After a Week 7 slaughter, for several notable names, here are three unheralded medal-earners (started in less than 30-percent of Y! leagues) projected to finish in fourth place who ended up setting the fantasy pace:
Christian Ponder, Min, QB
Y! Percent started: 3-percent
And with that, Donovan McNabb might as well call it a career.
"The Thinker," on his first pass in his first NFL start, connected with Michael Jenkins on a 73-yard pass play, jumpstarting his career in explosive fashion. Two downs later, Ponder polished off the drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe. Though somewhat adventurous on his remaining nine drives, he finished with 219 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also chipped in 31 rushing yards. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
Scouting reports on the first-round pick are generally glowing. Mechanically, he's a fluid, smooth passer with an above average arm who also runs well. He's also very proficient in the short-to-intermediate field, a characteristic that fits ideally in a West Coast scheme. A lack of awareness, a knock almost every inexperienced quarterback has, and tendency to push the envelope, especially in tight spaces, were evaluators' primary concerns. Analyzing his overall performance Sunday, the book was spot on. The rookie made just about every throw asked of him.
Conventional fantasy wisdom has always told owners staying away from rookie QBs is a sage move. This season it's a stupid one. Cam Newton is currently the No. 2 ranked passer on a per game basis in virtual pigskin. And though Andy Dalton has paled in comparison, he's proven to be no pushover, surpassing the 20-point threshold twice in six starts.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. Outside Percy Harvin, the Vikes have a number of questionable weapons, but Ponder's flawless delivery and strong leadership skills could enhance the performance of those around him. Yes, defenses will eventually exploit his weaknesses, but with a very favorable schedule in the offing, he could exceed expectation, possibly ranking in the 13-16 range come virtual playoff time. Keep in mind the Vikes face Carolina, Green Bay, Oakland, Atlanta and Denver, pass defenses that rank in the top-10 in yards per attempt allowed to QBs, over the next six weeks.
Michael Bush, Oak, RB
Y! Percent started: 25-percent
When Bush sees the rival Chiefs on the schedule, his salivary glands must work overtime. The man is a true KC killer.
After Darren McFadden was felled by a right foot sprain in the first quarter, the powder keg stepped in and rolled over an exploitable Chiefs defensive line. Running with power and authority, Bush bull-rushed his way to 113 total yards on 19 touches. It was his first century mark performance since Week 17 last year against, coincidentally enough, against Kansas City.
Bush, depending upon the severity of Run DMC's setback, would easily be the hottest waiver commodity of the week. If the injury keeps the incumbent sidelined even after Oakland's Week 8 bye -- keep in mind he's been plagued by foot problems over his career -- the backup would be a borderline top-12 play Week 9 versus the Fightin' Tebows. Yes, the Broncos are much improved against the run, but Oakland's offensive line play coupled with the presence of Carson Palmer and Hue Jackson's conservative nature, would likely propel Bush to legitimate RB2 totals.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. Bush is a bruising, between-the-tackles grinder who, if thrust into a featured role, would thrive. Recall in three starts last season he averaged 121.7 total yards per game and splashed pay-dirt twice. McFadden owners concerned about their cornerstone's general fragility should acquire the handcuff at all costs. The shallow-minded, too, should grab and stash him immediately. Entering Week 7, Bush was owned in just 51-percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Tim Hightower, Was, RB
Y! Percent started: 28-percent
Are you really surprised? In a twist we all should have seen coming, Lucifer Shanahan once again reared his ugly head, reinserting Hightower, who was benched last week after not disclosing a shoulder injury three weeks ago, into the starting lineup. And, naturally, the rusher delivered one of his best games of the season, gashing Carolina's 31st-ranked run defense for 88 yards on 17 carries (5.2 ypc). Ryan Torain owners, the 'expert' community apologizes. Well … sort of.
Putting your faith into any Redskins running back is a risky endeavor. Trying to predict the true end of human civilization is an easier exercise. However, at this point, Hightower, when healthy, will be the primary ball carrier. Despite averaging just 3.7 yards per carry prior to Week 7, it appears the coaching staff has the utmost faith in him, likely because of his excellent pass-blocking and receiving skills.
For Torain owners who smashed piggybanks to acquire the backup's services a couple weeks ago, Sunday's unexpected changing of the guard isn't completely damning. Torain is one ACL tear away from overtaking the starting gig permanently. Of course, Roy Helu remains in the mix, but if there's one role that appears to be cemented, it's the rookie's. The coaching staff is very comfortable deploying Helu in passing situations, which should keep his per game workload in the 6-10 touch range.
Believe or Make Believe? Make Believe. Washington travels to Buffalo in Week 8 to face a Bills defense that has surrendered 4.7 yards per carry, 148.2 total yards per game and eight touchdowns to running backs this season, equal to the sixth-most fantasy points allowed. If Hightower's MRI results Monday truly reveal a torn ACL, Torain, obviously, would immediately benefit, though Wash's schedule over the next several weeks is very unfavorable. After Week 8, the 'Skins' have brutal matchups against San Francisco, Miami, Dallas and Seattle, run defenses that rank inside the top-13 in fewest fantasy points allowed to RBs.
Honorable Mentions: John Beck, Was, QB, Roy Williams, Chi, WR, Delone Carter, Ind, RB
Follow Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise.
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