Targeting weekly waiver picks is a completely subjective business,
but this column hopes to point out some obvious and not-so-obvious
selections to 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 a big proponent of making trades to bolster your roster,
the waiver wire can be a limitless resource when it comes to discovering
fantasy value. Each week, I’ll target both offensive and defensive
players — sometimes breakout stars that eluded your team’s
draft — as well as players who can help your squad that may
be lurking in deeper leagues.
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Off the Top - Includes my premier
recommendations. These are sometimes players available only in more
shallow leagues, and occasionally guys who are more readily but
are thrust into the fantasy spotlight because of opportunity or
Digging Deeper - Covers the next
tier of quality waiver wire specimens, usually players available
in a majority of online leagues. There are a lot of gems in this
range who can be plucked rather easily.
Scouring the Barrel - Chronicles
the deepest of fantasy adds — and sometimes highlights players
being tacked onto fantasy squads who I don’t have much confidence
in. Make sure you read the fine print.
Each week, I’ll also provide a brief update on the 20-30 players
I covered the previous week. It’s the most accurate, comprehensive
one-stop waiver-wire column available on the Internet, and it’s
only available here at fftoday.com.
Feedback is always welcome,
appreciated and encouraged. I’ll get to as many e-mails as
Note: Each player’s
next four matchups are listed in parentheses ()
Off The Top
Alex Smith, SF (NYG, SEA, @ARI, BYE) – Smith’s schedule
is daunting over the next six weeks, and there is only a couple
favorable matchups for him the rest of the way (@NO in Week 12,
@NE in Week 15 SOS matrix). But the veteran QB (this is his eighth
season in the league) has come a long way since his days as an
erratic signal caller. At the very least, he’s worth acquiring
and using as trade fodder.
Josh Freeman, TB (KC, NO, @MIN, @OAK) – Freeman had a bye
in Week 5 and is available in nearly half of fantasy leagues.
He’s got tremendous upside during the next few matchups
and he’s the lynchpin of an offense that’s been leaning
more and more on his arm. He’s worth serious consideration
for starting duties the next couple weeks and possibly during
the fantasy playoffs when the Bucs head to New Orleans in Week
Ponder, MIN (@WAS, ARI, TB, @SEA) – The Vikings are a team
to be reckoned with and Ponder is starting to develop some impressive
rapport with Percy Harvin. He’ll need more weapons at WR to emerge
as a breakout fantasy star and beyond Week 6, there’s a not a
ton of great matchups on the horizon. But Washington is reeling
after a tough loss to Atlanta and QBs fare well against the Skins.
Those missing Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Drew Brees in Week 6
can do a lot worse than Ponder.
Scouring The Barrel
Russell Wilson, SEA (NE, @SF, @DET, MIN) – Wilson is winning
games and losing fantasy value but next week against the Patriots
might be his time to shine. I like him as a Top 10 fantasy QB
in Week 6.
Brandon Weeden, CLE (CIN, @IND, SD, BAL) – He’s improving,
but Weeden still makes rookie mistakes, turning the ball over
twice deep in Giant territory during Sunday’s loss. I can’t
recommend starting him unless you’re desperate during your
bye in Week 7, when the Browns travel to Indy.
Andrew Luck, IND (@NYJ, CLE, @TEN, MIA) – Luck was the
third-best fantasy QB in Week 5, tossing for 362-2-1 and rushing
for 24 yards and a TD in the stunning win over Green Bay. I know
it wasn’t rocket science recommending him, but sometimes
it’s important to remember to scan the wire in shallow leagues
for bye week casualties and Luck’s ownership rate was only
about 75-80 percent heading into last Tuesday.
Kevin Kolb, ARI (BUF, @MIN, SF, @GB) – Kolb racked up 289
passing yards and lost a fumble but passed to throw either a pick
or TD pass against the swarming Rams defense, a unit that sacked
him nine times. Principal Rooney wants to say that again: “Nine…times.”
Hasselbeck, TEN (PIT, @BUF, IND, CHI) – I didn’t really recommending
starting Hasselbeck against the Vikings (nor will I against the
Steelers), but you’ll need to monitor the Locker injury situation
heading into Weeks 7 and 8, when the Titans have favorable matchups
against the Bills and Colts.
Off The Top
Donald Brown, IND (@NYJ, CLE, @TEN, MIA) – With three favorable
matchups in the next three weeks, Brown should be scooped off
the wire in the 10-25 percent of leagues where he’s still
available. He’s not very active in the passing game, but
he’s the clear No. 1 option in the backfield.
Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (@TEN, @CIN, WAS, @NYG) – Mendenhall
will be a hot waiver wire pickup this week, as it’s clear
he’s running well and can carry the load for the Steelers.
Those who stuck with him since draft day could be well rewarded,
but he’s still available in about 10-30 percent of leagues,
a similar rate to Brown.
Wilson, NYG (@SF, WAS, @DAL, PIT) – Wilson won’t offer any
immediate fantasy help and only had a couple carries in Sunday’s
win, but one was for a long TD run that showed why the Giants
were so giddy about the rookie during camp. If he can turn in
a few decent games and spell Bradshaw without incident, he could
be a valuable commodity by the end of the season, especially if
Andre Brown misses extended time with his head injury.
Green, GB (@HOU, @STL, JAC, ARI) – With Cedric Benson
out of commission (foot), Green accumulated 55 rushing yards on
Scouring The Barrel
Stephens-Howling, ARI (BUF, @MIN, SF, @GB) -
Grant, WAS (MIN, @NYG, @PIT, CAR) – Since Alfred Morris is
running so well and Evan Royster is next on the depth chart, I
don’t expect Grant to contribute much of anything for a few weeks,
but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Mike Shanahan
makes an RB change before Week 9’s favorable matchup against the
Panthers. Grant was active Sunday (one carry for 5 yards) and
makes a smart stash in leagues with deep benches.
Lewis, PHI (DET, ATL, @NO, DAL) –
Hunter, SF (NYG, SEA, @ARI, BYE) – Hunter didn’t find paydirt
in Week 5, but he rushed for a career-high 81 yards on just 11
carries. Until something happens to Frank Gore, however, Hunter
is nothing more than a favorable matchup flex option in deeper
Jackie Battle, SD (DEN, BYE, @CLE, KC) – As expected, Ryan
Mathews emerged from the doghouse and piled up great numbers while
Jackie Battle returned to the sidelines (four carries for 10 yards
and 2-7-0 receiving on two targets).
Joique Bell, DET (@PHI, @CHI, SEA, @JAC) – Bell was on a
bye in Week 5 but could see time against the Eagles.
Brandon Bolden, NE (@SEA, NYJ, @STL, BYE) – A decent game
considering he didn’t reach the end zone and so many other
Pats RBs did, Bolden had 54 yards on 14 carries and one reception
for no yards. Not great, but not terrible either.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Off The Top
Rudolph, MIN (@WAS, ARI, TB, @SEA) – Rudolph had his coming-out
party in Week 3, but he might even put up better numbers against
the Redskins in Week 6. The Washington defense had no answer for
Tony Gonzalez on Sunday and I’d expect the Vikings to use Rudolph
(60-65 percent owned) and the other receivers (see Michael Jenkins
below) a lot if Harvin is blanketed by double-teams.
Meachem, SD (DEN, BYE, @CLE, KC) – It was a nice homecoming
for Meacham on Sunday night (3-67-2), but it’s going to be exceedingly
difficult to predict when he has another game like this. I’m staying
away, but the matchups over the next six weeks (barring the Week
7 bye) are definitely intriguing.
WR Michael Floyd, ARI (BUF, @MIN, SF, @GB) – Floyd is my
hunch play for Week 6, as I think the Cards will do everything
possible to assimilate him into the offense during their assault
on the Bills. With the Arizona running game in doubt, expect lots
of passing yardage in what could become a shootout. He’s
not an every-week fantasy play, but there is some singular greatness
to admire about this matchup.
Henderson, NO (BYE, @TB, @DEN, PHI) – It’s impossible to ignore
Henderson’s big night (8-123-1) against the Chargers, but you
might have to do just that, especially with the Saints on bye
in Week 6 and Lance Moore (and hopefully Jimmy Graham) likely
returning to action the following week.
Scouring The Barrel
Gordon, CLE (CIN, @IND, SD, BAL) – Both Gordon (2-82-2) and
second-year receiver Jordan Norwood (9-81-0) had excellent fantasy
totals against the Giants and could be deep-league flex options
the next couple weeks.
Jenkins, MIN (@WAS, ARI, TB, @SEA) – Like Floyd (above), I
expect Jenkins to be applied liberally (like an ointment) against
the Redskins – a team that’s been struggling to defend opposing
WRs and will likely double Harvin. You read it here first.
TE Scott Chandler, BUF (@ARI, TEN, BYE, @HOU) – The 49ers
squelched any hope the Bills had early and Chandler was limited
to just 4-40-0 on six targets. He also lost a fumble.
Jones, GB (@HOU, @STL, JAC, ARI) – For the second straight
week, Jones turned in a two-TD performance (4-46-2) and was targeted
multiple times in the red zone. His fantasy value hinges on the
health of Greg Jennings, making him either a WR4 (healthy Jennings)
or a decent WR2 with major upside in scoring-only leagues when
the veteran is out.
WR Brian Hartline, MIA (STL, BYE, @NYJ, @IND) – The Dolphins
spread the ball around in their victory over Cincy, with Hartline
turning in 4-59-0. It could be a while before he busts out with
another monster stat line.
WR Andre Roberts, ARI (BUF, @MIN, SF, @GB) – Roberts disappointed
in the Thursday night game with just 5-36-0, but the Rams did
an excellent job keeping Kolb on his back and his receivers out
of the end zone.
Hester, CHI (BYE, DET, CAR, @TEN) – Hester had a couple catches
for 49 yards, but this one was all Brandon Marshall (12-144-1).
Hester could easily be a bye week casualty in shallow-bench formats.
Hixon, NYG (@SF, WAS, @DAL, PIT) – Hixon was solid (5-55-0
on eight targets) in the win over Cleveland, but Victor Cruz hogged
all of Manning’s TD passes.
WR Donald Jones, BUF (@ARI, TEN, BYE, @HOU) – Yeah, well
the Bills didn’t get much going, and neither did the big-play-reliant
Morgan, NO (BYE, @TB, @DEN, PHI) – Marques Colston and Henderson
dominated the box score with Lance Moore out of commission in
Week 5, leaving Morgan without a catch.
Off The Top
LB Stephen Tulloch, DET (@PHI, @CHI, SEA, @JAC) – Tulloch
has been relatively quiet the first few games of the season, but
his 2010 breakout and solid first season in 2011 with the Lions
shows he is capable of fantasy greatness. The next few matchups
indicate plenty of opportunities for the every-down linebacker.
Barron, TB (KC, NO, @MIN, @OAK) – The rookie safety has competed
well with the other playmakers in the TB secondary, and he’s on
the verge of a big breakout. With the Chiefs on the docket in
Week 6, he’ll play a major role in stopping Jamaal Charles on
first and second down and working the middle of the field in the
Williams, BUF (@ARI, TEN, BYE, @HOU) – Williams has value
as a pass rusher during next week’s matchup at Arizona and in
a few weeks as a run stopper when they play the Texans. He’s a
versatile lineman who the Bills will count on to help turn this
defense around, and he’s available in about 75-80 percent of fantasy
Bennett, TB (KC, NO, @MIN, @OAK) – He’s got 3.0 sacks in his
last two games and has a great matchup against the Chiefs in Week
6. Bennett is owned in just 20-25 percent of IDP leagues – a similar
rate to Williams (above).
James, HOU (GB, BAL, BUF, @CHI) –
Scouring The Barrel
DB Mike Adams, DEN (@SD, BYE, NO, @CIN) – Adams has played
well this season and is starting to become a very reliable IDP
contributor. He’s a marginal pickup because of the Week
7 bye, but the numbers are there and he hasn’t relied too
heavily on the big play (34 total tackles, 8 PD).
LB Nigel Bradham, BUF (@ARI, TEN, BYE, @HOU) – The athletic
Florida State rookie had six solo tackles Sunday and if the Bills
defense doesn’t improve, he could see more playing time
in a host of defensive packages, from the base 4-3 to nickels
and dimes. He’s a big hitter and does well in coverage,
making him a decent speculative pickup in deeper formats.
DB Morgan Burnett, GB (@HOU, @STL, JAC, ARI) – Burnett
didn’t explode in Week 5, but he did rack up nine solo tackles,
an excellent total in most IDP formats.
LB Nick Barnett, BUF (@ARI, TEN, BYE, @HOU) – Giving up
311 net rushing yards, I figured that Barnett would finish with
more than four solo tackles, but that’s all he could muster.
DL Robert Quinn, STL (@MIA, GB, NE, BYE) – Cue up the sirens,
because Quinn was the four-alarm hot call of the week, piling
up huge IDP numbers: six total tackles (four solos), 3.0 sacks
and a PD.
LB Larry Foote, PIT (@TEN, @CIN, WAS, @NYG) – Foote was
excellent on Sunday, finishing with eight tackles (five solos)
and two fumble recoveries. Foote is really stepping up his game
in that Steelers defense. Chuckle, chuckle.
DL Brian Robison, MIN (@WAS, ARI, TB, @SEA) – Robison had
three tackles and a sack on Sunday versus the Titans.
Burfict, CIN (@CLE, PIT, BYE, DEN) – Vontaze continued his
relevance with seven total tackles and a FR. He’s probably on
even IDP ground with Rey Maualuga in Cincinnati.