With injuries and vulnerable opponents creating opportunities every Sunday, there is rarely a shortage of sleeper candidates and breakout players. Fans saw that in Week 3, and that will certainly be the case again in Week 4.
With that in mind, here is a look at some top waiver-wire pickups and potential breakout candidates to target before the next slate of games. Players were considered potential waiver-wire pickups if they were owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues entering Sunday, which means breakout Week 3 performers like Devonta Freeman were not considered.
Players to Watch
Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans
It took three weeks, but Alfred Blue finally seized his opportunity with Arian Foster’s injury.
Foster missed another game with his groin setback, and running back Jonathan Grimes was also questionable for Sunday’s 19-9 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Grimes played, but he only received six carries and wasn’t 100 percent.
Blue carried the Houston offense with 139 rushing yards and a touchdown. Those are solid numbers that any fantasy owner would accept from a running back, but there was more to the performance than just the yardage. Blue saw an astounding 31 carries in Sunday’s victory and got the ball in a number of critical situations.
The lack of healthy running backs contributed to those totals, but it’s not as if Ryan Mallett is going to drop back and rifle the ball more than 50 times a game a la Tom Brady. Houston turned to the running game Sunday, and Blue delivered.
Blue commented on the trust he received from his coaching staff, per Tania Ganguli of ESPN NFL Nation:
That trust is why Blue is a waiver-wire pickup moving into Week 4. Foster has dealt with injuries a number of times in his career, and he has not even appeared in a game this season. With Mallett under center, Houston will need its running attack to challenge against any opponent, and next up is a date with the undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons are 3-0, but the defense allowed 399 total yards to the Philadelphia Eagles, 388 to the New York Giants and 347 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas running back Joseph Randle racked up 87 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground Sunday, and Darren McFadden also found the end zone. In all, the Cowboys averaged six yards per carry and ran for four touchdowns against the Falcons.
Blue should impress against that defensive front.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
Charles Clay was arguably the best offensive playmaker for the Buffalo Bills in their 41-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday with 82 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.
That was an encouraging sign for fantasy owners after he combined for seven grabs and 62 receiving yards the first two weeks. Considering he notched a combined 1,364 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches for the Dolphins the past two seasons, he may have needed a couple of weeks to settle into Buffalo’s offense.
He finally looked the part of impact tight end again Sunday.
Given that recent track record, it is easy to get excited about Clay in fantasy circles moving forward.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has performed admirably in his first three games, but he is not yet a proven force in the NFL and will likely look for security blankets like his tight end in critical spots as the Bills compete for a potential playoff spot. That means more targets for Clay after he notched seven Sunday.
Week 4 is an opportunistic time to grab Clay because Buffalo faces the New York Giants in the next contest. Tight ends have fared well against New York thus far, as evidenced by Jason Witten’s two touchdown catches in Week 1, Jacob Tamme’s 77 receiving yards in Week 2 and Jordan Reed’s 96 receiving yards in Week 3.
Now it is Clay’s turn.
Michael Vick, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Perhaps the biggest news from Sunday’s contests outside of the final scores was the injury to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
He was carted off the field with a left knee injury and was seen on crutches after the 12-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams. In his place came a familiar name in Michael Vick, who finished a respectable 5-of-6 for 38 yards. However, Pittsburgh didn’t ask him to do much because it didn’t want to risk an interception with its defense playing lights-out.
Assuming Roethlisberger isn’t ready to go by Week 4, Vick will have an entire week to prepare instead of being thrown into the fire against a strong Rams defense. That makes him a fantasy threat.
Vick is not the same player he was on the Atlanta Falcons in the early 2000s, but his track record and 139 career starts are hard to ignore. He isn’t that far removed from the 2010 season, when he racked up 3,018 passing yards, 676 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns, or the 2011 campaign, when he threw for 3,303 yards.
Vick is a threat to pick up yardage and scores with his arm and legs and will do so against a vulnerable Baltimore Ravens defense.
Baltimore is traditionally one of the better defenses in the league, but Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns the past two weeks against the Ravens. This is a reeling secondary on an 0-3 team, and Vick has the weapons to exploit it, as Mike Hill of Fox Sports indicated:
Those weapons are wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Brown is a threat to turn a bubble screen into an 80-yard touchdown every time he gets the ball in his hands, and Bell will take some of the pressure off Vick’s shoulders.
Baltimore will have to stuff the box at times in Sunday’s game against Bell, and Vick will take advantage with Brown. Make sure he does so for your fantasy team if you need a quarterback.
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