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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

Alex Smith, SF – I’m bringing Alex back to the wire in consecutive weeks because I know he’s still out there in some leagues. It’s getting more and more difficult to argue with the numbers he’s put up, since they’ve been pretty consistent. He’s had one bad game all year and while the 49ers have a bye next week and face the Bears when they return, many of their remaining games will allow Smith to air it out.

Every week another receiving threat seems to emerge for the Niners, and it’s good that Smith is spreading the ball around. Antonio Bryant got quiet and Arnaz Battle started getting looks. Eric Johnson hasn’t been the reliable option I thought he would be, but it’s possible he’ll start getting more looks in the games leading up to Vernon Davis’s return. And let’s not forget the TD receptions hauled in by Bryan Gilmore and FB Moran Norris this week for SF. Quarterbacks who spread the ball around quite a bit tend to put up reliable fantasy numbers.

Digging Deeper

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Somebody in one of my leagues just dropped Big Ben, and he responded with a solid game. The trouble with Ben is that he doesn’t throw for tons of yards and you don’t know what you’re going to get each week, which both make him a liability. But he is capable of exploiting favorable matchups like he did Sunday.

Over the course of the rest of the season, there’s about four games where he should perform well. Don’t rush to snap him up over the likes of a Rivers, Smith or Kitna, but pay attention to his numbers.

Scouring The Barrel

Kyle Boller, BAL – This is not a recommendation, and it really is the bottom of the barrel if Boller’s name is involved. First of all, McNair looks like he’ll be ready by Week 8, and second, Boller has been playing anti-fantasy football his entire career. But he was decent in relief of McNair last week and has obvious rapport with Mark Clayton, something the starter has yet to develop. Plus, Boller never had a possession receiver like Derrick Mason. So if Steve suffers setbacks and can’t go after the bye, keep an eye on Boller’s production.


Philip Rivers, SD – Don’t let him slide by for another week on the wire. He’s still available in my ten-team-league, and even with Carson Palmer (killing me with mediocrity) and Byron Leftwich, I’m considering grabbing him.

Damon Huard, KC – Nothing doing against the Steelers, but the Chiefs won’t run into that train every week.

Bruce Gradkowski, TB – I’m giving you folks another update for this guy because he’s coming off another solid week where he protected the football well. Plus, he got the win on a last minute TD pass. Waldman is a genius.

Running Backs

Off The Top

Brandon Jacobs, NYG – Handcuffed to Tiki in most leagues, he’s a great pickup if he’s still available (especially in TD-only leagues) The Giants give him the goal line touches and he’s a physical back with plenty of skill, carrying 11 times for 53 yards and a score on Sunday versus Atlanta.

Digging Deeper

Najeh Davenport, PIT – His role in Pittsburgh is similar to the one Jacobs has in New York, but he’s just finally getting into it, so you won’t see him handcuffed to Parker as often as you do the Barber-Jacobs team. Take a chance on him in TD-only leagues and as a capable #3 when the Steelers play weak defensive teams.

Scouring The Barrel

Michael Pittman, TB – With Cadillac firmly planted as the Bucs #1 back, he probably won’t produce unless the starter gets hurt. But he’s played well this season with his limited opportunities (5.7 YPC and 10 catches for 100 yards). The Cadillac still seems stuck in the garage, but if the offense starts clicking coming off the big win versus Cincinnati, his looks might increase.


Leon Washington, NYJ – Splitting time with Barlow, his touches will be further jeopardized by the possible returns of Cedric Houston and Curtis Martin.

Travis Henry, BUF – Had him as a good deep pickup and he came through nicely. As Vince Young and this offense matures, he’ll continue to produce.

Marion Barber, III, DAL – 57 yards and TD on just 10 carries is pretty decent. He’s keeping Julius Jones from being a top five RB but maintaining top20 status for himself.

Noah Herron, GB – He’s taking on the Dolphins this week, and I think the Packers are going to air it out all game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Off The Top

WR Arnaz Battle, SF – See Alex Smith above. He won’t be a great play for the next couple weeks (bye, @CHI), if you have the luxury of not having to pick up a starter for your team this week, he’s not a bad choice. For the whole season, his numbers aren’t spectacular, and they’re skewed a bit by the one game where he blew up. But he’s ranked as the 27th WR over the last three weeks and he’ll get plenty of looks in the second half of the season.

WR Mark Clayton, BAL – See Kyle Boller above. Again, not a guy to grab if you need a WR this week, since the Ravens are on a bye. But 5 catches for 101 yards and two TDs can’t be ignored.

Digging Deeper

TE Chris Baker, NYJ – Ranked 16th among fantasy TEs this season, he’s got two good matchups coming up – at home versus DET and in CLE during the NFL’s final bye week.

WR Samie Parker, KC – He ranks 35th among fantasy WRs in the last 3 weeks, an obvious sign that Huard’s looking for him. He has some use as a #3 WR with the last two oppressive bye weeks coming up. And his next five matchups could mean some decent numbers.

Scouring The Barrel

WR Michael Clayton, TB – He’s been so disappointing since his impressive 2004 campaign, it’s hard to get excited about one decent game and one great catch. But he’s clicking with Gradkowski and as the young Buc gains confidence, he’ll look more and more for Clayton when Galloway gets double coverage.


WR Troy Brown, NE – Might be a decent start this week if you need a #3 WR.

WR Wes Welker, MIA – No TDs yet in 2006, but he’s caught at least four balls every game so far.

TE George Wrighster, JAX – A decent option at TE this week against the Texans, as he’s a big goal line target that might find the end zone.


Off The Top

LB Eric Barton, NYJ – Not always gonna be available, but he’s managed to stay on the waiver wire in one of my IDP leagues. Vilma and Rhodes get a lot of the fantasy attention, but Barton is about as consistent as you can get from a LB. He always gets his 8-10 tackles, and occasionally throws in a big play. That’s really all you’re looking for from your IDP.

LB David Thornton, TEN – Also a guy that many have scooped up. But with the emergence of Chris hope and the ongoing studliness of Keith Bulluck, some have forgotten about Thornton, who thrived as the WLB for the Colts a few years back. He’s always around the action.

Digging Deeper

DB Donte Whitner, BUF – The Bills saw something in this 2006 first-round draft pick (#8 overall), and it’s paying off. Injuries in the secondary thrust the rookie into a starting role, where he’s compiled 40 tackles, an INT and 3 PDs in just five starts. I have a feeling he’ll get even more involved and begin making more big plays.

Scouring The Barrel

DB Anthony Henry, DAL – In leagues that reward passes defensed with a point or two, Henry has been putting up some decent numbers (about 8-10 PPG). He shares the NFL league lead in the PD category with 10 (five last week) and has a couple games with 8 tackles (28 total on the season). He plays his best in the secondary as a true safety valve when the Cowboys have a lead – and he can hang back and get lucky while Roy Williams blitzes and plays up on the run.


LB Kirk Morrison, OAK – Continues to see lots of action and get plenty of tackling opportunities. Expect more of the same this week as Oakland takes on the Cards, who ran Edgerrin James 36 times Monday night.

DB Lito Sheppard, PHI – Five tackles, INT, and a PD last week for a solid game.

DB Oshiomogho Atogwe, STL – On a bye his week, he’ll come back strong after the rest.

DL Trent Cole, PHI – Couldn’t get to Brees, but everybody has an off week once in a while.

DB Richard Marshall, CAR – Still just a guy to keep on the radar.