We’re back again with this week’s installment of fantasy risers and fallers. As you all know by know, this column is meant to show the ebbs and flows of the fantasy football season. Every player goes through rough spots throughout the year, and this column is meant to help identify who those strugglers are, if they’ll regain their expected form soon, or if it’s time to stick a fork in them and start focusing on someone who’s chomping at the bit to replace him.
What the week 6 risers and fallers demonstrate more than anything is the fickle RB market in the NFL. It happens every year — big names don’t produce as expected and fantasy owners are left scrambling to grab one of the breakout stars or just hoping to cobble together some serviceable rotation. But this year feels especially bad. The list of top 10 RB fantasy producers is filled with names like Ahmad Bradshaw, Rashad Jennings, Justin Forsett, and Matt Asiata. Who expected that?
In any case, let’s dig in. The week 6 risers and fallers:
Branden Oliver, RB, San Diego Chargers
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Donald Brown’s rising stock as injuries to Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead opened the door for him to be fantasy relevant. That same script can now be applied to Branden Oliver, the Chargers rookie fourth string RB, now that Brown is out with a concussion. Oliver certainly looks up for the task as well. Against a tough Jets defense, Oliver rushed 19 times for 114 yards and a TD, and caught four passes for 68 yards and another score. This week against the Raiders is obviously a must-start for Oliver, but he has potential moving forward as well, even when Matthews comes back in a couple of weeks.
Ronnie Hillman/Juwan Thompson, RB, Denver Broncos
Two running backs who saw a huge rise in stock this past week were Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson. We all know Denver for their passing attack but the run is hugely important for them too to set up all the play action they run. Starter Montee Ball went down with a groin injury opening up the door for, most likely Hillman, and also a bit for Thompson. Hillman is the most explosive of the backs and should see the most carries, but Thompson will get his fair share too, potentially more so in the red zone. Both are worthy of roster spots at this point.
Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
Same story: Rashad Jennings sprained his knee, will be out for a couple of weeks, enter Williams who’ll see a lot of action. What’s so attractive for Williams is that his next two opponents are the Eagles and Cowboys, two defenses who aren’t too great at stopping the run. Consider Williams a strong RB2 until Jennings comes back.
Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
Tate is now pushing borderline WR1 status with the injury woes to Megatron. In the past two weeks, Tate has hauled in 15 catches for 250 yard. He was a big part of the Lions high-powered offense before the injury to Johnson, but as long as he continues to be hobbled (or potentially on the sidelines altogether), look for Tate to continue seeing a ton of looks from Stafford and big time production.
Tim Wright, TE, New England Patriots
I was high on Tim Wright when the season started. I wrote about him in my Week 1 Risers and Fallers column. I thought he would step in perfectly to the Pats two TE scheme and be the big play pass catcher opposite Gronk that Brady has been missing since Aaron Hernandez decided to murder everyone. As has been well chronicled, the Pats struggled to start the season. The offensive line was a mess (which coincidentally was a direct consequence of acquiring Wright) and people were questioning whether Tommy boy still had it. Last week the Pats torched the undefeated Bengals on national TV and seemed to Wright the ship (see what I did there?). Wright broke out for 85 yards and a score on five catches. I’m officially high on Wright again.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
After a breakout year in 2012, Spiller has done nothing but disappoint. He scored a pathetic two times all of last season, and has taken a backseat both in carries and catches to the ageless Fred Jackson. This year has been more of the same. Fantasy owners were hoping for a strong RB2 at the worst when they drafted Spiller, but instead have seen him fail to get goal line attempts, and fail to be involved in the passing game due to his inability to pass protect. Unless he finds a way to get himself into the endzone, 13-18 touches a game isn’t going to be worth much to fantasy owners.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell wrote an article the other day, primarily focused on the Jets, but one in which he also states: “No man in football is getting more out of one good game at the right time than Martin is from his stunning performance as a rookie against the Raiders… take that one game off his record and his rushing average in 2012 falls from 4.6 yards per attempt all the way down to 4.1 yards per carry, while his career totals fall all the way to 3.8 yards per carry.” In short: Martin isn’t even that good. He’s been injury-plagued this season and backup Bobby Rainey has made the most of his opportunity. Martin’s fall from top-10 fantasy player might be greater than anyone else’s.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos
Yes, the groin injury might be the nail in the coffin, but Ball was struggling long before his injury. He wasn’t the Moreno replacement a lot of people thought he would be, myself included. Ball has disappointing all season, only averaging 3.1 YPC and seeing his touches drop off dramatically after week 1. Ball will be sidelined for a couple weeks, but if the aforementioned Hillman or Thompson show any kind of traction during his absence, don’t expect Ball to regain the starter’s role upon his return.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
As much as it pains me to say this, Crabtree might be an injury waiting to happen every year. When he’s on the field, he’s awesome, just like he was at the end of last season and just like he was in weeks 2 and 3 this year when he logged 162 yards and two scores. Over the past two weeks, however, Crab has only managed six catches for 59 yards as he works through a foot injury. Until he shakes his latest ailment, fantasy owners can’t expect much more than WR3 production from him.