Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis has averaged 3.5 yards per rush this season, scored two touchdowns and ranks 32nd in standard scoring for fantasy running backs. Off the field, things haven't gone any better, with his sticky contract situation playing out in public, a controversial missed game on his agent's advice and now a hamstring pull that could keep him from suiting up in Week 7. Needless to say, fantasy owners counting on him haven't been amused.
Meanwhile, there's always the lure and attractiveness of the unknown, in this case second-year runner Montario Hardesty. He was supposed to be the main Browns guy last season after being a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. Then he shredded a knee and missed a year. It's been slow going ever since. He's averaging 3.6 yards on his 40 carries this season.
I'm starting to think fantasy owners won't get much of anything out of Hillis or Hardesty this season. I removed Hillis from Friday's updated rankings, as I don't think he'll play, and marginally pushed Hardesty up a few spots. The Browns are 31st in rushing offense, and I doubt they'll stay ahead of Chris Johnson's 32nd-ranked Tennessee Titans for long.
That's why I saved a spot at the back end of my running back rankings this week for Chris Ogbonnaya, a University of Texas product that the Browns snatched off the Houston Texans practice squad this week. It's one of those transactions few will notice. Ogbonnaya was caught in a number's game in Houston, with Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward healthy enough to dress. Ogbonnaya had a terrific preseason with the Texans while his colleagues were injured, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and ranking third among running backs in rushing yards. He's a capable receiver as well, teaming up with Browns quarterback Colt McCoy when they were Longhorns.
In this weekly Friday sneaky addition blog, we're planning ahead, not necessarily for the pending weekend. It's certainly not outrageous to think Ogbonnaya, chosen late in the 2009 draft by the St. Louis Rams, will get touches this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. Hillis, whose future with the organization is sketchy at best, might not play, and Hardesty is not only brittle (both at the college and pro levels) but just hasn't shown much on the field. The 25-year-old Ogbonnaya leaves a situation with extreme depth to one seriously lacking in it. If you're in a 14-team league or deeper, I'd add him to the bench just in case, because the ability is there, but until perhaps now, opportunity hasn't.
Here are a few other players I'd think about adding now.
Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: I wrote about Jahvid Best and the team's running back situation a few days ago, when we thought Ronnie Brown had been dealt there from Philly. Well, things have changed. First of all, best wishes to Jerome Harrison. It's an incredible story. If he hadn't been traded and needed a physical, perhaps the tumor in his brain would not have been detected. Thankfully, it was. This is a man's life; football becomes irrelevant. The Lions have signed former Eagles running back Eldra Buckley to back up Morris and Keiland Williams this week. Whether you need Morris or not, I would sign him before Sunday, because any starting running back has value, even ones you assume are bad.
Yes, Morris is 31 and Detroit doesn't run much, but the Lions don't know when Best (concussion) will play again. Morris -- owned in only 4.5 percent of ESPN standard leagues -- did have a 100-yard rushing game last season and one the year prior. He scored five touchdowns last season. I don't think you'll ever activate him for your fantasy team and he's obviously not the most sneaky of names, but don't leave him sitting on free agency in case he burns your team for that annual 100-yard game.
Jason Hill, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: It seems that every week me and the other ESPN fantasy writers rank Mike Thomas in the 30s. Look, we did it again! I'm not saying it's necessarily wrong, as rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert should improve as time goes on, but Thomas is actually tied for the team lead in wide receiver fantasy points with Hill. You might remember Hill as the fellow that foolishly called out New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis earlier this season. Hill didn't even play in that Week 2 Jets game, but he's scored touchdowns the past two weeks against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. This doesn't make him a star or even worth considering against the Baltimore Ravens this week, but I am interested to see if this trend continues.
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Chicago Bears: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler really isn't so bad when he gets time to throw the football. That's probably an unpopular opinion, but he's played well the past two weeks and ... well, this isn't about Cutler. It's about his wide receivers. Johnny Knox is doing nothing. We can't count on Devin Hester consistently. Sanzenbacher, the undrafted Ohio State product, has scored three of the four Bears wide receiver touchdowns, even though he has only 17 receptions. Other than Matt Forte, no Bears have more catches. His targets are in line with Hester and Knox too. I don't think we'll suddenly see Sanzenbacher turn into Calvin Johnson, but he's getting red zone targets. In a deep touchdown-heavy fantasy league, I'd consider him. All it takes is one game of seven catches for 80 yards to change the entire dynamic.
Best of luck to all in Week 7 and beyond!