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Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Hunter, Reece carve out roles


During Week 7 we learned that Joe Flacco may not be an elite quarterback, that Chris Johnson may still be one of the league's best runners and that it's better to stay clear of Carolina whenever possible.


• Chris Johnson, Titans -- After screaming for weeks about the sky falling, Johnson's owners have been pleasantly surprised by his performance of late. Over the past four weeks Johnson has averaged 112.8 yards per game, tops in the league, and 7.3 yards per contest more than Adrian Peterson's second-place average. Sure, having two touchdowns vultured by Jamie Harper hasn't been ideal, but there should be no more complaints about Johnson (although, personally, I'd still try to trade him).

• LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals -- The William Powell era in Arizona took a step backward Sunday as Stephens-Howling carved up a tough Vikings defense for 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground and added four grabs for 45 yards in the air. With the 49ers coming up next, neither is a good play for Week 8.

• Kendall Hunter, 49ers -- The 49ers run a lot. In fact they're one of just four teams league-wide that runs more than it throws. Yes, part of that scheme is to minimize stress on Alex Smith, and part is to minimize the time San Francisco's defense is on the field, but it is also done to maximize the talent that lines up in the backfield. Frank Gore is having a tremendous season, but so is Hunter, who quietly has been one of the best backups in the league, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and placing among the league leaders among true RB2s. With so much of San Francisco's offense predicated on the run, and with the desire to limit wear and tear on Gore, Hunter's role will only expand down the stretch. He's an excellent player to have on your bench.

• Marcel Reece, Raiders -- After years of toying with fantasy owners with ever-so-brief glimpses of greatness, Reece seems to have finally caught he Raiders' attention as one of their best offensive weapons. A former wide receiver with the body of a tight end, Reece has carved out a niche as a receiver out of the backfield, displaying tailback moves at the fullback position. He has caught at least four balls in three of his last four games, including four for a season-high 58 yards on Sunday against the Jaguars. Oakland's offense is dysfunctional, thanks in large part to a subpar line. That, conversely, should set up nicely for Reece to continue to grow in the game plan. With quality running backs dropping like flies during bye weeks, Reece is a flex consideration, especially in PPR leagues.


• Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Things are getting ugly in Charlotte as Cam Newton just can't get his head wrapped around the Panthers' dedication to a running game that has produced just 59 rushing yards per game. Frustrated, Newton spoke out to the media following another loss on Sunday, and given the results who can blame him for moaning about the team's play-calling. No Panthers back has run for even 50 yards in a game in a month and it doesn't seem like it'll be getting better anytime soon, especially following the loss of All-World center Ryan Kalil for the season with a foot injury.

• Alex Green, Packers -- The good news for Green coming out of the Packers' win in St. Louis was the fact that he ran the ball 20 times. The bad news was that he gained just 35 yards. Counting his receiving yardage, he managed just 6.4 points in standard leagues and 10.4 in PPR leagues. Those numbers are what you expect from your kicker, not a starting tailback.


• Jeremy Kerley, Jets -- With Stephen Hill suffering from a case of the dropsies, Chaz Schilens looking a lot better in the huddle than he does while running a route and Jason Hill trying to get up to speed in the Jets' offense, Kerley is the most reliable member of a deservedly-maligned receiving corps. Andy Dalton's old target at TCU caught seven of the 11 balls thrown his way against the Patriots for 120 yards, all career highs.

• Randall Cobb, Packers -- One of the signs of a great receiving corps is that the members take turns being the hero. In recent weeks James Jones and Jordy Nelson have assumed the role, but in Week 7 against the Rams it was Cobb's turn. The second-year man had a monster game with eight catches for 89 yards and two scores, while adding an additional 19 yards rushing as icing on a 30-point PPR day. That lifted him to 10th place among all wide receivers in PPR points for the season, not bad for someone considered as a utility receiver when the year started.

• Joseph Morgan, Saints -- For years Devery Henderson has filled the position that Morgan has slipped into. He doesn't catch a lot of balls, but those he does often go all the way. For the second time in three games Morgan caught one pass from Drew Brees and took it the distance. The latest saw him get behind the secondary, his specialty, and as he adjusted to the pass, he flipped Tampa Bay defender Eric Wright and eluded two other Bucs defenders en route to the end zone. A project the last two seasons, Morgan is someone for dynasty owners to grab and others to keep a keen eye on.

• Santana Moss, Redskins -- The loss of tight end Fred Davis for the season with a torn Achilles should open up more opportunities for the veteran Moss, who used his newfound burst of speed, acquired when he recently lost some weight, for two touchdowns against the Giants. Now used almost exclusively in the slot, he's the most reliable pass catcher that Robert Griffin III now has.

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• Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys -- Where have you gone, oh, receiver, who captivated the fantasy world by lighting up the Giants for eight catches, 114 yards and two touchdowns on opening day? Since then Ogletree's been little more than a replacement-level receiver, catching only 13 passes for 134 yards, while failing to reach the end zone. His four-catch for 27-yard showing against the hapless Panthers secondary should be the final straw that sends him off to the waiver wire.

• Brandon Lloyd, Patriots -- Perhaps it was his shoulder injured late in the Seahawks game or perhaps it was dogged coverage by the Jets' secondary, but Lloyd did not impress against the Jets with a single catch for six yards on eight targets. You have to go back to Dec. 7, 2008, when he was with the Jaguars, for the last time Lloyd had such low yardage production in a game. Don't do anything dramatic yet, especially with the large number of targets, but with Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez back as prominent members of the Patriots' passing attack, Lloyd could get squeezed for looks if he doesn't come down with the ones he gets.


• Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- The third-year quarterback's development took another step forward as he was able to incorporate Dallas Clark into a passing game that was already thriving with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. More of what he did against the Saints will elevate Freeman above mere bye-week replacement level to a possible starter based on matchups.

• Brandon Weeden, Browns -- He's older than Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, so it's pretty funny when someone calls the rookie a "young" quarterback. Recently, he's played much more like a veteran, going 25-of-41 for 264 yards and two touchdown passes against the Colts -- the third straight week he's thrown for a pair of scores. The emergence of Josh Gordon as a touchdown threat adds value to Weeden, who has favorable matchups at home against the Chargers and Ravens the next two weeks.


• Joe Flacco, Ravens --Wait, wasn't it the Ravens' defense that was supposed to be decimated? Well, Flacco and the offense looked putrid in Week 7, as he passed for 147 yards and one touchdown while throwing two picks. Granted, it was against the tough J.J. Watt-led Texans, but what makes a quarterback elite is the ability to play him against everyone. Flacco clearly showed that he's not there yet.

• Cam Newton, Panthers -- As discussed above, the Panthers' offense is struggling and Newton is at the heart of the issue, having now gone two weeks without a rushing touchdown while throwing for more than one score in only one game this season. He's a bad play next weekend against the Bears, but there's some potential for recovery against the Redskins (a showdown with RGIII) and Buccaneers in the coming weeks.


• Logan Paulsen, Redskins -- Following the season-ending Achilles injury to Fred Davis, the Redskins went out and signed former Pro Bowl tight end and NFL promotional spot star Chris Cooley, who was cut by the team in August. However, don't look for Cooley to step back into the starting role. That will be filled by Paulsen, a bruising blocker with decent hands who has a knack for getting open. Tight end is a deep position, so you can find an alternative outside of Washington, but if you're in a deep league, Paulsen may be the answer.

• David Thomas, Saints -- Jimmy Graham's ankle kept him from traveling to Tampa for the Bucs game, so Thomas stepped in admirably, catching one of the four touchdowns thrown by Drew Brees on the day. He'll retain some value playing in the Saints offense for as long as Graham can't answer the bell.


• Kyle Rudolph, Vikings -- We'll give the Vikings top touchdown receiver a pass for getting shutout by the Cardinals, but the surprise star among tight ends better not string together another one of these clunkers or his owners will have no choice but to lose faith in him.

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