With three weeks in the books, we now have a real sample size to look at to understand where everyone fits. Between injuries, ineffectiveness, and inconsistency, depth charts around the NFL don’t look the same as they did in August so let’s take a look at which previously-overlooked players are seeing an expanded role and can help your deep league fantasy football lineup in Week 4 and in the future.
Jason Snelling: Although it was Jacquizz Rodgers getting the start in place of injured Steven Jackson, Snelling came away with more total yards and fantasy potential. While Rodgers had a solid effort, rushing 18 times for 86 yards and adding two receptions for seven yards, Snelling posted 11 carries for 53 yards and four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. Sunday’s game brings Snelling’s season total to 188 total yards and two TDs, putting him ahead of C.J. Spiller, Lamar Miller, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Stevan Ridley. As C.D. Carter points out, Snelling is the more efficient fantasy threat in Atlanta’s backfield and especially worthwhile in PPR leagues. He’s a must-add and is a solid start until Jackson returns. He has a favorable matchup this week against the Pats who have allowed the 11th most fantasy points to RBs this season.
Brandon Bolden: Speaking of the Pats, it looks like Bill Belichick is ruining fantasy lineups once again. Stevan Ridley saw just 12 touches in Sunday’s game against Tampa and walked away with 43 yards. Meanwhile, Bolden got three rushes and five receptions for a combined 100 yards and LeGarrette Blount carried he ball 14 times for 65 yards. Bolden is the must-add in the equation, seemingly taking over the passing down role that Danny Woodhead was so great in. After just one game, Bolden ranks 46th among running backs in total yards, just behind Ray Rice, Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and MJD. Blount might be worth a look in especially deep leagues but doesn’t figure to factor in on passing plays and Ridley is still the guy.
Danny Woodhead: Despite getting very little playing time to start the season, Woodhead ranks third among all running backs in targets and his stock is quickly rising. Woodhead’s 20 targets (two in the red zone) rank only behind Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte and are tied with Darren Sproles. His 31 total touches (again, in initially limited play) still ranks him ahead of Gio Bernard, David Wilson, and Chris Ivory. With Malcom Floyd out, Woodhead is tied with Antonio Gates for the most targets over the last two weeks and should be owned in PPR and deep leagues everywhere.
Andre Ellington: While the other three running backs are going to give you immediate production, they’ll also be heavily targeted by other owners. If you miss out on those guys, you’re going to have to invest in a stash pick. Ellington’s stock is on the rise in Arizona but he’s not there yet. After getting just one touch in Week 1, Ellington picked up 20 yards on four rushes and 42 yards and a touchdown on two receptions in Week 2. He added 19 yards on three rushes and 36 yards on three receptions in Week 3. His six targets in Week 3 was tied for the team lead with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd which means the Cards will continue to lean on him more and more.
Santonio Holmes: Holmes’ stock was understandably low as he recovered from a foot sprain but after seeing more than 90% of the snaps in Week 2 and around 80% in Week 3 with Jeremy Kerley back, it’s safe to assume Holmes is healthy enough to pick up. Geno Smith isn’t going to have a 300-yard day often but Santonio is the most reliable receiver he has and he’s targeted him 16 times over the last two games (compared to Stephen Hill‘s 13), putting up 205 yards and a touchdown in the process. Stephen Hill is the big play guy but Santonio is the receiver Smith will always be able to trust. Even banged up, Holmes is averaging 70 yards per game over his last two seasons and has shown that he can be a number one receiver in the past.
Stephen Hill: Just because Holmes is the more reliable option for Smith to lean on, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add Hill. Hill is proving to be a big play receiver with speed to burn. Although his hands remain suspect, he has seven receptions on 13 targets in his last two games for a combined 194 yards and a touchdown. He’s been targeted a team leading 22 times and has certainly shown that he’s not the same lost brick-handed receiver we saw last season.
Aaron Dobson: Dobson missed Week 1 and dropped easy touchdowns all over the field in Week 2 but fantasy is a game of opportunities. If you see a player getting opportunities but not making the most of them, they could be a good buy low candidate if the opportunities keep coming. In Dobson’s case, they are. After catching just three passes on ten targets in Week 2, Dobson saw 10 targets once again and snagged seven of them. Kenbrell Thompkins got the two big TD passes and Dobson actually came away with less yards and sans the TD he had in Week 2 but he led the team in targets in Week 3 (Edelman and Thompkins had seven) and it looks like Tom Brady will continue to look his way often.
Ryan Broyles: This was actually Nate Burleson‘s spot in the article but news of his broken arm came down right before I started. That means Broyles is in line to take over his number two role and, like Burleson had been, should see plenty of targets with Calvin Johnson drawing top corners and double coverages. The injured Burleson caught 19 passes on 23 targets over the first three weeks and that work should now slide over to Broyles who played his first game of the season in Week 3. He caught all three of his targets for 34 yards and earned the Lions two first downs. We are seeing second-year receivers like Stephen Hill and Michael Floyd come into their own this season and with an expanded role, Broyles should certainly join them.