By Dalton Del Don
Daunte Culpepper – Culpepper’s real-life game wasn’t as impressive as his fantasy performance Sunday, but anyone who scores five times needs to be taken seriously, especially when three come via the rush. He’s by no means as spry as he once was, but Culpepper showed more elusiveness than expected and still has the frame to run over people. The passing conditions weren’t great with Miami’s weather situation, but still Culpepper only completed five passes Sunday with a 41.2 completion percentage. Even with the big effort, coach Lane Kiffin has made it clear the quarterback job is far from secure, but anyone who offers this kind of rushing ability from the position needs to be owned in fantasy leagues.
Dwayne Bowe – He’s a repeat offender on this list but deservingly so after an eight-catch, 164-yard Week 4. He’s also now scored in three consecutive contests and is playing nothing like a rookie. Bowe is clearly the Chiefs’ No. 1 WR; in fact, no other Kansas City receiver had a catch this week. Bowe has tremendous size, playmaking ability and is tough to bring down. The future looks extremely bright.
Justin Fargas – While he might not have the best vision, Fargas showed toughness to complement his game-breaking speed in an impressive performance Sunday. Filling in for an injured LaMont Jordan (back), Fargas ran for 179 yards on just 22 carries. However, the outing came against a porous Miami defense, and Dominic Rhodes is due back from his suspension after the team’s bye this week. Still, Jordan’s had a history of back problems, and if the injury proves to be serious, Fargas has earned touches with the Week 4 effort.
Santonio Holmes – Holmes no doubt benefited from Hines Ward’s absence, but he looks like the Steelers’ best option in the passing game even when the veteran wideout returns to the lineup. Holmes has averaged 20.4 yards-per-catch and has already eclipsed last year’s receiving touchdown total with three this season. He also showed he’s not just a burner Sunday, hauling in a touchdown from the 7-yard line. If he continues to get targeted in the red zone, Holmes is going to have a huge breakout year.
Reggie Wayne – Forget his pedestrian five-catch, 38-yard performance Sunday; Denver has shut down the pass all year, and he did find the end zone. Wayne, who led all receivers in yards-per-target last season with 9.56, will see a major uptick in stats if Marvin Harrison is forced to miss time with a “bruised knee.” He’s going to be a major asset regardless, but not having to share looks with Harrison in such a potent and efficient passing attack could lead to huge numbers as a result.
Larry Johnson – Finally. Johnson owners can breathe a huge sigh of relief after the Chiefs back found some running room during the second half of Sunday’s game against the Chargers. He’s still yet to score this season but broke the century mark rushing for the first time with the 123-yard effort. With Dwayne Bowe becoming a huge receiving threat, opposing defenses will no longer be able to focus primarily on stopping Kansas City’s ground game. The touchdowns will come, as Johnson’s 84 red-zone carries easily led the NFL last year.
Selvin Young – Of course, he’s not someone you’d start in fantasy leagues at the moment, but Young has looked explosive every time he’s touched the ball this season. He’s averaged 9.2 YPC and displayed adroit receiving skills in limited work. Starter Travis Henry has remained effective but has endured a fairly heavy workload so far (on pace for 344 carries) and has already dealt with knee and ankle ailments this season. He’s been injury-prone throughout his career, and Young would be a must-start if Henry were to miss time, something becoming increasingly likely.
Braylon Edwards – Edwards is the current poster boy for the theory that wide receivers tend to break out in their third season in the NFL. One more year removed from knee surgery, Edwards is proving to be a major deep threat, averaging 20.8 yards-per-catch while hauling in four touchdowns this season. He’s developing a nice rapport with Derek Anderson and has beaten quality secondaries in Oakland and Baltimore. Go ahead and treat him like a Top-10 fantasy wide receiver.
Muhsin Muhammad – Muhammad was likely dropped in most fantasy leagues after a dreadful first three weeks to the year, but he more than doubled his season totals in catches and yards Sunday, while also scoring his first touchdown. With Brian Griese now at the helm in Chicago, Muhammad might again become fantasy relevant.
Ronnie Brown – Sunday marked back-to-back huge games from Brown, who has rendered backup Jesse Chatman useless. The last two weeks, Brown has totaled 418 yards with four touchdowns, including 12 receptions. He finally looks properly motivated and is clearly the focal point of Miami’s offense. He’s a Top-10 fantasy running back.
Joey Harrington – So much for Byron Leftwich taking over. The last three weeks, Harrington has averaged 8.4 YPA with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio. He’s also avoided the sack better the last two games. He’s completed 71.2 percent of his passes this season, while posting a 98.2 quarterback rating. Don't reserve a spot in Canton just yet, but Harrington’s past failures all came on very poor offenses, and coach Bobby Petrino seems to have a highly innovative offensive system in place in Atlanta. The best season of Harrington’s career looks to be on the way.
Michael Pittman/Earnest Graham – With Carnell Williams suffering a season-ending knee injury, both Pittman and Graham figure to share the workload in Tampa Bay’s backfield. Pittman might get the slight majority of carries and is the better receiving threat, whereas Graham appears the favorite for goal-line looks.
Larry Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald had a big game Sunday (11 catches, 123 yards) but Anquan Boldin (hip) is expected to return to the lineup this week, and Arizona has an improved defense and ground game. Fitzgerald’s fantasy upside is simply limited because of it.
Joseph Addai – Addai was enjoying a nice game Sunday before exiting with a bruised shoulder. The injury doesn’t appear serious. He remained sidelined as more of a precaution than anything else; the Colts had a comfortable lead at the time.
DeAngelo Williams – Don’t let the touchdown fool you, Williams is nearly worthless in fantasy leagues as long as DeShaun Foster remains healthy. Foster had 15 carries to Williams’ two Sunday, and Williams’ meaningless score came late in the game during garbage time. He currently cannot be used in fantasy leagues.
Ronald Curry – Curry was nearly non-existent Sunday, catching just one ball for 16 yards. Still, poor weather conditions and a terrible Miami rush defense led to a run-heavy attack by Oakland, as the team completed just five passes. Much better days lie ahead for Curry.
Kevin Curtis – Sunday was a good reminder that Week 3 was more aberration than normalcy for Curtis. Week 3’s huge game accounts for 58 percent of his catches and 68 percent of his yards for the season. He is getting targeted like the Eagles’ No. 1 WR, but Curtis is no superstar.
Marc Bulger – While patience is usually the smartest route when it comes to established stars like Bulger, in this case, it’s time to jump ship. Over the last two weeks, Bulger has averaged 4.6 YPA with a 0:4 TD:INT ratio. The offensive line is in shambles, Steven Jackson (groin) is out and Torry Holt (knee) lacks his usual deep speed; plus, Bulger is playing with broken ribs himself. This offense is a complete mess, and there’s little hope in sight.
Cedric Benson – Just because he was drafted fourth overall doesn’t mean he’s required to see the field. Benson fumbled for the third time already this season Sunday and continues to lack the ability to break tackles. His 3.2 YPC is simply unacceptable, and the Chicago coaching staff will have no choice but to include Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson into the offense moving forward.
Carnell Williams – Williams suffered a devastating and potentially career-threatening knee injury Sunday. He’s out for the year, and his status for next season is cloudy as well. Williams is a hard worker, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll do his best to get back on the field eventually, but a torn patellar tendon is very serious and can have a significant impact on a player’s ability to accelerate, even after surgery.
LaMont Jordan – Jordan was the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year before departing Sunday’s contest with a back injury. The severity is uncertain at this point, but he’s had a history of back issues and was seen walking gingerly after the game. Oakland’s bye week comes at a perfect time, but Jordan’s status has to be monitored closely, especially with the emergence of Justin Fargas and the return from suspension of Dominic Rhodes.
Steve Smith – Smith has totaled just six catches for 42 yards the last two weeks, and if Sunday was any indication, the switch to David Carr at quarterback will hurt his statistics. Look for Carolina to do a better job of creating opportunities for Smith – he’s still going to be productive – but if Jake Delhomme’s elbow injury proves serious, Smith’s overall numbers will suffer, as Carr really struggles getting the ball downfield.
Brian Westbrook – It’s the same story with Westbrook – terrific when on the field but always an injury risk. It’s been knee problems the past year, but he’s shrugged them off only now to deal with an abdominal tear, which forced him out of Sunday night’s game.
Philip Rivers – Through four weeks this season, Rivers has played well in one of them. He was especially erratic Sunday, completing just 50 percent of his passes and missing some receivers by a wide margin. He’s getting one full yard per attempt less this season compared to last (6.4 to 7.4) and has already thrown six interceptions. With Denver’s elite passing defense next up on the schedule, Rivers’ disappointing season only figures to get worse before it gets better.
Alex Smith – Not that he had much fantasy value to begin with, but Smith suffered a separated shoulder Sunday and looks likely to be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks. Smith isn’t to be confused with Steve Young, but after watching Trent Dilfer struggle mightily as a replacement, Smith's return to the lineup can’t come soon enough for the 49er faithful.
Nate Burleson – After being targeted 12 times last week, Burleson was nowhere to be found Sunday. He might have a big game here and there with D.J. Hackett (ankle) sidelined, but Burleson is too inconsistent to be relied upon in fantasy leagues. Bobby Engram might be the No. 3 wide receiver by name, but he remains more of a constant in the Seattle offense.
Matt Leinart – Leinart simply can’t be used in fantasy leagues at this point. He’s really regressed during his sophomore campaign, and Kurt Warner is going to continue cutting into his playing time the way he’s throwing the ball. A timeshare at quarterback is unusual in the NFL, but all signs point toward Arizona continuing to do it moving forward.
David Carr – Ugly. Carr completed just 48.9 percent of his passes for 4.7 YPA while getting sacked four times during his first start for Carolina on Sunday. The Tampa Bay defense is playing well, but this continues Carr's career-long theme of inaccuracy and poor decision making. He’s a pretty good runner for a quarterback, but he resembles very little of what made him the former No. 1 overall pick. Stay away.
Article first appeared 10/1/07