A truly wacky week of action in the NFL—and a truly unpredictable week in fantasy football—begets a long, hard look at the waiver wire.
There are studs who, remarkably, remain available in a number of leagues. There is a sudden uptick in viable quarterbacks to be found on waivers, while the running back pool is as deep as we've seen all season.
But let's get this out of the way now—one player who won't appear on this list is Washington's touchdown vulture de jour, Darrel Young. Owners who jumped all over Roy Helu after his three-touchdown performance know what I'm talking about.
With three bye weeks remaining, making the right move on waivers could be the difference between the playoffs and a year of heckling at the hands of your league mates. Let me help you pick out the best options for your team.
Notes: All point totals and ownership percentages from ESPN standard-scoring leagues. The Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and New York Jets are on bye this week.
Ownership: 64.3 percent
Analysis: I'm not sure what Zac Stacy needs to do to be owned across the board, but it's pretty ridiculous that he isn't already. The man has 71 fantasy points in the past five weeks—a healthy 14.2 fantasy points per game—and erupted for 178 total yards and two touchdowns this weekend.
There is absolutely no reason why he shouldn't be owned in all formats and started every week. I've been banging his drum for weeks now—go out and get this guy!
Ownership: 41.6 percent
Analysis: Like Stacy, it amazes me that Keenan Allen isn't owned across the board. He now has 65 fantasy points in his last five games, averaging 13 per contest. He's clearly San Diego's No. 1 receiver, as evidenced by his 44 targets in the last five games.
Please, America—add this man if he's available in your league. It blows my mind that he isn't on more rosters.
Ownership: 10.4 percent
Analysis: Barring an injury, I don't think Nick Foles is going to lose the starting gig to Michael Vick again this year. The Philadelphia Eagles need to see what they have in Foles before the offseason so they can decide if they want to draft a quarterback or address other needs.
It remains to be seen who the real Foles is. In starts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, Foles threw for 702 yards, 11 total touchdowns and a whopping 74 fantasy points. Against the Dallas Cowboys, he went 11-of-29 for just 80 passing yards and five fantasy points.
I'm leaning toward him being closer to the former player, not the latter. Remember, in one half of relief duty against the New York Giants, he threw for 197 yards, two touchdowns and accumulated 15 fantasy points. Plus, he hasn't thrown a pick yet.
It's rare you find a player with QB1 potential on waivers. Foles is that rare player.
Ownership: 19.9 percent
Analysis: I'm proud of you, 20 percent of fantasy owners who went out and added Andre Brown in anticipation of Week 10. Well done.
Brown is set to return in Week 10 against a pretty porous Oakland Raiders defense, and should get the majority of the touches, ending the long national nightmare that has been Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis as fantasy considerations.
Brown is a talented runner who scored eight touchdowns and averaged a very nice 5.3 yards per carry last season. He's instantly a flex consideration this week.
Ownership: 4.6 percent
Analysis: It's looking like a pretty good bet that Rashad Jennings will start this week against the New York Giants, after Darren McFadden re-aggravated the same hamstring that caused him to miss time earlier in the season.
That makes Jennings an extremely attractive waiver add. In relief duty against the Eagles, Jennings went off, accumulating 176 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. The Giants have actually been pretty good against the run this season, allowing just 102.3 yards per game (ninth in the NFL), but Jennings' ability to also be a weapon in the passing game makes him, at worst, a high-ceiling flex play.
Ownership: 4.8 percent
Analysis: Don't look now, but in the past two weeks Aaron Dobson has nine receptions for 190 yards and three touchdowns. The New England Patriots seemed to rediscover their passing game on Sunday—having Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back in the fold certainly helped—and now they get the bye week to iron out the remaining kinks.
You might be able to wait until next week on Dobson, but if you are pretty set at wide receiver and want to build depth for the stretch run, go out and grab Dobson this week. It looks as though he's finally earned Tom Brady's trust.
Ownership: 8.9 percent
Analysis: In the three games that Foles has started this year, Riley Cooper has 15 receptions for 347 yards and four touchdowns. In the other six games, he has 10 receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown.
It's pretty simple, folks—when Foles plays, Cooper is a legitimate WR3. With Vick or Matt Barkley under center, he has absolutely no fantasy value. With Foles earning the right to remain the starter the rest of the way, Cooper should absolutely be added this week.
Ownership: 1.8 percent
Analysis: In two starts this season, Case Keenum has 621 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and 41 fantasy points. Not too shabby, right?
What's better, in the next three weeks he has promising matchups against the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. If your regular starter has an upcoming bye or a slate of brutal matchups, Keenum is a very nice backup plan to own.
Ownership: 48.8 percent
Analysis: The Tennessee Titans weren't shy about publicly expressing a desire to get Shonn Greene more involved in the offense, though it only resulted in nine rushes for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Ah, but that touchdown. Greene was brought aboard to be the team's goal-line back, and he should continue to vulture touchdowns from Chris Johnson. If you have the constitution to trust a touchdown vulture from week to week, Greene is a logical addition.
Ownership: 10.6 percent
Analysis: Mike James finally rewarded fantasy owners who scooped him up on waivers after Doug Martin went down with a torn labrum, rushing 28 times for 158 yards and throwing a touchdown on a jump pass at the goal-line this Sunday.
But here's the rub—it's possible that Doug Martin could be back soon, possibly even for Monday Night Football this week.
I still think all Martin owners should own James—and that he should be more widely owned than he is now, as Martin could always be shut down again, or Tampa Bay could limit his usage upon his return—but just know if you add him that the could very soon be taking a backseat to Martin.
Ownership: 57.9 percent
Analysis: Like James, I think Pierre Thomas' fantasy value hinges on whether another player, Darren Sproles in this case, is able to play in Week 10.
If Sproles misses the game due to the concussion he suffered on Sunday, Thomas is an excellent RB2 option. After all, in the past four games he's accumulated 41 fantasy points, a pretty nice haul. Without Sproles in action this week, he registered 88 yards from scrimmage.
He's probably a guy that should be more widely rostered anyway, but with the possibility that he'll receive a larger workload if Sproles is sidelined, he absolutely should be added this week.
Ownership: 1.8 percent
Analysis: You're not going to start Mario Manningham in his return to action against a tough Carolina Panthers defense, but he is definitely worth picking up if you are hurting at wide receiver after he was activated off the PUP list this week.
The San Francisco 49ers have really been hurting at the position opposite Anquan Boldin, so Manningham should instantly have a pretty substantial role in this offense.
Ownership: 34.3 percent
Analysis: I know how muddled the Carolina Panthers backfield is—more on that in a few slides—but Tolbert's role in the offense seems locked and loaded. He's clearly the man the team likes to turn to in the red zone, and Tolbert has turned that role into 45 fantasy points over the past four games.
Even better, he has scored seven or more fantasy points in five of the past six games. At some point, you have to trust the numbers even if you don't like a player's limited role. Tolbert is worth rostering.
Ownership: 25.3 percent
Analysis: It's pretty obvious that T.Y. Hilton became the lead dog in the Indianapolis Colts passing game after Reggie Wayne was lost for the season. But it seems like a pretty safe bet that Coby Fleener is now the second option.
In the past two weeks, Fleener has registered eight receptions for 102 yards, one touchdown and a two-point conversion. He should become a more popular option in the red zone for Andrew Luck, and he has the athleticism to really stretch defenses down the seam.
He's not a TE1 every week at this point, but if you don't have an elite option at the position, Fleener is worth adding to play matchups on a game-to-game basis.
Ownership: 0.9 percent
Analysis: You can pretty much take the Fleener slide but replace his name with Timothy Wright and replace Reggie Wayne with Mike Williams.
Wright has nine receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks, and now looks like Mike Glennon's second option in the passing game behind Vincent Jackson. He's registered nine fantasy points in three of the past four games, and like Fleener will be a low-end TE1 from week to week depending on the matchup.
Seeing how weak the tight end position has been this year, Wright is definitely worth rostering, even if you do so to keep another owner from adding a viable tight end to their starting lineup.
Ownership: 4.2 percent
Every year we end up confused by which running backs in Carolina are worth starting, as the team lives by a running-back-by-committee strategy. With Jonathan Stewart returning this week—carrying nine times for 43 yards and adding a 13-yard reception—that headache now resumes.
I think Tolbert is locked in as the short-yardage and red-zone option, while DeAngelo Williams will presumably remain the starter. But Stewart will get his touches, and should Williams or Tolbert go down to injury, would see his role seriously increase.
I think he's mostly a stash grab for now, but he's definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Ownership: 8.1 percent
Analysis: Marlon Brown has been wildly inconsistent in his rookie year. On one hand, he has five games with seven or more fantasy points and had a big game against the Cleveland Browns, taking advantage of Joe Haden shadowing Torrey Smith to the tune of five receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other hand, in Baltimore's other three games he has just four total fantasy points.
I've had Brown on this list before, and I think he's pretty dramatically under-owned in fantasy leagues. Still, with just three bye weeks remaining, his value is starting to wane. Consider him a high-end WR4 that deserves a spot start in your flex on occasion.
Ownership: 2.4 percent
In his two appearances this season, McCown has throw for 476 yards and three touchdowns, totaling 35 fantasy points. He's looked comfortable running the offense, he's kept Chicago's top weapons involved and, most importantly, he hasn't turned the ball over.
If Cutler isn't able to return this week, McCown is a viable option against the Detroit Lions, especially in deeper leagues. But with Cutler gunning to play, you should probably hold off on adding McCown via waivers and instead grab him as a free agent if it becomes apparent later in the week that Cutler can't go.
Ownership: 1.6 percent
Analysis: Since coming off Tampa Bay's Week 5 bye, Mike Glennon has posted the following output of fantasy points: 18, 17, 15, 15. If nothing else, the man is consistent in his level of production.
I still don't think Glennon is a consideration in anything other than really deep, two-quarterback or dynasty leagues, but at least you know what you are getting in the young signal-caller.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions and muse about the NFL in general. My tweets are like Tom Brady this season—mostly mediocre, but brilliance is just around the corner. Okay, okay, maybe my tweets are more like Case Keenum, whatever...