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Fantasy Football Week 4: 5 Benchwarmers Worth Starting

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystSeptember 28, 2011

Fantasy Football Week 4: 5 Benchwarmers Worth Starting

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    As the 2011 NFL season moves along, injuries begin to mount, with Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt the latest prominent player to be lost for the season. These injuries leave both NFL coaching staffs and fantasy football owners searching for a player to step into the gap in their lineups and pick up the slack.

    Taking that into consideration, here are a handful of players that started the season as reserves but are now being called upon to perform in a much larger role. They may just be able to give fantasy football teams a boost this week.

1. James Starks: RB, Green Bay Packers (vs. DEN)

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    It's hard to label Green Bay Packers running back James Starks a benchwarmer, but Ryan Grant is still the nominal starter in the backfield in Titletown, though, Starks has outplayed Grant to this point in the season.

    However, with a bruised kidney likely to sideline Grant this Sunday and a matchup on tap against a Denver Broncos defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against the run, James Starks will have the spotlight all to himself, and it's very possible that he'll take the opportunity and "run" with it.

2. Stevan Ridley: RB, New England Patriots (at OAK)

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    Rookie running back Stevan Ridley is slowly working his way into the mix in the New England Patriots' backfield. He saw his most extensive action to date last week against the Buffalo Bills, carrying the ball six times for 42 yards and running with burst and authority.

    Ridley outperformed starter Benjarvus Green-Ellis for the Patriots in Week 3 and may have earned more carries moving forward, making him a serviceable desperation fantasy start this week against an Oakland Raiders defense that ranks 26th in in NFL against the run.

3. Steve Smith: WR, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. SF)

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    With wide receiver Jeremy Maclin likely sidelined this week with a hamstring injury, a Philadelphia Eagles squad that's desperate for a victory will need contributions from their reserve wideouts, including fifth-year pro Steve Smith.

    Smith had over 100 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and finished in the top 10 at his position while a member of the New York Giants in 2009, so he's shown to be capable of big fantasy production in the past. If Smith is healthy and is afforded the opportunity, he may just prove to be capable of doing it again.

4. Nate Washington: WR, Tennessee Titans (at CLE)

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    This will be the last time you'll see the word "benchwarmer" associated with Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington, as the seventh-year veteran moves into the starting lineup after a torn ACL and MCL ended Kenny Britt's season.

    Washington has shown the ability in the past to be both a productive fantasy football asset and a maddeningly inconsistent option, so with any luck, the opportunity now afforded to him will involve much more of the former than it will the latter.

5. Randy McMichael: TE, San Diego Chargers (vs. MIA)

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    The plantar fasciitis that dogged San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates throughout the 2010 season has once again reared its ugly head, putting his availability for this week's tilt against Miami in serious doubt, casting a shadow over Gates' fantasy prospects for the rest of the season and thrusting Randy McMichael into the starting lineup for the Bolts.

    McMichael isn't the player he was several seasons ago while a member of the Miami Dolphins, but when his old team travels to meet his new one this week in San Diego, the 10th-year pro could be in for a solid day, as no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season than the Dolphins.

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