With the bye weeks in full swing in the NFL, the need to play the waiver wire carefully is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, everyone else in your league is also aware of that fact, which means the pickings are growing slim.
This week, there aren't many diamonds in the rough, but there might be a sapphire or two. At this point, you should either be building depth, looking to handcuff a starter or identifying which player might give you the most value as a spot starter.
It's a tricky business, but I'm here to help.
Marlon Brown is owned in just 9.1 percent of ESPN leagues, which is way too low considering he's now scored nine or more fantasy points in three of four games this season. He's third on the Baltimore Ravens with 23 targets, and he seems firmly entrenched as the team's No. 2 wideout.
There might be some apprehension to add Brown with Jacoby Jones returning to practice this week, but given Brown's production, it seems more like Jones will be the No. 3 wideout in this offense. Brown isn't a must-start by any means, but in deeper leagues he has value during the bye weeks.
The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson reports Brown suffered a strained hamstring against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, so monitor his situation closely.
Surprisingly, Julian Edelman is owned in just 63.4 percent of ESPN leagues, perhaps in part because people assume his role will diminish dramatically once Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return.
One more on New England injuries -- Danny Amendola never had a real shot to play in Atlanta. They're hopeful on Cincy. Nothing concrete.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 29, 2013
Meanwhile, Edelman has scored seven or more fantasy points in three of four weeks, reached double-digit points twice and leads the New England Patriots in targets with 43. He's a flex-worthy option, folks, and, if he's somehow available in your league, should be added immediately.
At worst, Coby Fleener is a high-end TE2, a status he achieved once fellow tight end Dwayne Allen was lost for the year. Fleener has scored double-digit points in two of the last three games, and in standard-scoring leagues, he's the 13th-ranked tight end.
He's only owned in 20.4 percent of leagues, so if you don't mind rostering two tight ends, Fleener is a great addition. The Seattle Seahawks are only allowing 6.8 fantasy points to opposing tight ends per week, so he's a tough play in Week 5, but he should be owned in all formats at this point.
For Darren McFadden owners, Rashad Jennings is a must-add this week. Both McFadden and Marcel Reece went down with injuries in Week 4, and the status of each remains up in the air this week.
From Vic Tafur of The San Francisco Chronicle:
Marcel Reece had MRI on knee, nothing surgical is needed. Allen said too early to speculate how long he & Darren McFadden (hamstring) out— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 30, 2013
Here's more on McFadden, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
Sounds like #Raiders RB Darren McFadden's hamstring injury isn't a major one. We'll see about this Sunday, but he avoided serious injury— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 30, 2013
Given that McFadden could be a go, it's hard to recommend Jennings to be picked up across the board. He was impressive in relief duty on Sunday, rushing 15 times for 45 yards and catching another eight passes for 71 yards, but non-McFadden owners may not be able to roll the dice on a player who may not actually play if the incumbent is healthy.
Add in the fact that the San Diego Chargers give up just 12.3 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week, and Jennings is locked in as just a handcuff for now.
Both of these players remain available in at least 75 percent of leagues and have a nice matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, a team that has given up 100 or more rushing yards three times and 160 rushing yards or more twice this season.
Willis McGahee remains the better player to own, as he received the lion's share of the carries on Sunday (15 to Chris Ogbonnaya's five). Ogbonnaya has established a nice rapport with quarterback Brian Hoyer in the passing game (five receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown), but McGahee is the Browns' No. 1 and is worthy of a spot start this week.
Don't look now, but Brian Hoyer has posted back-to-back weeks of 18 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. He's quickly established strong connections with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, and the starting job may now be his for the taking after he led the Cleveland Browns to consecutive wins.
Now he faces a Buffalo Bills defense that allows 16.5 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per week, and if Hoyer has another big game, he'll surely become a hot fantasy commodity. So the question is, should you jump that gun and add him now?
In 14- and 16-team leagues, he's a clear QB2, and he should also be added in leagues that start two quarterbacks. In 10- or 12-team leagues, it's probably worth waiting another week before rostering him.
If nothing else, he should now be on your radar. On Thursday night against the Bills, we will get a better idea if Hoyer's current level of production is sustainable. Buffalo picked off the Ravens' Joe Flacco five times in Week 5, but the secondary is banged up and it's a short week.
The rookie is starting to figure it out.
He's now tallied 16 or more fantasy points in consecutive weeks, leads the New England Patriots in receiving touchdowns (three) and is second in receptions (15), receiving yards (257) and targets (39). He remains available in 35.8 percent of leagues and is absolutely a must-own at this point with Tom Brady throwing him the ball.
Robert Woods is second on the Bills in targets with 26, has scored seven or more fantasy points in three of four weeks and remains available in 95 percent of leagues.
And here's a stat that should tell you all you need to know about the sustainability of Woods' production in this offense—on Sunday, he played 80 of 84 snaps, while fellow wide receiver Steve Johnson played 69 of 84, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
Woods isn't a starter this week against a good Browns defense, but if you are thin at wide receiver, he's a great addition.
If you're going to own a wide receiver from the Tennessee Titans, Washington is the man to have. He leads the team in receiving yards (332) and fantasy points (44), is tied for first in targets (30) and receiving touchdowns (two) and is second in receptions (19).
He's also posted double-digit fantasy points in consecutive weeks, and this week faces a Kansas City Chiefs team that has allowed 20 or more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in three straight weeks.
But—and this is a big but—his quarterback will now be Ryan Fitzpatrick after Jake Locker went down to injury against the New York Jets. And for that reason alone, I'm keeping him on my radar but targeting the four other receivers already mentioned on this slideshow before Washington.
Ladies and gentlemen, the backfield in New England is officially a minefield for fantasy owners. Here's a comparison of the production from LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden the past two weeks:
- Blount: 23 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown.
- Ridley: 22 carries for 88 yards, three receptions for 32 yards.
- Bolden: Nine carries for 68 yards, six receptions for 44 yards.
If I had to pick one running back to own right now, it would still probably be Ridley. But Blount has looked very good for the Patriots when given his opportunities, and Ridley owners will want to also own Blount and hope one of the two players establishes himself as the clear starter.
I wrote an entire article on Monday about why I don't like Danny Woodhead as a fantasy pickup (unless you are in a PPR league), but I'll just give you the bullet points here:
- In 2010, Woodhead had five weeks with eight or more fantasy points. In 2011, he didn't reach that plateau once. In 2012, he again did it five times. He's not a consistent performer, even if he occasionally dazzles.
- That won't change in San Diego. The temptation will be to compare him to Darren Sproles when he was a Charger. Don't—Sproles is far more talented and dangerous in the open field than Woodhead will ever be.
- Woodhead has 19 carries on the season. Ryan Mathews had 19 carries in Week 4 alone. Woodhead only has value as a checkdown option in the passing game, which means he'll generally only give owners double-digit points—or anything close to it—if he scores.
I understand the temptation to add Woodhead, and there are worse stashes out there. I just have a funny feeling Woodhead will prove to be fool's gold on the waiver wire, once again.
Any C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson owners will want to play it safe and add Tashard Choice this week. Both Spiller and Jackson sustained injuries on Sunday, and while each expects to play on Thursday according to Bills lead journalist Chris Brown, Choice would become a valuable fantasy commodity if neither could go.
He's a purely speculative add at this point, but Spiller and Jackson owners can't afford to ignore him on a short week.
Given his game-breaking abilities—and the fact that he could nab a return touchdown or two along the way—he's worth consideration in deeper leagues as a stash play. He's owned in just 4.9 percent of ESPN leagues.
You might be hesitant to add Garrett Graham to your team, given the fact that he's only the second most-valuable tight end on his own team (behind Owen Daniels), but here are a few reasons you should consider making him your TE2:
- He's scored eight or more fantasy points in three of four games this season.
- He's currently the 12th-ranked tight end in standard-scoring leagues.
And here's a reason you might want to avoid him—he's fifth on the Houston Texans in targets (16), and 18 of his 29 fantasy points have come from the three touchdowns he's scored. If there is one thing that should scare you, it is a tight end in fantasy who is reliant on scoring touchdowns to have fantasy value.
Just ask Kyle Rudolph owners (14 fantasy points this year after finishing 2012 as the ninth-best fantasy tight end, in large part due to his nine touchdown receptions).
In deeper leagues, Graham is a must-own player given his early production. But if you are in the market for a TE2, Fleener should be your first choice, not Graham.
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