When it comes to fantasy football sleepers and hot waiver wire pickups, it seems like a new guy emerges every week. Last week, it was the Cowboys’ Terrance Williams, who benefited from one of the greatest shootouts in NFL history between two of the game’s best gunslingers (yes, Romo deserved at least some of that fat, $108 million contract).
Williams’s chances of producing another dynamite performance look much bleaker moving forward, though, as he also cashed in on Miles Austin’s absence from the field for the second straight week due to injury. Austin is listed as active this week against the Redskins, so we may see Williams fall back down to Earth in week six.
Outside of Williams, here are some other guys that you should be keeping an eye on for not only this week, but the rest of the season, as well:
Let’s face it: Rashard Mendenhall is never going to duplicate his 1,273-yard, 13-touchdown 2010 season. There’s a reason the Steelers opted to not bring back their former first-round pick during the offseason. Arizona did the same with their former first-round pick Beanie Wells, and then decided to bring in Mendenhall as his replacement.
So far this season, Mendenhall has compiled a measly 219 yards in five games with just two touchdowns. Most alarming is the fact that he is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, a number that serves as an adequate representation of the fact that he has failed to accumulate a rush of more than seven yards since week two. That’s reaching Trent Richardson territory right there (for Trent’s sake, he had a 16-yard rush against Seattle last Sunday).
Enter the little-known Andre Ellington, who has served primarily as a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield for the Cards thus far (13 receptions for 144 yards and one TD). Ellington has begun to earn more playing time in recent weeks, as evidenced by his playing in a season-high 43 % of Arizona’s snaps last week. The rookie out of Clemson has consistently flashed big-play ability, despite only receiving 18 carries so far this season. His 6.7 yards-per-carry tells you all you need to know about his upside in comparison to Mendenhall’s.
The only thing working against Ellington’s favor is his size. At 5-foot-9, 200-pounds, head coach Bruce Arians has already stated that he doesn’t foresee any more than 30-32 snaps per game for his rookie ‘back out of LSU. If Arians were smart, he’d start the rookie over Mendenhall. Regardless, Ellington is emerging as a viable flex candidate.
Most of us laughed when we heard that the Raiders were going to throw Terrelle Pryor, of all people, onto the field as their opening day starter at quarterback. It seemed like a typical Raiders move.
And then the man proved he could play. After getting lost in the chaos that was the Ohio State tattoo scandal, we all seemed to forget just how much potential once oozed out of his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame every time he took the field in Columbus. We all knew he could run, but the bigger question came in the passing game, where Pryor displayed inconsistency during each of his three seasons spent as the signal-caller of the Buckeyes offense.
So far this season, Pryor has displayed an arm accuracy that was so obviously missing during his collegiate years. He currently ranks sixth in the league in completion percentage, having completed 68.3 % of his passes thus far. He hasn’t thrown a pick since throwing two against the Colts in week one. Pryor’s mobility still serves as a major asset, also, as he has averaged 57 yards per game on the ground in 2013.
After two rather tough matchups against Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Pryor will then square off against Philadelphia and the New York Giants. Obviously, these are very favorable matchups, so Pryor deserves at least a pickup – if not a start – during weeks nine and ten.
After receiving the start and rushing for 78 yards on 14 carries last week, head coach Jeff Fisher said that he would have liked to give the ball to Stacy even more. This is good news for those who raced to pick up Stacy last week after he was finally given the starting nod shortly before Sunday’s contest against the lowly Jaguars, or for those who jumped on the Zac Stacy fantasy bandwagon this week and scooped him up.
Daryl Richardson is still in the mix, as is Isaiah Pead (barely), but that shouldn’t worry you too much. Fisher likes to lean on quality runners when he has them (i.e. Eddie George, the old Chris Johnson, etc.), and as Sam Bradford continues his on-again/off-again play at the quarterback position, it’s looking more and more likely that the Rams will begin to lean more heavily on their running game.
Stacy has already been declared as the starter for this week’s contest against the Texans, and I would expect him to serve as the head of the platoon role he’s likely to share with Richardson for the remainder of the season. He’s worthy of a flex start this week, and could develop into an RB 2 by season’s end.
Opening photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images