Did your first-round pick tear a muscle you can’t pronounce? Is your top running back doing more sucking than running? Welp, Let’s look for sleepers and waiver wire/free agent pool gold together, and be wrong together, and cry together.

Surely you remember this little feature from those preseason days of long, long ago, when we were digging to the deepest depths of draft boards for gold, or at least fake dollar store plastic jewelery. You’re still my boy, blue Rod Streater.

Well, like the poetic changing of the leaves that is nature’s signal that a season is ending, we too morph, take a new shape and…yeah I couldn’t do it.

The concept here is the same as it was a few weeks ago, just minus the draft valuations. We’re still digging for gold that exists at varying depths in your league depending on the size, but now we’re doing it on the waiver wire and in the general free agent pool, the mystical fantasy playgrounds where championships can be won, but most often you’re just picking up this week’s kicker.

Our adventures will take us through the primary offensive positions (quarterback, wide receiver, running back, and tight end), because kickers are barely people, and with the exception of the few elite units, team defenses rank quite highly on the crapshoot scale too.

Alright then. Onwards…

Quarterbacks

1. Mark Sanchez: It would be tempting to leave Sanchez right where he is, and he almost resoundingly resides on the waiver wire due to the venomous combination of suckiness last year, and Tim Tebow. But Tebow had only five carries for 11 yards in Week 1, and Sanchez was able to light up a Buffalo defense that — on paper at least — dramatically improved its pass rush during the offseason.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 19%, ESPN – 12.3%

2. Christian Ponder: The apprehensiveness around Ponder still hasn’t been entirely shed by a quarterback who still sort of feels like a rookie for fantasy purposes, as he only made his 11th career regular-season start Sunday. But another kind of apprehension should be long gone, as it definitely looks like Adrian Peterson is back to full health, so he’ll be able to provide Pro Bowl caliber backfield support. In those 10 starts last year Ponder only had three interception-free games, and he made it four Sunday in Minnesota’s OT win over Jacksonville.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 12%, ESPN – 3.6%

3. Matt Flynn: This is quite clearly a speculative pickup for those in deeper leagues who have the required flexibility in their roster space. Of the five rookie quarterbacks who were opening-week starters, only one wasn’t a first-round pick (Russell Wilson), and therefore only one won’t be given a significant amount of rope (Russell Wilson), and only one has a highly expensive backup behind him who’s getting paid $10 million this year (um, Matt Flynn).

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 5%, ESPN – 1.2%

Running backs

1. Jonathan Dwyer: With Rashard Mendenhall still out and not likely to return for a few more weeks, and with Isaac Redman getting off to a poor start Sunday night (only 20 yards on 11 carries for a very meager 1.8 yards per carry), Dwyer will see an increased workload this week. He’s an ideal add for those who are still waiting on Ryan Mathews, whose likelihood of playing this week remains very uncertain while he’s in “wait and see” mode. Dwyer could also be a sneaky flex option in deeper leagues.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 19.2%, ESPN – 18.2%

2. Mikel LeShoure: As you’ll see below, the availability of LeShoure is a little scattered. He’ll sit out one more game of his suspension for deciding that weed is a healthy dinner, and when he returns he’ll likely be on the low end of a time share with Kevin Smith. Exactly how low that share goes depends on how Smith does this week after he had 62 yards on 13 carries in Detroit’s win over St. Louis, which is quite paltry against the league’s worst rush defense from a year ago. At a position where injuries can mount quite swiftly, LeShoure is worth the flier to add depth if you can afford it.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 33%, ESPN – 17.8%

3. Alex Green: I’ll continue to drive the Green fan bus, even though he didn’t receive a single carry during the Packers’ Week 1 loss to San Francisco, and even though Randall Cobb was often used out of the backfield, with a swing pass to him in open space the equivalent of a carry. But James Starks is still out, and Cedric Benson had just 18 yards on nine carries Sunday night. Eventually the Packers have to establish something that resembles a ground game, right? A short turnaround could also give Green a few touches Thursday due to the desire to minimize the pounding on Benson’s aging body, and if he shines he’ll sprinkle some water on that really deep sleeper seed.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 6%, ESPN – 0.7%

Wide Receivers

1. Alshon Jeffery: This is another case where the availability is pretty scattered between our two primary league hosting sites of choice. But still, the fact that Jeffery is available in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues is remarkable after his immediate deep ball chemistry with Jay Cutler that resulted in the second-round picks’ 42-yard touchdown reception Sunday. Right now Jeffery is a solid flex play with the potential to mature into a WR3.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 35%, ESPN – 11.5%

2. Brandon LaFell: In about a month us hosers will congregate over pumpkin pie and roasted bird during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and everyone at everyone’s dinner table will be able to reflect back on August and say that they called LaFell as a sleeper. The love for the Panthers wideout really feels like it was that high during the draft season, yet he’s still pretty widely available even after he had 65 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 1. At a position where booming and then busting is frequent, the WR3 spot is where you should feel free to place receivers who epitomize that style. Much like Jeffery, LaFell is that guy.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 23%, ESPN – 19.2%

3. Stephen Hill: With his imposing size, Hill is yet another widely available option who will provide equal doses of boom and bust opposite Santonio Holmes. Week 1 was plenty of the former, as he dominated Buffalo’s first-round pick Stephon Gilmore en route to 89 receiving yards, two touchdowns, and 20 fantasy points. For those in deep leagues who are worried about Greg Jennings’ status and aren’t confident rolling with either James Jones or Randall Cobb, Hill is worth serious consideration.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 19%, ESPN – 7.4%

Tight ends

1. Marcedes Lewis: Yeah, it was one game, and something something, something about Blaine Gabbert could still suck, something. But in that one game Gabbert looked like a competent and confident quarterback for the first time in his young career, and the result for Lewis was 52 receiving yards and a touchdown. He’s only one year removed from having 700 yards and 10 touchdown receptions (both very easily career highs), and now Lewis already has more TDs in 2012 than he did in all of 2011. Progress!

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 6%, ESPN – 4.4%

2. Dennis Pitta: In what may become a Patriots impersonation, the Ravens will likely spread touches between both Pitta and Ed Dickson, and Monday night Pitta was the winner from both a production standpoint, and in overall targets. Pitta scored only his fourth career touchdown while finishing with 73 receiving yards, and he was targeted nine times, which easily led the team and nearly doubled that of the next receiver. A more accurate comparison at the end of the year for the Ravens’ TEs could be what the Panthers did with Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen last year, with Pitta maybe (hopefully) emerging as the more favored target.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 5%, ESPN – 2.5%

3. Martellus Bennett: The ownership is a little higher and varied here too, but the odds are still in favor of Bennett being a fake free agent who’s a few clicks away from playing for your fake team. The Giants have been more focused on their wide receivers in the passing game, and on pounding it with Ahmad Bradshaw in the red zone. But with great offense comes great opportunity, and although Bennett may not be called upon as often in the early going as he eases in and finds his role, he has the job all to himself and he’ll capitalize on his chances when he gets them, as he did last Wednesday when he scored his first TD as a Giant.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 26%, ESPN – 36.7%

Comments (2)

  1. It’s Wednesday. Most waiver claims have already been processed. An article like this needs to go up on a Tuesday.

    • It varies a bit, but you’re right. Regardless, the waiver wire wasn’t the sole focus here, as instead I’m addressing the entire free agent pool and assessing whether or not a player is worth taking a flier on. How you choose to take that flier is your choice, and I’m definitely not advocating spending a waiver claim on, say, Alex Green.

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