Two weeks ago, I told you, my loyal readers, to put Chargers rookie RB Branden Oliver on your radar, especially if Donald Brown faltered at the role. To those who listened (which would be about 14 percent of polled standard leagues), I salute you. While everyone else will spend FAAB bucks and jockey for waiver wire positioning, well….you should have listened.
Oliver put up 30 Fantasy points (depending on league scoring) during the Chargers’ 31-0 win over the Jets on Sunday, making him the third-highest scorer of Week 5, trailing only Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas. That 19 carries for 114 yards and one TD rushing line was enhanced by four catches for 68 yards, which puts him atop most waiver wire lists heading into Week Six. An encore? Why, yes, he’s capable of one, considering Oliver and the Chargers take on the gift that keeps on giving in the form of the Raiders defense, making him a pretty strong RB1 in most formats.
Ryan Mathews will be back in a few weeks, yet Oliver will still have significant Fantasy value. With Danny Woodhead out for the year and Brown shaping up to be one of the bigger busts of the free agent period, Oliver will be in line for a considerable share of touches. Go all-in with Oliver, especially in PPR formats. The undrafted rookie from Buffalo has a lot of upside, and while it’s way too early to compare him to another undrafted back who emerged as a Fantasy star (Arian Foster), I like where Oliver’s path is heading.
Those who miss out on Oliver should fret not, as Week 5 opened the door of opportunity for a trio of backs.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos: The disappointment for Monte Ball owners reached bottom on Sunday, when he sustained a groin injury that will keep him sidelined for at least a couple of weeks. That presents a chance for Hillman, who has just 17 carries for 66 yards thus far. I thought Ball was on the verge of becoming a member of a RBBC, and he likely will be when he returns. For now, Hillman provides the opposite of Ball: a back that can spring it outside and also be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Still, Hillman (owned in nine percent of polled leagues) isn’t a lock to get the bulk of Denver’s carries, as C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson (who scored on Sunday) will be factors. He is worth a bid, but you should keep your expectations reasonable.
Andre Williams, RB, Giants: Like Hillman, Williams is in line for a start or two after Rashad Jennings suffered a MCL sprain in Sunday’s win over the Falcons. Williams had already started to become more of a factor, having gone 15-66-1 in the Giants’ Week Four rout of the Redskins, and he followed up with 20-65-1 game after replacing Jennings. A Heisman Trophy finalist at Boston College last fall, the 5’11”, 230-pound Williams is built to carry a heavy load, which is what he’ll likely get as long as he’s starting. Owned in 31 percent of polled standard leagues, Williams gets a pair of favorable matchups against the Eagles and Cowboys before the Giants hit their bye week. He immediately becomes a mid-tier RB2, but unlike Hillman, Williams has no one cutting into his time.
Storm Johnson, RB, Jaguars: The Toby Gerhart Error may have seen its penultimate chapter on Sunday, as Johnson, making his debut, ran for 27 yards on four carries. On the surface, it’s a small sample set, yet as bad as Jacksonville’s ground game has been, they’d welcome Fred Taylor back if they felt their all-time leading rusher had anything left in the tank. Head coach Gus Bradley said that Johnson was “impressive” and plans on getting the rookie from Central Florida more touches when the Jags visit the Titans on Sunday. Tennessee is ranked 30th against the run, which would make Johnson, owned in less than one percent of polled leagues, a pretty intriguing consideration if you’re willing to bet that Bradley will give him the bulk of the carries over Gerhart, Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman. He’s a nice long-term speculation play, especially in keeper and dynasty league formats.
Antone Smith, RB, Falcons: In just 17 touches, Smith has produced 277 yards and four touchdowns, including scores of 74, 54 and 38 yards. Yet, for all of his explosive ability, Smith is in a logjam with Atlanta, with Steven Jackson getting the bulk of the carries, while Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman squabble for the leftovers. Falcons head coach Mike Smith admitted on Monday that Smith needs more touches, yet how that works out remains to be seen. Smith is owned in nine percent of polled standard leagues, so while I can’t suggest him in standard formats, his value is increased in leagues with 12 or more teams. He’s someone to keep an eye on, but it will require an injury or two for his true value to be enhanced.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, Titans: The future in Tennessee could arrive sooner than expected, as head coach Ken Whisenhunt has given strong hints that he will give Mettenberger an opportunity under center. Jake Locker’s days are numbered and Charlie Whitehurst is far from a long term answer. Mettenberger’s arrival could be a boon for the Titans’ group of young, talented, yet underachieving skill players, which means rookie RB Bishop Sankey and WRs Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter could benefit from Mettenberger. If he does start on Sunday against the Jaguars, it would be the first of a three-game stretch that will include the shaky secondaries of the Redskins and Texans. He’s more of a speculation addition at this point, but because of his skill players, Mettenberger and his cannon arm is worthy of a clip ‘n save.
Eric Ebron, TE, Lions: The loss of Calvin Johnson could be gain for the first rounder, who has seen eight of his 16 targets over the last two weeks. He scored his first pro touchdown in Week 4 and would have had one on Sunday had it not been reversed by the replay booth. Ebron is a big target who can get downfield, so if the Lions are true to their (early) word and sit Megatron down for at least a week, Ebron could find himself in a favorable situation, as the Vikings are tied for 21st against the pass with nine touchdown passes allowed. He’s owned in nine percent of polled leagues, which makes him available to those who want to partake in the targets that the loss of Johnson presents.