The Tashard Choice Is Yours in Week 10 Pickups

I have a lot of fantasy football to catch up on since I entered the married world, including several episodes of The League to clean off the DVR, but I’ll get right to it this week.

When it comes to free agents, I was lucky in that no real breakout candidates emerged in my absence. We have just a few names to talk about this week other than the ones we’ve previously discussed.

As bye weeks end, you’ll want to start pruning the low-end starters from your roster and stashing high-ceiling players like Ben Tate, Antonio Brown, and Ronnie Brown for the fantasy playoffs. If starters are injured, you’ll be the one to benefit down the stretch.

LAURENT ROBINSON (Cowboys)

Miles Austin has another gimpy hamstring, which opens the door for even more contributions from Laurent Robinson in this Dallas offense. Tony Romo already trusts him in key situations, but he’ll be an even nicer fantasy play for the next 2-4 weeks, especially with the schedule Dallas has ahead.

ANTONIO BROWN (Steelers)

Emmanuel Sanders had to have surgery and lost all his potential fantasy value for the rest of at least the regular fantasy season. When you drop Sanders, be sure to grab Brown if no one else in your league owns him. He should start opposite Mike Wallace in the Steelers’ offense and has shown plenty of big-play ability.

ROY HELU (Redskins)

Shanahan’s running back of choice is Helu (at least for now). Shanahan gave him all the touches in Week 9, and Ryan Torain should only serve as his change-of-pace back. As long as Helu continues to stay out of the Shanny doghouse, he could be very productive. John Beck checked down to him early and often in Week 9, and while that’s bad news for the Redskins, it’s good news for fantasy owners.

TASHARD CHOICE (Redskins)

I would be remiss if I plugged Helu without also reminding you that Choice, when healthy, could get a piece of the Redskins backfield. He hasn’t looked like the same back since filling in for the injured Felix Jones and Marion Barber for the Cowboys two seasons ago, but Shanahan might make the most of him. Whether you own Helu or not, we can’t be sure how Choice will fit into this backfield yet. He could play as soon as this week.

JACOBY FORD (Raiders)

Ford demonstrated his speed in Week 9 and got a lot of attention from Carson Palmer while Darrius Heyward-Bey warmed the bench. This role seems more like a trend than a fluke, so I’d jump on Ford now if you’re in need of a WR3.

EARL BENNETT (Bears)

Jay Cutler showered his favorite receiver with plenty of third-down passes against the Eagles, and Bennett came through on every one of them. It’s hard to say he’ll have this kind of production every week, but clearly, he’s the receiver to own in Chicago. He could be a nice WR3 the rest of the way.

AUSTIN PETTIS (Rams)

Unfortunately for the Rams, rookie Greg Salas will miss the rest of the season after injuring his leg in Week 9. Fellow rookie Austin Pettis should fill the role as St. Louis’ slot receiver, and Bradford could look his way as much as he did Salas’. This Rams offense is not scoring a lot of points, but we still haven’t seen Sam Bradford at 100 percent with his new No. 1 Brandon Lloyd. Not to mention, the Rams schedule gets much easier the rest of the season. Pettis could have WR3 value if he grows into the slot role as Salas did.

Thank you Murray much, Week 7 Pickups

If you were hurting for a tight end, Week 7 is the week to snatch one up off the waiver wire. Don’t sleep on these options.

Tight End Party

FRED DAVIS (Redskins)
With Chris Cooley shattering his finger (ouch) on Sunday, Davis stands to see a lot more passes his way in this Redskins’ offense. Assuming John Beck takes over, he may have less of a tendency to throw a cannon downfield like Rex Grossman was prone to do.

JAKE BALLARD (Giants)
The Giants found themselves a tight end this season. After two solid weeks of top-10 production, Ballard is a must-add for any tight end needy team. He’s on bye this week, which might make him more costly to grab in a popular bye week, but I believe he’ll be worth the sacrifice.

LANCE KENDRICKS (Rams)
An early-season sleeper of mine, Kendricks finally flipped the switch this week and had a nice game with 70+ yards. We, of course, would like to see more out of him before we buy-in completely again, but he’ll cost you a lot more to add once he goes off for a big game. We’ll have to see how Brandon Lloyd changes the passing game in St. Louis and how much of a drop it takes while A.J. Feeley fills in for Sam Bradford (high ankle sprain).

Rest of the Field

DEMARCO MURRAY (Cowboys)
Felix Jones will miss a few weeks with a high ankle sprain, and in his absence, Murray got the majority of carries. He’ll likely share time with Tashard Choice, but he faces a very nice schedule, starting with the Rams in Week 7.

CARSON PALMER (Bengals…RAIDERS!)
It looks like the Raiders have managed to pry Palmer out of the Bengals’ hands. While he’s faded as a starter in recent years, Palmer’s a big upgrade over Kyle Boller and possibly even an upgrade over Jason Campbell. We can’t be sure how he’ll do until we see him hit the field, but with Oakland’s receiving talents (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore) are hitting their stride and a running game to take the pressure off him, Palmer could have immediate QB2 value. I’d stash him for now until we know the trade is final and until we see him in real game action.

GREG LITTLE (Browns)
He started for the first time on Sunday, and Colt McCoy targeted him plenty. While the Browns aren’t the most potent of offenses, it never hurts to own a team’s No. 1 guy.

JEROME SIMPSON (Bengals)
A.J. Green’s getting a lot of attention in Cincinnati, but Simpson’s had a couple of nice weeks as well. If you’re looking for a WR3 with upside, take a chance on Simpson.

ARRELIOUS BENN (Bucs)
Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams has been a disappointment thus far, as has the entire Bucs’ passing game. But Benn’s shown promise with the few touches he’s received. In the last two weeks, he scored big against the Saints and had another near touchdown negated by penalty. He had a quiet first few weeks as he was returning from his injury last season, but now his run after the catch ability looks 100 percent. If you’re looking for a WR3 on the rise, Benn’s looking like a nice grab. Just note that he’s a boom-bust guy. You’ll have to play matchups with him.

MARK CLAYTON / DANARIO ALEXANDER (Rams)
Brandon Lloyd’s arrival in St. Louis makes Mark Clayton’s return from the PUP a tad less exciting. It also demotes Danario Alexander to a specialty role again. Still, both receivers should find a way to have an impact, and the Rams schedule gets easier down the stretch. Clayton was Sam Bradford’s favorite target before his injury last season, but unfortunately, it’ll be A.J. Feeley under center for several weeks until Bradford’s back on the field. We can’t be sure who Feeley will favor, but it’s likely we see Lloyd and Clayton as the starters in St. Louis after a few weeks. Alexander, for now, is back to being a stash in redraft until we know how much he’ll see the field with these two back, but he’s still got a huge ceiling when he’s healthy.

DEMARYIUS THOMAS (Broncos)
With Lloyd moving on to the Rams, Thomas should become a starter alongside Eric Decker. He’s returning from a broken finger he suffered in the preseason. Thomas has had a hard time staying on the field, but his measurables make him a worthy gamble. I wouldn’t drop Eric Decker for him, but I’d gladly stash him and hope for the best if all other waiver wire options were taken.

Sorry to Torain on your Week 5 waivers parade

Another week down in the NFL season, another crop of new running backs to go after. I’ll run these free agents down in the order I’d target them on the Week 5 waiver wire. Hope the bye weeks treat you kindly these next few weeks.

RUNNING BACKS

Ryan Torain (Redskins)

He’s the most lucrative pickup of the week after putting up numbers for a stretch last season and with a nice schedule after the bye week, but you still have to worry about Shanahan pulling a “Shanahan.” In a few weeks, it could easily be Roy Helu we’re talking about for the Redskins. If you can acquire Torain and package him for a safer RB option, you’ll probably come out on top. He’s a high-risk to get injured or lose his starting role (and that’s if he even earned it with his Week 4 output, which is no guarantee).

Stevan Ridley (Patriots)

Great in the preseason, and now he’s great in the regular season. Much like Washington, it’s still a messy backfield in New England, but I feel better about Ridley, at least for now, than I do Torain.

Isaac Redman (Steelers)

Mendenhall looks like he’ll sit for at least a week, and even though the Steelers don’t have an offensive line to speak of, Redman would be a RB2 start as long as he’s away.

Kendall Hunter (49ers)

He’s starting to see touches alongside Frank Gore and made the best of them, but Gore didn’t look too shabby in Week 4 either. Hunter looks like part of a timeshare that may not work out for either back’s long-term value.

Bernard Scott (Bengals)

We’re still waiting to hear what the commish will decide about Benson’s suspension, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this week. Stash Scott if you can afford to, but I wouldn’t blame you for jumping ship for one of the more promising (or more instantly gratifying) RB options on the waiver wire this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jacoby Jones (Texans)

Sounds like Andre Johnson will miss several weeks. While Jones is no direct replacement, he should see increased targets in AJ’s absence. Stash him for now if you can afford the roster spot, but he’s not someone I would rush out to grab. I believe it’s far more likely we just watch the Texans ride Arian Foster for a few weeks. Sorry, Schaub owners.

TIGHT ENDS

Jared Cook (Titans)

He was a sleeper in the preseason, but Cook never looked the part once the games started counting. Now without Kenny Britt, Cook might be a top playmaker for this Hasselbeck-led Titans’ offense. He aggressively took one of his two catches to the house in Week 4. It’s worth grabbing him to see if he can do it again this week when Hasselbeck looks his way.

Great Bernard Scott, the injuries! Week 4 Waiver Wire Pickups with Boomers, Blahs, and Stashes

Seriously, guys, what’s going on out there? Are all the Jamaal Charles owners still stepping on cracks? Did the Kenny Britt owners walk under 50 ladders on their way to work Friday? We just can’t have nice things.

It’s time to remedy this.

I’ve divided this week’s pickups with boomers, players who have high ceilings but could never be productive again, and blahs, players who aren’t as exciting but could easily have a few good weeks this year.

BOOMERS

This could be the greatest thing to happen to you…or it could be a horrible mistake.

Torrey Smith

You saw him on Sunday. It’s hard to pass on a guy that had three touchdowns in one quarter, and the Rams had no solution for him until he injured his hamstring. But don’t forget that the Ravens went out and got Lee Evans to make these plays, and it remains to be seen how Evans will do when he’s 100 percent. Evans could be just as productive if he’s still the guy the Ravens thought he was when they traded for him.

Meanwhile, Smith should be stashed on a bench somewhere in every league. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs now that the league has tape on him and how he recovers from the hamstring injury that slowed him down this week, but the speedster should definitely be owned.

Victor Cruz

Unlike Smith, Cruz was a preseason darling but missed all of last year with an injury and did absolutely nothing so far this season. After the Giants signed Brandon Stokely, who was sharing a hoveround with Kerry Collins this offseason, Cruz decided to show up in Week 3 with an explosive performance against some of the leagues best corners. Once Manningham and Nicks are at 100 percent, it’s hard to say he’ll have another performance like this, but the door is certainly open.

BLAHS

Their stars are on the rise, and, granted, they could surprise, but best not to expect too much from these guys.

Bernard Scott

With Cedric Benson expected to miss some time, Scott should get his chance to shine. I thought he was a better fit for this offense at the beginning of the season. Now is his time to show it. But he’s entirely droppable if Benson’s three-game suspension is successfully appealed.

Nate Washington

With Kenny Britt out for the rest of the season, Washington is now Tennessee’s acting No. 1. He was getting a lot of passes before Britt’s injury, but he’s no Britt. Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins should fill in for Britt to a lesser extent.

Titus Young

He’s had two solid performances, but he’s not getting the touchdowns that Calvin Johnson gobbles up like Pac-Man. The scores will come, but it’ll be very hard to predict. Matt Stafford is throwing the ball to everybody, but Young is not nearly the threat in the red zone that Megatron and Tony Scheffler are. He’s more valuable in PPR leagues.

Ed Dickson

He’s winning the tight end battle so far in Baltimore against Dennis Pitta, and as long as he continues to progress, the scoring touches should come.

And as a bonus, a few players to throw on your bench…

STASHES

If you’ve got an opening on your roster, these are some guys worth hanging onto for the long haul.

Steve Slaton

Cut loose by the Texans, Slaton could end up in a more favorable situation. There are several possible landing spots, but the best one for him might be Cleveland, where a change-of-pace guy could help Hillis and himself. Remember that the Browns had signed Brandon Jackson as a third-down back this offseason, but they had to put him on injured reserve before Week 1. Slaton’s worth grabbing now until we know where he lands. Just pray that it’s not Washington.

Kendall Hunter

Frank Gore should continue to get the majority of touches, but he’s not being very effective with them. As many have pointed out, he’s dropped off over the past two seasons. Hunter, as the pick the new regime in San Francisco used to bolster the running back position, could easily start to see more touches as the season wears Gore down. He won’t have an immediate role unless Gore sits in Week 4.

Jared Cook

He stands to benefit from Kenny Britt’s injury, but we haven’t seen much out of him so far.

Montario Hardesty

He’s bound to see some action in the future. Hillis is surrounded by bad mojo — the Madden curse, his running style, the worst case of strep throat ever — and just asking to miss another game or two down the line. Hardesty’s worth owning, at least in deeper leagues, this week until we find out Hillis’ condition for Week 4. Assuming Hillis returns to start, he’s just a stash.

Stevan Ridley

One of the Patriots’ rookie running backs had some important carries in Week 3, but the only person who could tell you who to start out of the Patriots’ backfield is the guy who directed Bill Belichick: A Football Life —  and only then if he kept Belichick’s mic on while he talked in his sleep. If you’re in a deeper league or just have no confidence in your running backs, you might consider taking a chance on Ridley here. He might be stealing the clock-killing role from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, otherwise known as Law Firm, in this Patriots’ offense.

Donald Jones

If this Bills’ offense is legit (and it seems to be), it might not be a bad idea to get in on a piece of it. Jones name came up quite a bit this preseason, and he’s been seeing a lot of looks. If nothing else, he might be your last chance to buy some Buffalo stock.

James Casey

A bit of a wildcard, but Casey set a record for receptions by a running back for the Texans. He’s versatile as the Texans’ fullback and occasional tight end (and in fact, eligible as a TE or a RB in many leagues), which makes him an interesting stash, especially now that Slaton is out of the backfield in Houston. If Foster misses any more time and/or Ward continues to sit, Casey could have another day like he did Sunday.

Laurent Robinson

Look deep on the Cowboys’ roster, and you’ll find Robinson, who did get some  important looks last night and do well with them even though the offense wasn’t running on all cylinders. He could climb up the depth chart quickly if the Cowboys begin to lose faith in their young depth at receiver.

Vince Young

Well, it would be unusual for a backup quarterback to emerge in Philly and have more value than any of us expect…right?

Give me Denarius Moore like this Week 2 Waiver Wire

What happened this weekend? This happened. But more importantly, here’s a few ways to get your team back into shape.

Thomas Jones / Dexter McCluster / Le’Ron McClain

The situation in Kansas City doesn’t look great, but if Jamaal Charles gets the dreaded ACL diagnosis we all expect this week, he won’t be taking the field again. A committee of Jones and McCluster would try to fill the void, but it’s free agent signing Le’Ron McClain who might have the best chance to stand up to the abuse the only offensive threat on the Chiefs will receive in Charles’ absence. The downside of picking up any of the Chiefs’ backfield is that you’ll have to rely on the Chiefs to make something of themselves. They haven’t done it so far through two weeks. And will they even be able to run? Without Eric Berry on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll be playing from behind most of the season.

Thomas Jones is the most reliable pickup, but if your chances of getting him are slim, go after McCluster or McClain. Any or all of them could have value, small as it may be on this Chiefs’ offense. We’ll have to see how the Chiefs use them in Week 3.

Cam Newton

It’s safe to say he’s looking promising. After hanging 400 yards passing on the Packers, we can no longer sweep him under the rug as a fluke. Some of his success in Week 1 could be written off on the Arizona defense. In Week 2, we could assume the Packers weren’t expecting the Panthers to come out throwing at them. But it’s time to pickup Newton. His Week 2 performance, even with three picks and only one touchdown, made for a decent fantasy start. Keep your fingers crossed that you aren’t starting him the week he comes back down to earth. To his credit, he’ll be improving and getting more accustomed to NFL speed while the rest of the league tries to figure out how to stop him. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Daniel Thomas

Much to my dismay, the rookie running back had 107 yards rushing and 10 yards receiving Sunday while Reggie Bush sat on the sideline. I don’t like his “emergence” since it puts a damper on my Reggie Bush sleeper pick. That said, the Dolphins still didn’t win on Sunday, so there’s a very good chance they decide they need more Bush on the field. Thomas gives them a runner powerful enough to go up the middle and wear down defenses late in games, but he hasn’t shown very much  game-changing,  playmaking ability yet. Still, better safe than sorry. If he wasn’t drafted, make sure you get him on a roster this week.

Eric Decker

Decker might not get to stay on the field as much once Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal (injured Sunday) return from injury, but his 113 yards and 2 touchdowns will get him noticed by your league. He was one of my sleepers, and he’s made big plays in both of the Broncos’ games this season. That trend should continue while he’s on the field. So even though his opportunity may be limited if the Broncos get healthy, hes’ worth stashing to see if John Fox keeps him on the field. Denver certainly isn’t going to win by dominating on defense, and they’ll keep the more effective passer Kyle Orton under center at least until the Tebow-chanting masses storm the field.

Denarius Moore

Moore racked up 146 yards and a touchdown in impressive fashion Sunday. He didn’t hesitate to go up and grab the football on his contested touchdown grab, and Jason Campbell wasn’t afraid to put it up there for him either. Prior to this season, Moore was the talk of Raiders camp, which is why I made him a sleeper this season, and he woke up a little early this week with injuries to Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Louis Murphy. If the coaches saw what we saw, they’ll find a way to keep Moore on the field once the Raiders’ wide receiver corps are back to 100 percent. Ford and Moore might be the two greatest offensive weapons the Raiders have besides Darren McFadden.

Fred Davis

Rushing himself back from offseason surgery, Chris Cooley isn’t getting the targets he used to. Instead, they’re going to Fred Davis, and Davis’s making the most of them with over 100 yards in Week 1 and a score in Week 2. As long as Rex Grossman stays under center, Davis looks like he’ll be reliable enough to be a TE1.

Scott Chandler

It’s time we admitted that Chandler was legit. He’s now scored in two consecutive Bills games. He’s nothing special other than being a big dude, and Chandler has bounced around the league as a result. But the Bills seem intent on keeping him involved in the offense. I’d pick up more reliable options like Fred Davis before going out to get Chandler, but Fitzpatrick clearly likes the Great Big Scott in the red zone.

Really, guys, Week 1 is Too Early for a Waiver Wire

Some of you may have wondered why I didn’t post a waiver wire this week. I tried…but there just wasn’t much for me to get excited about in Week 1.

I covered my favorite waiver wire pickups in my late sleepers column. If you paid attention to that, you already knew about Aaron Hernandez. (See? I told you he’d be good.)

As for the rest of my sleepers, I’m still waiting on Ingram to have his big “coming out” game, but I still expect it to happen. I’m starting to keep an eye on Delone Carter, despite the Colts suckitude so far, as well. The only one of my sleepers I’m truly concerned about is Austin Collie. Kerry Collins under center for the Colts just looked terrible.

Now, one place where the Week 1 did provide a few juicy pickups was at the quarterback position. Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even Cam Newton showed they could have some fantasy value this season.

Of all the likely undrafted quarterbacks who shined in Week 1, I’d have to say Fitzpatrick seems like the best bet for fantasy success. And it’s not just because he has his own theme song. Music, please…

He’s the most interesting Bill in the world. The Bills won’t win as big as they did in Week 1 every week…but when they do, Fitzy will have a big game. To me, he seems least likely to fall apart of all the quarterbacks that impressed in the opening weekend of NFL action. Plus, we know his track record from last season when he had a few games of fantasy relevance.

Grossman’s another good bet for now, but I have a feeling we’ll see John Beck start games for the Redskins this season, too. If you claimed Sexy Rexy, consider packaging him in a trade before we get too deep into the season. He’s got a nice matchup this week.

Henne seems like he’ll be another long-term, matchup-play QB2 if you miss out on Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins’ offense will have to produce some points this season if Tony Sparano wants to keep his job, and it looks like they’ve unleashed Henne to make that happen.

Reggie Bush, the lead running back in Miami (at least for the moment), is better when he catches the ball out of the backfield than when he tries to run it up the middle. So there’s a chance Henne gets credit for almost every yard the Dolphins get this season.

Cam Newton, while impressive, is not going to put up 400+ yards every week. He might not put up 300+ again this season. But he benefited in Week 1 from a Steve Smith reawakening in Carolina. Pick him up if you want a boom/bust guy at quarterback, but don’t expect him to become your weekly starter.

But, like I said, there weren’t many players to go crazy for on the wire this week. Sure, go get  Cadillac  Williams if you lost Steven Jackson in Week 1 or if you’re desperate for a running back, but I don’t love him against the Giants, especially with a banged up Sam Bradford under center. Caddy’s a starter, yes, but don’t go nuts to get him.

If you were unimpressed by your starting lineup, don’t get caught saying anything like what  I mocked on Monday. For a greater tale of woe than I can offer to persuade you to give your current roster some time to emerge, I suggest this Fantasy Douche reading. It’s a horrifying tale, and it makes the point well.

Take a deep breath, and we’ll see what Week 2 holds.

On the defensive front, some of you may be looking for waiver wire defenses. I like the Cowboys this week, and John Paulsen at 4for4.com has more recs. I think it’s a little bold to roll with the 49ers or Broncos this week, but if that’s all you got, that’s all you got.

5 Pieces to Winning Your Fantasy Football League

You’ll read a lot of fantasy football draft tips this time of year preaching that there is only one way to win, one quarterback worth grabbing in the first round, or one player that could change the outcome of your championship game. While there may, in fact, be one quarterback this season who could win it all for you, that’s not the only way to win.

Your fantasy football draft strategy is only the beginning, and it’s quite possible that the one player who contributes the most to your championship might not even be on your roster the day after you draft.

In this time of absolutes and must-haves pre- and mid-fantasy football draft, consider this a quick reminder that there’s more to it than the players you draft. It’s how you play the game.

Here are five ways to win that you must master to take home a championship this season. It’ll be hard to win it all unless you manage to top your league in more than one.

1. Draft the best team

Listing the draft as just one out of five ways to win your league might seem a bit ridiculous. But the draft is only the beginning, and even if you have a horrible team when you look up at that draft board, your season is not over.

The perfect roster doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, and there’s no way to predict injuries.

I’ve looked at draft boards after every draft I’ve ever completed, and the team that “wins” the draft rarely gets the championship trophy.

2. Win the waiver wire

Early in the season, there’s a ton of talent on the waiver wire. Some of the best players will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, and they’ll be saviors for those who snag them up and start them the rest of the way. How many people won a league last season with Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick?

If you don’t draft a perfect roster, all is not lost. Just make sure you pay attention each week, and keep your eye on improvement.

Whether you’re in a league that uses a waiver wire or not, it’s also not a bad idea to put some thought into your free agent system  so that you don’t reward the lazy or punish the strong. Not too severely, at least.

Every good league has a solid system in place to award free agents.

3. Make a great trade

Some fantasy players never trade. They never trust a deal, even if it improves the quality of players they put in their starting roster each week. The truth is that almost every trade involves someone losing at least temporarily. You’re taking a chance that what you’re given ends up being more valuable than what you gave up.

If a trade can make the team you start each week better, it’s often worth the risk, even if you have to overpay. That upgrade at receiver could be the difference between a win or loss in the playoffs.

Don’t be afraid to let go of your most expensive assets. Your top quarterback or stud running back might seem like they’re carrying your team, but if you can cash them in for a more balanced roster, do it. Just make sure you get the return you deserve.

4. Play your matchups perfectly

No owner gets 100 percent efficiency out of their rosters. It’s just impossible to know when your players will have their best performances. But you can try.

There are always more factors at play (injuries, coach doghouses, trades, breakout performances) than we can predict, but if you follow the news on every player on your roster, you can maximize what you get out of them to take advantage of their best games and avoid their worst.

5. Get lucky

Finally, yes, you can just get lucky. Maybe you have the easiest schedule of all your leaguemates and a clear road to the championship game. Maybe the one guy you held onto all season comes back from an injury and destroys other teams during the playoffs.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and fantasy football is one playing field that can always be leveled with a little good luck.

So why did I waste a post on this? I have to agree that it’s pretty basic. But why give you such a simple reminder (or primer) on how to play the game?

For one, a lot of people never understand all that goes into playing fantasy football each season, or they lose sight of options when their team starts to fade down the stretch.

Maybe by reading through this quick list, you’ll find a little more creativity and/or work harder this fantasy football season, even if the team you draft doesn’t immediately blow everyone out of the water. Maybe you’ll focus more on using your waiver wire pickups, even when your team is strong, or seek out trade opportunities when you need to improve your roster rather than phoning it in the rest of the way.

As you sit down at your draft table, remember that you won’t win a championship in one day. But if you manage to keep a handle on all five of these pieces to winning, you’ll have a good chance to take home a trophy.

5 Player Moves the NFL Owes Fantasy Football (And Me)

The first few days of NFL free agency are like sitting in Santa’s lap. You can ask for anything you want with the assumption that you’ll get it. And I do that every year.

Ask for things in free agency, that is. Not sit in Santa’s lap.

Since the NFL left us cold and alone for a whole offseason only to now bombard us all with free agency madness like we’re an ex-girlfriend waiting on-stage at Jerry Springer for a mystery announcement, it’s only fair that they see to it that these player moves happen just as I asked for them.

Some of these transactions require several planets and a few Belichicks to align in order for them to happen, but the NFL owes me, right? They can’t go Bad Santa on that.

1. Vince Young to Minnesota Vikings

I’ll admit that I’m a Longhorn. As such, I give VY more credit than he’s probably due. But he’s still a winning quarterback, and it doesn’t seem right for a winning quarterback to get cut loose by the team that drafted him and have a problem finding a reasonable starting gig with another franchise.

Minnesota has no quarterback right now. Rather than trade for McNabb and take their chances with a veteran who might fall apart too early for Christian Ponder, their rookie quarterback-of-the-future, to take the reins, why not put a player on the field that could really win a few games for you?

Young might even be able to fill in for more than one-year stint. Much like the Eagles did with Vick and Kolb, having a developed prospect waiting in the wings a little longer after he ripens isn’t so bad. Now Kolb’s some valuable trade bait.

Leslie Frazier seems like a reasonable coach, and there’s enough leadership in place to make sure that VY will be successful transitioning into his second starting job.

I can’t see VY in Minnesota being a bad fit, especially after hearing about VY and Adrian Peterson practicing together this offseason. During their college years, I always wondered what life would have been like if Adrian Peterson and Vince Young had ended up in the same backfield.

Now I’d like that dream to be made a reality.

2. Matt Leinart to Seattle Seahawks

I felt silly just typing that, and it’s not even that far-fetched since we’ve now heard that the Seahawks are chasing him. At this point, I have a strong feeling Leinart isn’t going to amount to anything unless Pete Carroll works some USC magic on him.

You’d think being paid to play football would be just another day at the office for Leinart, but apparently, he’s missing something else that he had in college. Perhaps it’s the hot tubs?

Maybe Carroll can get him back on track and make a decent No. 2 if not starter out of Leinart. If nothing else, Leinart would provide an interesting story line for Seahawks’ games besides “Can just give them Andrew Luck now?”

3. Braylon Edwards or Roy Williams to Chicago Bears

The Bears need a big receiver for Jay Cutler to make sweet, sweet aerial love to this season, and I don’t care too much about who that is.

Roy Williams will already be in play as soon as he’s released by the Cowboys. And he did have one great season in Martz’s offense during his time in Detroit. But Edwards has a similarly checkered past and need to prove himself.

Either big wideout would be a win for the Bears, and I’d like to see one of the two of them get a shot at being the No. 1 in Chicago. If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll take Malcom Floyd as a consolation prize.

Just give Cutler a shiny new toy. Is that so much to ask?

4. Steve Smith (CAR) to New England Patriots

Steve Smith has had it rough in Carolina these last few years. Since Delhomme, they haven’t been able to get any kind of stability at quarterback, and the Panthers are headed into a rebuilding phase with a new head coach and another new quarterback.

Smith deserves a chance to play for a contender again before he retires, and the Patriots could be that contender if they could work out a trade with Carolina. I have a feeling his passion for the game and desire for a championship would fit in perfectly within Bill Belichick’s organization.

And what new head coach wouldn’t take a piece or two of the Patriots’ draft pick war chest for a veteran they won’t have much longer? Smith’s not going to do them a lot of good while Carolina develops Cam Newton, and the Patriots could give the Panthers some draft picks to build the future wide receiver corps.

On the Patriots side, Smith would be an upgrade at wide receiver and a fighter–literally at times.

5. Kyle Orton to Miami Dolphins

Orton’s on the trading block already, and rumor has it that Miami is one of the teams looking to acquire him. I don’t think I have to sell too hard on this one.

In Miami, Orton would take the team in the right direction, whether Chad Henne ever develops or not. At least they’d be able to move forward as an offense. And Orton would be reunited with Brandon Marshall, who had success with Orton in Denver.

Orton’s got a little more left in the tank than a veteran like Hasselbeck, and he’s got plenty to prove after being ditched by both Chicago and Denver.

So Dear NFL Santa, let’s make these moves happen. If nothing else, they’ll make for a more exciting 2011 season.

If they don’t happen, I’ll have to pretend to hold a grudge against you when the season starts…and we both know I’m not going to be able to keep that up for long.

What free agent signings or trades do you still want to see happen? Sound off in the comments.

On the Waiver Wire: Brian Westbrook LIVES, Week 13 Pickups, and a Massive Collection of Advice to Get Your Team Right for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

I hate handcuffing. I always feel like handcuffs are a waste of a roster spot, and I’d rather have a starting running back from another team than carry a guy who doesn’t play just in case my starter goes down. The backups are rarely as good or as big a part of the offense as their starting counterpart anyway. At least that’s what I told myself until this week.

Apparently, karma chose to teach me a lesson this season. My top picks in two leagues, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, were both hit with the injury bug this week just before I start my playoff runs in Week 14. I don’t own either handcuff.

Obviously, I drafted these two teams on Indian burial grounds. My two starting tight ends in these leagues were Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley.

Beyond snagging the fantasy fallout from these two studs’ injuries, waiver wire pickups for the rest of the season depend on matchups more than ever. You’d be surprised how many owners don’t look ahead and decide which players they should cut ties with and which ones they should stash for the playoffs. As we round out the regular season, you should fortify your roster for Weeks 14-16, assuming that’s your fantasy football playoff.

Regular season wins don’t matter anymore. It’s all about the playoffs.

I’ll hit the highlights on a few guys I like the most that are readily available this week. As a side note, this post will be our last traditional waiver wire post for the rest of the season. If you’re in the playoffs, I assume you’ve strengthened your roster. If not, look back the last few weeks of “On the Wire” posts.

If you’re not in the playoffs, I’m guessing you don’t want to hear anything more about players that could have made your team better, but you can look back at the archives all the same. It’s always nice to play spoiler at the end of the year, even if you have nothing to gain but pride and a new in-season rival. In-season rivals are the best.

Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers – He’s obviously the most high-priority add to come out of Week 12. With Frank Gore done for the year, Westbrook will become the engine of this offense. Troy Smith hasn’t been able to learn the full playbook since joining the 49ers, which has forced them to feed the ball to their running game. You’ll hear some warnings out there that Anthony Dixon has more value as the rookie with fresher legs to replace Gore, but I’m still choosing Westbrook over Dixon if given the choice. They went with Westy all night against the Cardinals until the game was out of reach, and I think they’ll continue to do more of the same. San Francisco would rather play it safe with Westbrook and his experience than hand the majority of their offense over to a rookie.

Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers — That said, Dixon isn’t a bad add if you miss out on Westbrook or get Westy and want to make sure you lock up the 49ers rushing attack. Dixon will at least see some goal line looks, and he’s the better North-South runner at this point. Westbrook, while impressive against the Cardinals, hasn’t seen much playing time and is injury prone late in his career. We’ll know more about how these two runners will split the carries after we see them face the Packers in Week 13, having had a full week to practice together and work on the game plan, but I’m betting Westbrook gets as much as he can handle before Dixon gets his chance.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings — He’s next on the list even though I don’t believe he’ll have much value. The last reports on Adrian Peterson’s ankle injury say it’s only a sprain and that the Vikings fully expect to have him Week 13 against the Bills. Gerhart might see more work to give A.P. a light workload his first game back, but by Week 14 and 15, you won’t want to be relying on a backup running back. If you own Peterson, Gerhart is a must add. Otherwise, put him behind all the other backs listed as a stash in case Peterson’s injury ends up being more serious than what we’ve heard so far.

Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys — Choice is the running back of “choice” in Dallas now that Marion Barber will be out for at least two weeks. Fantasy veterans will remember how he exploded late in 2008 when Felix Jones and Barber both missed time. While Felix hasn’t shown any signs of slowing, Choice has talent and could carve out a portion of the running game for himself even if Jones continues to start for the Cowboys. He’ll at least see the goal line looks for two weeks with Barber out, and that makes him worthy of being added to rosters this week. You might hit the jackpot if Barber has a setback and if Jones is injured in the next two weeks. The Cowboys’ schedule is inviting with Indy, Philly, Washington, and then the horrible, horrible defense of the Cardinals in Week 16.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — Like a brokeback cowboy, I just can’t quit The Daily Show. Mike Goodson’s been an awakening for the Panthers are running back, but Stewart was more effective with his carries in Week 12. Maybe some of Goodson’s workmanship productivity will rub off on Stewart. He wasn’t able to do much of anything prior to his concussion, but The Daily Show should earn back more and more of the running game as the season winds down.

Goodson will stay involved and has some value since he’s been so productive during Stewart’s absence, but both Stewart and Goodson are interviewing for jobs next season. DeAngelo Williams will be gone, and it’s probably going to be a split backfield with Stewart taking the lead duties and Goodson providing a burst on third downs and catching passes out of the backfield like Williams used to do. The schedule isn’t too kind in Week 14 or Week 16 for either Carolina back, but you’ll definitely want to start either Stewart or Goodson in Week 15 against the Cardinals.

Chris Ivory, RB, Saints – People keep saying that the Saints touchdown vulture is about to fall off the fantasy value cliff, but he’s stuck around. Even with Reggie Bush back on Thanksgiving, he got the touchdowns where it counted and put up decent yardage. I’m sure he’s owned in most touchdown-heavy leagues, but I’d consider picking him up in standard leagues for the fantasy playoffs.

Pierre Thomas may come back in the next two weeks, but with Thomas’ injury taking so long to heal, I don’t think they’ll want to put him in harm’s way near the end zone when they have a proven weapon like Ivory, who hasn’t disappointed. The Saints’ remaining schedule through Week 16 has them facing the Bengals, Rams, Ravens, and Falcons. Those last two are tougher than most, but I’d snag Ivory for this week against the Bengals and next week against the Rams. If the Saints’ offense can deliver him to the goal line for multiple scores in those two, I might even consider giving him a chance in Week 15 against the Ravens as well.

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams — I went on and on about Alexander when he had his first breakout game earlier this season. I loved his potential, and I still do. In his first game back, he was the leading receiver, even though he was only playing 20 snaps. He added that spark the Rams have needed. Outside of PPR leagues, he’s the Rams wide receiver I want to start, and if you look ahead at his matchups (Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs, 49ers), he’s not looking so bad outside of that Week 14 in New Orleans.

Take Alexander’s schedule, add that the Rams like to throw the ball, that Bradford emerged for his first 300+ yard game in Week 12 (with Alexander leading in yards and tied with two other receivers for most targets), and that the tight end Bradford loved the most, Michael Hoomanawanui, is now out with a high ankle sprain, and you have a recipe for another fantasy breakout for the young Rams’ talent.

I’d play him this week against the Cardinals, but all that said, I do have to caution that he is playing on borrowed knees–literally. His injury risk is red on the advisory system, but I’ll still give him the green light if you need that extra something for the playoffs at wide receiver.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears — When Jay Cutler first got traded to Chicago, Bennett received a lot of talk as a sleeper. They were teammates at Vanderbilt, and Cutler, in a way, made Bennett into a star. In the NFL, the two have not connected as often. Bennett has been the second or third wide receiver on the Bears’ depth chart for some time, but the passing game has never been reliable or explosive enough to make Bennett a fantasy star. It looked like it was getting there in Week 12 against the Eagles.

Mike Martz may have finally settled into a playbook that suits the Bears. All of their weapons, including Devin Hester and Greg Olsen, got involved. Bennett scored twice. If you look at the remaining schedule for the Bears (at the Lions, Patriots, at the Vikings, Jets), they have a nice road ahead until Week 16 against the Jets. And even in that game, Bennett is less likely to get shut down as the No. 3 guy in many sets. If I’m short a wide receiver for the playoffs, Bennett is my second choice after Alexander. Johnny Knox is more reliable, but Bennett should get his looks, too.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders — If no one picked up the speedster in Oakland, you should make a run at him this week. His playoff schedule is nice (Jaguars, Broncos, Colts), and he seems to be the only receiver who can inflict massive damage for the Raiders. As long as Jason Campbell looks his way in Week 13, I’d consider starting him in the playoffs as a WR3.

Blair White or Austin Collie, WR, Colts — Whichever one of these Colts’ receivers starts in any given week will have value. A very angry Peyton Manning will be suiting up against a decent but not formidable schedule in the fantasy playoffs (Titans, Jags, Raiders) and trying to destroy the world to get into Indy into the  real NFL playoffs. I wouldn’t want to stand  in his way. Both of these receivers have a nose for the end zone, and Manning will go to them without hesitation. The only issue I have with them is that they could just as easily have one catch for 7 yards and a touchdown as they could have five catches for 70 yards and three touchdowns.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins — Bess is very reliable as a PPR receiver as long as Chad Henne is the Dolphins’ quarterback, but his matchups are tougher than they look for the fantasy playoffs (Jets, Bills, Lions). I’d still consider starting him down the stretch if you need someone consistent, but as  a Marshall owner, I’m still hoping Marshall’s return will steal some of Bess’ thunder and production. Bess outperformed Marshall for a good part of this season, but the Dolphins best matchups in the playoffs (Bills, Lions) could become statement games for Marshall to prove trading for him was not a waste of the Dolphins’ draft picks–fingers crossed. Still, there could be scraps for Bess regardless of the matchup or Marshall’s contributions.

I dug deep for fantasy football advice all over the Web this week since I was trying to turn a dead but playoff-bound team (the one that just lost Frank Gore) into a fantasy zombie for Weeks 14-16. Now 21 waiver wire claims later, I feel pretty good about the team.

Below is my compiled list of waiver wire pickup recommendations, fantasy football playoff advice, and matchup analysis. It’s all worth a read if you have the time, but pay special attention the analysis previewing playoff potential and which players are getting hot at the right time, especially Fantasy O Matic’s look at defensive trends over the last five weeks, which I found especially interesting. H/T to FF Librarian for bringing it to my attention.

  • If you’re looking for something along the lines of an add/drop for the fantasy playoffs, SI’s Fire Sale column by Thomas Casale is it. It’s a great read, and you know I believe in Alexander’s and Bennett’s potential. It also may be time, as Casale notes, to give up on Vincent Jackson. He’ll miss two games, which puts him back to Week 15 as an effective start, and that’s assuming that his injury will heal right back to 100 percent. There are too many targets in San Diego, but if you have the room to keep him on your bench and wait, you might as well see what you have in him.
  • The FF Geek Blog hammers out another spreadsheet this week that lists more quarterbacks than most of the other waiver wire posts I’ve seen. If you’re in need of a playoff passer, take a look at their thoughts.
  • FF Toolbox touches on several of the big name adds, but I imagine most of these guys are taken in competitive leagues.
  • I think he sells a few of these guys short, but Lester’s Legends offers up his Get ‘em or Don’t Sweat ‘em for Week 13.
  • I like everyone Fanhouse and The Hazean tout as an add this week.
  • You’ll always find great links from the Fantasy Football Librarian.
  • NFL.com has some risky quarterback adds but, otherwise, presents a solid lineup of pickups.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru talks through the week’s top pickups and players to watch if you’re still left wanting.
  • To think, last week I almost dropped Jay Cutler, and this week, he’s among the top adds on the waiver wire at Razzball. Glad I didn’t make that mistake.
  • I doubt most of SI’s “Decision Time” players for Week 13 are on the waiver wire, but a few like Jonathan Stewart might be available. Get them on your roster if you’re still trying to make the playoffs this week. SI’s waiver wire column also has some names to target.
  • Be aware that those “Points Against” rankings you’ve been looking at all season may not tell the whole picture. Fantasy O Matic broke down the defensive performances over the past five weeks and compared it to the season-long rankings to give a more accurate picture of who should flourish and who should suffer in the fantasy playoffs. It’s a must read for anyone playoff bound alongside their previous post on the best playoff matchups.
  • Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling loves him some Westbrook this week and believes he’s capable of RB2 numbers the rest of the way. I missed out on Westbrook, so I’ll have to hope Dixon gets a piece of that.
  • The Fifth Down thinks Sam Bradford is ripe enough to start. I can’t really disagree with them this week as he faces the Cardinals.
  • Matthew Berry, ESPN’s TMR, pays tribute to Leslie Nielsen and plays back all the pickups he’s recommended over the last several weeks as well as the new guys like Westbrook and James Davis.
  • Pro Football Focus runs down all the hot prospects down to the sleepers and ones to watch the rest of this season.
  • The Scores Report may have covered every player that’s out there on waivers right now. Impressive.

On the Waiver Wire: Mike Goodson, Scraps, and Sleepers for Week 12 Pickups

I think I covered almost everyone I would consider picking up from this point forward in the Week 11 waiver wire. So rather than try to dig deep and come up with a whole new list of names, I’ll just touch on a few impact players that impressed or failed to impress me this weekend.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers

He was productive against the Ravens, even with nothing else going on in the Carolina offense. The Ravens haven’t been the force they were in the past on defense this year, but they’ve still been among the top defenses in the league at points allowed to running backs. They’re certainly capable of stuffing a runner on a team like Carolina unless said running back’s got a little bit of talent.

That tells me he’s bound to do something else good down the stretch, and it doesn’t seem like Jonathan Stewart is going to get back to the field at 100 percent in time to do any damage anyway.

So Goodson is more of a pickup than I made him out to be last week, but he’s still not the greatest add for running back depth.

If you’re desperately seeking a flex, he’s not a bad call, but if you have a need for some serious running back help, you’re probably better off grabbing him and trading him away as part of a package for someone you can count on, maybe even someone in an offense that has a fully functioning quarterback.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants

The New York Giants lost Hakeem Nicks on Sunday, which leaves them dangerously thin at wide receiver now. And to think, we thought they had too many good receivers on the roster back in Week 1.

Boss should play a larger role in the passing game until Steve Smith returns. That’s just a few weeks away, but that’s enough time to make him worth a fantasy play against the Jaguars this week. They’re terrible at tight ends. It’s one of those positions that their secondary doesn’t realize is on the field.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

You may have been scared away by his complete failure against the Bucs’ defense, but Smith still holds the starting job. He’s got a nice set of matchups down the stretch. There’s no reason to give up on him if you’ve got him on the roster now, and I’ll give him a pass for Week 11 if he gets back on track this week.

SLEEPERS

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams

I’m still a fan, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do when he takes the field in Week 12. (Or should I say IF he takes the field in Week 12.)

Arrelious Benn, WR, Bucs

He didn’t do much damage in this one, but it was also a blowout that the Bucs were winning right from the start. I’d wait to see what he does in Week 12 before moving on. His playoff schedule, if he gets hot at the right time, could make him worth the investment.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers

He’s no longer worth as much with Vincent Jackson returning for the Chargers and Malcom Floyd back from his injury. But Crayton did get hurt on Monday night and Floyd re-tweaked his hammy, leaving the door open for either Naanee or Seyi to step in and produce. I’d bet you can find a more reliable option to take into the playoffs rather than a sink-or-swim No. 3-4 wide receiver, but if Ajirotutu becomes a part of this offense again during the fantasy playoffs, he could have some upside. It might be smart to play a speedster in the passing game to keep double teams from keying in on Vincent Jackson.

More waiver wire for your Week 12 wire waivering: