With five weeks in the books, just about every deep league fantasy football team has seen its share of injuries, ineffectiveness, and impossible matchups. Unlike regular leagues, we can’t always plug-and-play guys off the waiver wire, but we can find untapped value that has gone unnoticed up until now. Without many injury replacements or breakout stars in week 5, let’s see if we can find some emerging players whose value is on the rise.
Andre Ellington (Owned in 22% of Yahoo Leagues): With every passing week, the signing of Rashard Mendenhall looks worse and worse. Tough Carolina defense or not, Mendenhall managed just 43 yards on 17 carries for a whopping 2.5 yards per carry and two receptions for seven yards. Meanwhile, Ellington piled up a quick 52 yards on just seven carries and added four receptions for 31 yards. He’s seeing more and more touches each week and continues to impress while Mendenhall’s rushing totals have been 60, 66, 29, 21, and 43 over the first five weeks. He’s clearly going to need to see a diminished role. Ellington will likely never be an every-down back but he figures to be the primary backfield option for Arizona sooner than later.
Ronnie Hillman (26%): Hillman only rushed the ball seven times for 17 yards in Sunday’s shootout against Dallas but added four receptions for 42 yards. He’s surpassed 50 total yards in each of his last three games but that’s not why we’re picking him up. Denver is playing terrible defenses in two of their next three games. They’ll face the Jaguars on Sunday and the Redskins in Week 8, though they have Indy sandwiched in between those two. Not only are they terrible defenses, Denver is primed to be up early which means Denver will likely turn to Knowshon Moreno and Hillman for the majority of the game. Hillman got 13 touches in Denver’s blowout against the Eagles in Week 4 and piled up 78 yards in the Bronco’s blowout of the Raiders in Week 3 so he’s a good player to put in there for games that are likely to get out of hand.
On one hand, Stacy was solid in his first start on Sunday, albeit against the Jaguars who look as lost as ever. Still, we can draw a clear comparison between Stacy (14 carries, 78 yards, 5.6 yards per carry) and Daryl Richardson (13 carries, 48 yards, 3.7 yards per carry). Stacy had to leave early with a rib injury but it doesn’t appear serious and he will likely get the lion’s share of the carries if he can continue to significantly outplay the competition.
Stacy was one of the more underrated backs in the 2013 NFL Draft after rushing for 1,100-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns in each of his last two seasons at Vanderbilt, carrying the ball for over 5.5 yards per rush. Of course, at 5-foot-8 and a less than impressive 40-yard dash time (4.53), teams overlooked him and he fell into the fifth round.
With all the positives, I would still only grab him if I was really hurt by bye weeks or injury. The Rams schedule is about to get real tough: Texans, Panthers, Seahawks, Titans, Colts, Bears, 49ers, Cardinals, Saints, Buccaneers, Seahawks. Only the Bears and Cardinals have a defense ranked below 15th in the league, although the Texans and 49ers have shown some weaknesses in their run defense. With the Rams’ terrible offensive line, none of those games are favorable for Stacy and certainly nowhere near as favorable as Sunday’s matchup against the Jags.
Keenan Allen (5%): With the Chargers running out of wide receivers early, it wasn’t clear who would replace Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander as Rivers’ primary targets. With 11 catches on 15 targets, 195 yards, and a touchdown over his last two games, it looks like Keenan Allen has a great chance to be that guy. Not only has he been performing, he barely missed out on two additional touchdown catches last night as one was overturned because he couldn’t get his second foot inbounds while the second was picked off in the endzone right in front of him toward the end of the game. I would take a shot on Allen in most leagues, not just deep ones. After next week’s tough matchup against Indy, the Chargers will face Jacksonville, Washington, and Denver. Passing yards galore.
Terrance Williams (16%): Williams’ value is mostly dependent on Miles Austin’s health. Over the first three weeks, Williams saw just five receptions for 60 yards with Austin in the lineup. In two games since Austin got hurt, Williams has caught 11 of his 12 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown. Tony Romo obviously needs options behind Dez Bryant so Williams figures to be a strong start any time Austin is out. Outside of a tough matchup against the Lions, there should be plenty of yards to go around with the Cowboys facing the Redskins, Eagles, and Vikings in three of their next four games.
Deep leaguers should also be on the lookout in tonight’s Falcons-Jets game as Mike Goodson will be returning from a suspension and Jeremy Kerley will be starting in place of Santonio Holmes. Both guys could have significant value going forward.