Is there anything worse, fantasy football-wise, than watching one of your players leave a game early because of an injury? Sometimes, you're lucky enough to get some production before the injury strikes; other times, it literally happens on the second play of the game and that's it.
That was the case with St. Louis'
C.J. Spiller (quad), James Starks (knee), Chris Ivory (hamstring), Miles Austin (hamstring), Andre Johnson (shin), Vincent Jackson (ribs) and Jermichael Finley (concussion) also exited for good at various points in their games, potentially killing a lot of fantasy owners' weeks in the process. Starks' and Ivory's departures were especially frustrating since their respective backups/committee-mates, Johnathan Franklin and Bilal Powell, respectively, went on to have big performances.
I've always said it would be nice if the various fantasy football providers allowed you to designate one reserve player at each position as an “injury replacement,” and their stats counted for you that week – at least if your starter was injured before halftime. Apparently, that's beyond our grasp in 2013, though. Maybe if all the scientists, politicians and think-tank members stopped what they're doing and focused solely on this international crisis for, say, just a year or two, we might get it solved. Someday. Is it wrong to dream?
Now, let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 3. Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's fantasy mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
It was a good-but-not-great week for a lot of preseason QB1's, with Tom Brady and Matt Ryan scoring just under 20 fantasy points, and Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck scoring just under 15. Two rookies, Geno Smith (28.64) and E.J. Manuel (21.72) looked good, but, really, the most eye-opening performance from a “backup” came from Jake Locker.
Locker threw for 299 yards and a score and ran for another 68 yards and a score against San Diego. We all know dual-threat QBs can put up points in a variety of ways, and Locker looks like a better version of Tim Tebow. He still has accuracy issues (just a 58.6 completion percentage for the season), but Locker has fantasy potential if he keeps running.
Notable Riser: See, Cam Newton owners – no need to worry. Newton put to rest any worries about his “slow start” with a 35.4-point performance against the Giants. He had accuracy issues for the second straight game (55.6 completion percentage), but he showed no hesitation running the ball, gaining 45 yards and punching one in on the ground. It's fair to note that last season, Newton followed up his 35.2-point performance in Week 4 with a 7.8-point dud in Week 5, so it's not necessarily all roses and sunshine from here on out, but he's still a must-start player each week. Same goes for Russell Wilson, who showed his upside with an efficient four-TD performance against the Jaguars.
Notable Faller: We could easily put Colin Kaepernick in this section for the second straight week, but it's tough to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with the 49ers right now. Robert Griffin III, on the other hand, clearly isn't 100 percent yet. Teammate Pierre Garcon even said so recently. Last week, Griffin III wasn't afforded much “garbage time” in the fourth quarter, and, thus, his overall numbers suffered. To be fair to Griffin, he did have a perfectly thrown 57-yard bomb dropped in the end zone. Nonetheless, he managed just 12.7 points against a Lions squad known for giving up big plays. It's tough to count on Griffin from week-to-week.
Week 3 provided one of the best arguments for handcuffs that you'll find. Joique Bell (handcuff to Reggie Bush), Jason Snelling (Steven Jackson), Bilal Powell (Chris Ivory), Bernard Pierce (Ray Rice) and Fred Jackson (C.J. Spiller) all scored more than 10 fantasy points. Jacquizz Rodgers, Jackson's “other” handcuff, had 9.3 points.
The only problem is that with no teams on bye, many fantasy owners might not have needed to start any of these guys (and in the case of Fred Jackson, no one likely did since Spiller started the game). Bell and Pierce were probably used in a lot of leagues, and Powell, who had basically become the “co-starter” with Ivory, also likely got plenty of burn in a favorable matchup. But it will be interesting to see how much long-term value any of these players have. Bush and Spiller are expected back this week, and Rice is hoping to play.
These backups are hot right now, so if you're feeling confident that the starters will be back soon and can play at a high level, it's not a bad idea to see what you can get for the likes of Snelling, Bell or Pierce in a trade. It's risky, but it might pay off.
Notable Riser: Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard seems to be on the verge of becoming a fantasy superstar, but he's still sharing just enough playing time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis to hold him back. Bernard still put up 99 total yards and a TD last week, and he even got the Bengals' first goal-line carry, plunging in a three-yard score. Green-Ellis got the goal-line touch on the next series and scored on a two-yard run. Bernard played a season-high 30 snaps last week, and he figures to continue to see his role grow. This doesn't mean Green-Ellis will be worthless, but Bernard is definitely the Bengals' back to own.
Notable Faller: New England's Stevan Ridley is going in the opposite direction of Bernard. He gained just 35 yards on 11 carries last week and was clearly outshined by LeGarrette Blount (14 carries, 65 yards) and Brandon Bolden (100 total yards on just eight touches). Ridley could easily snap out of his funk at any time, but coach Bill Belichick might not give him the chance. Bolden will deservedly be a popular pickup this week. He was on the verge of starting last year before an injury derailed his season. Ridley is probably best left on your bench until we see him actually produce. Sames goes for New York's David Wilson, and, after Sunday's disappointing showing, Arizona's Rashard Mendenhall.
With the possible exception of tight end, wide receiver sees the biggest swings in a player's value from week-to-week. A few examples from last week: Antonio Brown (up), Kenbrell Thompkins (up), Santonio Holmes (up), Mike Wallace (down), Marlon Brown (down) and Dwayne Bowe (down).
Next week, all three could have their arrows pointing in opposite directions, but fantasy owners might miss out on the good performances that switch their fortunes. With certain players, sometimes you just need to keep them in your lineups and take the good with the bad. Green Bay's James Jones might be the best example of this. The deciding factor shouldn't necessarily be matchups, but rather team offense.
Right now, only Thompkins stands out as a player on a potentially great offense. Wallace has the most talent and is on an up-and-coming team (same for Bowe), so neither should be benched in most circumstances. Antonio Brown, Marlon Brown and Holmes are all on teams that still have things to prove on offense, so continue to be careful with them.
Notable Riser: Cleveland's Josh Gordon was good as a rookie (805 yards, five TDs), but he wasn't quite as good as some fantasy owners seemed to remember. Regardless, he came out of the gates strong this year after serving a two-game suspension. Gordon caught 10 of 19 targets for 146 yards and a score against Minnesota, plus added a 22-yard run. Whether it's to showcase him for a trade or just because he's their best wide receiver, the Browns clearly plan on getting Gordon the ball. It's unclear if Brian Hoyer will remain at quarterback once Brandon Weeden (thumb) is ready to return – and not every matchup will be as favorable as this one – but Gordon looks like he has staying power in fantasy lineups.
Notable Faller: The Giants' Hakeem Nicks was targeted just once during his homecoming to Charlotte last week, and afterward, he made some veiled digs at Eli Manning and the Giants' offensive scheme. This worked for Antonio Brown last week, but the Giants might have even more offensive issues than Pittsburgh did/does. Nicks averaged a respectable 9.9 fantasy points the first two weeks, so he should bounce back soon. However, inconsistency could remain an issue.
A couple veteran tight ends made some noise last week, with Antonio Gates looking like Philip Rivers' go-to receiver, Zach Miller scoring twice for Seattle, and Owen Daniels leading the Texans in targets (nine). But the most noise made by a veteran TE – or, rather, the most noise made for a veteran TE – came from the Pittsburgh crowd in response to Heath Miller's first game-action since tearing an ACL in Week 16 last year.
Miller didn't exactly light up the stat sheet, but he reeled in three of four targets for 35 yards. His role as Ben Roethlisberger's security blanket should continue to expand, and he'll certainly be a popular red-zone target. Remember, Miller finished as the No. 4 fantasy TE last year despite missing a game. There's value here.
Notable Riser: Cleveland's Jordan Cameron is having a true breakout season, and even though his 11-yard TD on a fake field-goal attempt last week shouldn't really be factored into his stats, he still looked great during his 66-yard, three-TD performance against Minnesota. Cameron will continue to be a dependable target for whoever is under center in Cleveland.
Notable Faller: We cautioned against getting too discouraged about Tony Gonzalez after Week 2, but then he managed just four catches and 24 yards against a Miami team that had struggled against tight ends the first two weeks. Even worse, he received just five targets. It's definitely worrisome that Gonzalez isn't producing more, but given his track record, we wouldn't bet against him. If anything, this is a good time to buy low.
49ers at Rams
Stat to know: The Rams held Colin Kaepernick in check during their second meeting last year (14.7 fantasy points), and even though they've been fairly hospitable to QBs this season (24.8 fantasy points per game), Kaepernick might have a depleted supporting cast again if TE Vernon Davis is held out because of his hamstring strain. Consider the struggling Kaepernick a risky starting option.