The NFL was filled with another crazy week of injuries and the roster moves that ensued. Here are the hot acquisitions and targets for all fantasy football leagues.
Lorenzo Taliaferro (owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues)
In his final collegiate season, Lorenzo Taliaferro tallied 1,882 total yards and 29 touchdowns. Entering week three, the fourth-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina had yet to make his first NFL carry. On Sunday, Baltimore’s rookie tailback rushed 18 times for 91 yards (5.1 yards per attempt) and a score. Bernard Pierce missed the game with a thigh injury. “We should have a good chance of getting him back next week,” head coach John Harbaugh said of his starter. ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley reported, “A major reason why the Ravens will probably keep Pierce as the starter is he’s bigger than [Justin] Forsett and has more experience than Taliaferro.” Forward-looking owners may want to dedicate some bench space for the potential of this 22-year-old. In the meantime, the carousel may continue as it did when Ray Rice was a rookie. Harbaugh’s 2008 Ravens gave Le’Ron McClain 232 carries (39.2 percent), while Willis McGahee received 170 (28.7 percent), and Rice got 107 (18.1 percent). Rice followed that up by producing 2,041 total yards on 332 touches during his 2009 sophomore campaign.
LeGarrette Blount (owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Before Sunday, Steelers backup LeGarrette Blount had only made seven rushes for 14 yards and a touchdown. Against the Panthers on Sunday Night Football, the fifth year veteran posted 10 carries for 118 yards and another trip to pay dirt. Through his first four seasons, Blount had recorded three seasons of 800 total yards or more. Most of his carries in Charlotte came in the second half once Pittsburgh had established a lead. Starter Le’Veon Bell also had a great day, rushing 21 times for 147 yards. Bell created an 81-yard run in the game, and Blount was able to break off a 50-yarder against the Panthers run defense that ranked second a year ago. Tampa Bay is up next, who ranked 15th last year, and currently sits at 21st against the rush.
Owen Daniels (owned in 26 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Ravens starting tight end Dennis Pitta underwent surgery Monday to repair a dislocated right hip from Sunday’s game in Cleveland. Pitta dislocated the same hip in July of 2013, before being placed on temporary injured reserve and playing the final four games of the season. After repeating the same injury in back-to-back years, Pitta has only been able to contribute 36 catches for 294 yards and one score over two seasons. Owen Daniels has just begun his ninth NFL season, and his first in Baltimore. During his eight years in Houston, the two-time Pro Bowler averaged 48.1 catches for 577.1 yards and 3.6 touchdowns. He’s only played all 16 games twice (2007, 2008), but has eclipsed 60 catches three times, and broken 650 yards four times. Pitta has only once broken 60 catches or 650 yards (2012). In his first two games of the season, Daniels already made nine receptions on 10 targets, for 62 yards and two scores. With uncertainty at running back, and the 5-foot-9 Steve Smith, Sr. dominating targets, Joe Flacco may find the 6-foot-3 Daniels pretty handy in the red zone.
Blake Bortles (owned in 5 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Meet Blake Bortles, the first quarterback selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. In his final season at Central Florida, the 6-foot-5 specimen threw 67.8 percent complete for 3,581 yards and a 163.4 passers’ rating. Through three weeks, Jacksonville has allowed a league-high 119 points (39.7 points per game). Their closest game came week one, a 17-point loss to the Eagles. Starting quarterback Chad Henne was managing games while completing just 53.8 percent of his passes (31st in the NFL) and a passers’ rating of 80.7 (27th). Down 30-0 at halftime, head coach Gus Bradley decided to make the change. The rookie outperformed Henne throughout the preseason, averaging 10.2 yards per attempt, with a 110.0 rating. Henne averaged just 6.1 yards per throw, en route to a 90.9 passers’ rating. There’s plenty of excitement in Jacksonville, with rookies Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson competing for snaps opposite Cecil Shorts.
Eddie Royal (owned in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Through three games, only six passers have been more accurate than Philip Rivers (68.4 percent complete). Only Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning have higher passers’ ratings than the Chargers quarterback (108.3). Rivers has averaged for 778 yards, six scores, and only one interception. Over the last sixteen games, Rivers has thrown for the third most yards in the NFL, behind only Manning and Drew Brees. Eddie Royal leads all Chargers with 22 targets, and remains the top choice in the red zone with three targets for two touchdowns. Keenan Allen has been relatively quiet so far, compiling just 109 yards and no scores after three games. Last year’s rookie star has been limited with a groin injury, which likely attributes to his underwhelming stat line. Should Allen’s troubles continue, Royal could play an interesting factor in an offense running low on options.
Jordan Matthews (owned in 18 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Jordan Matthews leads all Philadelphia players in the red zone, with four targets and two touchdowns. Only Riley Cooper (18) and Jeremy Maclin (32) have more overall targets than Matthews (17). The 6-foot-3 rookie amassed 112 receptions for 1,477 yards in his senior year at Vanderbilt. Matthews was taken 42nd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Eagles are in need of receiving help. DeSean Jackson took his team-leading 82 catches, 1,332 yards, and nine touchdowns to Washington in the offseason. The two most prolific receiving seasons by a current member of the team were LeSean McCoy‘s 78 catches (2010) and Darren Sproles‘ 87 grabs (2011). There will likely be slow weeks while Matthews competes for attention with Maclin and Sproles, but Matthews appears to have a bright future down the road. Dynasty owners take note.
John Brown (owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Michael Floyd currently leads the Arizona receiving corps with 252 yards. Second place is John Brown with 109 yards, followed by Larry Fitzgerald at 107. After Brown’s three touchdowns, Stepfan Taylor (1) is the only Cardinal with a receiving score. The 5-foot-11 rookie was selected 91st overall last May. Brown caught 61 passes for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final year at Pittsburg State. In his three collegiate seasons, he scored 45 touchdowns including five on special teams returns. Cardinals color analyst Ron Wolfley said “From a body type and skill set perspective, John Brown is Marvin Harrison. Watching him run, move and cut, watching him catch the ball effortlessly, makes me think of the longtime Colt that tormented the league with Peyton Manning.” Wolfley asked Bruce Arians about the comparison, and the head coach responded, “Absolutely. There are some people that compare him to T.Y. Hilton … and I looked at [Assistant Head Coach] Tom Moore and said who does he remind you of, Tom? And he said, ‘Marvin.'”
Brian Quick (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues)
With an offense in flux, Brian Quick leads all Rams with 16 receptions on 22 targets, for 235 yards and a touchdown. The top two wide receivers from last year, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin have combined for only seven receptions, 84 yards, and no scores. It seems evident that every position is a battle this year in St. Louis. Zac Stacy is splitting carries with Benny Cunningham, as part of the hot hand approach that general manager Les Snead announced. And Austin Davis is no lock to maintain his starting job at quarterback, after Case Keenum was added by waivers on September 1. There’s a lot left unknown for the Rams in 2014, but uncertainty creates opportunity. 6-foot-4 Quick stands five inches taller than Givens and seven inches above Austin.
DeAngelo Williams (owned in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Welcome back to another episode of your favorite show, “DeAngelo and J-Stew!” That’s right, out of 101 possible career games together since 2008, the two have hit the field together 66 times. DeAngelo Williams averages 13.9 games per year, and Jonathan Stewart has averaged 12.8. Stewart has lasted two complete seasons to Williams’ four. Head coach Ron Rivera expects Williams to be back Sunday against Baltimore. The Ravens’ eighth-ranked run defense has given up just 3.7 yards per carry. Stewart sprained his knee in the week three loss to Pittsburgh, and may miss a month or more. Since 2008, when Williams has suited up without Stewart, he has averaged 16.5 touches for 90.0 yards and 0.4 touchdowns. Mike Tolbert suffered a hairline fracture to his left leg, and could also miss a month. Rack up more points on your DeAngelo column, and wish for speedy recoveries for the rest of the Panthers’ backfield.
Alfred Blue (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Arian Foster described his hamstring injury as “day to day,” when asked about it on Monday. Rookie Alfred Blue stepped up in his stead, and ran 13 times for 78 yards. For the season, the former LSU Tiger has 25 carries for 118 yards (4.7 yards per attempt), with one reception for 10 yards. Blue has yet to reach the end zone in his three game NFL career, but his value will come on sheer volume. Before missing week three’s game, Foster led the league with 55 carries. Only once has the three-time Pro Bowler started all 16 games (2012), and has followed both of his 300-carry seasons with injury-caused absences. Foster’s receptions have gradually declined each season as well, down from 66 in 2010 to just 22 a year ago. If and when Foster misses more time this year, it appears Bill O’Brien and the Texans are happy to trust the ball with Blue. For a run-based team with a injury-prone starter, the backup needs to be owned in all formats.
Past targets include Donald Brown, Andrew Hawkins, Niles Paul, Bobby Rainey, Larry Donnell, Knile Davis, Kirk Cousins, Shonn Greene, Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce, Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, Allen Hurns, and Benny Cunningham, among others. Check out waiver wire targets from Week 3 and Week 2.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, and nfl.com.
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