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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 an almost limitless resource when it comes
to discovering fantasy value in strange places. Each week, I’ll
highlight some of the popular (and not-so-popular) players who can
help your squad and may still be available in your league.
Bridgewater, MIN – Owned in just 38 percent of fantasy leagues
after a slew of mediocre games, Bridgewater has a healthy receiving
corps and some developing wideouts who can make big plays. He
threw for a season-high 316-2-0 against the Lions on Sunday and
faces the putrid pass defense of the Bears in Week 8. I grabbed
him in one of my most competitive leagues (a 14-team league where
I drafted Tony Romo and Tyrod Taylor), and he’ll be a capable
fill-in for the next three weeks.
Smith, KC – Smith is purely a matchup play, and one with marginal
upside considering the lack of a solid RB presence. Still, the
Lions are not good, and if you’re in a pinch, he could be a useful
fill-in next week. Jeremy Maclin is expected back and Travis Kelce
is one of the best TEs in football.
Jameis Winston, TB – Winston took another big step forward
Sunday (297-2-0), though his team took a loss and his receivers
got beat up. He now has two straight games without an interception,
and he’s passed for 200 yards in each of his six starts
as a pro. Atlanta might not be the best defense to roll him out
against, but matchups against the weak NFC East in weeks 9-11
could mean lots of scoring.
Foles, STL – It may seem incongruous to see the name Nick
Foles in a waiver wire recommendations column, but I like to take
some chances. Foles, as useless as he’s been to fantasy teams
for most of 2015, has two decent games this season against good
teams, and Week 8 shapes up to surpass both of them. Opposing
teams are likely to start crowding the line to defend Todd Gurley,
and the Rams have some viable receivers who could provide a quick-hit
spark to help Foles rack up passing yardage and some TDs during
the next few weeks. He’s only 25-30 percent owned and if you’re
a risk taker, this might be a good spot to give Foles a look in
DFS and as a bye week fill-in.
UPDATE:I’m going to
stick by my Foles pick and make a bold prediction that he finishes
among the top five (!) fantasy QBs this week. He’s a salary
saver in DFS, along with the surging Bridgewater and I’m
plugging in both in a bunch of lineups.
Blake Bortles, JAC – Bortles had a relatively poor showing
in London (187-2-1), but the Jags got off to a lead and spent
much of the game treading water against the Bills. He’s
on a Week 8 bye and returns to face the Jets, Ravens and Titans,
making him a viable low-end QB1 for all three.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ – The Harvard alum threw for 295-2-0
against the Pats and appears to be in full control of the Jets
offense. He’s almost a weekly lock for 250 passing yards
and two TDs, which means he’ll be a solid play next week
facing the Raiders.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – After hitting the waiver wire in
a bunch of leagues during his Week 5 bye, Tannehill had a solid
Week 6 and busted out for 282-4-0, with all four passing TDs coming
in the first half against the Texans in Week 7. He’s back
among the QB1s and should be owned in all formats.
Carr, OAK – I started Carr in another deep league where I
got killed by the Romo injury and it paid off, as the second-year
QB racked up 289-3-0 against the Chargers. He’s owned in about
half of all fantasy leagues and has a bevy of excellent young
receivers, though the schedule looks a little more difficult over
the next few weeks.
If Joseph Randle (oblique) misses significant
time, Darren McFadden becomes fantasy worthy.
McFadden, DAL – McFadden (50-70 percent owned) busted out
for 152 rushing yards and a TD on 29 carries Sunday, adding 2-10-0.
There’s no telling if this is just a tease or the Cowboys will
continue to run interference a la Christine Michael and the serial
doghouse drama that surrounds Joseph Randle (oblique). The takeaway
here is that McFadden, behind a solid line and with a better understanding
of the playbook, is capable of shredding a poor run defense. He’s
a great pickup but is no more than a flex option against the Seahawks
in Week 8.
UPDATE:Randle is nursing an
oblique injury and McFadden has “absolutely” earned
more work in the backfield makes him a top priority this week
on the waiver wire, even with a difficult matchup. If the Cowboys
are going to beat the Seahawks, they’re going to need to
establish a ground game and give McFadden the ball – plain
Blue, HOU – With Arian Foster suffering a season-ending Achilles
tear, Blue is thrust once again into fantasy relevance. Kudos
to the 30-35 percent of the fantasy world who kept him rostered
anticipating this moment. To the others, go out and get this guy.
Blue isn’t a special back, but he’s a relatively strong early-down
runner and viable goal line back, though many of those duties
could also be foisted upon Chris Polk. I might prefer McFadden
given his offensive line, but Blue isn’t a bad door prize if you
don’t have top priority.
UPDATE:According to beat reporters
from the Houston Chronicle, we’re likely to see a committee
approach of Blue, Polk and Jonathan Grimes to assume Foster’s
versatility and production. Blue was the starter the last time
Foster was sidelined, and he had one big game (against the Buccaneers)
where he flashed vision and power. He’s the Texans’
leading rusher this season with 234 yards and a touchdown on 60
carries (3.9 yards per carry).
Robinson, NO – Robinson (10-15 percent owned) is a necessary
handcuff for Mark Ingram, and showed he still has a nose for the
end zone with 28 rushing yards and two TDs on 14 carries Sunday.
The above RBs are better waiver wire picks this week.
Darkwa, NYG – There are now four Giants running backs on the
fantasy radar, the latest being Darkwa (0 percent owned). Darkwa
ran well on early downs and in the red zone, finishing with 48
yards and a TD on eight carries. He’s a deep-league add and not
someone to waste a high priority pick on.
UPDATE:Giants coach Tom Coughlin
said on Monday that “the coaches felt strongly that he should
be given an opportunity.” Well that’s nice. And here
I thought Coughlin was just a grumpy old bastard with a red face!
Darkwa certainly made the most of his chance, leading the team
in rushing attempts and out-snapping Rashad Jennings as he averaged
6.0 YPC on his eight carries. He’s in the mix for Week 8,
but Jennings and Shane Vereen are still effective role players
getting paid real salaries. Even Andre Williams – targeted
by some as a 2015 breakout candidate – is a viable option
for the Giants in short yardage running situations. Darkwa is
an RB4 pickup in 12-14 team leagues, but you’ll likely be
chasing last week’s points if you add him.
Mike Tolbert, CAR – Tolbert vultured a couple of Jonathan
Stewart TDs on just four touches. He’s owned in just 1 percent
of fantasy leagues and only has relevance if something happens
to require a heavier workload. I’m staying away, but he’s
obviously a factor in TD-only scoring formats, which are rare
Matt Jones, WAS – The Washington running game never got
going and Jones tallied just 29 rushing yards and 3-22-0 receiving
in the last-minute win over Tampa Bay. Still – he’s
probably the highest-upside back they have and may get overlooked
heading into the Week 8 bye. Jones is owned in 55-75 percent of
Jonathan Stewart, CAR – Stewart (now up to 95 percent owned
after a couple weeks in the 80-90 percent range) ran well in Sunday
night’s win over Philly, rushing for 125 yards on 24 carries.
He failed to score as Tolbert was used in the goal line offense.
Starks, GB – Starks was on a Week 7 bye and returns to face
the Broncos. It’ll be tough sledding, especially if he splits
touches with Eddie Lacy.
Michael, DAL – I’ve been badgered a bit for not including
Michael more prominently in this column, and I’ve consistently
tried to throw cold water on the hype by reminding readers that
he’s never been exactly what NFL coaches have hoped he’d be. Now,
it appears, after a game labeled a possible breakout for the third-year
RB, people will temper their expectations.
UPDATE:McFadden is the guy.
There could be some bizarre former team narrative at work here
and if something should happen to Run-DMC this week (don’t
laugh – he could sustain a breakfast injury or injure himself
pumping gas), then Michael would assume more value against the
Oliver, SD – Oliver ran for just 35 yards on nine carries
but caught 6-39-0 in the loss to Oakland. Melvin Gordon came off
the bench and Danny Woodhead (85-95 percent owned) dominated touches
and racked up all kinds of fantasy points (26 rushing yards, 11-75-2
receiving) in garbage time.
McCluster, TEN – McCluster had the best game of all the Titans
backs, finishing with 20 rushing yards and 6-48-0 vs. Atlanta.
UPDATE:McCluster is roundly
being described as a “desperation flex play” or something
similar, but he’s definitely got more value in PPR leagues,
where he’s a valuable check-down option for a mistake-prone
Zach Mettenberger – or even Marcus Mariota, if he’s
ready to come back. I’m slowly warming to the idea of a
McCluster add in 12-team and deeper formats.
Chris Thompson, WAS – Thompson was inactive for Week 7,
with Jones picking up most of the relevant third-down and passing
Tevin Coleman, ATL – Despite assurances this would eventually
be a timeshare again, Coleman had just three carries for 14 yards
and one target (no catches). He’s nothing more than a handcuff
at this point.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Crabtree, OAK – Despite his upside, Crabtree is owned in just
50-60 percent of fantasy leagues. Here are his targets in 2015
(8, 16, 9, 6, 9, BYE, 8) – so why is he so widely ignored? I’m
definitely adding him in all formats where he’s available, especially
coming off a 6-63-1 performance, and with defenses likely treating
Amari Cooper as a bona fide stud with more double coverage.
Amendola, NE – Amendola (35-50 percent owned) has had two
big games in a row, and followed up his 7-105-0 on nine targets
in Week 6 with 8-86-1 on nine targets in Week 7. He was Brady’s
most reliable receiver, with both Brandon LaFell (6 drops) and
Julian Edelman screwing up some decent Tom Brady throws. He’s
likely to see 6-10 targets in Week 8 against the Dolphins.
Matthews, MIA – Speaking of the Dolphins, don’t they look
like a different team? Matthews (55-65 percent owned) continues
to stave off the DeVante Parker era with solid performances, this
time catching 3-75-1 on three targets. It’s likely he would have
had more if the game were closer, but Matthews remains a viable
high-upside, medium-risk play, despite the lack of love he gets
from the hype-sters.
Chris Conley, KC – He replaced Jeremy Maclin in the lineup
and caught 6-63-1 on seven targets from Smith in Sunday’s
win over Pittsburgh. If Maclin is forced to miss any more time,
Conley (1 percent owned) should continue to see targets, though
I’m tempering expectations. He’s only worth a look
in deep leagues.
Nate Washington, HOU – The veteran hauled in 9-127-2 in
garbage time and likely won’t repeat his stat line ever
again, but he’s not a terrible narrative play facing his
old team (Tennessee) next week, and he’s just 5-10 percent
Reed, WAS – When healthy, Reed (60-75 percent owned) will
be a popular target for Kirk Cousins. Though on a bye in Week
8, he might be worth a pickup after a clutch 11-72-2 performance
(13 targets) against the Bucs. Reed is a chain-mover and a solid
red zone receiver in the Aaron Hernandez mold, though he’s had
a history of head injuries.
TE Clive Walford, OAK – Walford, on the other hand, is
almost universally available and despite only a smattering of
targets over his first six games, could be a big-time fantasy
TE in the making. The rookie (from the U of Miami) caught 2-42-1
in the win over San Diego and could be a factor against the Jets
and Steelers in weeks 8 and 9, not to mention the rest of the
season as the Raiders make a not-so-crazy playoff push.
Marvin Jones, CIN –The Bengals were on a Week 7 bye, and
if Jones is on the wire, grab him.
Lance Moore, DET – This is what happens when you start
trusting Lance More after two straight weeks with a TD. Nothing
in week 7.
Torrey Smith, SF – Smith was held catchless on Thursday.
Stefon Diggs, MIN – Finally! In an update we can feel good
about, I’m proud to announce that Diggs (55-75 percent owned)
has arrived as an NFL starter and solid fantasy option. He caught
6-108-1 on nine targets, including his first TD as a pro –
an incredible 36-yard diving fingertip catch on a deep throw from
Bridgewater. He should be owned in all formats and is one of the
reasons I’m high on the QB from here on out.
Bryan Walters, JAC – Walters had just one catch for 5 yards;
both Allen’s (Hurns and Robinson) were active.
Janis, GB – Janis (coming off a Week 7 bye) is a longshot
for production with Davante Adams scheduled to return, but if
he develops some rapport with Aaron Rodgers…look out.
UPDATE:Adams (ankle) returned
to Packers practice on Monday and is on track to return for Week
8 against the Broncos, where he'll be a low-end WR3 option in
fantasy leagues behind Randall Cobb and James Jones. Janis is
not a safe bet for many targets with all three of those Packers
TE Ben Watson, NO – Watson followed up his massive Week
6 breakout with 4-59-0 on five targets. Not bad.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB – Seferian-Jenkins was once
again inactive, and Mike Evans owners are thankful. It’s
looking more and more like that Week 1 game was nothing more than
an elaborate rouse to get me and the rest of the ASJ-happy pundits
all hot and bothered. He’s a dynasty darling and a lottery
ticket bench TE in redrafts until he gets fully healthy.