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 may still be available in many deeper
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For my initial column, I’ll focus on guys that your league
owners may have missed on draft day – as I did last season.
Feedback is always welcome.
Off The Top
CAR – There won’t be too many leagues where he’ll make it
through the draft, but it’s possible in shallow leagues. He’s
the consensus #17 QB taken in ’08, which makes him a bubble QB
in most leagues. He’ll be playing the first two games of the season
without his favorite receiver Steve Smith, and his other two targets
weren’t with the Panthers in ‘07, although Muhsin Muhammad is
in his second stint with Carolina. Consider Delhomme a premier
fantasy backup with upside and a decent spot-starter if your #1
guy isn’t named Brady, Manning, Romo or Brees.
TB – Garcia’s still getting no respect in the fantasy world,
as he went undrafted in an 11-team IDP league I play in that rewards
quarterbacks who don’t turn the ball over and produce 20+ TDs
a year – a description that fits Garcia pretty well. His upside
is limited because of a weak receiving corps, but I’ve listed
him in this column many times over the past few seasons – from
his days relieving McNabb to his conservative numbers last season
for Tampa – and he’s never truly disappointed. Keep an eye on
the calf injury, which may or may not be a problem the first few
weeks. But remember that he dodged a bullet with Favre heading
to New York and he’s probably going to put up respectable numbers
this season – even if nobody respects him.
BUF – The Bills are usually a much better team than anyone believes,
and the addition of WR James Hardy in the 2008 draft gives them
a viable red-zone target. BuffaloBills.com is reporting that Edwards
(thigh) practiced fully on Sunday and should be good to go for
the opener. He was effective in limited action and the coaches
have shown much more confidence in him than the disappointing
SF – I’ll echo fellow fftoday.com writer Chris
Eakin’s comments on O’Sullivan and admit that won’t be an
immediate fantasy stud, but he’s got to be a step up from Alex
Smith. O'Sullivan looked good in the preseason, and he’s got some
offensive weapons in a Mike Martz offense that’s been known to
produce big numbers.
Scouring The Barrel
Russell, OAK – I wouldn’t normally recommend taking a Raider
QB, but Russell’s got the potential to bring new life back to
this offense with the addition of Darren McFadden in the backfield
and the emergence of veteran Justin Fargas in late ’07. He’s the
starting QB and it’s his job to lose. Temper your expectations
and use his only as an emergency #2, but certainly don’t forget
BAL – The Ravens were obviously high on him coming out of
college, and he’s already the Week 1 starter – albeit by default
with injuries to Troy Smith and Kyle Boller. He’s got decent speed
and agility for a big guy (6-6, 238) and a strong arm that can
make all the NFL throws. He’s a long shot, but that’s what the
“barrel” is for and with his ability to stretch the field a bit
more than Boller, he could open things up a bit for this struggling
Off The Top
Betts, WAS – Most astute Clinton Portis owners should target
Betts, who’s being taken as the consensus #54 RB according to
ADP analysis. But he’s still sneaking through drafts and is only
a minor Portis injury away from repeated effectiveness. Don’t
let him languish on the wire or wait for CP’s knees to give out.
Just grab him and be patient.
NYJ – Leon makes it through a ton of drafts despite his effectiveness
in the Jets offense over the past few seasons. I’ve always admitted
he’s got limited upside because of his relatively small size (5’8”,
202), but if there was a time for him to get his shot as a feature
back, it’s with Brett Favre at QB and starter Thomas Jones running
on what I believe is borrowed time in the NFL. He’s ranked as
the 51st best RB in most drafts, which means he’s a bubble guy
in most 10-team leagues. His value is much higher in PPR leagues.
Rhodes, IND – Rhodes might have some value even without a
Joseph Addai injury, but he’s definitely a legitimate #2 fantasy
starter if anything should befall Addai. He’s familiar with the
offense, there’s still life in his legs, and he’s always been
effective inside the red zone. Don’t miss out on grabbing him
if he’s available.
BUF – Marshawn Lynch is a solid young running back, but Fred
Jackson is supposed to be involved in the passing game and would
be the default starter should anything happen to Lynch. A few
shrewd Lynch owners may have realized this, but not to many judging
by his availability in most leagues. If you’ve got the extra roster
slot, he might pay dividends at some point this season.
Booker, PHI – Taken as the consensus #70 RB since June, Booker’s
the obvious stand-in for Brian Westbrook should the veteran’s
knee issues flare up again and force him to sit. This website’s
obsession with Booker has long been documented by both Waldman
and me, so suffice to say that Westbrook owners should have him
handcuffed to the PPR specialist and other owners should keep
him stashed away if they can.
Scouring The Barrel
HOU – The word’s out on his new status as likely Week 1 starter
for Houston, and his ADP has been rapidly increasing in the past
week. I’m not convinced that any Houston RB is worth having as
a fantasy start except in deeper leagues, but if there’s one to
start the season with, it’s Taylor.
ARI – While I don’t share the same enthusiasm my fantasy peers
have shown for a backup RB on a team that struggles to run the
ball effectively, there’s still a reason Hightower’s been moving
up the draft boards in recent weeks... his ability to punch the
ball in the end zone. He’s probably worth a waiver pickup in deep
leagues and could be worth watching as a roster stash in all formats
if he shows promise out of the gate. Edgerrin James isn’t getting
any younger and Hightower could see more opportunities if he’s
proves effective in the red zone.
Off The Top
Rice, MIN – Folks are snagging Bernard Berrian as the #31
WR and Rice at #44, making him a waiver wire bubble guy in most
8 or 10-team leagues. Personally, I like his upside better than
Berrian, who’s needed the desperation big play to make him fantasy-relevant
the past few seasons. Rice will eventually be the Vikings #1 red-zone
target and should have plenty of opportunities in ’08.
Hackett, CAR – Most fantasy owners are aware of Hackett’s
abilities, although many are even more aware of his frailties.
He’s a definite injury-risk and his value will probably max out
during Weeks 1 and 2, while Smith servers his suspension. Take
action if you are weak at your #3 WR slot and don’t be afraid
to insert him when healthy.
Hardy, BUF – I was big on Hardy before the NFL draft and I’m
even giddier about his role in the Buffalo offense now. Sure,
rookie WRs don’t often pay dividends but Hardy fills a serious
gap in Buffalo's offense and could make an immediate impact. He’s
20-1 on most online sports books to win NFL Offensive Rookie of
the Year and given his size and ability, I’ve laid a small wager
Walter, HOU – Last season, I had Wes Welker listed in this
exact slot. And while I’m not expecting anything Welker-like from
Walter, I still can’t believe this guy’s not being drafted sooner
in most leagues. With fantasy stud Andre Johnson back in action,
I guess it’s easy to forget the #2 WR in Houston last year. Don’t
be that guy. If Walter’s available in any format, he’s worth a
Bennett, STL – For the first time since 1974, the Rams are
without the Reverend Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt is aging quickly.
Bennett has been a very productive fantasy wideout at times during
his career, and should be a good red zone target.
Crumpler, TEN – Vince Young is a highly underrated passer
on an offense with more backfield weapons than receiving standouts,
but Crumpler figures to open things up inside the red zone and
provide a viable downfield threat capable of producing numbers
similar to his days in Atlanta.
Smith, PHI – Still not getting the respect he deserves, although
I can understand why owners would be wary. He’s an oft-injured,
largely inconsistent piece of the Eagles offensive puzzle, but
when healthy he gets plenty of looks from Donovan McNabb. For
now, he’ll make a great backup with tons of upside. So in leagues
where you need two – or should backup your TE because you drafted
Todd Heap – he’s your man.
Scouring The Barrel
Battle, SF – Yes, the 49ers will use a rotation of wideouts
in a billion different formations, and Battle’s only one man in
that diverse mix, but he’s also been a Niner longer than any other
receiver, and will undoubtedly be a leader. I love his big-play
ability, and it’s very possible he outs up circa ’99 Az-Zahir
Hakim numbers in the Martz offense this season.
Hagan, MIA – He’s being drafted in less than half of the leagues
out there and has great upside for the #87 WR taken. Waldman loves
him, I love him, and I’ve got him on a couple rosters to prove
Urban, ARI – Urban signed to a two-year deal, so the Cards
obviously like him in the offense. But he’s nowhere to be found
on most draft boards and even on some cheatsheets, which is surprising.
For now, he’ll be splitting #3 WR duties with second-year WR Steve
Breaston, but Anquan Boldin is a constant health risk and – as
many of you know – hasn’t been a model citizen during the preseason.
Off The Top
Bradley, PHI – Last season, I had Chargers LILB Stephen Cooper
listed in this slot, and he ended up being the 18th best fantasy
LB. Bradley, although he’s a MLB in a 4-3 and not a LILB in a
3-4, could put up similar numbers to Cooper's in ’07 (100+ total
tackles, a couple sacks, INTs and a half-dozen or so passes defensed).
Lenon, DET – After some speculation that rookie LB Jordon
Dizon would start at MLB and Lenon would move to the strong side,
Lenon won the MLB job and should post similar numbers to last
season, when he was the 22nd best LB. He’s available in my 12-team
IDP league that starts a maximum of three LBs out of five IDP
slots, so he should be available in yours.
Pollard, KC – A 2006 second round pick by the Chiefs, “Bonecrusher”
became famous last year in HBOs “Hard Knocks” series for his electric
dance moves and jarring hits. Now he’s projected for close to
100 tackles and could be an important blitzer on these Chiefs
who are without the pass-rushing presence of DE Jared Allen.
Mayo, NE – Last year I targeted LBs Barrett Ruud and Angelo
Crowell in this slot - two guys I was quite high on going into
the season. Ruud, who ended up as the 24th best fantasy LB, was
a legitimate sleeper who broke out in a big way and scored his
highest totals of 2007 in the first three weeks. Crowell, a four-year
veteran at the beginning of last season, took a little longer
to get going but ended up as the league’s 16th best LB. Mayo,
who New England is counting on to make the majority of tackles
as the LILB in the Pat’s 3-4, is a Tennessee product who the Pats
took with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s picking
the brains of Tedy Bruschi and all the skills and character traits
to be defensive rookie of the year.
McIntosh, WAS – “Rocky” didn’t live up to the name or the
numbers I predicted after the first few excellent games he tallied
in ’07, but he should be better with another year under his belt
and another year on the veteran legs of LB-mate London Fletcher.
As long as he remains healthy, he should post effective IDP numbers
for deeper leagues.
Dockett, ARI – I love this guy. He makes tackles, gets sacks,
disrupts plays and generally wreaks havoc on opposing backfields.
He’s also available in most IDP leagues despite a few consistent
seasons. He should be an every-down defender in Arizona who will
rely heavily on his pass-rushing abilities at LDE with Bert Berry’s
switch to LOLB in the 3-4. The Cards will be stacking the left
side with pass-rushers, allowing Dockett even more opportunities
to make big plays.
Scouring The Barrel
Wilkinson, NYG – Wilkinson moved to the starting WLB slot
in the Giants 4-3 after the season-ending injury to DE Osi Umenyiora
which shuffled Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE and Danny Clark over
to SLB. The Giants had hoped to give Wilkinson a shot sooner or
later, but probably preferred it be under calmer circumstances.
In any event, it looks as if Wilkinson will have an opportunity
to post some numbers.
Draft, STL – He’s nowhere to be found on most IDP cheatsheets,
and only had two seasons of fantasy relevance - including a breakout
year in 2003 as Atlanta's starting LB. I grabbed him in my 16-team
Experts league representing fftoday.com because he’s starting
in St. Louis at SLB alongside MLB Will Witherspoon and WLB Pino
Tinoisamoa, and could be a valuable addition in deep IDP leagues.
Gholston, NYJ – Gholston provides value to your fantasy lineup
if he’s listed as a DE and sees significant time over veteran
Bryan Thomas at OLB. He wasn’t very impressive in the preseason,
which solidified Thomas for now in the Jets 3-4, but Gholston
could see more playing time and end up starting if he can establish
himself as an effective NFL pass-rusher... something the Jets
Phillips, NYG – Unlike Wilkinson, he’s not starting for the
Super Bowl champs. Although it might be just a matter of time
before he is. Phillips has drawn comparisons to Brian Dawkins,
Sean Taylor and other former IDP standouts at the free safety
position. He’s been exciting to watch and effective in camp, and
for many rookies, that’s half the battle. In IDP keeper leagues,
he’s definitely worth a grab, but it’s important to remember he’s
going to struggle putting up consistent numbers in the crowded
Giants secondary, where even Sammy Knight isn’t starting.