Welcome to Claim to Fame, where we’ll provide recommendations on a handful of players that are available in most fantasy leagues*. Some might just get you through an injury or a bye week; others might pull a Victor Cruz and make you famous. Each week, we’ll list players you should consider pursuing in your league, and we’ll provide a letter grade that will give you an indication of how aggressively you should bid on that player. Here’s what each letter grade means:
A: Must-have player in all league types. Aggressively pursue.
B: Should be on rosters in most leagues.
C: Viable additions for leagues with deep rosters.
D: Speculative additions that might pay dividends weeks down the road.
F: Only worth adding as a handcuff if you have the starter.
(*Yes, we realize that availability varies greatly by league size, and you’ll find that publicly posted ownership percentages can also differ drastically between league management services. But we strive to only introduce players owned in 50% or fewer leagues.)
Sam Bradford, Rams
The first overall pick of the 2010 draft put up a “Hey, remember me?” performance in Week 2 with 310 yards and three TDs against the Redskins. Bradford’s injury-plagued, terrible 2011 season caused a lot of people to forget how impressive he was as a rookie. He has been brilliant through two games (43-for-60, 508 yards, four scores, 112.4 rating) and should be owned in larger leagues (14 or more teams). Depending on the matchup, Bradford should be at least a decent bye-week option (when the time comes) in smaller leagues.
Daryl Richardson, Rams
Yep, it’s all about the Rams this week. This rookie’s status as Steven Jackson’s top backup was an underreported story coming out of camp (Yes, Charch, I know you were all over it). But Bernard Scott’s brother is no longer flying under the radar after his performance in Week 2. Richardson stepped up after Jackson incurred an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and tweaked his groin, and the rookie did a pretty good S-Jax impression with 102 total yards on 17 touches. Jackson’s injury is fairly minor, but it’s only a matter of time before the 29-year-old workhorse misses a game. Or two. Or three. Richardson is a must-handcuff for Jackson owners.
GRADE: B; A- if you own Jackson
Andre Brown, Giants
Start the Brown-sanity! He’s Brown-credible! The Brown-derella story emerged from… okay, sorry, I guess those phrases don’t work as well with Andre as well as they did with Jeremy Lin. But Brown is the latest rags-to-back-page-of-the-tabloids story in the Big Apple. The journeyman took advantage of Ahmad Bradshaw’s neck injury and David Wilson’s spot in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse to rush 13 times for 71 yards and a TD in Week 2. We’re still waiting for more information on the severity of Bradshaw’s injury and Wilson is a more dynamic talent than Brown, so fantasy owners are in a bit of a tough spot with knowing how aggressively to pursue Andre. But at this point, he seems likely to at least play a big role again in Week 3.
GRADE: C+; B if you have Bradshaw
Bilal Powell, Jets
A month ago, I probably could have convinced many people that “Bilal Powell” was the name of the guy who ran the second leg of Jamaica’s record-setting 4×100 relay team. But, no, he is the top backup in the Jets uninspiring backfield. Powell saw significant action (nine carries, 33 yards) against the Steelers after Shonn Greene suffered a head injury. Greene returned later in Sunday’s loss and will continue to be the workhorse, but Powell is lingering on the edge of fantasy radars simply because witnessing Greene plod ahead for three yards is about as painful and slow as watching Jessica Simpson lose a pound.
Julian Edelman, Patriots
Panicking Wes Welker owners can just skip to the end of his paragraph and prepare to bid heavily this week. Edelman started over Welker in Week 2, and Julian was on the field for 75 snaps versus 63 for Wes. The final box score showed Welker (95 yards) as the biggest beneficiary of the Aaron Hernandez injury, but Edelman (five catches, 50 yards) is staking a claim to a potentially big role in the Patriots’ high-powered offense. Even without Hernandez, the Patriots still have plenty of mouths to feed along with Edelman (Welker, Gronkowski, Lloyd, Ridley), so I’m tempering my expectations a little. But you’re paying for the upside, which could be huge in PPR leagues.
Grade: B+ in standard/A- in PPR
Andrew Hawkins, Bengals
Scouts questioned some of Andy Dalton’s physical skills heading into the 2010 draft, but they knew the guy was smart enough to take what defenses give him. When opposing defenses focus all their attention on A.J. Green, Dalton has been looking to his open secondary and tertiary options – namely Mr. Hawkins. This second-year wideout pulled off a Tecmo-worthy TD scamper in Week 2 and now has 10 catches for 142 yards through two contests. I am concerned that Hawkins and Armon Binns will ultimately split targets and alternate productive weeks, but I’m buying this slot receiver right now in medium and larger PPR leagues.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens
Back in mid-August, I started to feel a bit of an Ed Dickson vibe and thought about promoting him as a deep sleeper. As my wife will attest, I’ve never been very good at picking up on signals, and I was apparently making eyes at the wrong Ravens tight end. Pitta currently leads all – yes, all – tight ends with 24 targets on the season, and he has 13 catches for 138 yards and one TD. Joe Flacco loves to dink-and-dunk underneath to his tight ends and Ray Rice, and as long as the Ravens continue to chuck it around so much with their no-huddle offense, Pitta will be a good bet for a handful of catches on a weekly basis.
Martellus Bennett, Giants
This is for all the people who didn’t listen to Christian two weeks ago. There were numerous reasons why Marty B never lived up to the hype in Dallas, but few people have ever doubted his intriguing combination of size and athleticism. The Giants gambled on him, and he has paid off with nine receptions, 112 yards, and two scores thus far. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are always going to command a ton of attention, which leaves Bennett free to roam the middle of the field. As Christian pointed out two weeks ago, Eli Manning enjoys feeding his tight ends – especially in the red zone – and Bennett deserves a look if you need a boost at this position.