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 gold together, and be wrong together, and cry together.
For anyone who called Week 5 as the week when three Dolphins would end up on this list and two of them would be receivers, well, you need help.
What a world.
1. Ryan Tannehill: Now more than just Mr. Lauren Tannehill, you’re well aware of the explosion by the Dolphins quarterback in Week 4 that ended in the sixth best passing game in team history (435 yards). That’s sort of good for a guy who’s playing on a team that once employed some other guy named Marino, and he could be facing a Cincinnati secondary this week that’s still battered with key injuries. We’ll know more tomorrow once practice reports surface, but Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, Nate Clements, and Jason Allen all missed the Bengals’ win this past Sunday over Jacksonville.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2.9%, Yahoo – 5%
2. Brandon Weeden: Some of Weeden’s key ratios like passer rating (60.4) and completion percentage (53.9) are rather Tebowian and leave us wanting. But you should care so very little about that, because those numbers only come into play in the most obscure fantasy leagues in which participants go into a cave every fall and don’t emerge for four months. Here’s all that matters to you, and especially the Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford owners who are reaching for a good flex play during your starter’s bye week: Weeden already has two +300-yard passing games. And although he’s still throwing picks like any developing rookie quarterback, his turnover troubles have slowed since a disastrous four-INT outing in Week 1. Since then he’s thrown three, and he was interception free in Week 2. Progress!
Percentage owned: ESPN – 3.1%, Yahoo – 6%
3. Matt Hasselbeck: I almost put Matt Flynn in this spot. As Russell Wilson continues to prove that he’s better suited to carry a headset instead of a football, Flynn is creeping close to his first start in Seattle. But we know that Hasselbeck is starting with Jake Locker out, and we know what we’re getting with him. He’s a veteran with still decent arm strength who had 3,571 passing yards last year, and he’s careful with the ball. He may have thrown his share of interceptions (14 INTs in 2011, compared to 18 TDs), but he never had more than two in a game, and he had six interception-free games. He’s safe, which is a core quality for a backup in reality, and to a lesser degree in fantasy.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1.4%, Yahoo – 2%
1. Brandon Bolden: I’m recommending Bolden with a caveat, and a word of caution. Make the claim on him only if you’re a Steven Ridley owner and you need to secure insurance and a handcuff, roles that Shane Vereen quite clearly isn’t handling anymore in New England. But otherwise, if you have a high waiver priority, spending it on Bolden comes with far too much risk. Yes, he looked great as New England fed Buffalo its own snot, rushing for 137 yards on an incredible 8.6 per carry. But his performance stunk of Bill Belichick’s game planning, and the head coach’s desire to (quite successfully) exploit a weakness. As impressive as Bolden was, it’s not like he dramatically out paced Ridley, as the Pats had two 100-yard rushers, and Ridley finished with 106 yards on the day. At best/worst, there will likely be a time share here, with Ridley on the higher end.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 0.3%, Yahoo – 11%
2. Kendall Hunter: With an ownership that remains alarming low since every league has a Frank Gore owner, Hunter should still be a mandatory handcuff in deep leagues. He didn’t receive much work until San Francisco’s Week 4 blowout win over the Jets when he had 56 yards on just eight carries. Last year despite limited touches (307), Hunter still had 668 all-purpose yards while Gore had his first 16-game season since 2006, and over that span he missed nine games. You don’t want to be stuck hoping for this Hunter claim to go through when the Gore bomb eventually goes off.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 9.5%, Yahoo – 17%
3. LeGarrette Blount: This smells like a reach, because it is a reach, and it’s admittedly a product of a still very thin wire and running back free agent pool. But sometimes it’s the speculative reach that pays off, and although his numbers weren’t at all impressive during Tampa’s loss to Washington (17 yards on six carries), it’s Blount’s workload that’s both important, and curious. Blount received only two fewer carries than starter Doug Martin after getting just seven carries in his first two games (he was hurt during Week 2). Martin owners in deep leagues would be wise to invest in Blount as a handcuff, because he could be slowly working his way out of Greg Schiano’s doghouse.
Percentage Owned: ESPN – 30.5%, Yahoo – 17
1. Brian Hartline: The Dolphins signed Jabar Gaffney today, and while that shouldn’t effect Hartline’s short-term value too much since the former Patriot will only have three practices before potentially seeing game action in a new offense, how the touches get distributed throughout the rest of the season could be interesting and/or frightening. Gaffney had 947 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year in Washington, and despite Hartline’s brilliance and his 12 catches for 253 yards this past Sunday, he now immediately becomes Ryan Tannehill’s much needed veteran target. So just when we thought Hartline would emerge as 2012′s breakout receiver and maybe be a really, really poor man’s A.J. Green to Tannehill’s Andy Dalton, we may have been told that we can’t have nice things.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 26.7%, Yahoo – 29%
2. Davone Bess: Yes, why not make a claim on all of the Dolphins, and all of the Dolphins receivers? If you miss on Hartline, Bess may not be such a bad consolation prize for those seeking bye week depth. Hartline’s explosion against Arizona overshadowed a fine day by our second prize Dolphins waiver claim, as Bess had 123 receiving yards on seven catches. And although the same Gaffney warning that applies to Hartline could restrict Bess’ production too, in the short-term he’s still an ideal deep option for a strong-armed rookie who’s looking increasingly more comfortable in the pocket.
Percentage owned: EPSN – 7.4%, Yahoo – 17%
3. James Jones: An automatic add and claim for the Greg Jennings owner, Jones is only narrowly ahead of Randall Cobb in terms of his likely value and production with the Packers’ top receiver out. The difference is that Cobb is more widely owned (61% in Yahoo leagues), likely due to his versatility as a rusher and kick returner. Jones becomes Green Bay’s No. 2 wideout this week with Jennings almost definitely out, and against the Saints last week he had five receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 21.6%, Yahoo – 34%
1. Scott Chandler: The Bills enjoy scoring touchdowns by passing a football, a category they lead the league in at the quarter pole with 12, and Chandler has been on the receiving end for four of them. What’s troubling about Chandler is we’ve seen this kind of outburst over a short span before, and it doesn’t end well. A year ago while receiving plenty of red-zone targets before the Bills descended into their deep, dark season of suck, Chandler had four TD catches over the first four games, just as he does now. How many did he have over the other 12 games? Two.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 31.6%, Yahoo – 30%
2. Dustin Keller: He’s missed three games with a sore hamstring — an injury first suffered during the preseason — and we’ll know more about his Week 5 status tomorrow. But even if he doesn’t play this week, consider this a high upside long-term add, and at the very least a great bye week filler. It’s surprising how widely Keller’s available since Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow have to throw to someone, and once he’s healthy he’ll become the only experienced target in the Jets’ offense.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 17.2%, Yahoo – 26%
3. Greg Olsen: As you’ll see below, Olsen’s ownership is scattered, but it’s still remarkable and almost unfair that you’ll be able to get him in nearly half of Yahoo leagues. It’s baffling that Olsen is still that widely available after he’s put together back-to-back games with 80 or more receiving yards. He’s also showcased great down-field ability with a 34-yard catch last week, and a 23 yarder two weeks ago. And with 256 receiving yards thus far he’s ahead of Jimmy Graham, and only four yards behind Rob Gronkowski, making all that preseason talk about joining the elite tight ends look like more than just drunk ramblings.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 16.7%, Yahoo – 54%