On the Wire for Week 5 Pickups: Ryan Torain time, remember Blount, Tiquan Underwood, and the West Coast’s newest resident Marshawn Lynch

This week changed my opinions about a few of the guys I recommended last week (Torain, Benn), and we had some breaking news with Marshawn Lynch’s move to Seattle. I think I’m more excited that all the rumors about Lynch being traded or not being traded will stop.

If you’re looking to fill some empty or useless spots on your roster this week, I also have some nice speculative pickups worth reserving on your roster right now in hopes that they turn into fantasy gold.

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins

He was on last week’s waiver wire, but I like Torain much better now. I was reluctant to push for Torain last week because Mike Shanahan cannot be trusted when it comes to running backs. But since last week, the Redskins have cut Keiland Williams, the other young back in Washington, and  Clinton Portis has injured his hamstring. As long as  Portis sits out, Torain is the guy in Washington, and you can feel pretty good about starting him. The Packers aren’t a pushover this week, but the Redskins face the Colts (YES!), Bears (OK, not so good), and the Lions (oh, so nice!) throughout the rest of October.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another one from last week — don’t forget about Blount just because the Bucs were on bye last week. If your league left him on the wire, go get him now. The Bucs admitted this week that they need to  reduce Cadillac Williams’ role and mix in both Blount and preseason all-star Kareem Huggins. According to that report, that split will include using Huggins mostly for passing-down work:

Whereas Blount may be used primarily  in short yardage and goal line situations  against the Bengals, Huggins’ role is likely to be on third down or  to provide  an explosive play utilizing his speed.

I still prefer Blount in this RBBC situation because I feel that he has the most long-term potential. Huggins is coming off a hamstring injury, and we’ve seen how other change-of-pace backs have struggled to find a role in this league. But you can hedge your bet on Blount this week by also picking up Kareem Huggins. At this point, it might even be safe to drop Cadillac to pick up both Huggins and Blount. He’s clearly past his prime, and I don’t think he’ll be making the big plays for the Bucs moving forward.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders

Both Darren McFadden and depth running back Michael Bennett injured hamstrings this past week. That opens the door wide for preseason darling Michael Bush to return in a big way as he’s recovered from his hand injury. McFadden has been running very well for the Raiders, but his injury history makes it unlikely that they’ll push him to go, even if this hammy injury isn’t as bad. I like his chances to do well during this stretch and win a larger chunk of the carries once McFadden returns to full strength.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills

We’ve heard plenty of rumors about where Lynch would end up or if he would be traded at all. The Bills finally got a deal done today, and they sent Lynch to Seattle for a fourth round pick and a conditional pick. Lynch should complicate things in Seattle, where Justin Forsett was getting most of the work, but the Seahawks did let Julius Jones go, at last. Lynch should be the top dog and, therefore, have the most opportunity out of all the Seahawks’ running backs, but as I said on Twitter, I don’t know how much better this situation is for his fantasy value. The Seahawks’ offensive line is not much better than the Bills’ line, and the quarterback play is only  sometimes better in Seattle. At least we know he won’t be thrown back into the RBBC doghouse that he was in and out of in Buffalo. He’s a starting NFL running back once again, and it’s never bad to have a few of those on your fantasy roster.

Want speculative pickups? Sure, I got those…

Max Hall, QB, Arizona Cardinals

I just feel like Max Hall has to be better than Derek Anderson. If nothing else, he gets Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. But Hall is the reason the Cardinals decided to pull the trigger on releasing Matt Leinart, and he outplayed both Leinart and Anderson in the preseason. Why not give him a shot? This could be his time. There are worse speculative pickups at quarterback this week. He could turn into a low-end QB2.

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams

Lots of love for Sam Bradford around the Interweb this week and a nice profile and prediction at Roto Arcade. But he’s still a rookie, and he’s faced fairly weak opponents. I remember how excited everyone got about Mark Sanchez last year until he fell apart against tougher defenses. So I’ll hold off on endorsing him as anything more than a low-end QB2, even though he  does get the Lions this week.

Mike Bell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

If LeSean McCoy can’t go, Mike Bell will get the call, but there are better options out there if you’re looking for something long-term.

Tiquan Underwood, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Thomas has been productive in Mike Sims-Walker’s absence (and by absence, I mean lack of catches), but Underwood is the wide receiver that intrigues me right now. Thomas is likely on many a roster right now. But Underwood was getting some good reviews last season as the understudy to Torry Holt, then with the Jags, and he caught all the important passes on the Jags final drive. Let’s play back those final minutes:

After his big return, Underwood had a pass from David Garrard fall incomplete. On the very next play he caught a 6-yarder, then followed with a 22-yard 3rd-down reception on which he tight-roped the sideline before stepping out at the 41.

Garrard’s next pass was almost intercepted, but Underwood stripped the ball and kept the Jags dream alive. Sims-Walker first broke onto the Jags passing scene by catching the third-down balls for Garrard, but it seems that Underwood now has that trust, which would explain why Underwood may be getting snaps instead of Sims-Walker. Consider Underwood a speculative pickup and keep an eye on him and Thomas.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m backing off Benn, who was in last week’s waiver wire recs, now that the Bucs have come out to say he won’t actually take over the starting job right away post-bye week, but keep your eye on him. He could easily be the starter in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and if you need a kicker, John Carney’s good with anything less than 43 yards out. Pretty good for an old guy, I guess. (H/T Rotoworld)

More waiver wire happy fun time:

On the Wire in Week 4: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Torain Headline Best of Waiver Wire Running Backs to Stash

It’s been three weeks. Time to take a long hard look at your team and the “sleepers” you chose on draft day. If they haven’t woken up yet, chances are that they aren’t going to wake up anytime soon.

On the waiver this week, there are several running backs to take a chance on, but here are a few I think could have some real long-term value. Let these be your new sleepers.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you want a shot at another starting running back, Blount is my pick this week. He’s big, he’s young, and he’s got burst. Those are three things that the Bucs’ current starter, Cadillac Williams no longer has. Blount is my favorite player on this list.

Blount started the season with the Titans running behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer, and there was talk of them keeping him on the team for the regular season. But when it came time to cut down the roster, he didn’t make it and, instead, ended up in Tampa Bay. We can only hope whatever he picked up from the Titans running attack came with him.

We know he came with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. You may have heard of him already because he kind of decked a guy in the face back in college at Oregon. So he gets a B- in discipline, but that checkered past could motivate him to prove that he can handle a starting role in the NFL and that those who overlooked him on draft day made a mistake.

The Bucs are saying all the things a fantasy owner wants to hear. Coach Raheem Morris has said that the team planned on using him more in Week 3 and that Blount has earned the short-yardage and goal-line back role on the Bucs. The team wants to work more running backs into the mix besides Cadillac. That all adds up to more carries for Blount and more chances to earn a larger role.

Kareem Huggins got all the preseason hype, and there was enough confidence in him as a runner for the Bucs to let Derrick Ward go this preseason. But a hamstring injury has kept Huggy sidelined all season. He’s also a smaller runner, not immediately seen as someone who could carry a full load for a team like the Bucs, a team that must run the ball with power in order to keep more explosive, experienced offenses off the field.

I am not one to immediately write a guy off for being a small running back, but just given the current state of the run game in Tampa, I’d rather bet on Blount than Huggy going forward. Blount is healthy and ready to contribute. Plus, he’s got one nice showing against the Steelers defense under his belt going into a bye week.

Earnest Graham can take carries here and there, and Cadillac won’t fade into the night. But the Bucs want to get younger at every position with a young quarterback and two rookie receivers. They’ll get young at running back, too, and right now, Blount is their best option.

Stash him on your bench now, and hope for the best when the Bucs come back from their bye Week 5 to take on the Bengals.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

I mentioned him earlier this season on the waiver wire, and he makes this list today after having a historical performance, 100+ yards against the Ravens.

We heard about the Browns offensive line this offseason, but Jerome Harrison wasn’t able to take advantage of their skills during the early part of this season. Without him in the mix, Hillis proved he could.

He’s run well during his time and in Denver, and his skills as a rusher and pass-catcher have come to be appreciate in Cleveland as well.

No one can say for sure, but Hillis might have just earned himself the job as the No. 1 back in Cleveland for the rest of the season. That may not be a huge value, but a starter is a starter in this league.

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins

Shanahan’s prized, “prodigal son” prospect has returned to him, and he’s actually getting playing time.

In Denver, Torain showed promise in several games before a knee injury landed him on IR and then off the roster post-Shanahan. Lost in the shuffle of the 2005 All-Star backfield Shanahan brought together in Washington, Torain was cut alongside Willie Parker before the regular season, but now he’s back.

Rumor has it that the Redskins have more confidence in Torain carrying the full load than Keiland Williams, who was backing up Clinton Portis since the Redskins cut Larry Johnson. And the Redskins last-minute sign-and-play of Torain in Week 3 seems to suggest that the rumor is true.

Keep in mind that Shanahan is Shanahan, so this backfield won’t be reliable each week. But for now, it looks like Torain is the guy you want. He’ll be in demand on the waiver wire.

For the record, I haven’t given up on Keiland Williams either. So if you miss out on Torain this week and want to play the Shanny sweepstakes, Williams ain’t a bad bet either. He was, after all, important enough to stay on the roster when Torain got cut to start the year.

One thing I know for sure: Anyone could be the next big rushing star when Shanahan’s running things.

Other backs who could have an impact later this year:

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson’s backup should be more than that this season. The Bengals want to work him in more as a larger part of the offense and a speedy complement to Benson’s pounding style. Benson hasn’t been the dominating back he was last season, but don’t expect Scott to take the job over full-time unless Benson is injured.

Javon Ringer, RB, Tennesee Titans: The Titans have admitted that they need to get Ringer more involved in the offense so that Chris Johnson can remain healthy, happy and dominating all season long and for many years to come. It remains to be seen how many carries he’ll get, but in the right matchup, Ringer could be a flex play. For now, he’s simply a handcuff to Johnson and a long-term investment for the rest of the season.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He’s no spring chicken, but McGahee’s been getting touches even while Ray Rice was healthy. No that Rice has banged up his knee, McGahee could have an expanded role, especially short-term but possibly long-term as the Ravens try to keep Rice healthy for the playoffs and maximize the stable of running backs they have on the roster, also including LeRon McClain.

If you’re hard up for a running back who could become a “smelling of rich mahogany” big deal by year’s end, these backs are my current picks. Stash ‘em now. Thank me later.

More waiver wire goodness:  FF Librarian,  The FF Geek Blog,  FF Toolbox,  The Hazean,  Football Jabber,  TMR,  The Big Lead,Razzball,  Sports Illustrated, and  Fanhouse.

Don’t sleep on Huggy, 7 more sleepers

In less than 48 hours, real, NFL football returns. Oh, how I have missed you.

I’m sure that you have your fantasy football team in tip-top shape, ready to go for the season, but before you call it the total package, I have some names for your watch list. I’m doing this in place of this week’s “On the Wire” waiver wire feature. These players are names that shouldn’t be left in the free agent pool long this year. So if you’re holding onto a backup tight end or defense as we enter Week 1, consider claiming these guys early.

Kareem Huggins, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No one puts Kareem Huggins in the corner. Ever since the Bucs cut Derrick Ward, Huggy’s fantasy star has been climbing, but he’s still not drafted in every league.

Cadillac Williams may have a deal with Father Time (or the father of knee injuries, if there is one), but unless he runs with a lot more speed and energy than he did last season, he’s not going to blow many defenses away. Instead, the Bucs may see fit to inject a little Huggy Bear in the offense. Keep him on your radar.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

There’s plenty about this converted running back that intrigues me. Sure, I mentioned him when I made fun of all the Wes Welker comparisons we’ve gotten this offseason, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he could actually be a Wes Welker. At his small size, he’s probably capable of being a Darren Sproles clone as well.

The Chiefs clearly want to use him in every way possible. He’s practiced in almost every position on the field, and he’s been lined up as their Wildcat quarterback. The Chiefs may not score very many points this season, but McCluster could be on the field quite a bit when they do.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

He’s not the sexiest pick on the block, but Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup got a lot of attention when it was rumored MJD had gone under the knife this preseason. While he makes a great handcuff for MJD, it remains to be seen how much he’ll really do this season unless MJD goes down.

For now, I’ll keep my expectations low and only suggest you keep him on your watch list unless you’re relying heavily on MJD this year.

James Davis, RB, Cleveland Browns

Forgotten on the Browns roster, Davis had all the hype in the world last season as a rookie. Injury kept him from showing anything to us in 2009, and when the Browns drafted Montario Hardesty, everyone scratched James Davis off their sleeper lists.

Well, that may have been a bit too soon. With Hardesty out for the year, Davis will be the one waiting in the wings behind Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis. He had a strong preseason, and even though I feel that Hillis will see the field on a regular basis more than Davis, Davis is the long-term investment with the highest payout.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

I don’t know if you remember how Tom Brady used to throw to his tight end. Ben Watson trailed off in New England in recent years, and a platoon of veterans muddled the stat lines during the Randy Moss and Wes Welker era. But when he has a target on the field, Brady likes to use it.

Gronkowski is that new tight end target.  The rookie has had a great preseason, and if you waited to take a tight end, Gronkowski might just be the upgrade you’re looking for after Week 1.

Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Say what you will about Rashard Mendenhall’s chances to be a full-time back this season, but I’m worried. Mike Tomlin says Redman will be used in short-yardage, and I believe that.

I was already a bit of a Mendenhall doubter, and this news makes me feel even more uneasy about the young Steelers running back. While Redman’s not exactly a handcuff, I’d strongly consider snagging him on your roster if you’re also carrying Mendenhall just to cover all your bases until this shakes out.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks cut T.J. Houshmandzadeh and promoted Williams to the starting lineup. It seems this big (and I do mean big) wide receiver has finally lost the pounds and become a prospect worth keeping an eye on.

Seattle doesn’t boast the most potent offense in the land, but if Hasselbeck stays healthy, there’s a chance Pete Carroll could turn this former USC wideout into everything he was supposed to be coming out of college.

Deon Butler, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Along those same lines, you could see Butler emerge as a receiving threat this year if Hasselbeck stays upright. We don’t know how much he’ll see the field right now, but he’s a burner and could add an explosive element to this offense down the field. Since no one really knows who he is, you can probably just keep him on a watch list for now.

Now if that’s not enough for you, you’ll find more sleepers to pad your roster in David Sabino’s 11 fantasy sleepers at SI.com. I like his picks, but keep in mind that many of them are long shots — hence, sleepers.

So. Excited. For. Football.