Frank GoreMichael Zagaris/Getty ImagesFrank Gore projects to have a solid fantasy outing in Week 9 against the Rams.
When people say that San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is done as a relevant fantasy option -- and yes, they're saying it! -- and that rookie Carlos Hyde is about to take over as the main backfield presence, I laugh.

Gore is older than the typical top-20 running back, but I still view him as precisely that, a top-20 running back. He sure didn't look too old when he shredded both the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs for better than 100 rushing yards in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. Now, after a few tough road performances and a bye week, Gore should be in fantasy lineups for a Week 9 home game against the St. Louis Rams. But I suspect he won't be.

I ranked Gore 13th at his position. While it doesn't quite match up with what my colleagues believe, hey, that's OK! It's far better, trust me, if the staff rankings don't match up. It's up to you to decide, and what I'm seeing is a lot of anti-Gore sentiment, which baffles me.

Backfield breakdown entering Week 9 

October, 28, 2014
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videoIt's far from rare that a completely new name is introduced to fantasy owners, even halfway through a season. In recent weeks, several running backs most hadn't heard of or were barely owned in ESPN leagues became real-life, and thus fantasy, factors to various degrees, whether they were rookies like the New England Patriots' Jonas Gray -- profiled in this space last Tuesday -- and the Minnesota Vikings' Jerick McKinnon or third-stringers such as the Jacksonville Jaguars' Denard Robinson and the Buffalo Bills' Anthony Dixon.

Anyway, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Charles Sims in the third round out of West Virginia, the fourth running back chosen after the Tennessee Titans' Bishop Sankey, the Cincinnati Bengals' Jeremy Hill and the San Francisco 49ers' Carlos Hyde, and you need to learn his name.


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videoIt's never too late for NFL players to change the minds of fantasy owners, which is why no top spot in our end-of-season positional and overall rankings is ever truly safe. Players get better, worse, or injured. So it is that the top name in two fantasy positions has changed this week, as extreme performance often dictates adjustment. Nothing against the fellows who fell from their respective top spots, but change is often a positive.

Never be afraid to reassess your fantasy team or the players under consideration for acquisition. We're nearly halfway through the 2014 football season, so enjoy the latest rankings. As usual, the Week 9 rankings will be posted on Wednesday. Enjoy!


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New England Patriots Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRob Gronkowski, left, Tom Brady, center, and the Patriots racked up 487 yards of offense Sunday.
The New England Patriots entered October a complete mess but finish it with the hottest fantasy offense this side of Denver. Coach Bill Belichick's bunch was once 2-2, and for fantasy purposes, quarterback Tom Brady had played himself out of relevance after a four-point effort in a blowout loss against the Kansas City Chiefs on "Monday Night Football." They also didn't have much of a running game, and other than wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski -- both worth owning/activating but hardly carrying fantasy owners -- there really wasn't much to optimistically watch.

Well, that has clearly changed. On Sunday, the Patriots exploded for 51 points in an outstanding romp over the beleaguered Chicago Bears, the Pats' fourth consecutive win. Again, for fantasy purposes, there's quite a bit to like, including the rejuvenated quarterback many had given up on. Here are my "updated" thoughts on Brady and his many weapons entering a significant Week 9 home game with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

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• Brady scored a total of 35 standard fantasy points in the first four games.

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Week 8 flex rankings 

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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LionsLeon Halip/Getty ImagesGolden Tate has risen to top-15 flex status this week, with Calvin Johnson hurting.
Welcome to Week 8 and another flex rankings with some new names and situations to evaluate, and not just in Buffalo. In general you'll see I trust the reliable names with a track record of excellent performance at the top, but acknowledge that some of the underperforming options from the past few weeks -- perhaps all of the 2014 weeks -- aren't worth using to the degree we once believed. Regardless, all fantasy teams are different so do the best you can with your decisions, whether choosing a running back, wide receiver or tight end. And don't choose any San Francisco 49ers or New York Giants, for those clubs are on a bye this weekend.

As always, best of luck to all in Week 8 and beyond!

1. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: When will this amazing streak end? And it is amazing, because no running back has ever started a season like this. Well, I think it continues.

2. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: Don't be swayed by a couple of six-point fantasy outings. This remains a top option and Russell Wilson isn't likely to keep running at this pace.

3. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: That's three consecutive 20-point fantasy efforts. It doesn't matter who he's playing or where.

4. Arian Foster, RB, Texans

5. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

6. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: There's some concern that he suffered a concussion Sunday -- not that it will cost him this week, but that another one would do more damage. That said, I don't really sell high.

8. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: He has achieved double digits in fantasy points in five of six weeks.

9. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: He has done it five consecutive weeks.

10. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: His worst game has featured 84 receiving yards, and now he faces the No. 1 defense in preventing fantasy points to wide receivers. And I ranked him 10th.

11. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins

12. Golden Tate, WR, Lions: Calvin Johnson could still play, and if he does, you bet I move Tate's rank down. It's not being mean, it's the right thing to do. Would still be a top-20 WR, though.

13. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

14. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: Tough matchup against a stingy Ravens defense, but they haven't faced a running back like this in a while.

15. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: Cardinals do a nice job against the run. Eagles have to throw some passes McCoy's way.

16. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

17. Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals

18. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Figures to return to the lineup and yes, he's worth trusting. He's that good.

19. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: Loss of Reggie Wayne helps him a bit, but he was going to have a big game regardless.

20. Ben Tate, RB, Browns: Figures to bounce back nicely against the Raiders. Most running backs do.

21. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: The fact he's sharing touches is only relevant if he's not producing. He is.

22. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles

23. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/AJ MastAhmad Bradshaw has one rushing touchdown and six receiving scores this season.
24. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts: One of the surprises of the season has scored in double digits in five of seven games.

25. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

26. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens

27. Joique Bell, RB, Lions: It's apparently his backfield now, though he's not catching many passes. His owners shouldn't complain.

28. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins: People can't understand it, but it really doesn't matter to me so much which quarterback starts. Not in Garcon's case.

29. Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins

30. Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos: What!?! He didn't score two touchdowns in Week 7!?! He must be awful. (He's not awful.)

31. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings: Give credit where it's due. He's the man for now, though the upside of the offense remains muted because the quarterback hasn't a clue what he's doing. McKinnon will probably get overrated in fantasy circles.

32. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears

33. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins: His owners want to punt, but that's a bad idea. It's not as if he suddenly got bad. Then again, I'm not trading a lot for him, either.

34. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers: Solid rookie campaign continues with no end in sight.

35. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears: Guy on Twitter asked me if he could drop Jeffery for McKinnon. Yeah, sure, go for it. (That's sarcasm.) The four consecutive weeks of double-digit fantasy numbers meant nothing. Seriously, it hasn't been a great season for Jeffery, but perspective is needed.

36. Chris Ivory, RB, Jets: He's so much fun to watch when it's going well. Last week it went well.

37. Steve Smith, WR, Ravens

38. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints: I seem to be the one trusting him more than others, but let's not forget how great he is. And I think he's healthy enough.

39. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: I'd sell high. If the Jets cover that opening touchdown, it's an ordinary fantasy outing. But they didn't.

40. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos: Montee Ball might have to wait until next year, folks.

41. Roddy White, WR, Falcons: Just when his owners wanted to give up, he shines again.

42. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans

43. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

44. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: Not an inspiring return statistically, but the team will give him the rushing attempts.

45. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins

46. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: It's a wise time to buy low. He's talented. Mike Glennon is capable. The schedule gets better.

47. Branden Oliver, RB, Chargers: No Ryan Mathews this week, but the time is coming. I bet Oliver sticks around as relevant.

48. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: He has thrived in Denver before, with four touchdowns in two games there. Look it up.

49. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: I don't think the Eagles pitch a shutout this time.

50. Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesSammy Watkins is coming off the best game of his rookie season, catching nine passes for 122 yards and two TDs.
51. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills: Nobody said he wasn't talented. Quarterback change has helped, for sure.

52. Tre Mason, RB, Rams: So much for the advertised time share. Ah, coaches. You can tell when they're not telling the truth because their lips are moving.

53. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

54. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys: Kind of light on the receptions lately, which is a concern moving ahead.

55. Marques Colston, WR, Saints

56. Trent Richardson, RB, Colts

57. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

58. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks: Celebrated the dumping of his teammate with a signature performance. Just don't expect it each week. Like when the Seahawks are winning.

59. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: He and Steve Smith are sharing targets a lot more lately.

60. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

61. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

62. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

63. Anthony Dixon, RB, Bills: It's easy to say he's not that good and can't put up numbers, but nobody really knows. He has never seen opportunity. It's just amazing how so many people are dismissing him as the stopgap.

64. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans

65. Wes Welker, WR, Broncos: Well, at least he scored a touchdown. But you can see he's not a major factor.

66. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions: Speaking of not being a major factor, wow.

67. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals: If A.J. Green sits, move him up 10 spots. Or 20.

68. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: It's going to take a few more weeks for me to buy in. I'm serious. This isn't some rookie. His track record for causing us pain is immense.

69. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

70. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns

71. Percy Harvin, WR, Jets: Sure, he's a great teammate until he sees a Geno Smith pass fly 10 feet over his head and out of bounds. Invest if you want, but this is not a great situation.

72. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

73. Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens: Has carved out a decent role, and while it's a disappointment, he's got some value.

74. Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears

75. James Jones, WR, Raiders

76. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Kind of hard to believe he's on pace for the best numbers of his career, but it's true.

77. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts: Never thought you'd see this name again, eh? But with Reggie Wayne on the shelf, Andrew Luck needs weapons. Watch Donte Moncrief get them instead!

78. Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons: His season is going wonderfully. Let us know when he rushes for 60 yards in a game. Not likely this week.

79. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jaguars

80. Eric Decker, WR, Jets

81. Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints: The loss of Pierre Thomas shouldn't affect him much.

82. Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers: He just needs Doug Martin to keep underachieving. Chances are good.

83. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings

84. James Starks, RB, Packers: Sure, he's stealing touches from Lacy, but so what, if he doesn't do something with them?

[+] EnlargeDarren Sproles
AP Photo/Michael PerezDarren Sproles may return this week from a knee injury.
85. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: Perhaps he plays, but the bigger story is he hasn't done much statistically since Week 2. Not sure why his owners would activate him.

86. Andre Holmes, WR, Raiders

87. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Who would have thought the loss of Matt Cassel would matter so much?

88. Chris Johnson, RB, Jets

89. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

90. Bryce Brown, RB, Bills: I'd like to see what he could do with a legit chance at regular touches, but I don't see it happening this week. This guy could be forgotten in a month.

91. Travaris Cadet, RB, Saints: This guy could matter, though, if he continues to catch passes and Thomas doesn't return healthy.

92. Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots: Who? Well, he's big and Vereen isn't. Remember the name.

93. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

94. Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots

95. Brian Quick, WR, Rams

96. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Not sure why I ever rank a Panthers running back.

97. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

98. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

99. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans

100. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Cardinals

Others: Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers; Delanie Walker, TE, Titans; Louis Murphy, WR, Buccaneers; Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns; Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings; Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals; Davante Adams, WR, Packers; Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs; Benjamin Cunningham, RB, Rams; Zac Stacy, RB, Rams; Corey Fuller, WR, Lions; LeGarrette Blount, RB, Steelers; Alfred Blue, RB, Texans


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Keenan AllenAP Photo/Lenny IgnelziKeenan Allen still hasn't scored a touchdown this year, but could do so very soon.
Judging by the questions in my Wednesday morning chat session, many fantasy owners not only can't figure out whether to start San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, but if he's even worth owning at all. Allen was a surprisingly productive rookie last season, finishing 17th among all wide receivers in standard scoring, despite doing little the first month. Well, we're well past the first month of the 2014 season and the talented Allen isn't among the top 50 wide receiver scorers in ESPN leagues. There are 175 players with a touchdown reception, but Allen isn't one of them. He is, however, tied for 28th in targets. That creates a buy-low opportunity.

Allen comes off what should have been a more productive Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs when he caught six of his 10 targets for 58 yards and enters this Thursday's game with the Denver Broncos as an undervalued asset. The Chargers throw the ball well. They run the ball well with Branden Oliver. And last season they didn't succumb to the mighty Broncos to blowout losses like so many other teams. In fact, the Chargers won at Denver in Week 13 as Allen scored two touchdowns, and then came close in the playoff loss as Allen scored two more touchdowns, hauling in nine passes for 142 yards. It's foolish to discard Allen because he hasn't scored a touchdown, yet also not wise to expect two touchdowns.


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Backfield breakdown entering Week 8 

October, 21, 2014
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The running back hero in the first New England Patriots game after the Stevan Ridley season-ending knee injury was obviously Shane Vereen. He scored 23 fantasy points, which led all NFL running backs in Week 7.

Vereen did most of his statistical damage with two touchdown receptions, the first early on when the New York Jets simply failed to cover him on what became a 49-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. Otherwise, Vereen seemed ordinary but certainly busy, rushing 11 times for 43 yards, one of them a 17-yarder. Vereen is a good player, but it was another Patriots running back who piqued my interest and perhaps yours as well

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If you think it's tough when your fantasy team loses several players at one position in a given weekend, try being a real team suffering the same fate. I'm guessing it's a bit more problematic. Fantasy owners, however, can generally find intriguing free agents unless it's a really deep league. The NFL is indeed a really deep league. Several players on the waiver wire in most ESPN standard formats moved up quite a bit in the end-of-season rankings this week, either because of opportunity, performance or simply attrition. Perhaps you should check 'em out! Anyway, here are the rankings. As usual, the individual and staff rankings for what should be an awesome Week 8 will be posted Wednesday. Enjoy!


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Four Downs: QB Wilson shows off wheels 

October, 19, 2014
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Russell WilsonAP Photo/L.G. PattersonRussell Wilson rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries Sunday in St. Louis.
Several of Sunday's 100-yard rushers played quarterback in college, which is interesting because one of them is now a running back. We'll get to the Jacksonville Jaguars ' Denard Robinson later, but let's give some love to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for his monstrous 36-fantasy-point performance Sunday.

Sure, Wilson is owned in all leagues, but he was active in a mere 53.8 percent of them, and he didn't exactly play well in the surprising Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Plus, Wilson hasn't been regarded as a must-play fantasy option, though that appears to be changing.

The Seahawks have been in the news this weekend after wide receiver Percy Harvin was unceremoniously dumped on the New York Jets for a draft pick (here is ESPN colleague Christopher Harris' fantasy reaction), and by the way, the Seahawks lost to the St. Louis Rams Sunday 28-26. Don't blame Wilson.

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Week 7 flex rankings 

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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DeMarco MurrayJoe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsIf the mighty Seahawks D couldn't slow down red-hot RB DeMarco Murray, we doubt the Giants can.
Welcome to Week 7 and the latest, greatest flex rankings. This is a list with 100 names ranked -- well, a few more than 100, actually -- of all the best running backs, wide receivers and tight ends for Week 7. We don't care about which round they were drafted in for real life or fantasy, how much money they earn, potential Hall of Fame possibilities or any of that. This is all about their Week 7 statistics, and that's it. And if you're looking for LeSean McCoy and Vincent Jackson -- and someone will be -- note that the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on bye this weekend.

As always, best of luck to all in Week 7 and beyond!

1. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Well, so much for him struggling at Seattle. I see no sign that this amazing season won't continue this week.

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Week 7 ranks reactions: Bench Brees? 

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
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Drew BreesAP Photo/Bill HaberDrew Brees' six interceptions this season are already half of his 2013 total.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees comes off his bye week prepared for his first 20-point fantasy performance of the season, but it's not going to be easy. The Saints travel to play the Detroit Lions, and no team permits fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks and wide receivers than the mighty Lions. The Lions? I know -- it seems strange to type it, too. Not only does Brees face a tough foe, but he won't have the luxury of tight end Jimmy Graham at his disposal, as a shoulder sprain will keep him sidelined. So where does Brees deserve to rank for Week 7?

I admit I considered several quarterbacks seemingly unworthy of ever ranking ahead of Brees to do exactly that this week, but I settled on Brees, the No. 17 quarterback for the season, at No. 10. Colleague Matthew Berry placed Brees 12th. I understand why. I originally did the same. Brees isn't exactly dominating in home games, either, and the Lions completely shut down the similarly awesome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense in Week 3, allowing the quarterback 162 passing yards and 10 fantasy points. The Lions, with an improved secondary and terrific pass rush, have yet to allow more than one touchdown pass in any game, though to be fair, facing Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Orton and Geno Smith the past three weeks isn't exactly, well, Brees.


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Backfield breakdown entering Week 7 

October, 14, 2014
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Not that there was a Curtis Martin or Thurman Thomas lurking in the AFC East entering the season, but now that Knowshon Moreno of the Miami Dolphins and Stevan Ridley of the New England Patriots have seen their seasons end because of serious knee injuries, it opens up opportunity for others to step up. In Miami, Lamar Miller has been doing this. He ranks the best for this division in my rest-of-season rankings entering Week 7, edging out 33-year-old Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills, but don't downplay the upside. These guys enter Week 7 tied with Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers for 14th place among running backs in ESPN standard scoring, and in theory things should only improve for Miller with Moreno out of the picture.

[+] EnlargeLamar Miller
Brad Barr/USA TODAY SportsLamar Miller is averaging a career-best 5.2 yards per carry, and has 15 catches in five games this season.
Miller ending up a top-10 running back is hardly ridiculous now that he's all alone with little competition on the team's running back depth chart. The Dolphins know what backup Daniel Thomas is capable of, and it isn't much. He didn't even make the team entering the season. Miller has provided double digits in fantasy points in four of five games -- has your top running back? -- and he's on pace for more than 1,000 rushing yards, close to 50 receptions and he could reach double-digit touchdowns. There's not a thing wrong with this, especially when it's tough to find 20 reasonable fantasy running backs. While some might overrate Miller's opportunity now, I think he'll just continue to do what he's doing. That's enough.


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Sometimes the top fantasy football teams are the ones that simply avoid the major injuries and get to use the players they hoped would produce. For many teams, however, shredded knees continue to play a significant role in adjusting and determining fantasy football value, as two potential top-20 running backs and a wide receiver who not too long ago was a top-10 option have unfortunately been removed from consideration just in the past day or two. With a few clicks you can scour the waiver wire and replace these players, but remember, it's far worse for them. With that, we move on to the end-of-season rankings through six interesting weeks, with again some new names -- even unproven ones -- rising because of attrition. It has been a theme this season. The Week 7 staff/individual rankings will be posted Wednesday, and flex rankings Thursday. Enjoy your week!


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Four Downs: Surprise 100-yard rushers 

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
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Cam NewtonAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesAfter rushing for 42 yards in his first four games, Cam Newton exploded for 107 yards Sunday.
It's hardly uncommon to see multiple 100-yard rushers in a given NFL week. Houston Texans star Arian Foster got things started positively Thursday night in that respect with 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Dallas Cowboys star DeMarco Murray managed to continue his amazing season in Seattle late Sunday afternoon, but in between there were certainly some new names achieving the feat, including several running backs who were ignored in most fantasy leagues and a quarterback who hadn't done much running at all this season. So let's take a look at the surprising 100-yard rushers, because each one has his own special story, as well as his own upside.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Well, this is a pleasant surprise! Newton entered the road game against the Cincinnati Bengals -- usually a strong defensive squad -- tied for 23rd among quarterbacks in fantasy points, far from the usual production expected. The problem was Newton wasn't running. He had a good excuse; he was dealing with a rib injury and the aftereffects of offseason ankle surgery. But how can a guy who had run 14 times for 42 yards in four weeks explode for 107 yards on 17 carries, including a touchdown on a read-option play that appeared to be a run all along? Newton entered the week outside my top 10 quarterbacks, but after the second 100-yard rushing performance of his career (Week 13 in 2012 was the other), he's headed right back in now that he's healthy enough to run again. What a terrific harbinger this performance was.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: As good as Bernard was as a rookie last season, he didn't rush for 100 yards in a game.

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Week 6 flex rankings 

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
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Marshawn LynchPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesAfter a big game on Monday night, Marshawn Lynch has a nice matchup against the Cowboys.
Welcome to Week 6 and the flex rankings, as we combine the best of the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one tidy top-100 list -- with a few extra names, by the way! -- to aid those of you facing difficult decisions. It's worth noting, whenever you're reading this list, that news will change later in the week, up to and including Sunday morning, so please make sure the players you intend to activate are indeed active. On Wednesday afternoon, a certain Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was carted off the practice field and as of Thursday morning, I left him active and ranked as a starter, though not as well as I previously had, but there will be updates on him and other players. So keep up with the news!

As always, best of luck to all in Week 6 and beyond!


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