- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It was mid-October when underutilized New York Giants rookie running back David Wilson announced confidently that he was a future Hall of Famer, issuing his declaration with little to back it up with. From a football sense, Wilson's rookie year had been disappointing; he fumbled on his second career carry and entered the proverbial doghouse, delivering positive fantasy points in only three contests entering Sunday. Of course, he changed all that on Sunday.
Wilson erupted for an impressive and versatile 28 fantasy points against the New Orleans Saints, breaking the franchise mark with 327 all-purpose yards. The Virginia Tech speedster is currently owned in 40.3 percent of ESPN standard leagues, but after becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards and accumulate more than 200 return yards in the same game, and knowing the durability issues surrounding starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, things will obviously change moving ahead.
A confident fellow to be sure, Wilson's ability hasn't really been in question, but even he admitted he needed to regain the coaches' trust. Bradshaw left Sunday's game because of a knee injury, though he later returned, and Wilson was given the opportunity to run the ball 13 times. With prior goal-line running back Andre Brown out for the season and the team subsequently lacking position depth, plus not knowing Wilson's potential impact, the Giants signed veterans Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin recently. Don't look for them to matter after Wilson sprinted through gaping holes to return a kickoff 97 yards for one score, began the second half with a hard-earned 6-yard touchdown run and then closed the 52-27 rout with a 52-yard scamper.
Sure, the Saints are notably awful defensively, but Wilson is a former track star and is now clearly out of coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse, and his timing was impeccable. It's premature to know if Bradshaw, who has missed time with neck and foot problems this season and now has a balky knee, will play in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, but even if he does, Wilson is finally "in play" for fantasy owners. He was active in only 3.9 percent of ESPN standard leagues for this week, and we shouldn't presume he becomes a reasonable flex choice just yet, but also don't be surprised if the first-round pick and fantasy 13th-rounder in ESPN average live drafts becomes a star, and soon.
Second down: Staying in the NFC East, it's also premature to know whether fantasy's leading scorer will be available next week. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a scary-looking right knee injury Sunday, though an initial MRI showed no significant ligament damage. Phew! Of course, a sprained knee could still keep Griffin, who scored 16 fantasy points against the Baltimore Ravens before leaving the game and briefly returning, from playing next week at the Cleveland Browns. Despite the inspiring and winning relief performance of fellow Redskins rookie Kirk Cousins, if Griffin misses time, there are better, more proven options available in many ESPN leagues, such as Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Third down: The Week 14 bust performance also happened to come from the NFC East, as Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown tortured many fantasy owners by tying them with nary a fantasy point, this after accumulating 53 fantasy points over the previous two games. Brown rushed 12 times for 6 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the Bucs do lead the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed, Brown had lit up the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys for 347 rushing yards and four scores, and LeSean McCoy owners were getting concerned. They're probably not concerned anymore. Brown is about as raw a rookie as can be imagined after not starting a game since high school, but he is talented. There's no moral of this sad story, and the timing in this opening playoff week for many is awful, but Brown could easily light up the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night. Most of those who own him (85.2 percent) activated him (72.1 percent) in Week 14, and they shouldn't overreact by jumping off the bandwagon in Week 15. Unless McCoy unexpectedly returns from his concussion, Brown will be right back in my top 20 rankings.
Fourth down: There was actual fantasy-relevant news in other divisions, too. Let's focus on two previously elite wide receivers, each getting quarterback upgrades Sunday. For Arizona Cardinals nice guy Larry Fitzgerald, the return of John Skelton to starting quarterback (an astounding minus-8 fantasy points!) clearly didn't help him as he scored zero fantasy points. He now has not exceeded three points since Week 9. Incredibly, over the past four games, Fitzgerald has as many receptions as Cardinals quarterbacks (Skelton and Ryan Lindley) have interceptions on merely his targets alone. On Sunday, Skelton and Lindley were 1-for-11 for 2 yards and three picks when targeting Fitzgerald.
Then there's Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned from missing three games with shoulder woes to total 18 fantasy points on 285 passing yards and three touchdown passes. Sure, quite a bit of the fantasy success came trailing by a considerable margin in an eventual loss to the San Diego Chargers, but it all counts, especially for those relying on Wallace. He entered play having scored four fantasy points the previous three weeks combined, but with Roethlisberger looking his way often, Wallace led all wide receivers (entering Sunday night) for the week with 23 fantasy points on 112 receiving yards and two touchdowns. If only Fitzgerald had a quarterback like Roethlisberger. Wallace will return to WR2 status this week, while Fitzgerald certainly does not.
Eric Karabell discusses the fantasy highlights (David Wilson, Mike Wallace) and lowlights (Bryce Brown, Larry Fitzgerald) from Sunday's games.