Early struggles, injuries make for busy running back waiver market
Giants' Andre Brown likely to start in Week 3, but future production will be limited
Sam Bradford has bounced back from 2011 and is throwing often for Rams
Donnie Avery has 18 targets in two games for Andrew Luck-led Colts offense
Picking fantasy running backs seems to get harder every year. There are so few every-down feature backs, many fantasy analysts advised heavier reliance on drafting wide receivers and a quarterback in the early rounds this year.
It's still true, however, that a good running back who puts up consistent numbers can lead your team to the fantasy championship. And with quite a few starting running backs disappointing already -- Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson -- the rush to the waiver wire to find one is going to be crowded this week.
In Week 2, several running backs were injured or benched; a bunch of fill-ins had good games. Are any worth picking up? Let's take a look.
Andre Brown, Giants (12 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues): After Ahmad Bradshaw went down with a neck injury, Brown took the majority of the carries in the Giants' comeback win, rushing 13 times for 71 yards and a score. Bradshaw's Week 3 status isn't clear yet; it appears Brown -- and not rookie David Wilson, who fumbled in Week 1 -- will start in Bradshaw's place if he can't go. With Tom Coughlin's tendency to spread around the carries already, Brown's the guy you'd want to target this week if you need a running back.
Bilal Powell, Jets (2 percent): When Shonn Greene went out briefly with a head injury, the Jets turned to Powell, who rushed nine times for 33 yards. Greene is the starter, but he's never been all that impressive or consistent (especially in fantasy terms). Powell impressed in training camp and is worth a flier in deeper leagues.
Daryl Richardson, Rams (5 percent): After Steven Jackson went out with a groin injury -- or due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty -- Richardson got the lion's share of the carries, rushing 15 times for 83 yards and catching two passes on three targets. Jackson is expected back next week and is a long-time starter, so Richardson probably isn't worth targeting except as a flier in really deep leagues.
Additional running back options are below.
Sam Bradford, Rams (21 percent): Bradford was solid for a second consecutive week. With St. Louis seemingly happy to throw the ball 30-plus times every week, he's going to get a lot of opportunities. The Rams have a decent corps of young wideouts; the downside is that they play in a division with good defenses and have a tough matchup in Chicago next weekend.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs (14 percent): Cassel is the classic fantasy overachiever QB who's not playing well -- he has five turnovers in two games -- but can pick up points even in big losses. If K.C.'s running game keeps getting shut down, Cassel will get enough attempts to make himself serviceable in fantasy.
Mark Sanchez, Jets (26 percent): Someone fell back to Earth. Sanchez went just 10-for-27 on Sunday, throwing for 138 yards and a score against the Steelers. This week, though, he gets a better matchup against Miami. If you're still trying to figure out your quarterback situation, Sanchez should have another decent fantasy week. The next few weeks against the 49ers and Texans will be considerably tougher.
Pierre Thomas, Saints (49 percent): Thomas lost a goal-line touchdown to Mark Ingram, but he led the Saints with 110 yards rushing on nine carries and was targeted six times (catching four passes for 33 yards). Ingram is the goal-line back, but Thomas is going to get a decent share of carries and targets out of the backfield, especially if the Saints are playing catch-up every week due to their defense. He's the third-best running back to start in New Orleans, but if you're stuck he can be a third option.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions (36 percent): Leshoure is coming back from suspension next Sunday and is expected to be the Lions' starter before too long, especially with Kevin Smith struggling. He's the guy in Detroit to target on the waiver wire, not Joique Bell.
Danny Amendola, Rams (49 percent): Amendola tied an NFL record with 12 first-half catches; he ended up with 15 catches for 160 yards and a score on 16 targets. Amendola could be a monster in all fantasy leagues, not just PPR ones. Go get him now if you need a wideout and he's available. If you need more depth, Brandon Gibson (4 percent) gets fewer targets but has scored in both games for St. Louis.
Brandon LaFell, Panthers (34 percent): That's two good games in a row for LaFell, who didn't catch a touchdown this time but caught six passes for 90 yards on eight targets. He's definitely the No. 2 wideout in Carolina, and if the Panthers running game can stay on track it will open up the passing game for Cam Newton. He's a good option for a third wide receiver.
Donnie Avery, Colts (6 percent): Avery has 18 targets in two games, and had nine catches for 111 yards in the Colts' win over Minnesota. He's looking like Andrew Luck's No. 2 option at wideout. With little other talent around otherwise in Indianapolis, Avery can be a third or fourth WR.
Julian Edelman (1 percent): With Wes Welker in Bill Belichick's doghouse for unknown reasons, Edelman has received a huge increase in snaps this season. He hasn't done too much -- he had five catches for 50 yards on six targets Sunday -- but while Aaron Hernandez is out, Edelman is a guy worth stashing on your bench and start with the right matchup. (That would be in two weeks, against the Bills.)
Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns (2 percent): This is a deep-league flier only. With rookie Brandon Weeden at quarterback, it's probably not likely that Massaquoi will be an every-week starter, but he's led the Browns in catches and targets each week of the season. Massaquoi is a project to stash on your bench if room allows.
Scott Chandler, Bills (7 percent): Chandler won't get a ton of targets, at least not as many as the elite tight ends, but Ryan Fitzpatrick always looks for him in the red zone. Though Chandler only had two catches (on five targets, one fewer than the week before), he caught his second touchdown of the year Sunday.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens (30 percent): Sorry, Ed Dickson owners. Pitta was targeted an astounding 15 times on Sunday, catching eight passes for 65 yards. That's not a great stat-line in a regular league, but it appears Pitta is the No. 1 tight end in Baltimore. He won't get as many targets again -- Philadelphia's secondary is playing well and all but shut down Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin -- but it's clear he's Joe Flacco's safety valve.
Dante Rosario, Chargers (2 percent): Rosario caught three touchdowns -- on five targets -- for the Chargers against an overmatched Tennessee team on Sunday, but he's not going to be much of an option going forward. Antonio Gates will be back and will be San Diego's starting tight end. Only if Gates' injury persists is Rosario worth much in fantasy.
Shayne Graham, Texans (8 percent): Graham is still available in most fantasy leagues. He's the kicker for one of the highest-powered offenses in the league, one that's outscoring its opponents by 40 points a game.
Lawrence Tynes, Giants (5 percent): The Giants offense is going to be just fine. Tynes kicked three short field goals and made four extra points in New York's comeback win over the Buccaneers.
Connor Barth, Buccaneers (4 percent): He's 5-for-5 on both field goals and extra points, and after two weeks it looks like the Buccaneers are going to get him enough opportunities to make him a decent fantasy kicker.
Arizona (20 percent): The Cardinals defense is really fast. They're going to force some turnovers against the Eagles next week, and with Philly's offensive line struggling with injuries the Cards should be able to pressure Vick consistently, too. They held the Patriots to 18 points on Sunday
Cleveland (10 percent): This is still a good pickup; the Browns are still available in most leagues. Unless your league punishes heavily for points allowed -- Cleveland gave up 34 in a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday -- the Browns are averaging four sacks and three turnovers in their two games.