Shanahan's backfield causing more fantasy headaches

Is it time to drop Tim Hightower and add Ryan Torain? -- d2dabo (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: I wouldn't drop Hightower, but it's amazing how much coach Mike Shanahan loves to mess with our fantasy teams! Even during his time with the Broncos, it was almost impossible to get a read on what was going on in his backfield post-Terrell Davis. While good sleepers like Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and Reuben Droughns emerged, we've also been burned by more than our share of Shanahan running backs. Both Mike and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, had glowing remarks about Hightower back in August -- now we have to wonder if he'll even be the starter after Washington's bye week. In fact, Shanahan recently told the Washington Post that he plans to "play the hot guy" between Hightower, Torain and Roy Helu. That's the fantasy football equivalent of your girlfriend breaking up with you using the line "she loves you, but she's not in love with you." Thanks for nothing! Torain, who has shown the ability to be a very solid fantasy option when healthy, needs to be added in most leagues after his huge stat line against the Rams. But be aware that with someone like Shanahan, you never know what will happen week to week.

I'm in a PPR league and need to start two running backs from Ahmad Bradshaw, Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert. It's bye week hell! -- R. Todechine (via Facebook)

M.F.: The runner to bench here is Tolbert. I do like his matchup against the Broncos, but the veteran out of Coastal Carolina is seeing less of a role in the Chargers offense in the midst of Ryan Mathews' breakout season. Furthermore, Bradshaw and Sproles have been better options in terms of their overall level of consistent production. Almost half of Tolbert's fantasy points came in Week 1 (35 in PPR leagues) -- he's averaged 13 points since. On the flip side, Bradshaw is in the top 12 in fantasy points among running backs in these formats. Sproles, one of the more underrated PPR options, is an even more impressive eighth at his position.

Which New York quarterback would you start in Week 5: Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez? -- thebrynprice (via Twitter)

M.F.: Manning is coming off two solid starts in a row, posting a combined six touchdown passes in wins over the Eagles and Cardinals. On the flip side, Sanchez had the old deer in the headlights look while putting up minus-2.94 fantasy points in a loss to the Ravens. So the decision is simple, right? Well, maybe not. Take a look at the matchups -- Manning faces a Seahawks defense that has allowed an average of 14.95 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Not a bad matchup, but not as good as Sanchez's in Week 5. In fact, the Southern California product goes up against a Patriots defense that has allowed the third-most points to opposing signal-callers and just lost their best player, linebacker Jerod Mayo. Also, keep in mind that Sanchez averaged a solid 19.61 fantasy points in the three games before the Ravens wrecked him. Jets coach Rex Ryan might want to go back to the ground and pound offensive attack, but it's going to be hard not to exploit what has been a weak Patriots pass attack. It's a close call to be certain, but I'd take the Sanchize over Manning this week.

I have Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford at quarterback, but I'm in desperate need at the running back position with Hightower, Knowshon Moreno, Tolbert and Michael Turner. What kind of back can I expect to get back in a trade for one of my signal-callers? -- J. Gamez (via Facebook)

M.F.: First off, I would be looking to deal Stafford -- he's been a real superstar, but he doesn't have close to the value of someone like Rodgers. With that said, you should still not settle for anything less than a stud running back in return for the Lions quarterback. Just five players (Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Wes Welker) have scored more fantasy points than Stafford after four weeks. You need to use that to your advantage and go after runners like LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte. If you're unable to acquire a back of that caliber, you should at least land a good runner like Bradshaw or Beanie Wells plus another player -- maybe a No. 2 or 3 wide receiver -- in a potential deal. Again, keep in mind that you are in a position of strength so there's no reason to reach for a trade that doesn't give you back the value you deserve for Stafford.

LeGarrette Blount has a tough matchup against the 49ers this week, but do I dare bench him in favor of Shonn Greene or Mark Ingram? -- B7steonebraker (via Twitter)

M.F.: It's tough to bench a player like Blount, especially after what he did to the Colts on Monday night. So despite the fact that he has a terrible matchup on paper against the 49ers -- no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs -- I still would run him out there in Week 5. That's due in large part to the fact that I just don't trust Greene or Ingram at this point in time. Neither player is even in the top 25 in fantasy points at their position on NFL.com, and their respective matchups (Greene at Patriots, Ingram at Panthers) don't boost their respective values enough where I would consider using them over Blount.

I suddenly find myself with a ton of good running backs now that Arian Foster is at 100 percent. I need to start three of the following five players in Week 5: Foster, Fred Jackson, Willis McGahee, Sproles and Wells. Help! -- I. Vajajiova (via Facebook)

M.F.: As much as I like Sproles, I'd bench him and McGahee in favor of Foster, Jackson and Wells. With Foster back at 100 percent, he's once again a must-start runner in all leagues. And with a matchup against the Raiders and their awful run defense up next, he should post another huge stat line. In his last game against the Silver & Black, Foster went for 189 scrimmage yards and two total touchdowns. Jackson, one of the elite backs in the league to this point, also faces a great matchup against the Eagles and their weak run defense. It's also hard to bench Wells, who's coming off a superb three-touchdown performance against the New York Giants.

Which wide receiver would you add off the Texans roster now that Andre Johnson is injured? -- doc_dad (via Twitter)

M.F.: With the status of Johnson in doubt for Week 5 (and possibly beyond) due to a bum hamstring, Jacoby Jones (98.8 percent) and Kevin Walter (99.4 percent) should both be considered off the waiver wire. And as you can see, both are free agents in most NFL.com leagues. Jones has the most upside, though, and is the Texans wideout I would target. In the final three games of 2010, where Johnson was either limited or out altogether due to a knee ailment, Jones had 17 receptions and averaged a very respectable 78.3 yards per contest. With the Steelers defense in a state of disarray, Jones will have some value as a No. 3 wideout or flex starter.

What do I do with Peyton Hillis? I'm thinking the Madden curse is at work again! I have been offered DeSean Jackson for him straight up. Would you pull the trigger? My other running backs are Chris Johnson, Fred Jackson, Sproles and Joseph Addai. I'm rolling with Calvin Johnson, Santonio Holmes and Percy Harvin as my top three wideouts. -- T. Tankerson (via Facebook)

M.F.: I would pull the trigger on this deal. I wasn't solid on Hillis in the preseason, at least in terms of him maintaining the same level of value he had in 2010, and losing him won't hurt your backfield terribly. You'll continue to start Johnson and Fred Jackson, with Sproles filling in as a potential flex starter. DeSean Jackson will be an upgrade at wide receiver over Holmes, who has been a major disappointment, and Harvin.

I'm in trouble this week due to the byes. Who is the better waiver wire pickup between Isaac Redman and Stevan Ridley? -- unitastheraven (via Twitter)

M.F.: This all depends on the status of Rashard Mendenhall, but I think Redman is the runner to target. He's shown some flashes of potential in limited time this season, and Mendehall's hamstring ailment could limit him -- if he plays at all -- against the Titans. In a best-case scenario, Redman could see 18-22 touches and serve as a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy back.

The Ravens are on a bye this week, so I need to add a defense off the waiver wire. Any suggestions for Week 5? -- L. Moses (via Facebook)

M.F.: The Giants have a great matchup on their home field against the Seahawks, and they're available in more than 40 percent of NFL.com leagues. You can also roll with the Titans, who are facing a Steelers team that has a patchwork offensive line. Tennessee is available in over 90 percent of leagues. Other teams to consider are the Texans (71.9 percent), Cardinals (78.5 percent) and Bengals (98.9 percent).

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

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