Roy Helu, RB, Redskins (available in 56.2% of ESPN leagues)
Alfred Morris finished Week 4 on the sideline with a rib injury. He and HC Mike Shanahan each said after the game that there was no fracture, and Morris expects to be ready after the Week 5 bye.
But we all saw what bad ribs did to Trent Richardson in Cleveland last year. They didn't cost him any games, but they sure did limit his performance. The Browns had no other real option, but Washington has Helu if Morris needs a bit more rest.
Helu racked up 41 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards and 1 TD against the Raiders on Sunday. His 2 receptions went for 15 and 28 yards, and his score came on a 14-yard run. He also caught 49 balls as a rookie in 2011. That receiving trait can overcome tough rushing matchups should Helu be pressed into starting duty.
At the least, he's a strong handcuff for Morris owners. But someone should own Helu in just about any fantasy league.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers (available in 85.1%)
Someone might have to remind Woodhead that he's not Darren Sproles -- or, you know, just let him keep pretending.
Woodhead has caught 20 passes over his past 3 games. His 5-catch, 54-yard haul in Week 4 included 2 TDs -- his 1st 2 of the season and the 1st time in his career he has caught 2 TD passes in a single game.
Woodhead's 22 receptions through 4 games puts him on pace for 88 over the full season. His 20 over the past 3 weeks would project to 106 over 16 games. We don't expect him to reach either number, but 55 receptions certainly seems doable. That would have ranked him 3rd among all NFL RBs last season. And Woodhead carries upside beyond that total in an offense with big questions at WR and a reduced role for Ryan Mathews.
Woodhead entered Week 4 leading the team in receptions. Antonio Gates passed him Sunday, but the little RB sits just behind the veteran TE and should remain a key receiver for Philip Rivers. Even the rushing numbers have been relatively nice the past 2 weeks: 31 and 32 yards on 5 carries each time.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Raiders (available in 99.2%)
Darren McFadden came out of Week 4 with a hamstring injury. His history on that front doesn't exactly breed optimism for a quick return. On top of that, Marcel Reece left early with a knee injury.
That could position Jennings as Oakland's primary back vs. the Chargers in Week 5. Jennings turned his 15 carries against Washington into just 45 yards, but he added 8 receptions for 71 more yards. He's not likely to match that catch total again, but the flimsy WR corps in Oakland will help any starting RB garner pass targets.
The bleak RB landscape in fantasy football right now turns any real starter into at least an RB2 candidate for fantasy players.
Mike Goodson, RB, Jets (available in 97.6%)
Chris Ivory just can't stay healthy, and we're still not ready to buy into the idea of Bilal Powell as a feature back. Enter the troublemaker.
Goodson's set to return this week from the 4-game suspension that followed his spring arrest. The Jets clearly still like him quite a bit as a player, or they wouldn't have bothered keeping him through the whole ordeal. It would have been quite easy to sever ties with a guy who had never played a game for the team and boasts just 722 career rushing yards.
But Goodson can add much-needed playmaking ability to the Jets' offense. He has averaged 4.5 yards per carry for his career so far and a nice 8.9 yards per catch. Goodson caught 40 balls for the Panthers back in 2010 and out-performed Darren McFadden in last year's Raiders backfield.
It might take a few games for Goodson to carve out a role, but we expect the Jets to work him in as quickly as possible. Stash him on your bench now to add depth at fantasy's thinnest position.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans (available in 85.5%)
Fresh off an 8-catch, 131-yard outing in Week 3, Washington topped the standard-scoring board at his position in fantasy football this week.
His 4 catches went for 105 yards and his first 2 scores of the year. The 2nd TD – a 77-yarder – was aided by a ref getting in the way of Jets CB Antonio Cromartie. Still, Washington is clearly a significant part of Tennessee’s passing attack. He’s averaging 7.5 targets per game. He leads the team in receptions, targets and receiving yards to this point.
And Jake Locker's hip injury shouldn't crush Washington. Ryan Fitzpatrick has started games for 3 NFL teams and supported fantasy-starter value for Bills WR Stevie Johnson the past 3 years.
Robert Woods, WR, Bills (available in 95.4%)
It was easy to overlook Woods' 10 targets against the Jets in Week 3. He caught just 2 of them for 35 yards. Fellow rookie QB E.J. Manuel went to him 8 more times in the Week 4 win over Baltimore, though, and Woods caught 4 for 80 yards and a TD. Woods also just missed a 2nd TD when he bobbled the ball and couldn't quite get both feet in bounds.
The 2nd-round pick has seen loads of playing time. Heading into Week 4, Woods had played more offensive snaps than anyone but Manuel and the O-line. He's a solid option to fill in a WR3 spot on your fantasy roster during the byes. If Woods continues to develop his rapport with Manuel, he could prove to be even more than that.
Coby Fleener, TE, Colts (available in 82.3%)
He’s still available in over 80% of ESPN leagues. That’s far too high for a guy who could be a top-10 TE the rest of the way. Fleener set season highs with 5 catches and 77 yards on Sunday. He also scored his 2nd TD in 3 games.
Sunday marked the 2nd time in 3 games that Fleener garnered at least 7 targets. (He collected just 2 vs. the Niners in between.) With Dwayne Allen out, look for Fleener to remain prominent in the Colts' offense -- especially in the red zone.
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (available in 78.7%)
The Steelers need all sorts of help. Getting back their dependable TE certainly can't hurt.
Miller racked up 6 catches for 70 yards against Minnesota in his 2nd game of the season. His 8 targets tied for 2nd on the team.
That's right in line with his terrific 2012. Miller ranked 5th among NFL TEs with 71 receptions, adding 816 yards and 8 TDs. We won't pencil him in for those numbers coming off a December ACL tear, but Ben Roethlisberger figures to look his way often.
The Rams defense has been a real-life and fantasy disappointment through 4 weeks. The unit has just 9 sacks and 5 takeaways. But it’ll still be a nice spot-start option for Week 5 against the Jaguars.
Defenses have racked up 17 sacks, 8 takeaways and 2 TDs against Jacksonville through 4 weeks. The 1st 3 opponents each collected 4+ sacks. And Jacksonville has managed just 31 total points, an average of 7.8 per game. Only Seattle let the Jaguars score more than 9, and all 17 of those points came after the middle of the 3rd quarter, when the Seahawks had already built a 31-0 lead.
St. Louis retains scoring upside along its D-line with pass-rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long and big-play potential in CBs Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan. Even LBs James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree can create turnovers -- especially in pass coverage.
Of course, to some degree, this spot should just read "whoever's playing Jacksonville."
Deep League Targets:
Brian Hoyer, QB, Browns (available in 98.9%)
Hoyer was actually better in Week 4 than in his 1st start the previous week. He completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in a win over the Bengals. Next comes a matchup with the Bills, who have allowed 2 TD passes to each QB they've faced. Buffalo has grabbed a combined 7 INTs over its past 2 games but also yielded a rushing TD and 331 yards to Geno Smith in that span. Hoyer's at least starter-worthy in 2-QB formats.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals (available in 98.2%)
Ellington was once again the best RB for Arizona’s sluggish running game. The rookie took 4 carries for 29 yards, adding 22 more on 3 catches. Rashard Mendenhall, meanwhile, managed just 21 yards on 12 carries, lost a fumble and dropped a pass. Ellington’s role should continue to grow going forward.
Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (available in 94.2%)
Hunter looks like the guy you hoped for if you handcuffed him to Frank Gore back at draft time. He's regained the quickness and cutting ability from before his Achilles' tendon tear. Hunter took 11 carries for 49 yards and a TD against the Rams. We certainly can't expect that much work often, but he'll be a fantasy starter if Gore goes down.
Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings (available in 97.6%)
Simpson recorded his 2nd 100-yard game of the young season on Sunday, hauling in 7 balls for 124 yards against the Steelers. He’s more attractive this time because QB Matt Cassel looked like a significant upgrade over Christian Ponder. Simpson is worth stashing as we wait to see if Cassel can string a few decent games together.
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys (available in 99.3%)
The rookie cost the Cowboys with a late-game fumble near the goal line. But he also hauled in 7 of 8 targets for 77 yards. The high catch rate is nice to see, and he’s certainly capable of more big plays going forward. Williams is a bye-week option for as long as Miles Austin is sidelined with his bum hamstring.
Austin Pettis, WR, Rams (available in 99.2%)
Pettis led a bad Rams offense with 5 catches and 59 yards in the Thursday night loss to the Niners. It marked the 2nd time in 3 games that he caught at least 5 balls. Pettis has also scored twice in his past 3 games. For the season so far, he sits tied for 2nd on the team in targets (31), ranks 2nd in receptions (18) and checks in 3rd in receiving yardage (173). Pettis is also the only Ram to score in multiple games so far. NFL Network's Mike Mayock relayed to us that Sam Bradford trusts the 3rd-year man, who has been with Bradford longer than just about anyone else on the young offense. That could keep Pettis a key target going forward.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets (available in 98.3%)
Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill both left Sunday’s game, leaving Kerley as New York’s #1 WR. He’d be a WR3 option if that’s the case against the Falcons next week. Kerley hauled in 4 of 5 targets for 65 yards against the Titans.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (available in 62.6%)
Nate Burleson’s injury might spark Pettigrew’s season. After totaling just 5 catches in his first 3 games, Pettigrew hauled in 7 on Sunday. They went for just 54 scoreless yards. Pettigrew doesn’t have much fantasy upside but could re-emerge as a PPR factor.
Garrett Graham, TE, Texans (available in 97.9%)
Graham caught 5 of his 6 targets for 69 yards and a TD against the Seahawks. Although Owen Daniels is the clear lead TE in Houston, Graham continues to see a fair amount of action, especially in the red zone. He’s now scored in 3 of 4 games. The only game in which he didn't was Week 3, which he entered as questionable because of a groin injury and then played less than half of the team's offensive snaps (seeing nary a target). Otherwise, Graham has seen at least 5 targets each time out.