The first quarter of the season seems to have flown by, and Week Four brought a new wave of unlikely fantasy scorers like Jed Collins, Craig Stevens, and Jake Ballard. Hell, even Tarvaris Jackson put up solid fantasy numbers, lending credibility to any rumors that the apocalypse is near.
Six teams (Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, and Washington) have a bye in Week Five, so many fantasy owners will be hitting the waiver wire in search of one week rentals to fill out their rosters while others are trying to fill holes created by injuries or ineffectiveness.
As always, the players listed here are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Fantasy Football Week 5 Waiver Wire Advice: Quarterback
Matt Hasselbeck (38%), Tennessee
At this point, Hasselbeck has become a fixture in this column, and his three-touchdown performance against Cleveland did nothing to change that. He attempted just 20 passes thanks to a comfortable Tennessee lead, but he was still able to put up solid fantasy numbers.
Hasselbeck is now averaging 288 passing yards per game with eight touchdowns and a 66.7 completion rate. Things get tougher with the Steelers up next on the schedule, but their pass defense numbers are inflated thanks to having faced the Colts and Seahawks. Hasselbeck won’t light them up, but he won’t kill you either.
Donovan McNabb (24%), Minnesota
Yes, he has been abysmal so far this season, but so has Arizona’s pass defense. They’ve allowed at least two passing TDs to three of the four QBs they’ve faced, with the aforementioned Tarvaris Jackson the only exception. You’re obviously not starting him over any other established guys, but if you’re desperate, he’s an option based on the matchup assuming he can hold off Christian Ponder for one more week.
Alex Smith (9%), San Francisco
Speaking of desperate, here’s another guy to consider as a bye week fill-in. Smith actually threw the ball down the field in San Fran’s comeback win over the Eagles, which apparently took the Eagles by surprise. The 49ers face a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed two 300-yard passers in their first three games and has been fairly solid against the run. Smith actually has some confidence, so now we get to see what he does with it.
Matt Moore (0%), Miami (bye)
The Dolphins are off this week, but for those in two-QB leagues, Moore is someone to look at after Chad Henne left Sunday’s game with a left shoulder injury. Moore acquitted himself well, with his only interception coming on a forced throw late in the game. Henne’s status for Week Six is unknown, but at this point, don’t the Dolphins know what he can (or can’t) do?
Fantasy Football Week 5 Waiver Wire Advice: Running Back
Michael Bush (47%), Oakland
With Darren McFadden excelling, Bush is only seeing around 10 touches per contest, but he found the endzone for a third straight game on Sunday. He has also become a bit more involved in the passing game with six receptions for 90 yards in the past two weeks. Bush injured his ankle late in Sunday’s game, so keep an eye on his injury status before picking him up.
Kendall Hunter (29%), San Francisco
Even with Frank Gore active, Hunter started for the 49ers on Sunday and totaled 100 yards on 11 touches. Gore finished with more carries and more yards, but Hunter has proven there is a place for him in this offense. Gore isn’t exactly the picture of health, so Hunter’s role could increase as the season wears on. For now, he’s worth owning just to see what happens.
Montario Hardesty (18%), Cleveland (bye)
The Browns gave Hardesty a healthy dose of snaps even with Peyton Hillis back at full strength. Unfortunately, Hardesty dropped nearly as many passes (four) as he caught (five) and averaged just over three yards per carry. Still, it’s encouraging news for Hardesty owners, and should Hillis’ reckless running style lead to an injury, Hardesty is poised to step in against a relatively easy upcoming schedule after the bye.
Ryan Torain (18%), Washington (bye)
Oh, Mike Shanahan, we should have seen this coming. He hinted at nearly pulling Tim Hightower for Torain in Week Three, and sure enough Torain burst back onto the fantasy scene in Week Four with 135 yards and a score on 19 carries.
For now, it looks like Hightower is on the way out in favor of Torain, who has long been a Shanahan favorite. He’s worth a pickup even with a bye for the Redskins next week, but Torain’s injury history is nearly as long as Shanahan’s reign of fantasy terror. Don’t get too attached.
Stevan Ridley (11%), New England
I highlighted Ridley last week, and after another impressive performance, the line to pick him up just got a bit longer. Ridley again outplayed BenJarvus Green-Ellis, rushing for 97 yards and a score on 10 carries. The Pats aren’t going to turn into a grind-it-out team anytime soon, but their backfield has traditionally produced some solid fantasy performers. For now at least, Ridley is the guy to own.
Isaac Redman (6%), Pittsburgh
With Rashard Mendenhall’s status in question due to a hamstring injury, Redman is poised to assume the starting role in the Pittsburgh backfield. With their line in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger banged up, that might be less enticing than in years past, but Redman ran hard against the Texans and has impressed in limited action. The Titans have been strong against the run after being carved up in Week One, but Redman would make a solid bye-week option if Mendenhall is out.
Brian Leonard (0%), Cincinnati
At this point no one knows when (or if) Cedric Benson will start serving his suspension, but Leonard was more effective than Bernard Scott on Sunday. At minimum, the two backs would be part of a committee in Benson’s absence, with Leonard the goal line option.
Chris Ogbonnaya (0%), Houston
Apparently Texans running back is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Arian Foster’s injuries early on were well publicized, Derrick Ward has missed a couple games with a bum ankle, and now Ben Tate sustained a groin injury. So while Foster looked terrific with a full workload on Sunday, Ogbonnaya is a name to remember in case his hammy flares up again.
Fantasy Football Week 5 Waiver Wire Advice: Wide Receiver
Michael Crabtree (40%), San Francisco
Crabtree and Alex Smith have never seemed to develop any chemistry (or even a tolerance for one another), but he saw a team-high nine targets, which he parlayed into five catches for 68 yards. The upside is enough to consider picking him up to see if he can string together another solid performance or two.
Victor Cruz (33%), New York Giants
Most of Cruz’s headlines will be about him getting away with a fumble by “giving himself up,” which apparently is code for “tripping over your own feet.” If that’s true, I have given myself up on the dance floor at a few wedding receptions. Anyway, Cruz caught six passes for 98 yards and vastly outplayed Mario Manningham. With Domenik Hixon out for the year and a couple good games under his belt, Cruz is worth a roster spot, particularly with Seattle up next on the schedule.
Antonio Brown (26%), Pittsburgh
This hinges largely on Roethlisberger’s status, but Brown has consistently been among the most targeted Steelers this season. He led the team with 10 targets on Sunday, which he converted into five receptions for 67 yards. Roethlisberger overthrew him on what would have been a touchdown, and he now has at least 67 receiving yards in three straight games.
Randall Cobb (20%), Green Bay
Outside of leagues that count return yardage, Cobb is an inconsistent fantasy option, but he does have a few things working in his favor. First, Donald Driver is clearly slowing down, so the opportunity to earn more playing time is there. Second, Cobb is still learning how to play the position after playing quarterback during much of his college career at Kentucky. Third, the Packers have a lethal passing game, which means anyone involved in their aerial assault can emerge as a viable fantasy option. The best is yet to come for Cobb, so stash him away now if you can.
Kevin Walter (5%), Houston
The good news is that Andre Johnson didn’t injury his knee, but a non-contact injury doesn’t bode well for his status over the next week or two. That should mean more targets for Walter, who isn’t exactly a game changer, but somebody has to be on the receiving end of Matt Schaub’s passes.
Laurent Robinson (2%), Dallas (bye)
With Miles Austin injured, I expected Kevin Ogletree to step up. As it turns out, Ogletree’s core competencies appear to be dropping passes and lining up in the wrong place on virtually every play. That opened the door for Robinson to earn more playing time against Detroit, which he took advantage of to the tune of seven receptions and 116 yards. He has shown flashes before but could never stay healthy long enough to establish himself. Austin is expected back after Dallas’ bye this week, but Dez Bryant has also been hobbled, which means Robinson is an injury away from a starting role.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (1%), Oakland
Don’t do it. I know he had 115 yards, but don’t do it. You’re better than that.
Fantasy Football Week 5 Waiver Wire Advice: Tight End
Jared Cook (28%), Tennessee
The Cook bandwagon all but emptied after a slow start to the season, but as I mentioned last week, someone has to pick up the slack with Kenny Britt out. Cook had a team-high six targets and tallied two receptions for 93 yards and a score. He presents a real mismatch for opponents and should continue to see his role expand. The Steelers have surrendered a couple double-digit fantasy point performances against opposing tight ends this season, making Cook an interesting bye week option.
Jermaine Gresham (26%), Cincinnati
Like Cook, I listed Gresham as a solid add last week, and he backed that up with 70 yards and a touchdown. Next week the Bengals face a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 29 receptions, 330 yards, and three scores against opposing tight ends over the last three weeks.
James Casey (18%), Houston
As I mentioned above with Walter, someone will have to step up in the passing game for however many games Andre Johnson is out. Owen Daniels seems the most likely candidate, but defenses will focus their efforts on taking him away. So don’t rule out Casey, who had 126 yards and a score against New Orleans in Week Three.
Clay Harbor (0%), Philadelphia
This one is only for deeper leagues, but Brent Celek’s breakout season in 2009 is now a distant memory and apparently a complete aberration. With Celek struggling, Harbor stepped in with three receptions for 55 yards and a score on Sunday. The Bills, who have surrendered three TDs to opposing tight ends in the past two games, are up next on the schedule.
Streaming Defense(s) of the Week
Houston (37%) vs. Oakland
Outside of a second half meltdown against the Saints, the Texans have been impressive defensively, allowing just 30 points over the other three games. The Raiders have an improved offense, but they don’t have the kind of passing game that could really expose the Texans.
Tennessee (15%) at Pittsburgh
This hinges largely on Ben Roethlisberger’s status, but the Titans have been stingy defensively. They have yet to allow an opponent to score over 16 points and have done a nice job creating turnovers.
Cincinnati (2%) at Jacksonville
Anyone who can slow down The Amish Rifle deserves some credit. All kidding aside, the Cincinnati defense is underrated and faces a rookie quarterback and an offense that is averaging fewer than 10 points per game.
Have any questions or feedback? Leave them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@andybottoms).