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Top 5 Sleepers for Week 5 - Sponsored by FX's The League

Did anybody see Brian Hartline leading all receivers in Week 4? Anybody? Show of hands? Bueller? Didn't think so. Hartline certainly was such a huge surprise, but at this point in the season, diving headlong into bye weeks, he's the type of player owners need to give a second look before dismissing as a startable option. While the high-level production didn't appear to be there, Hartline still saw a substantial number of targets through three weeks. And upon further inspection, it would have been clear that there was major potential behind the numbers. His two subpar games came against the Texans and Jets (with Darrelle Revis until a third-quarter torn ACL), but he still saw the targets and turned in 100+ yards in his only other outing. Sure the Cardinals defense was hot, but when someone has to get the ball and the quarterback can throw with at least some timing and accuracy, numbers may follow.

Inspired by Hartline's historic effort, I tried looking deeper at some players that have the talent and possibly the opportunity to emerge this week as leaders at their respective positions. I settled on five guys. They've all produced in their careers, no matter how small a sample, and in the case of one the lunch-pail player is riding a hot streak that's about to carve out a serious niche in the fantasy landscape. If you're looking for a replacement to a Buccaneer, Cowboy, Lion or Raider, and ready to take a chance on a second-look guy, perhaps these names are for you.

Michael Bush @ Jacksonville - Bush is the definition of a goal-line specialist. And as the backup to Matt Forte, a more accurate description would be touchdown vulture extraordinaire. For as supremely talented as he is, Forte flat out stinks from in close. Over the past three seasons he's converted a horrific 3-of-33 goal-line attempts. Last year a washed-up Marion Barber even stole six scores from Forte. Bush on the other hand is an elite goal line back. Since 2010 he has blasted his 6-1, 245 frame through stacked defenses to rack up 18 rushing scores in just 34 games with only two coming from outside of five yards. The Jaguars, just in case you were wondering, are 30th against the run having allowed 150 yards per game and six scores so far. If Forte's bad ankle limits him, Bush could dominate, but even if he's in a reserve role the Bears will drive the ball downfield plenty. And who do you think will cash in those drives? Yeah, me too.

Mario Manningham vs. Buffalo - Despite a quiet start on his new coast, Manningham has been trending up in the Niners? offense over the past two outings. In Week 3 he led the team with 56 receiving yards on five catches and followed that up with 75 total yards in the shellacking SF put on the Jets. Those numbers obviously don't scream for you to start him, but there are two noteworthy trends that have him looking like he's primed to make more noise. First off, he's brought in 15 of the 18 targets he's seen, which comes to a sterling 83.3% catch rate. Secondly, and more importantly, he has increased his yards-per-catch by two or more yards in every contest. While there's no way either of those figures can be maintained, they are indicative of the chemistry he's building with Alex Smith. Two years ago Manningham posted a breakout campaign with over 900 yards and nine scores, so he is certainly capable of becoming the 49ers' No. 1 target as he and Smith develop a greater rapport. Versus a Bills defense that has allowed seven touchdowns to wide receivers and 270 yards per game, don't be surprised if Manningham becomes next week's top waiver claim.

Jackie Battle @ New Orleans - In 483 career touches, Ryan Mathews has put the ball on the ground 11 times, or once about every 44 touches. He is extremely talented and was a first-round pick, so naturally he's continued to get opportunities. Battle is not as talented. But what he lacks in talent he makes up for in desire, strength and, most importantly, security. Battle has about half the career touches as Mathews' 240 to be exact, but he has precisely 11 less fumbles. Battle has never once given the opposition a chance to take his ball and because of that combination of size (he's a powerfully built 6 -2, 240) and reliable ball protection, he'll continue to fill the void Mike Tolbert left as the bruising goal-line back. And the Stretch Armstrong version of Tolbert can catch too, so not only will he have shots at the end zone, Battle will also accumulate decent yardage every week. Facing the Saints dead-last run defense, Battle should see multiple opportunities inside the 10 where Mathews is not trusted right now. In a hugely important game for the Bolts, chalk up another score for the big guy who keeps on rolling.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Green Bay - With Hilton having played just two career games, it's more difficult to trust him at this point. Nevertheless, as the intro indicated, there is something to be said for pure opportunity and the Colts will be forced to throw it a ton this week. An Aaron Rodgers' led offense will translate to an early hole for the Colts and make sure Andrew Luck's arm gets a lengthy workout. Although the Packers look like one of the better teams in the league defending the pass, those numbers are a bit deceiving. In the first three weeks they faced Alex Smith, Jay Cutler and Russell Wilson, none of whom is a consistent passing threat. Luck on the other hand boasts the athleticism in his legs and feet, the smarts in the pocket and the quick release to get the ball downfield. With Reggie Wayne sure to draw the toughest coverage, and possibly double teams, that opens up Hilton to a potential repeat of his Week 3 performance when he turned eight targets into four catches for 113 yards and a TD. The rookie boasts great short area quickness, blazing long speed and natural elusiveness in the open field, so Hilton may be the Colts' best chance to make big plays this week.

Jerome Simpson vs. Tennessee - Just one game removed from his suspension, the uber-athletic Simpson already looks like a great fit in the Minnesota offense. He displayed great chemistry with Christian Ponder last week versus Detroit, and although he only registered 50 yards, that still led the team as the Vikes leaned on the run. With Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph drawing significant attention underneath and over the middle, and some guy named Adrian Peterson to get defenses to bite on play-action, Simpson could use his excellent quickness and deep speed to do serious damage on the outside. He's lacked consistency in the past but has also turned in big games, with four tilts over 120 yards in his last 18 contests. A Titans pass defense that's given up a ridiculous 118.3 passer rating to opposing QB's and has been burned for 10 scores simply doesn't have the goods to slow any Viking. Simpson, who will draw the least attention of the skill guys, may benefit the most.

Comments

By: jcbeard1029
On: 10/5/2012 2:39:00 PM
Start green Ellis or battle?
 
By: larsonmm
On: 10/6/2012 5:50:00 AM
What do you think about Brandon Jacobs? Is he worth picking up right now?
 
By: Luke Hoover
On: 10/6/2012 11:25:00 AM
jcbeard - I'd start Battle. The Dolphins run defense has been stifling and BJGE averaged just 3.2 YPC against a Jags team that has allowed 150 yards per game on the ground even with the Law Firm's bad showing. Battle will get goal line carries against the NFL's worst run defense.
 
By: Luke Hoover
On: 10/6/2012 11:26:00 AM
larsonmm - I'd leave Jacobs on waivers. With Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter leading the way and now Colin Kaepernick in the rushing mix, there's nothing but scraps left for Jacobs.
 
By: jsowell00
On: 10/6/2012 3:34:00 PM
Would you still start Mathews, though? With the obvious concerns of loss of touches and slim chance of goal line carries..... My other backs are Reggie bush, CJ spiller and Donald brown. I currently have Reggie and Mathews starting (since Cj is splitting with Fred and up against that tough run d) but I'm nervous because that killed me last week.
 
By: Luke Hoover
On: 10/6/2012 8:22:00 PM
jsowell - Yes, Mathews lost a lot of touches last week and Battle got the scores, but though Battle will likely still get the goal line touches, Mathews is still a very good start. The Saints are the worst run defense in football and when Mathews does get his touches, he'll be able to put up good yards with them. There's also always the chance he breaks a run from outside the ten and gets a score. Spiller's situation will limit him some (I'd still start him most other weeks), but the Niners will make it that much worse this week. And Brown is looking at too few carries in a game that is set up for Andrew Luck to have to throw it a ton. I'd stick with Mathews.
 

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