By DFW Contributor Stephen Lear
Growing up my mother used to make lists for everything. Grocery shopping lists, Christmas gift lists, if you can think of a list she probably made it. I never truly understood why she just couldn’t remember things. Well, now almost 30 years old, guess where I am? Making lists. I have post-its strewn across my office, stickies on the desktop of my MacBook Pro, and note cards with NCAA and NFL lines for the upcoming weekend scattered everywhere. However, one type of list I have never made is a Top Ten list. Though ESPN and David Letterman have perfected it, I hope you can take something away from this first list of many.
Through week 4 of this young NFL season, ho-hum, Ray Rice leads RBs in scoring and A.J. Green leads WRs, neither of which surprises me. However, here are ten players that have made quite the impression based on this year’s ADP:
10. Mikel Leshoure – 13.08
Detroit and running game in the same sentence usually are not synonymous. Matt Stafford likes to chuck the ball down the field to Megatron as much as he can, and well, I don’t blame him one iota. In a backfield that has been riddled with injury and disappointment though, Mikel Leshoure provided a bright spot in week 3 vs. the Titans. He recorded 20+ carries for a hundred yards and a score while adding 4 receptions on 4 targets. Week 4 versus the Vikings wasn’t as productive but he still was targeted 5 times in the passing game. Kevin Smith has clearly been put on the shelf, and I would try to buy low on Leshoure while you can. He is coming off a less than stellar week and is on a bye week this week. The perfect targeting scenario; don’t pass it up.
9A/B/C. Ryan Fitzpatrick – 17.01/Andy Dalton – 14.07/Joe Flacco – 12.02
If you are like me and wait until the 8th round or later to draft a QB, these three guys have clearly proven their worth. Though Fitzpatrick already has thrown 7 INTs, he is averaging 3 TDs a game and leads, yes I said LEADS, the league in TD passes. Buffalo had made an attempt to bolster a porous defense this past offseason, but early indications are they may not be as stout as predicted. Fitzpatrick will likely see a career high in TDs this year.
Andy Dalton has had a pretty respectable start to his season, though he did struggle against the Ravens. However, he had good games against teams that he was supposed to do well against, and I don’t see him breaking that trend this year. His schedule is relatively soft, only having to play one top ten passing defense (Steelers) in the next 8 weeks. He will still be under the learning curve in his second year in the NFL, but will continue to make strides. The only thing that I do not like going forward with Dalton this year is his playoff schedule. In weeks 14-16 he faces the Steelers, Cowboys, and Eagles so make sure to have a contingency plan in place.
At the beginning of the season Joe Flacco announced that he was an elite quarterback. I laughed, you laughed, and honestly I think everybody did. Joe may have found his calling in Baltimore’s new offensive scheme though. The no huddle has proven to be more of a benefit for the young quarterback than expected. Sitting at QB7 he has proven more than just a serviceable option, averaging over 20 fantasy points per contest. Out of the three mentioned, he has the highest floor due to having the best RB in the NFL on his team. He may not be the flashiest QB, but he will put up points on a weekly basis.
8. Danny Amendola – 13.02
I would have ranked Amendola higher here, but he came out of the game on Thursday night with an injury. Until I know more, I am going to proceed with caution. This latest injury may provide the necessary window to try to acquire Sam Bradford’s favorite target on the cheap. He is averaging slightly under a monstrous 10 targets per game, which by fantasy football standards is fantasy gold for only a 13th round draft pick.
7A/B/C/D. Scott Chandler/ Dennis Pitta/ Martellus Bennett/ Heath Miller – All Undrafted
The group of the UNDRAFTED tight ends! Who would have thought in 12 team leagues you would have been able to find three tight ends on the waiver wire at the start of the year that could be plug and play options right out of the gate. This has clearly been the deepest the position has been in years.
With Stevie Johnson as Fitzpatrick’s only legitimate target, Scott Chandler has stepped up and filled a hole so far for the Bills. Averaging just over 5 targets and under 1 touchdown per game, Chandler is a viable option as a TE1 going forward due to Buffalo’s lack of options.
Though Martellus Bennett and Dennis Pitta both had lackluster performances in week 4, I believe the bad numbers were a result of their team’s opponents, rather than lack of performance on their part. It is close, but I would probably tend to favor Pitta going forward due to increased target numbers.
6. Willis McGahee – 6.05
He surprisingly crept onto this list. I didn’t plan on having him here at all, but after closer examination he could be a key piece to a championship run in fantasy leagues even though he is a bit older. He has been hit or miss this year so far posting two sub 10 point games and two 25+ point games. Thus, to me McGahee is strictly a matchup start who has tough matchups the next two weeks and then a bye week. Week 7 is when you should make your move as owners will be down on him severely and you should be able to get him at quite an affordable price. This would set you up for a nice playoff run, where he faces only two top 10 rushing defenses the last 9 weeks.
5. Reggie Bush – 5.02
Many people were skeptical as to who would make plays for this Miami offense, which appeared it would have a very dismal season. Reggie Bush has definitely answered the call, clearly establishing himself early in week one vs. the Texans with a solid 17 point outing and then following it up with a two TD performance versus the Raiders. An injury scare sidelined him during part of the Jets game and never really allowed him to get going versus a stout Arizona defense. The next 7 weeks should be a lot more similar to week two though as the Dolphins are playing opponents with rush defenses ranked in the bottom third of the league. Look for him to establish the Dolphins running attack early and often, opening things up for his rookie QB.
4. Tony Gonzalez – 8.10
All the fuss at the beginning of the year was over Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. It almost made me sick. Clearly they are the cream of the crop at the tight end position, but Tony Gonzalez was someone you didn’t hear much about even though he has posted top 8 numbers each of the last 6 years. He has been underrated because of his declining age but has proven to be relevant as the top scoring TE so far this year.
3. Alfred Morris – 18.05
Shanahanigans is no longer, at least not in the foreseeable future. That’s the beauty of this situation. Everyone expected Shanahan to run with a RBBC this season and it has been everything but. Morris has shown great vision carrying the football and possesses the open field speed enabling him to break off some long runs. Terrell Davis was one of my favorite players growing up and Morris is drawing similar comparisons. Let us just hope he doesn’t blow out his knees. This young RB could prove valuable for years to come in that potent Redskins offense led by someone a little further down on this list.
2. Brian Hartline – Undrafted
Probably my favorite player on this list, bar none. Before the Thursday night game he was tied for the lead in targets in the NFL with Dwayne Bowe and Victor Cruz. Davone Bess is starting to come on, but clearly the rookie QB Tannehill favors Hartline on a weekly basis. I added him in every league possible the last few weeks and would recommend trading for him if you are able to. Though, after last week’s performance the price may be too rich for your blood. He should finish the season as one of the top ten fantasy WRs easily. He is a free agent at the end of this season; remember what happened to the last possession WR to come out of MIA? Two words, Wes Welker. New England may not sign him but he could be in for a change of scenery at the end of this year.
1. Robert Griffin III – 6.12
I had debated on Hartline here for the sheer fact that he went undrafted and RGIII was taken in the middle rounds, but nobody thought that Griffin was going to be this good outside of maybe the Redskins organization. He is the #1 scoring QB through week 4 and doesn’t seem to be looking back. Additionally, through four weeks he has been without his #1 WR in Pierre Garcon, who he figures to get back gradually over the coming weeks. This kid has “it” and everything about “it”. Barring an injury he clearly wins Offensive Rookie of the Year and may lead the Redskins to their first playoff berth in a long time.