As Week 7 of the NFL season approaches, it is still early enough to be unsure of a player's fantasy football status for the remainder of the year.
Brief spurts of production can be an aberration, so making certain acquisitions can backfire and prove to be only temporary hot streaks. That compounds the difficulty of even the short-term decisions involved in setting lineups.
For owners looking for some underrated options with reasonable upside and modest cost, there are individuals at each offensive position worth serious consideration.
Be warned that these players create serious decision dilemmas based on their matchups and recent form, but they are all worthy of a stopgap start at the very least.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
This is the first season Bradford has played in the same offense as the previous year.
However, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has a lot of young, inexperienced receivers in second-year players Brian Quick and Chris Givens, along with rookie Tavon Austin.
In spite of that, it seems as though the highly touted quarterback is finally coming into his own.
Bradford's recent performance has been exceptional in that he's thrown three touchdowns in each of his last two games. That suddenly boosts Bradford to 13 TD passes on the season through six games—trailing only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers.
Such a statistic would shock just about anyone, but Bradford is blossoming before our eyes even as players like Austin Pettis and Lance Kendricks lead the Rams in TD grabs.
As the Rams figure out how to unleash Austin and with Givens and Quick still with plentiful room to grow, Bradford seems destined to deliver on the immense promise of his draft status.
The Carolina Panthers are Bradford's Week 7 opponent and present challenges in that the defense allows only 13.6 points per game.
But if Bradford truly is "the man" in St. Louis, he should be able to exploit a secondary that yielded 296 passing yards to Buffalo Bills rookie EJ Manuel in Week 2.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The problem with Ellington is not his level of play, but the amount of times he's touching the ball—or lack thereof.
Even though he's a mere rookie sixth-round pick out of Clemson, Ellington has proved he belongs at the NFL level in averaging seven yards per carry and 10 yards per catch on 18 receptions.
Ellington made the most of his limited opportunities in a 32-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, carrying the ball seven times for 56 yards and a touchdown to go with five receptions for 36 yards.
The precocious playmaker is the type of force the Cardinals need to complement QB Carson Palmer and the vertical passing game deployed by head coach Bruce Arians.
It's going to madden fantasy owners if they pick up Ellington and he continues to be underutilized.
A Thursday night home game against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks presents a golden chance for Arians to surprise Arizona's rival by centering a game plan around Ellington.
Seattle has arguably the best secondary in the league, so the more Ellington could be established as a runner—and even as a receiver against linebackers—the better the chances the Cardinals have of pulling the upset.
Riley Cooper, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
No matter who the Eagles play every week, it's a good bet that any of their skill players could have monster games in Chip Kelly's uptempo offense.
With more of a pure pocket passer under center in Nick Foles in Week 6, Cooper had a career-high 120 yards on four receptions and a touchdown in Philadelphia's 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It remains to be seen what the Eagles will do at quarterback moving forward, but the explosion by Cooper could prove to be a key development.
Kelly isn't finished installing wrinkles into the offense, so it's encouraging that Cooper caught on well enough to have such a good game as the middle of the season approaches.
Although the Eagles are more of a running team, Cooper is still the No. 2 receiver in a top-10 passing attack. He's also a bigger, more physical target than the more explosive DeSean Jackson, which could help Cooper in the red zone.
The Dallas Cowboys come to Lincoln Financial Field to battle for NFC East supremacy. Since America's Team has the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense, it's reasonable to believe Cooper could have a huge impact again.
Timothy Wright, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Since rookie third-round pick Mike Glennon took over as starting quarterback, Wright has enjoyed a rise to prominence in the Bucs' passing game.
Tampa Bay is dead last in the NFL in averaging 190.8 yards through the air, but the undrafted rookie out of Rutgers has proved to be a reliable commodity for two games running.
Head coach Greg Schiano's previous stint was at Rutgers, and although he may be on the hot seat with a 0-5 record, his influence had to have something to do with the Bucs stealing such a valuable tight end.
Wright had seven receptions for 91 yards against the Eagles in Week 6 to back up his five catches for a team-high 41 yards in facing Arizona the previous week.
A security blanket receiving tight end can be a young quarterback's best friend, and Glennon seems to have taken a liking to Wright thus far.
The Atlanta Falcons are 26th against the pass, making Week 7's road trip to the Georgia Dome an ideal stage for Glennon and Wright to have statement games.
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