As we enter Week 5, make sure to bench your Dolphins, Patriots, Steelers, and Seahawks, who are all on a bye. If you're looking for a replacement, or a high-upside player to stash, check out these players:
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: Even as a rookie, on a team just one season removed from being the worst in the NFL, Bradford is playing like an average NFL quarterback. With bye weeks upon us, I'm comfortable suggesting Bradford if the matchup is good, like this week against a Lions defense that allows 8.7 YPA.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: I'm shocked how well LaDainian Tomlinson has played this season. Running backs over age 30 with that much mileage on their legs just don't do this:
2007 (Age 28): 4.7
2008 (Age 29): 3.8
2009 (Age 30): 3.3
2010 (Age 31): 6.1
There are hundreds of examples - once a RB approaches 30, the YPC tends to stay on a steady decline downward (like LT's was doing before this year), then he fades into retirement. Without researching it, the only exception that comes to mind is Tomlinson's predecessor in New York, Thomas Jones, who rebounded from a 1 TD, 3.6 YPC season at age 29 to a 13 TD, 4.5 YPC season at age 30. Anyway, what does any of this have to do with Shonn Greene? Easy - Green, Jones, and LT all have one thing in common - the Jets offensive line. In other words, Tomlinson may be the starter now, but RBs at his age are more injury-prone than most, and Greene's upside, if he gets a feature role, is still enormous. Even if you have to stash him on the bench, I can't imagine a league of any format where I would let Greene sit on waivers.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: I profiled Torain last week, but his strong performance in Week 4, coupled with Clinton Portis' injury (with an MRI pending), requires another mention. Torain has never been able to stay healthy, so he's never been a feature back, but if Portis' injury is as bad as feared, he's about to get the chance. At this point, Torain should be owned in virtually all leagues, and if Portis' injury is significant, I'd make Torain the top waiver choice.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: This just in - Darren McFadden is injury-prone. OK, maybe that's not breaking news, but that's all the more reason to own Bush. Bush has some difficult matchups approaching (SD, at SF, at Den), but he's a must-start this week against the Chargers if McFadden is out.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints: Pierre Thomas may not be is as injury-prone as McFadden, but he's hardly a model of good health, either. Judging by Week 4's performance, Ivory is ahead of Ladell Betts in the pecking order. Ivory did well enough that he could steal carries from a healthy Pierre Thomas, too, especially when you remember Sean Payton is the one calling the plays.
Derrick Ward, RB, Texans: Arian Foster is a top-five fantasy RB and Ward is not a threat to his playing time (so long as Foster gets a better alarm clock). That said, when Foster was benched early last week, we saw a glimpse of what Ward could do if Foster were injured. Consider Ward a high-upside backup on a terrific offense.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts: My thought process on Garcon is basically the same as for Shonn Greene, above. Basically, you don't let a fourth or fifth round pick on a high-scoring offense sit on waivers. Everyone is high on Austin Collie right now, but I firmly believe a lot of his targets are going to go to Garcon (once he gets over his hamstring issue). Remember, for a long stretch last year, Garcon was as valuable as Reggie Wayne.
Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos: I get questions about these guys in the comments every week. I wish I knew what to say. Who saw this coming? Kyle Orton is leading the NFL in passing yards - craziness! Anyway, here's what I see with Denver. The Broncos can't run the ball, yet they don't seem to care. That's a great combination for Orton and the WRs. Eddie Royal was terrible last year (with the same QB throwing to him), but playing out of the slot obviously agrees with him. Orton and Lloyd have good chemistry (going back to their days in Chicago), and any time a WR gets 18 targets, like Lloyd did last week, it's eye-opening. That said, I don't see either WR scoring more than 6 or so TDs, the passing yardage will slow down, and Demaryius Thomas is still in the picture, stealing targets from both.
Devin Aromashodu, WR, Bears: I'm fine with Aromashodu staying on waivers in smaller leagues - he's buried on the Bears depth chart right now. When I look at the Bears, though, I see Aromashodu as their most athletic receiver. As the coaches evaluate the tape from a pathetic performance against the Giants, perhaps they realize they need Aromashodu on the field. There's still upside here with Cutler as QB, making Aromashodu is worth a flier in deeper leagues.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: The looks that Reggie Bush would have gotten are being divided between Lance Moore and Shockey. Health is always a concern with Shockey, but he's emerged as a useful fill-in. This week, he gets a bad Cardinals defense that had huge problems covering Antonio Gates.
Colts D/ST: The Colts are at home this week, where their defense is much better, and they get a Chiefs team that's due for a letdown. I expect a superior effort from the Colts this week.
Players drafted in top 7 rounds: At this stage of the season, with byes upon us, impatient owners cut players who are off to a slow start. I profiled Greene and Garcon, who are good examples of this, but undoubtedly others are out there. When evaluating them, let's put it this way: if a player would good enough to be an early or mid-round pick, then chances are he's still good enough to be on your fantasy team.
Dead to me:
All Buffalo Bills: If the Buffalo Bills franchise were to get contracted mid-season, would anyone notice? My answer is an affirmative "yes," but only because fantasy owners would miss out on getting to start running backs against a defense that's allowing an NFL-high 174 yards rushing per game and 7 rushing TDs. Lee Evans, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson ... there's no hope. (Excuse me for a moment while I go kick my dog.)
All Browns except Peyton Hillis: Quick, name two Browns receivers. ... Don't worry that you couldn't - it doesn't matter. Same for Jerome Harrison, who has taken a back seat to Hillis in the offense.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: Dustin Keller gets the goal-line looks and Braylon Edwards is the deep threat on a run-oriented, defensive team. Where does that leave Cotchery? On waivers.