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Through The Wire

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 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 most deeper leagues.


Off The Top

Bruce Gradkowski, TB – There’s probably not too many starting QB’s left on the wire in your league, but plenty of chatter among NFL experts about this 6-1, 220-pound Pittsburgh native, including some pre-season prognostication that looks quite prophetic in hindsight. Our own Matt Waldman touted this guy highly in his 2006 Bold Predictions column, and his analysis of this Toledo product is worthy of a second read, even if you’ve scanned it already.

Waldman’s prescience notwithstanding, Gradkowski’s emergence wasn’t necessarily the result of ONE play, but several vicious hits that fourth-year pro Chris Simms sustained during a loss to Carolina on Sept. 24.

Gradkowski completed just one pass for 16 yards in relief of Simms, but with his deceptive foot speed and pinpoint accuracy on shorter passes, he’s an ideal fit in Gruden’s offense. While he probably won’t win any MVP awards like Rich Gannon, he’s drawn comparisons to the former journeyman QB – who finally found his groove in the west coast system.

Digging Deeper

J.P. Losman – If you didn’t pounce on Losman before, I can’t blame you. But in Buffalo's win over Minnesota on Sunday, the third-year man out of Tulane completed a career-high 72% of his passes (23 of 32) for 222 yards and a TD. He also had no turnovers for the third time in four games and has compiled a 90.6 QB rating so far this season.

The Buffalo passing game is rising from the ashes, and Losman’s spreading the ball around well to Lee Evans, Peerless Price, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish – all capable receivers if not fantasy stars. You could do a lot worse than Losman if you’re looking for a sleeper QB with a decent matchup on Oct. 15 (@DET), or in the month of November (GB, @IND, @HOU)

Scouring The Barrel

Vince Young, TEN – I’m also bringing Vince back to the wire since he probably wasn’t scooped up last week (when he appeared in my updates) or the week before (when I put him halfway down the barrel with Losman). The Nashville media managed to keep Jeff Fisher’s decision to start Young under wraps until just before game time, and by then, fantasy owners had already decided to snag one of the many other QB options that were out there.

Last week I said on Tuesday he was one week closer to his NFL debut, although I didn’t necessarily think it would come against the Cowboys. He’s not ready to rip apart opposing defenses just yet, but this talented young athlete is a no-brainer for keeper leagues and could be a solid backup in deep leagues by season’s end.


Brett Favre, GB – Couldn’t break through against Philly, but plenty of pundits echoed my remarks about his fantasy value.

Matt Leinart, ARI – I thought my recommendation was premature until Sunday evening, when Dennis Green decided for the second time Leinart would be his starting QB. He might eventually be what the team needs to get out of its three-game losing streak, but he hasn’t looked harp just yet.

Mark Brunell, WAS – Gamer. I liked him in Jacksonville and was rooting for him when he took the job with the Redskins. And he could be this year’s version of the aging QB with graying temples and deteriorating skills but improved pocket poise and general composure. See Brad Johnson or Rich Gannon.

David Carr, HOU – Nothing really to add, except that his QB rating’s still over 100 and he’s got a 2006 win under his belt.

Running Backs

Off The Top

Kevin Barlow, NYJ – It’s not often that starting running backs find themselves on the waiver wire, but here’s a guy that is clinging to some. With the Jets’ RBBC approach in jeopardy because of Cedric Houston’s knee injury, Barlow will get more touches and more yardage. He’s established himself as the Jets’ go-to-guy near the goal line, and the team is playing decent football. Don’t let him get by you if he’s available.

Jerious Norwood, ATL – Warrick Dunn’s change-of-pace guy makes his second featured appearance on the wire in the wake of his 6-carry, 106-yard performance against the Cards. He broke a 71-yards Td run on Sunday, he’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry this season, and he’s getting more opportunities because he’s been very effective as a pass blocker.

Norwood slipped to the third round in the 2006 draft, but he’s been a great fit in Atlanta and is always one ligament snap away from being the featured back.

Digging Deeper

Vernand Morency, GB – Ahman Green’s best days are behind him, and he’s always injured. Morency had 26 carries for 99 yards and 6 catches on Monday night versus the Eagles. I don’t think he’ll carry that much every game or find the end zone too many times, but if the pickings are slim, he might be your best option.

Scouring The Barrel

Mack Strong, SEA – He’s really old, he pretty slow, and he’s not getting more than 10 carries a game unless there’s some kind of emergency situation in Seattle. But Shaun Alexander’s injury could continue to keep him out of the lineup following the team’s Week 5 bye, and the Seahawks play @ STL, MIN, @ KAN, OAK, STL, @ SFO, and GB. That means some goal line carries for Big Mack if Maurice can’t shoulder the load.

Stephen Davis, STL – In deep leagues where you own Steven Jackson, it’s probably not a bad idea that you own him too.


Maurice Morris, SEA – The Seahawks abandoned the run and Morris never got a chance to break out, but the aforementioned Seattle schedule could lead to big things for Maurice if Alexander’s X-rays keep showing a crack.

Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX – All I can say is I hope you grabbed him.

LenDale White, TEN – Chris Brown actually played against Dallas despite an injury – a Music City miracle in itself – although he didn’t play that well. Stay tuned.

Michael Robinson, SF – Frank Gore is a fumbler, and fumblers can’t be trusted.

Ron Dayne, HOU – Not a viable option again until week 8, when he could pick up a score or two at Tennessee.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Off The Top

WR Doug Gabriel, NE – Tom Brady’s new favorite target has outshined Reche Caldwell, Ben Watson and Chad Jackson in his first two games with New England. He’s a no-brainer pickup if available, and I know for a fact that in some leagues – his fabulous corn rows are lurking on the wire.

WR Mike Furrey, DET – Mike Martz obviously loves this guy, and uses him a LOT in the red zone. Furrey’s story is great. He was undrafted out of the University of Northern Iowa, played in the XFL circus for the Las Vegas Outlaws, and even spent time in the Arena Football League from 2002-03 with the New York Dragons. Signed by the Rams as a wide receiver, he switched to DB to help out in the Rams’ depleted secondary, utilizing the valuable experience he gained toiling on both sides of the ball in his Arena League stint and eventually getting a starting job at free safety.

The Rams released him, but Martz and the Lions signed him to a one-year deal. It’s really too bad his two scores against the Rams didn’t end up leading Detroit to victory. Everything about this guy, however, screams gamer, and I’d want him on my team if there was an open roster spot.

Digging Deeper

WR Greg Lewis, PHI – Watch the Eagles injury situation closely, because with Stallworth and Reggie Brown hurting, Lewis might be the best receiving threat McNabb has, except for TE L.J. Smith and RB Brian Westbrook. Lewis has one career TD going into Monday night, but had scoring reception of 30 and 45 yards in the win over Green Bay. He’s worth a sniff.

Scouring The Barrel

TE Joe Klopfenstein, STL – Got his first TD against the Lions last week and should be increasingly involved in the offense, especially in the red zone.


WR Braylon Edwards, CLE – Six catches for 75 yards against the Raiders, but even without a score, he’s a solid option.

TE Eric Johnson, SF – The Niners got shut out and so did E.J. But he had three catches of the 13 that San Francisco managed to hold on to, so there’s some silver lining.

WR Roscoe Parrish, BUF – Just 3 catches for 25 yards against the Vikes, and lots of better options out there.

TE Owen Daniels, HOU – No love from David Carr in Week 4.


Off The Top

DB Rashean Mathis, JAX – I can’t ignore this playmaker any longer, and neither should you. In my league’s scoring system, he’s put up 16, 24, 8 and 15 in the last four weeks, showing consistency and the possibility for so much more.

DL Ty Warren, NE – Talk about consistency. It’s not often that defensive lineman put up similar fantasy numbers from week to week, but as a free agent in both my IDP leagues, Warren has tallied 9, 11, 9 and 9. If you have a DL slot you must fill, here’s your guy.

Digging Deeper

LB Clark Haggans, PIT – The oft-forgotton linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4, Haggans has posted decent fantasy numbers at times in his career and in three games this season has 16 tackles, two sacks and an INT. It’s a bit of stretch with so many great LBs out there, but I’d keep an eye on his production, because he seems to be coming into his own.

DB Chris McAlister, BAL – He hasn’t been making tackles, but I have a hunch McAlister will have a big day against the Broncos on Sunday. Sure, he could toss up a goose egg, but sometimes it pays off to swing for the fences, and I know Jake Plummer feels the same way.

Scouring The Barrel

LB Michael Boley, ATL – I don’t consider Boley worthy of a fantasy starter status for the rest of the year, despite the good numbers he’s put up so far. Edgerton Hartwell is on his way back from injury, and Keith Brooking and DeMorrio Williams will be the other starters at LB when Hartwell returns – which could be after the Falcons’ bye week. But it’s worth keeping an eye on Boley and the Hartwell’s repaired Achilles.


LB Gerald Hayes, ARI – Eight more tackles on Sunday.

LB Scott Fujita, NO – Didn’t do squat against the Panthers, but that won’t be the case every week.

LB Chris Draft, CAR – He’s up to 32 tackles on the season after Sunday, when he tallied seven.

DB Sean Jones, CLE – I recommended this guy last week, picked him up myself in one of my leagues, and I’m happy I did. After the bye next week, he faces Plummer (yippee), Pennington (due to throw a couple picks) and Philip Rivers. Did I mention he can tackle?

DB Nick Collins, GB – Just three tackles on Monday night (25 on the year), but he’s up to six passes defensed on the season and will continue to be on the field a lot.

S Chris Hope, TEN – I let you folks know about him after Week 1, and I’m bringing him back to the update list to gloat a little. If I ever lead you astray on some other IDPs, I apologize in advance, but I’ve got no regrets when it comes to this emerging stud.