Lineup keeping you up at night? Perhaps your quarterback is concussed, or your tight end is on bye. Maybe your wide receiver is visiting Revis Island, or your running back blew a .20 Friday night. Whatever your affliction, I’ve got an elixir. Below are a handful of obscure players who you can plug-and-play this week. Consider it my fantasy medicine cabinet, for emergency use only. Warning: if your ego is still inflated more than four hours after the game, consult a physician.
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA (@ ARI)
Russell Wilson won the preseason. No player in the entire league generated more buzz than the diminutive rookie third rounder, who went 40/63 for 536 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and added 10 scrambles for 150 yards and another score. Wilson flashed a rare blend of arm strength and athleticism, as well as the instincts and moxie needed to fully utilize his talents. The rubber meets the road Sunday in Arizona, where the Cardinals represent a neutral opponent, so can we trust him? I’m drinking the Russellmania Kool-Aid. And for what it’s worth, keep in mind that another dual-threat rookie quarterback made his NFL debut in Arizona exactly one year ago. It’s too bad that nobody started Cam Newton that day, because he totaled 440 yards and three touchdowns.
Sam Bradford, QB, STL (@ DET)
Sam Bradford hasn’t thrown multiple touchdown passes in 15 straight games. In fact, he’s averaged less than half a touchdown over that 15-game span (seven touchdowns). That’s impossibly bad, but do you know what else is impossibly bad? Detroit’s secondary. The last time we saw them, they were making Matt Flynn filthy rich, as the newly minted Seattle clipboard holder racked up 480 yards and six touchdowns. Bradford had a very good preseason, and I believe this is the week that he will finally break his 15-game “one-or-none” streak.
Ronnie Brown, RB, SD (@ OAK)
Yep, that Ronnie Brown. Wait, wasn’t Ronnie Brown washed up three years ago? Why yes, yes he was. But opportunity is half the battle, and with Ryan Mathews recovering from a broken collarbone, all indications are that Brown could push 20 carries in Oakland. That’s an enviable position to be in. The Raiders’ fantasy run defense has ranked bottom-10 for nine straight seasons, dating back to 2003. That’s a trend. Brown makes for a plausible low-end RB2 this week.
Michael Bush, RB, CHI (vs. IND)
Michael Bush has one job in Chicago: score touchdowns. And score touchdowns he will. The Colts’ bottom-three fantasy run defense allowed exactly one-touchdown per game to the position last year, and much to the chagrin of Matt Forte owners, Bush is infinitely more effective at the stripe. Now, there’s certainly some risk—if Bush doesn’t score, he’s not likely to get enough work to amass the yardage you’ll need. However, my money is on Bush hitting pay dirt, so he’s worthy of flex consideration this week.
Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, WR, TEN (vs. NE)
Nate Washington (owned in 74% of Yahoo! leagues; started in 17%) and Kendall Wright (42%; 6%) are the lucky winners of a Week 1 matchup with New England. The Patriots essentially return the same secondary that allowed 28 more receptions and 570 more yards than the second worst pass defense in 2011. Moreover, only three teams allowed more than their 19 touchdowns to the position. Jake Locker will have to throw to keep up, so both of his starting receivers are low-risk, high-reward fantasy plays.
Malcom Floyd, WR, SD (@ OAK)
Malcom Floyd closed out his 2011 campaign by with a Week 17 performance of seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. In Oakland. In fact, Floyd scored and topped 90 yards in four of San Diego’s last five games. Only the Vikings allowed more than the 21 touchdowns the Raiders ceded to opposing receivers last year, and Oakland ranked 28th in terms of yardage as well. With Vincent Jackson moving on to Tampa Bay, expect the 6’5” Floyd to be the “alley” to Philip Rivers’ “oop.”
Braylon Edwards, WR, SEA (@ ARI)
We’re five seasons removed from Braylon Edwards’ lone fantasy-friendly season, but the 29-year-old journeyman finds himself in a potentially productive situation. We’ve already touched on Russell Wilson’s talent, and Golden Tate’s knee injury means that Edwards will likely get a full compliment of snaps. With Patrick Peterson blanketing Sidney Rice, the 6’3”, 215-lb. Edwards presents a physical mismatch against maligned cornerback William Gay (5’10”, 190 lbs.). Owned in just 5% of Yahoo! leagues, Edwards is a super-sneaky WR3 this week.
Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ (vs. BUF)
Dustin Keller is nursing a hamstring injury, but if he’s cleared for Sunday, he’s worth a look. Last season Buffalo ranked 31st against opposing tight ends in terms of yardage, and the 13 touchdowns they allowed to the position were four more than the second worst team. Keller cracked 60 yards in both divisional matchups, and scored a pair of touchdowns in the second meeting. He also had a two-touchdown game against the Bills in 2010, so for whatever reason, it appears that the Bills bring out his best.
Shayne Graham, K, HOU (vs. MIA)
Shayne Graham has been around the block a time or two, but he’s not quite done. While he’s attempted a total of just 19 field goals over the last two seasons in part-time gigs with New England and Baltimore, he’s landed in a point-producing situation in Houston. Graham’s predecessor, Neil Rackers, raked fourth in field goal attempts last season, and Graham still has pinpoint accuracy (he missed just one of those 19 attempts). The Texans should have no problem moving the ball against Miami, so expect Graham to be busy.
Minnesota DST (vs. JAX)
Buffalo was my first choice here, but the fantasy community is all over that one—the Bills are owned in a surprisingly high 61% of leagues. So I dug deeper, and stumbled upon my hometown Vikings, who are owned in just 11% of leagues. The 40 sacks Blaine Gabbert absorbed last season ranked third in the NFL, and while the Vikings are suspect on the back end, the slowly improving sophomore still isn’t capable of taking advantage. Maurice Jones-Drew will also be limited, so NFL sack champ Jared Allen & Co. will be afforded the luxury of pinning their ears back in their hostile home environment.