Fantasy football 2011: Week 3 emergency start plug-and-play options

Injuries and poor performances have hit hard for many fantasy owners after just two weeks of NFL action. If you are one of these unfortunate owners, you may be desperate for a quick fix starter to keep your championship hopes alive.

Fortunately, there are players every week that can be found nearly universally in fantasy free agency that make a statistical splash thanks to matchup and/or opportunity. Need some Week 3 assistance? Here are a few names to consider:

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, TEN.

Owned in just 27 percent of all Yahoo leagues at the moment, Hasselbeck has experienced a career revival of sorts in Tennessee.

It helps to have better talent around you, and Hasselbeck has that in elite running back Chris Johnson, who is primed to break out after a two-week lull, and elite pass catching options in Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and the talented yet recently under-used tight end Jared Cook.

Hasselbeck has given the Titans a vertical, down-the-field game and should capitalize again versus the defensively challenged Denver Broncos this week. Keep an eye on the injury report, as Britt has been nursing a hamstring injury. All signs point towards him playing, and if he does, Hasselbeck could have another big game.

In two contests so far this season, Hasselbeck has accumulated 621 yards passing (sixth in the league) with three TDs and two INTs. He was one of socko’s waiver wire wonders earlier this week.

Tavaris Jackson, QB, SEA.

There are a lot of quarterbacks I’d start over Tavaris Jackson in fantasy circles this week, but in very deep leagues, you may not have many other options.

And Jackson, who’s overall numbers leave much to desire over the first two weeks, could surprise some this week against a porous Arizona secondary – the same secondary that made first-game rookie Cam Newton and less-than-reliable journeyman signal caller Rex Grossman look like fantasy elite.

Part of Jackson’s statistical issue was his drubbing last week against Pittsburgh. In the first week against a more squishy San Francisco defense, he notched 197 yards and two TDs. Nothing earth-shattering, but not horrible numbers if you are desperate for a QB in deep leagues. Against Arizona, Jackson should be able to improve upon those stats – even if only a little bit.

Chester Taylor, RB, ARI.

When I mentioned Taylor in this slot two weeks ago, I was a little premature it seems. It was just a matter of time for the habitually under-impressing Beanie Wells to hit a roadblock, this time finding a spot on the injury list after tweaking a hamstring. He’s listed as questionable at the moment, and while he’s optimistic he’ll play, coach Ken Whisenhunt is less than sure at the moment.

If Beanie doesn’t play, Taylor is the starter by default, helped partially by hand/biceps issues to LaRod Stephens-Howling.

The matchup with Seattle may seem uber-appealing on the surface, but the Seahawks have actually done pretty well in curbing the run so far this season, slowing both Frank Gore and Rashard Mendenhall to date.

Still, it is nearly impossible to find a running back this widely available (owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment) who will see as many carries as Taylor will if Beanie is ruled out or only plays a handful of snaps.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG.

Owned in many more leagues than Taylor (in fact, he’s currently rostered in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues), Jacobs is still widely considered the RB2 to Ahmad Bradshaw in New York.

However, Jacobs has proven the more steady scoring option, and while the Eagles passing defense is top-notch, they are majorly susceptible to the run. The Giants will be trying to exploit that as much as possible, and Jacobs’ pounding style of play is their best piece to use in that sort of game.

Deji Karim, RB, JAX.

Finding widely available running backs who can make a difference this week isn’t easy, but Karim could be one of the surprises. Owned in just 16 percent of Yahoo leagues, he is still the primary backup to a Maurice Jones-Drew who can’t handle as heavy a workload as he could in his prime.

This week, the Jaguars unveil their own rookie QB, as Blaine Gabbert will get his first NFL start. Jacksonville will likely play a more conservative style to get the young signal caller’s feet wet, and against a shaky Carolina run defense, it is likely that Gabbert will be making ample handoffs on Sunday.

That means Karim could see his largest sample size of playing time this season and there is little doubt he has big time playmaking ability.

Nate Washington, WR, TEN.

See Hasselbeck listed above? Washington is tied to his success. In fact, few receivers have been quietly as impressive as Washington the past two seasons in spurts. With Hasselbeck revitalizing the Tennessee passing game, Nate has done well so far. His 13 receptions are just three off Mike Wallace’s league lead – and that wasn’t because of one big game. He notched six in Week 1 versus Jacksonville and seven last week against the vaunted Ravens – recording 99 yards.

This week, the Titans face a Broncos defense that is definitely exploitable and Kenny Britt is entering the game with a sore hammy, meaning Washington’s role could expand event more. He is available in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Andre Caldwell, WR, CIN.

I’ve said it many times before, when it comes to fantasy football production, opportunity can overshadow talent. Caldwell now gets his opportunity.

The No. 2 receiver in Bengals-land has been mighty productive. Up until this week, that player has been Jerome Simpson. However, a pot bust later, and Simpson is facing a suspension and is “questionable” for this week. If he doesn’t play, and I would be surprised if he did, than the next in line for targets since Jordan Shipley’s unfortunate season-ending injury is Caldwell.

Andy Dalton will be throwing the pigskin around regularly, this week against a mediocre-at-best Niners unit. Caldwell should fare well, especially in PPR formats. He notched a TD last week and is available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment.

David Nelson and Donald Jones, BUF.

David Nelson got all the waiver wire love, and rightly so, earlier this week. If he’s still available in your league, as he is in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues, he makes a great addition and start against an excessively porous Patriots defense in a game that promises to be a shootout. In PPR leagues, Nelson’s value takes even more of an uptick.

However, if your league is deep, Nelson is likely long gone, but Jones is likely still out there. Owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues, Jones was recently praised heavily by coach Chan Gailey and expected to see a significant upgrade in looks with both Roscoe Parrish and Marcus Easley out of action the rest of the season.

He already has 11 targets in two games and that number should increase starting this week in a high-scoring pass-a-thon.

Brent Celek, TE, PHI.

Owned in just 17 percent of Yahoo leagues, Celek has enough upside to break out sooner rather than later. He nearly quadrupled his production from Week 1 to Week 2 and now faces a Giants defense decimated by injuries.

Having a few injury issues of his own, Celek was recently cleared for action (although a game-day check is still in line).







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