The biggest injury of the weekend was unquestionably that of a tight end, as New England’s Aaron Hernandez suffered an injury that is projected to keep him out four-to-six weeks. The Patriots countered this injury by signing Kellen Winslow off the FA list, but fantasy teams will likely want to look elsewhere. Check out our six picks from the waiver wire for Week 3 below, including the best Hernandez replacement we can find available in plenty of leagues.
1. Mikel LeShoure, RB, Lions
LeShoure has now served his two-game suspension and returns to the Lions in Week 3. Kevin Smith was excellent in Week 1, scoring two TDs while racking up 91 yards on 17 touches, but predictably struggled against the Niners in Week 2, managing 70 yards and no scores on 18 touches. The Lions clearly aren’t enamored with Smith, letting Joique Bell play entire series on Sunday night. That leaves LeShoure the opportunity to come right in and earn a serious workload. Count on the Lions featuring LeShoure in the running game and treating Smith as a change-of-pace back. He’s available in nearly two out of every three Yahoo! leagues and should be snapped up this week.
2. Andre Brown, RB, Giants
This isn’t a pickup that’s going to pay long-term dividends, but with Ahmad Bradshaw nursing a neck injury and not practicing on Monday or Tuesday, the Giants are likely to deactivate him on Thursday night. Since David Wilson has spent more time in the coach’s doghouse than on the field, that leaves Brown to earn a significant number of touches against the Panthers. Taking over the feature role in Week 2 upon Bradshaw’s exit, Brown totaled 90 yards on 15 touches while scoring a TD and a two-point conversion. He seems in line for another 15 fantasy points or so Thursday night. Pick him up if you’re not comfortable with your RB matchups this week, and then be prepared to use his roster spot to churn bye-week replacements at TE, PK and DF, if necessary.
3. Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers
Speaking of players poised for a big Thursday night, LaFell racked up 90 yards on six receptions against the Saints last week and added a 25-yard rush in the game. One week earlier, LaFell scored the only Panthers TD against the Buccaneers. He’s clearly a big part of the offense at this point, which is great news heading into a matchup against the Giants, a team that just can’t stay healthy in the secondary. The Giants have allowed the following lines to receivers through two weeks: 8-114-2 (Kevin Ogletree), 5-128-1 (Vincent Jackson), 4-85-0 (Dez Bryant), 4-73-1 (Miles Austin), 3-59-1 (Mike Williams). If you don’t grab LaFell now, you won’t have the chance later.
4. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams
Bradford didn’t do much from a fantasy standpoint in Week 1, racking up just 198 yards and no touchdowns, but he did complete 68 percent of his passes while keeping from throwing an interception. He and BFFFF (Best Fantasy Football Friend Forever) Danny Amendola torched the Redskins in Week 2, with the St. Louis QB completing 74 percent of his passes for 310 yards, three TDs and one interception. A former No. 1 pick, Bradford has the talent to keep turning in quality fantasy performances if his surrounding cast continues to play at a high level. The Rams may even step their game up by the fantasy playoffs if 2012 draft picks Brain Quick and Chris Givens develop into late-season weapons.
5. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
I’m surprised Rudolph isn’t owned in more leagues. He’s shown plenty of progress during the offseason and preseason, and he’s been a base-package player in the offense, staying on the field for virtually all of the offensive snaps. After catching five passes for 67 yards in Week 1, he had just three catches for 35 yards last week but did pick up a TD. The return of Jerome Simpson in Week 4 could put a damper on Rudolph’s upside, but I don’t think it will. He’s an integral part of the attack, and even though he didn’t see much work last week, Rudolph is on pace for 64 catches, 816 yards and eight TDs. He was my sleeper TE pick in the pre-season, and I’m sticking with him as a great add. If he’s gone in your league, you could always try for Martellus Bennett or Dennis Pitta as well.
6. Arizona Cardinals, D/ST, Cardinals
The Cardinals defense turned many heads last week when Arizona was able to go into New England, hold the Pats to just 18 points and come out with a shocking win. Clearly the defensive unit is better than many people gave them credit for, and they could continue to shine against the Eagles. Michael Vick has thrown roughly 8,300 interceptions over his first two games. The Eagles were already down a left tackle with Jason Peters out with a torn Achilles, and now the offensive line has lost starting center Jason Kelce for the year. Offenses generally look disjointed for a few weeks while breaking in a new center, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Eagles roughed up on the road this week. The Cardinals then don’t face an elite QB until their Week 9 matchup with the Packers (Dolphins, Rams, Bills, Vikings, 49ers), so they could be a sneaky good play for the next six weeks.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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