NFL Week Four: fantasy pick-ups

The dreaded bye weeks are finally upon us.

The onset of Week Five of the NFL season brings with it one of fantasy football owners’ unavoidable nightmares. It’s a horrifying realization Sunday afternoon as you flip through the available games in your NFL Sunday package, only to realize you have only 12 games to distract you from your homework, instead of the usual 15 (plus Monday Night Football).

It can also be horrifying when you go to set your fantasy lineup for the week, only to realize Ray Rice and Felix Jones, your two starting running backs, have the week off and you don’t have a solid backup option.

(Side note: Don’t be the idiot in your league who doesn’t look at your team all week and starts a kicker or a tight end with a bye. It’s common knowledge that those people are ruining the fun.)

This week, six teams — Baltimore, Dallas, Washington, St. Louis, Cleveland and Miami ­— have byes (I know what you’re thinking: What are we going to do without Matt Moore’s 0-4 Dolphins this week?). Owners of productive offensive players on those teams must be prepared to find point production elsewhere. Even for owners without gaps in their lineups this week, it never hurts to start preparing early, because they’re coming.

That’s why this week’s waiver-wire pickups are even more important.

(Note: Percentages of ownership are taken from ESPN leagues. Players are listed by position in the order I would pick them up.)

*Running backs*

*Isaac Redman, Steelers (2.3 percent):* A hamstring strain suffered by Illinois alum Rashard Mendenhall and No. 2 back Mewelde Moore’s high ankle sprain have thrust Redman into the limelight. His value is largely dependent on Mendenhall’s ability to play Sunday against Tennessee, but hamstring injuries tend to linger. Just ask anyone who drafted Arian Foster in the first round then had to wait four weeks to see him play a full game. Mendenhall is not expected to practice this week and has been listed as questionable for the game. Even if he does play, he will likely be limited and Redman will receive a share of the carries, and as he has shown at times during the first four weeks, he can produce when given the chance.

*Ryan Torain, Redskins (58 percent):* After not receiving a single touch for the first three weeks of the season, Torain torched St. Louis last Sunday, carrying 19 times for 135 yards. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Redskins are on a bye this week, so we’ll have to wait until Week Six how this affects Torain’s playing time going forward. Logical thinking would imply Torain’s performance earned him more looks, particularly when paired with starting running back Tim Hightower’s shoulder injury. But Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan has never been one for logical thinking when it comes to platooning running backs (remember Tatum Bell? Reuben Droughns? Mike Anderson? I get headaches just thinking about it. Good thing I’m a doctor.). Also unfortunate for fantasy owners, Torain doesn’t get to face the Rams defense every week.

*Stevan Ridley, Patriots (4 percent):* The rookie out of LSU has seen an increased workload every week of the young season, culminating in Sunday’s 10-carry, 97-yard performance. While starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis received five more carries, Ridley rushed for more yards and found the end zone once, and should continue to play a role in New England’s potent offense.

*Bernard Scott, Bengals/ Brian Leonard, Bengals:* Neither deserve to be picked up as of now, but I list them here on the off chance Cedric Benson’s suspension is upheld before Wednesday (unlikely), which would rule Benson out for this weekend. If that does happen, Scott (6 percent) and Leonard (.1) would likely split carries. In spot duty last week, Leonard was the more efficient of the two, rushing for 36 yards on four carries and setting up the Bengals game-winning field goal with 14-yard scamper.

*Wide receivers*

*Jacoby Jones/Kevin Walter, Texans:* Andre Johnson’s hamstring pull opens up opportunities for both Jones and Walter. Neither caught a pass after Johnson suffered the injury last Sunday, as the Texans stuck to the run for the majority of the game. Johnson is listed as questionable, but it is likely he will not play this week against the Raiders, who have given up the sixth-most points to wide receivers of any team in the NFL, so both Jones and Walter should be able to get in on the action.

*Jabar Gaffney, Broncos (6 percent):* Gaffney has been a picture of stability through the first four weeks of the season. His receiving yard numbers look like this: 54, 62, 60, 62, with a touchdown thrown in. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but it’s that kind of reliability that’s so nice to have for a bye week fill-in.

*Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (13 percent):* If you’re a Jason Witten owner looking for a one-week starter to slot into your lineup, look no further. Gresham’s submitted solid numbers this season, his best performance coming last week when he caught four passes for 70 yards and hooked up with Andy Dalton for a scoring strike during the Bengals comeback win. This Sunday, Cincinnati heads to Jacksonville, which has given up the second most points to tight ends this season.

Finally, these are guys I have written about before but are still worth picking up if they remain available in your league: *Matt Hasselbeck (28 percent)* showed no ill effects after losing his top target, Kenny Britt, for the season due to an ACL tear. He threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Cleveland. *Montario Hardesty (20 percent)* continued to get work despite Peyton Hillis’s return to the lineup. And *Victor Cruz (19 percent)* backed up his Week Three breakout performance with six catches for 98 yards, even with Mario Manningham’s return.

_Daniel is a junior in Media. Contact him for fantasy football/relationship advice at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @danielmillermc._