Ray Rice, RB, BAL – Rice totaled 159 yards and scored twice in the Ravens’ win over the Broncos last week, and any window to buy him low is now long gone. Not only did Rice look completely over his knee injury while averaging 4.9 YPC, but he also appeared to have taken over goalline duties as well. After Willis McGahee was stuffed, Rice easily converted both his attempts from the one-yard line, which is huge news moving forward. The Ravens’ schedule looks favorable from here on out, so fantasy owners should enjoy the ride.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG – After recording 12 catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns (he easily could have had four), Nicks is suddenly in the conversation as a top-five receiver – both in real life and in fantasy leagues. Nicks dominates targets inside the red zone and is an explosive player; and while he had a couple of drops Sunday, he also made some terrific catches, so his hands aren’t a worry. Nicks is on pace to finish the season with 106 catches for 1,309 yards and 19 touchdowns. While those lofty TD numbers probably aren’t realistic, Nicks is more of a “hold” than a “sell high.”
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – Charles totaled 100 yards last week for the third time in four games this season. However, the bigger news was his usage – he received 19 touches compared to just eight for Thomas Jones. It was past due, considering Jones has averaged just 3.9 yards per touch compared to 7.4 for Charles. In fact, Charles’ 6.5 YPC leads the NFL by a wide margin. He did lose a fumble last week, which is cause for concern for someone who has dealt with ball security issues in the past, but the hit was brutal and Charles seems to be earning coach Todd Haley’s trust. All it would take is 20 touches per game for Charles to be a top-five fantasy back. Try to trade for him now before it’s too late.
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD – Mike Tolbert managed just 11 yards on 12 carries last week, losing a fumble for the second time in three games in the process. Meanwhile, Mathews impressed, gaining 59 yards on just nine rushing attempts, which is good for a 6.6 YPC clip. He looks to finally be approaching 100 percent after dealing with both an ankle and elbow injury, and if he can put in a full week of practice, expect Mathews to take over as lead back for San Diego as soon as Sunday against the Rams. Mathews could easily be a top-10 fantasy asset over the rest of the season.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – With Justin Gage sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Britt has been given the chance to shine. He did not disappoint Sunday, catching four balls for 86 yards and finding the end zone for the third straight week. A dominant target in the red zone, Britt is easily the most talented receiver on Tennessee’s roster, and it appears he may finally be out of coach Jeff Fisher’s doghouse. This is still a run-first team, but Britt is clearly Vince Young’s No. 1 option in the passing game, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t remain in the starting lineup indefinitely, regardless of Gage’s health. Britt should be owned in all fantasy leagues.
Chris Wells, RB, ARI – Rarely will you see a running back who managed just 1.8 YPC get an upgrade, but looking past the lack of success, the opportunity given to Wells this past week is huge news moving forward. Wells saw 20 carries compared to just four for Tim Hightower (who was even worse with a 1.5 YPC mark), which signifies a shift in the lead back duties in Arizona. It’s worrisome that Wells was so unsuccessful while playing at home against a mediocre Saints defense, but he should emerge from the team’s Week 6 bye fully recovered from his knee injury. Max Hall and a struggling passing attack limit Wells’ upside; however, the Cardinals will benefit from an easy schedule, so if Wells is truly going to be given a full workload, he will be plenty valuable in fantasy leagues from here on out. Wells is injury-prone, but he is also quite talented.
Malcolm Floyd, WR, SD – Floyd exploded for 213 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders on Sunday, and he is now averaging a remarkable 22.6 yards per catch (second only to Mike Wallace’s 23.4 YPC, which has come on 13 fewer receptions) and has scored three times this season. Floyd has assumed the Chargers’ No. 1 wide receiver role quite well and is still putting up big numbers despite the presence of Antonio Gates. San Diego is not likely to pass as much moving forward once their special teams stop making mistakes and Ryan Mathews gets back to full health, but Floyd is a talented deep threat and has the NFL leader in YPA – Philip Rivers – as his quarterback. Floyd is a top-12 fantasy wideout. I’d rather own him than Greg Jennings.
Felix Jones, RB, DAL – The Cowboys coaches made good on their promise to get Jones more involved in the offense in Week 5 – he saw 19 touches compared to just six for an ineffective Marion Barber. Considering Jones averaged 7.3 YPC versus just 3.2 for Barber, there is reason for this discrepancy to grow moving forward. The offense produced more than 500 yards Sunday, so getting Jones on the field certainly helped in that aspect. It remains to be seen if he can stay healthy with an increased workload, but Jones immediately becomes a viable flex option with his new role and has the potential to become much more.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF – Crabtree finally broke out in Week 5, catching nine balls for 105 yards and a touchdown. He nearly doubled his reception and yardage totals over the first four games with Sunday's outing, and the touchdown was his first of the season. The 11.7 YPC average is not overly impressive, but Crabtree clearly has talent to put up impressive numbers and hopefully this is a sign of big things to come. He and Alex Smith finally appear to be on the same page, so Crabtree should be a fantasy asset moving forward.
Mark Clayton, WR, STL - Clayton suffered a season-ending patellar tendon injury while attempting to catch a deep pass Sunday. It’s really too bad, as Clayton was shaping up to be a top-15 fantasy wide receiver and one of the best waiver wire adds of the year. He now enters free agency as a huge question mark, and St. Louis’ offense looked terrible after he left the game Sunday. As a result of Clayton’s injury, Danny Amdendola is now a must-own in PPR formats, while Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard are speculative adds in deeper leagues as well. Life for rookie QB Sam Bradford just got much harder.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR – Despite Jonathan Stewart averaging a modest 7.2 carries per game, Williams is on pace to finish 2010 with 1,149 total yards and three touchdowns. It’s certainly not his fault – he has averaged 4.7 YPC – but Carolina’s run blocking has really regressed. Moreover, Williams is playing with a rookie quarterback who clearly does not look ready for NFL action and also happens to be throwing to with the worst receiving corps in the league. The whole situation is a mess, and Williams is suffering greatly.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC – Bowe dropped a couple passes last week, one being a sure touchdown. It’s nice that he seems to finally have coach Todd Haley’s confidence, but maybe Bowe just is not any good. Forget stardom, it’s now worth questioning if he is even an average wide receiver. Bowe has just nine catches for 152 yards over four games, and while some of that can be blamed on a quarterback that struggles with accuracy and a team that relies on the running game, that is still awfully weak production from the former first-round pick. Make Bowe show something before inserting him back into your fantasy lineup.
Jermichael Finley, TE, GB – Finley (knee) is likely out for the season, which is obviously a major blow for his fantasy owners and the Packers. In fact, the whole Packers’ offense deserves a downgrade due to Aaron Rodgers’ concussion suffered last week. Finley owners searching the waiver wire should look no further than Heath Miller, who has been putting up putrid numbers so far but should benefit greatly from Ben Roethlisberger’s return.
Kevin Walter, WR, HOU – Walter has three touchdowns this season, but he has topped 35 yards receiving just once in five games. Andre Johnson (ankle) is healthy again and Owen Daniels’ role in the offense should increase as he continues to work his way back into the offense. Walter doesn’t have much fantasy value at this point.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, TB – A popular waiver wire add after coach Raheem Morris proclaimed he’d get more action moving forward, Blount saw just four carries Sunday. While Carnell Williams’ poor play continued (3.0 YPC), Earnest Graham entered the backfield mix and gained 65 yards on three rushing attempts. Kareem Huggins was also given a carry in the crowded Bucs’ backfield. It looks like Blount can be dropped in standard leagues.