Week 3: Player Upgrades
Injuries, injuries, injuries. That is the big story in the NFL this week. It seems as if every single team in the league is dealing with injuries to key players. This not only tests the depth of every NFL franchise, but makes player acquisition for fantasy owners even more critical this season.
This Week 3 edition of Player Upgrades takes a look at seven players who have seen their fantasy stock rise during the first two weeks of the season that fantasy owners should be targeting, either in a trade or off of the wavier wire.
Fred Jackson might be the most undervalued player in all of fantasy football. It feels like I have been saying this for years now. Maybe it is because he plays for Buffalo? I have no idea what makes Jackson consistently the most undervalued running back in the league. All he does is produce at an elite level for the cost of a mid-tier running back on draft day.
Jackson eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive week, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in a Week 2 victory over the Oakland Raiders. With C.J. Spiller firmly in the rear-view mirror, Jackson will be the featured back for the upstart Bills the remainder of the season. The Week 3 match-up doesn't look very enticing for the Bills on paper because they have not beaten the New England Patriots since 2003. However, if you dig deeper you will find that Jackson has been very productive against New England. Last season, Jackson averaged 89 yards on the ground against the Patriots and averaged 137 yards per game back in 2009. Fantasy owners looking to acquire a solid running back to fill the void left by an injury should target Jackson.
Second year standout wide receiver Eric Decker is the hot name in Denver right now, but not far behind him is journeyman running back Willis McGahee (who is quickly emerging as one of this season's under the radar sleepers). With running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and stud wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) out of the lineup, McGahee carried a full workload in the Bronco's 24-22 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
McGahee rushed for 28 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown. To put it in perspective, McGahee had not rushed for 100 yards in a single game since 2009. McGahee will not get near 30 carries per game once Moreno returns, but he can be counted on as a valuable third down and goal-line back for the remainder of the season -- making him an appealing target for all fantasy owners going forward.
For the second consecutive week, Ben Tate broke the century mark. Tate rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries and added four receptions for 32 yards in Houston's 23-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. According to Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, Tate is expected to "carry most of the load right now." With Arian Foster reaggrivating his lingering hamstring injury this past weekend, Tate's fantasy value skyrockets once again.
Even when Foster returns fully healthy, Tate will not just disappear. He has certainly earned the right to get his fair share of carries and will eat into Foster's workload considerably for the remainder of the season. As long as Foster remains out, Tate is a top-20 fantasy running back fantasy owners should be targeting in all leagues for the remainder of the season.
Week 1 was a bit of a fluke; Week 2 was a completely different story for Kenny Britt. The Tennessee Titans pulled off an impressive 26-13 victory over division rival Baltimore, in which Britt caught nine passes for 135 yards and a touchdown on a team-leading 13 targets. Britt still has off-field issues that will be resolved later this month, but as long as he stays on the field and is healthy, he is looking like an elite fantasy option this season at the wide receiver position. Fantasy owners who were skeptical about Britt this season should start to change their minds and look to take advantage of any owners looking to sell high at this point.
Devery Henderson has always been a streaky player, nobody will deny that. However, when a guy is this hot (like Henderson is right now), fantasy owners need to take notice and ride the streak. As long as Marques Colston remains out of the lineup, the targets will be distributed evenly between the Saints' remaining wide receivers Henderson, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem. This past week, running back Darren Sproles (10) and tight end Jimmy Graham (seven) led the team in targets; Moore and Meachem each had three targets and despite getting only three targets, Henderson made them count with three receptions for 103 yards and a 79-yard touchdown.
Henderson has seen his fantasy stock rise early this season and is worthy of a pickup in all fantasy leagues as long as he continues to produce big-plays. There is no reason fantasy owners shouldn't consider starting him in Week 3 against the Houston Texans, the league's worst pass defense a season ago.