Week 3 Fantasy Football Projections: Studs Who Will Take Advantage of Injuries

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 16, 2013

Sep 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal (11) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chargers defeated the Eagles 33-30. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In fantasy football, and more importantly the NFL as a whole, one player's misfortune is almost always another one's gain. 

And that's particularly true for players on teams with high-octane offenses, so naturally, when a star goes down, a backup is immediately thrust into a prominent role. 

That's how Colin Kaepernick became a starter in San Francisco a year ago, because if not for Alex Smith's concussion problems, the electrifying dual-threat quarterback might've had to wait to get his shot, as Smith had just come off leading the 49ers to a berth in the NFC Championship. 

But such is life in the NFL, and though in most cases discussed below it's too early to tell how long each star referenced will be out for, any absence at all will present a former second-stringer with an opportunity to demonstrate his legitimacy as a No. 1-caliber guy.

So, in preparation for Week 3 of the fantasy football season, here's a look at a handful of players who will thrive if given greater responsibilities due to injury-related absences of star teammates.


Bernard Pierce

Yes, the former third-rounder's rookie performance of 532 yards was solid enough that Bernard Pierce was a relatively desirable commodity in most fantasy drafts, going at an average of 126th overall in ESPN leagues

Nonetheless, sharing the backfield with an All-Pro talent like Ray Rice certainly limits Pierce's ability to rack up the numbers he's capable of, but that's changed for the time being, now that Rice's status for next week is currently in question. 

Regardless of whether Rice is ultimately ruled out entirely, the second-year back will more than likely be counted upon more often than normal, and with the Ravens set to take on the Houston Texans in Baltimore, Pierce should be a must-have in every fantasy league. 

Though he actually rushed for his first touchdown of the season against Cleveland on Sunday before Rice left the game, Pierce finished with 19 carries, the second-largest workload of his young career, so obviously the Ravens have trust in him to execute the offense. 


DeAndre Hopkins

Fans of the Houston Texans had to have been very worried about the team's chances at defeating the Tennessee Titans after superstar wideout Andre Johnson left late in the game with a possible concussion, via Rotoworld.

But rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins came to the rescue with a three-yard touchdown catch in overtime to give Houston a 30-24 victory. 

Though Hopkins clearly became Matt Schaub's most potent target out wide once Johnson left, even before that, Hopkins was making his presence felt, as the 2013 first-rounder finished the game with a game-high 117 yards on seven receptions. 

Now, even if Johnson is cleared to play for next week's clash with the Ravens, Hopkins' emergence as a legitimate offensive threat has to signal to fantasy owners that he can't be left unclaimed in any league, because right now, he's still available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN's fantasy leagues

After a breakout performance like this, combined with the fact that Johnson's status for the Baltimore game remains very much up in the air, Hopkins should be viewed as a viable option to start at receiver, because with Schaub under center, he's a near-lock to pile up solid numbers. 


Eddie Royal

On Sunday, Eddie Royal, like the rest of the San Diego Chargers' receiving corps, was absolutely on fire, as the former Bronco hauled in seven catches for 90 yards for three touchdowns. 

But what makes Royal potentially even more valuable heading into San Diego's Week 3 date with the Titans is the uncertainty regarding Malcom Floyd's status after the big receiver left the Philadelphia Eagles game with a scary neck injury. 

For now, Floyd seems to be okay, according to ESPN.com

Tests performed on Floyd's injured neck came back clean, which supports the idea that he won't miss too much time as a result of the third-quarter hit. His availability for next Sunday's tilt in Tennessee will presumably clear up as the week rolls along.

However, it doesn't seem overly likely that Floyd will be counted upon as heavily as he was prior to the injury on Sunday, as the 32-year-old had piled up 102 yards on five catches. 

So, if Floyd isn't playing, Royal should be considered a prime candidate to have another big day, because other than Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers' options aren't anything to write home about.