Before we get into our six picks off the fantasy football waiver wire this week, we’re going to give some love to those in Fantasy Referee Leagues for once. Now is the time to dump your entire replacement roster and pick up Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey and all your favorite referees. The replacement officiating has gotten progressively worse over the first three weeks, culminating in the travesty of an ending that happened on Monday night between the Packers and the Seahawks. While it’s true people will watch pro football no matter who’s officiating, there’s a big difference in tuning in to see remarkable athletic performance and competition, and tuning in to see an unmitigated train wreck. For a business that’s always put the brand first, the NFL simply can’t allow the game to be tarnished any longer. Now, on to the picks.
1. Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings
The Vikings managed to dismantle the till-then favorites to win the Super Bowl, putting the 49ers out of the game early and keeping them at bay throughout the entire game. Much of the credit goes to Ponder, who looked outstanding in leading his team to victory. While he only managed to put up 198 passing yards in the game, he did throw two TDs and rush for another while looking completely in control the entire time. Am I crazy to think San Francisco is a much better team if Ponder is their QB over Alex Smith? Either way, Ponder has developed great chemistry with tight end Kyle Rudolph, and he gets quality WR2 Jerome Simpson back this week. Defenses obviously start the game plan with stopping the running game first, and that should continue to allow Ponder to take advantage of softer pass defenses.
2. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets
Shonn Greene was shut down for the second consecutive week and is now averaging just 2.8 yards per carry over the season’s first three weeks. That’s not going to cut it, and there are now whispers that he could lose early-down work to Powell. The second-year player hasn’t been a world-beater, but he is averaging a much healthier four yards per carry and has received progressively more touches through the first three weeks of the year. The other candidate to grab work from Greene is Joe McKnight, but he’s had just one carry in each of the Jets’ first three games. If a change is made, Powell is the guy getting the rock. Strike preemptively by picking him up this week and being ready for a mid-season change at the RB position.
3. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins
Reggie Bush owners received a scare when Bush went down in Week 3 with an injury that initially looked like it could sideline him for a while, but tests Monday have revealed that Bush may even be ready to play in Week 4. That’s not going to stop Miller from being involved in the offense, as he’s averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 19 carries over the past two weeks after not playing in Week 1. If Bush remains healthy, Miller could wind up getting some looks as a receiver a la C.J. Spiller. However, I’m not optimistic Bush can stay healthy all year, and if the Dolphins have to turn to a Miller-Daniel Thomas committee, I see Miller gaining the upper hand quickly. As Thomas is a holdover from the old coaching regime, Miller seems to be a player Joe Philbin would be more likely to lean on.
4. Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings
We mentioned Simpson when talking about Christian Ponder, and with the suspended receiver returning this week, now is the time to jump on him. He’ll immediately slot in as a starter over the uninspiring (to say the least) Michael Jenkins. He’s a big play guy, which would seem to mesh well with Ponder’s mobility and emerging good decision-making. Simpson was capable of big performances in Cincinnati last year even with A.J. Green hogging most of the targets, and Simpson managed to top 100 yards three times last season, even gaining as many as 152 yards on eight receptions in one week. At worst, he’s a WR4 over the rest of the season, and at best, he could be a every-week flex starter or matchup play most weeks.
5. Andrew Hawkins, WR, Bengals
Speaking of Simpson’s old team, Hawkins has emerged as the No. 2 option in the offense, catching eight passes in the first game of the season and catching TDs in each of the last two weeks despite only grabbing two passes in each game. He doesn’t have quite the upside of Simpson, but he’s emerged as a quality matchup play and a good bye-week filler for the upcoming schedule juggling you’ll be doing. A virtual no-name heading into this season, Hawkins has benefited from the presence of Green (and to a lesser extent, Jermaine Gresham) in the passing game to rack up 208 yards on 12 receptions with two TDs so far. He’s not going to keep up that pace, but he’s certainly done enough to earn a roster spot in virtually all fantasy leagues.
6. Brandon Myers, TE, Raiders
Assuming guys like Kyle Rudolph, Heath Miller and Dennis Pitta have already been scooped up, Myers represents a great buy opportunity as fantasy players try to figure out who this guy is. Missing from virtually all preseason fantasy rankings, Myers has turned into an essential part of the Raiders’ passing game this year, catching 15 passes for 206 yards, good for third in the league at his position behind Brent Celek and Tony Gonzalez. That a 1,000-plus yard pace, folks, and he’s getting there through consistency, topping 50 yards in each of his first three games. He’s not going to get to 1,000, but he seems like a guy that could settle in to 800 yards and a handful of TDs by the time the season is through.
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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