Leshoure emerges as promising option in thinning free-agent pool
Andy Dalton should thrive with Jaguars, Dolphins and Browns on schedule next
Tashard Choice could offer solid, if unspectacular, stats in next few weeks
Jeremy Kerley targeted 11 times this year and has eight catches for 185 yards
If you're struggling in your league, it's time to make a move. By now, most of the breakout stars are gone from the waiver wire. But you still have a chance of at least picking up some short-term replacements: A few running backs went down for the second straight week.
This week it was Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller. Fortunately, neither of the injuries appear to be that serious: An MRI confirmed there was no structural damage to Bush's knee and Spiller hasn't ruled out playing against the Patriots this week.
This means what you need now is short-term help. Fortunately, few owned either Bush's or Spiller's backups; all of them should be available as replacements on the waiver wire.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (50 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues): Dalton went 19-for-27 for 328 yards and three touchdowns against the woeful Redskins defense on Sunday, his second straight game throwing for over 300 yards. He has more great matchups coming up, too: at Jacksonville this week, home against Miami the next, then on the road against the Browns, who he torched for 318 yards in Week 2.
Carson Palmer, Raiders (49 percent): Palmer threw for fewer yards (209) on Sunday against Pittsburgh than he had in his other two starts (373, 297) but tossed three touchdowns and completed 70 percent of his passes in the win. He's not going to be an every-week guy, but when the matchup is good (and when he's at home) he is a serviceable fantasy starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (40 percent): Yes, the Harvard man is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown passes after three weeks with eight. He threw for three more on Sunday in the Bills' second straight win. Much of his fantasy total in Week 1 came in garbage time against the Jets, but Fitzpatrick has been successful even with a limited number of passes in the past two weeks. If Spiller is out for a while, Fitzpatrick's value probably takes a hit -- though the Bills may pass more. Buyer beware, though: He's had solid Septembers before.
Andre Brown, Giants (65 percent): He's likely gone in your league, but if not, go get him. He exploded last Thursday against the Panthers for 113 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He was also targeted five times, catching three passes for 17 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw is cleared to return to practice, but Brown should be in the mix the rest of the season even when Bradshaw returns. He could be a second or third running back the rest of the year.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions (57 percent): Leshoure tore his ACL his rookie year and missed the entire preseason. But after serving a two-game suspension, Leshoure was the surprise starter Sunday, rushing 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four passes thrown his way for 34 yards. Former starter Kevin Smith didn't even get a carry. Jahvid Best could eventually be activated from the PUP list, but for now Leshoure is the starter and it's clear the Lions aren't shy about giving him the ball a lot.
Tashard Choice, Bills (10 percent): Fred Jackson's already out. And now C.J. Spiller, the NFL's top rusher two weeks into the season, went down in the Bills' win on Sunday. The starting job now falls to Choice, the former Dallas running back. He rushed 20 times for 91 yards against the Browns. Don't expect too much from Choice, but if you're stuck looking for a running back, a several-week starter is on the waiver wire.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins (3 percent): Reggie Bush went out with a knee injury on Sunday, and there are two Dolphins running backs who could be adequate fill-ins. For long-term value, the answer is Miller, a fourth-round pick out of Miami. While Daniel Thomas is ahead on the depth chart, Miller looks like the better back. He rushed nine times for 48 yards; for the season, he's at 19 carries for 119 yards and a score. Thomas (owned in 13 percent of leagues) is the starter if Bush misses time, but Miller will probably usurp that from him before long. Thomas may get the goal-line carries, so he's more valuable in touchdown-heavy leagues.
Bilal Powell, Jets (3 percent): The second-year man from Louisville outgained starter Shonn Greene, 45 yards to 40, in Week 3, despite carrying the ball nine fewer times. He got the ball three times in OT to boot. Yes, the numbers aren't gaudy, and the Jets face decent run defenses -- San Francisco and Houston -- the next two weeks, but if you can stash someone on your bench Powell could eventually break out.
Jeremy Kerley, Jets (11 percent): Do you believe in Mark Sanchez? No? Well, do you believe that Kerley -- a fifth-round pick last year -- is going to keep getting the long ball from Sanchez? He's been targeted 11 times this year and has caught eight passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He's not a No. 1 wide receiver, but if you need a third wideout, Kerley has the best upside of any other wideout who's likely available.
Leonard Hankerson, Redskins (6 percent): Hankerson suffered a hip injury last season after two decent games as a starter, but lost the starting job in preseason. He's showing signs of life this season, though; he caught two passes for 68 yards and a score in Week 2 (on three targets) and was targeted a team-high seven times on Sunday (catching four passes for 56 yards). He could end up working his way into the offense more in coming weeks; the Redskins will probably be throwing a lot if their defense keeps this up.
Kevin Walter, Texans (2 percent): Walter is available in most leagues and is a high-powered offense's No. 2 receiver. He's not going to light the world on fire, but he caught three passes for 73 yards and a score on six targets Sunday. That's not a great catch rate or a huge number of targets, but he still could produce as your third- or fourth-wideout.
Heath Miller, Steelers (40 percent): Ben Roethlisberger has been looking Miller's way a lot already this season, targeting him 20 times in three games. Miller's caught 15 of those passes for 129 yards and four touchdowns. On Sunday he scored twice on 10 targets in the loss to Oakland. With Pittsburgh's running game stagnant, the Steelers are throwing more; Miller is a decent backup or second tight end.
Greg Olsen, Panthers (51 percent): Cam Newton targeted Olsen a team-high 14 times in the loss to the Giants last Thursday. He caught seven passes for 98 yards. Although he hasn't scored yet, Olsen has been targeted 24 times already this season.
Joel Dreessen, Broncos (4 percent): Though he returned to the game and the injury didn't seem all that serious, Jacob Tamme injured his ankle against the Texans on Sunday. That could mean more looks for Dreessen. If Tamme is hampered for any period of time, Dreesen -- who caught two passes for 36 yards and a score on Sunday on five targets -- would be a solid fill-in with how often Peyton Manning looks the tight end's way.
Shayne Graham, Texans (8 percent): Houston has a top-five scoring offense and Graham is just outside the top-10 kickers. How is he available? The Texans are going to score a lot all season and Graham will get plenty of opportunities. Graham is essentially a fill-in this year, beating out rookie Randy Bullock for the job when Bullock went on IR, but he's going to be a consistent, reliable kicker with as much as Houston will move the ball.
Justin Tucker, Ravens (46 percent): The general rule in fantasy is to avoid rookie fantasy kickers, as they'll either (a) stink; or (b) not get enough opportunities from coaches who don't trust them. This doesn't seem to be the case with Tucker, a Ravens rookie, who is 7-for-7 this year (including two field goals from 50-plus). Baltimore's offense looks decent, and John Harbaugh's letting him kick.
Connor Barth, Buccaneers (1 percent): Barth hasn't missed a field goal since Week 6 of last season. If your league punishes a lot for missed field goals, feel free to ride the hot foot.
Cardinals (46 percent): Do you believe in Arizona's defense yet? The Eagles shot themselves in the foot a bit, but the Cardinals battered and bruised Michael Vick and company and held the Eagles -- the top offense in yardage coming into last week -- to just six points on Sunday. The NFC West is good, but Arizona looks like it's going to be able to hang with even the top offensive units.
Falcons (26 percent): Atlanta's defense shut down San Diego on the road on Sunday, forcing Philip Rivers into two picks and forcing (and recovering) two fumbles. The Falcons also sacked Rivers once; they have seven on the year and also lead the league in interceptions with seven. The NFC South isn't great. The Falcons' D should continue to be among the league's top fantasy defenses.