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NFL Barometer: Receivers on the Rise

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

RISERS

Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Britt went off for nine catches, 135 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Ravens on Sunday. It’s impressive just how quickly he has developed a rapport with Matt Hasselbeck, especially considering the quarterback is a newcomer, and the two worked little during the preseason since Britt was out with a hamstring injury. Clearly Britt is healthy now, and while there’s some concern that Tennessee will turn to rookie Jake Locker later on, there’s little reason not to treat Britt as a top-10 fantasy WR moving forward. The 23 targets he has received so far tie him for the fourth most in the NFL.

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Jackson totaled 140 yards - on just 17 touches - and two scores during the Bills’ comeback win over the Raiders on Sunday. C.J. Spiller certainly looks better this year, but this is Jackson’s backfield for the foreseeable future. He currently leads the NFL with 229 rushing yards.

A.J. Green, WR, CIN – Green abused Denver’s secondary Sunday, racking up 10 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted a whopping 14 times, indicating he is clearly the No. 1 option in Cincy’s passing offense. It’s also good news that fellow rookie Andy Dalton does not appear overwhelmed by the NFL game. Green will likely be inconsistent, but he looks like a special talent who will be worth using on your fantasy team immediately.

Eric Decker, WR, DEN – Decker took full advantage of Brandon Lloyd (groin) being inactive and Eddie Royal leaving Sunday’s game with a groin injury, making five catches for 113 yards and two scores. The former third round pick out of Minnesota is 6-3, 218 and looks to be a major factor in the red zone. Lloyd will likely return this week - which certainly curtails Decker’s short-term value - but Royal will miss at least two weeks, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Decker remains a starter even when Royal returns. Decker is a must-add in fantasy leagues this week.

Daniel Thomas, RB, MIA – Despite being criticized by coaches for not running hard between the tackles, and missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Thomas made a strong impression in his NFL debut Sunday. Thomas totaled 118 yards on just 19 touches and looked strong in the process. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush found himself watching from the sidelines for long stretches; and it appears it didn’t even take an injury to cost him the feature back job. Maybe Thomas isn’t a bust after all.

Denarius Moore, WR, OAK – Few players received greater praise during the preseason than Moore, and he backed that up in Week 2 with five catches for 146 yards, including a highlight reel 50-yard touchdown catch. With Jacoby Ford (hamstring) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee) out with injuries, Moore is suddenly being asked to be a big part of Oakland’s offense as a rookie. Moore looks like a very talented wideout, and he now needs to be owned in all formats.

David Nelson, WR, BUF – Nelson continues the theme of young wide receivers who broke out in Week 2, and like the others, he too looks to be an intriguing long-term option. Nelson is 6-5, 215, so he’s going to be a major factor in the red zone for a Buffalo team suddenly looking dangerous on offense. With Roscoe Parrish (ankle) and Marcus Easley (heart) both out for the season, Nelson is going to be the team’s slot receiver over the rest of year. Nelson was targeted 13 times Sunday, and he could play an even bigger role in the offense if Steve Johnson’s groin injury lingers.

Roy Helu, RB, WAS – The Redskins traded up to take Helu in the fourth round of the draft, but after much early optimism about his future, his outlook was somewhat muted after the team traded for Tim Hightower, who looked good in the preseason. Hightower improved his YPC from 2.9 in Week 1 to 4.8 in Week 2, but he found himself giving way to Helu for long stretches Sunday, including the game’s final scoring drive. Helu isn’t necessarily going to take over as lead back any time soon, but he’s certainly on the fantasy radar. He has more upside than Hightower moving forward.

Steve Smith, WR, CAR – With six catches and 145 yards against the Packers on Sunday, it is clear Smith’s performance (and Carolina’s passing attack in general) wasn’t a fluke in Week 1. Cam Newton’s ability to throw downfield is far superior to the collective ability of the Panthers’ 2010 quarterbacks, which is big news for Smith’s value. Even at age 32, he remains an explosive receiver.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI – Maclin was mostly absent in Week 1 (one catch for 20 yards), but he exploded for 13 catches, 171 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Falcons. Maclin dealt with major health issues over the summer, but Sunday’s performance indicates that he is back at 100 percent. As the No. 1 red zone option in one of the most explosive offenses in football (assuming Michael Vick is OK), Maclin is primed for a big season. Remember, he’s still just 23 years old.

FALLERS

Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – Charles is out for the season after tearing his ACL Sunday, which is certainly a devastating blow to his fantasy owners. It’s a true shame, and it makes coach Todd Haley’s decision to limit his workload last year in an effort to stay durable look all the more foolish. Dexter McCluster is the player to add as a result of Charles’ injury, but he’s unlikely to get more than 10-to-12 touches per week.

Sidney Rice, WR, SEA – It sounds like Rice’s shoulder injury is a torn labrum, which will likely require surgery at some point. He’s going to attempt to play through it, but in possibly the NFL’s worst offense at far less than 100 percent, his fantasy value is in the tank.

Chris Cooley, TE, WASFred Davis badly outplayed Cooley for a second straight week, and in fact, the latter didn’t even record a single catch. Davis played nearly 20 more snaps (56 to 37) than Cooley, who is clearly still hampered by his knee injury. Davis, meanwhile, looks like a legitimate top-10 fantasy tight end right now, at minimum.

Luke McCown, QB, JAC – McCown completed 31.6 percent of his passes, averaged 3.1 YPA, and posted a 0:4 TD:INT ratio Sunday, good for a 1.8 quarterback rating. As a result, he lost the starting quarterback job to rookie Blaine Gabbert, who hardly looks ready to compete at the NFL level.

Plaxico Burress, WR, NYJ – Burress was held without a catch in Week 2, and while even the best receivers in football can be inconsistent on a weekly basis, most disconcerting was his disappearance from the game plan. In fact, Burress saw just two targets and was often seen on the sidelines in the second half. Maybe he’s not all the way back after all.

Miles Austin, WR, DAL – Austin aggravated his hamstring injury during the Cowboys’ overtime win over the 49ers on Sunday, and he’s expected to be out until Week 6 as a result. Austin had a huge game (nine catches, 143 yards, three TDs) before departing, so fantasy owners will certainly feel the loss. If Dez Bryant can return from his thigh injury this week, he will be targeted heavily.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, NE – Hernandez had seven receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown Sunday, but he also suffered a knee sprain that could cost him 4-to-6 weeks. The timing is unfortunate since Hernandez was looking like a top-five fantasy tight end, although teammate Rob Gronkowski suddenly looks like a top-three tight end option.

Mike Tolbert, RB, SD – Tolbert gained just 10 yards on nine carries Sunday and lost a fumble in the process, a problem that dates back to last season. He’s going to remain a force in the passing game, but Ryan Mathews looks far superior with the ball in his hands. Tolbert’s role should decline over the season as long as Mathews can stay healthy.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – Foster left Sunday’s game after aggravating his persistent hamstring injury, and his status moving forward is unclear. It would probably be for the best if he misses a few weeks and then returns when he is truly 100 percent. Ben Tate will be a top-five fantasy option in any games Foster is ruled out of.