Indianapolis wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (owned in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues)
In five NFL seasons, Darrius Heyward-Bey has never played all 16 games, and has yet to eclipse 64 catches in a year. His best season was his third, when he caught 64 passes for 975 yards and four touchdowns. In 2009, Heyward-Bey ran the fastest 40-yard time at the combine, at 4.30 seconds. It surprised some when the first wide receiver drafted was not the popular Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. Those who know the history of Al Davis were less than surprised when he proudly drafted Heyward-Bey with the seventh-overall pick. But after four disappointing seasons, the former Maryland Terrapin is now running routes for former first-overall pick Andrew Luck. With Reggie Wayne out for the season, attention should increase for Heyward-Bey and former third-overall pick, Trent Richardson.
Indianapolis running back Donald Brown (owned in 6 percent of Yahoo leagues)
The Colts are a talent-rich team that is currently sitting at 5-2 in first place in the AFC South. But this team has plenty of room for improvement. They are 21st in passing offense, and 28th against the run. More importantly, the offensive skill players have not delivered. Notably, Trent Richardson is only the 28th best running back, measured by average yards per game (47.6). This is certainly not what Indianapolis hoped for when they traded a first round pick. Richardson is only running 3.1 yards per attempt this season, down from 3.6 last year. In their last game, Richardson was given 14 carries to Donald Brown’s 11. Brown also caught three passes, while Richardson was not targeted once. Richardson should not be entirely blamed for his lack of output. He was asked to begin learning his third NFL playbook and blocking scheme before his 19th career game. Name another player of his stature who has experienced this challenge, at any time in league history. Regardless, if Richardson’s struggles continue, Brown could continue to remain involved.
Washington tight end Jordan Reed (owned in 73 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Through six NFL games, rookie tight end Jordan Reed has amassed 34 receptions for 388 yards and two scores. That’s an average of 5.7 catches for 64.7 yards. He is the 10th ranked tight end in standard scoring, and seventh over the last four weeks. Over the next three weeks, Reed and the Redskins will face soft opponents in San Diego, Minnesota and Philadelphia. These teams are ranked 23rd, 30th, and 31st in defense respectively, and 26th, 29th, and 31st against the pass. Pick him up, trade for him, start him. Do whatever you need to get this guy in your lineup. Oh, and he’s had 23 targets for 17 catches and 224 yards over the last two weeks.
New York Giants running back Andre Brown (owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues)
The running game for the Giants has been a mess, plain and simple. There is only one starting running back for the team who has yet to fumble this season; Da’Rel Scott. Believers in the Tom Coughlin doghouse would be going absolutely batty over this fiasco. This year, the G-Men have started David Wilson, Da’Rel Scott, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis. They have combined for four fumbles, and the team ranks 29th in the NFL in rushing. Eli Manning has gained more yards per attempt (4.2) than any running back on the roster. The next best? You guessed it; Da’Rel Scott has 3.7 yards per carry. Last year, Andre Brown ran for 385 yards (5.3 yards per attempt), and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. He should have a good shot at the starting job when he returns in Week 10. Things certainly couldn’t get any worse for Big Blue.
Cincinnati wide receiver Marvin Jones (owned in 25 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Prior to Sunday’s rout of the New York Jets, second-year receiver Marvin Jones had four career touchdowns. On Sunday, Jones scored four touchdowns. For the season, the 6-foot-1 wideout has been targeted 34 times for 24 catches, 369 yards and seven scores. He has also rushed three times for another 56 yards. Mohammed Sanu is currently listed as the second starting receiver on the Bengals depth chart. Their numbers aren’t very far off, though; Sanu has been targeted 37 times for 25 receptions and 254 yards. But Sanu has yet to score this year, where Jones is obviously excelling. Only four players have more receiving touchdowns than Jones: Wes Welker, Dez Bryant, Jimmy Graham, and Julius Thomas. This Bengals offense could be dangerous if A.J. Green gains a true counterpart across the field.
Miami tight end Charles Clay (owned in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Charles Clay has scored four touchdowns after seven games this season. For 2013, the 6-foot-3 tight end has made 29 receptions for 341 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He was also handed the ball for a one-yard touchdown run in Week 2. Lamar Miller fans may not be happy about that one, but plenty of owners learned this guy’s name pretty quickly. Brandon Gibson suffered a season-ending injury Sunday, opening the door for other weapons in the passing game. With Gibson out of the picture, there are only two other Dolphins with more targets and receptions: Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace.
Atlanta wide receiver Drew Davis (owned in 1 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Drew Davis is a former Oregon Duck, who stands 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. Prior to week eight of 2013, Davis has spent most of his three NFL seasons on the Falcons practice squad. He entered Sunday with five career NFL catches and one touchdown. Against the Cardinals, Davis was targeted seven times, and made five receptions for 77 yards and a score. Julio Jones is out until 2014, and Roddy White may miss another game this week. Harry Douglas has been leading the team in targets and catches the last two games, and that should continue. But Davis could make an impact with all the opportunity present on Matt Ryan’s offense.
Tampa Bay tight end Tim Wright (owned in 5 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Tim Wright is a Greg Schiano guy. He played under Schiano at Rutgers, and came to Tampa Bay as an undrafted receiver this year. In two years of collegiate play, Wright only recorded 50 career catches for 596 yards and four touchdowns. But in the last five games, the former Scarlet Knight has been targeted 28 times for 20 catches, 201 yards and a touchdown. Wright has also made 13 first downs. With a new quarterback at the helm in Mike Glennon, Wright has become more involved in the offense. Through three games of Josh Freeman passing, Wright saw two targets for one reception. In the last four games with Glennon, the 6-foot-4 tight end has earned 26 of his targets, 19 catches, 195 yards, and his lone score. Glennon appears to trust Wright, given the target increase and the first down numbers. Wright also has dual position eligibility on Yahoo (wide receiver and tight end), which is an extreme rarity, especially for a player this productive.
Denver running back Montee Ball (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues)
One of the biggest and least discussed stories of Week 8 was the news out of Denver. Aside from Peyton Manning’s twin sprained ankles, Mike Klis of the Denver Post reported (and quite accurately) that the Broncos plan to spell Knowshon Moreno more. That means more involvement for the remaining backs on the roster. And with Ronnie Hillman deactivated because of his catastrophic game-altering fumble in Week 7, C.J. Anderson stepped up as the number three rusher. In Sunday’s game against the Redskins, Manning handed the ball to Moreno 14 times, and Ball 11. Ball also earned the only rushing touchdown of the game, a four yard score in the final quarter. Ball owners were leaping from their seats as Moreno owners gnashed their teeth. The rookie should become more involved moving forward. Moreno has become less and less productive in recent weeks, and the potential for this rookie is sky high. Ball boasts several NCAA records, and could become a major player in the league as he matures.
Kansas City wide receiver Dexter McCluster (owned in 5 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Dexter McCluster has been a versatile cog on the underperforming Chiefs for four years. Don’t call them underachievers now. On the season, McCluster has had 28 touches for 263 total yards and a score. In the last two weeks, the (alleged) 5-foot-9 receiver was targeted 15 times for 11 catches and 137 yards. McCluster may be one of the smaller players in the NFL, but he may also produce at an incredible yards-per-pound rate. Alex Smith has shown an unwillingness to throw the ball even a medium distance, and that helps the value of this small guy. Over the last two games, Smith has completed only three of nine deep passes, while connecting on 44 of 60 at short distance (per Pro Football Reference). And during these games, 13 of McCluster’s 15 targets have been in the short range. McCluster could become more valuable as Smith and the offense learn who they are.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, and wikipedia.org.
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