With so many teams on the bye this week, many fantasy owners will likely find themselves in some pretty difficult situations as they try and piece together a patchwork lineup. Luckily, there are some intriguing, under-the-radar names who are still available in the vast majority of leagues.
Although there are few guarantees when it comes to adding guys off the waiver wire, they can deliver some surprising performances on occasion. Even if you have multiple stars on the bye this week, you can still be competitive provided you make some shrewd maneuvers.
Here are three players available in most fantasy leagues who figure to put up some big numbers this weekend.
While nobody considers Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker to be among the league's elite signal-callers, he has made a lot of progress this season.
Locker missed a couple games due to injury this year, but he returned with a vengeance in Week 7, as he threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns against the stout San Francisco 49ers defense. Now that Locker is coming off a bye, he is another week removed from the injury, so he should be poised for a big performance.
Locker also happens to have an advantageous matchup on tap, as the Titans will take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 9. The Rams are only allowing 228 passing yards per game, but they are quite liberal when it comes to passing touchdowns allowed, as they have given up 14 on the season. They are also susceptible to big plays, which plays into Locker's hands due to the fact that he attempts a higher percentage of deep balls than any quarterback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus:
17.1% of the passes Jake Locker has attempted have been deep balls. Most in league. 2nd is Geno Smith (15.8%) & 3rd Colin Kaepernick (15.7%)— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 29, 2013
The Rams' defense largely played well against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8, but they were burned on an 80-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, which ended up being the difference. If Locker is able to make even one big play down the field, it will set him up for a big fantasy day. Locker is getting to the point where he should be on a roster in most leagues, as long as he continues to produce, so jump on him if you need a quarterback this week.
Week 9 Fantasy Projection: 290 passing yards, three touchdowns, one interception and 26 rushing yards
The Atlanta Falcons have performed well below expectations this season, and much of that has to do with injuries suffered by key players, particularly on offense.
Running back Steven Jackson missed a month of action, wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the season and wide receiver Roddy White's status is a crapshoot every week. Because of that, much of the pressure has fallen on the shoulders of quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez, but little-known receiver Drew Davis stepped up in Week 8.
Atlanta was beaten handily by the Arizona Cardinals, however, Davis shined to the tune of five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Arizona defense keyed on Gonzalez, which allowed Davis to work against single coverage for most of the day. That should continue to be the case moving forward.
Assuming White sits out again in Week 9, or is at least limited as he has been all season, Davis is a great option. According to John Paulsen of FantasyPros, Davis played almost every snap for the Falcons on Sunday:
Drew Davis 5-77-1 (7) settling in as Falcons' WR2 with Roddy White still sidelined. Davis played 71/83 snaps on Sunday.— John Paulsen (@4for4_John) October 28, 2013
Davis' matchup may not seem ideal this week, as the Falcons are facing the Carolina Panthers, but Atlanta figures to pass a lot. Carolina is No. 2 in the league against the run, so Ryan will be expected to keep the Falcons competitive. The Panthers allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to move the ball and put up some points in garbage time last Thursday, and Davis could be the beneficiary of something similar in Week 9.
Week 9 Fantasy Projection: Six receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown
If Locker is going to have a huge game, as previously predicted, that means one or more of his receivers will go off as well. And while there may be no defined No. 1 guy in Tennessee, Nate Washington is the most experienced and consistent player among the Titans' receiving corps.
Since he isn't exactly the sexiest fantasy option on a week-to-week basis, he is available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues. In fact, he is owned in just 37.6 percent of ESPN standard leagues.
Which waiver-wire addition will turn in the best fantasy performance in Week 9?
Washington is an intriguing option off the waiver wire this week against the Rams. Golden Tate burned the St. Louis secondary in Week 8, and he didn't exactly enter the game with a ton of momentum. Washington has turned in three sub-par outings in a row since consecutive 100-yard outings, but he is poised to break out, based upon how well Locker is playing. He and Locker have a great rapport, and that will serve them well on Sunday.
There is little doubt that Washington is one of the NFL's most underrated receivers, as he posted perhaps the quietest 1,000-yard season in NFL history two years ago. He's on pace to clear the 1,000-yard barrier yet again this season, and a big game in Week 9 will help him accomplish that. Look for Locker and Washington to connect on at least one deep ball against the Rams' inconsistent secondary.
Week 9 Fantasy Projection: Six receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter