Ryan Mathews, RB, SD – Mathews totaled 149 yards and two touchdowns on 25 touches in the Chargers’ win Sunday. Mike Tolbert, meanwhile, has averaged just 2.6 YPC on the year and has seen his carries dwindle by the week. Tolbert isn’t going to completely disappear from the offense, but it's important to note both of Mathews' scores came from inside the five - he's now being trusted in the red zone, and in pass protection. Mathews has missed time with injuries each of the past five seasons (including his college days), so while all running backs carry some health risk, Mathews might present more than usual. However, he has shown elite skills; and when combined with possibly the best offensive situation in the NFL, you get top-three upside.
Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Jackson was undervalued in most fantasy drafts despite totaling 1,055 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games following the departure of Marshawn Lynch last season. Thus, few could have expected this type of performance. He has put up 418 yards from scrimmage and three scores over three games this year as a key cog in a Buffalo offense that currently leads the NFL in scoring with 37.7 points per game. It’s possible Jackson wears down as a 30-year-old, but considering he has just 694 career rushing attempts, it’s hardly inevitable. With Ryan Fitzpatrick helping the offense become legit, and C.J. Spiller no closer to making an impact, Jackson is more of a "hold" than a "sell-high." He’s a top-10 fantasy back.
Wes Welker, WR, NE – Welker’s 16-catch, 217-yard, two-TD performance Sunday was one for the ages; and considering New England’s defense resembles a sieve, he should be fun to own throughout the year. In PPR leagues, there’s an argument he’s the No. 1 fantasy player. Welker is currently averaging 14.8 yards per catch, easily his highest since 2005; and while that number is aided by a 99-yard touchdown catch and likely to decrease moving forward, it doesn’t matter nearly as much with the number of targets he’s seeing. Only health can stop Welker from setting the NFL record for receptions this season, and while his touchdown rate is likely to drop some, remember only Larry Fitzgerald saw more targets inside the 10-yard line than Welker did last season (13).
LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI – McCoy has totaled 394 yards over three games this season, and while his receiving numbers are down, he has already scored five touchdowns. His usage inside the red zone has been very encouraging, and his 6.1 YPC mark is rather impressive. Given Michael Vick’s propensity to get hurt, McCoy appears to be the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s explosive offense. Few (if any) players possess more fantasy value.
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL – The first three catches of Smith’s career all went for touchdowns in the first quarter of Baltimore’s win Sunday. A true deep threat, the rookie finally gives Joe Flacco a downfield weapon he has never had throughout his career. Smith will likely be inconsistent as a rookie, and his role may be reduced when Lee Evans returns from his ankle injury, but his future looks bright. Ed Dickson continues to quietly be more and more involved in the offense as well, so he’s a flier to add if you need help at tight end.
Sidney Rice, WR, SEA – I essentially wrote off Rice last week, which appears to be a mistake. He had eight catches for 109 yards Sunday, and while it was in a plus matchup, he’s going to be a target monster with no other viable receiver on the roster. Rice’s shoulder injury could be a season-long problem, but he looked fine during his debut Sunday and isn’t expected to be listed on the injury report this week.
Mike Wallace, WR, PIT – Wallace amusingly stated this summer that his goal was to reach 2,000 receiving yards this season, but the joke may ultimately be on us - he’s currently on pace to surpass that mark. In fact, dating back to last year, he has broken the century mark in six consecutive games. One of the league’s premier deep threats, Wallace has also racked up 21 catches so far this year after getting just 60 all of last season. While Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a problem, and 2,000 yards is still quite a stretch, Wallace looks unstoppable; and it would be hard not to treat him as a top-five fantasy wide receiver.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, NE – Green-Ellis gained just 18 yards on 10 carries in Week 3, getting stuffed three times at the goal line in the process. Discouragingly, he played just 28 of a possible 75 snaps, giving way to impressive rookie Stevan Ridley for stretches during the second half. Green-Ellis is a risky fantasy play from week-to-week since his usage is so dependent on game situations, so New England’s crumbling defense affects him quite a bit because it leads to high-scoring games. Green-Ellis’s fantasy value has already slipped, and he would essentially lose all of his value should he ever cede his role as goal-line back.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR – Through three games, Williams has totaled 107 yards on 34 touches. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart has totaled 230 yards on 36 touches. To compare, that is 3.15 vs. 6.38 yards per touch. Williams should improve, and his contract basically dictates he’ll be given opportunities, but he’s locked in a timeshare and has been badly outplayed by his teammate. Moreover, Cam Newton looks like the team’s No. 1 rushing option inside the 10, further burying Williams’ fantasy value.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Britt got off to a fantastic start this season, but he suffered both a torn MCL and ACL on Sunday. It’s a shame for Britt, as a true breakout season appeared in store, and for fantasy owners, who lost a player who could have easily returned second round value. Nate Washington, who also got out of the gate quickly, should be the primary beneficiary. Grab him if you need a replacement for Britt.
Antonio Gates, TE, SD – Gates’ foot injury just won’t go away, and it appears it’s once again going to be a season-long problem. If he somehow returns in a week or two and puts up a decent game, try to trade him. This is a problem that’s not going away any time soon, so Randy McMichael could provide some sneaky fantasy value.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, NE – Ochocinco has been a bust ever since joining the Patriots, but the low point was an embarrassing drop of a would-be touchdown during Sunday’s loss to the Bills. Ochocinco has struggled to learn the playbook and looks lost on the field, which is unfortunate since he had an opportunity to take on a bigger role in the offense with Aaron Hernandez (knee) out. He has quickly lost the trust of his coaches, quarterback and fantasy owners.
Kerry Collins, QB, IND – Collins has completed just 49.0 percent of his passes and has averaged an anemic 4.9 YPA this season. His time as the starter appears short-lived, as Curtis Painter was an immediate upgrade after replacing him Sunday night. Collins is questionable to play Monday night after dealing with a concussion, but there’s no doubt his performance this year has been a disaster. It’s arguable no team in sports would be as affected by the loss of a player as the Colts have been without Peyton Manning.
Frank Gore, RB, SF – Gore hasn’t rushed for 60 yards in a game this year and has also been far less effective as a receiver. He has averaged just 2.5 YPC and left last week’s contest with an ankle injury, a yearly ritual he decided to perform early in 2011. Gore says he’ll play in Week 4, but if he doesn’t, Kendall Hunter would get the nod. While Hunter has impressed at times, the rookie has averaged just 2.7 YPC himself, so Gore should remain the workhorse if healthy. Still, he has been one of the bigger disappointments over the first three weeks of the season.
Cedric Benson, RB, CIN – According to the NFL, Benson is facing a possible three-game suspension for being a repeat offender, although he should play in Week 4 while his appeal is heard. It’s possible he wins the appeal, since he wasn’t officially on a roster at the time of his most recent transgression, but Bernard Scott has to be owned in all formats as of now. Benson has averaged 3.8 YPC or fewer in 11 of his last 14 games.