Those blasted bye weeks have returned (Packers and Panthers this week), increasing the importance of your waiver gambling. So go forth, and bid many dollars on Ryan Broyles before he tears something else.

For you folk who are new around these parts, I’ve done waiver gem mining at four positions for your convenience, with a total of 20 players analyzed/discussed/prognosticated/drooled over.


1. Philip Rivers: When we discuss the potential for a boom coming up for any particular player in this post due to a juicy matchup, usually it’s the one happening this week. That’s because I’m a man who lives in the present, and I deal in the here and now, which is generally what you should be doing too with your weekly journeys deep into the waiver darkness. There are exceptions, though, and times when a bit of foresight is a great thing. This is one of those times.

Next week Robert Griffin III mercifully gets to rest his weary legs during Washington’s bye. He’s been surprisingly not awful in fantasy (19 and 22 points over the first two weeks), even though the Redskins have been horrendous in reality. So you’ve been nervously riding that wave so far, and you’re doing just fine thanks. But where oh where should you turn when Griffin sits? Probably to the guy matched up against the Raiders and their secondary that’s giving up 8.1 yards per completion. That guy is Philip Rivers.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 61%, Yahoo – 62%

2. Ryan Tannehill: The Saints’ secondary has improved with the additions of Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro, and they’re getting much more consistent pressure from Cameron Jordan, with his three sacks already. But with byes beginning and the weekly talent pool getting shallow, there’s still an opportunity here with Tannehill — who faces the Saints Monday night — to own and plug in a quarterback spoiled with pass-catching options. He may not be connecting deep with Mike Wallace yet, but chemistry is more than present with Brian Harline, who’s averaging 9.3 targets per game, and he already has more touchdowns through three games this year (two) than his total last season (um, one).

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 10.2%, Yahoo – 17%

3. Geno Smith: He busted through the 300-yard barrier for the first time in Week 3, while averaging a ridiculous 11.4 yards per attempt. But beyond the ability to recover from a poor performance (Smith completed only 42.9 percent of his passes in Week 2, and then came back with a still low but drastically improved 55.2 in Week 3), what’s encouraging about Smith’s play is the rookie connecting with multiple deep options early in his first season. In the Jets’ win over Buffalo he had two +100-yard receivers (Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill)

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 5%

4. Jake Locker: Locker showed signs of more than just competence Sunday against the Chargers. No, instead he was good, and possibly even damn good. For only the fourth time in his 14 career starts the Titans quarterback finished a game with a completion rate of 60 percent or higher, and he hasn’t thrown an interception yet. But what was most valuable for fake footballing was his 68 rushing yards, a career single-game high. Toss in the rushing touchdown, and 12 of Locker’s 27 Week 3 fantasy points came on the ground.

Maybe (oh, just maybe), we saw how Locker can be effective, which is by being in constant movement. This week he’ll pass and run against a Jets defense that just allowed E.J. Manuel to jog pleasantly for 40 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 2% , Yahoo – 6%

5. Brian Hoyer: You know when last week was? It occurred in the past. Do you know when next week is? It will happen in the future. Please repeat this basic, fundamental knowledge to yourself before you go forth to spend any waiver money or priority of significance on Hoyer, who draws a much, much tougher matchup in his second start, this time against the Bengals. That’s assuming he even starts, of course, because right now Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski isn’t committing either way. Brandon Weeden’s health will be a factor, but benching Hoyer after he finally brought a sprinkling of confidence to the most important offensive position would be just so Browns. So yeah, they’ll probably do it then while embracing all things tank.

Hoyer was effective enough this past Sunday while connecting with Josh Gordon repeatedly. But aside from Gordon’s 47-yard catch, all of Hoyer’s other 29 other completions went for less than 20 yards while he averaged only 5.9 yards per attempt. Realistically, he should only be claimed by those who own either Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton in deep leagues, owners who are going through desperate times during their byes with little faith in whatever QB2 is on the bench (if a QB2 is on the bench at all).

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 2%

Running Backs

1. Brandon Bolden: On one carry during New England’s Week 3 win over Tampa, Bolden had more rushing yards than Stevan Ridley’s total in two of his three games. Bolden busted out for a 46-yarder, while Ridley had only 35 yards on 11 carries. That’s strike one on the presumed workhorse with Shane Vereen out, and strikes two through nine (we’ve abandoned all conventional baseball rules around here) are Boldon’s much greater receiving ability that led to 49 yards on five catches in his first game back from a knee injury. With Aaron Hernandez gone, Vereen was set to play this role, and now with Vereen gone Bolden will play the Vereen role.

I’ll give you a minute to collect yourself from the vertigo you just experienced. Now, go pick up Bolden, because he’s the RB to own in this backfield (at least this week, as we could get Belichick’ed with LeGarrette Blount), especially in PPR leagues.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 4%

2. Bilal Powell: Chris Ivory is broken now, because that’s what Chris Ivory does. He has a hamstring pull again, and when he struggled with the same injury back in August Ivory missed a few weeks of training camp. Translation: Powell is about to go pow pow.

Last year owning any part of the Jets’ backfield induced puking, but that was mostly because Mark Sanchez provided little support, and Shonn Greene spent the season running into bodies. Now, Powell is fresh off of flowing through the sieve that is the Bills’ run defense with 149 yards on 27 carries, and he has the Falcons and Titans next, two front sevens that have given up some exceedingly long jogs already for 60 and 49 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 59%, Yahoo – 48%

3. Pierre Thomas: Yes, owning Thomas has generally been a horrible experience. But if we maintain some context here with bye weeks coming up, he doesn’t look nearly as bad, especially with Mark Ingram now minimized to the point of extinction. Ingram has only 31 yards on 11 carries thus far, with the shift away from his short-yardage pounding now firmly established to the point that trade rumors are flying. Thomas still has flex value with his pass catching, especially in PPR leagues. He’s averaging 4.6 catches and 24.6 receiving yards per game, which often balances out any deficiencies on the ground.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 17%, Yahoo – 45%

4. Johnathan Franklin: Usually I tell you who to pick up, and who to claim immediately. Right here I’m doing the opposite (with one exception), because even though claiming Franklin feels so right, it’s wrong. All wrong.

There’s a guy in your league who’s so desperate for a running back that he would claim your hamster if possible. This fellow is in pretty much every league, and he’s soaked his computer in several layers of sweat while trying to determine how much money to bid on Franklin, who busted out for 103 yards during Green Bay’s loss to Cincinnati at a pace of 7.9 per carry. Don’t be that guy.

It’s nice and all that Franklin made defenders miss, and it’s great that he fed us our delicious words after an offseason was spent ripping the Packers’ other rookie running back. But now since both Eddie Lacy and James Starks have plenty of time to recover from their injuries during the Packers’ bye, at least one will be healthy for Week 5 (almost definitely Lacy) and Franklin will fade back into near irrelevancy, though he’ll likely still have a change of pace role on passing downs. If you’re a nervous Lacy owner who still wants to spend a few dollars or a low waiver priority to get some cheap insurance, that is acceptable.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 10%

5. Le’Veon Bell: I won’t spend much time here, because common sense will and should prevail. Somehow Bell is available in nearly 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, even with the positive reports of his steady recovery over the last few weeks. Now he’s set to make his regular-season debut Sunday, though the level of his workload is yet to be determined. There will most likely be care and caution at first before the brutish Bell is unleashed next week. In an offense that’s struggled mightily without a respectable run game, he could easily get close to 300 touches even after missing three weeks.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 91%, Yahoo – 63%

Wide Receivers

1. Ryan Broyles: He’s been handled with the softest gloves available on a football sideline, an understandable approach to have with a receiver who’s torn the same ACL twice, and he’s not even a year removed from the most recent rip. Broyles was inactive for the first two weeks before making his 2013 debut this past Sunday in a still limited capacity, catching three passes for 34 yards. Now he’s set for a sudden and potentially significant rise in targets and production.

Nate Burleson broke his arm in a car accident Monday night, and he’ll be out for the next six-to-eight weeks. For him the injury is particularly ill-timed after the veteran complement to Calvin Johnson was the latest to enjoy the Redskins’ weak secondary, catching six passes for 116 yards. He had been targeted 32 times through the first three weeks, targets that will now go to Broyles, who will primarily play the slot. In that role last year the former Oklahoma standout had 126 yards on six catches in a Thanksgiving Day breakout. His health is still a concern, but at the very least Broyles is a fine flex option going forward, especially in PPR leagues.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 54% , Yahoo – 23%

2. Rod Streater: Consistent averageness has been Streater’s thing, as he’s now logged two straight games with 42 receiving yards. That alone is passable flex production in deep leagues, but there could be reason to expect more this week. Terrelle Pryor was whacked so thoroughly Monday night that time elapsed without his knowledge, and although it’s too early in the week to know yet, there’s a good chance we get a Matt Flynn sighting in Week 4 when the Raiders attempt to become the latest to ride the Redskins’ secondary carnival (999 passing yards allowed through three games).

Flynn’s presence and his linguini arm will alter the dynamics of the Raiders’ passing game, with far fewer targets deep to Denarius Moore, and instead Streater may be utilized on intermediate crossing routes while attempting to do his best Donnie Avery imitation.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 9%

3. Ted Ginn: Let there be life. The long discarded and forgotten Ginn has now provided Cam Newton with someone to look at when Steve Smith is inevitably double covered, and that’s resulted in two straight games with a catch of 40 yards or more.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 3%

4. Donnie Avery: Mostly, what we saw from Avery last Thursday night feels like a dirty lie, and the product of a weakness spotted by Andy Reid and Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. They saw a hole up the middle in coverage, and were confident the Eagles’ secondary didn’t have the tackling ability or speed to hang with Avery. They were right.

Avery coming even close to his 141-yard performance again this season likely isn’t happening. But a low cost waiver add gambling on the off chance that Reid and Pederson have discovered the ideal link between Alex Smith’s comfort throwing short and Avery’s speed after the catch is acceptable.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 12%

5. Nate Washington: Like Ginn above, suddenly Washington matters, and his rise coincides with Kenny Britt’s spiral into nothingness. Washington had more receiving yards in Week 3 against the Chargers (131) than he had in the previous two weeks combined. Granted, it was the Chargers, but regardless of the opponent it’s Washington’s targets (10) that should have you thinking about him for at least a few long seconds. Last year he only had one double-digit target game in a season when he finished with 746 yards. His early pace now? 1,210 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 7%, Yahoo – 22%

Tight Ends

1. Dallas Clark: There’s little consistency here, because that sort of thing happens when you can’t outrun a can of paint, and you’re 34 years old. But if you’re desperate because two prominent tight ends are on byes and watching football with a bowl of Jiffy Pop like the rest of this week (Jermichael Finley and Greg Olsen), Clark is the best add simply because of his prominent role. He’s been targeted 20 times, including seven in Week 3 (second among Ravens pass catchers) that he turned into 46 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 7%, Yahoo – 10%

2. Jermaine Gresham: The same refrain applies here, just to a lesser extent because Tyler Eifret will suck back a handful of targets each week. Gresham has been targeted 19 times, and this week he’ll face a Lions defense that’s giving up 44.4 yards per game to tight ends.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 11%, Yahoo – 52%

3. Scott Chandler: Here again we have target consistency, with E.J. Manuel looking Chandler’s way six times in each game so far. That’s always important for tight ends, with the lower tier names at the position often afterthoughts. That wasn’t the case for Chandler in Week 3, as he gave the three people who started him 13 fantasy points on 79 yards and a touchdown. He’s another serviceable plug and play option for deep leaguers.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1% , Yahoo – 5%

4. Rob Housler: For the reasons I gushed about way back in May, Housler is still a sleeper/breakout candidate, though it may not happen until later this season since he’s currently fourth in line for targets behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts after missing two games with an ankle injury.

Percentage Owned: ESPN 1%, Yahoo – 11%

5. Brandon Pettigrew: I didn’t really expect a whole lot out of Pettigrew this year with Buggie Bush and/or Joique Bell set to steal much of the work on short-to-intermediate routes. But I still expected…something, and he’s shown in the past that he’s at least among those worthy of bye week flex consideration (two seasons with over 700 yards). Last week he didn’t have a reception, and he has just five catches overall.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 41%, Yahoo – 39%