth picking up thanks to the goal-line work he will continue to get.
Knowshon Moreno, MIA - When Moreno was injured, the timetable for his return was anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Now it is looking like he could be back on the field in Week 6, after the Dolphins return from this week’s bye. Moreno found himself on some waiver wires, so get him this week in any leagues where he is hanging around. Another option could be to throw the Moreno owner an offer and try to buy low.
Justin Forsett/Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL - We got a little clarity this week in Baltimore as Bernard Pierce didn’t see the field in a game where he was healthy on the sidelines. Forsett emerged as the starter, while Taliaferro closed things out. With Forsett playing well, I see no reason the Ravens will flip the script this week on what is working. Pierce still lurks, but Forsett should have value in some role all year long while the rookie should eventually stake his claim as the stud of the bunch. I like Taliaferro best long-term but can’t deny that Forsett was very good this week. But Kubiak’s offense needs that bruising running to really click, so at some point he is going to make the necessary shift.
Isaiah Crowell, CLE - The Browns were on bye and Ben Tate is coming back this week, which continues to keep the rookie's ownership numbers low. Crowell is the best pure back on the team and a guy to grab and stash while we wait for the next Tate injury. I think with two weeks to look at all the tape, the coaching staff knows that Crowell has outplayed Terrance West. I can’t predict when his breakout is going to come, but when Tate misses time again, I think Crowell will get the call over West.
Bishop Sankey, TEN - Sankey finally got on the field in the second half and quickly breathed some life into the Titans attack. The coaching staff can’t afford to hold the rookie back anymore, so hopefully he will finally get the starting job. The offense is a mess and Sankey can make some noise behind this offensive line if they let him.
Darrin Reaves, CAR - Reaves is an undrafted free-agent who has been pushed into action due to injuries. He is literally the last man standing for the Panthers and should draw the start this week against the Bears. It gives him value as a guy to plug in for bye week purposes.
Denard Robinson started to eat into Toby Gerhart’s workload last week, and looked better doing it. A RBBC hurts both players, but it does put Robinson on the radar. Andre Williams closed out the game once the Giants went up big and showed he can take over if Rashad Jennings ever goes down. Roy Helu was forced into action with the team playing catchup. He has some PPR upside in any game the Skins will be forced to throw the ball. Brandon Oliver got some play after Donald Brown came up small. He looked good enough that he should at least share carries until Ryan Mathews returns from injury. Kadeem Carey finally got some snaps as the Bears were blown out by the Packers, but he performed well, which could pave the way for him to get a couple series a game going forward, which would give him Flex value in deeper leagues.WIDE RECEIVERS
Rueben Randle, NYG - Randle’s ownership numbers slipped to a season-low prior to last week’s game, which saw him finally show some life along with the Giants passing attack. Lary Donnell isn’t going to hog all the TD’s every week and that is really where Randle was supposed to shine this season. The breakout we hoped for is still possible, so scoop him back up if someone in your league got impatient.
Eddie Royal, SD - I resisted listing Royal last week since he does this every year, tantalizing us with a scoring binge before fading into the background. But that’s two weeks in a row with two scores, so I can’t deny him a spot, even though I can’t help but feel like it’s deja-vu all over again. If you are looking for help this week, Royal is a hot hand that you can keep playing. Just be aware that he isn’t seeing the field in two-receiver sets, so he needs to score to get his points. I would be careful who I dropped for him.
Andre Holmes, OAK - I almost profiled one of my pre-season sleepers last week, but didn’t realize that Denarius Moore would finally get benched (actually scratched). Holmes took advantage and has a healthy window to establish himself as a starter. The problem, of course, is the lousy offense and the issues at quarterback. But Holmes can still do enough damage in garbage time to be a Flex option in deep leagues through the bye weeks.
Marvin Jones, CIN - Jones will return to action this week, which will put him back on owners' radars. He will be worked into the rotation with Mohamed Sanu slowly, but as a premier red-zone threat, he can do damage and put up points just by playing in close games. This could be the last week to get him before his value rises. The Bengals offense is clicking, and Jones will make some noise once he gets into game shape.
Davante Adams, GB - Adams would have made more noise in his first game as the WR3 for Aaron Rodgers if the touchdown pass he had hauled in wasn’t negated by penalty. With his QB heating up, there will be more chances coming his way. He’s a boom-or-bust Flex option for now.
Allen Hurns, JCK - Hurns should have scored another TD on Sunday, but fell down at the two-yard line on a long bomb. He has been very TD dependant, but with Cecil Shorts out again with the bad hamstring, his job is safe, which means he’s worth taking a shot on if you are desperate.
Louis Murphy will start in place of the injured Mike Evans for the next few weeks. That makes him a borderline starter in fantasy leagues as well. Devin Hester took advantage of Harry Douglas’ injury to rack up some targets and score a TD. With the way the Falcons offense is playing, there are going to be more chances for the speedy receiver to make an impact. Jarius Wright was Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target in his first game. It might be a blip or it could become a trend. Still, he seemed to be getting work that should have gone to Cordarrelle Patterson instead. Jerricho Cotchery returned to his role as Cam Newton’s dump-off guy. If you like to play it safe, he’s got a realistic floor.TIGHT ENDS
Travis Kelce, KC - I have been telling you for three weeks to get Kelce on your squads and he finally had a breakout game on Monday night. He should be owned everywhere after this week, but he does get a real tough matchup against the Niners this week and then a bye.
Larry Donnell, NYG - He likely isn’t available in many deep leagues, but he was out there in a ton of shallow leagues last week and should be at close to full ownership after last week’s three-touchdown explosion. I shouldn’t have to write about him again after this week. He’s going to keep getting targets as Eli’s new best friend.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB - Jenkins has been getting more involved in recent weeks and should see an increase in targets while Mike Evans is out. He’s got some nice upside the next few weeks and is a cheaper option that could pay off big if he starts to break out.
Eric Ebron, DET - The first-round rookie scored his first touchdown thanks in part to the injuries to Calvin Johnson and Joseph Fauria. He is obviously a big part of the future of the team and should continue to see his stock rise as the season progresses.
Owen Daniels, BAL - The veteran did about what was expected of him last week. He got his targets, caught a few passes and did enough for PPR leaguers in a bind. He’s the starter and has a decent floor, but no real upside at this point in his career.
Dwayne Allen makes his living in the red zone. It makes him a boom-or-bust player, but he has scored in three out of four games. Clay Harbor will continue to fill in for the injured Marcedes Lewis. After a nice game last week, he could be worth a spot start against the Steelers. Jace Amaro is coming on for the Jets, who need to put their best playmakers on the field more.DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS
Green Bay Packers - The Packers could catch the Vikings with Christian Ponder under center on Thursday night. That would be a recipe for big numbers for this unit this week.
Philadelphia Eagles - I wanted to mention the Eagles coming off their electric performance last week. They aren’t a great defense, but they are opportunistic and have Darren Sproles to light things up on returns. The Rams have issues at QB, which could lead to more big plays this week for this squad.
Josh Brown, NYG - The Giants offense should pile up more points this week against Atlana. Brown will be busy.
Last week was one of those times when you almost want to turn the television off and not watch any football for fear of seeing another one of your players limping off the field or riding to the locker room on the back of a cart grimacing. It was a tough day for running backs as well as some other big names around the league. But while injuries are a bummer, there is no denying that there isn't anything that makes for an exciting waivers period than a spate of red crosses on the player's update page. Rather than rehash the carnage from the weekend, let's just dive in and see who stands to benefit most this week and going forward.
Kirk Cousins, WAS - With the latest devastating injury to Robert Griffin III, the door has opened for Cousins to take control of the offense for at least the next month. If he performs well, he has a chance to keep the job even after Griffin returns from injury, which could linger beyond the current 4-6 week timetable. Beyond RG3’s recovery time, the real wildcard in the equation is Jay Gruden, Washington’s new head coach. Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense relies on precision, with the QB staying in the pocket and making quick reads and getting rid of the ball. There were plenty of rumors prior to the start of the season that Cousins was the coach’s preferred quarterback all along. Andy Dalton showed last season what a solid passer can achieve when he works within the framework and takes what the defense gives him. If you just lost Griffin or are getting concerned about Tom Brady, then Cousins could be a nice short-term option with games against division rivals (@Phi, NYG) the next two weeks.
Geno Smith, NYJ - Since one of my goals in this column beyond breaking down the week’s obvious pickups is to key you into players ahead of the curve, I inevitably will revisit players I have highlighted in previous weeks until they reach the point where they are more universally owned. I tapped Smith as one of my breakout players of 2014 and last week he started to reward my faith in his ability with some excellent play against the Packers on Sunday. Were it not for an unfortunate turnover prior to halftime as well as the now infamous timeout that wiped a 40-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Kerley off the board, Smith would have been one of last week’s top performers. The silver lining is that most people don’t look behind the final numbers and will likely instead focus on his spotty play in the second half as the Packers mounted their comeback, so Smith is still available in a ton of leagues. He is making plays with his legs, and should continue to gain confidence as the season progresses. Eric Decker’s hamstring injury takes a little shine off the next few weeks, but Smith is locked in as a rock solid QB2 when he has all hands on deck.
Josh McCown, TB - The Bucs sluggish start to the season has cooled the sleeper buzz that surrounded McCown prior to the season. A date with the Falcons could be just what the passing offense needs to to get untracked a bit. It also wouldn’t hurt if the coaching staff would let him take a few more shots downfield to his huge wide receivers. He’s a cheap plug-and-play option that could pay off this week.
Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - Last week, I highlighted Blake Bortles in this section as a guy to speculate on ahead of the crowd, and after Matt Cassel imploded with a four-interception disaster, it officially started the clock on the talented rookie’s potential arrival date. Bridgewater looked better than his veteran counterpart in the preseason and has better weapons at his disposal than any rookie quarterback we will see under center this season. He’s worth a grab-and-stash in leagues that use two quarterbacks.
Week Two Updates
Jake Locker, TEN - Locker didn’t really deliver the goods against a suspect Cowboys pass defense, although he did have a late touchdown pass to Nate Washington wiped out on review. He faces a Bengals defense that cooled off Matt Ryan last week, so you might want to look elsewhere for QB2 help this week.
Carson Palmer, ARZ - News of Palmer’s shoulder woes broke after last week’s column went to press, and unfortunately it’s an injury that can be hard to gauge. He could miss a week, a month or even longer. He’s probably worth hanging onto in really deep leagues, but he can likely be safely dropped in shallow leagues for the time being.
Knile Davis, KC - Jamaal Charles suffered a high-ankle sprain last week, which will shelve him for at least a couple of weeks depending on the severity. As such, Davis will be the first handcuff to see extended duty this year and is worthy of a sizable bid in any league that the Charles owner did not lock him up. Personally, I think the Chiefs could very well sit Charles until after their Week 6 bye, rather that rush him back to face a team like say the ‘Niners in Week 5. Charles’ owners will be your primary competition in any leagues he isn’t owned in, and they will likely spend pretty big now to secure the backup to a lynchpin of their fantasy teams. Davis ran well in relief last week, racking up 79 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while hauling in six passes on the side and should put up solid numbers in Charles’ stead. Davis should be the top RB target this week, since he should see a bigger workload than the other options down the list. Just be aware that he’ll slide right back into his backup role once Charles returns and faces three pretty solid defenses (@MIA, NE, @SF) the next three weeks.
Khiry Robinson, NO - Mark Ingram will miss a month with a broken hand, just when he was showing signs of finally figuring it out as a pro. It’s a bad break, literally and figuratively, for his owners and a boon for the prospects of the elusive Robinson to get a bigger share of the Saints backfield duties. He makes for a better play in standard formats, since Pierre Thomas will still serve as the primary pass-catching back.
Ahmad Bradshaw, IND - Although I talked about Trent Richardson as an undervalued commodity prior to the season, he never slid far enough in any of my drafts that I actually was tempted to pull the trigger on him this year. Instead, I was able to place some bets on the other side of the coin by obtaining Bradshaw in a couple of leagues at bargain basement prices. Of course, this was based on the opposite notion that T-Rich would continue to be a plodder and a waste of a first round pick by two different teams. The Colts are showing no signs that they are ready to concede failure yet, so for now Bradshaw will have to be content with being the more effective half of this RBBC. His two-touchdown game last week will get him scooped up in most leagues he is still available in and if Richardson continues to put the ball on the ground, then Bradshaw could begin to steal even more red zone work.
Donald Brown, SD - Brown continues the string of running backs to prioritize in this week’s waiver run thanks to an injury to the starter in front of them. The Chargers signed Brown in the offseason as insurance for the always injured Ryan Mathews, and he will step right in as the Chargers' lead runner. He isn’t a big drop from what Mathews brings to the table, but Danny Woodhead will likely see more action as well and will push Brown to the sideline on passing downs and in the hurry-up offense. Woodhead is the better start this week for sure against a Bills defense that is tough against the run and things don’t get much easier for Brown with the Bucs and the Jets run defenses to follow. Still, he will see enough work to merit flex consideration and should be added in all formats since Mathews' knee injury will keep him out anywhere from 4-6 weeks.
Bobby Rainey, TB - There won’t be many weeks where I am compelled to feature this many running backs in the top section, but that is the case after last week’s carnage. We warned Doug Martin’s owners last week to get Rainey on the roster and sure enough Martin sat the weekend out and Rainey turned in a stellar day, rushing for 144 yards and adding another 30 on three receptions. If Josh McCown hadn’t vultured two touchdowns, he would have been the story of the week. The only thing keeping him this far down the list really is the fact that Martin is slated to return this week, and Lovie Smith will unleash some form of RBBC that clouds both players' values. As such, I would rather take my shots on the players listed above, but Rainey is a worthy conditional bid who has clearly increased his stock with the strong showing and a viable flex-play against a Falcons defense that is giving up tons of fantasy points to opposing RB’s to start the year.
Danny Woodhead, SD - If you are in a PPR league, it is unlikely Woodhead is sitting on your waiver wire. In fact, he isn’t available in any league I play in. I mention him more for those who might own him or those who may be looking for a reasonably priced guy to target in trade talks to get you through the next few weeks. He is going to see more touches in the wake of Ryan Mathews’ injury and won’t come any cheaper than he will right now. He’s not a game-changer, but he is capable of double-digit point weeks with the extra looks he’ll be getting.
Matt Asiata, MIN - News of the entire Adrian Peterson mess broke late last week and created a feeding frenzy for Asiata and to a lesser degree Jerick McKinnon. Peterson has been reinstated by the team, but the situation is very fluid. He could get suspended by the league at a moment's notice. If you spent big on him, hang onto him for now, but due to the fact that he’s not a very talented back, you might be better served by calling the Peterson owner in your league and seeing what they will give you for him. McKinnon is the real talent here and will surely get his shot somewhere down the line.
C.J. Anderson, DEN - Anderson is emerging as the preferred handcuff to Montee Ball. He hasn’t seen that much action, but when he has gotten carries, he has looked pretty good. If Ball goes down, then Anderson’s stock will soar. Since he’s a heartbeat away from being in the middle of the league’s best offense, he’s a lottery ticket worth speculating on.
Week Two Updates
Justin Forsett, BAL - Forsett did about what I expected last week, but clearly played second fiddle to Bernard Pierce. He will still have value, but he won’t be a season-saver. That said, he will be a serviceable flex option whenever the matchups are right.
Terrance West, CLE - West and fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell (also featured last week) both performed well in relief of the injured Ben Tate. They will continue to split the workload, with the scales tilted in West’s favor. West is likely the safer flex play for now, while Crowell is the special talent who could explode if he ever gets the bulk of the carries. Both guys need to be owned since the Browns running game is very much for real with perhaps the league's best run blocking O-line.
Brian Quick, STL - I guess I undersold Quick last week, but I can’t lie and say I really want to rely on any part of the Rams passing game on a weekly basis. But, results are results, and Quick is clearly the number one target in St. Louis right now, and as such he may be the most reliable option available to many of you this week. He’s not a game-breaker, but sometimes you just want to know the guy you put in your lineup is going to get the ball thrown his way. Quick fits the bill in that regard, and as such could be a safer option as your WR3 or Flex player. He certainly hasn’t done anything to not warrant getting onto someone's roster after two solid games to start the year.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN - Sanu was back on the radar after Marvin Jones broke his foot in preseason, and since then Tyler Eifert went on the PUP list and A.J. Green injured his toe. He will be the best option for Andy Dalton this week, and based on volume alone should be one of this week’s best options to plug into your lineup. However, he has a bye in Week 4, and we could see both Green and Jones returning soon after, which could relegate Sanu to backup status again.
James Jones, OAK - I’m never really a fan of having to rely on receivers on lousy teams, but I can’t deny that Jones has clearly emerged as Derek Carr’s top option in the passing game. Since they will be playing catch-up virtually every week, Jones has a chance for garbage time points every week. He should be owned in all leagues and makes a pretty good option if you are waiting for a struggling rookie to get untracked or looking to cover for an injury.
Davante Adams, GB - I touted Jarrett Boykin last week, since the Packers are one of the few teams that can support three quality WR options on a weekly basis. The problem is I have tabbed the wrong guy, as Adams looks like he has leapfrogged Boykin on the food chain in Green Bay. With their issues at the TE position and the fact that both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have seen their share of injuries, deep-leaguers who are looking for a depth play with upside might want to make room for Adams and see what happens.
Rueben Randle, NYG - Expectations were high for Randle as Eli Manning’s likely red zone target. The two finally connected last week and the Giants offense finally showed some signs of getting on track. He is worth holding or grabbing if his owner got impatient after one week of lousy football.
Marvin Jones, CIN - If you don’t need to cover a hole this week and are looking instead for depth that will pay off later on, then grab Jones before he makes it back on the field. He will once again become a regular target near the goal-line.
Kenny Stills, NO - Stills returned in Week 2 and right away ate into Brandin Cooks' targets. He’s a Boom-or-Bust option worth a look as the Saints return home to the dome to face the Vikings. Drew Brees will be motivated to get a victory, which means at least a few shots downfield in Stills' direction. Dallas also looms in Week 4, so if you like to look ahead, that is as tasty as it gets for a WR of Stills’ ilk.
Allen Robinson, JAX - Robinson made some plays last week and could really emerge once the team makes the move to Blake Bortles. He’s a better prospect than Hurns and worth speculating on in deeper leagues.
Week Two Updates
Allen Hurns, JAX - Hurns got hurt last week and thus did not reward anyone who paid full price for last week’s waiver darling. There are better pure talents on the roster and if he misses time, he could get passed on the depth chart. If you dropped a chunk of change on him, you can hold him for now, but don’t let it keep you from picking up anyone who could be a real difference maker.
Andrew Hawkins, CLE - Really this is an update on my update from last week. Hawkins is seeing double-digit targets, a trend that should continue as long as Jordan Cameron is banged up and Brian Hoyer sticks to the gameplan.
Travis Kelce, KC - Kelce is still flying slightly below the radar, but that is going to change very soon. I guess I will keep writing about him here until the Chiefs unleash the best option in their passing game on opposing defenses. If you have Jordan Cameron or lost Jordan Reed, then gamble on Andy Reid to continue the trend of increasing his snaps again this week. The breakout game is coming soon.
Larry Donnell, NYG - Donnell had another solid game and is the most reliable option for Eli Manning right now. It is enough to recommend him more strongly this week for anyone desperate for production this week.
Niles Paul, WAS - Jordan Reed’s injury got Paul onto the field and he certainly had Kirk Cousins' eye on Sunday. Monitor Reed’s health before taking the plunge on Paul, but if he’s starting then Cousins will lean on him in the checkdown game.
Eric Ebron, DET - The rookie showed some signs of life last week and is at least on the radar for deep leagues.
Week Two Update
New England Patriots - The Pats defense led the way last week and now they get the Raiders at home. If you like to ride the hot hand, Belichick’s boys have another chance to produce.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints always play better at home and will be chomping at the bit to face Matt Cassel this week.
Graham Gano, CAR - The Panthers are off to a great start and the Steelers are giving up plenty of points. Gano could have a busy day against an opponent giving up chunks of yards to open the season.
Week 4 of the Waiver Wire Report ushers in the bye weeks, with six teams taking this week off. On top of those missing players, more key producers went down last week, highlighted by Danny Woodhead, Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph. The host of injuries and players on bye will test owners' wits this week and should get trade talks started in a bunch of leagues as owners scramble to fill holes. If you have built up some depth, this could be a great week to try to peddle some of it away to a team in need.
Bye Weeks: Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, St. Louis, Seattle
Blake Bortles, JCK - The Jaguars finally pulled the plug on Chad Henne during Sunday’s loss to the Colts. We mentioned the rookie the last two weeks as a speculative add, and if you stashed him, you will have surely saved yourself a few dollars this week. Once he finally entered the game, he brought an immediate spark to the Jags offense. It was an up-and-down performance, highlighted by two touchdown passes sandwiched around two bad interceptions. Jacksonville figures to be playing catch-up all year long, so there will be plenty of passing and garbage time stats, just be aware that Bortles gunslinging mentality is going to lead to some sloppy games. Still, he’s my choice this week if you are looking for a boost at your backup spot.
Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - The Vikings have their own rookie taking the reigns of the offense in the 6’2” product out of Louisville. The loss of Adrian Peterson unfortunately isn’t great news for his upside, and the injury to Kyle Rudolph takes away another key producer, and likely security blanket for the time being. He still has two quality targets in Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, and while he didn’t make any big plays in his NFL debut, he also didn’t make any mistakes, protected the ball and played within himself. The choice between chasing Bortles or Bridgewater this week sort of comes down style, and which you have more faith in. But truthfully, I can make compelling arguments for either QB. If your league penalizes for INT’s, then you might prefer to place your bets on Bridgewater. The offense is clearly going to run through his arm and feet, and Norv Turner will turn him lose more and more as the season progresses.
Mike Glennon, TB - Josh McCown’s thumb injury is a blessing-in-disguise for a Buccaneers offense that has struggled to find consistency out of the gate this year. The injury forced the coaching staff’s hand, and allowed Mike Glennon to get into the game and immediately perform better than the veteran has all season. The best thing going for Glennon is having Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to throw the ball to, and their owners are happy to see McCown out of the lineup. The second-year quarterback isn’t a world-beater, and doesn’t have near the upside of the high-profile rookies above him, but he can be a very effective backup quarterback, thanks to his ability to protect the football. If you don’t want to get into a bidding war this week, then Glennon is a worthy option.
Austin Davis, STL - If the Rams weren’t on bye this week, and Jeff Fisher wasn’t the coach, I would likely be higher on Davis this week than I am. Especially after a week where he torched the Cowboys defense for 327 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams will have a decision to make coming out of the bye, and I would love to say they will turn things over to the exciting Davis rather than go back to veteran Shaun Hill, but there is a chance it doesn’t happen. You could still make a cheap play for Davis, since he won’t be a priority for QB-hungry teams since he is on bye, and he could pay nice dividends in two-quarterback leagues.
Eli Manning, NYG - Eli continues to put his opening week stinker against the Lions behind him, and as that defense continues to make other quarterbacks look mortal, it doesn’t seem quite so awful anymore. He tossed two touchdowns for the second week in a row and finally didn’t throw any picks. The offense is getting better, and a prime-time matchup against Washington could provide him the platform to take another step forward. If your starter is on bye and you are just looking for a replacement then Peyton’s little brother looks like he can get you through the week with his third straight respectable showing.
Brian Hoyer, CLE - He’s on bye this week, so there won’t be any rush to go out and get him, but he looks like he is going to hang onto the starter’s job for the time being. He is playing pretty well considering his two best targets have been largely unavailable to him. Johnny Football isn’t stealing his job anytime soon, so he’s a worthy backup in deeper leagues.
Charlie Whitehurst, TEN - Jake Locker hurt his wrist, which puts Whitehurst in position for a spot-start this week against the Colts. It would have to be an extremely deep league for you to be tempted to pick him up this week.
Matt Moore, MIA - There have been rumblings in the press about how Ryan Tannehill’s job is in peril, but he got all of the first team snaps to open the week. Moore is a very capable backup, and while I think there is a chance the team could turn to him in relief if Tannehill struggles again, I don’t see them making the switch just yet.
Week 3 Updates
Kirk Cousins, WAS - If you are in a league where Cousins is still available, then by all means throw a sizable bid at him this week. He is the real deal and is playing in a system that is good for fantasy production. Last week’s top choice surely didn’t do anything to hurt his chances of keeping this job even once RGIII returns later in the year.
Geno Smith, NYJ - I have been one of Smith’s biggest supporters this season, but even I can’t deny he had a very shaky performance on Monday Night against a Steeler defense that has looked less than dominant early on. The Lions defense is looking elitte to start the year, so Smith could be in for another long day, meaning there is a chance we could even see Michael Vick in action. The NFL is a crazy league, and things can change on a dime.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL - Taliaferro looked dominant at times against the Browns, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries. He definitely looked better than Bernard Pierce has and could have just staked a claim to the starters job on a team that needs this type of running back grinding out yards to be successful. The problem is that coaches rarely like to trust rookies unless they have to, meaning Pierce will likely get yet another shot, and Justin Forsett continues to look good as well, meaning whoever does win the feature spot with continue losing touches when the team wants the reliable Forsett on the field. Taliaferro is worth rostering in hopes that he eventually becomes the “man” in this backfield.
Alfred Blue, HOU - Arian Foster was a late scratch and Blue came out and finally answered the question as to who the real handcuff was in Houston. He got almost all of the work last week, leaving mere scraps for Ronnie Brown and Jonathan Grimes. He is a must-own player, since Foster’s injury woes are likely to continue off-and-on for the rest of the season, meaning Blue will get more starts and make noise with them, especially in favorable matchups. Just don’t get fooled into thinking he is on the same level as Foster.
Isaiah Crowell, CLE - I have written enough about the potent Browns rushing attack to begin the year, but it has been difficult for fantasy owners, since it is a three-headed beast, making is difficult to know who to trust any given week. The Browns are on bye this week and Ben Tate is expected to return to action in Week 5. Crowell continued to look like the most talented back on the squad. He was much more decisive than Terrance West last week, and the later had two costly mistakes that factored heavily in the team’s defeat. He is worth grabbing-and-stashing, since Tate will get hurt again and Crowell should continue to gain the coaching staff’s trust, especially near the goaline.
Darrin Reaves, CAR - DeAngelo Williams should be ready to play this week against the Ravens, but Reaves is solidly on the radar and the only truly healthy back on the roster at the moment. Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert won’t be returning for awhile and Williams couldn’t go last week.
Brandon Oliver, SD - You may be looking at the last two names and catch yourself audibly saying “Who?” Oliver is in much the same boat as Reaves, with multiple injuries decimating the depth chart ahead of him. Oliver looked good in preseason and at 5’7”, is best suited to try and fill Danny Woodhead’s role in the offense. He’s not a bad flier in deep leagues and could even have some flex appeal in PPR leagues this week against the Jaguars.
Jerick McKinnon, MIN - Matt Asiata isn’t a good or exciting running back. McKinnon is young and the coaching staff isn’t ready to trust him yet. The move to Teddy Bridgewater could help the team turn to the obviously more gifted McKinnon eventually, so he is worth hanging onto or buying into in hopes than he gets his shot and makes the most of it. It is worth noting that the team signed Joe Banyard off it’s practice squad, which could signal that they are tiring of Asiata, but not ready to trust McKinnon in pass protection just yet.
Week 3 Updates
Donald Brown, SD - We listed Brown here last week, and he was likely scooped up in all but the shallowest of leagues. He gets a boost in value thanks to Danny Woodhead’s injury, which will thrust him into an every down role for the next few weeks. He isn’t sexy, but he is guaranteed a sizeable workload until Ryan Matthews makes it back on the field.
Knile Davis, KC - Davis delivered the goods in the place of Jamaal Charles, but with Charles already back on the field practicing, he may have to wait for another injury to be truly relevant again this season.
Jordan Matthews, PHI - The talented rookie was a popular sleeper pick of many this year, but may have been cut loose by an impatient owner after a slow start to the season. Last week he broke out with eight catches and two touchdowns, which highlights what he can bring to this explosive offense. The problem of course is that he is still playing behind Riley Cooper and until he unseats him to win the No. 2 job, his production could be hard to gauge. He worth a roster spot everywhere based on the upside, and is a solid flex-play with the bye weeks upon us.
Allen Robinson, JCK - Blake Bortles should be able to start opening up this offense and that is good news for Robinson’s fortunes. He’s looked like the best receiver on the team and should be the primary deep threat for a team that will be hoisting it up in garbage time plenty. He is a good bet to breakout this week, and worth taking a shot on if you are looking to make a change at the backend of your receiving corps.
Jeremy Kerley, NYJ - I meant to write up Kerley last week, and somehow neglected to in the wake of Erik Decker’s hamstring injury. Hopefully you were savvy enough to grab him on your own in PPR leagues, since you were rewarded with a nice day from Geno Smith’s most reliable target. If Decker is limited again, Kerley could see a lot of balls come his way again, but the matchup against the Lions doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
Marvin Jones, CIN - I will list Jones again as a cheap pre-emptive add this week, with the Bengals heading into their bye. He should be ready to go in Week 5, but Mohamed Sanu has been solid enough that the Bengals won’t rush him into full-time duty right away. He should be able to slowly wrest more playing-time away, so stash him and wait and see how he looks once he hits the field. There is big touchdown upside here.
John Brown, ARZ - The Cardinals rookie makes another appearance on the list after scoring two more touchdowns last week. Bruce Arians is clearly designing a couple of plays every week to take advantage of Brown’s speed, so there is a chance he can take one to the house any given week. Still, he is third in the pecking order behind Larry Fitzgerlad and Michael Floyd, so he is still a boom-or-bust play any given week, and doesn’t have an elite quarterback hoisting the ball for him.
Kenny Britt, STL - Austin Davis finally breathed a little life into Britt’s season, by targeting him deep a couple times last week. If Davis remains under center, then perhaps Britt can emerge as the rookies favorite downfield target. A bye this week will help keep the price to speculate low this week.
Donte Moncrief, IND - Moncrief took advantage of an injury to T.Y. Hilton to see extended action last week and made a solid case for more with some very solid play. He looks far more explosive and exciting than Hakeem Nicks has so far, and could begin to eat into his snaps soon. Moncrief is a comer on a team that can support three receiving options. He’s worth a speculative bid in deeper leagues.
Odell Beckham, NYG - The Giants first round pick is finally rounding into shape, and could finally see the field this week. The Giants love to run with three WR’s, and Beckham will get a chance to make plays once he is fully healthy. Rueben Randle has left the door wide open for Beckham to walk through as well.
Week 3 Updates
Brian Quick, STL - Quick finally scored last week to keep his strong start to the season going. However he did see a dip in targets with more balls finally going Kenny Britt’s way. You may want to see what you can get for him this week from a WR-needy team.
Rueben Randle, NYG - Randle needs to make some noise this week, or he could find himself losing snaps to Odell Beckham,
Travis Kelce, KC - With more starting tight ends going down this week, I am confident that this is the last time I will have to right about Kelce in this column for awhile, if not for the rest of the year. His snap count continues to rise and he finally found the endzone last week. The Chiefs will have to start feeding him the ball more and if they finally do he will keep ascedning the ranks at the position.
Larry Donnell, NYG - It’s kind of a repeat of last week’s TE list, as I have another repeat in the Giants starter. He isn’t a truly gifted receiver, but he is getting a bunch of targets every week and hauling them in and putting up decent stats.
Owen Daniels, BAL - Dennis Pitta is done for the year again, which thrust the veteran Daniels into his familiar role as the starting TE in Gary Kubiak’s offense. He doesn’t have the same burst he had before his injury, but as the starter for a team that loves to use the TE you could do worse at your backup spot.
Jared Cook, STL - Cook would get more love if he wasn’t on bye this week and if last week’s nice game hadn’t come against the Jaguars. He’s a bye-week fill-in with some upside, just obviously not this week.
Week 3 Updates
Nile Paul, WAS - Jordan Reed is going to miss at least another week, so Paul becomes a viable fill-in candidate for at least another week.
Eric Ebron, DET - So much for the rookie’s emergence in Week 2. He faded right back into the woodwork in Week 3. Toss him back if you took a chance.
San Diego Chargers - I would have liked this call even better if Josh McCown were still the quarterback. But Blake Bortles is still a rookie, and as such he is prone to mistakes. That could mean a pick-six as well as healthy sack numbers. The Jags have been extemely generous to opposing DST’s to open the year.
Shaun Suisham, PIT - The Steelers offense is coming off a huge game and comes home to face the Bucs. Suisham should be in for another busy week.
Week 1 is in the books, and as is the case every year it seems, we have our share of injuries, flops and surprise breakouts to sort through as we look to bolster our various fantasy teams' prospects. They key to assessing who to add, and more importantly who to drop, is to find the balance between not overreacting to one week’s worth of action, while still being on the lookout for potential breakout talents that can help cover up mistakes made at the draft table. It’s never an exact science, and my goal here will always be to provide my take on the key names you will be debating in any given week as well as hopefully helping you uncover some gems ahead of the competition. If you don’t see a guy you think I missed or have a question about anything, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments below. Before we get to this week’s report, we will talk a little about Josh Gordon. As of this writing, we still have no word on a vote on a new drug policy. Rumors are spreading that a deal is in the works and that Gordon will have his suspension reversed. Obviously, this makes him a must add in any league where he is still available on the hopes that he will make it onto the field this year. He is not going to come cheaply, but you almost have to take the chance to get him, and not worry about the costs. You will have to use the knowledge of your particular league to determine how much to bid. Then ask yourself how much do you really want him if he plays and increase your bid if you are really serious.
Jake Locker, TEN - Last week, we talked about Locker as a guy to consider adding prior to the real games starting thanks to all the positive things he had going for him coming into the season. Week 1 did nothing to put a damper on things as he looked poised and comfortable in Ken Whisenhunt’s new offense. This week, he gets to face the Cowboys swiss-cheese pass defense, which not only sets Locker up for another nice week, it almost means the window to get him at a reasonable price could end this week. If you are looking for an upgrade at your QB2 spot, definitely give Locker a look this week. He has the receivers, he has the arm and he hasn’t even shown his running ability, which is underrated.
Carson Palmer, ARZ - I will be the first one to admit that I was somewhat worried about Carson Palmer’s prospects in the wake of Andre Ellington’s injury news. But Ellington played, and despite not playing his best game, Palmer did enough within Bruce Arians' offense to hang 304 yards and two touchdowns on the Chargers on Monday. Yes, he got away with some terrible throws that should have been interceptions, but as bad as the Giants looked last week, anyone looking for a streaming option has to be looking Palmer’s way at least for this week.
Blake Bortles, JAX - Sometimes, we will advocate grabbing guys early before they really make a splash. The Jaguars quarterback of the future made plenty of noise in the preseason, but the team still decided to open the season with Chad Henne under center. Henne started strong, leading the team to two early touchdowns, but he then helped turn a potential win into a 34-17 defeat with his inability to simply do the things that Bortles actually has the skills to do. It’s not meant as a knock on the veteran, it’s just reality, and it is only a matter of time before the team hands the number one pick the keys to the offense. He can be a difference maker in leagues that start two QB’s, so if you have a spot to speculate with, here’s my number one choice.
Week 1 Update
Geno Smith, NYJ - Smith didn’t have quite the debut that I predicted he would against the Raiders, He was shaky early on, tossing a bad interception, but he settled down and completed 82% (23-28) of his passes and also ran the ball ten times in the game for 38 yards. The amount of rushing attempts supports our contention that Smith will be able to build a solid floor to his weekly value on his legs. So while he didn’t set the world on fire last week, he’s worth hanging onto in deeper leagues for now.
Justin Forsett, BAL - Ray Rice’s release by the Ravens has put Baltimore's starting job up for grabs, and after Bernard Pierce fumbled early in last weeks game, veteran Justin Forsett took advantage, dashing for 70 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. He also added another 14 yards on five catches. The unexpected news and performance will undoubtedly make him one of this week’s hottest pickups, especially for RB-hungry teams. But when deciding how much to spend on the 29-year-old, consider a few things before over-spending. First, while Pierce got benched, he will get another chance and is still the best bet to be the lead dog over the course of the season. It doesn’t mean that Forsett won’t have value going forward, or that he won’t remain the starter for the short-term. It just means there are other options here, including Lorenzo Taliaferro, meaning that the Ravens are going full RBBC. Make the move on Forsett, just don’t go overboard. You might get as much production long-term by spending a buck on the third guy in line.
Terrance West/Isaiah Crowell, CLE - We mentioned Isaiah Crowell in the column last week as the most physically gifted back on the Browns roster, and a great lottery ticket to add prior to the season. We also highlighted Crowell as a speculative add, since West was the obvious handcuff to the oft-injured Ben Tate. Tate lasted exactly two quarters of football before sustaining his first injury of the season. West took advantage of the opportunity and the lackluster Steelers run-defense to churn out 100 yards on 16 carries. Crowell made even more noise by rumbling for two touchdowns and looked unstoppable near the goal-line. As long as Tate is sidelined, the Browns will go with their rookie committee, with West being the main “runner” and Crowell being the battering-ram. My opinion on Crowell hasn’t changed. He has the most upside of any back on this roster long-term while West likely will be a little more reliable, and has the edge for at least the next few weeks. When Tate goes down for the season (you know it’s going to happen), Crowell is the guy I want to have on my roster thanks to the TD upside.
Chris Ivory, NYJ - There were plenty of people who tabbed Chris Johnson as one of their bust picks (I wasn’t one of them) partly based upon the fact that Ivory was just more skilled at this point in both of their careers. Ivory didn’t do anything to make those Johnson doubters change their tune after pounding the Raiders for 102 yards and a touchdown on just ten carries. Most of the damage came thanks to a 71-yard gallop to the end-zone, but he was on the field just as much as Johnson and as such will continue to be a solid flex play going forward.
Bobby Rainey, TB - The Bucs are not really giving us much information heading into waivers regarding the status of Doug Martin’s health. It means that if you own Martin, you have to go out and secure Rainey this week just in case Martin is hurt more than the team is letting on.
James Starks, GB - Starks is on a lot of rosters already, but he should be on every Eddie Lacy owner's wishlist this week after running well in relief after Lacy exited with another concussion. While it looks like Lacy will make it back this week, his running style leads to the type of hits that put Starks that much closer to the starting job. If he wasn’t a must-have handcuff before, he is now.
Week 1 Update
Benny Cunningham, STL - I am a Zac Stacy owner in more than one league, and I have to admit I am not feeling great about it after one week. Cunningham has forced what looks like a full-blown RBBC for an offense that was a complete disaster in Week 1. I doubt I would look to make the Rams backup a priority add anywhere, and I am even considering cutting him in one league I have him as a Stacy handcuff, since I don’t think he can wrest the job from Stacy, and I don’t see the upside from the committee work he’s going to get. Throw a buck at him in a deep league as a conditional bid if you want, but I am looking elsewhere this week.
LeGarrette Blount, PIT - It looked like a committee approach was in the works in Pittsburgh, then Le’Veon Bell went out and ran all over the Browns as a true three-down back. Drop Blount unless you have him as a direct handcuff to Bell.
Allen Hurns, JAX - Hurns is the waiver-wire darling after Week 1, thanks to his four-catch, 110-yard, two touchdown debut on Sunday. Someone in your league will take the bait and spend big on Hurns this week, thinking he just might be the next big thing. It might even be you. If he hadn’t looked so damn good all preseason, I would try harder to talk you out of it. But, the fact is Hurns has looked great and outshined my Marqise Lee, who actually had a pretty solid debut himself. The problem with buying into Hurns too much is the fact that Cecil Shorts missed the game and is expected back soon and that Chad Henne is still the quarterback. But you have to acknowledge a guy when he makes a splash like Hurns did in his first game ever. I can’t in good conscience advise you not to speculate on the undrafted rookie in the same space that I tell you to take a chance on Bortles, who could very well help Hurns reach his full potential. Throw a bid at him if you are unhappy with your WR depth, but don’t force him into your Week 2 lineup, especially if Shorts makes it back to active duty.
Jarrett Boykin, GB - As you may have already read by now, Boykin was matched up all game with Richard Sherman last week by design, meaning better days are ahead for the Packers #3 WR. He's still worth hanging onto in deeper formats and PPR leagues and the turnaround should start this week against the Jets.
Malcom Floyd, SD - I am never afraid to say when I got something wrong and by the looks of last week, I may have written the veteran Floyd off too soon as a viable fantasy asset. He looked very good on Monday, showing no effects from his offseason neck surgery. There still isn’t a ton of upside here, but he is starting and looks like a quality guy to have on your bench as an emergency fill-in.
Brian Quick, STL - Kenny Britt laid an egg in Week 1 while Quick may have emerged as the real Rams No. 1 WR. That may not seem like something to get that excited about, but they do get to face the Cowboys in Week 3. He’s really not much more than reserve depth, but he is worth rostering in deep leagues it appears.
Robert Woods, BUF - I am both a Woods fan and a believer. My opinion on him hasn’t changed since I tabbed him in my sleeper column. His four-catch, 78-yard outing I think is a fair baseline for what to expect from him, as he appears to be E.J. Manuel’s security blanket at times. He’s not going to win any weeks by himself for you, but he might just help you eke out some wins when the bye weeks come around thanks to his consistency. Some people liked Mike Williams more entering the season. They should pick up Woods this week, since he is the one on the field and making plays.
Devin Hester, ATL - I have to admit, I loved watching Hester getting involved in the game against the Saints on Sunday. It was a shootout, as expected, and with Matt Ryan logging 43 pass attempts, Hester caught five of six for 99 yards. He brings a dynamic to the offense that Harry Douglas can’t as an underneath option, so he’s worth a what-the-heck add in deep leagues (okay, really deep leagues) this week to see how this evolves.
Week 1 Update
Andrew Hawkins, CLE - Hawkins didn’t let anyone down who grabbed him as a PPR option out of the gate by hauling in eight passes for 87 yards in Week 1. Jordan Cameron’s injury actually only increases his stock in the offense and raises his floor, making him a must-own in those formats for now. If Josh Gordon gets reinstated, he’ll be harder to start, but he looks like a great guy to plug in your lineup this week.
John Brown, ARZ - While Brown looked like a rookie in his first real game action, he caught two balls and scored a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald’s own coach said he’s no longer the “alpha-dog” in the rotation, so if you bought into Brown as Bruce Arians’ new T.Y. Hilton, you shouldn’t bail on that notion yet.
Cody Latimer, DEN - We called Latimer a stash last week, but with Wes Welker potentially getting back on the field sooner than later, and the fact that the rookie failed to see the field in Week 1, his roster spot can likely be put to better use this week. He's looking like a dynasty league hold and not much more at this point.
Dwayne Allen, IND - Allen looked like he is finally all the way back from his litany of injuries and really showed his potential upside on his 41-yard touchdown gallop, off a short pass. Coby Fleener, meanwhile, looked pretty average, although he received eight targets to Allen’s five. If you are worried about Jordan Cameron’s shoulder this week (you should be) and looking for someone who could emerge as a viable replacement, then Allen is your guy. I think Andrew Luck will continue to lean on him, especially on third-down, and he could really emerge as a red zone threat. Fleener’s shadow will keep his price tag low for now, but I think Allen has the talent to push him down into a backup role eventually.
Travis Kelce, KC - The Chiefs stunk in Week 1 and Kelce played second fiddle to Anthony Fasano in the passing game. He might get dropped by an impatient owner or overlooked by those looking only at the bottom line. The fact is he looked great in limited action and Andy Reid has already said he was wrong for not using him more. The Chiefs need his playmaking ability and he will start making noise starting this week.
Larry Donnell, NYG - As a Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle owner, I wasn’t that thrilled when Eli Manning found Donnell in the endzone for his only touchdown in a forgettable showing. But, he got the snaps, he got the targets and yes, he got the score. The Giants are a mess, but they have a history of working the TE into the offense. It puts Donnell on the TE2 map going forward.
Week 1 Update
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I replaced the Lions defense with the Bucs last week after I heard Cam Newton wasn’t playing and got nothing in return. I liked them at the draft table, so I am willing to go to the well one more time since the Rams are on the docket.
Mike Nugent, CIN - Nugent will get a lot of attention this week coming off his 5 FG day. He should reward anyone who bites with a solid showing against the Falcons.