Most leagues are about halfway through their fantasy season, if they aren’t now, they will be at the end of this week. The contenders and favorites have already established themselves in the leagues, but injuries and strength of schedule can derail any team, even ones that are still undefeated. On the other hand, even teams with one or zero wins can still string together wins in order to make a playoff push.
Do not throw in the towel just yet if you feel like you are out of contention. Every week there will be a new guy that will emerge as the must pick up in your league, and in most leagues the waiver order is the reverse order of standings, and if you pick up that one guy that just takes the league by storm, you can piggy back his success to fantasy glory. Also, after this week, the number of teams on byes will increase to more than two and even goes as high as six for a couple of weeks. When that happens, roster depth as well as making the right pickups will determine who the real contenders and who the pretenders really are.
1. Harry Douglas – Atlanta Falcons
Harry Douglas started off the season as the Atlanta Falcons fifth option behind Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Steven Jackson. Due to a season ending injury to Jones and uncertainty about the health of Jackson and White, Douglas is now the Falcons number two option behind sure fire Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. I still believe the Falcons have a little firepower left in them and will win a decent amount of games. In order to do this, Matt Ryan will look to Douglas for help. Until Roddy White is full strength, Douglas will thrive and make sure you pick him up the benefit his increased targets over the next few weeks.
2. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
I did not think I would have to put Dalton in this column this late into the season, but I found out that Dalton is owned in less than 25% of leagues. Dalton is a top 15 fantasy QB and has more points than Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick. All three of those guys are owned in 100% of the leagues and more than likely, those three guys are getting starts in over 80% of leagues. Dalton may not be the sexy name and you look at the Bengals and they don’t score a bunch of points every week, but Dalton does have big games every once in a while. I understand that his inconsistency is probably what keeps people from either picking him up or keeping him, but at the end of the season his numbers are there and put him as a Top-15 QB and that is a great bye week replacement if that’s what you are looking for.
3. Joseph Randle – Dallas Cowboys
I was a little reluctant to put Randle in here because of his numbers as DeMarco Murray’s replacement after he was injured.
Randle finished with only 17 yards on 11 carries. But, he did score a touchdown and that turns a one point performance into a seven point performance just like that. Randle also caught a few passes out of the backfield, so that’s a plus as well. If Randle does indeed get the start for Dallas this week against Philly, Randle would be a guy to start because that game will be a high scoring affair. One more thing Randle has going for him is that there is nobody threatening to take away his carries.
Other names to pick up: Rueben Randle – New York Giants, Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers, Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants, and Andre Ellington – Arizona Cardinals
1. Jared Cook – St. Louis Rams
Jared Cook is probably on most fantasy players “Most Hated” list because every year he is hyped up to finally break out and become the player he was expected to become. The thing with Cook though, is he shows flashes of brilliance and showcases what he is capable of some weeks and then other weeks he just disappears. In Week 1 this year Cook had 141 yards receiving and 2 TDs, but since then he hasn’t sniffed the end zone and has seen his targets dwindle week by week. Until Cook shows he can be consistent every week, he isn’t worth taking up a roster spot because there are plenty of other TE options out there.
2. Sidney Rice – Seattle Seahawks
You can throw Sidney Rice into the David Wilson category as being one of the biggest fantasy disappointments this year. Rice only has 12 catches for 181 yards and 2 TDs. That would be fantastic if that was a week’s stats, but it’s not, it’s six games worth. Also, Percy Harvin is nearing his return which will keep Rice’s numbers down. Russell Wilson can be partly to blame as he seems to be more willing to tuck and run this year, but Rice just hasn’t seemed to be a target that Wilson has been looking for all that often this season. Plenty of receiver options on the waiver wire to drop Rice and not feel bad about it.
3. Montee Ball – Denver Broncos
Until Knowshon Moreno gives up the starting role in Denver, Ball is not worth owning. Moreno had three touchdowns this past Sunday against Jacksonville. That game was the one that was supposed to allow Ronnie Hillman and Monte Ball get plenty of touches since it was supposed to be a blowout. Unfortunately for Hillman and Ball owners, that did not happen. Ball will not make an impact unless Moreno goes down and therefore he is not worth stashing on your bench unless you happen to be in a keeper league.
1. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals have plenty of running backs on their squad, but coming into the season, the starting job was supposed to be Rashard Mendenhall’s without much competition from others. It seemed he was going to have it all to himself when Ryan Williams went down with an injury. Instead, Andre Ellington, the rookie from Clemson has come from out of nowhere and taken carries and snaps from Mendenhall. Ellington’s workload has increased every game, but Head Coach Bruce Arians refuses to give Ellington the starting gig because of his size. That could be a mistake because Ellington has done more with his touches than Mendenhall so far. In the end, both of these guys are worth owning, just not starting until one of them takes over as the bonafide starter.
2. St. Louis Rams
Another NFC West team and another backfield that has more than one guy getting touches in the backfield. Daryl Richardson was the starter at the beginning of the season and then he got injured. Isaiah Pead then took over for about a half and then he also got injured which set the scene for the rookie Zac Stacy. Stacy came in and has proven himself a viable starter and it appears he will be the starter going forward for the Rams. Richardson is still worth owning, but only as a handcuff to Stacy in case of injury or hitting the proverbial “rookie wall.”
3. Carolina Panthers
No, DeAngelo Williams is not losing his job, but he has not reached the end zone yet this season. As a DeAngelo owner in a few leagues, I know how frustrating it can be to see Williams do all the work and then watch Mike Tolbert punch it in and get all the glory, and points. Combine that with the impending return of Jonathan Stewart, the future does not look too bright for DeAngelo to put up the type of number he has been doing since the start of the season. He is worth holding onto in case Stewart in not completely healed or struggles upon his return. The Panthers are a run heavy team, so Tolbert, Williams, and Stewart are all worth roster spots; but after Week 7, they should only be used as bye week replacements.
Ben Hogan is a long-time fantasy sports guru. Follow him @NotTheGolfer for any fantasy or lineup questions throughout the week.