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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Injuries were the big story in Week 1, with 2007 NFL MVP Tom Brady,
Vince Young, Nate Burleson and a few other stars banged up. Even
some of the guys I mentioned in last week’s column weren’t
impervious to the bug. As always, I’m available by
e-mail for any questions you may have and your feedback is welcome
Off The Top
DET – He’s got big, tall receivers (Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams),
a couple of slot specialists (Shaun McDonald, Mike Furrey) with
mucho upside and useful running backs – including a capable rookie
(Kevin Smith) and a consistent veteran (Rudi Johnson). Consider
him a poor man’s Carson Palmer (’07 version), but at least the
Lions give Kitna time to throw.
NE – Let the competition on the waiver wire begin. Brady’s backup
was 13-for-18 in relief, with a TD pass to Randy Moss and 152
yards. He backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, so
the last time he had a starting gig was in high school. Don’t
be fooled by his inexperience as the #1 guy. He’s capable, knows
the playbook, got his reps in the preseason, looked effective
on Sunday, and will be the starter unless Bill Belichick does
something drastic. If you’re a Brady owner, grab him and use him
as week-to-week matchups indicate favorable results. My Cassel
estimates for the year: 3,095 yards passing, 23 passing TDs, 15
INT, 5 lost fumbles, 2 rushing TDs.
ATL – He threw a TD on his first official NFL throw – a 62-yard
skinny post to Michael Jenkins, and finished 9-for-13 for 162
yds, the TD bomb, and was only sacked once. Good signs from a
talented young QB who’s got four or five nice matchups this season.
He’s suitable as a #2 fantasy QB.
Jackson. MIN – Tarvaris doesn’t have too many quality receiving
options, but he’s pretty nice with Sidney Rice in the red zone
and can throw it long if Adrian Peterson’s effectiveness forces
safeties to cheat up. He’s also got as many favorable matchups
for a #2 fantasy QB as Ryan – five or so.
Scouring The Barrel
MIA – Good matchups, weak arm. It’s the same story with Chad and
his chicken wing, so if you’re willing to take a shot, God bless
ya. He’s no John Elway, but he won’t turn the pigskin over either.
At this point in his career – and with this team – he’s really
no better than a #3 fantasy QB and should only be owned in two-starting-QB
leagues and 16-to-20-team leagues.
TEN – He’s been known to post big numbers on occasion, but the
receiving weapons (aside from Rookie RB Chris Johnson,) just aren’t
there this season. Stay away unless you’re desperate.
CHI – Wins don’t count toward fantasy numbers and he’s only had
a few serviceable fantasy games in his entire career. The Bears
only have a few favorable passing matchups this season and they’re
going to run Matt Forte into the ground.
CAR – Delhomme didn’t have his full complement of receivers in
Week 1, but managed to rack up 23-for-41, 247 and a TD (no turnovers)
in a win against a stingy Chargers secondary. When Steve Smith
comes back, Delhomme wil be that more dangerous. If he’s still
available, you shouldn’t hesitate to scoop him up.
Jeff Garcia, TB – He posted serviceable numbers versus the
Saints – reflective what you’ll get throughout most
of ’08. Reportedly, he’s got a sprained ankle that
swelled up after the game and might keep him out against a feeble
Falcons secondary that yielded 262 and 2 TDs to Jon Kitna and
the Lions. Keep an eye on the injury report, but look elsewhere
if you can.
BUF – Now that the Patriots dominance of the AFC East is uncertain
at best, the Bills have a legitimate shot to win the division.
And while Marshawn Lynch was the focus of the offense Sunday,
Edwards looked good working with embattled receiver Lee Evans
– a reason to bump both of them up your rankings for the rest
of the year.
SF – O’Sullivan had three turnovers (1 INT, 2 fumbles lost),
a problem that might continue as long as the line struggles to
protect him. Granted, the Cards pass rush is one of the most underrated
in the league, but the offensive line will be overmatched against
a majority of its opponents. If they can’t keep the pressure off,
he’s only a viable fantasy option in Weeks 3, 11, 15 & 16 (DET,
STL, @MIA, @ STL).
JaMarcus Russell, OAK – The Raiders are horrendous and even
though Russell posted good numbers (17-for-26, 180, 2TD/0 INT)
and looked decent in the second half, it’s obvious he’ll
have some up-and-down games. Although the Denver secondary is
still pretty damn good, the Silver and Black just weren’t
getting it done through the air in the first half.
Joe Flacco, BAL – Flacco was 15-for-29 for 129 yards in
his NFL debut against the Bengals, (who have serious problems
in the secondary) scoring on a 38-yard run in the game. Auspicious,
yes, but he’s only a #3 fantasy QB until the Ravens offense
opens up the passing game.
Off The Top
CHI – How’s that for a debut? FFtoday senior writer Matt Waldman
once again proves his
genius. The rookie out of Tulane ran 23 times for 123 yards
and a TD during the Bears' big Week 1 29-13 victory over the befuddled
Colts. He also caught three passes for 18 yards and while he’s
only available in a small percentage of deeper leagues, there’s
probably some shallow leagues where owners are considering dropping
a more established name to pick him up off waivers.
TEN – Yes, he’s gone in most competitive leagues, but he’s available
in 46 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and about 10 percent of ESPN leagues.
He’s some kind of offensive weapon, with his otherworldly speed
and the ability to catch a ball on a screen and take it to the
house. He’s still splitting carries with incumbent fatboy LenDale
White, although he’ll probably get about 60-70 percent of the
backfield touches by midseason. He should be owned in all formats
and starting in most – at least as a flex RB/WR.
Sammy Morris, NE – Wow. 10/53/1 from Mr. Morris, and I’m
not talking about Maurice. Is this what it’s going to be
like again this year, Mr. Belichick? Inquiring Maroney owners
want to know. While Belichick makes up his mind who his #1 RB
really is, go ahead and scoop up Sneaky Sammy while he’s
still available – especially in PPR leagues. With Cassel
under center, it’s likely he’ll be featured more in
the passing game like he was Sunday (5/34/0).
Jerious Norwood, ATL – The Atlanta running game seems big
enough for two fantasy backs, but it’s important to note
the 318 team rushing yards came against the Lions. He should be
owned in all 12-team leagues, but he’s still behind Michael
Turner – the man who tallied Week 1’s biggest rushing
Scouring The Barrel
HOU – The rookie out of West Virginia got the bulk of carries
for the Texans –p and while Ahman Green’s a threat to vulture
carries, the guard has obviously changed in Houston. He could
be a viable RB#3 in most formats and will excel if the offense
picks up the pace a bit.
KC – There’s something I like about Mr. Charles’ situation in
Kansas City. There’s really no pressure on him now, and if anything
befalls Larry Johnson, there’s still no expectations for him to
carry the offense. He could be a super-sneaky pickup this early
in the season and could pay dividends in KC’s final few games.
Ladell Betts, WAS – I still think Betts has fantasy value,
even though Portis got all the carries and didn’t yield
to Betts too much on third down. If only they used him like they
did a couple years ago, when the Redskins offense was actually
NYJ – Thomas Jones looked good against Miami, something that drops
Leon’s value somewhere around the 60th spot in the RB rankings.
Until there’s a problem with TJ, you’d be silly to start L-Wash.
Rhodes, IND – If you grabbed him last week, you can thank
me. And if Joseph Addai’s head injury keeps him out for a game
or two, Rhodes will be an even hotter commodity this week. Jump
on him and stay tuned to the injury report.
Fred Jackson, BUF – Lynch ran effectively Sunday and while
Jackson had 10 carries for 31 yards, he didn’t catch a pass
– an area where he was expected to be used more extensively.
Knock him down a few notches on your priority list unless you
have Lynch and need a handcuff.
Lorenzo Booker, PHI – Despite the fact that the Eagles pounded
the Rams, Booker only finished with 5 carries for 9 yards, so
it’s probably going to take a Westbrook injury for Booker
to have any fantasy value.
HOU – Rookie Steve Slaton and veteran Ahman Green – not Taylor
– got all the carries Sunday against the Steelers. With Green
likely sidelined due to an ankle injury, keep an eye on how Taylor
is used in Week 2.
Tim Hightower, ARI – Hightower only had 8 carries for 13
yards, but two of those runs came on crucial 4th and 1 situations,
and the rookie converted both including a goalline plunge that
extended the Cards lead to 10 with 4:22 left in the 3rd quarter.
In addition, he tallied three catches for 21 yards. He should
be owned in all 12-team leagues.
Off The Top
Royal, DEN – This guy will be the perfect compliment to Brandon
Marshall in Denver and his rapport with Cutler is preternatural.
I see Royal as the Anquan Boldin to Marshall’s Larry Fitzgerald.
As I type this on Monday night a few minutes into the second half
(wow, is he having a nice game) he’s still available in 86.3 percent
of ESPN leagues, 88 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, and should be owned
in all leagues after waivers this week. The game just ended and
he finished with 9/146/1. Are you kidding me? Grab this guy NOW.
Gonzalez, IND – It’s possible some folks didn’t draft Gonzalez,
a guy that’s going to get more targets if TE Dallas Clark misses
any action. Pay attention to how the Clark injury plays out, but
taking Gonzalez isn’t bad move even if Clark is active within
a week or two.
Jackson, PHI – While it’s a safe assumption that Donovan McNabb’s
going to spread it around in Philly this season, you have to like
the fact that Jackson stepped up as a rookie in his first game
and caught 6 balls for over 100 yards. It’s a nice start for Jackson,
McNabb and the Eagles. Expect a few more games with 8-10 targets
and a couple big performances mixed in.
TE Anthony Fasano, MIA – He posted an excellent stat line
for any receiver (8/84/1), let alone a TE, and was targeted frequently
by Chad Pennington on Sunday. Parcells obviously adores the guy
and Chad, a weak-armed QB who loves utilizing the quick out and
TE drag to move the ball, should continue go to him a lot.
Jones, JAC – I’m not a big fan, but without Jerry Porter and
with Reggie Williams not quite 100 percent, he’ll be used in the
Jags offense. It’s difficult to know just when to play Matt Jones
and if he’ll keep his head in the game and off the pile of blow
on his SUV’s center console.
Taylor, SEA – Right now, the Seahawks are hurting. Taylor
wasn’t awesome on Sunday against the Bills, but they’ll face easier
secondary units. With the recent season-ending injury to Nate
Burleson, Bobby Engram’s rotten shoulder, Ben Obomanu already
on injured reserve, and TE Jeb Putzier dropping two sure first
downs, Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t really have anybody healthy to
throw to other than Taylor and rookie TE John Carlson out of Notre
Scouring The Barrel
Carlson, SEA – He snagged 4/52/0 and Hasselbeck is quickly
running out of options. He’s worth a look as a TE#3 and he could
end up being a heck of a lot more. He reminds me of Tampa’s Alex
Smith with great hands and a Notre Dame attitude.
WR Ike Hilliard,
TB – Sure, he’s old, and the last time he scored more than 2 TDs
in a season was 2003. He’s also on a team known for its conservative
(if not anemic) offensive style. But Hilliard’s still got some
life in his legs and last year he caught 62 balls for 722 yards.
The TD totals will definitely go up, even if the receptions and
yardage go slightly down.
Rosario, CAR – Raise your hand if you drafted Dante Rosario
in your fantasy league? That’s what I thought. He’ll likely be
used in two-TE sets until Steve Smith comes back, and will be
a solid #2 TE play until Smith returns. But don’t get too excited.
He’s probably not going to catch more than 5 TDs and will struggle
to reach 30 catches and 400 yards – unless something happens to
Breaston, ARI – It appears as though Breaston has passed Jerheme
Urban on the depth chart for now. A 5th-round draft selection
by the Cards last year, the Michigan alumnus is worth monitoring
in 12-team leagues and could provide bigger numbers if anything
happens to Fitzgerald or Boldin.
Rice, MIN – He only 2 catches for 31 yards, but one was for
a score. He was targeted 5 times in the second half… not too shabby
for a #3 WR.
WR D.J. Hackett, CAR – Not a bad game (5/48/0), but the
fumble doesn’t help. And as we mentioned before, there’s
a new TE target in Carolina who sounds like he’s a crazy
Italian Renaissance monk or something.
WR James Hardy, BUF – He wasn’t a part of the action
Sunday, although I only think it’s a matter of time before
the Bills involve the rookie more in the red zone.
Walter, HOU – Walter tallied 3/41/1 – a solid day for the
#3 receiving option on a team that struggled to adequately protect
WR Drew Bennett, STL – I guess there’s a reason he’s
only played two full 16-game seasons in his 7-year career. Apparently
it was too much to expect Bennett could reestablish himself as
a fantasy stud and post 80/1,247/11 like he did in ’04 for
the Titans… a season which included five 100-yard games.
But tendon damage inside his foot in the first game of the ’08
season? As bad as the Rams offense was on Sunday, you should forget
about him for now and consider dumping him if he’s on your
TE Alge Crumpler, TEN – He didn’t click with his QB
in Week 1, but we’ll see how things change with Collins
taking over the reins for a few weeks.
TE L.J. Smith, PHI – Finally – a successful waiver
wire selection that could’ve helped people in Week 1. Smith
reemerged as a favorite target of McNabb with 5/39/1 and should
continue to flourish especially in the red zone.
WR Arnaz Battle, SF – One catch for 16 yards. It’s
tough to recommend playing any SF wideout at this point.
WR Derek Hagan, MIA – A non-factor Sunday, but keep him
on your radar.
Urban, ARI – Passed by Breaston on the depth chart.
Off The Top
DB Rodney Harrison, NE – I’m kicking myself for not
including him in the wire for Week 1, even though I knew he’d
be involved in the New England IDP picture. I didn’t foresee
14 total tackles. The truth is, I’ve been a big fan of Harrison
his entire career and I’ve spoken extensively on his virtues
on more than one occasion. If by some miracle he’s still
available in one of your leagues and you start a DB, go get him.
LB Jonathan Vilma, NO – Once a fantasy stud (173 total tackles
in 2005), Vilma’s descent was related to a combination of
injury, attitude and scheme but was a very rapid one; he only
played in 7 games last year for the Jets. He’s gets a fresh
star with the Saints and could be a viable contributor. He had
a solid Week 1 with 9 total tackles.
LB Channing Crowder, MIA – He’s not the fastest guy
in the world, but he’s got a nose for making plays and if
healthy could continue to post numbers similar to Sundays’
line (7 solos, 3 assists). Don’t expect a lot of sacks,
INTs or other IDP accessories, but 6-10 tackles a game are a pretty
Diggs, CAR – Diggs is a solid veteran and he may be making
more plays with the defensive line shifts Carolina has employed
this season. Keep abreast of situation as it develops, since there’s
a possibility the WLB’s role in the defense has changed with the
loss of DT stalwart Kris Jenkins.
Joseph, CIN – I have a feeling this poor guy is going to see
a lot of action in the Bengals secondary this season. The Cincinnati
front seven is pretty atrocious, and Joseph is a playmaker. In
Week 1 versus Baltimore he had 5 total tackles, 3 PDs and a fumble
recovery that he took 65 yards to the house. Even without the
TD, it was a good fantasy day, but there’s something about DBs
who make big plays that piques my IDP interest.
LB Zach Diles, HOU – I’ll confess, I don’t know
much about him (other than I’ve seen his first name spelled
both Zach and Zac), but I did learn that he matched his 2007 tackle
total of 13 in Week 1. So he’s got my attention. He should
have yours, too.
Scouring The Barrel
DB Kevin Kaesviharn, NO – He beat out free safety Josh
Bullocks for the starting job and should see extensive action
in Saints shootouts. Kaesviharn played well for Cincy last season
and should be a pretty reliable fantasy contributor, if not a
DL James Hall, STL – Holy frijoles – 10 total tackles
from a second-string defensive lineman? As of right now, I’m
still looking for information as to how or why it happened, but
it’s worth noting. Who knows? Maybe Hall’s back on
track and will be playing like he did in his prime for the Lions.
LB Stewart Bradley, PHI – Again – I’ve established
myself as a reliable resource in recommending IDP waiver wire
selections. I’m currently in first place in my 16-team
IDP Experts league (11 defensive starts, no offensive players
AT ALL!) after a big Week 1 where I didn’t benefit from
any defensive TDs. Bradley was all over the place (9 total tackles
– including 2 for a loss, a sack and a PD). Grab him right
away if you still can.
Lenon, DET – What was I just saying? Lenon had just 3 tackles
for a Lions defense that was without a true IDP standout, other
than maybe SS Dwight Smith. Ouchie.
DB Bernard Pollard, KC – While his stat line wasn’t
that impressive, Pollard’s performance Sunday will most
certainly be remembered for the hit that knocked out Brady and
jeopardized the Patriots season. At least I wasn’t lying
when I said “Bonecrusher” would really make his mark
LB Jerod Mayo, NE – 6 solo tackles isn’t spectacular,
but it’s not a bad way to start off your NFL career, either.
Factor in the fact that Harrison hogged most of the tackles, and
it’s a safe assumption that Mayo’s opening week tackle
total was lower than it will average for the entire season.
McIntosh, WAS – A decent game (6 solo, 2 assists) considering
another Skins LB – the ubiquitous London Fletcher – racked up
Dockett, ARI – Last week, I said Dockett would be stacked
as a down lineman in front of Bert Berry in the 3-4, but in a
late camp twist, Berry lost the starting DE/OLB job (the Cards
run a kind of 4-3/3-4 hybrid) to Travis LaBoy. Anyway, his 5 tackles
Sunday isn’t a bad opening sign – he’ll be involved as both a
run-stuffer and pass rusher this season.
LB Gerris Wilkinson, NYG – Just assists and a couple stupid
plays. He still looks bewildered and ill suited for the NFL game.
Stay away for now.
LB Chris Draft, STL – Posted just 2 solos on Sunday in a
game that tested the Rams secondary. If teams start to run more
against the Rams, (and James Hall doesn’t get to them before
the LBs do) his numbers should change for the better. Stay tuned.
LB Vernon Gholston, NYJ – A non-factor in the Jets win over
Miami, Gholston has yet to impress coaches enough to see significant
playing time, if any.
DB Kenny Phillips, NYG – Phillips had 3 solos in limited
action and remains a solid IDP keeper and ’08 sleeper.