Fantasy Focus: Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared Tier A of Ultimate PBR Fantasy had plenty tough decisions for fantasy players.

However, as of late, it has been all J.B. Mauney.

Before injuring his left knee/ankle in Springfield, Missouri, the world leader had gone 4-for-5 in the past two events with two 90-point rides. In comparison, the rest of the Top 5 riders in the world standings – Joao Ricardo Vieira, Kaique Pacheco, Matt Triplett and Fabiano Vieira –  are a combined 7-for-23.

Mauney continues to be a strong fantasy play and, like he showed after nearly breaking his ankle in Nashville, Tennessee, he doesn’t plan on letting these injuries slow him down.

The 28-year-old has a rematch with Past Time in Round 1 on Friday night. Mauney rode Past Time for 85.5 points at the 2014 Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden.

Kaique Pacheco may have the next best matchup when he faces Cowboy Up (6-4, BFTS).

Cowboy Up was ridden by Cooper Davis for 86 points in Billings, Montana, and is 3-3 against known right-handers.

Both Vieiras have gone two for their last six.

Fabiano Vieira had a streak of nine consecutive rides back in August, but he has bucked off four consecutive bulls in September after beginning Thackerville, Oklahoma, 2-for-2.

He faces Sunday Funday (0-0, BFTS) on Friday.

No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira squares off against Texas Ranger. Friday will be Texas Ranger’s BFTS debut after he was ridden by Josh Moorer for 85.5 points at the Touring Pro Division event in Archdale, North Carolina, earlier this month.

Triplett has drawn Al Capone (0-0, BFTS).

TIER B: How will Harris respond?

J.W. Harris knows he needs to put a run together if he wants to have a legitimate chance at winning the 2015 World Championship.

If he can indeed put a run together, it certainly will benefit fantasy players in Tier B.

Harris has struggled to ride consistently this season and he has a 34.92-percent riding average. However, he has a career ride score of better than 85 points in two BFTS seasons.

The 29-year-old faces Nefarious (12-6, BFTS) in Round 1. Nefarious has only been ridden once in his last six BFTS outs, but Robson Palermo (7.48 seconds) nearly rode him in Billings and Chase Outlaw lasted 5.13 seconds in Nashville.

Tanner Byrne will likely be in a lot of fantasy players’ lineups this week because of his matchup with King Buck.

Prior to Pacheco bucking off King Buck in 7.08 seconds in Nashville, King Buck had been ridden in eight consecutive outs. Nathan Schaper, another tall bull rider like Bryne, rode King Buck for 87.5 points in Billings.

Schaper has drawn The Mountain (0-0, BFTS) for Round 1.

TIER C: Can Gay duplicate summer success?

Gage Gay – a Staley, North Carolina, native – takes on Americana (8-5, BFTS) for the third time this year, but the first at the Built Ford Tough Series level.

Gay, who went 2-for-4 in Springfield, Missouri, previously rode Americana for 91.5 points at the Thief River Falls, Minnesota, Touring Pro Division event, and he also was bucked off by Americana in 7.1 seconds at the Bismarck, North Dakota, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.

Another rematch to watch for in Round 1 involves Robson Palermo against Vegas Outlaw.

It will be the third time this year the two have met.

Palermo came up just short (7.25 seconds) aboard Vegas Outlaw in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also was bucked off in 5.75 seconds in Oklahoma City.

Keep an eye on Shane Proctor this weekend as the North Carolina resident will be looking to give his home state a good show.

The 30-year-old has drawn Ward’s Mr. Mustachio (6-1, BFTS) on Friday.

This week’s sleeper pick is Josh Faircloth. The Randleman, North Carolina, bull rider is using his last BFTS exemption and needs a big weekend if he wants to make a late – very late – push toward the World Finals. He is facing a relative unknown bull in Super Man (0-0, BFTS).

BULL POWER: Air Time leads the pack  

The World Champion Bull race will key in on Jared Allen’s Air Time this weekend. Air Time is the only leading contender bucking in Charlotte and brings a 45.07-point average bull score into the weekend.

Other Built Ford Tough Championship Round bulls to consider include Walk Off (44.29 points per out), Sasquatch (44.25 points per out) and I’m a Gangster Too (43.97 points per out).

As Slade Long noted in this week’s In the Bull Pen, Apollo Stripes may be a sleeper pick this weekend. Apollo Stripes is bucking for the first time on the BFTS since last year. However, Apollo Stripes posted three 45-point-or-higher bull scores this summer.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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