It is that time of year again, baseball is sliding into mid-season and that means it is time to start ramping up your football prep in anticipation of your upcoming fantasy drafts. I just finished my first real draft of the year, and I will admit up front I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked to have been going in. But again, that's what early drafts are for, to give us a sense of how the player pool is forming, which way certain players are trending and of course helping us identify which players we want to eventually target as we look to build our draft lists. Here is an early look at some of my sleeper picks for the upcoming season. When I look to identify sleepers, I mostly look for players I think can significantly out-perform their likely cost on draft day. As the season approaches, we'll talk about some other players as more news and names emerge before settling in for another season of writing the Waiver Wire Report each and every week during the regular season.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – I really believe that this is the year that Sam Bradford steps up and at least joins the conversation of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Rams went out and added lots of playmakers this off-season, giving Bradford the best supporting cast he’s had yet. This is the year he’ll finally put it all together, and I believe he’ll top 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns for the first time.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins – With all the success of last year’s rookie quarterback class, Ryan Tannehill’s quality season kind of got lost in the shuffle. Mike Wallace is a huge upgrade as the top WR, and lets sure-handed Brian Hartline slide down into a more suitable role in the offense. Dustin Keller brings more athleticism as the new starting TE. Tannehill will be a quality backup QB at a bargain price, one whose game will improve in every facet this year. His age and his running ability make him an intriguing option over some of the aging and injury-prone options available late in drafts.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins said goodbye to Reggie Bush, which opens the door for the second-year back to take the starting job and run with it. Daniel Thomas is still around, but his lackluster play has me banking on Miller becoming the workhorse back in an improving offense. In a recent draft, Miller came off the board in the late-third round, as the 22nd RB chosen. If you are picking near the end of the first round and decide to grab a top WR or TE, then Miller could be the answer as a solid RB2 with upside.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – For rookie running backs, the key to early success can often come down to opportunity rather than pure skills. Bell is my pick to be the top rookie runner this year mainly due to the team he landed on and the opportunity that he has in front of him. He shouldn’t have too much trouble pushing past Jonathan Dwyer and Issac Redman for the starting job on a team that knows how to use a big, punishing runner like Bell. He’s also a pretty good pass-catcher, so he has a chance to become a real workhorse as the year progresses.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots– The Patriots running back had a coming out party of sorts in the playoff victory against the Houston Texans last year when he tallied three touchdowns, with most of his damage coming in the passing game. Danny Woodhead is with the Chargers now, so Vereen will take over as the primary third-down back in Bill Belichick’s offense, and that means production. Stevan Ridley is still the top dog, but that will just serve to keep Vereen’s draft-day price muted. He’s a RB3 with upside, even more so in PPR leagues.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers – This one isn’t really that complicated. Mike Wallace has departed for Miami and Sanders will take over as Ben Rothlisberger’s primary deep threat for 2013. In his three years in Pittsburgh, he’s never scored more than two touchdowns in any season. That number will easily be eclipsed this year, as he will become a focal point of Todd Haley’s offense. He’s an ideal WR4 with upside.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans – Wright will look to build on a very solid rookie season where his 64 receptions were tied for the most among rookies. He should continue to emerge this year and will end up becoming Jake Locker’s favorite target by year’s end. The loss of Jared Cook and the fragility of Kenny Britt and Nate Washington will provide Hunter plenty of opportunities to take a big step forward this year.
Brandon Myers, New York Giants – Myers comes over to the Giants after a somewhat under-the-radar breakout last year for the Oakland Raiders. His 79 receptions last year ranked fourth among tight ends, and now he gets to take his game to a much better offense and a team that always likes to get their tight ends involved. His lack of a proven track record has him sliding in drafts, making him an ideal target if you like to wait on drafting your tight ends.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns – Cameron became a trendy sleeper pick the minute Rob Chudzinski was hired by the Browns as their Head Coach. He and new Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner know a thing or two about utilizing the tight end, and Cameron has the size (6’5”) and speed to give opposing linebackers fits. His draft price is still low, so it won’t cost you a lot to take a chance on a player who could be on the verge of really breaking out.
Well, we have made it to Week 17 and the final installment of this year’s Waiver Wire Report. Before we get to the players to think about if you are in one of the league’s out there that still plays their championship this week, I would like to thank everyone for reading my inaugural season writing the Report. I had a lot of fun putting it together and look forward to being right here next season to try and help you uncover some waiver wire gems throughout the season.
Since we are smack dab in the season of giving, I wanted to focus part of this week’s report on the best players we covered here during the season, a Waiver Wire Report All-Stars, if you will. Taking a look back, I was pleased that I consistently at least mentioned a lot of the players that ended up on the All-Star team a week or two before they really emerged, which is the ultimate goal - beat the competition to the punch on the real difference makers. Sure, we had just as many misses and pretenders along the way, and we’ll single out a few of those culprits for derision as well.
After that we’ll touch on a couple of players for this week’s games, just in case you need to make a few more moves to seal the deal in your fantasy league. As for me, my fantasy football season is done. I ended up coming up short in the playoffs with both of my championship contenders, as my RB trio of Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Jamaal Charles collectively hit the wall. I can’t complain too much, as they helped get me into the money in the first place, but I sure would have liked them to keep things rolling just a little bit longer. Both of my teams led their respective leagues in scoring but ran into opponents who got hot at the right time, and as we all know that can make all the difference in Head-to-Head leagues. Dez Bryant absolutely killed me last week, and I am sure a lot of his owners are smiling this week as he simply dominated when it counted the most. But enough about me and my team’s, let’s get to the season finale of the Report for this year.
2012 Mastersball Waiver Wire Report All-Stars
Russell Wilson, SEA – Wilson was the easy choice to be the Quarterback on this list. He was the first player we profiled this year way back in Week One, and even though it took a few weeks for Pete Carroll to take off the training wheels, once he did Wilson more than exceeded any expectations that anyone who was savvy enough to grab him could have had. Once the Seahawks opened up the game-plan, Wilson really took off. He was an absolute stud down the stretch, and if you held on to him through his early season struggles, you had a very good chance of hitting it big in the playoffs, especially in two-QB leagues.
Josh Freeman, TB – Freeman was dropped in many leagues after starting the season in a little bit of a funk. He was our top QB in Weeks 7 and 8 after back-to-back stellar efforts. He followed those up with a nice string of games before becoming an interception machine in the fantasy playoffs. Still, he finished as a Top 12 QB on the year, ahead of many names drafted or kept ahead of him.
Sam Bradford, STL – Bradford was on and off the list all year, which speaks to the lack of trust that fantasy players had in the Rams signal-caller. He was a big target of ours heading into the fantasy playoffs and he didn’t disappoint, particularly against the Vikings in Week 15.
Alfred Morris, WAS – Morris was another member of our Week One class who can clearly stake his own claim to being the most valuable pickup of the year in many formats. As the preseason came to a close, it was as usual still unclear who Mike Shanahan would turn to to be his starting running back. In most drafts Roy Helu and Evan Royster were selected well ahead of the unheralded Morris, who went undrafted in many shallow formats and was at best a late round dart in deeper leagues.. The first signs that Morris was a player to keep an eye on came when the Redskins released Tim Hightower prior to the season. After he received 28 carries in Week 1 and scored two touchdowns, there was no looking back for Morris. While he didn’t really have any truly monster weeks, he also didn’t have to many stinkers either. The biggest accomplishment for Morris is that he actually made the Redskins RB a position you could trust again, at least for one season.
Marcel Reece, OAK – Reece won’t be listed on a lot of other people’s year-end lists, but he makes ours here because I think he really qualified as a Mastersball special. I will give credit where credit is due, by reminding you all again that it was our own Greg Morgan who first put Reece on my radar back in Week 3. We profiled him in Week 5 as a player who could produce when the inevitable Darren McFadden injury hit and we correctly hit on him as the guy to get in Week 10 when Taiwan Jones was still in the conversation. Reece had a four week stretch where he produced quality numbers that would help his owners navigate the last remaining bye weeks on the schedule. He was indispensible in the one league where I had him and started him for three of those weeks.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – Moreno got a cursory mention from us way back in Week 2 after he scored a touchdown in the season opener. After that he disappeared for the rest of the year until becoming a waiver wire darling following the season-ending injury to Willis McGahee in Week 11. I have to admit I whiffed on Moreno in Week 12, hyping Ronnie Hillman instead. If you were smart enough to take a $1 shot on him that week you got one of the biggest difference makers in this year’s playoffs.
Andre Brown, NYG – Brown was a true waiver wire find this year, as there was very little buzz on him in the pre-season as everyone was scooping up David Wilson as their Ahmad Bradshaw insurance policy. Brown had a monster Week 3 as that week’s cover boy, then put together a nice 5 week run in mid-season as the goal-line back for the G-men. Only a broken leg stopped him from finishing higher up the ranks, and it would have been real interesting to see if he could have helped reverse the team’s fortunes down the stretch.
Bryce Brown, PHI – We identified Brown as Shady McCoy’s new handcuff way back in Week 3, so hopefully you had him on board when McCoy went down late in the year. He was the ultimate boom-then-bust waiver wire pickup this year as his 347 yard, 4 TD numbers in Week’s 12 and 13 carried a bunch of lucky owners into the fantasy playoffs where he promptly turned into a pumpkin again. He needs to figure out how to hang onto the football, but it’s pretty clear the Eagles will integrate him into the offense next season.
Randall Cobb, GB – I thought hard about putting Cobb on this list, as he was drafted in every league I played in this year. Still, he was our cover boy in Week 2 based on the fact that the Greg Jennings injury was a reminder that Cobb was the future at WR for the Packers and “the future is now.” He was available in plenty of shallow formats that week, and those that ended up with him on their roster got a Top 10 WR for the last two-thirds of the season.
Cecil Shorts, JCK – While I can’t claim to have given Shorts much early season love, we did tell you to grab him coming out of the Jaguars bye in Week 7. Lack of movement from the masses in standard leagues compelled us to write him up again the following 4 weeks until it was finally clear he wasn’t going away. A late season concussion took some wind out of his sails come playoff time, but there is no denying he was one of the better waiver wire finds this year.
Danario Alexander, SD – These awards aren’t really meant to just pat myself on the back for some good calls, but those guys I hit on earlier than most I admit hold a special place in my mind looking back. I profiled Alexander in Week 9 when he was scooped off the scrap-heap by the Chargers and again in Week 10 after the coaching staff sang his praises and before he truly broke out to become everyone’s cover-boy in Week 11. He’s been a difference maker ever since, even in Week 15 when his goose-egg likely derailed some owners championship dreams.
Josh Gordon, CLE – While Gordon doesn’t quite rank up there as the difference maker that some of the other names on this list were, the odds are that he was undrafted in more leagues than any of them. He also was the best Week 1 WR call that we made, as he emerged as a go to player for the Browns as e predicted. Truth be told, Brandon Weeden’s shortcomings were all that held back Gordon from putting up even better numbers than he did in his first year.
James Jones, GB- Jones will get more love elsewhere than I will give him here, and mainly it’s because I didn’t really buy into him until it was too late for you to likely cash in on his best stretch of the year. Then he kind of faded again, so many didn’t even start him for his Week 15 playoff explosion. Still, you can’t deny a guy a spot somewhere on this list when they tally 13 TD’s and leapfrog many other highly drafted WR’s in the final rankings. It’s a reminder that when you are taking late round fliers, look for those on high-powered offenses with elite QB’s.
Andre Roberts, ARZ – You could have won a ton of money before the season if you could have predicted that Roberts would have as good or better a year than Larry Fitzgerald. Perry Van Hook was right on the money by making sure I included Roberts in Week One’s report.
Ryan Broyles, DET – Broyles was another of my pre-season sleepers who eventually paid off once injuries got him on the field. Unfortunately a second major knee injury cut things short, right after many people paid a king’s ransom to add him to their squad, leaving an unfortunate empty and bitter taste.
Heath Miller, PIT – We have to give another shout-out to Perry Van Hook, who got Miller onto the Week One list. In a down year overall for TE’s, Miller proved to be one of the most consistent, if somewhat boring players at his position all year. Still, in two-TE leagues, he would have been gold as your second starter as his week-to-week consistently had him finish as a Top 5 TE at season’s end.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN – It wouldn’t be fair of me not to include Rudolph on this end of year edition as I hyped him relentlessly in the early parts of the season. He ended up scoring 9 touchdowns on the year, and if he could have received more consistent quarterbacking he would have been able to avoid the 4 zero’s that were sprinkled in throughout the year.
Brandon Myers, OAK – Myers quieted chugged along, finally getting some respect for owners in the middle of the bye weeks before paying off big with some late season heroics. He faded with the rest of the Raiders in the playoffs, but when it was all said and done he finished as a Top 12 TE on the year. Not bad for someone who was all but ignored the first half of the season.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta was a hard guy to trust on a weekly basis, but he had some nice production early in the year and then capped things off with a monster day in Week 15. He got me to the championship after I followed my own advice and scooped him off the wire and started him that week.
There are other names that we considered but for whatever reasons didn’t make the cut. Some of these include: Vick Ballard, Bilal Powell, Nick Foles, T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Mikel Leshoure and Jonathan Dwyer. Some weren’t quite the difference makers of those listed, and some like Danny Amendola, Pierre Garcon and Andy Dalton were widely owned players that weren’t true waiver darlings. Then there were the many misses along the way, guys who just didn’t deliver the goods or teased us with their supposed promise. Yeah, I am looking at you Kevin Ogletree, Stephen Hill, Ronnie Hillman, David Wilson, Rashad Jennings, Jahvid Best, Brian Hartline and of course the king Titus Young.
So that’s this year’s All-Star team and with it we will close the books of the 2012 fantasy season. Again, I had a blast and I hope you guys enjoyed reading the column as much as I did writing it. As promised, we will close things out with a quick look at guys to grab if you are playing for keeps this week:
Michael Vick, PHI – Vick get to finish out the season as the Eagles QB and he has plenty of reasons to go out and try to put on a show heading into free agency. The Giants defense has been torched the last few weeks so the matchup is right for Vick to end things up with a bang.
Colt McCoy, CLE – McCoy will likely get the starting nod in the season finale against the Steelers. If you are desperate in a two-quarterback league you could plug in McCoy and hope for the best. The problem is he doesn’t have the arm to get the ball downfield, so don’t expect too much here.
Ben Tate, HOU – We have been telling you for weeks to grab Tate if you had a Week 17 game, and here we are with a Colts defense that just got torched by the Chiefs for gobs of yards last week. Throw in the fact that Arian Foster left last week’s game with an irregular heartbeat, and you have all the reasons you need to give Tate a look this week. The same goes for Justin Forsett actually.
Ryan Grant, GB – Grant will get a lot of attention after his 2 TD game last week. While his return to prominence for his former team is a nice story, be wary of thinking lightning will strike twice here. The Vikings still play the run tough and Alex Green will likely return to push Grant into more of a timeshare.
Montario Hardesty, CLE – Trent Richardson injured his ankle last week and was already battling through a litany of nagging injuries. The Browns have no reason to trot him out there this week, so expect Hardesty to get the lion’s share of carries against a good Steelers defense. Hardesty has actually looked pretty good in spot duty the last few weeks, and with the Steelers eliminated from the playoffs, he could have more success than normal. He makes a pretty good flex bet if you are desperate.
Lamar Miller, MIA – Miller is another name we said to stash for this week and he showed that he can produce if given the touches. He turned 10 carries into 73 yards last week, and figures to get the ball at least that much this week against the Patriots.
Jason Avant, PHI – There is a chance that Avant is sitting out there in your league and I think he could really do some damage this week against the Giants pass defense. I think he rides the Vick bandwagon to fantasy relevance this week.
Greg Little, CLE – I don’t really believe too much in Little, but I can’t deny that he has been producing better stats of late and has more experience with McCoy than just about anyone else on the team. McCoy looked for him often last week and that at least puts him on the WR3 radar this week.
Jordan Shipley, JCK – We highlighted Cecil Shorts and his tremendous season earlier and now we will talk about the guy who will step into his spot this week. Shipley led the team in targets and yards last week and gets a gift of a matchup against the Titans. He’s going to get the targets and I like him better than Little in PPR leagues.
Delanie Walker, SF – Vernon Davis suffered a concussion last week and hasn’t yet been cleared to play this week. If he sits out, then Walker will get a run with the offense. I have always been a fan of what Walker brings to the field, and the Niners have plenty to play for this week. If Davis sits, then Walker could do some damage against the Cardinals.
Lance Kendricks, STL – I profiled Kendricks last week, and he made me look smarter than I am thanks to an 80 yard touchdown reception. The Seahawks defense is tough, which forces teams to turn to their TE’s for help. Kendricks should put up decent numbers again this week.
Chargers – I got beat last week by a team that plugged the Chargers in against me. With the Raiders on the docket this week, they have a good chance at another big week.
Okay – I have stretched the word limit on this installment far enough! Good luck those of you still playing and we’ll see you again next year!
I haven’t written too much about my own teams this year in the report, and well, that’s because it’s not really why you are reading this column after all. But as we enter the second weekend of the fantasy playoffs, I hope you’ll indulge me as I talk about my squads briefly. I owned four fantasy football teams this year. One, my NFFC OLC squad, was an unmitigated disaster that reminded me of how bad a fantasy football season can get. My FSWA team was a mixed bag as Matthew Stafford helped dig a hole for me early, and a late season 5 game winning streak salvaged respectability, but left me just short of a playoff berth.
However, I do have two teams in the playoffs, in both of my local leagues here in NYC. I am the #1 seed in both leagues, which got me a Bye last week, and makes the the favorite to move on to the fantasy bowl this week. In both leagues I used the same blueprint. I went heavy on RB’s and Wr’s early, a recipe for success that has been highlighted by Greg Morgan in his NFFC columns lately. Both teams boast the same trio of RB’s: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and Jamaal Charles. A.J. Green is the WR 1 on both squads. I’m going to go as far as those players take me more than likely, although the wild card on both squads at this point is Colin Kaepernick. I picked him up in both leagues a couple weeks back and I am starting him in both this week. We’ll see what happens.
I hope I’ve helped a few of your get as far, but of course the work is not done just yet. Let’s get to this week’s report.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – The Browns did something last week very uncharacteristic for them. They jumped out to an early lead and were able to coast in the 4th quarter for the first time all year. This week Weeden gets to work against the Redskins secondary, which has been torched all season by opposing QB’s, which makes Weeden worth a look in deeper leagues this week. I like him even more if RG3 sits this one out.
Sam Bradford, STL – There aren’t a lot of standout waiver-wire options at quarterback this week, which elevates Bradford into the discussion yet again. He gets the Vikings at home in the dome, and hopefully will have Danny Amendola back as well. Next week the gets the Bucs in Tampa Bay, so Bradford will likely be right back in this spot next week.
Nick Foles, PHI – Foles easily had his best game since taking over for Michael Vick last week, throwing for 381 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Owners should be leery of this week’s tilt against a much tougher Bengals defense. The best plan of action here is to grab and stash Foles for his Week 16 game against the Redskins.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA- The Dolphins rookie can’t really be trusted with your playoff lives, but two home starts against the Jaguars and the Bills could result in his first back-to-back 2 TD games of the year. He’s kind of a desperation play in two-quarterback leagues, but at least the matchups are right.
Kirk Cousins, WAS – We still don’t know yet if Robert Griffin III is going to be able to play this week, and if he doesn’t, then Cousins will get the start for the Skins. The Browns defense is on a roll right now, find a better option if RG3 is your usual starter.
Week 14 Update:
Russell Wilson, SEA – I’ve written about Wilson enough the last few weeks, so if you have him on the roster you have to at least consider using him this week against the Bills.
Carson Palmer, OAK – Palmer delivered quality numbers and should continue that trend against the Chiefs this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT- Big Ben came back with a bang last week, albeit in a losing effort. The Cowboys and Bengals will pose tougher tests, and he’s a risk to get re-injured at any point. While last week was great, don’t force him into your lineups this week.
David Wilson, NYG – I guess I’ve got to put Wilson at the top of this list in recognition of his massive breakout performance this past weekend, and because he is still un-owned in more than half of standard ESPN leagues. He did a little bit of everything, and now Ahmad Bradshaw is undergoing tests on his injured knee. He’s going to be flex-worthy the rest of the way, and if Bradshaw sits out, then Wilson skyrockets up the rankings for this week. We told you to grab Wilson in Week 13, after Andre Brown went down and now you see why. It’s yet another reminder to trim the fat from your playoff rosters and grab some RB handcuffs, even if they aren’t your own.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – We had Powell in the DD section last week, highlighting the fact that he had emerged as a solid flex option lately. Well he turned it up another notch last week with a season high 19 carries and another TD. Facing the Titans this week gives him a great chance to hit pay-dirt again this week.
Montell Owens, JCK – I told you last week that Ownes was at least worth grabbing, even if it meant just keeping him off an opponent’s roster. 15 touches, 102 yards and a TD later, and it’s possible the Jaguars just ride him the rest of the way as they play out the string.
Joique Bell, DET – Bell is another returning name from last week’s list as he has solidified his role in the Lions offense to the point where you can start him as a flex knowing he’s going to get his 10-12 touches.
Robert Turbin, SEA – Turbin racked up 20 carries and 108 yards after Seattle buried the Cardinals early last week. Obviously you can’t start him based on that, but if you are a Marshawn Lynch owner, please get his handcuff locked up.
DuJuan Harris, GB- Alex Green will still be the lead back for another week, but Harris got seven carries and scored on a 14 yard scamper when the Packers O-line opened up a nice hole. Green hasn’t been anything special, and actually functions better in a time-share, so expect Harris to keep splitting carries, at least for another week. He’s worth a shot in really deep leagues as a potential winning lottery ticket.
Week 14 Update:
Bryce Brown, PHI – The two week dream run for Brown came to a crushing halt against the Bucs as the waiver-wire darling managed only 6 yards on 12 carries after back-to-back monster performances. If you started him last week in your playoffs, there is a good chance you lost. But if you survived, don’t be afraid to roll with the bruising RB, especially if LeSean McCoy remains sidelined.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – I told you last week to start Moreno with confidence and worry about the Ravens game this week. With the way the Ravens have been playing lately, and the way Moreno is functioning within this offense, he should be able to have another solid effort this week. Not a monster week, but start-worthy for sure.
DeAngelo Williams, CAR – Williams finally rewarded the poor owners who wasted draft picks or FAAB on him this year. You of course know what happens next right, he’ll kill you if you rely on him this week. If he can do it again this week, maybe I’ll relax my stance against the Raiders in Week 16, but til then my advice stands: Flex him if you must, bench him if you can.
Dwayne Harris, DAL- Dez Bryant broke his finger last week, and while he has sworn to play with it taped, there is the very real possibility that he will not be able to effectively. Harris had already worked his way up to the WR3 spot the last few weeks, and would stand to gain the most value if Bryant isn’t successful in his quest to get on the field.
Kris Durham, DET – Okay, so last week I told you to go out and grab Mike Thomas in the wake of Ryan Broyles’ season-ending injury. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was expecting him to play. Instead it was practice squad find Durham who got the start and was on the field most of the day. I can’t get too excited about him at this point, to tell you the truth.
Rod Streater, OAK- Okay, I was wrong about Streater, who followed up his big Week 13 with another solid performance. I still don’t think you can trust him in any given week, but I’ll give him his due after dissing him last week.
Jeremy Kerley, NYJ- Kerley kind of hit rock bottom last week against the Jaguars, and as such his owners may have finally given up on him this week. The Titans D at least gives Kerley some upside as a desperation flex this week.
Jonathan Baldwin, KC-Dwayne Bowe is out for the year, and his owners will be scrambling for a replacement. Baldwin is the logical option now that he will take over as the Chiefs primary receiver. A date with the Raiders provides opportunity, but this passing game hasn’t been trustworthy all year, and that was with Bowe in the lineup
Week 14 Update:
Josh Gordon, CLE – Gordon has caught 14 passes for 202 yards the past two weeks and gets the Skins this week. It’s possible you’ve been forced to lean on Gordon like I have in a league where I lost Percy Harvin weeks ago. If that’s the case, I see no reason to sit Gordon this week.
Tony Scheffler, DET – I predicted an increase in work for the veteran TE, and an injury to Brandon Pettigrew opened the door to 10 targets and a touchdown grab. With the injuries to the receiving corps in Detroit, Scheffler should see a lot of bals thrown his way again this week.
Clay Harbor, PHI – Brent Celek suffered a concussion and will not play this week opening the door for Harbor to take over. He showed last week that he can be effective in this offense. There are worse long-shots to take with the Redskins looming in Week 16.
Dennis Pitta, BAL- Pitta got back in the end-zone finally last week, and now gets a new OC who hopefully will open things up again in Baltimore.
Ben Watson, CLE – Watson is a deep league name, and only due to the Redskins match-up.
Anthony McCoy, SEA- McCoy put up 105 yards in the blowout of the Cardinals. One fluky game isn’t enough for me to invest in him just yet.
Week 14 Update:
Lions – The Lions will be the latest team to take advantage of the Cardinals shell of an offense. They are the team to get off the wire this week.
Dolphins- Miami is a sneaky start this week as well against a Jacksonville team that is missing too many playmakers on offense.
Dan Carpenter, MIA – Carpenter makes an intriguing playoff K option with two home games against Jacksonville and Buffalo.
Well, we made it. If you are reading this column today, then that means congratulations are very well in order for you, as you more than likely have survived long enough to have a chance to play this week in your league’s Fantasy Bowl. It’s takes a lot of skill, and more than a little luck to get this far in fantasy football. I myself had only one of my two top-ranked teams survive last week, and one of them was purely due to someone I grabbed off the report last week. My team that didn’t make it past last week lost by 0.55 points, in what turned out to be a tough one to swallow. I won’t go into all of the details of the bad luck that conspired keep this team from glory, it is enough to just list the names of the culprits: Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, Danario Alexander, Lawrence Tynes and me. Yeah, I am on the list as well because I inserted Alexander in my lineup and took out Eric Decker. It’s a quirky league that doesn’t have a true flex, but let’s you start 3RB/2WR if you like. I went with that alignment and sent Decker to the bench. As they say, the rest is history. But, thankfully I have one more team alive for the big prize, so I’ll once again look to the wire this week to upgrade where I can and look for a defense and K to plug in as I have been doing all year with my lone surviving squad. Good luck to you and all your teams this week.
Russell Wilson, SEA – If you’ve been a regular reader of this column and you had quarterback issues heading into the playoffs, hopefully you already had Wilson in reserve prior to last week’s 4 touchdown explosion against the Bills. Yes, he has a tough matchup against San Francisco this week, but with the way he has been playing, he still rates as a low-end QB1 this week.
Sam Bradford, STL – Bradford didn’t disappoint last week, delivering his best game of the season at home against the Vikings. This week he will travel to Tampa Bay, home of the league’s most generous pass defense. Danny Amendola should be one week healthier, making it even easier for Bradford to have another big fantasy day. I’m not sure I would want to trust my season to him, but if I was in a two-QB league I wouldn’t hesitate to throw him out there again.
Nick Foles, PHI – We warned you last week that Foles would face a tougher assignment against the Bengals, and sure enough he didn’t come close to matching his Week 14 output. But this is another week, and the Eagles are at home against the Redskins. The Redskins are a defense we have advocated picking on all season, and we’re not going to back off that now. Foles is a good bounce back candidate this week.
Kirk Cousins, WAS – The fourth-round rookie stepped in for an injured Robert Griffin III, and promptly showed that he was more than capable of having success in this league. We still don’t know at this point if RG3 will suit up this week, so you could do worse than turn to his backup if he can’t go.
Greg McElroy, NYJ – The Mark Sanchez era is finally over, much too late to save the Jets season. It seems like Rex Ryan is going to hand the ball to McElroy to be the starter, but the fans will be calling for Tim Tebow, who I expect will get more than the one series he did last week.
Week 15 Update:
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Tannehill took advantage of the first of two juicy match-ups so if you grabbed him last week in a two-QB league, you might want to see if he can duplicate last week’s numbers against the Bills.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – The Browns rookie didn’t rise to the occasion last week, tossing a pair of interceptions and struggling to get the ball to his receivers. A long bomb to Travis Benjamin salvaged the day. With Denver and Pittsburgh to close out the season, there is no reason to hang onto him any longer.
Curtis Brinkley, SD – Ryan Mathews got hurt yet again, suffering his second broken collarbone of the year. This guy is Mr. Glass. The Chargers will likely employ a committee of three the rest of the way, but Brinkley will likely serve as the de-facto starter, and early down back. Ronnie Brown will be in the mix on passing downs and veteran Jackie Battle will get some short-yardage work. But the smart pickup, this week is Brinkley. He is better used on your bench as depth, but if you are desperate he should get 10-plus carries this week.
Mark Ingram, NO – Ingram has been a favorite whipping boy of anyone who has invested in him the last two years, but there are signs that he is finally settling into his role in this offense. It doesn’t hurt that he is finally getting double-digit carries on a consistent basis, because he is truly a volume runner. Like many of the names here this week, it’s tough to trust a guy sharing carries, but if you are going to go that route for your flex, at least go with the goal-line guy on an explosive offense.
Dexter McCluster, KC – The injury to Dwayne Bowe figured to open some targets for other players to step up and become fantasy relevant. While we speculated that it might be Jon Baldwin, but instead it was the diminutive RB/WR who led the team in receptions (7) and yards. He specializes in short, quick routes, so expect Stanzi to look his way often on Sunday. He is unlikely to register any carries, so don’t count on him as more than a desperation flex-play.
Danny Woodhead, NE – You just gotta love a player like Woodhead in real life, but for fantasy I just can’t stand players like this. You never know how involved he’s going to be in the offense, and that just makes him a shaky bet at production in any given week. His explosion last week came as the Patriots were frantically playing catch-up, getting Woodhead on the field in the hurry-up offense. Do you see the Patriots falling behind the Jaguars by multiple touchdowns this week? Me neither.
Mike Tolbert, CAR – Tolbert was kind of a surprise name to emerge last week, punching in a pair of short touchdowns against the Chargers. Usually the Panthers give Cam Newton those easy TD’s, so it will be interesting to see if Tolbert will get the same opportunities this week. It makes sense to let him earn his paycheck, while keeping the franchise QB healthy. Carolina gets the Raiders this week, and with Jonathan Stewart still side-lined Tolbert is a sneaky flex start this week.
Ben Tate, HOU – Justin Forsett is banged up, leaving Tate as the clear backup to Arian Foster to end the season. The Texans are still playing for home field advantage this week, but if they wrap it up, Tate will likely get a lot of work in Week 17, if your league still has their championship that week.
Lamar Miller, MIA – Like Tate above, the Dolphins rookie could get a lot of work the next two weeks as the primary backup to Reggie Bush, thanks to an injury to Daniel Thomas. The Dolphins need to see what they have in Miller since Bush will be a free agent after the season. He is another name that could get a big run in Week 17.
Mike Goodson, OAK – Goodson came up big last week, totaling 103 yards against the lowly Chiefs. It puts him back on the radar, but the Panthers defense will not provide the same opportunity for success this week.
Week 15 Update:
David Wilson, NYG – Wilson tanked along with the rest of the Giants last week, and Ahmad Bradshaw has vowed to return to action this week. Even if he does, Wilson will still be the more explosive player and the better fantasy start. The Giants will be in must-win mode and I expect a bounce-back game this week for Wilson. I’d flex him if I had him this week.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – Moreno kept the ball rolling against the Ravens last week, and should be able to deliver another useful start this week at home against the Browns. He’s become quite the late season hero for those owners smart enough to grab him after Willis McGahee went down.
DeAngelo Williams, CAR – Okay, after two straight weeks of solid production, I guess I have to psoften my stance on Williams with the Raiders coming to town. I still would rather use him as a flex, and have to admit he’s a pretty good one this week.
Bryce Brown, PIT - That’s two straight stinkers from Brown, so his owners will be loathe to start him again this week. LeSean McCoy has been cleared to play, but the Eagles have no reason to rush him back to action. If Brown helped get you to the playoffs, you may have no choice but to plug him in again this week. I think he should be able to have moderate success this week and avoid a third clunker.
Jacoby Jones, BAL – Torrey Smith got his bell rung last week, and looks very iffy for this week’s game. That will open the door for Jones to step in as the No. 2 receiver against a Giants defense that can be beat through the air. If you are looking for a flier to fill out your roster this week, Jones might be the best of the bunch in deeper leagues.
Brandon Gibson, STL – Gibson has benefitted from the schedule the last two weeks, catching 12 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown over that span. The cards are stacked in his favor again this week with the Bucs and their terrible pass defense giving him a great chance to be productive again this week.
Harry Douglas, ATL – Douglas emerged from the shadows to catch 3 passes for a season-high 83 yards last week. The Falcons have already clinched the division, and it seems logical they will not push Roddy White and his injured knee any harder than they need to the next two weeks. If White is a guy you rely on, you might want to add Douglas in case White doesn’t play this week.
Leonard Hankerson, WAS – Hankerson teased us here in the report early in the season, and then promptly disappeared for weeks. He will get noticed thanks to his 2 TD day last week, and if Cousins gets the start again, I guess you could take a shot that the two will connect again. I personally would look for safer options.
Greg Little, CLE – Mr. Drops has been playing much better the last few weeks, actually catching the balls that are being thrown to him. Maybe you want to take a chance in a PPR format, but I don’t love the matchup against a tough Denver secondary.
Joe Morgan, NO – Morgan is a name to file away for next season, as he continues to show his game-breaking ability in the season’s last few weeks. He seems poised to take over the deep-threat role for the Saints next year, and that my friends always has value.
DeVier Posey, HOU – The Texans finally decided to get their third-round rookie involved the last couple weeks, and he has shown enough promise that those in dynasty or keeper leagues might want to speculate and add him to their bench heading into the off-season.
Braylon Edwards, NYJ – Edwards was claimed off the scrap-heap by the Jets and he immediately became their most trusted receiver in his first game back with the team. That’s statement pretty much sums up the state of the Jets passing game this year.
Travis Benjamin, CLE – The speedy rookie displayed his speed with a 69-yard connection, where he just ran past an uninterested Redskins secondary in garbage time. He’s a player to keep an eye on in the future.
Randy Moss, SF – Moss scored a touchdown last week, but you just can’t trust it will happen again. He’s worth more to the Niners than he is to anyone chasing a fantasy title this week.
Week 15 Update:
Josh Gordon, CLE – Gordon came up small last week, but he still remains the Browns best bet for a receiving touchdown in any given week. Peyton Manning will have the Browns in comeback mode early, so Gordon will have a chance to reward owners who stick with him this week.
Rod Streater, OAK – Streater seems to have overtaken Darrius Heyward-Bey in the pecking order, and has been more reliable than Denarius Moore of late as well. The Panthers D has been hot, which is just enough to pour a little ice-water on Streater. Still, He’s another name to file away for next year.
Alshon Jeffery, CHI – Jeffery had a day to forget with three offensive pass interference penalties that wiped out all of his production, including a TD. He looks like the WR2 of the future in Chicago, but you just can’t trust that anymore this year.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Wow. That’s all I can say. Pitta singlehandedly saved one of my playoff teams last week after I grabbed him and started him over Jermaine Gresham at the last minute. I was correct in predicting that the Ravens would get him more involved, but his monster 7 catch, 125 yard 2 touchdowns were an early Christmas present. This week he gets the Giants, and without Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco will again look to his TE to produce. I am riding him again this week.
Brent Celek, PHI –Celek will return to action from his concussion this week, and gets to face a Redskins defense that has been good to TE’s this season. He’s worth a look in 2 TE leagues this week.
Lance Kendricks, STL – I don’t think Kendricks has cracked the report so far this season, but he is yeat another player on the Rams who has taken advantage of an easy schedule to at least deliver usuable stats in deeper leagues.
Week 15 Updates:
Tony Scheffler, DET – Scheffler was more a victim of Matthew Stafford’s ineffectiveness last week, but he did get the targets we said he would. The Lions receivers are a wasteland after Calvin Johnson, so if you are scrambling for a TE who will get the ball thrown his way this week, than Scheffler is worth looking at.
Ben Watson, CLE – Watson won’t put up big yardage numbers, but he could be a decent play in touchdown heavy leagues this week against a Broncos team that is susceptible to the TE in close.
Jets – The Chargers looked like they have quit playing for Norv Turner, and the Jets defense can still make some noise.
Colts – The Colts will get the chance to welcome Ricky Stanzi to the NFL, and that means a great shot at taking advantage of the many mistakes that are sure to come.
Dan Bailey, DAL – I like Bailey at home this week in a must win game against the high-scoring Saints. If I can get a K who doesn’t have to worry about the elements in Week 16, all the better.
I have to admit, I never felt like Brady Quinn got a very fair shake in Cleveland, or in Denver for that matter. He never really got the support a young quarterback needs to have a real chance at success in this league. To add insult to injury, he has taken his licks on the field and in the tabloids, so it really was something to see the former Notre Dame star lead his team out on the field in the wake of tragedy, play the game of his career and then step up to the podium afterwards and hit all the right notes in his post-game comments. I think it is very appropriate that he gets to follow things up with a trip back to Cleveland. With the Raiders and Colts after that, it wouldn’t surprise me if he plays better than he ever did for the Browns the next three weeks. Regardless, he showed that true leadership is sometimes about more than just winning football games. If you haven’t had a chance to catch his post-game comments I urge you to do so when you are finished reading this. It was a pitch-perfect message for all of us, especially as we head into the holiday season.
Now that I’ve said that, let’s get to the real reason you are reading this. The fantasy playoffs have finally arrived. Hopefully you’ve gotten to the promised land and are ready to make some noise this week in your respective leagues. It’s that time of year again to start keeping track of the weather reports heading into Sunday. Now onto this Week’s list.
Russell Wilson, SEA – Wilson was tops on our list to start the year back in Week 1 and since then he has definitely exceeded expectations. He has tossed 11 touchdowns versus 1 interception over his last five starts and has silenced the early skeptics for good. He should be owned in all leagues at this point, as a high-end QB2. His playoff schedule puts a little damper on his upside as the Seahawks face the Cardinals this week, which is a tougher assignment for a QB than you think, and then draws the 49ers in Week 16. The Bills in Week 15 is a nice match-up, but bear in mind it’s still a mid- December game in Buffalo.
Carson Palmer, OAK – Palmer’s ownership numbers are higher that most of the names listed this week, but he’s out there in enough shallow leagues to merit a mention based on his playoff schedule. He get the Broncos, Chiefs and Panthers the next three weeks, and the Raiders will continue to air it out with their running back injuries.
Jake Locker, TEN – Ind – Locker has been another favorite of the report this year, and part of the reason has been an injury marred season that sent the promising second year QB to the wire in many leagues. He’s still shaking off the rust, but the Titans finally started to open things up last week under new OC Dowell Loggains. Hopefully you’ve got a more trustworthy option for this week, but if not a trip to the dome in Indianapolis figures to be a high-scoring affair. In two quarterback leagues, Locker could put you over the hump this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Big Ben is scheduled to return to action this week against the Chargers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should rush him back into your lineup if you have a better option at your disposal. While I would never doubt his tenacity or toughness, it still doesn’t mean I’d feel comfortable betting my season on him if I didn’t have to.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Weeden makes a return visit to the report thanks to a generous playoff schedule that provides back-to-back home games against the Chiefs and Redskins. Both teams can be thrown on, and Weeden can do enough damage to be a solid desperation start in deeper formats.
Nick Foles, PHI – Like Weeden above, Foles benefits from the schedule-maker with the Buccaneers this week followed by the Redskins again in Week 16. Both of these guys are start worthy in two-quarterback leagues.
Brady Quinn, KC –You read the intro.Hey, they could absolutely build on the wave in KC.
Tim Tebow, NYJ – Greg McElroy took over for an ineffective Mark Sanchez last week, opening the door for Rex Ryan to finally give the fans what they want, and that is a little Tebow-time to close out a lost season. If you are in a real deep league you could take a shot and see what happens next.
Week 13 Update:
Colin Kaepernick, SF – The Kaepernick express hit a little speed bump last week, which is a nice reminder that he is still learning, and fantasy owners should be cautious of trusting him too much, too soon. A little home cooking should help get things rolling again.
Chad Henne, JCK – The parade of injuries in the backfield has taken a little wind out of Henne’s sails. He’s worth hanging onto as a backup, especially if you are looking for some insurance at the position in Week 16.
Sam Bradford, STL – I highlighted Bradford’s favorable playoff schedule last week, but there is no denying he has a much better chance of success with Danny Amendola in the lineup. Keep that in mind when considering your options going forward.
Alex Green, GB – I had originally planned on writing up James Starks and Green together, and was surprised to read the breaking news out of Milwaukee that Starks could be done for the season with a knee injury. With Cedric Benson also done for the year, that suddenly thrusts Green back into a feature role. Green was dumped in a ton of leagues after he lost the starting job, and was basically benched coming off the team’s Week 10 bye. He’ll be the top grab of the week now if these reports are confirmed.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Back in Week 10 we talked about the crowded situation in Pittsburgh, and how you all parties were worthy of owning until the smoke cleared. Well, it’s gotten clearer that Dwyer is at least at the top of any committee, likely for the rest of the year. Redman still will gets 10 touches or so, but Dwyer will get the bulk of them as well as any in close and that makes him a borderline RB2/Flex the rest of the way.
Montell Owens, JCK – I advised you last week to make sure to get your roster set up for the playoffs, especially as it pertained to RB’s. That means you maybe took a stab at a Montario Hardesty or Evan Royster. Owens is in line to get the start this week if Maurice Jones-Drew isn’t ready and Rashad Jennings is still slowed by a concussion. It will be one and done for Ownes, but if a RB is starting at this time of year, he is worthy of owning. Perhaps you just want to keep him off of someone else’s roster. If he starts he’ll be flex-worthy.
DeAngelo Williams, CAR - Williams will likely draw another start this week while Jonathan Stewart continues to heal. Unfortunately, Cam Newton will keep his value capped by stealing carries and stealing touchdowns. Flex him if you must, bench him if you can.
Joique Bell, DET – Bell has worked himself back into flex consideration with a pair of 10 point weeks. The Lions like to use him in their quick-tempo offense, especially when they are in comeback mode, which seems like a pretty good bet heading up to Lambeau this week.
John Kuhn, GB – I mentioned Green above, but Kuhn will also benefit as he will surely get more work, especially in close.
Ben Tate, Hou – I know, I am getting to be a broken record on Tate, but he finally made it back on the field and you just know the Texans might sit Arian Foster in Week 16. If you haven’t already got him, just do it already. Justin Forsett deserves a mention as well, because he’s likely locked himself into the third down back role no matter what happens.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – Powell has gotten double-digit carries three weeks running, so at least you can flex him with more confidence heading into some decent playoff match-ups.
Week 13 Update:
Bryce Brown, PHI – Somehow the guy is still un-owned in a bunch of leagues. Granted not many leagues the regular readers of this column likely play in, but still take a look and help push those ownership numbers up where they belong.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – Moreno got twenty carries for the second week in a row, and now gets to exploit a tasty match-up against the Raiders. Start him with confidence this week and worry about the Ravens game if you survive this week.
Chris Wells, ARZ – While I said last week that Wells needed to be owned everywhere, I can now at least safely go back to my Week 12 observation that relying on him in the fantasy playoffs will be a very risky proposition. Of course, if you drafted him you probably don’t have to worry about that now do you.
Top Handcuffs – Just like last week, here is another reminder list of guys you want to grab as playoff handcuffs in case of injury to irreplaceable stud RB’s: Shane Vereen, Robert Turbin, Toby Gerhart, Bernard Pierce, Cedric Peerman, Evan Royster, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jacobs, Daryl Richardson,
Josh Gordon, CLE – Gordon finally got back in the end-zone last week, and thanks to the Raiders posted his season high in catches (6) as well as his first 100 yard game. He has become the clear No. 1 receiver for Weeden, and can take advantage of the same juicy schedule the next two weeks.
Chris Givens, STL – Givens was mentioned in the DD section last week, and took advantage of Danny Amendola’s absence to vacuum in 11 passes on the day. That kind of volume is hard to overlook with Buffalo on deck and Amendola still not practicing.
Mike Thomas, DET – Ryan Broyles tore his ACL (again), which was a blow to anyone who spent big on him last week. With Titus Young banished to injured reserve, Thomas will now be the latest to assume the plum assignment of starting opposite Calvin Johnson. It makes him roster worthy at the very least.
Golden Tate, SEA – Tate could very well be the most interesting option sitting on your wire right now. Wilson loves him in the red-zone, and that makes him a threat to score each and every week.
Rod Streater, OAK- Denarius Moore apparently got benched during the loss to Cleveland, which allowed Streater to be the recipient of a long touchdown grab as a result. Don’t be fooled into thinking it will happen again soon.
Jason Avant, PHI – Avant took advantage of the loss of DeSean Jackson to get back into the action with a 79 yard day. As we mentioned with Foles, the schedule sets up well for this offense, at least making Avant a quality bench option.
Eric Weems, CHI – You know things are tough in Chicago if the Bears are forced to run Weems out there opposite Brandon Marshall. The team is likely crossing their fingers that Alshon Jeffery can somehow make it back this week to lend a hand.
Week 13 Update:
Pierre Garcon, WSH – Garcon was everywhere against the Giants, and looked healthy and spry in the process. If you held onto to him, this is what you were waiting for. Hopefully you lasted long enough to take advantage of it.
Mario Manningham , SF – Manningham unfortunately injured his shoulder a week after I mentioned the emerging chemistry between he and Kaepernick.
Jacob Tamme, DEN – Tamme has been getting more looks as the injuries mount in Denver. He was Peyton Manning’s favorite target last Sunday, and could be in for another high-vloume day against the Raiders. If he can somehow find the end-zone, consider it a bonus,
Tony Scheffler, DET – Scheffler will get a big boost in snaps and targets this week with Broyles and Young no longer around. He a great start inleagues that start two TE’s
Jared Cook – With the Titans throwing the ball more, Cook has finally shown some life again. He and Locker made some music in Nashville this time last year, so perhaps they can do it again.
Week 13 Update:
Rob Housler, ARZ – I made the mistake of mentioning Housler for a second time, and he flopped again. Fool me once shame on…..well you know the rest.
Cleveland – Cleveland is not giving up too many points, thanks to a determined running game and a much improved run defense. Kansas City is still the same mistake prone squad they have been all year. The fans will be fired up to boo Peyton Hillis every time he touches the ball. Hopefully they will give Brady Quinn a warmer welcome.
Alex Henery – The last few weeks I have hit on a few K’s I like for your playoff run. If you are looking for a little one week magic, why not give Henery a look. The way Bryce Brown is running the ball, the FG opportunities will be there.
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