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Miami's Brian Hartline is leading the NFL in receiving yards after Week 4
Chances are more fantasy teams will feel the impact of the bye week in Week 5 with four teams off compared to last week when just two were taking a break. While some owners will welcome Ben Roethilsberger, Andrew Luck, Mike Wallace and others back; there are those who will have to do without the services of players like Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Darren McFadden, Calvin Johnson, to name a few.
Have no fear; the NFL’s current leader in receiving yards, an undefeated starting quarterback and a top-five fantasy tight end are just some of the options that may be available on your waiver wire. Here are those names and some others worth considering for this week and beyond.
Bye week teams: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland Tampa Bay
Week 4 Recap: Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently leading the league in touchdown passes (12), but he’s also tied for second in interceptions (7) and faces a tough match-up in San Francisco this week. Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception, but he’s averaging a little more than 200 yards per game through the air and has just four touchdown passes in four games. Shaun Hill didn’t see the field for Detroit as Matthew Staffordmade the start, while Jake Locker wasn’t on the field that long after suffering a shoulder injury on a sack against Houston.
Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker left Sunday’s game in Houston in the first quarter after injuring his left shoulder on a sack. The good news is that it’s his non-throwing shoulder. The bad news is he previously injured the same shoulder in the opener against New England and he watched the rest of the Titans’ 38-14 loss to the Texans on the sidelines in street clothes with his left arm in a sling. It’s still early, but there’s certainly a chance that Locker will not play this Sunday in Minnesota, which means Hasselbeck will take his place. Hasselbeck was not at his best in relief of Locker on Sunday as he threw as many pick-sixes as touchdown passes (two apiece), but this is an accomplished, 14-year veteran who threw for 3,571 yards and 18 touchdowns as the Titans’ starter last season. If Locker doesn’t play against the Vikings, you could do a lot worse than Hasselbeck, especially if you are a Locker owner or in need of a bye-week fill in.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
Don’t look now; but Arizona is one of three remaining undefeated teams left, joining Atlanta and Houston in that distinction. The defense has certainly done its part (see below), but Kolb deserves some of the credit too. Since taking over for John Skelton in the fourth quarter of the Cardinals’ opening game, Kolb has completed better than 62 percent of his passes for 752 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s added a rushing touchdown and has only turned the ball over three times (2 INT, 1 fumble). The Cardinals’ next three opponents are St. Louis, Buffalo and Minnesota, so the schedule appears manageable. He’s also coming off of his best statistical performance (324 yards passing, 3 TD, 2 INT) against Miami, so Kolb is at the least someone worth monitoring.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill threw for 431 yards against Arizona, showing what he can do with his arm. He still has a long ways to go as he has tossed three times as many picks (six) as touchdowns (two), but his favorite target right now is the league’s leading receiver (see below), and it looks as if the coaching staff is starting to trust him to air it out a little more. If this trend continues and Tannehill can continue to show progress in his accuracy (55.9 percent completion rate) and decision making, he could develop into a viable fantasy option, especially in deeper leagues.
Week 4 Recap: Both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller returned for Buffalo in the loss to New England, rendering Tashard Choice (2 att., 14 yds.) an afterthought. Ryan Williams disappointed greatly in his first career start, gaining a total of 26 yards on 14 offensive touches, but he will get another chance to impress Thursday night in St. Louis. Shaun Draughn had 46 yards on eight total touches (4 carries, 4 receptions) and could continue to have value in deeper leagues, especially as long as Peyton Hillis is sidelined with an ankle injury. Bilal Powell didn’t get many opportunities (4 carries, compared to 11 for Shonn Greene) against San Francisco, not that it mattered much as the Jets rushed for a grand total of 45 yards against the 49ers. Lamar Miller out-rushed Daniel Thomas (13 yards to 4), but each only got four carries as Reggie Bush got the bulk of the carries despite dealing with a knee injury.
Jackie Battle, San Diego Chargers
Battle is the Chargers’ leading rusher, although Ryan Mathews’ broken collarbone has a lot to do with that. Still, the former Chief is averaging more than five yards per carry and has all three of the team’s rushing touchdowns so far. If anything it appears that Battle is the Chargers’ goal-line back for the time being, which certainly helps his value. Remember, Mike Tolbert scored 19 rushing touchdowns in 2010 and ’11 combined as the Chargers’ second back. I’m not saying the Chargers will use Battle like they did Tolbert, but he clearly has a role in their running game and he’s also produced as a receiver (4 rec., 42 yds., TD Sunday against the Chiefs).
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
I’ll go out on a limb and say that pretty much no one had Bolden, an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss, on their roster, let alone in their starting lineup last week. After his performance (16 att., 137 yds., TD) against Buffalo, that seems all but certain to change. Unfortunately, Bolden’s breakout could come at Stevan Ridley’s expense; although Ridley did have more carries (22) and went for 106 yards with two scores himself. It remains to be seen what Bolden’s roll is going forwards, but he, and not Danny Woodhead or Shane Vereen, appears to be the other Patriots’ back to own.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos
Willis McGahee played, rib cartilage issue and all, but it was Hillman and not Lance Ball, who got the second-most carries in the win over Oakland. Hillman, the Broncos’ third-round pick, had 31 yards rushing on 10 carries and also caught two passes for 32 yards. Hillman offers more upside than Ball or any of the other backup running backs on Denver’s roster and he may finally have shown the coaching stuff enough to merit consistent playing time.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Nine different 49ers had at least one rushing attempt as the team racked up 245 yards on the ground on 44 carries (5.6 ypc) in their shutout win over the Jets. That said, only two 49ers have more than 15 carries to this point and they are starting running back Frank Gore and Hunter. Gore has 40 more carries (66 to 26) than Hunter, but Hunter is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt and seems entrenched as the 49ers’ second back right now. The coaching staff has had it wants to limit Gore’s workload over the course of the season to save wear and tear on the veteran, so Hunter should still get a fair amount of opportunities. He’s also just one injury away from being the starter, and last season was the first in the past five in which Gore played all 16 games.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Guess who’s back? Mendenhall, who averaged more than 1,100 yards rushing and 10 total touchdowns from 2009-11, is expected to make his season debut this Sunday against Philadelphia. Mendenhall tore his ACL in the final week of the ‘11 regular season, but he has been practicing in full and is expected to step right back into his starting role. The team will limit his workload early to help ease him back into things, but as the Steelers’ starting running back he should receive plenty of opportunities to have an impact. Now is the time to act if Mendenhall is still on your league’s waiver wire.
Week 4 Recap: Hakeem Nicks missed his second straight game for the Giants, but it wasn’t Ramses Barden (2 rec., 36 yds. on 4 targets), who took advantage of his absence this time. Nate Washington, like the rest of the Titan wide receivers, had a quiet game against Houston, but could benefit if Matt Hasselbeck ends up filling in for an injured Jake Locker. Washington put together a career year (74-1,023-7) last season with Hasselbeck under center. Jacoby Jones (2 rec., 17 yds., 7 targets) had problems connecting with Joe Flacco against Cleveland, while Jeremy Kerley (2, 12) and Cecil Shorts (1,8) were both stymied by their respective team’s ineffective passing attacks.
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Hartline leads the NFL in receiving yards with 455 and he’s tied for eighth in receptions with 25. He had another huge game (12 rec., 253 yds., TD) against Arizona and is the No. 4 wide receiver in fantasy football. He has just the one touchdown catch, so unless he finds the end zone a little more frequently, his scoring will be driven by receptions and yards. He’s clearly Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target right now, so as long as you can tolerate the rookie quarterback’s growing pains, Hartline is worth adding to your roster.
Domenik Hixon, New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks missed a second straight game, but it was Hixon and not Ramses Barden, the Giants’ leading receiver in Week 3, who benefitted. Hixon is the Giants’ regular no. 3 wide receiver, but he also missed the Week 3 game in Carolina because of a concussion. He was back in the lineup Sunday night against Philadelphia and started in Nicks’ place opposite Victor Cruz. Hixon finished with a game-high 114 yards receiving on six catches (19.0 ypc, 11 targets) and the early reports on Nicks’ availability for this week’s game in Cleveland are not promising. As long as Nicks remains out, Hixon is the other Giants wideout to own, although Barden still has value in deeper leagues.
Donald Jones, Buffalo Bills
Jones became the Bills’ other starting wide receiver following the season-ending injury to David Nelson. After not doing that much the past two weeks, Jones finally broke through courtesy of a 68-yard touchdown catch against New England. He only had one other catch (for 22 yards) against the Patriots, but he’s still the Bills’ second-leading receiver and should have his share of chances moving forward.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers does a good job of spreading the ball around, as evidenced by the fact five different Packers have 20 or more targets after four games. Jones is not only in that group, but he’s currently third on the team behind only fellow receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley. What’s more Jones leads the team with three touchdown catches and he could be in line for even more playing time as Greg Jennings had to leave Sunday’s game against New Orleans after re-aggravating his groin injury.
Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals
Roberts has stayed step-for-step with Larry Fitzgerald, his All-Pro teammate, through the first four games. Fitzgerald leads the team in receptions and yards, but Roberts has four touchdown catches and is averaging more yards (15.3 to 11.1) per catch than the perennial Pro Bowler. Roberts scored two of those touchdowns on Sunday against Miami and as long as Kevin Kolb plays as well as he has, it looks like there’s room for two viable fantasy options at wide receiver out in the desert.
Week 4 Recap: Kyle Rudolph had a quiet day (2 rec., 8 yds.) in the Vikings’ win over Detroit, but Christian Ponder had only 26 pass attempts all game. Rudolph tied for the second-most targets on the team this past Sunday with five and there’s no reason to think he won’t remain one of Ponder’s primary pass-catchers moving forward. Craig Stevens also caught two passes against Houston, but one of them was a 19-yard touchdown pass. Still, Stevens’ value is tied directly to Jared Cook’s health. Cook, who played after leaving last week’s game with a shoulder injury, had three catches for 36 yards against the Texans.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
Chandler is the No. 5 tight end in fantasy football thanks in large part to his four touchdown catches, which also ties him for first in the league overall. Chandler got two of those in Sunday’s loss to New England, and right now he is Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target in the red zone. Chandler’s overall numbers (12 rec., 175 yds.) aren’t bad, but his upside is tied directly to his red zone production.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
After a slow start, Olsen has established himself in the Panthers’ passing attack. The team’s leader in receptions, Olsen has 13 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown in the last two games combined. Steve Smith is and should remain as Cam Newton’s favorite target, but Olsen appears to be his second option. A few more scores would certainly help, but Olsen should get enough looks every game to be a viable weekly starting option, especially in PPR leagues.
The Cardinals are a surprising 4-0 thanks in large part to its defense. The unit is second in the league in sacks with 16, has forced 10 turnovers and blocked two kicks. They also are dangerous on special teams with Patrick Peterson and LaRod Stephens-Howling returning punts and kickoffs. Besides the early production, the upcoming schedule is also appealing as the Cardinals go to St. Louis, host Buffalo and are at Minnesota the next three weeks.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams are 2-2 as the defense has done a much better job of slowing down the opposition, especially when it comes to the pass. The Rams are allowing a respectable 213.5 passing yards per game and have a league-high eight interceptions. They need to do a better job of pressuring the quarterback (only 6 sacks), but they also aren’t taking on offensive juggernauts the next two weeks with a home date against Arizona and a trip to Miami on tap.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 2, 2012