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Through The Wire - Week 1
9/3/08 Users...
Check out the most popular waiver wire pickups this week across thousands of MFL leagues. Also, quickly see who's available on your waiver wire this week by using the MFL Power feature at FF Today. Just input your league's 5-digit ID number away you go!
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 leagues.

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

Jake Delhomme, 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.

Jeff Garcia, 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.

Digging Deeper

Trent Edwards, 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. 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 J.P. Losman.

J.T. O’Sullivan, SF – I’ll echo fellow 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

JaMarcus 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 about him.

Joe Flacco, 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 offense.

Running Backs

Off The Top

Ladell 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.

Leon Washington, 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.

Dominic 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.

Digging Deeper

Fred Jackson, 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.

Lorenzo 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

Chris Taylor, 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.

Tim Hightower, 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.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Off The Top

WR Sidney 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.

WR D.J. 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.

WR James 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 down myself.

Digging Deeper

WR Kevin 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 roster slot.

WR Drew 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.

TE Alge 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.

TE L.J. 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

WR Arnaz 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.

WR Derek 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 it.

WR Jerheme 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

LB Stewart 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).

LB Paris 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.

DB Bernard 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.

Digging Deeper

LB Jerod 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.

LB Roger 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.

DL Darnell 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

LB Gerris 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.

LB Chris 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 IDP Experts league representing 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.

LB Vernon 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 sorely need.

DB Kenny 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.