Stevan Ridley, RB, NE
It’s about time. Although it’s not much consolation to Ridley owners who suffered during the first five weeks of the year while Ridley fumbled and wasted away on the bench, Ridley finally arrived for the 2013 season as the Patriots beat the Saints on Sunday, running for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries (4.8 YPC). LeGarrette Blount saw a minimized role after losing a fumble the previous week, and he faceplanted with the seven carries he did receive, totaling just nine yards. It could barely be more obvious that Blount is nowhere near Ridley’s level as a runner, so coach Bill Belichick would need to be in his most baffling form yet should he continue to exclude Ridley’s obvious abilities from the game plan. Ridley’s owners have reason to be hopeful for RB2 production going forward.
Keenan Allen, WR, SD
It’s a bit too early to know for certain, but most indications over the last three weeks imply that Allen has emerged as San Diego’s top receiver in the absence of Malcom Floyd (neck). The knee issues that plagued Allen in the 2012 college football season and the pre-draft process appear to be a thing of the past, and the talent that once made him a projected first-round pick is shining through. Allen is quite simply much more talented than fellow wideouts Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal and, while those two will remain relevant in the San Diego offense, Allen is the only one of the three with the skill set to project into a top receiver role. He has 20 catches over the last three games for 302 yards and two touchdowns, and with Philip Rivers averaging nearly 308 passing yards per game, there’s no reason why Allen should fall off. He should probably be owned in all formats at this point.
Zac Stacy, RB, STL
Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Benny Cunningham still loom a bit in the background, but it generally seems as if Stacy has proven over the last two weeks that he’s St. Louis’ most talented runner. Although he has yet to really break out, Stacy did have a healthy total of 157 yards on 32 carries (4.9 YPC) against Jacksonville and Houston over the last two weeks, and the Rams ought to give him the ball more consistently if he keeps it up. Stacy is built like a rock at 5-foot-8, 224 pounds, but he has more than enough speed to pull away from defenses if he’s given an opening. He’s a more complete back than Richardson, Pead and Cunningham and should continue to hold them off.
Joseph Randle, RB, DAL
DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar have all been ruled out for this week’s game against the Eagles, leaving Randle as the Cowboys’ top back. Murray is one of the NFL’s least durable starting running backs, so it’s possible he could be out beyond the 1-to-2 weeks he is currenlty expected to miss, but in any case it does not appear he will miss much time. With that in mind, Randle’s stint as a fantasy-relevant running back figures to be relatively brief. His run of prominence, however, could be a fairly profitable one, as he’s set to start in place of Murray this week against a Philadelphia defense that might be the worst in the league. Randle is ideally no more than a flex consideration for those who pursue him, because he totaled just 17 yards on 11 carries against Washington’s weak defense. However, he does have some skills as a receiver, and the Eagles figure to allow Dallas into scoring position more than a few times this week.
Jarrett Boykin, WR, GB
Boykin lacks speed and is very unproven, so he’s nothing but a deep league consideration for the time being. But the former Virginia Tech star is set to see his role drastically expand for as long as the Packers are without Randall Cobb and perhaps James Jones, and anyone who regularly receives targets from Aaron Rodgers gets on the fantasy radar by default. Boykin is big (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) and has big hands, so he could catch Rodgers’ eye in the red zone if defenses make an extra effort to clamp down on Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley – and why wouldn’t they?
Danny Amendola, WR, NE
Amendola got off to a fast start in his first week with the Patriots, catching 10 passes for 104 yards on 14 targets against the Bills in Week 1, but a groin injury he suffered that week knocked him out of New England's next three games. He returned against Cincinnati in Week 5 to catch four passes for 55 yards, but then suffered a 'head' injury against the Saints on Sunday. We all know that ‘head’ injuries almost always turn out to be concussions, so it seems as if Amendola could miss more time. Despite his talents as a receiver, it’s difficult to envision a scenario at this point where he’ll turn into a reliable receiver for fantasy owners, because his durability is a huge problem. Amendola has missed 23 of 38 games since 2011.
Michael Vick, QB, PHI
The expectation was that Vick would reclaim the starting quarterback role in Philadelphia once he recovered from his hamstring pull, but Nick Foles’ four-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay has muddied the waters a bit. Foles offers very little as a runner, but he makes decisions quicker and better than Vick, and his accuracy is usually better, as well. That means fewer sacks and a lower turnover risk. Foles will have a more stressful test against Dallas this week, as Tony Romo will likely force Foles to score more reliably than Mike Glennon did, but if Foles stands tall for the second week in a row and delivers another victory, coach Chip Kelly might have a hard time selling a switch back to Vick.
Tavon Austin, WR, STL
The Rams obviously had big plans for Austin when they traded up to pick him with the eighth overall selection in the 2013 draft, but as we head into Week 7 it appears that St. Louis has no idea how to use Austin effectively. After catching six passes in each of the season’s first three weeks, Austin has just six catches total in the three weeks since. He is averaging a miserable 3.9 yards per target on the year, and the Rams haven't made an effort to use him as a runner, either, giving him just four carries in six games. Sam Bradford might not be the quarterback Austin needs to fully capitalize on his potential, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer almost definitely isn’t the man for that job, either. Austin played just three offensive snaps against Houston on Sunday, and it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where he’s worth owning in redraft formats at the moment.
Miles Austin, WR, DAL
Despite practicing fully all week leading up to Sunday’s game against Washington, Austin was a non-factor against the Redskins, failing to catch a single pass on his four targets. Austin’s explosiveness has all but evaporated since his series of hamstring injuries first occurred last year, and it’s beginning to look like his run as a relevant player in the Dallas offense is just about over. Rookie third-round pick Terrance Williams, who has touchdowns in two straight games, is much more explosive than Austin, and is obviously more important to Dallas’ future than Austin, who’s clearly in a significant decline already at just age 29.
Cecil Shorts, WR, JAC
Shorts’ value took two big hits in recent weeks, the first being the return of Justin Blackmon from suspension, and the most recent one a collarbone injury (sprained SC joint) against Denver on Sunday. Although he will try to play against San Diego on Sunday, for now it seems as if Shorts is a good bet to miss that game. Shorts should be able to coexist with Blackmon when he is fully healthy again – he earned 10 targets against the Rams in Week 5 – but he'll almost certainly see his target volume decrease from the average of 13 looks per game he received in Weeks 1 through 4. With Blackmon around, Shorts looks more like a WR3 than the WR2 value he provided through most of the first month of the season.