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) Ageless rookie showing veteran polish
Brandon Weeden (QB) Cleveland Browns
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are understandably stealing the rookie headlines, but Weeden continues to post starter-worthy numbers in deeper leagues. Interceptions have occasionally plagued him, but when protected, he's capable of shredding defenses. He puts plenty of pepper on the ball, is an accurate passer in the short-to-intermediate field and displays excellent touch on deep passes. Since Week 2, he's thrown for at least 231 yards in each game and totaled nine touchdowns. This week, matched against a Chargers secondary that was completely humiliated before the bye by Peyton Manning, the rookie is a borderline top-12 passer. On the year, QBs have performed 16.1-percent above the league average against San Diego in fantasy.
Moderate Buy (12-teams plus) Second-year passer on the verge of returning
Jake Locker (QB) Tennessee Titans
Locker's transition to the starting lineup didn't exactly hit a high note earlier this year. Overthrows and misreads were way too common. Overall, his 15.4 points per game over three starts barely registered a blip on the fantasy radar. But close to activation, Locker is worth acquiring in these unforgiving times. He's a dual threat, who is capable of a top-12 return when the matchup warrants. Though Matt Hasselbeck has sparked a Titans turnaround, Mike Munchak continues to stand by Locker's side. If he practices in full this week, it's likely he'll take first team reps in Week 9 versus Chicago. If you're in a deep QB-heavy league, now is the time to act.
Solid Buy (12-teams plus) The Howling a scream last week in Minnesota
LaRod Stephens-Howling (RB) Arizona Cardinals
Plucked out of the 'impossible to predict' hat, Stephens-Howling, who was outplayed by William Powell in Week 6, seized the reigns in Minnesota and didn't let go. The diminutive back, routinely questioned about his ability to shoulder a sizable load, was a beast of burden against a formidable Vikings defense. On 24 touches he totaled 149 yards and a touchdown, displaying open-field shiftiness, quickness and surprising brawn. Faced with another daunting matchup in Week 8, home against San Francisco, he should only be counted on as a RB2 or FLEX in deeper leagues. Still, given the Niners' recent problems defending the run, he could easily exceed expectations. If you're in dire straits for a RB with a pulse, seek out 'The Howling.'
Strong Buy (10-team leagues plus) Preseason heartthrob stirring the blood again sans MJD
Rashad Jennings (RB) Jacksonville Jaguars
For those familiar with the Noise's work, a great deal of time and energy was devoted to penning sonnets about Jennings this past preseason. His blend of size, speed and versatility coupled with Maurice Jones-Drew's lengthy holdout made him a mid-round darling in drafts. However, once the incumbent reported to team headquarters, Jennings quickly became an afterthought. Now thrust back into the spotlight after MJD suffered a foot injury Sunday, he's again the cutest RB in the room. Filling the void in Oakland, he totaled an impressive 102 yards and a score. This week's matchup at Green Bay isn't favorable. The Pack has allowed just 3.7 YPC to RBs over the past five weeks. But with a likely 20-25 touches on tap, he's a borderline RB2 in Week 8.
Solid Buy (12-team leagues plus) Another week, another under-owned Pats back contributes
Shane Vereen (RB) New England Patriots
Forget Lucifer Shanahan. The most diabolical coach for RBs this year has to be Bill "Beelzichick" (Sidebar: Norv Turner is a close second). Every week in his carousel backfield a new rusher nets unforeseen touches. Though Stevan Ridley remains the primary back, Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead and, most recently, Vereen have seen extensive action. Sunday the former Cal standout totaled a season-high nine touches for 59 yards. From a power perspective, Vereen pales in comparison to "The Riddler," but his plus versatility and explosiveness shouldn't be overlooked. It's hard to read the tea leaves in Foxboro, but for those thin at RB, the rusher is a worthy depth add. Keep in mind that three of New England's next four games are against generous run defenses (at StL, Buf, Ind, at NYJ).
Solid Buy (12-teams plus) Rookie quickly becoming Rams' best playmaker
Chris Givens (WR) St. Louis Rams
For the PPR masses, Brandon Gibson is the Rams target to own, but in standard formats, Givens, too, has value. The fourth-round pick from Wake Forrest, and not ballyhooed talent Brian Quick, is the rookie wideout who's emerged for Jeff Fisher. A long-distance dialer, he's hauled in at least one pass of 50-plus yards in four straight games, averaging a ridiculous 27.0 yards per catch on the season. Because of his limited route tree, Givens won't attract many targets or catches, but he's an adequate fill-in during the bye-heavy phase of the fantasy schedule, including this week. The Rams host a New England club that's allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wideouts this year and the most pass plays of 20-plus yards. The rookie's deep-threat abilities could prove problematic for the Pats' green secondary. Trust him as a WR3 in 12-team and deeper leagues in Week 8.
Strong Buy (14-teams plus) Gifted wideout nearing return for WR2 needy Chargers
Vincent Brown (WR) San Diego Chargers
Brown's promising campaign with the Chargers hit a snag in the preseason after the talented receiver succumbed to a broken foot. On the verge of activation, he could be cleared for takeoff as early as this week. Malcom Floyd has flourished this year as Philip Rivers' No. 1 WR, but No. 2, Robert Meachem, has massively underachieved. Brown, who was brilliant at times last year, is very capable of wresting away targets immediately. His reps are expected to be restricted initially, but by Week 10 or 11, he should be close to full speed. Owners in challenging formats frustrated by a lack of production at WR3 should give him a very long look.
Moderate Buy (12-teams plus) Former third-stringer atop depth-chart with Davis out
Logan Paulsen (TE) Washington Redskins
Already down Pierre Garcon for at least a couple more weeks, the 'Skins suffered another major blow in its receiving corps, losing Fred Davis to a torn Achilles. Though the loss smarts, Paulsen, a little used undrafted target from UCLA, proved he was more than a one-dimensional blocking tight end last week. He displayed route savvy and surprising athleticism en route to four receptions for a team-best 76 yards in New York. No shock, Chris Cooley re-signed with the 'Skins Monday, but it's quite possible Paulsen sticks as the starter moving forward. Given RGIII's trust in him, he could produce a steady top-15 yield over the season's second-half. Throw him a bone.
Moderate Buy (12-teams plus) Week 8 QB Plug n' Play
Sam Bradford St. Louis Rams
"Volume" is a word regurgitated again and again by fantasy analysts, for good reason. Quarterbacks who typically exceed 40 attempts in a game have excellent odds of outperforming expectations. Josh Freeman was a prime example last week. In Week 8, it's Sam Bradford's turn. Similar to last year, the Patriots are one of the league's most vulnerable pass defenses. Five straight quarterbacks have eclipsed the 20-point fantasy threshold against them, including the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Russell Wilson and Mark Sanchez. Though the Rams have shown remarkable improvement defensively, it's likely Tom Brady and company will pack on the points in a hurry, forcing Bradford airborne. Assuming he logs 40 attempts, Bradford will almost certainly eclipse the 300-yard mark for the second time in three weeks. Maximize the matchup.
Solid Buy (all leagues) Week 8 DEF Plug n' Play
Miami Dolphins Defense/Special Teams
Pickings are slim among this week's group of widely available stream defenses. Cleveland (vs. SD) and Kansas City (vs. Oak) offer some utility, but the best of the bunch is Miami. Fresh off the bye and faced with a pivotal divisional game on the road, the Dolphins could take a bite out of the Big Apple. Though the Jets offense was unexpectedly effective last week versus New England, it's struggled often this year. On the season, the Puddle Jumpers have yielded 12 turnovers and 14 sacks. Miami is beatable vertically, but Mark Sanchez isn't exactly the most proficient thrower. Control the line of scrimmage and Cameron Wake and company should net close to top-10 numbers.
Other Week 8 Pickups: Colin Kaepernick, SF, QB; Andre Brown, NYG, RB; Peyton Hillis, KC, RB; Ronnie Hillman, Den, RB; Jonathan Dwyer, Pit, RB; Josh Morgan, Wash, WR; Jeremy Kerley, NYJ, WR; Darius Heyward-Bey, Oak, WR; Ryan Broyles, Det, WR; Titus Young, Det, WR; Dustin Keller, NYJ, TE