Michael Vick, Eagles
He’s back this week and he’s averaging 22.2 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues. Even more impressive is that in the four games he has appeared in, he has twice played only half the game. That means that in three games worth of actual playing time, he’s scored 88 fantasy points, which translates to nearly 30 fantasy points per game. Sure, I’m playing with the numbers a bit, and maybe Vick is injury-prone, but he’s also been brilliant thus far in 2010.
Matthew Stafford, Lions
Stafford returned to the starting lineup with a bang this week against the Redskins. Facing a suspect Washington pass defense, he completed 26 of 45 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns and an interception. With Shaun Hill having been productive during his five games as the starter (and even Drew Stanton playing well when Hill was injured in Week 6), it is safe to conclude that the Lions passing attack is for real. Consider Stafford a low-end fantasy starter over the balance of the season.
Jon Kitna, Cowboys
If your league doesn’t penalize interceptions, Kitna looks like gold. He throws picks, the Cowboys get behind, they have to throw more. What’s not to like? Well, a lot, actually-that’s why I prefer leagues that penalize interceptions. Kitna has thrown for 566 yards and three touchdowns in a game and a half, and that’s good enough for 40 fantasy points. Of course that 40 points drops considerably once you tally the interceptions, so don’t go out and get him if picks count against you in your league.
Alex Smith, 49ers
With Alex Smith out with a shoulder injury, Troy Smith stepped into the starting lineup for this week’s game in London against the Broncos. While he wasn’t spectacular, he was good enough to lead the 49ers to a victory, and head coach Mike Singletary hinted after the game that it is Troy’s job going forward. Time to drop Alex Smith from your roster in re-draft leagues.
LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
He was Moving Up last week and he’s back this week for a return performance. In two short weeks, Blount has moved from afterthought to lead back to potential breakout player down the stretch. This week he ran over the Cardinals, gaining 120 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries and making an absolutely sick move when he jumped over safety Kerry Rhodes. I guess when you can run it like that, your inability to pass protect becomes a secondary issue. The Bucs remaining schedule is run-of-the-mill, and Blount has clearly established himself as the team’s top threat at running back. That makes him a mid-tier RB2 with upside.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
Quick question: Who is the 20th-ranked fantasy running back? It’s the man with four names. With Fred Taylor on the shelf, BJGE has taken over the reins as the Patriots’ starting running back. And while he will never be confused with the league’s elite backs, he has been a quietly productive fantasy option with touchdowns in five straight games, including two this week against a solid Vikings run defense. He also topped 100-yards for the first time this season, gaining 112 on just 16 carries. He’s the type of player that fantasy owners grab on the waiver wire and then are afraid to start. If that’s the case with the owner who has him in your league, and you’re desperate for help at running back, grab him. As for Taylor, there’s little reason for the team to go back to him even if he does gets healthy.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Entering 2010, Stewart shaped up as a mid-tier RB2, with the Panthers running game expected to carry the offense. However, Carolina has struggled on offense-both in the passing game and on the ground-and Stewart has been virtually invisible. He had a season-best 43 yards on the ground entering this week’s contest against the Rams and was expected to top that with DeAngelo Williams out with a foot injury. The only problem was that the Rams and their improved defense had other ideas. They shut down Stewart, and he finished with just 30 yards on 14 carries and one reception for eight yards. With that, he blew his chance to earn a greater share of the workload when Williams returns, and his yards per carry dropped to a measly 2.8.
Steven Jackson, Rams
Jackson is obviously a beast, and the Rams’ bye this week should help his injured ring finger on his left hand heal properly. It better, because he struggled mightily this week against a soft Panthers run defense, gaining 59 yards on 23 carries. Until the Rams started chewing up the clock, most of his runs were to the outside (presumably to protect his injured finger) where he is less effective. While he is clearly a player that needs to be retained on your roster if you have him, I would be hesitant to swing a trade for him until he shows he finger is healthy.
Terrell Owens, Bengals
After a quiet start to the season where he managed only 152 receiving yards in three games, T.O. has been on fire over the Bengals’ last four contests. He has emerged as Carson Palmer’s top target and has double-digit fantasy points in four straight games. Over that period, he has 31 receptions for 477 yards and five touchdowns. It’s a mixed bag in terms of opponents over the remainder of the season, with the Bengals facing four top 10 passing defenses and four rated 18th or lower. If his owner isn’t buying into T.O. usurping Chad Ochocinco as the team’s top receiver, see if you can grab Owens with a low-ball offer.
Mike Williams, Bucs
Apparently Williams has something to prove after dropping to the fourth round of the rookie draft. The talented wide receiver has been on a tear in his rookie season, and it’s well past time to officially declare him a must-start on a weekly basis. Williams went off against the Cardinals this week, catching four passes for 106 yards and the game-winning touchdown. That performance marked the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, and he is now on pace to finish the season with 73 receptions for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns. If he stays on that pace, he will finish the season as either a low-end WR1 or a high-end WR2. Quite remarkable, given the baggage he brought with him from his college career.
Steve Breaston, Cardinals
In his first game back since suffering a knee injury in Week 3, Breaston once again showed his ability to make defenses pay for giving too much attention to Larry Fitzgerald. Despite uneven quarterback play, Breaston caught eight of his 11 targets for 147 yards and chipped in 14 yards on a reverse. With Derek Anderson expected to go back under center, Breaston should continue to produce and moves into the WR3 category, provided he can remain healthy.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
With the Raiders hurting at wide receiver this week against the Seahawks, Heyward-Bey stepped in and produced a career-high 105 receiving yards and a touchdown on his five receptions. While it would be foolish to suggest that Heyward-Bey is going to be a consistent fantasy producer over the balance of the season, it’s worth noting that the Raiders offense has scored 92 points over the last two games, thanks to some solid running and a play-action passing attack. That combination plays to Heyward-Bey’s strengths, and he could emerge as a decent fantasy starter if the team’s rushing attack continues to dominate opponents.
Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
Yeah, yeah, he’s the fourth option at wide receiver behind Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon. I just don’t think that will remain the case for very long. Stick with me here. The Colts haven’t said how long Collie will be out with his thumb injury, but speculation is he will return in Week 12. How effective will he be catching the ball if his thumb isn’t fully healed? Tight end Dallas Clark is on injured reserve. Pierre Garcon continues to run the wrong routes and has caught 61 of his 125 targets during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This week against the Texans, in his first game back since suffering a knee injury in Week 1, Gonzalez caught four of his six targets for 55 yards. He’s definitely worth stashing on your bench and could develop into a useful starter over the second half of the season.
Randy Moss, Vikings
He’s flamed out with two teams in just eight weeks. He’s unemployed. He’s averaging 39 receiving yards per game. As I like to say, you can’t score fantasy points without opportunity, and there’s no opportunity if you don’t have a team. I don’t buy the premise of the Patriots wanting him back, and they are really the only team where he could re-establish himself as a WR1 for fantasy purposes. Look for him to re-emerge with a wide receiver?needy playoff contender, but chances are slim that he will be a consistent contributor if he lands anywhere other than New England.
Percy Harvin, Vikings
No Moss means more opportunities for Harvin, right? That means more fantasy points, right? Not so fast. Harvin struggled before Moss was acquired, often lining up outside rather than in the slot, where he is more comfortable and more productive. Pre-Moss, Harvin had 12 receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown through three games. With Moss in the lineup, Harvin managed 19 receptions for 287 yards and two touchdowns over four games. Although his receptions stayed about the same, Harvin’s yardage actually doubled while Moss was in purple.
Jacob Tamme, Colts
The Colts entered this matchup against the Texans planning to use both Tamme and Brody Eldridge to replace Dallas Clark, who is out for the season. When Eldridge went down with a rib injury in the second quarter, that plan got shelved and Tamme responded by finishing the game with six receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. I’m guessing the scheme going forward will involve more Tamme and less Eldridge, regardless of Eldridge’s injury situation.
Heath Miller, Steelers
When Ben Roethlisberger returned from a four-game suspension, Miller’s production was expected to increase with the Steelers moving to a more pass-oriented offense. That hasn’t happened. In three games with Roethlisberger at the helm, Miller has seven receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. While that isn’t horrible, he has been targeted just eight times over those three games-a far cry from 2009, when he averaged 6.1 targets per game.