Last week's sneaky pickup was a wide receiver I expect to eventually emerge this season based on his own considerable talents, not so much because someone ahead of him on the depth chart gets injured. Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown caught two passes in the opener, but was targeted nine times, so there's good and bad, depending on your viewpoint. There's also talk from Steelers practices that he is, shall we say, raw and unfinished. Hey, in the Friday sneaky pickup blog entry, we're not concerned as much with the pending week; we're thinking a month or two ahead of time.
So this week it seems wise to focus on one of the top handcuff running backs, San Francisco 49ers spark plug Kendall Hunter. Let's be clear: Recommending Hunter to deep-league owners -- and perhaps even standard-league ones -- is hardly an indication that I want or expect starter Frank Gore to get hurt. Then again, Gore hasn't been the healthiest guy. He suffered a season-ending hip injury after 11 games last season, and he hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2006. Gore, 28, is a really good player, a fact proven by his annual status as a late first-round fantasy pick, and the 49ers signed him to a shiny new contract extension and gave him 22 carries in Week 1 ... but at ESPN Fantasy we're all about planning ahead.
Hunter received a mere two carries in Week 1, and while he was listed as the team's No. 1 kick returner prior, clearly Ted Ginn missed that memo. Hey, that's fine. Don't use Hunter on kickoffs. He's fun to watch, though, and had a monster preseason (NFL-leading 231 rushing yards on 6.6 yards per tote), which in itself is rather meaningless unless he gets opportunity; the 5-foot-7, 199-pounder reminds people of Baltimore Ravens stud Ray Rice (5-foot-8, perhaps 210 pounds). Gore looked perfectly healthy in Week 1, but 49ers personnel say Hunter is next in line over Anthony Dixon, and that could certainly come into play at any point. Even if you don't own Gore, it seems to me that finding room for Hunter before something befalls Gore is a wise move.
Let's go by position again to find some other sneaky pickups on my mind this fine Friday, and in general I'm looking at players owned in fewer than 10 percent of ESPN standard leagues.
Quarterback: Last week I mentioned Colt McCoy and Rex Grossman, and each performed well. I'd lean to McCoy, though, if you're thinking of switching up backups. As always, if you own a clear starter like Philip Rivers, your backup is just for the bye week, you hope. Well, compare the schedules of your potential backup options! By the way, I blogged about this more than a month ago, but Vince Young is a capable quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles have many weapons. Michael Vick was hit hard in Week 1. It seems wishful thinking to expect 16 games out of Vick.
Running back: Watching large Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reese do his thing on Monday night, I wondered if he could become the next Mike Tolbert. The main difference is Darren McFadden probably doesn't need the help. But he's not the most durable guy, either. In Tennessee, I think Chris Johnson has another tough week against the stout Baltimore Ravens, but he is healthy. If you want the Titans handcuff, I think Jamie Harper has emerged. And I thought about leading today's blog entry with Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran Kregg Lumpkin, but I just don't believe it, in part because LeGarrette Blount is a top buy-low option for me. Keep Indy's Delone Carter on your short list, too.
Wide receiver: New York Giants third wheel Domenik Hixon caught a few passes in Week 1, and if stud Hakeem Nicks misses Monday's game, Hixon likely will start. Add him now but consider him a Nicks handcuff as well. Most of the wide receivers I'm thinking about this week have immediate value as well as future gains; Brandon Gibson and Dexter McCluster jump to mind. In Oakland, Jacoby Ford is going to emerge eventually, but he's dealing with a sore hamstring. Perhaps former first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey gets opportunity. By Week 15, it could be Terrelle Pryor throwing to him.