The byes are behind fantasy leaguers. Now teams angling for fantasy playoff spots must bolster their rosters in anticipation of the upcoming one-and-done format. Indeed, in one of my leagues, the playoffs begin Week 12, so time is of the essence. Meanwhile, it is not too early (it always is strategic to look ahead a bit) for dynasty and keeper league owners to begin revising rosters in anticipation of 2011. What will next season bring? Work stoppages? An eighteen-game schedule? All such possibilities have fantasy implications. Do not fear this journey–Waiver Wire shall be your guide.
At this time of year, injuries generate the primary impetus for waiver moves, followed at the more fringe positions by match-ups. All teams have completed their bye weeks. Accordingly, there should be far less waiver wire action in the majority of leagues. Still, some quality moves remain, even for owners in shallower leagues.
QB: Shaun Hill, Detroit. Matthew Stafford may miss the remainder of the season. Regardless, he is out short-term after aggravating an injury to his throwing shoulder in Week 9. Stafford’s maladies have created real-world opportunity for Shaun Hill and, in turn, fantasy upside. Hill is familiar with Detroit’s offensive scheme and was a top 12 fantasy QB from Weeks 2-7 when Stafford was out initially. Detroit’s offense includes several strong weapons, including Calvin Johnson, who is among the league’s best WRs.
In addition to Detroit, many NFL teams are operating without their Week 1 starters and two squads–Miami and Cleveland–are trotting out players who began the season third on the depth chart. Other than Michael Vick in Philadelphia, Hill is among the best fantasy QBs who were not Week 1 starters at the position. Fantasy owners playing in leagues permitting or mandating starting two QBs should grab him. Even owners in one-QB start formats might benefit from the depth Hill provides in deeper leagues. Finally, keeper and dynasty league players should give Hill a look. Stafford has been injury prone and Hill could prove valuable in 2011 as a result.
QB: Troy Smith, San Francisco. Another QB on the list of “top fantasy QBs who were not Week 1 starters,” Smith’s arrival as a starter has stabilized the 49ers, who have started winning. Accordingly, the former Buckeye’s role appears cemented for the remainder of 2010. Smith makes an intriguing dynasty and keeper league play as well, given the 49ers plethora of offensive weapons and young, highly-drafted and improving offensive line. Moreover, Smith does offer short-term value; with upcoming games against Tampa Bay, Arizona, Green Bay, and Seattle, Smith projects decently for owners looking to lock-up a position in the fantasy playoffs.
RB: Mike Goodson, Carolina. Goodson rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries and added 13 receiving yards, all against an opposing defense that had no reason to respect his QB and therefore could sell out against the run. While it was a single game, Goodson looked good and likely will continue to see playing time as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are banged up. Moreover, when Carolina’s dynamic duo was healthy they were quite ineffective. Grab Goodson for roster depth and insert him as your flex starter when match-ups dictate.
WR: Mike Thomas, Jacksonville. David Garrard has regained some consistency and his improved play has increased the stock of Jacksonville’s wideouts, as well as TE Marcedes Lewis. Lewis and WR Mike Sims-Walker likely already are rostered in medium-sized and deeper leagues. Thomas, owned in less than 7% of ESPN leagues, should be also. The Jags are using Thomas not only down field, but also on designed runs–he already has eight carries for 98 rushing yards this season. That is real production, not one week of gimmickry gone right. Add his 41 receptions for 531 yards and two TDs (helped, yes by Sunday’s Hail Mary), and Thomas presents real value at the WR position. Indeed, Thomas has more receptions and yardage than either Lewis or Sims-Walker, yet the latter two are owned in over 90% of ESPN leagues, while Thomas is an afterthought. Pick him up.
WR: Vincent Jackson, San Diego. Jackson is out until at least Week 12 but will likely return at that time. Among the league’s elite at the position, Jackson should be in game shape during the meat of the fantasy playoffs. He is a somewhat risky addition, but one with enormous return potential.
WR: Malcolm Floyd, San Diego. Returning from both injury and a bye week, Floyd may be available on waivers even in some deeper leagues. Scoop him up. Reports out of San Diego indicate Floyd could start in Week 11; he would become the Chargers’ #1 WR, at least for a week until Vincent Jackson returns. Floyd is worth grabbing for Week 11 and holding for potential upside moving into the fantasy playoffs.
TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit. Pettigrew somewhat quietly is putting together a strong season. Thus far, he has caught 42 passes for 412 yards and three TDs through nine games. As with all but the few ultra-elite TEs, Pettigrew’s weekly performances have been volatile, ranging from a low of one reception for six yards (Week 1) to highs of eight receptions for 91 yards (Week 4) and seven receptions for 108 yards (Week 2). Significantly, two of Pettigrew’s three weaker performances were when Matthew Stafford was starting (Week 1, Week 9). His best statistical performances occurred when Shaun Hill was under center. Stafford’s apparent season-ending injury marks the return of Hill as the Lions’ starter. While past performance is no guarantee of future success, it certainly is a decent guidepost. Add Pettigrew to solidify your TE depth moving into the fantasy playoffs.
K: Matt Bryant, Atlanta. One rule for adding kickers is to follow hot offenses. The Falcons have been hot and while Bryant has not had an off-the-charts performance, he has produced steadily for owners throughout the season. Closing out the year, the Falcons play four dome games, what should be two decent-weather games (at Tampa, at Carolina), and one “iffy weather” game (at Seattle). Bryant therefore should be a decent play at kicker. With Atlanta in contention for home field advantage, the Falcons will seek every opportunity to win and to score as the season winds down. This mentality might provide even more opportunities for Bryant and his owners. Owner in about half of ESPN leagues, there are decent odds Bryant remains available in yours.
K: Nate Kaeding, San Diego. Here’s another sneaky pick-up that carries some risk but potentially huge upside. Kaeding has been out with an injured groin. Add to this the Chargers’ Week 10 bye and Kaeding very well could be available on your waiver wire. He is owned in a mere 50% of ESPN leagues, a fairly low total given his illustrious status among Ks heading into the season. The Chargers do not always win games but they generally score a lot of points, making their K a decent fantasy commodity. Kaeding could be a welcome addition to fantasy playoff rosters. If a competitor has been impatient with him, now is the time to snatch Kaeding off waivers and make your fellow owners pay.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo. Fitzpatrick has remained relatively solid and steady since wresting the starting QB gig away from Trent Edwards earlier this year. Ironically, Fitzpatrick’s Week 10 statistics were among his poorest of the season, despite (or perhaps because of) the Bills’ victory, their first of the year. He failed to post even 150 yards passing and threw for a single TD. Fitzpatrick’s TD totals have waned in recent weeks–he has not thrown more than one since Week 7’s four-TD explosion. He occasionally can have strong rushing days (two games this year with 40+ yards), but again his rushing is inconsistent. Buffalo has upcoming games against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Cleveland; Fitzpatrick thus presents possible, though limited, upside. Owners need to remember he is out there, but other than in deep leagues, better options probably exist for now.
QB: Colt McCoy, Cleveland. A reader asked about McCoy last week and suggested he was a top 20 fantasy QB. While McCoy is and always has been a winner, real life does not always translate and, at present, I disagree. Still, he is 2-2 as a starter and the four games in which he has competed were against Pittsburgh (L), New Orleans (W), New England (W), and the New York Jets (L, OT). McCoy’s ability to manage the team relatively successfully in these games suggests he may have an opportunity to enter 2011 as the starter in Cleveland. Thus, he has some dynasty and keeper league value. However, even with the rash of injuries to QBs around the league, McCoy is not worth rostering in all but the deepest of redraft leagues. Despite his on-field success, statistically, McCoy has been quite pedestrian, throwing for more than 200 yards only twice and adding a mere two TDs in his four games. He does have a favorable upcoming schedule, but that probably is better news for Peyton Hillis owners than for those owning McCoy.
RB: Keiland Williams, Washington. Mercurial Mike Shanahan, along with the injury bug, certainly is keeping things interesting in the Redskins’ backfield. Fantasy upstart Ryan Torain is dinged up as is long-time starter Clinton Portis, whose Redskins’ career is all but over. Stepping into this abyss, Williams–who has seen off-and-on game action throughout the season–found the end zone on multiple occasions Monday night, including on a reception. Unfortunately, Williams’ playing time is tied to the injury status of Torain and even Portis. Unfortunately, he is part of a Shanahan backfield, meaning chaos will reign. Unfortunately, Washington suddenly is very, very bad. However, owners in deep redraft or keeper leagues should grab and stash Williams as he has upside. Portis surely will not return in 2011 and Torain has a long history of injuries. While Washington very well may address the RB position in the draft, if they do not, Williams could have decent value moving into 2011 especially.
RB: Kevin Smith, Detroit. At this time of year, finding RB value on the waiver wire is like finding actual silver coins in your change. It can happen, but perhaps only does once every five years or so. Smith is no fantasy-world beater, but he has received increased playing time of late as he recovers from last season’s injury. In Week 10, Smith accumulated 60 total yards, 19 rushing and 41 receiving (three catches from among four targets). Without question, Jahvid Best is the top back in Detroit. Smith’s value is capped due to his back-up role; however, he has seen action each game since Week 3 and has carried at least three times while being targeted at least once in the passing game every game in this stretch. Owners in very deep leagues or the truly desperate should keep Smith in mind as he likely is available even in deeper leagues.
RB: Javarris James, Indianapolis. Indy’s backfield has seen more than its share of injuries. Into this M*A*S*H unit has stepped James, scoring three TDs in the last two weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news is he has combined to generate less than 40 yards from scrimmage in those same games. Thus, James’ value is highest in TD-heavy or TD-only leagues and only as long as his backfield mates remain banged up.
RB: Mewelde Moore, Pittsburgh. Teams own Moore in less than 2% of ESPN leagues. That’s crazy given Moore’s growing role in the Steelers’ offense. Yes, he backs up Rashard Mendenhall. However, Pittsburgh has been spelling Mendenhall consistently to reduce wear and tear on the former Fighting Illini standout. Since Week 7, Moore has averaged at least a couple of carries each game; further, other than in Week 8, he has caught at least two passes per game during this stretch. Sunday was his best performance to date, as Moore rushed for 14 yards but added an impressive 79 yards receiving (five receptions). Admittedly, 29 of these yards came on the Steelers’ final, desperation drive. However, Moore deeked and dodged numerous Patriot defenders in making his run after the catch. No, he is not fantasy gold–but he could be if anything happens to Mendenhall. For the time being, Moore could have upside as the fantasy playoffs approach. Keep him on the radar.
WR: Louis Murphy, Oakland. Owners hoping to vulture Murphy have two factors working in their favor–Murphy’s recent injury and the Raiders’ Week 10 bye. Combined, these factors have helped move Murphy off many a radar screen. Despite his maladies, Murphy remains Oakland’s top yardage producer at the WR position. Assuming he returns to form, he could be a sneaky fantasy roster addition come playoff time.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England. One of three brothers all currently playing in the NFL, “Rob-Gro” tallied a TD for each of them in Sunday’s career performance. Before a national audience, Gronkowski grabbed three TD scores among the five passes he hauled in for 72 yards. His Sunday night TD explosion equaled Gronkowski’s cumulative TD performance for the year thus far, so owners should temper future expectations. New England spreads the ball around in the passing attack and rookie Aaron Hernandez generally is acclaimed as the Pats’ best receiving TE. Regardless, Gronkowski–owned in less than 6% of ESPN leagues–bears watching at minimum.
QB: Anyone named “Chad,” Miami. Backup-named new starter, Chad Pennington, lasted one play. Former starter, Chad Henne, did not last the second half. Both Dolphin QBs are now out for the season. Fantasy owners need to find alternatives.
QB: Kerry Collins, Tennessee. Collins will be out several weeks with a calf injury. He likely will miss the entirety of most fantasy playoff sessions and owners therefore should cut him and grab additional help at QB.
K: Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh. Reed was terrible Sunday night, missing a chip shot field goal late in the first half. He now has missed seven FGs this season. The Steelers are inviting other kickers to work out this week and could make a change at the position. Owners in love with Reed might hang tough, but would need to watch closely all Steeler practice reports in case Coach Mike Tomlin makes a change. A more prudent move would be to cut Reed and add a replacement now.
Scott Rozmus is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Goose.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!