During the start of the fantasy football season, owners search for players with upside on the waiver wire. A few weeks ago, talented backups with the skills to produce, if given the chance, were flying off waivers. However, going into Week 5, owners can't afford to wait for players anymore. With four teams -- Vikings, Steelers, Bucs and Redskins -- on their bye week, and injuries throughout the league, the waiver wire transforms into a place to pick up Week 5 starters for your fantasy team.
Knile Davis and Christine Michael might have more talent than veteran retreads who will receive carries this week, but playing time is the key to fantasy success. Picking up the right fill-in starter could determine your entire season if you own Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Vincent Jackson or any other player off in Week 5.
• Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders (Owned in seven percent of CBS leagues, eight percent of Yahoo! leagues and one percent of ESPN leagues) -- Fantasy owners remember Jennings as Maurice Jones-Drew's trendy handcuff during his Jacksonville days. Well, he's in Oakland now, and might have the best opportunity of his career this week when the Raiders host San Diego in a game that has been shifted to an 11:35 p.m. Eastern start Sunday. Darren McFadden has a hamstring injury and Marcel Reece has a knee injury, which means Jennings could realistically see 15-plus carries and catch a few balls out of the backfield this week. Monitor DMC's and Reece's injuries, and start Jennings with confidence if he's going to handle the bulk of carries.
• Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers (72 percent, 42 percent, 18 percent) -- Woodhead has proven that he's a focal point of the Chargers offense, and his chemistry with Philip Rivers appears to be growing. He's more valuable in points-per-reception formats, but Woodhead is touching the ball enough to help in standard leagues, too. After 80-plus total yards in consecutive games and two touchdowns in Week 4, Woodhead should have another productive game in Week 5 against the Raiders. Week 7 at Jacksonville and Week 9 at Washington are also strong upcoming matchups for Woodhead.
• Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals (27 percent, 11 percent, two percent) -- Ellington, a rookie out of Clemson, is the Cardinals' most talented running back, since Rashard Mendenhall isn't getting the job done in Arizona. Head coach Bruce Arians told The Arizona Republic, "[Mendenhall] can't run out of bounds. He's a veteran. We need to practice him a little bit harder. I think we've been too easy on him in practice because of his injuries, and we need to hone him up more because he's not gaining anything." Your bench must be absolutely loaded if that quote isn't reason enough to grab Ellington.
• Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills (Less than one percent, zero percent, zero percent) -- Similar to Jennings, Choice, a once-popular handcuff, has been given a chance for a big workload when nobody expected it. Fred Jackson has an MCL sprain, and C.J. Spiller, who's been struggling when healthy, injured his ankle on Sunday. The Bills travel to Cleveland on Thursday, so Jackson and Spiller don't have much time to prove healthy. Spiller told reporters on Monday that he has a chance to play, but admits he wouldn't be 100 percent even if he suits up. Jackson also claims he's playing, but admits he'll be sore and his workload would be limited. By default, Choice could be in a position to be the lead running back in Week 5. He lacks the upside of Jennings at this stage in his career, but Choice could touch the ball 15 times, and owners desperate for a flex option in Week 5 could do much worse. Make sure Spiller and/or Jackson sit out before you put Choice in your starting lineup.
• Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (74 percent, 43 percent, 14 percent) -- Despite a tragic quarterback situation in Jacksonville, Blackmon returns from a four-game suspension and could emerge as a serviceable second wide receiver. Blackmon has the talent to be a terrific fantasy option, but he won't peak until the Jaguars improve the talent around him. Pick him up and see what happens; the sky is the limit if he receives the amount of targets that Cecil Shorts has been getting.
• Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (15 percent, 13 percent, five percent) -- Woods already passes the eyeball test with flying colors. Luckily for fantasy owners, the rookie from USC is becoming a target monster. Woods received 18 targets in his last two games. The targets and receptions will increase as Woods and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel continue to build chemistry.
• Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets (four percent, three percent, two percent) -- Kerley is not someone you want starting for your fantasy team, BUT Stephen Hill (concussion) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) are both in doubt for Week 5. That being said, Kerley should get a bunch of targets in Week 5 at Atlanta if Holmes and Hill sit out. He's a sneaky option for desperate owners.
• Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns (12 percent, seven percent, two percent) -- Need a bye-week replacement quarterback? Why not start the red-hot Hoyer on Thursday night? He has 590 passing yards with five touchdowns over two starts, which isn't too shabby, and Hoyer has the weapons to continue the pace, at least in the short term.
• Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (71 percent, 33 percent, 20 percent) -- If your usual tight end has a bye in Week 5, grab Fleener immediately if he's available. Andrew Luck's college teammate has thrived since Dwayne Allen landed on injured reserve. Fleener has touchdowns in two of his last three games, and his role will continue to grow as the season progresses. The Colts host Seattle and its dominant defense in Week 5, but Fleener still has a legitimate chance of catching a touchdown.
• Sean McGrath, Kansas City Chiefs (zero percent, zero percent, zero percent) -- If you're in a bind and need a Week 5 emergency tight end, consider McGrath. Anthony Fasano is still banged up and Travis Kelce hasn't appeared in an NFL game yet because of knee issues, so McGrath might get one more week to thrive against Tennessee. Most fantasy writers and NFL analysts are chalking up his Week 4 performance (five catches, 64 yards and a touchdown) as a fluke, but he could have one more surprising week left in the tank. Alex Smith and Andy Reid love utilizing the TE in general and McGrath has a shot to score a few fantasy points in Week 5.
MORE WEEK 5 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Week 5 player stat projections -- Rodgers won't let the Packers lose
GONOS: Start 'em, sit 'em -- With so many injuries, who are the best starters?
SI STAFF: Composite player rankings -- Reggie Bush realizing his potential
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Does anyone trust Eli Manning anymore?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Rashad Jennings given the opportunity of his career
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers bounces back with a strong game vs. the Cowboys
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Peyton Manning on pace to shatter NFL records