NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stevan Ridley and the Week Four Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers 

The thing that’s oh-so-frustrating yet oh-so-addicting about fantasy football is its unpredictable nature. Guys can be awful one week and get dropped by everyone…only to rebound the next and suddenly become the hottest waiver wire pickup.

In our weekly edition of the fantasy risers and fallers, we assess whose stock is on the rise and whose is taking a tumble. Let’s take a look at Week Four.


EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

It hasn’t always been pretty, but EJ Manuel, the most surprising selection in the first round of this year’s draft, is quietly off to a very strong start to his NFL career. While the Bills are just 1-2, Manuel has put up at least 14 points (standard scoring) in each of his first three starts.

He’s topped 240 yards passing in two straight games, and ranks 10th in the league in rushing yards amongst quarterbacks. He’ll be facing the Ravens and Browns in each of the next two games. While they’re far from doormats, they can also be scored upon. So, there’s upside here.

If you’re in need of a spot starter or bye week savior, you can do a lot worse than EJ.

BIlal Powell, RB, New York Jets

The Jets were looking like a fantasy football cesspool prior to the beginning of the season, but they’ve actually had some bright spots in helping them to a 2-1 record out-of-the-gate.

One of those has been Powell, who posted his second-straight strong week of work in Sunday’s win over Buffalo. He ran the ball 27 times for 149 yards, but failed to find the end zone. His backfield buddy, Chris Ivory, has been underwhelming and is now injured, so the carries will be Powell’s for the time being.

Given the dearth of every-down backs in the league nowadays, a guy like Powell has real value. If he’s still on your waiver wire, you absolutely have to find a way to scoop him up. And, with a favorable matchup against a Titans front that can be run upon, I’d be comfortable starting him in Week Four, as well.

It’ll be a fairly unpredictable situation moving forward, considering Powell doesn’t appear to be much more than a glorified plodder, but the role here can’t be ignored.

Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots

Bolden finally found his way into the lineup in Week Three, and responded by gaining nearly 100 total yards on just eight touches. Quite productive, indeed.

The Patriots’ backfield is a muddled mess with Shane Vereen on short-term IR, with Bolden, Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount splitting the work, for now. Ridley came into the year as the team’s primary ball-toter, but he’s underperformed thus far. More on him in a bit.

Bolden is the most explosive runner of the trio, and one would imagine he’ll get more work this week when the Pats take on the Falcons. That’s a solid run defense they’ll be facing, so finding running lanes may be a bit more difficult this week. However, Boldin is surely worth an add, at least.

Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos

After an awful season debut in which he dropped several passes (including a touchdown), Decker has reemerged. He’s caught 17 passes in the last two games combined, good for 220 yards and a touchdown.

Denver’s passing attack has been even more potent than most imagined coming into the year, and Decker, Demaryius and Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are all viable weekly fantasy options. Some feared Decker would be losing Peyton Manning’s trust with his lackluster output in the opener. Not so fast, my friend.

Decker’s as involved as anybody else, and if you have him as your WR3, you’re in phenomenal shape.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

Most expected Gordon to be a worthwhile fantasy commodity following a productive rookie season, but a 10-catch, 146-yard, TD-scoring performance with Brian Hoyer as his passer in his season debut? Boy howdy!

Gordon returned from his two game suspension in grand fashion, as the Browns’ offense channeled its inner ’07 Patriots against Minnesota on Sunday. The Vikings’ secondary is absolutely abysmal, so you can’t be banking on Gordon to be targeted 19 times on a weekly basis or anything.

But, Gordon is CLEARLY the best wide receiver on this team, and there should be plenty of balls to go around between he and Jordan Cameron. The matchup this week with the Bengals is substantially more daunting, but if Cleveland is going to be chucking the ball around the yard the way they were last week, Gordon should be able to get his numbers.

Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Fleener caught just two passes against the Niners last week, but with Dwayne Allen shelved for the year, the full-time job is now Fleener’s.

The Colts may be more run-heavy now with Trent Richardson in the fold (and with Ahmad Bradshaw looking as spry as he has), so perhaps the upside with Fleener isn’t great. But the role is there, and he’s quite familiar with Luck and OC Pep Hamilton, both of whom were with Fleener at Stanford, as well.

I doubt you’ll want to start him regularly or anything, but he’s a great athlete that has shown awesome explosiveness after-the-catch this season. So, his involvement could grow as the year goes on.


Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer enjoyed a nice debut with the Cardinals by throwing for over 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns in Week One, but his numbers have declined in each subsequent game.

Surely, this is due in no small part to the injury to his top receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has been hampered by a hamstring in the past two games, and he hasn’t been nearly as involved. The Cardinals’ offensive line has also had a hard time keeping rushers out of the backfield, making Palmy’s job all the more difficult.

If they can get the protection issue fixed (which they probably won’t be able to), I like Palmer as a solid backup fantasy QB. For now, though, it appears as though he’s going to have a rough go of things.

Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots

Ridley ran for over 1,200 yards last season and scored 12 times. He was a second-round choice in most fantasy drafts, as we had no real reason to not expect more of the same. Right?

Well, we’re not getting more of the same. He’s gotten just 36 carries in the first three games, and has rushed for just 121 yards without any touchdowns. He’s been a complete bust to this point, and with Blount and Bolden running more effectively, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Ridley struggle to get onto the field.

I’m holding out hope that Ridley will eventually regain the job as the team’s lead back, but things aren’t looking positive at the moment.

Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Many figured Brown, after being awesome filling-in for LeSean McCoy last year, would still get a fair share of the work in 2013 in a run-heavy Eagles offense.

Through three games, this hasn’t been the case at all. Brown has just 15 carries in three games for a total of 45 yards. Meanwhile, McCoy is the league’s leading rusher at this point, with 98 more yards than Doug Martin, the second-leading rusher.

There’s always potential for injury with backs, of course, so Brown isn’t totally dead yet. There may come a time when he’s needed. That time just isn’t now.

Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals

I listed Roberts in this space after his 8-catch effort in Week One, with the mindset that he’s a pretty solid PPR option in the Cardinals’ offense. But, with their aforementioned protection problems, the production has fallen off a cliff.

Roberts has just four total catches in the last two games combined, and facing the Tampa secondary this week likely won’t be helping him too much, either.

Unless he starts getting more involved again, he’s safe to drop or bench.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys

I may have listed Austin in the “Fallers” category more often than any other player in the history of this piece.

Here he is again. After a 10-catch performance in the opener against the Giants, Austin has just five total catches in the two games since then, and now has yet another hamstring injury.

Austin was never going to be anything more than the third banana in an offense featuring the likes of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten for Dallas, and now he’s even fallen behind DeMarco Murray, who’s racked-up 16 receptions in the three games.

Until further notice, you’re probably safe benching No. 19. Again.

Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams

Jared Cook has made a career of being consistently inconsistent.

In Week One, his first game with his new team, Cook took the fantasy world by storm, catching 7 passes for 141 yards and two (should’ve been 3) touchdowns.

Since then? 6 catches for 54 yards. Uh…

I have faith that the real Jared Cook is somewhere in-between. The Rams loved him in camp, and I think he and Sam Bradford will eventually find a nice rapport that benefits both parties. Against a San Francisco defense that’s given up points by the truckload in the last several games, I’m confident Cook will have a nice evening.

That said, it wouldn’t be particularly shocking to see him run out there and catch 3 passes for 28 yards, either.


About the author: Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been with NFL Soup since its inception, and is a jack of all trades, helping with breaking news, fantasy football advice and NFL Draft coverage. Smith also heads NFL Soup’s live chats and radio shows. Taylor also contributes content to our sister sites, MLB Soup, NBA Soup and NBA Water Cooler. He lives in San Diego, where he also is a writer for the L.A. Clippers. Follow him on Twitter @NFLSoupTaylor.

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