TOYOTA TUNDRA – PICKUPS OF THE WEEK
This week, Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert Brad Evans looks at eight intriguing fantasy football players, and a defense, likely to be available on the waiver wire in fantasy leagues.
Solid Buy (12-teams plus) Overlooked passer worth thinking long and hard about
Christian Ponder (QB) Minnesota Vikings
Everyone in Fantasyland is understandably head over heels for Robert Griffin III, but Ponder is another young passer making considerable noise. The versatile second-year QB has shown vast improvement in several categories. He's delivered passes more crisply and accurately (70.1 completion percentage), made clearer decisions and cut down on unforced errors. His masterful performance (198-2-0, 33-1) against vaunted San Francisco on Sunday says it all. With a solid supporting cast around him, including Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and rising talent Kyle Rudolph, and a suspect Vikings defense forcing him into many high-volume situations, his above average contributions should continue. This week, matched against a dinged up Lions secondary that's yielded 8.2 passing yards per attempt, he's a borderline QB1 in deeper formats. Subsequent matchups against pass-friendly Tennessee (Week 5) and Washington (Week 6) also bode well. Sound the horn.
Solid Buy (12-teams plus)Rookie's role could expand in near future
Ronnie Hillman (RB) Denver Broncos
Physically and mentally underdeveloped when the season started, Hillman was activated for the first time last week against Houston. Though he only logged three touches, Willis McGahee's potential absence due to a rib injury makes the rookie a viable speculative add. Backup Lance Ball was largely ineffective in McGahee's absence, totaling just 18 yards on eight touches. As discussed repeatedly this past summer, Hillman was one of my favorite RBs in this year's draft class. The mighty mite is an explosive, slashing rusher with soft hands who broke Marshall Faulk's freshman rushing records while at San Diego St. If McGahee is unavailable this week, expect his role to grow substantially. Matched against a Raiders defense that's surrendered 161.3 total yards per game and three TDs to RBs through three weeks, he's an upside FLEX option in deeper formats.
Moderate Buy (12-team leagues plus) Bills third-stringer worth flexing if thrust into spotlight
Tashard Choice (RB) Buffalo Bills
It appears C.J. Spiller dodged a major bullet. Tests revealed he only suffered a shoulder strain instead of a broken clavicle or subluxation most feared. Still, the NFL's leading rusher is expected to miss at least this week, paving the way for Choice to fill the void. Maybe. Fred Jackson, who apparently possesses the healing powers of Adrian Peterson, could return to practice this week, complicating the backup's value potential. If the incumbent does see the field this week, he will undoubtedly receive the bulk of the carries. If unavailable, however, Choice will be the beast of burden. Despite a difficult matchup against New England, the former Cowboy would be a FLEX player of interest if thrust into the lead role. In Cleveland he totaled a respectable 99 yards on 22 touches. The Pats have surrendered just 3.1 yards per carry, thus far, but any starting RB is worth consideration, particularly in challenging formats.
Strong Buy (12-team leagues plus) Miller Time may be in order for Miami in Week 4
Lamar Miller (RB) Miami Dolphins
In fantasy, you're always one leg bend away from a value spike. Miller's situation is a prime example. With news Reggie Bush could be sidelined Sunday due to a knee injury, the local product from 'The U' could enter a timeshare with plodder Daniel Thomas. The veteran will undoubtedly dominate short-yardage and goal-line carries and the rookie is still ironing out the kinks as a pass blocker, but, in most scenarios, talent should win out. Miller is the more gifted runner. His ultra-versatile, speedy style is a better fit within Joe Philbin's West Coast offense. Because of this week's daunting matchup at Arizona, no 'Fins back is worth deploying beyond the FLEX. Still, with matchups against Cincinnati and St. Louis upcoming, he has favorable odds of delivering RB2 level numbers in the near future. Cast a line.
Solid Buy (12-teams plus) Unheralded wideout rising up receiving ranks in Washington
Leonard Hankerson (WR) Washington Redskins
Pierre Garcon, when healthy, is RGIII's true No. 1, but Hankerson isn't far behind. In Monday's presser, Mike Shanahan declared the wideout has earned a starting job, supplanting Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson on the team's depth chart. With Garcon's availability still hazy entering Week 4, Hankerson could be the team's 'X' receiver. The matchup is fabulous. Tampa Bay, routinely torched via the pass early this season, has yielded a league-high 16.8 yards per catch and the second-most fantasy points to WRs. With or without Garcon, he's an excellent WR3 sleeper in 12-team leagues moving forward. Keep in mind, Washington's defensive inefficiencies almost guarantees RGIII will throw 30-plus times per game moving forward, resulting in a sizable 6-8 targets per game for Hankerson.
Moderate PPR Buy (12-teams plus) Off bench, Pharaoh tallied PPR performance for ages
Ramses Barden (WR) New York Giants
To the advantageous, the Cal Poly product was a Shocker Special last Thursday, filling in for late scratch Hakeem Nicks. His nine receptions for 138 yards was pure PPR heaven. Though he would likely never win a footrace against Chunk from "Goonies," Barden possesses terrific size, hands and route-running abilities. The Panthers, whether in zone or man coverage, had no answer for him. Obviously, his value is tied directly to Nicks' health. If the Pro Bowl wideout, who was absent from practice Monday, is unavailable this week against Philly, Barden would be a quality WR3 in 12-team and deeper leagues. Still, even if Nicks returns, he should be stashed in formats with lengthy benches. He's one tendon snap away from high-end WR2 production.
Strong Buy (10-teams plus) Hitch your fantasy sleigh to gift-bearing TE
Kyle Rudolph (TE) Minnesota Vikings
Hyped repeatedly this preseason by the Yahoo! fantasy brass, Rudolph has delivered. His 10.6 points per game mark in standard formats ranks No. 6 among TEs, one spot behind position cornerstone Jimmy Graham. With an excellent blend of size, hands and athleticism, Rudolph should continue to be a fixture in the Vikings West Coast offense, particularly near the goal line. Ponder's advancements and the target's development lend hope for consistent TE1 production. This week, matched against divisional foe Detroit, which has allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this year, he is a borderline top-5 play. Enough is enough. Rudolph deserves to be universally owned.
Moderate Buy (12-teams plus) Week 4 QB Plug n' Play
Kevin Kolb Arizona Cardinals
At the controls of arguably the league's most surprising team, Kolb, blasted often by local and national media, has silenced his critics with consecutive admirable starts. During that stretch, he's found the end zone four times (3 pass, 1 rush), while committing just one turnover. Equally astonishing, he's completed 64.4 percent of his attempts on the season. This week the Cardinals host Miami, a club that's struggled defending the pass. The Fins have allowed 7.6 yards per attempt on the year and back-to-back 300-yard performances (to Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez). For Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck owners dealing with the bye week blues, Kolb, unbelievably, could fill the void nicely.
Solid Buy (all leagues) Week 4 DEF Plug n' Play
Denver Broncos Defense/Special Teams
The Broncos, bucked by Houston in Denver in Week 3, are licking their wounds defensively. The Texans rolled up 436 total yards and 31 points in Sunday's loss. Matt Schaub's left ear was the only thing Denver defeated. Still, this is a very talented unit. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are a daunting duo. And Champ Bailey, though born during the Garfield administration, is still performing at a high level. Slated to clash Oakland in Week 4, Denver is a top-10 D/ST play. Through three games, Carson Palmer has been sacked four times and committed three turnovers. And recall when the two rivals clashed in the Mile High City a season ago, the Broncos picked Palmer three times and chipped in a pair of sacks. Saddle up.
Other Week 4 Pickups: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buf, QB, Andy Dalton, Cin, QB, Jake Locker, Ten, QB, Andre Brown, NYG, RB, Daniel Thomas, Mia, RB, Rashard Mendenhall, Pit, RB, Mikel Leshoure, Det, RB, Bilal Powell, NYJ, RB, Donnie Avery, Ind, WR, T.Y. Hilton, Ind, WR, Nate Burleson, Det, WR, Julian Edelman, NE, WR, Heath Miller, Pit, TE, Martellus Bennett, NYG, TE, Dennis Pitta, Bal, TE