Targeting weekly waiver picks is a completely subjective business,
but this column hopes to point out some obvious and not-so-obvious
selections that will help your team from week to week while you
strive to collect fantasy wins, reach your league playoffs, and
win the elusive title that your friends say is out of your grasp.
While I’m just as big a proponent of making trades to bolster
your roster, the waiver wire can be an almost limitless resource
when it comes to discovering fantasy value in strange places. Each
week, I’ll target both offensive and defensive players that
may be available in shallow leagues – sometimes just breakout
stars that eluded your team’s draft – as well as players
who can help your squad that will still be available in many deeper
For my initial column, I’ll focus on guys that your league
owners may have missed on draft day. Feedback
is always welcome.
Off The Top
NYG – Sounds obvious to draft this guy, doesn’t it? Well,
he’s actually been snubbed in some eight- and even ten-team leagues.
I took the younger, less-talented Manning in my 10-team, one-starting-QB
league as a backup for Carson Palmer, and then endured 20 solid
minutes of ribbing from my fellow New Yorkers because I’m a Cowboy
fan and he’s the third Giant that ended up on my squad (Plaxico
Burress and my #2 WR and Osi Umenyora at DL were the other two).
First, I reminded these idiots that he was my backup. Then, I
started picturing Eli getting the confidence he needs to succeed
this season and I started to smile. Now, I’m imagining there are
more leagues out there that left him hanging on the wire following
the draft. His 18 interceptions last season may have left a bad
taste in the mouths of fantasy owners everywhere, but in New York,
where they’ve pinned the hopes and dreams of their franchise on
a 270-pound running back and a guy that’s not even the best quarterback
at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner, fans are especially sensitive.
Eli’s numbers last year could have been better, and they would’ve
been much better had there been any consistency to the offensive
line and its shoddy protection. Look for a nice bounce-back season,
at least 25 TD passes, and less turnovers from Eli in ’07, who
will have nice matchups in weeks 2 and 3 and plenty of opportunities
down the road to shine.
JAC – The mayor is back. He’s a bona fide #2 and a good backup
for your #1, he’s a mobile guy with plenty of experience under
center, and the confidence Jaguars coaches have displayed in dumping
Leftwich and going with him should translate to excellent numbers
on the field. Despite the array of perennial underachievers on
their wideout depth chart, the Jaguars do have a great mix of
options for Garrard, including the electric Maurice Jones-Drew
out of the stacked backfield. He also developed a nice rapport
with WR Ernest Wilford when he took the reins and really locked
in with WR Matt Jones near the end of last season, tossing the
big galoot four TD passes in the final six weeks. He opens up
against Tennessee, a secondary that must be in shambles after
losing Uber-corner Adam “Pacman” Jones to a season-long suspension.
After that, he faces Atlanta – another team that’s had its share
of problems. Those matchups make him an excellent option as a
#2 in the first two weeks and a borderline #1 in bigger leagues.
Jeff Garcia, TB – The way he performed last season in relief
of McNabb, it’s hard to even drop him down here in the middle
of the barrel. But the Buccaneers organization is in a free-fall
since winning the Super Bowl sometime during George W. Bush’s
first turn as commander-in-chief. His mobility has surely faded
a bit since his days in San Fran, he’s behind a much-less-cohesive
line in Tampa than he was in Philly, and he’s got questionable
wideouts, but he’ll be a important player to watch in deeper
leagues because he’s got the rocks to make an impact in
any system – especially one that favors his playing style
like Jon Gruden’s West Coast attack.
SF – I recommended this guy on occasion last season when he
had decent matchups and he didn’t disappoint. He starts off 2007
against the Cardinals in what will most likely be a shootout,
and he’s got a lot of potential for a bunch of big games, especially
if Frank Gore continues his rapid ascent and frees up the Niners’
burgeoning passing game. You could do a lot worse for your #2
QB, sports fans.
Scouring The Barrel
Daunte Culpepper, OAK – If you missed my waiver wire column
last year, I should explain that this category usually features
a variety of players I’m sometimes wary of recommending.
Some are just dudes who are best described as last resorts in
filling out your roster during bye weeks, some are unproven players
who will almost always be available but have the potential to
blow up, and others are old friends who pop up along the way and
remind us of days long past when they were the #1 QB in fantasy
football. I don’t think I need to tell you which category
Mr. Culpepper fits in, and while he’s not even the starter
yet and he plays for one of the worst teams in football, he should
still be on your radar just because of his insanely high ceiling.
If you can afford to carry him on your roster, he could be a great
trump card considering both the Raiders’ schedule and the
fact that he has nothing to lose. Three years ago, the guy averaged
around 30 fantasy points per game – and he had a couple
decent performances in 2005 before suffering the injury that effectively
wrecked 2006 for him. It’s amazing to me that so many folks
were willing to give up on him, especially fantasy owners.
BUF – Another guy that could break out in a big way this season,
Losman has all the tools to post good numbers from week to week,
including a top WR in Lee Evans, a porous defense that forces
the Bills offense to throw a lot, and some emerging cast members
who could help him prove his doubters wrong. He’s a better option
if your league doesn’t penalize for turnovers, but he’s still
not a bad backup to stash away in case he lives up to the potential
he’s shown in flashes over the past couple seasons.
Off The Top
Ladell Betts, WAS – We all know what he did last year in
Portis’ absence, and we all know Clinton’s going to
get hurt again. Even before Portis was injured, Ladell stole goal
line and 3rd down opportunities from him. Honestly, I see Mr.
Betts performing in a similar role to Maurice Jones-Drew in ’07,
with a little less punch. In deeper leagues, Betts is a solid
#3 RB and if he’s available on your waiver wire in just
about any format, he’s a steal.
Thomas, BUF – I just can’t stay away from the A-Train. I drafted
him expecting an injury to McGahee last year and I was validated
in the later weeks of the season. Thomas can catch the ball and
hammer the ball into the end zone and with Marshawn Lynch starting
for Buffalo, he could be a valuable option should the unproven
rookie struggle. He’s not the runner he was when he played for
Chicago, but he might be a solid option as a #3 in deep point-per-reception
NYJ – Leon made it through the draft in my 10-team IDP this
past Friday and it boggles my mind he wasn’t picked up by somebody
who needed a proven runner. He has limited upside and isn’t a
really big guy (5’8”, 202) but I watched him run a lot last season
and he seems to have a good feel for knowing when the holes would
develop and when to bounce it outside. Thomas Jones isn’t the
most talented or durable back under the sun, so Washington’s another
good player to have.
Bennett, KC – If Michael Turner is so highly prized as the
necessary handcuff to LaDainian Tomlinson, why is Michael Bennett
largely ignored in drafts everywhere even though he’s Larry Johnson’s
backup? There’s actually two pretty good reasons. First, the Chiefs
offense has been quite feeble in the preseason, and as we all
know, the backup running back on a crappy team is not a hot commodity.
Second, everybody from Barry Sanders to Tiki Barber is holding
out hope that Priest Holmes has not played his last down in the
NFL. Bennett should see more carries in ’07 and if you listen
to the folks who say LJ is due to break something, he’s in line
for a lot more.
Scouring The Barrel
Pittman, TB – Another guy I love to focus on, Pittman usually
escapes being drafted because he’s on a bad team and he doesn’t
even start. But when given the opportunities, he’s shined. With
Mike Alstott out for the year, Pittman will play more and convince
Jon Gruden he should be in the mix on a regular basis – splitting
time with Cadillac Williams and making the entire running game
Young, DEN – The latest flavor-of-the-month for Mike Shanahan,
Young earned a valuable roster spot and second-string rushing
duties behind Travis Henry with solid outings this preseason,
where he led the Broncos in rushing with 167 yards on 34 carries
for a 4.9-yard average and 2 TDs. Mike Bell has been moved to
fullback and Young, a rookie out of Texas, could have huge value
if Henry’s injury is more serious than previously disclosed. And
if you know Mike Shanahan like I know Mike Shanahan, you’ll reserve
a roster spot for Young if you’ve got Henry.
Keith, RB – DeDe Dorsey got waived bye-bye and for now, this
guy’s Joseph Addai’s top backup. I expect the Colts to pick up
another back soon, but if they don’t, “Kool” Keith would be the
requisite handcuff for Addai.
Off The Top
Holmes, PIT – It always amazes me how a little hype can go
along way, and the only reason I would include Holmes in the waiver
wire column is in the off chance that everyone in your league
refused to believe it. Considering his pedestrian numbers through
the first 13 weeks of last season, it’s a bit ridiculous that
Holmes is being drafted as early as he is in most formats. But
his ’06 finish and Mike Tomlin’s preseason decree that Big Ben
was going to throw a bunch of balls deep this year had fantasy
owners buying Santonio stock like he was the John Jefferson to
Tomlin’s Don Coryell. While I’m still not buying him as a #2,
he’s a solid #3 WR and a developing talent.
Bennett, STL – With Torry Holt at a self-admitted 70-80 percent,
this former Titans playmaker will get lots of looks from Marc
Bulger in an offense where he could explode. He has some competition
for catches, including Holt, Stephen Jackson, TE Randy McMichael
and brittle, 85-year-old Isaac Bruce. But he’s got a huge upside
as the Rams’ third receiver and if your league drafted before
Holt revealed his gimpy status, there’s a good possibility he’s
Curry, OAK – I feel like I’m the only guy who has the confidence
that Ron Curry could be an impact fantasy player in ’07. By all
accounts, the offense is improving, Randy Moss is history and
the quarterback situation is head and shoulders above its insipid
status from last season. Curry finds ways to get catches and he
should improve as the Raiders’ possession receiver this year.
He often goes undrafted in 12-team leagues but he’s a guy that
will be a solid #3 WR all year long easily capable of 75/900/5.
Welker, NE – When things were getting slim in the WR pickings
as last season wore on, I recommended Welker for the not-so-picky.
He was very consistent for the Dolphins and this season he enters
a great situation in New England, where the Pats just dropped
their best 2006 receiver – Reche Caldwell – apparently because
his eyes were too buggy and he was scaring Tom Brady’s newborn.
Regardless of why Caldwell was released, Welker could produce
solid numbers in an offense that won’t discriminate between multi-million
dollar signees (Randy Moss) and everybody else (Donte Stallworth,
Jabar Gaffney, Kelley Washington, and Welker). I wouldn’t start
him right away, but Brady might start finding him on a regular
basis and if his touches start going up, he should be on your
Crayton, DAL – If Terry Glenn’s injury continues to bother
him, you’ll be happy that Crayton is on your team. He’s a talented
receiver that Tony Romo seems to like, making him the best receiving
option besides Terrell Owens right now in Big D that isn’t recovering
from arthroscopic surgery. And should anything happen to T.O,
he’ll get most of the looks.
TE Bo Scaife,
TEN – Vince Young is going to be hurting to find receiving options
this season, and despite Scaife’s limited production in ‘06, he
showed signs of life and many believe he’s poised for a big season.
He’s the backup TE (Ben Troupe is technically still the starter)
and no more than a solid #2 TE at this point, but Young was no
more than a keeper league gem during ‘06 fantasy drafts. Things
are in a stat of flux in Tennessee, and since Vince seems to like
Big Bo, I like Big Bo.
Scouring The Barrel
WR Arnaz Battle, SF – He’s still a heavy sleeper
on a developing offense, but he’s a big play guy that I’ve
liked for years. Stay tuned.
WR Ted Ginn, MIA – A player with enormous upside, Ginn will be
available in most formats. He’s a playmaker-in-waiting and a guy
that might be the smooth slot receiver that Trent Green needs
to succeed in Miami. He’s been fast-tracked by the Dolphins and
the word is that he’s moved ahead of Derek Hagan on the depth
WR Ernest Wilford, JAC – Like I’ve said, he’s
got a nice rapport with Garrard and he’s a decent playmaker.
But wait a while before you start him to see how things shake
out with the Jags depth chart in the first few weeks.
Scheffler, DEN – Many people ignored him on their fantasy
draft day because of his broken foot and status behind Daniel
Graham on the Broncos depth chart. But he and Cutler hit it off
and Graham is just a gloried blocker that sees little action in
the passing game.
Off The Top
Gaither, PHI – An overachiever who finished the ’06 in a big
way, Gaither caught the attention of the Philly coaches and started
from Week 13 on. He’s also one of the main reasons the Eagles
could afford to part ways with locker room leader Jeremiah Trotter
and a solid sleeper available in many IDP leagues.
DB Charles Woodson, GB – Another player who’s gone
undrafted in many IDP leagues, Woodson is still a good tackler
and makes plays that few others can make. The Packers have a steadily
improving defensive unit and Woodson should be in line for lots
of points, despite the long list of non-believing fantasy owners.
Cooper, SD – This mostly unknown, former Maine Black Bear
is the Chargers’ replacement for Donnie Edwards at starting inside
linebacker. Edwards moved back to Kansas City but racked up plenty
of tackles over the years in that slot and scouts are very high
on Cooper, who will be free to take advantage in the middle of
the chaos that Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips cause from the
Ruud, TB – The Bucs coaches think Ruud was tailor-made for
their defensive scheme, and as the starting MLB replacing the
retired Shelton Quarles, he’ll have his opportunities to prove
it. He’s got good size, strength and speed, and scouting reports
say he can handle both the run and pass coverage.
DL Simeon Rice, DEN – Recently signed by the Broncos to
a one-year contract, Rice is a proven performer that gets to the
quarterback on a consistent basis. He’s lost a step or two
over the years, but he’ll be great in the Denver locker
room and could be an impact IDP player on a weekly basis.
LB Angelo Crowell, BUF – Almost inexplicably, he went undrafted
in both my IDP leagues, possibly because he’s had some injuries.
But Crowell is 25 years old and the starting weak-side linebacker
for a defense that will on the field a lot. He’s a solid
all-around linebacker and a defensive playmaker, and the only
hit he take
Scouring The Barrel
Keiaho, IND – Freddy, who played mostly special teams last
year, emerged in camp as a more physical version of Cato June,
who left for Tampa this off-season. He’s starting now and has
been all over the field in the preseason – a good player to put
on your radar as the season gets underway.
DB James Sanders, NE – With Harrison suspended and Eugene
Wilson still recovering from an undisclosed injury (thanks Bill
Belichick) Sanders could be in line for some big IDP numbers.
Keep an eye on him.
Webster, DEN – He’s won the battle for the Broncos starting
SLB, beating out Louis Green for the job vacated when Warrick
Holdman went on IR. He’s had a good camp and he’s an IDP super-sleeper
who could make you look brilliant around week 10.