Week 4 Flames: Union SMACK! Le’Veon start-worthy in likely debut

Roto Arcade

Each week the Noise highlights 12-13 somewhat obscure, un-obvious names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week using the scoring system shown here. If you're a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 4 Flames in the comments section below.

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E.J. Manuel, Buf, QB (4-percent started)
Matchup: vs. Bal
Many fantasy owners believed preseason E.J. would stand for “Eternal Junk.” His questionable downfield reads and progressions were bound to make him a magnet for turnovers. After all last year at Florida State, he too often showcased a gunslinger mentality, attempting to squeeze passes into tight windows. More judicious than originally thought, he’s played well thus far. He’s notched a 4:1 TD:INT split through three games and is on pace for 4,100-plus combined yards (3,764 passing, 405 rushing). Not too shabby. Doug Marrone hasn’t allowed him to play too loose, indicative in his 6.3 YPA. Given his inexperience, however, that’s a positive development. Clashing with a Ravens secondary in which QBs are performing 11.5 percent above the league average against, Manuel has reasonable odds of finishing inside the position’s top-15 in Week 4. Keep in mind, though the Ravens largely held Matt Schaub in check (197 yards, 0:1 TD:INT), starting corner Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith surrendered 14 receptions on 18 targets. They are far from lock-down.

Fearless Forecast: 21-36, 247 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 20 rushing yards, 21.3 fantasy points

Bernard Pierce, Bal, RB (38-percent)
Matchup: at Buf
With Ray Rice in street clothes, Pierce seized the starting reins last week versus Houston, sending Fantasyland into a tizzy. Unfortunately, he delivered only modest results, evident in his 24-65-1 line. The Baltimore offensive line, which ranks dead last in run-blocking according to Pro Football Focus, is mostly to blame for the mediocre numbers. Still, despite the unit's underachievement, Pierce is in line to again shoulder the lion's share for the Fighting Sweet Peas. Rice, who is making progress, is a giant question mark for Week 4. Against a Bills front line routinely thumped by the run, Pierce, assuming he starts, should finally find some breathing room. Through three games, Buffalo has yielded 4.6 yards per carry to opposing rushers. If Bilal Powell can chug his way to 149 yards, it's entirely conceivable Pierce will exceed the century mark as well. Keep in mind he's a YAC monster. Nearly 69-percent of his yards have come after initial contact. Anticipate top-15 numbers in Week 4.

(UPDATE: According to Ravens insider Aaron Wilson, Ray Rice returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to suit up in Buffalo. It's undetermined whether or not he will start, but Pierce should still play a prominent role. In light of the news, I've adjusted my projection below.)

Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 68 rushing yards, 1 receptions, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.1 fantasy points

Le'Veon Bell, Pit, RB (7-percent)
Matchup: at Min (in London)
Buckingham Palace. Questionable cuisine. Bad teeth. And now, a triumphant Le'Veon comeback. That's what England will be best known for. According to Jay Glazer, the rookie rusher, sidelined by a midfoot sprain since preseason Week 2, is on track to see his first regular season action this week across the pond. The Post-Gazette believes he may even start. Advertised heavily in Roto Arcade throughout the summer, the youngster is a bruising rusher who echoes the days of Jerome Bettis. Last year at Michigan State, he led all FBS rushers in yards after contact. He also possesses above average wiggle, plus hands and is a very adept pass blocker. Considering how underwhelming Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and Isaac Redman have performed, he should be thrust into a healthy workload immediately. The offensive line, which ranks No. 18 in run-blocking per Pro Football Focus, remains suspect, but given the ultra-friendly matchup, he's worth deploying in the FLEX, at a minimum, in 12-team leagues. The Vikings' back-end issues on defense has greatly softened their defensive line, allowing rushers to trample them on a regular basis. Minnesota has surrendered 175.7 total yards per game and three TDs to rushers equal to the fourth-most fantasy points allowed. It's risky (Just ask Big Ben), but Bell is worth tolling in Week 4.

Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 66 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 15 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.4 fantasy points

Brian Hartline, Mia, WR (38-percent)
Matchup: at NO
Dez Bryant. Larry Fitzgerald. And Andre Johnson. What do they have in common? All currently rank behind Hartline among WRs. Small sample size, sure, but very quietly Miami's second fiddle has jammed working opposite Mike Wallace. In three games, he's logged an impressive 9.7 targets per game, catching 18 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns, one more score than he tallied over 15 games last year. Though he's stormed out of the gates, many owners continue to pay little attention. How rude. Under new DC Rob Ryan, the Saints have stiffened defensively, particularly versus the pass. Julio Jones is the only receiver to surpass 10.0 fantasy points in standard formats against New Orleans this season. Corner Keenan Lewis, expected to be Hartline's primary shadow, has allowed just 8.7 yards per catch to his assignments this year. Still, despite what appears to be a difficult matchup on paper, volume talks. Expect the overlooked wideout to flash his mitts on Bourbon Street en route to a top-30 day.

Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 83 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns, 12. 8 fantasy points

Alshon Jeffery, Chi, WR (9-percent)
Matchup: at Det
When the Bears announced the hiring of Marc Trestman last spring, the buzz around Jeffery reached a crescendo. Several people in the fantasy community placed great expectations on the No. 2 in what was expected to be a pass-happy system. However, ranking outside the top-70 in per game average thus far, his value has hit a sour note. To say he's overdue would be a gross understatement. The second-year receiver has enticed a meaningful 7.0 targets per game but has worked primarily in the short-field, seen in his 8.0 yards per catch. More concerning, Martellus Bennett's arrival has impeded his growth as a red-zone weapon. Still, given the favorable matchup, he's worth employing as a WR3 in 12-team and deeper leagues. Corner Rashean Mathis, who was recently promoted to the starting lineup, is an upgrade over Darius Slay, but the entire Lions secondary remains average at best. With Brandon Marshall and Bennett drawing plenty of attention, this is the week Jeffery finally finds the end-zone.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 10.4 fantasy points

SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10-percent started)

Rod Streater, Oak, WR (2-percent)
Matchup: vs. Wash
Entering the year, many believed the Raiders would be the most anemic offense in the league, next to Jacksonville of course. Terrelle Pryor's flawed mechanics, relative inexperience, shoddy offensive line and marginal weapons was a perfect storm of suck. However, Oakland has proven naysayers wrong, averaging 351.3 total yards per game, the 13th-most in pro football. Pryor, especially, has opened eyes, extending plays, showcasing his versatility while delivering several accurate passes downfield (65.4 cmp%). After suffering a concussion late Monday in Denver, the signal caller must be cleared, but assuming he is, Streater could shock the world in Week 4. Though he's attracted just 5.3 targets per game, 31.2-percent of those looks have come on passes beyond 20 yards. Matched against arguably the friendliest secondary around, he should be lined up in the crosshairs often by either Pryor or Matt Flynn. Only the Bears, shockingly, have conceded more pass plays of 20-plus yards this season than Washington. Most spectacularly awful, corner David Amerson alone has yielded 28.4 yards per catch. Can you say "generous?" Bet on black.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 78 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 17.5 fantasy points



Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their "Flames" (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Week 3 Reader Record: 1-6; Year to date: 6-14

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