Brandon Hayes, RB, Memphis
Hayes quietly had a strong finish to the 2012 season, totaling 353 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in his final four games, and now he's carrying that momentum into 2013. After running for 81 yards on 15 carries against Middle Tennessee in Week 3, Hayes hit full stride against Arkansas State on Saturday, going for 114 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. His offense doesn't move the ball well enough for Hayes to look like a high-upside play most weeks, but he's clearly the team's top runner and has 16 carries per game over the first three weeks.
Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers
Kroft is mostly just a deep league and AAC-only gamble for the time being because he might finish the year behind Brandon Coleman, Leonte Carroo and Quron Pratt for receptions in the Rutgers offense. For now, though, Kroft ranks second with 186 yards through four games, adding one touchdown on his 11 catches. That includes six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas from Week 4, a clutch performance in a close, high-stakes game.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Boyd was one of the highest-ranked recruits at receiver for the 2013 class, and Pittsburgh is getting an immediate return on its lucky catch. Through three games Boyd has been one of the nation's most explosive receivers, totaling 314 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 catches (19.6 YPC). The Pittsburgh defense has been atrocious through four weeks, allowing 27 points to lowly New Mexico and 55 points to Duke, not to mention 41 points to Florida State. The Panthers should remain in shootout mode, making both Boyd and Devin Street standout fantasy options for the foreseeable future.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Conner pulled off a big upset in the Pittsburgh backfield, taking the profitable lead-runner role away from projected starter Isaac Bennett. The bruiser has been impressive through three games, totaling 326 yards (6.9 YPC) and three touchdowns on 47 carries. Coach Paul Chryst has an extensive history of making highly productive running backs, making Conner a worthwhile addition in all formats for which he's eligible. Pittsburgh backs Ray Graham and Rushel Shell combined for 1,643 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground a year ago.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
The third in the line of the Lockett Kansas State dynasty, Tyler may be the best one yet. The junior wideout was mostly a special teams star in his first two years, returning four kickoffs for touchdowns, but through four weeks of the 2013 season Lockett has been a workhorse wideout for Kansas State. After torching the Texas Longhorns for 237 yards on 13 catches, Lockett has 29 catches for 469 yards and a touchdown. That yardage total is fifth in the nation, and he needs to be owned in most formats as long he's playing like this.
Bradley Marquez, WR, Texas Tech
Although Eric Ward and Jace Amaro loom as potential thieves of Marquez's target count, through four weeks Marquez has been Texas Tech's top scoring threat as a receiver, scoring once in each of the Red Raiders' first four games. He also has 17 catches for 269 yards on the year. It's difficult to bet against a player who has produced as consistently as Marquez has this year, so he's worth owning in any format despite not showing a high ceiling to this point (94 yards is his season high heading into the fifth week).
Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois
Although he struggled against a tough Washington defense in Week 3, throwing for just 156 yards (6.2 YPA), one touchdown and one interception while completing just 36 percent of his passes, Scheelhaase heads into his fourth game of the year with very nice passing numbers, including 9.0 yards per pass and seven touchdowns compared to two interceptions. He respectively posted 416 yards and 312 yards through the air against Southern Illinois and Cincinnati, and Scheelhaase should get back on track this week against a Miami (OH) team that can't do anything well.
Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois
Ferguson hasn't gotten much done on the ground this year, totaling just 22 carries for 125 yards (5.7 YPC), but he has quietly been one of the nation's most dangerous pass-catching backs. He has seven catches in three games, going for 185 yards and two touchdowns. His carry count is so low at least in part due to the shootouts Illinois has been in, with Southern Illinois and Washington each putting up 34 points on the Illini, but Ferguson won't have that problem as Illinois takes on what might be the nation's worst offense in Miami (OH). He should hit double-digit carries as a result, making 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown possible.
Jamari Staples, WR, UAB
Staples is only a deep league and Conference-USA-only format consideration, but he's nonetheless a nice prospect to keep an eye on at the least. He's a big wideout at 6-foot-4, 190, and he's the clear No. 2 receiver in an offense that has shown the ability to move the ball through the air in 2013. He caught a 23-yard touchdown pass against Northwestern State in Week 4, giving him nine catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns through three games. His rate of production should improve once UAB starts to take on its conference schedule.
Justyn Shackleford, WR, Tulane
Ryan Grant is clearly the star Tulane receiver, yet Shackleford is making his own case as a standout receiver for the Green Wave. He has three touchdowns through four games this year, and he broke out Saturday against Syracuse by catching seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, and someone besides Grant has to catch passes in an offense that averages 34.8 passes per game. It looks like Shackleford is the top candidate for now.
Dezmon Epps, WR, Idaho
The Idaho offense has yet to find a way to make an impact in the red zone, but it has been surprisingly decent at moving the ball through the air. Quarterback Chad Chalich is competing 67.3 percent of his passes while averaging 7.6 yards per pass, and Epps is easily Chalich's favorite receiver. Epps looks like a significant factor in PPR leagues after catching 27 passes for 293 yards in his first four weeks, and the touchdowns will have to come sooner or later if he keeps snagging that many passes.
Cameron Stingily, RB, Northern Illinois
Akeem Daniels has missed the first four weeks of the year with an undisclosed foot ailment, and at this point there is no timetable for his return. Stingily has served as the top Northern Illinois runner while Daniels sat, and in Week 4 he had a breakout game, taking 21 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Eastern Illinois. At 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, Stingily should continue to hold a significant presence in the red zone as long as Daniels is out. Quarterback Jordan Lynch almost never fails to hastily move the Northern Illinois offense - he heads into his fourth game this year with 662 yards passing and 404 yards running - so Stingily should continue to find himself in scoring range.
Jordan Williams, WR, Ball State
Jamill Smith was the favorite to establish himself as Ball State's second-most productive receiver in 2013 behind lead wideout Willie Snead, but through four weeks it looks like Williams may take the title away from Smith. There's certainly been no shortage of numbers to go around in a Ball State passing game with nine touchdowns and 336 yards per game, so Smith is doing just fine with his 17 catches and 298 yards, but Williams has three touchdowns compared to Smith's one, and Williams' 18 catches for 269 yards are certainly a nice showing, too. Smith is a tiny receiver at a listed 5-8, 140, so Williams (6-2, 216) should continue to outdo Smith near the endzone while maintaining a similar rate of yardage production.
Travis Reynolds, WR, Utah State
The Utah State offense lost its five top pass catchers from last year, leaving a big opportunity for Reynolds, who was next in line with 25 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. Pressed into a more prominent role, Reynolds has blossomed into a field-stretching threat into 2013 after posting a mere 9.8 YPC in 2012. Through four games he has 13 catches for 229 yards (17.6 YPC) and three touchdowns, including five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown on the road against a very tough USC defense. Reynolds has scored in three straight games, and he appears poised to pull away as quarterback Chuckie Keeton's favorite target.
Kolby Arendse, TE, Nevada
Arendse looked like a shaky fantasy consideration after totaling two catches from Weeks 2 and 3, but that slow stretch appears to have been a fluke. Arendse broke out against Hawaii on Saturday, taking four catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Arendse should continue to push for top-15 tight end status as Nevada goes deeper into its Mountain West schedule, which features easier opponents than the likes of UCLA and Florida State, which Nevada faced in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively.
Connor Wood, QB, Colorado
Few games in 2013 have the on-paper look of a shootout like this week's matchup between Colorado and Oregon State. The Buffaloes and Beavers both possess elite passing games, with arguably the top two receivers in the country facing off. Colorado's Paul Richardson has 21 catches for 417 yards and four touchdowns in just two games, while Oregon State's Brandin Cooks has torched opponents for 43 catches for 639 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. Both teams have shown weak defenses to this point, too, with Colorado allowing 51 points in two games despite facing Colorado State and Central Arkansas, while Oregon State has allowed an embarrassing 35.3 points per game, including 49 to Eastern Washington. Wood should have a big game for Colorado on offense, while Oregon State's Sean Mannion should also post huge numbers.
Jaydon Mickens, WR, Washington
Although he caught only three passes for 39 yards against Idaho State on Saturday, it's clear that Mickens is locked into a major role for the Huskies offense. Washington had no need to press the pedal to the metal against Idaho State, though, so a lot of its top playmakers didn't get much use - star runner Bishop Sankey received just four carries, for instance. With the team's conference schedule starting against Arizona this weekend, though, Washington will call upon players like Mickens and Sankey to play lead roles once again. Mickens had 17 catches in the first two weeks.
Malcome Kennedy, WR, Texas A&M
It appeared early on as if top wideout Mike Evans would hog the majority of A&M's receiving production this year, and that very well could remain the case by the season's end. For now, though, it looks like Kennedy is emerging as a viable fantasy producer in the second wideout role for the Aggies. He has 12 catches in the last two games, totaling 140 yards and four touchdowns. After Evans (22 catches) and Kennedy (19 catches), the next closest receivers in the A&M box score are Derel Walker (12 catches) and Sabian Holmes (10 catches). Neither Walker nor Holmes appear to be serious threats to Kennedy's target count.
Javontee Herndon, WR, Arkansas
Although limited pass attempts and limited quarterback talent badly suppresses Herndon's upside most weeks, his Week 5 showdown with Texas A&M might be his best on-paper matchup of the year. Arkansas will have no choice but to throw as Johnny Manziel and company run up the score from the get-go, and the Aggies defense hasn't stopped the passing game all that well this year, allowing nine passing touchdowns in four games. Herndon has 200 yards and four touchdowns in an offense that has thrown for 606 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 pass attempts. Herndon, in other words, is averaging 0.56 fantasy points per Arkansas pass attempt. It's difficult to imagine Arkansas throwing any less than 30 passes this week.
Je'Ron Hamm, WR, Louisiana-Monroe
Hamm looked poised to turn into one of the top fantasy wideouts of 2013 after a strong finish to last year, catching 27 passes in the final month of the season, but he has just 165 yards and one score on his first 16 catches of 2013. He's due for a breakout game any second now, though. Hamm (6-4, 233) is much bigger than the other Monroe wideouts and therefore projects as the team's top red-zone option. With three BCS opponents in their first four weeks, though, Monroe (19 points per game) hasn't spent much time in opposing red zones. That should change with the team's Sun Belt schedule firing up against Tulane this week.
Bryan Holmes, WR, Troy
After getting shut down against an SEC opponent (Mississippi State) in Week 4, Holmes is poised for a bounce-back game against a much friendlier Duke defense in Week 5. Holmes quietly has 14 catches on the year despite getting held to just a 12-yard catch against the Bulldogs on Saturday, and he headed into last week with eight catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the two prior weeks. Duke just gave up 424 yards and six touchdowns through the air against Pittsburgh, as well as four touchdowns on just 16 pass attempts against Georgia Tech one week earlier. So that's 10 touchdowns on 49 pass attempts. Lead Troy wideout Eric Thomas should also do well against the Blue Devils.