While many fantasy owners will flock to the wire to grab Green Bay running back James Starks this week off of his monstrous effort Sunday, we’re going to buck the trend and pass on the veteran in search of greener pastures. Look, add Starks if you can, but we’ve seen this story play out before. Starks has had the role in the past and failed to not only be effective, but also to stay on the field. While we don’t yet know the severity of Eddie Lacy’s concussion, we can assume that the Packers Week 4 bye will play in the rookies favor. Even if Lacy is forced to miss a game, Starks may only have one more opportunity as the bell cow before he is pushed back to the bench. But really, this isn’t an exercise in why to avoid James Starks, but more of a nod to an emerging rookie running back who flashed onto the scene in Arizona and does warrant attention on this week’s wire: Andre Ellington.
Just 1% owned at the time of this writing, rookie Andre Ellington put together an impressive performance as the Cardinals scored a late-game victory over the Lions on Sunday, Ellington was a non-factor in Week 1 (1 catch, 13 yards) but he put together a solid game against Detroit, rushing four times for 20 yard and catching 2 passes for 42 yards, including a 36 yard TD. Rashard Mendenhall was solid (15 carries for 44 yards) but as unspectacular as ever. Word out of Arizona is that Ellington has already secured the third down role and even if Mendenhall somehow manages to stay on the field, there is not much in the way of performance that would make you think Ellington won’t gain a larger share of the rushing load.
Ellington was one of two backs drafted by the Cards this season and while he may be a bit raw, the third down duties clearly indicate a comfort in pass protection. He’s leap-frogged fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor and brushed aside the mediocre Alfonso Smith on his way to carries.
At Clemson, Ellington piled up 3436 yards and 33 scores over 621 carries while showing versatility and shiftiness. He’s got solid speed and looks has the potential to be a real contributor down the line. How soon will he carve out a legitimate fantasy role? Well, that remains to be seen. But, we’d much rather scoop the upside off of the waiver wire than chase one week of production from a been-there-done-that veteran. Scoop up Ellington now, before the rest of your league catches up in a way the Lions were unable to do this weekend!
And with that, let’s take a quick trip around the league to provide the top waiver targets at each position. Payers listed here are currently owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo! standard leagues and sorted by position in the order in which we’d be adding them.
Sam Bradford (STL)
Bradford has the Rams offense cooking and we’re buying. Our overreaction to his Week 2 performance just feels so right! In eight his last 13 games, Bradford has attempted 38+ pass attempts and has averaged 256 padding yards per game and scored 21 touchdowns over that span.
Philip Rivers (SD)
That’s now two straight impressive performances for Rivers, who looks nothing like the awful quarterback we saw last season. He picked part a struggling Eagles secondary and while the loss of Malcolm Floyd (neck) will hurt, he’s become a matchups play (at the very least) once again.
Alex Smith (SF)
Don’t sleep on Smith who, while lacking the arm strength to get the ball down the field, can pick a defense apart in Andy Reid’s west coast offense. He’s got an elite pass-catching running back in Jamaal Charles and a dominating red zone weapon in Dwayne Bowe on his side. Good things are coming
Andre Ellington (ARI)
Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL) and Jason Snelling (ATL)
With Stephen Jackson set to miss the next couple of weeks, someone needs to carry the load in Atlanta. Most likely, the passing game will pick up the pace, but there will be value among the running backs as well. It’s a scoring-dependent recommendation here as Rodgers is the better add in PPR leagues. However, in standard formats, go ahead and grab Snelling for the goal line touches.
Bernard Pierce (BAL)
Pierce becomes an interesting add following the Ray Rice injury and though initial indications are that the workhorse will be good to go for Sunday, the injury is a reminder that a number of backs remain just a step away from becoming highly valuable commodities.
James Starks (GB)
As we mentioned in the open, he’s worth a pickup, but don’t get carried away.
Josh Gordon (CLE) and Justin Blackmon (JAX)
We’ll cover the two in one nice little package. Gordon, of course, is returning this week while you need to wait another couple of games for Blackmon, but both have shown us enough to slot above many of the other free agents out there. If either of these guys is dangling on your wire, now is the time to scoop them up!
Marlon Brown (BAL)
Another week, another touchdown for the rookie. Brown has been impressive so far and opportunity will certainly be there.
Eddie Royal (SD)
Royal made our Monday list of over-achievers and while his upside isn’t quite that of the rookies, Royal is getting it done right now.
Charles Clay (MIA)
Clay busted out for a huge game in Week 2. More of an H-back, it’s possible that Clay actually garners some goal line touches for the Dolphins and if that were the case, he’d make for a fine starting tight end. He’s a bit of a risk right now, but if you’ve got some extra bench space or are still carrying around Zach Sudfeld or Brandon Pettigrew, go ahead and make the move.
Josh Reed (WAS)
It’s becoming more and more evident that the Fred Davis era in Washington is coming to an end. Rookie Josh Reed caught five balls in week one and a touchdown. Davis has done very little to warrant playing time over Reed and fantasy owners need not wait around on this one. Still, Davis figures to vulture some of Reed’s value, but the rookie has the talent and will eventually get more opportunities.