After struggling to assemble a workable roster last week, owners are again faced with piecing together a squad without players from the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Between those six teams, there is a boatload of fantasy talent that will need to be replaced, so once again, expect a lot of fresh faces to be fantasy relevant. Here’s a look at five such guys.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston Texans
Keenum's first career start couldn’t have been a tougher test. Playing on the road in Kansas City, against a record-setting crowd and the Chiefs’ NFL-best defense is about as hard as it gets for a first-time starter. Despite the Texans’ losing, Keenum played well, throwing for 271 yards and a touchdown. This week he makes his second consecutive start against the Indianapolis Colts, who have allowed 833 passing yards, six touchdowns and only had two interceptions in the last three games. Keenum is a sneaky start if you’re in need of a quarterback.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers
Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy has expressed the desire to get Starks more involved in the offense to help balance the workload and take some pressure off of rookie sensation Eddie Lacy. The Packers play the Chicago Bears this week, who are ranked 18th in defense and struggling heavily against the run - allowing over 650 yards and eight touchdowns in the last four games. Starks had 57 rushing yards and a touchdown on just seven carries last week against the Minnesota Vikings, so he could have a big day with 10-15 touches.
Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s no secret that Alex Smith loves to play it safe with short, accurate passes and count on his receivers to rack up the yards after the catch. Luckily for him and the Chiefs, McCluster is perfectly suited to succeed in such a situation. As Smith and McCluster have built their rapport, McCluster’s role in the offense has grown. Over the last two weeks, he’s caught 11 passes on 15 targets, and had 67 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven receptions in Week 8. This week against the Buffalo Bills’ 17th-ranked defense, McCluster could have a big day with an increased role. The Bills have given up a league-high 20 touchdowns to wide receivers this season and are allowing 285 receiving yards-per-game, which is eighth most in the league.
Cole Beasley, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Many owners expected Beasley to breakout last week against the Detroit Lions, but he was shutout, due mostly to the fact that Tony Romo only completed 14 passes. But in the three weeks prior to Week 8, Beasley had at least four catches in each game. With Miles Austin still battling a hamstring injury, Beasley is the number three receiver and will see a ton of snaps in the slot - which is a favorable matchup for Beasley, as the Minnesota Vikings are struggling in pass coverage this season. Nickel corner Josh Robinson has allowed a ridiculous 38 of 40 passes thrown his way to be caught. With Robinson likely covering Beasley during the game, Tony Romo will likely look to exploit the mismatch.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Given the way the Vikings have played this season, it can be hard to envision anyone having a big day. Rudolph has been a bit of a let down this season, given the high hopes owners had based on a solid 2012 performance. But things are definitely aligned for Rudolph to have a big day this week. He’s Christian Ponder’s favorite target and has had the most success when Ponder is under center. Plus the duo has the most experience together out of all the pass catchers. It also helps that Dallas is allowing the third-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends this year. Look for Ponder to lean on Rudolph heavily and the tight end to sneak into the TE1 ranks during a week full of byes.