Our weekly rankings have just been updated. And as always, they will provide you with a dependable resource to help with those difficult lineup decisions. Here is a look at some additional players that I believe could provide you with high quality production this week, if you are inclined to utilize sleepers in your starting lineups. For a look at defenses to grab from your waiver wire check out my column here.
Nick Foles at Buccaneers
It took just under 16 quarters of football, but Michael Vick suffered an injury that will force him to miss regular season action. Just as many observers and fans had predicted. His hamstring issue elevated Nick Foles into the lineup during Philadelphia’s Week 5 matchup with the Giants. And the second-year signal caller completed 16 of his 25 passing attempts, while generating 197 yards and two TDs. Plus, he led the Eagles on four scoring drives, which propelled the team to a victory over its division rival. In a week that is limited with sleeper options at the QB position, Foles does qualify for that distinction. He is certainly not a threat to stockpile yardage on the ground like Vick. But even though the Buccaneers’ rush defense has not replicated the level of play that enabled them to lead the league in 2012, the unit has performed well enough to rank ninth after their first four games. Which makes it feasible that the Eagles would encounter less resistance by attacking them through the air. Not necessarily an easy task, since Tampa Bay's pass defense has reduced their YPG average from 297 last season to 238 in four contests this year. However, Foles is a respectable pocket passer, and should accumulate enough yardage for owners to utilize him, if they are in need of an alternative QB this week.
Zac Stacy at Texans
Last week, shortcomings that have plagued the Rams' ground game were discussed at length. Particularly the fact that Daryl Richardson's ineffectiveness had prohibited him from seizing the starting role. While there had been speculation that Isaiah Pead or even Benny Cunningham might garner an enhanced workload, it was rookie Zac Stacy who received the start in Week 5. He responded by amassing 78 yards on 14 attempts, and performed well enough to capture a second consecutive start against Houston’s 27th ranked run defense. All of which has catapulted him into this week’s premiere waiver wire target, as my colleague Greg Brosh discussed. And it certainly qualifies him as a sleeper. If you do secure him for your roster, prepare for the likelihood that St. Louis will maintain some semblance of a committee approach. Richardson was allotted only one less carry than Stacy last week, although he was not as effective (13 carries - 48 yards). Which means that Stacy still can obtain the majority of carries if he continues to run proficiently.
Brandon Bolden vs Saints
After being inactive for New England’s first two games, Bolden has averaged nine touches in the Patriots’ three most recent contests. While that is not a gargantuan number, he is garnering a workload of reasonable consistency. It includes the season high six receptions that he collected on eight targets in Week 5. Bolden will be splitting touches with LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley this week against New Orleans, if Ridley is able to return from his knee issue. And even though the specific distribution of carries will always vary with each successive contest, Bolden’s role as Tom Brady’s target from the backfield should remain firmly intact. Ridley has only three receptions this season, and 12 in his three-year career. Meanwhile, Blount has also failed to demonstrate proficiency as a receiver, and has accumulated just 21 catches in his four seasons. The vast improvement that has taken place with New Orleans' defense under Rob Ryan has been impressive. But New England should still manufacture success generating yardage, and Bolden should collect receptions as part of that production. That makes him a viable RB3 for needy owners, with additional value in PPR leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Bills
After receiving a grand total of just 16 touches in Weeks 3 and 4 combined, Green-Ellis was allowed to carry the ball a whopping 19 times against the Patriots in Week 5. He responded by amassing 67 yards, along with his third TD of the season. That was his most extensive workload since Week 2, which unsurprisingly resulted in his best production since that contest. Meanwhile, despite a huge win for the Bengals over New England in Week 5, there was little reason to be impressed with Andy Dalton. Which is consistent with his previous performances this season. He has not thrown a TD pass wince Week 3, and averages just 200 YPG. He only launched 27 passes against the Patriots, while the Bengals backfield tandem of Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard ran the ball 32 times. Since he Bills are currently 24th against the run, and are allowing 116 YPG, that should provide massive incentive for the Bengals to limit their reliance upon the unimpressive Dalton, and to instead place heavy emphasis on their ground game. They are likely to provide sufficient workloads to both BJGE and Bernard, which should satisfy the owners of both backs.
Keenan Allen vs. Colts
Allen was only targeted four times during the first three games, but has now received 15 passes from Philip Rivers in the Chargers’ last two contests. That includes the nine that Allen received during Week 5’s matchup with Oakland. He has responded to these additional opportunities by generating the best production of his brief career, as he established new season highs in receptions (six), and yardage (115). He also produced his first touchdown, and had a second score overturned by instant replay. In the past two weeks, Allen has assembled 11 receptions, while exploding for 195 yards. San Diego currently has the NFL’s third ranked passing attack, and will continue implementing a heavy aerial assault throughout the season. The 6’ 2” 210 pound Allen will be an integral part of that. Which is why he has become a highly coveted roster addition this week, and could accumulate impressive numbers during the remainder of the season. He should be also be located frequently by Rivers during Monday’s Night’s matchup with Indianapolis, and is worthy of use as a WR3.
Austin Pettis at Texans
Pettis was seldom included in offseason conversations regarding the Rams’ potential fantasy options, as loftier expectations surrounded teammates Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, and Chris Givens. Yet, it is Pettis that now leads the team with 36 targets after five games, as he has received at least five in each contest. His YPC has steadily climbed during that span, and includes the season best 12.2 that he registered in Week 5 against Jacksonville. He also caught four passes during that matchup, manufactured 49 yards, and produced two touchdowns. He has now scored four times this season, which leads the Rams in that category. Quarterback Sam Bradford is clearly comfortable throwing to Pettis, and should continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
Garrett Graham vs. Rams
If you aren't familiar with Garrett Graham, that is likely to change during the next few days. Because he will be a coveted option for owners who desperately need a TE. The three-year veteran will now ascend into the starting lineup as a result of Owen Daniels' fibula fracture, and could remain in that capacity for 4-6 weeks. While Graham currently has a grand total of 44 receptions during his career, 15 of those have occurred this season. Plus, he has quietly collected three TDS in the Texans’ initial five contests, and should provide Matt Schaub or T. J. Yates with an enticing red zone target. It is noteworthy that Graham's TD total ties his for the team lead with Daniels, as only one scoring toss has been collected by Houston WRs this season. Daniels is a two time Pro Bowler who performs in a variety of formations within Gary Kubiak’s offense, and it remains to be seen how Graham will specifically be deployed. But he will certainly have an opportunity to accrue numbers, thereby rewarding his owners.
Sean McGrath vs. Raiders
Anthony Fasano, Tony Moeaki, and Travis Kelce all seemingly had the potential to become dependable targets for Alex Smith prior to the regular season. But a collection of injuries to Fasano’s ankle and knee, Moeaki’s shoulder and Kelce’s knee have provided McGrath with the opportunity to seize a temporary role with the team. As a result, he has quietly emerged as Smith’s option among the TEs on Kansas City’s roster. The six targets that he received in Week 5 tied for the second most among all Chiefs, as the rookie accumulated four receptions for 54 yards. It was the third consecutive week in which he has caught at least four passes, and it was his second straight week with at least 50 yards. Once Fasano and Kelce return to the lineup, McGrath’s value will evaporate. But until that time, he should receive a modest degree of attention from Smith each week. That should provide more appeal than some of the other alternatives on your waiver wire who will force you to endure greater inconsistency. If you are looking for a TE due to Tony Gonzalez’ bye week, or you can’t handle using Jared Cook any longer, he should garner enough targets to generate yardage against Oakland’s pass defense.