The main story for fantasy football players this week is the onset of bye week season.  Obviously, this a bigger concern in your yearly leagues, but even if you exclusively play daily fantasy football, there is definitely a different feel to this week.  If you’re in a contest that doesn’t start until Sunday, you are missing eight teams worth of options – and not just any options, either (see: Peyton, Marshawn, etc).  Suffice it to say, there are lots of potential starters on those eight teams, and what that means is that as you scroll through your available choices for each position, you get to the “I don’t want to start any of these guys” portion of the list much more quickly than you’d like.

There could be a several different potential ramifications of this, but it really comes down to this: fewer options is never a good thing when it comes to fantasy.  It might mean you have to be a bit more comfortable leaving a few hundred bucks worth of cap space on the table, because you have to just choose the players you like most.  It might also mean that there is a bit more overlap between your roster and the rosters of everyone else in the tourney, since you’re all dealing with more limited options.   But no matter – this week, like every other, just be right.  When you go out on a limb and pick a not-so-obvious guy, and he scores a lot of points for you… well, good job there.  Keep it up.

So who are a few potential studs that might not be on the radars of even savvy fantasy players?  You can’t find them by looking at injury replacements, because other people are doing the same thing.  Just looking at matchups won’t get you there, because that’s pretty obvious too.  So let’s look at a few options, and you can decide for yourself if my reasons are enough to convince you to make room in your lineup for these guys.

Steve Smith, Sr. ($5,600): He is the fifteenth most expensive WR this week, despite the eight teams worth of missing options.  He has the seventh most fantasy points in the NFL through three weeks, and is an even better option in a PPR format, averaging six catches per game so far. But he’s playing the Panthers, and the Panthers have a great defense.  With so many choices, why pick a guy playing against a defense that good?  Because HE’S PLAYING THE PANTHERS.  This is a guy who has routinely fought teammates in the past (fought, and won).   He has no problem going after opponents if he’s got a good reason.  Obviously, he’s passionate.  And he is good.  Really, really good.  And what do you know, he played for the Panthers for thirteen years.  He is going to come prepared, and play passionately, that much you know for sure.  But will that translate to success? You could make the argument that the Panthers know him from practicing against him for all that time, and therefore will be able to stop him. You won’t see me making that case; instead, I’ll take the exact opposite position.  Steve Smith, Sr. knows the Panthers, and has tricks up his sleeves to beat every single one of their d-backs.  You know, from all the practice.  This pick could make you look brilliant.

Michael Crabtree ($6,400): This pick is especially valid if Vernon Davis is unable to play, so keep your eye on that development.  But the Niners have not been the power running team we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons so far this year, Kaepernick is playing really well, and they’re facing off against the Eagles, who cannot play defense on the back end.  And truthfully, that’s being kind to their secondary.  Last week, Crabtree had TEN catches. The last time he was 100% healthy and Kaepernick was under center, Crabtree was averaging double-digit targets. If Davis is out, this could EASILY happen again.

NFL: Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers

He got hurt in the preseason and people got scared, because he’s a guy who gets hurt. The reaction was understandable. But you take injury risk into consideration in the preseason, not all season long.  And right now, he’s out there.  These are PPR leagues, you know.

Stevan Ridley ($4,600): No, I am not kidding.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots


The Chiefs are good against the run.  The Patriots are unpredictable.  You know both of those things to be true, right?  Well, the Chiefs are missing their best run-stopping linebacker and their best run-stopping D-lineman, along with numerous other starting defenders. And the Pats?  Ridley has 25 and 19 carries in his last two games.  And he Has. Not. Fumbled. Last year, he was basically benched for losing the ball, but in 2012 he had thirteen games with 15 or more carries. With their passing game still not firing on even half of its cylinders, and with the Chiefs D being so banged up, you could see the Pats wanting to lean on the run game… giving you the chance to ride an inexpensive running back option back into contention on Monday Night Football.  Good luck.