If you are a desperate soul looking for players who can turn around your fantasy football team, you might be out of luck. The good news is some small additions could be valuable down the line.
Without many shocking performances in Week 4 or devastating injuries, there aren’t obvious answers on the waiver wire. If you have a rotating waiver priority or a free-agent budget, this might be the time to sit it out. Still, those who are searching for help can find it if they know where to look.
Not all of these players will become instant stars, but patient fantasy owners could end up with real value with some of these targets, who are all available in at least 50 percent of leagues on ESPN.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
This is an example where you have to separate fantasy from reality. In real life, Blake Bortles is an inconsistent passer who finished his rookie season dead last in the NFL in passer rating (69.5) and isn’t much better this year (78.9). He often struggles with accuracy and, in turn, efficiency.
However, fantasy doesn’t account for those factors. The only thing that matters is production, and the second-year quarterback has come through in this area.
Over the last three weeks Bortles is averaging 271 passing yards per game while totaling five touchdowns and only one interception. He has also added 91 rushing yards on the season to help his fantasy value.
One big plus is his usage within the offense. Whether it is trust from the coaching staff or flow of the game, the quarterback is averaging 39 pass attempts per game in 2015. Based on what we know about the Jaguars, he will likely have a lot more opportunities to throw the ball as the team tries to come from behind.
Considering “garbage time” counts the same as anything else in fantasy, Bortles has a chance to be a valuable asset for the rest of the season.
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Although he’s not available in a lot of leagues, Duke Johnson just makes the cut for this list at 49.5 percent owned on ESPN. The reality is he should be owned in 100 percent of leagues after his performance in Week 4.
While Johnson only finished with eight carries for 31 rushing yards against a mediocre run defense, he was a major factor in the passing game and ended the day with nine catches for 85 receiving yards and a touchdown.
He certainly caught the attention of head coach Mike Pettine, who praised the rookie after the game, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
Anytime you have a back that can be a first or second down back between the tackles, and a guy that you can also split out your number one wide out and hit him on a vertical route, that puts a lot of stress on a defense. He certainly will be a big part of our plans moving forward. That’s a pretty good glimpse of how we’ll be using him.
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson also finished with 45 snaps compared to just 27 for Isaiah Crowell. The playing time will only grow as the year continues, and Johnson could be an every-week starter in fantasy by the end of the year.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
It’s easy to be skeptical of Tavon Austin’s big game. He did have 96 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six catches, but the former first-round pick has been nothing but a disappointment since his rookie season.
That said, Austin has obviously worked to become a more efficient all-around player. Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders gave baseline praise for the receiver’s play:
More importantly, the Rams are now working to get the dynamic player the ball. Nick Foles looked his way seven times in Week 4, which marked the third time in four games Austin had at least five targets. That only happened twice last season.
Austin also has 10 rushing attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown this year to go with another score on a punt return. He has a lot of ability with the ball in his hands, and that is happening more often at the start of this year.
He might not be worth trusting to start right away, but the potential for more big games is there.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco had zeroed in on Steve Smith Sr. this season, targeting him 33 times in Weeks 2 and 3. This won’t be possible for a while because of a back injury that will at least cost him Week 5, if not longer.
This leaves an opportunity for Kamar Aiken, who led the Ravens with five catches, 77 yards and a touchdown in Thursday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a bigger opportunity in front of him, he can do much more.
It is important to remember this is an undrafted journeyman who failed to do anything with the Buffalo Bills or New England Patriots before latching on with the Ravens. He isn’t going to replace what Smith was able to do when healthy.
Still, a heavy workload and a lot of targets could lead to a solid bye week fill-in or injury replacement, especially in points-per-reception leagues.
These are players you don’t need to rush to add right now but might want to keep an eye on going forward. If you do have roster space with someone you know you don’t need, you could add them just in case they break out in the next few weeks.
The most exciting player in this group is Jamison Crowder, who had seven catches for 65 yards in the Washington Redskins’ win over the Eagles. He also ended the day with team-high 12 targets and made one of the top individual catches of the day:
Crowder is arguably at best the third option on a team that doesn’t pass all that well, and the injured DeSean Jackson should come back eventually. Still, the former Duke star has plenty of upside at the position.
Another person who had a major role is New York Giants running back Andre Williams. The second-year player hasn’t done a whole lot to turn heads, but he has 25 carries over the past two weeks, and it’s clear the coaching staff wants to keep giving him chances to shine.
Terron Ward also played a major role Sunday with 19 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. The problem is this mostly came after the game was well in hand, and he certainly didn’t outshine starter Devonta Freeman (149 total yards, three touchdowns). Tevin Coleman will also factor in when healthy, but Ward showed he can be productive when he gets an opportunity.
Finally, Maxx Williams was a disappointment in Week 4 with just 17 receiving yards, but the talent is there and the Ravens have to throw the ball to someone. He could be more valuable as the year progresses.
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