MELLENBRUCH: Week 7 fantasy favorites
RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas
You think Adrian Peterson was good in 2012? This guy is on pace to do something even more special. Already with 785 rushing yards on 159 carries – league-leading totals in both categories by a distance – Murray has been arguably the NFL’s best player through six weeks, and a Week 7 match up with division rival New York promises further production from Dallas’ bell cow. Murray totaled 241 total yards in two games against the Giants in 2013. New York has also surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season in standard formats, including a 25.3 effort from LeSean McCoy and Co. last Sunday night. ESPN leagues project 19.4 points for Murray this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score even more than that.
Other worthy Week 7 starters: Baltimore running back Justin Forsett is the league’s fifth-leading rusher, but his 6.4 yards per carry average is a yard better than any other qualified back in the NFL. The Ravens travel to take on a woeful Atlanta defense this week, a unit giving up more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team (29.4 per game).
Cleveland’s Ben Tate is another back suddenly thrust into the fold of fantasy relevance. After an injury-plagued start to the season, Tate has bounced back with consecutive double-digit efforts the last two weeks, including a two-touchdown performance against rival Pittsburgh on Sunday that yielded 19.8 points. The Browns travel to Jacksonville this week.
WR Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
It always hurts me to highlight a Packer, but the numbers don’t lie. Green Bay hosts a Carolina team this week which ranks 25th in the league against opposing wide receivers, including a 35.1 last week against the Bengals. That bodes well for Nelson. Clearly Aaron Rogers’ favorite target, Nelson boasts the league’s second highest point total among wide receivers, trailing only Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown by half a point. He’s also hauled in five touchdown receptions on the year, four of which have come in the last three weeks. For what it’s worth, the Packers seem “relaxed” on the back of three straight wins. I like them to make it four straight at home against the Panthers, and I expect Nelson to play a big part.
Looking for a quick waiver wire pick up? If you’re like me, who owns Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and a suddenly concussed Kelvin Benjamin, there are options out there for you. New England receiver Brandon LaFell is available in 95 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, and with three touchdown catches over the last three weeks, he could be a free-agent steal. The Patriots host the Jets today, a group ranked 23rd against opposing wide receivers this season.
Buffalo top pick Sammy Watkins is another guy worthy of WR 2 consideration this week at home against the Vikings. Kyle Orton isn’t the type of quarterback that will wow you with his ability, but his presence in the pocket certainly bodes better for Watkins with E.J. Manuel riding the pine.
QB Tom Brady, New England
Coming off his best performance of the season, Brady and Co. host the Jets this week in a matchup that has suited Brady throughout his career. Since 2009, New England is 5-0 against the Jets at home, a stretch that has seen Brady throw for a combined 1,401 yards and nine touchdowns. New York has allowed at least two touchdown passes in each of its first six games this season, making Brady a top-5 fantasy option tonight.
If you’re desperate: It’s not often that I list two Cleveland Browns in my fantasy rankings, but Brian Hoyer is another player I like this week against the lisless Jaguars. In five starts this year, Hoyer has topped 200 yards and at least one touchdown every time, something that Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo can’t say. For those of you searching for a bye-week replacement for Nick Foles, Hoyer is still available in more than 92 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.
TE Jordan Reed, Washington
Here’s someone looking for redemption. After a breakout campaign last season, Reed was toted as one of the best young talents at the tight end position. But injuries have stifled what seemed could be a promising sophomore year. But considering his 92-yard performance last week in a return from injury, Reed showed flashes of his 2013 form and gets another favorable matchup against the Titans at home this Sunday. Tennessee is giving up 10.7 points per game to opposing tight ends, good for 25th in the NFL.
On the other side of that matchup, I also like Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker. While the numbers haven’t quite been there for Walker in the last two weeks, he still ranks fifth in fantasy scoring among tight ends. Against a Redskins defense that gave up four touchdowns to the New York tight-end tandem of Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells in Week 4, a return to the end zone isn’t out of the question for Walker on Sunday.
WR Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants
In light of Victor Cruz’s season-ending knee injury, Eli Manning will be looking for his new go-to target this week in Dallas. Reuben Randle and Larry Donnell will be up for consideration, but this exciting rookie out of LSU could be primed for a breakout stretch. Still available in 87 percent of fantasy leagues, there is undeniable upside for Beckham, Jr. here.
As for Atlanta running back Antone Smith, he’s been the definition of a boom-or-bust player so far. Fortunately for the few fantasy owners who have invested in Smith, he’s been booming just about every week. With 35-yard-plus touchdowns in every game but Week 2, Smith is likely still available in your league. While caution should be taken in starting Smith – currently No. 3 on Atlanta’s running-back depth chart – history has shown this high risk play yields high rewards. Consider him a high-risk flex option in deeper leagues.