By Dalton Del Don
Roddy White - He has to be picked up in all fantasy leagues at this point. Dating back to last season, White has more than 80 receiving yards in three of his last four games and is clearly becoming the No. 1 option in the Atlanta passing game. He's got elite speed and is finally showing consistent hands as well. It's his third year in the league, so a big breakout is entirely possible.
Ronnie Brown - From doghouse to penthouse, no one saw his fantasy value climb more than Brown's during Week 3. He relegated Jesse Chatman to spectator duty, running for 112 yards (4.9 YPC) while also adding six catches for 99 yards Sunday. He also scored two touchdowns during the best game of his career. This is the type of potential everyone saw when Miami used the second pick of the 2005 draft on him. Maybe he's not going to be a fantasy bust this season after all, but your opportunity to "buy-low" has likely come and gone.
Donovan McNabb - After two lackluster performances to start the season, McNabb bounced back in a big way Sunday, completing 21-of-26 passes (80.8 percent) for 381 yards and four touchdowns. McNabb, who shed his bulky knee brace, had a remarkable 14.7 yards-per-attempt. Not every opponent will be as easy as Detroit, but McNabb clearly has plenty left in the tank, and Philadelphia has enough weapons to make him an elite fantasy option.
Marion Barber - Barber continues his weekly appearance on this list, running for 102 yards on just 15 carries against a stout Bears' defense in Chicago on Sunday. After adding two touchdowns, as well, Barber already has five scores this season and had more than twice as many carries as "starter" Julius Jones (15 to 7). While Jones is averaging 3.3 YPC, Barber has posted 6.4. With the Cowboys offense looking like one of the best in the NFL, Barber is a must-start in fantasy leagues no matter the opponent.
Brett Favre - Favre continued to drink from the fountain of youth Sunday, throwing three touchdowns for the second consecutive game, this time against a solid San Diego defense. Favre is getting no help from his running game but has a stout defense behind him and looks completely rejuvenated after finishing last year with career-lows in completion percentage (56) and YPA (6.3). This year, he's completed 64 percent of his passes and averages 6.9 YPA.
Kenny Watson - Watson impressed while filling in for injured starter Rudi Johnson (hamstring) on Sunday, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Johnson says he'll be fine moving forward, but he was largely ineffective before exciting the contest, and Watson showed better burst when hitting the holes. If Johnson were to suffer a serious injury, Watson would be a must-add in all fantasy leagues playing in such a high-powered offense as Cincinnati’s.
Derrick Mason - He looked just about done last year, but Mason has already caught 23 balls for 209 yards this season, despite spotty play from Baltimore's quarterbacks. He only has one score so far, but Mason is being treated like the Ravens' No. 1 wide receiver and is especially valuable for those who play in points-per-reception leagues.
Shaun McDonald - He might be the team's fourth receiver by name, but McDonald has caught at least five balls and reached at least 70 receiving yards in every game this season. He's also already scored twice, mainly because the Lions pass more frequently than any team in the league. That philosophy doesn't figure to change anytime soon, and McDonald is familiar with Mike Martz's system dating back to his St. Louis days. Calvin Johnson left Sunday's contest with a back injury, so McDonald's fantasy value would increase even more if the rookie is forced to miss time.
Dwayne Bowe - Just because rookie wide receivers typically take time to produce doesn't mean it can't happen, and Bowe finds himself in a position to do so early on. Eddie Kennison (hamstring) sidelined, Bowe is already lining up as Kansas City's No. 1 wideout and continues to make impressive grabs every game he plays. He's scored in consecutive contests and would have one more if not for an illegal procedure penalty. He also really excels when in traffic. Bowe is fast becoming fantasy relevant.
Kevin Jones - Go ahead and bump up teammates Jon Kitna and Roy Williams as well, with Detroit's pass-first mentality leading to huge offensive numbers. Still, it's Jones who saw the real boost in fantasy value, as he took the field Sunday for the first time since Week 14 of last season and promptly scored a touchdown on his first touch. He didn't see much action after that, but his role only figures to increase as he continues to get back into game shape. Tatum Bell has been largely unimpressive, so Jones could have backfield duties all to himself before long.
Daunte Culpepper - He looks like a shell of his former self with an utter lack mobility due to the career-changing knee injury. Still, he might be Oakland's starting quarterback moving forward, and with new coach Lane Kiffin infusing life into the offense, that puts Culpepper squarely on the fantasy map. Culpepper has some weapons on offense and got 8.4 YPA during limited action Sunday. The Oakland defense also looks worse than last year's version, which should lead to more passing attempts needed on offense.
Nate Burleson - Burleson continues to struggle with drops, but his numbers look fine being so involved in an efficient Seattle passing attack. He's never going to live up to that big contract, but Burleson is fantasy worthy as long as D.J. Hackett (ankle) remains out.
Brian Westbrook - Fantasy owners of Westbrook are seemingly always walking a tight rope - his status for Sunday was in question for much of the week after having an MRI taken on his knee. Of course, Westbrook produced when Sunday arrived, racking up 221 total yards and two touchdowns. He suffered a rib/abdominal injury during the game, but initial X-rays were negative. After three weeks, Westbrook has totaled 514 yards, making him an elite option in fantasy circles.
Kevin Curtis - The Eagles offense broke out big time Sunday, with Curtis leading the way. He had 205 yards and three touchdowns before halftime. Don't expect elite wide receiver numbers, but Curtis is a nice deep threat in a Philadelphia offense that figures to skew toward the pass.
David Carr - Carr has never really been of much use in fantasy leagues - he can run some but has only gotten 6.5 YPA and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns throughout his career. Still, Jake Delhomme's (elbow) status is questionable, so Carr might get another chance as a starter. The Carolina offense is better than the one he led in Houston, and he does have Steve Smith at his disposal. However, he's unlikely to put up great stats, and Smith's numbers figure to suffer some as a result.
Laurence Maroney - Maroney has turned in a steady 2007 season and plays in a high-powered offense, but if he never gets the goal-line carries and sees little action in the passing game, his fantasy value is limited. His yardage totals have increased with each game this season, and New England does figure to be running a lot while protecting leads during the second half of games, but Maroney needs to score touchdowns to reach his fantasy potential.
Larry Johnson - Johnson owners can take solace in the fact that Kansas City has faced three good run defenses this season. However, the problem is that trend continues over the rest of the year, as the Chiefs' schedule rarely lets up in 2007. Johnson figures to see an uptick in his rushing totals as he plays himself back into game shape after missing the preseason, but his offensive line is no longer an elite unit by any means, so Johnson have to remain active in the passing game. The touchdowns will come - his 84 carries in the red zone last year easily led the league - but fantasy owners need to temper expectations overall.
Frank Gore - Like Larry Johnson, Gore has gotten off to a slow start after missing the preseason (broken hand). Unlike Johnson, however, the 49ers' schedule eases up. The passing game has really struggled so far, but Gore has at least remained involved near the goal line. He'll be fine.
Maurice Jones-Drew – Sunday marked the third consecutive disappointing game from Jones-Drew, highlighted by a costly goal-line fumble. The good news is that the Jaguars went back to focusing on the ground game and now have the bye week to further concentrate on getting it back to where it was last year. Jones-Drew was still used at the goal line, and even though Greg Jones pilfered a short-yardage score, he did so while lined up as a fullback in front of Jones-Drew, so it’s not a change in roles more than it was an isolated incident.
Marc Bulger - There's significant cause for concern here. Bulger has not thrown multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 16 last year, and his current 6.0 YPA is easily a career-low. Injuries have ravaged the offensive line, giving Bulger little time to look downfield. He gets a couple of beatable secondaries in Dallas and Arizona as his next two opponents, but it might be time to try to sell after that.
Matt Leinart - Leinart reportedly has had trouble grasping gameplans, and he was benched Sunday after an embarrassing 2.7 YPA on 20 throws. He is expected to return as starter next week, though, against the Steelers. One trend has emerged dating to last season: when Kurt Warner is in, Anquan Boldin typically has the bigger game, while with Leinart under center, it's Larry Fitzgerald posting the better numbers.
Ahman Green - Given a chance to take the majority of carries in Houston's backfield with Ron Dayne (chest) out, Green left in the first quarter with a knee injury. It's currently uncertain how serious the ailment is, but it's becoming tougher and tougher to rely on the aging veteran.
Lee Evans - Evans and the Bills have opened against three difficult secondaries, but that doesn't excuse his terrible numbers thus far (five catches for 29 yards). The talent is there, so he typically would make for an excellent buy-low target. However, losing J.P. Losman to a knee injury could be devastating news to the Buffalo offense. While Losman struggled this season, he made great strides over the second half of last season. The only alternative to start in Buffalo is rookie Trent Edwards, who will almost surely undergo growing pains. Unfortunately, this entire offense needs to be downgraded.
Reggie Brown - The good news: the Eagles offense got back on track in a big way Sunday, compiling 536 yards and 51 points. The bad news: Brown accounted for just two catches and 23 yards. It's hard to figure how Brown didn't join in on the fun with his teammates Sunday, but at least Donovan McNabb looked sharp, which bodes well for Brown's future. Still, he's been a colossal disappointment so far, with just five catches for 64 yards after three games. He needs to seriously step up his game.
Calvin Johnson - He's looked good but suffered what appeared to be a potentially serious back injury Sunday. The team is calling it only a "bruise," but be sure to check his status moving forward.
Jerry Porter - It looks like the year away from football really hurt Porter, who is struggling to get separation this season. He hasn't had more than two catches in a football game since the 2005 season and is clearly taking a backseat to teammate Ronald Curry in Oakland's passing game.
Rudi Johnson - Before leaving the game with a hamstring injury, Johnson was brutal Sunday, gaining just nine yards on 17 carries. Since he was playing a Seattle team that struggled against the run the previous week and had the added burden of focusing on the Bengals' elite passing attack, Johnson's performance was especially discouraging. In fact, he had negative three yards after his first 13 carries. Backup Kenny Watson easily outshined him when forced into duty.
Rex Grossman - This is becoming painful to watch. Over his last four regular season games, Grossman has one touchdown and nine interceptions. He also lost a fumble, so that's a 1:10 TD:TO ratio. His QB rating sits at 45.2 for the season, and that's after playing three defenses not known for strong secondary play. Brian Griese is going to play this season, and there's a real good chance it's as soon as next week.
Carnell Williams - Quite an up and down season so far for the third-year back. Williams has already tripled his touchdown total from last year with three, but he's also been constantly nagged by injuries and lost two fumbles. Tampa Bay's offense looks much improved with Jeff Garcia at the helm, but Michael Pittman and even Earnest Graham have been productive when on the field, which could cut into Williams' workload.
Article first appeared 9/24/07