I assume by now Julio Jones owners have had their long cry while eating all the ice cream and watching A Walk To Remember on repeat. Good, because there’s waiver work to be done, with plenty of options readily available to replace your precious.
So come with me, and let’s begin the weekly journey into the waiver darkness.
1. Geno Smith: I’ve already passed my limit for Geno gushing today while reciting many wonderful digits associated with what I promise was a real football game we all witnessed last night. So let’s look over yonder to the great beyond, and to…five days from now, when Smith is a decent bye-week replacement for those crying their Matt Ryan tears, in a week when few other appealing options are available (why, just see below). He’ll be running and throwing against the Steelers, a team desperately searching for offensive competence, but defending the pass is still something they do well (currently ranked fifth while giving up 199.0 yards per game). If Ike Taylor can shut down the likes of A.J. Green (only 41 yards despite 14 targets in Week 2), Stephen Hill and/or Jeremy Kerley shouldn’t be an issue.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 5%, Yahoo – 9%
2. Alex Smith: I realize that your initial reaction here is to favor eating brussel sprouts every meal for a week over starting Alex Smith in a meaningful fantasy matchup. But hear me out for a second, man, because even though throwing a ball that travels over 15 yards in the air seems to physically defeat Smith, there’s reason to expect a nice return this week against the Raiders. Smith will be chucking against a secondary that’s allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt and an overall passer rating of 105.9 (27th). In Smith’s two other games against a secondary ranked 20th or lower (Cowboys and Giants) he posted 22 and 21 fantasy points, with a combined five touchdown passes.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 54%, Yahoo – 57%
3. Nick Foles: I just don’t see anything ending well here. The various assembled weapons around Foles — namely, DeSean Jackon and his flapping face hole, and LeSean McCoy — make him at least justifiable for those facing dire times, and a much easier play for anyone in a two-QB league. But this is a quarterback set to make his first start since this year against Tampa’s secondary that still pays Darrelle Revis to shut down receivers, Dashon Goldson to smash them, and they’re allowing a passer rating of only 74.7. It’s also a defense that held Tom Brady to 15 fantasy points two weeks ago, and they’re responsible for two of Drew Brees’ four interceptions during a Week 2 game when he finished with a fantasy point total which is difficult to compute: only 12 points for a quarterback who’s averaging 22.8 weekly.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo -
4. Matt Cassel: At first there doesn’t seem to be much encouragement this far down a pretty odor-filled QB wire as the latest stink arises courtesy of Cassel. That’s probably true, because Cassel in the pocket against Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, and Star Lotulelei — three rather scary individuals who have combined for seven sacks — likely won’t end well. But oh, there’s hope when we look back to his first start, however faint it may be. Against the aforementioned still stone-like Steelers defense that, like the Panthers, are ranked in the top 10 while defending the pass, Cassel clipped along at 9.9 yards per attempt. He had an instant friendship with Jerome Simpson, who finished with 124 receiving yards, including a 51-yard catch.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 5%
5. Sam Bradford: This is how sad it’s getting here, and fast. Ben Roethlisberger was almost slotted in this prestigious space, but we all saw what the Jets’ defense did to Matt Ryan last night, yes? Welp, the Steelers draw them next. Carson Palmer — another sparsely owned vet — has a piss poor matchup too (@SF), as does everyone’s favorite weekly waiver darling Terrelle Pryor (@KC). The other backup starter this week is Thad Lewis, and his primary problem is that he’s Thad Lewis, but he’s also opposing a Bengals defense that smothered Brady repeatedly this week, which resulted in the most un-Brady numbers: a completion percentage of 47.4, and only 5.2 yards per pass attempt. And so we arrive at Bradford, who also has a putrid matchup against the Texans and their top ranked secondary, oh and man eater J.J. Watt. So basically, at this point putting Bradford here — and lower than Matt Cassel — is me waving the white flag. If you’re in a deep league and you desperately need a spot start this week, make sure you’re aggressive for the above names.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 85%, Yahoo – 50%
1. Zac Stacy: This side of Harry Douglas (more forthcoming), Stacy should be the most claimed player during the latest trek deep into the waiver wilderness. The reason for that is simple yet frightening: the running back position has become far more scarce than even our deepest, urination-inducing fears could have led us to believe back in August, which instantly raises the value of any running back on the wire who’s receiving a significant workload. Consider: in Week 6 there were only three +100 yard rushers, and one was a quarterback. The exact same shoddy rushing output puked all over us in Week 1 too. Paying a lot either through a small mountain of FAAB dollaars or a high waiver priority for someone of Stacy’s ilk is a necessary agony we all have to embrace.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 20%
2. Andre Ellington: There’s confusion here, and where there’s confusion we’re also dealing with apprehension. Ellington is close to drawing even with Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals’ backfield, with his touches steadily increasing to the point that this past Sunday he was given 11 of them, while the sputtering former Steeler had 19. What’s much more important, though is what he’s doing with those touches, as Ellington is currently averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and 8.5 per touch. He also brings far more versatility and value in PPR leagues, with 144 receiving yards to Mendenhall’s 64. So now you want to put like nine claims in on Ellington, right? Problem: Bruce Arians isn’t claiming Ellington in any leagues, and he sort of calls the shots around Arizona. Even though both Mendenhall and Ellington were on the field for the same amount of snaps in Week 6 with 30 apiece, Arians has said that’s the rookie’s ceiling due to his diminutive stature.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 24%
3. Marcel Reece: Darren McFadden will likely still be out for a few more weeks, because it takes that long for his body to reboot. His replacement Rashad Jennings stained his hamstring Sunday night, and even though that may not be a serious injury, Reece could easily see more opportunities with his catchy hands this week. In a similar situation last year Reece recorded 400 total yards over a three-game stretch, and 175 of them came through the air. At minimum he’s a must add for McFadden owners.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 3%, Yahoo – 8%
4. Ronnie Hillman: If you’re beaten to Mike Goodson (oh yeah, get him too), Ronnie Hillman is playing the same role in a far better offense, and this week he’s doing it against the Jaguars in a game with a comically absurd spread (Broncos favored by 28). That alone is a good enough reason to load up with every Bronco. Knowshon Moreno is still the guy in Denver’s backfield, and that’s not about to change. But Hillman is on pace for 408 receiving yards, a fine pace with the backseat he’s taking.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 44%, Yahoo – 27%
5. Brandon Jacobs: If for whatever reason you’re either absurdly desperate for a flex starter this week in a deep league or a Lamar Miller replacement, or you really feel like hating yourself, Jacobs is the guy for you. He makes it into this prestigious space simply because of the volume of touches he’s set to receive with David Wilson out Thursday, and since he’s still a large object who moves forward with moderate momentum, the possibility of a goal-line score exists even in a brutal matchup against the Bears. That alone provides a sprinkling of flex value, because if you can get, say, seven fantasy points out of Brandon Jacobs, I suggest you forever staple that four-leaf clover to your forehead.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 6%
1. Justin Blackmon: I don’t really need to do much explaining here. In fact, I wasn’t even going to include Blackmon after assuming that prior to his return from suspension his ownership levels universally spiked last week. Not so, says everyone at ESPN. The Jaguars and their Jaguaring matter little for Blackmon, and in fact the sucking may actually help since he’ll have plenty of garbage time compiling opportunities. In his first game back Blackmon had 19.5 fantasy points on 136 yards and a touchdown.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 20%, Yahoo – 62%
2. Keenan Allen: The ownership of the Chargers’ primary receivers — Allen and Vincent Brown — is about to rise swiftly. I somewhat arbitrarily chose Allen to feature here, though his potential going forward is a little higher due to greater downfield speed. But really, a claim on either wideout this week would make you a happy fake footballer. Brown has been targeted 18 times by Philip Rivers over the past two weeks, while Allen is just shy of him during the same stretch (15 targets), and he’s turned that into 195 yards.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 7%
3. Harry Douglas: Whoa now, Julio Jones owners. Once you pick yourself up from that deep underground lair you crawled into, this is your automatic claim. These are tough times, but please be encouraged by the fact that even with his minimal usage over five games and 27 catches, Douglas still has deep receptions for 40 and 50 yards. So that’s something, as is his 93-yard game in Week 1 when Roddy White was playing, but not really playing.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 7%
4. Terrence Williams: Miles Austin’s body now has the strength of about five elastic bands, and he hasn’t practiced since Week 3 following his latest hamstring strain. So what’s Williams done in his absence over the past two weeks? You know, just 12 catches for 222 receiving yards. Claim this man.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 19%
5. Rueben Randle: With teams quite rightly focusing on Victor Cruz, there will be sporadic opportunities for Randle. We saw that back in Week 1 with his 101 yards on five catches, and then again Sunday when he was targeted 13 times — more than the previous two games combined — for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The problem, of course, is the three games in between when he totaled only 61 yards. But if you’re flexing Randle anyway (and you rare), then you care very little about his boom and bust nature. You’re playing him, and hoping for the former.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 55%, Yahoo — 39%
1. Garrett Graham: Even when Owen Daniels was healthy, Graham was starting to rise, with a touchdown in three straight games. And even though he was second on his own depth chart for the first five weeks, Graham is still 13th in fantasy production at his position with 31 points overall, ahead of Jermichael Finley, and just behind Jared Cook. Now with Daniels out for the next four-to-six weeks due to a fractured fibula, Graham’s usage will rise quickly, assuming Matt Schaub is capable of throwing a ball that doesn’t finish in his own end zone.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 3%, Yahoo – 19%
2. Brandon Myers: There’s been little reason to start any Giants offensive player who isn’t named Victor Cruz, but this week is the exception. In fact, if you’re the type who streams tight ends, Myers should be at the top of your list. The Bears defense applies plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and blanketing opposing stud wide receivers is something they mostly do well too. But covering tight ends? Not so much. Through five games, the Bears are allowing an average of 81.8 receiving yards per game to the position, which currently ranks them 31st. So yes, that could be fun for Myers.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 86%, Yahoo – 58%
3. Jeff Cumberland: Kellen Winslow might not like it because he’s a selfish prick, but Cumberland’s role in the Jets’ offense — and more importantly, his connection with Geno Smith — is growing. Including his 47-yarder last night during the Jets’ upset special over Atlanta, Cumberland now has a +30 yard reception in two straight games. That usually generates only a “huh, cool” response, but then with Cumberland you note that over his previous 21 games appearances he had only recorded three such catches. And then you’re all like “HUH, COOL”.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%
4. Jordan Reed: This is a pickup for those in leagues that are beyond standard depth (10 to 12 teams), but Reed may creep up into that territory soon. Before he injured his quad enough to miss Week 4 (he’s fine now and will play this week), Reed had started taking snaps away from Fred Davis, and when Freddy missed Week 3 we saw what an unchained Reed could do when he had five catches for 50 yards. But the following week was more telling, when Davis had zero catches and zero anything, even with Reed out. So now the Redskins emerge from their bye with two healthy tight ends, and if you’re looking for a flex, consider Reed a sort of Charles Clay-lite option.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 3%
5. Tyler Eifert: Let’s do the bad news here first, because like any sleazy salesman I know you’ll forget about it once you read the more pleasant news. Although he’s posting fine production all things considered, Eifert is still fighting Jermaine Gresham for targets, and that won’t change all season. He’ll also be attempting to catch balls this week against a Bills defense that just limited our golden hero Jordan Cameron to only 36 yards on three catches, when he had averaged 90 yards per game over the previous four weeks. Now about that good news: Eifert’s had at least five targets in four of the Bengals’ five games (at worst that’s even with Gresham, who’s averaging 5.6 weekly), and of his 17 receptions, three of them have been chunky +20 yarders.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 9%, Yahoo – 17%