Before the season, many NFL observers thought the only thing standing between quarterback Matthew Stafford and superstardom was a clean bill of health.

The third-year Detroit QB has missed half the games in his NFL career with shoulder injuries, but since the start of the 2010 season he's performed at an All-Pro level.

So far this season Stafford has been brilliant, throwing for 977 yards and nine touchdowns against just two interceptions through three games in leading the perennially hapless Lions to their first 3-0 start since 1980.

Stafford still has to prove he can play a full 16-game schedule, but it's safe to say that he's entered the realm of elite fantasy quarterbacks, especially when receiver Calvin Johnson is catching balls. Johnson has hauled in six of Stafford's nine TD passes, and the two are becoming the best QB-receiver duo in the league.

As long as Johnson is healthy, Stafford has reached must-play status. The only way to justify keeping him on your bench is if you also own Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees or any of the NFL's other elite quarterbacks.


• Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (at Ravens): He's yet to rush for even 60 yards in a game this year, and that doesn't figure to change in Week 4 against the stingy Baltimore run defense. Greene is also risky as a flex play in this matchup.

• Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (vs. Saints): Drafted as No. 3 receiver in many leagues, Thomas finally delivered some value by finding the end zone at the end of the first half on Sunday, but it took a monsoon to get him there. The Jags' quarterback situation is bad, and that won't change until rookie Blaine Gabbert gets his feet under him at the NFL level. Until then, Thomas is a risky fantasy play.

• Colt McCoy, QB, Browns (vs. Titans): The second-year signal-caller looks as if he's going to be a nice player in the NFL for a long time. But despite some thrilling moments in the first three weeks, we'd avoid using him against a Tennessee team that boasts one of the NFL's best pass defenses.

Three to start

• Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins (at Rams): St. Louis has the worst run defense in football, and Hightower has been running well ever since landing in D.C. His backup, rookie Roy Helu, makes for a sneaky flex play this week.

• Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders (vs. Patriots): If you haven't been paying attention, the Patriots' pass defense is atrocious, and Moore is an emerging big-play threat. Look for the explosive rookie to post WR2 numbers in this plus matchup.

• Eli Manning, QB, Giants (at Cardinals): Arizona entered Week 3 with the NFL's fourth-worst pass defense after ranking 23rd in that category last year. Manning is coming off a great game against the Eagles and should be good for at least 250 yards and a couple of scores in Week 4.