Robert Woods has seen 18 targets through the last two games, though he’s only pulled in six of them for 115 yards. Only Stevie Johnson has more targets for Buffalo during this time, getting 19 targets for seven catches and 85 yards. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has continued to show the first-year receiver more attention through the first four weeks. As these two young men mature and grow more comfortable with one another, the results should improve consistently. Woods is a high-talent flex option with a ceiling limited only by his inexperience. Though he may not develop quickly enough to be a WR2 this season, his unknown ceiling bears more value than some middling flex options already rostered in most leagues.
San Diego is short on weapons this year, with Danario Alexander lost for the season and Malcom Floyd missing a few weeks. Danny Woodhead was brought in this offseason, and some immediately drew comparisons to former Charger, Darren Sproles. Through four games, Woodhead has only rushed 19 times but has managed 22 receptions. He is on pace for 88 catches and 1,008 all-purpose yards. His ceiling is as moderate as they come, probably right around those numbers. Owners should consider Woodhead’s ordinary-but-steady flex numbers during a year with so much uncertainty surrounding running backs.
Nate Washington caught four balls for 105 yards and two scores on Sunday. That brings his season total to 19 receptions on 30 targets, for 332 yards and the two touchdowns. He is on pace for 76 catches for 1,328 yards, both of which would be career highs. Instability will set in now, though, with starting quarterback Jake Locker sidelined for as much as eight weeks. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw Washington a 77-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Jets. A risk-taking owner would give Washington’s upside a shot. He could be an inconsistent WR2/flex moving forward.
Ask a fantasy owner what they can tell you about Darren McFadden, and the first thing you may hear is his tendency for getting hurt. The injury plague struck again Sunday, leaving Oakland with Rashad Jennings to carry the load. McFadden left with a pulled hamstring, and fullback Marcel Reece later hurt his knee as well. Jennings should expect at least 20 carries in week five, with nothing yet known beyond that. Playing fantasy is often like playing the stock market, and it usually pays dividends to buy shorts in the unreliable McFadden.
Kenbrell Thompkins appears to be growing a rapport with Tom Brady, which is good news for Patriots fans and fantasy owners alike. New England has surprised the NFL with an unlikely 4-0 start. And the extra work by Brady’s rookie receivers is starting to show. Thompkins led the team with 11 targets Sunday, and from that earned six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Brady avoided Thompkins after his 14 targets week one resulted in only four receptions and 42 yards. Over the next two games, the 6-foot-1 receiver totaled five catches for 88 yards. Brady doesn’t waste his targets recklessly; the attention spent Sunday is an endorsement of Thompkins’ growth in this offense. Get in on the ground floor with Thompkins, who could be as valuable as a Packers wide receiver by the fantasy playoffs.
The game between the Redskins and Raiders was a tough one for running backs. Alfred Morris left Sunday’s game in Oakland with a rib injury suffered during the third quarter. Morris carried 16 times for 71 yards (4.4 yards per carry) before his departure. In relief, Roy Helu came in with 13 rushed for 41 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and a trip to pay dirt. Entering the game he had only combined for six touches through three weeks. But as lead back, Morris has compiled 318 all-purpose yards on 59 touches, with two touchdowns. The Redskins have a bye Week 5, and Morris thinks he’ll be back without missing a start. Should he miss any time, Helu has great value as a high-end RB2. In his 2011 rookie season, he led all Redskins with 151 carries for 640 yards (4.2 yards per carry).
Tight end Coby Fleener was poised for a breakout rookie campaign in 2012, when he and Stanford teammate, Andrew Luck, were selected with the Colts’ first two picks of the 2012 NFL Draft. In the third round, Indianapolis added another tight end with Clemson’s Dwayne Allen. In their rookie seasons, Allen had 45 catches for 521 yards, to Fleener’s 26 for 281. In the offseason, the Colts added offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, former offensive coordinator for Fleener and Luck at Stanford. After playing only one games this year, Allen underwent season-ending hip surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Two weeks ago, Indianapolis added Trent Richardson. Fleener has had two solid games in the last three weeks, while catching two touchdowns. Fleener is not a sure bet for your starting roster, but the stars have aligned for him to be a high-upside tight end moving forward.
Since Shane Vereen’s early season departure, LeGarrette Blount has begun to earn more trust in the New England offense. In the past two weeks, Blount has received 23 carries for 129 yards and a score. Though he has yet to see a single target in 2013, the former Tampa Bay rookie prodigy is proving himself as a reliable workhorse back. Starter Stevan Ridley lost a fumble week one, which has had a limiting effect on his touches since then. On a shaky offense that was ranked 22nd in the NFL entering Sunday’s game in Atlanta, Brady and Bill Belichick will continue to lean on the most trustworthy options they have.
Ryan Fitzpatrick came in to replace starter Jake Locker after a hip injury ended his game in the third quarter. Fitzpatrick maintained the Titans’ lead, throwing eight times for three completions, 108 yards and a touchdown. Locker had a passers’ rating of 130.0 for the day, and Fitzpatrick earned a 125.0. Fitzpatrick may not be the most reliable fantasy quarterback moving forward. His career rating of 77.0, and career totals of 93 touchdowns and 81 interceptions were enough for Buffalo to move forward after 2012. The Bills believed enough in Fitzpatrick that they are paying $10 million in dead money through 2014 for him to play for someone else. In March, Fitzpatrick signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract to backup Locker.
In his third career start Sunday, Brian Hoyer was successful on 65.8 percent of his passes, for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. That’s certainly an improvement over his previous effort, with 55.6 percent complete with three scores and two interceptions. Hoyer has been named the starter for Thursday night’s game against the Bills, and should be able to keep his job indefinitely. Head coach Rob Chudzinski and GM Mike Lombardi are committed to exploring the talent on this Browns team, as they continue to tear it down to rebuild for future success. Hoyer and second-year receiver Josh Gordon could be serviceable fantasy options moving forward.
Stats and contract data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and spotrac.com.