Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Fitzpatrick has topped 20 fantasy points in three consecutive games and ranks sixth in points per game at the quarterback position, despite passing for just 595 yards during that stretch. He has padded his fantasy production by tossing eight touchdowns, and he also added 74 rushing yards in Week 4. While I’m not anointing him starter material by any means, given the state of the Bills offense, he is decent bye week filler and is now worthy of a roster spot in most leagues.
Matt Schaub, Texans
I’m a little wary to designate Schaub as Moving Down. I put him here after Week 1, following the Texans’ bullying of the Colts behind a solid rushing attack led by Arian Foster, rationalizing that with a decent running game, Houston would throw far less in 2010 than they did last season. Then Schaub went out and tossed for 497 yards and three touchdowns against the Redskins in Week 2. That was nice, since he’s my starter in one league; yet not so nice, since it made my prognostication look bad. Since then, he has thrown for 633 yards (a 211-yard per-game average) and has now thrown for less than 200 yards in three out of fives games.
Michael Bush, Raiders
Bush didn’t get much work in his first couple games back from missing time with a wrist injury, and it appeared he had become nothing more than Darren McFadden’s handcuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, given McFadden’s injury history. This week, with McFadden out because of a strained hamstring, Bush had a solid game against a tough Chargers run defense, gaining 104 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also chipped in three receptions for 31 yards and may have earned himself a bigger portion of the touches out of the Raiders backfield going forward. Plus, he will be a nice fill-in if (when?) McFadden gets hurt.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles fumbled this week and failed to score a touchdown, but the most interesting development in the Chiefs backfield was that Charles received significantly more touches than starter Thomas Jones. Charles had 17 touches to just eight for Jones, marking the first time since Week 1 that has happened (the Week 1 tally was 12 for Charles and 11 for Jones). Could the light have gone on during the team’s Week 4 bye, showing Chiefs head coach Todd Haley that maybe the team’s most dynamic offensive player should get more touches? Will it take until next year’s bye before Haley figures out that the best players should be in the starting lineup? Just how quick is Haley on the uptake? Fantasy owners want to know. I’m guessing this is the beginning of a trend as Haley realizes that the Chiefs can’t rely on special teams and defense to carry them, as they did during their first three games.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Marshawn Lynch is gone. Bills head coach Chan Gailey said that Jackson would take over as the team’s starter, and Jackson got the majority of the work this week over C.J. Spiller (13 touches to six). While Jackson is the current starter and was productive in 2009, I’m not getting too excited about him. Expect Spiller to earn a larger role as the season progresses and don’t forget that the Bills offense is hit-and-miss, with more misses than hits. While Jackson topped 1,400 total yards in 2009, it is worth noting that he scored just four touchdowns.
Jerome Harrison, Browns
He’s back! After getting no touches during Week 4, Harrison got some work this week against the Falcons, gaining six yards on six carries. While that is hardly stellar production, the more interesting development was starting running back Peyton Hillis suffering another injury. Hillis has now suffered thigh and quad injuries over the last two weeks and may not be suited for such a heavy workload. Harrison has been productive at times, including having some huge games at the end of last season, so he is worth stashing away on your roster in case Hillis gets hurt again.
Mike Hart, Colts
This one’s for deeper leagues. Let’s take stock of the Colts backfield. Joseph Addai is injury prone and is well on his way to averaging under 4.0 yards per carry for the third consecutive season (he’s currently at 3.7 yards per tote). Donald Brown also can’t stay healthy, having missed seven games out of 21 in his career, and he has done little to suggest that he’s ready to challenge Addai as the starter. Then there is Hart, who had a tidy game this week with 11 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown as well as a reception that went for five yards, subbing for the injured Addai. The Colts generally release injury information early, so expect an update on Addai’s neck or shoulder injury before many fantasy leagues process their waiver wires.
Felix Jones, Cowboys
Jones had 19 touches this week to just six for Marion Barber, which may indicate that the Cowboys will start using him more. That will likely lead to another Jones injury, so I’m hardly excited. Here’s my quick take on Jones: He will not develop into a consistent fantasy option in 2010. The Dallas running attack has been miserable. And good luck guessing which week the Cowboys will actually succeed at running, combined with Jones being the back (between himself, Barber, and Choice) who gets the rock. Nonetheless, he’s moving up simply because this was one of those weeks—he picked up 126 total yards.
Brandon Jackson, Packers
I’m moving Jackson up—not because I like him, but because I have been so harsh on him that I must make amends for his big game this week against the Redskins (10 carries for 115 yards, five receptions for 25 yards). So, just to be clear, he’s up because he was good this week, not because I think he’ll be good over the balance of the season. And he’s last on this list for a reason. Take head.
Justin Forsett and Leon Washington, Seahawks
After the Seahawks acquired Marshawn Lynch from the Bills, the odds of Forsett having a breakout season in 2010 dropped to virtually nil. As for Washington, there was a chance he might gain a majority of the work at running back around midseason if he could prove that he was completely healthy. That also seems highly unlikely now. With the Seahawks offence hardly being a juggernaut, Forsett is worth holding onto only in deep leagues, and you can officially drop Washington in all but the largest fantasy formats.
Mike Tolbert, Chargers
Tolbert had a touchdown this week against the Raiders. But he also had just 12 yards on his 11 carries and sat for most of the fourth quarter while Ryan Mathews got the work. Mathews finished with 59 yards on just nine carries and it is abundantly clear that he is the team’s top threat out of the backfield.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Well, I benched Floyd this week in favor of (ahem) Derrick Mason, thinking that the Raiders would put Nnamdi Asomugha on Floyd. All he did was go off for eight receptions, 213 yards, and a touchdown. Basically, I had him down as a must-start except in games against the Broncos (Champ Bailey) and the Raiders. After this performance, he is now the fourth-ranked wide receiver in standard fantasy formats, which makes him a must-start on a weekly basis.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers
There was a Michael Crabtree sighting this weekend and that collective sigh that reverberated across the fantasy landscape was his owners contemplating what the 2009 first-rounder might accomplish with his head screwed on straight. Facing a respectable Eagles pass defense, Crabtree had easily his best game of the season and the best game of his brief career, catching nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 14 times by quarterback Alex Smith, hopefully squashing the rumors that Smith was apprehensive about going to Crabtree after he caused numerous interceptions earlier this season.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos
Keeping with what appears to be this week’s theme, Lloyd has also now firmly established himself as a week-in, week-out must-start for fantasy purposes. The mercurial Lloyd now leads the league in receiving yards with 589 on just 30 catches, which translates into an impressive 19.6 yards per catch. He also has three touchdowns and is the top-ranked fantasy wide receiver after five games. Imagine what you could have won in Vegas had you thrown down some money on that! Lloyd has topped 100 yards receiving in three straight games and has four 100-yard games in 2010. He is clearly the best Broncos receiver to own and has established himself as Kyle Orton’s go-to guy in an offense that is throwing it plenty.
Percy Harvin, Vikings
Harvin more than doubled his 2010 fantasy production this week with a pair of touchdowns and 97 receiving yards against the Jets. Harvin seemed to benefit from playing opposite Randy Moss, with the Jets frequently putting a safety deep on Moss’s side of the field. If Sidney Rice fails to make it back onto the field in 2010, Harvin shapes up as a decent WR3 going forward. Monitor the Rice situation and consider Harvin a potential sell-high candidate in the coming weeks if he continues to play well and Rice’s return becomes imminent.
Steve Johnson, Bills
Who? Steve Johnson, that’s who. And, yeah, that’s right, he plays for the woebegone Bills. Johnson entered the season as the starter opposite Lee Evans, only to quickly lose the job to Roscoe Parrish. No matter. Johnson had a nice game this week against Jacksonville with five receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns, and he has now scored touchdowns in three straight games. For the season, Johnson has caught 17 of his 18 targets for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Which begs the question: Why isn’t Buffalo throwing it to him more often?
Greg Jennings, Packers
Failing to produce on a consistent basis, Jennings has been one of the biggest disappointments at wide receiver in 2010. This week, he had his third consecutive two-catch performance, and he has just 14 receptions for 183 yards over the Packers’ five games. His fantasy stats have been padded by three touchdowns, but he has not attained the WR1 status most owners expected entering the season. With Green Bay’s offensive line struggling and opposing defenses playing mostly cover-two sets to take away big plays from the Packers potent offense, Jennings has become a bit of a forgotten man. I still like him, just a lot less than I did earlier in the season.
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
Ochocinco ranks right up there with Jennings in terms of being a huge disappointment. Although I’m not ready to write him off just yet, my expectations for him over the balance of the season are definitely lower than those of Jennings. At this point, Ochocinco is clearly the number two receiver behind Terrell Owens in Cincinnati’s passing offense. Much like when T.J. Houshmandzadeh was in Cincinnati, Owens has become the team’s best option on short and intermediate routes and Ochocinco is working downfield. However, Owens is a much more viable target on deep passing plays than Houshmandzadeh was. Perhaps that’s why Ochocinco has just 11 targets over the last two games.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Well, I don’t know. I’ve never been an NFL receiver or head coach, but I’m guessing that you can’t produce if you can’t catch the ball—and Bowe can’t seem to do that. I’m also guessing that head coaches aren’t going to keep calling plays for receivers who can’t make the catch. This week, Bowe dropped two easy passes, including one in the end zone that would have given the Chiefs a 13-9 lead over the Colts in a game they eventually lost. Of course, the Chiefs head coach is a guy who starts Thomas Jones over Jamaal Charles at running back, so maybe he will keeping throwing it to Bowe.
Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
I had him moving up after Week 2 and it’s time to put him here again. Although Lewis has put up a middling receiving yardage total (192 in five games), he has emerged as a quality red zone target for quarterback David Garrard. After failing to catch more than two touchdowns during any of his first four years in the league, Lewis has five touchdowns already in 2010, making him the fourth-ranked fantasy tight end.
Dustin Keller, Jets
After suffering through a disappointing sophomore season, Keller emerged as a threat early this year, catching 19 passes for 254 yard and five touchdowns during the Jets first four games. This week, with Santonio Holmes in the line-up for the first time and Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards healthy, Keller was targeted just five times, catching two passes for 14 yards. While Keller is still a valuable fantasy tight end, there are warning signs on the horizon. And expecting him to produce as he did during his first four games is unwise. He’s definitely a sell-high candidate.