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.

Tim Tebowing is half the Battle in the Week 6 Pickups

The big names are Tim Tebow and Jackie Battle this week, but it’s really all about Tebow. He was a stud when he got the chance to start last season. Time for him to do it again.

This week’s pickups are listed in the order I’d try to acquire them. Feel free to ask any add/drop questions in the comments below.

Tim Tebow (Broncos)

He was the top quarterback in fantasy through the final weeks of last season because of his role as both quarterback and goal-line back for the Broncos. Now that he’s been named the starter, we can safely assume he’ll be a fantasy factor in Week 7 when the Broncos return from their bye.

He’s not quite in Cam Newton territory yet, but he’s close. Feel free to add him as a potential QB1.

Not to oversell here, but Tebow might be one of the last “season saving” waiver wire claims we see emerge from the free agent pool this season.

Ryan Torain (Redskins)

In case no one grabbed him last week while he was on bye, Torain’s the latest pick in the Shanahan running back lottery. If he doesn’t take over the lead back duties this week, all bets are off, but he was impressive two weeks ago before the Redskins entered the bye.

Picking up Torain is trusting Shanahan to stick with the hot hand.

Jackie Battle (Chiefs)

A big back with little going for him until his Week 5 opportunity, Battle could be the answer for the Chiefs at running back in Jamaal Charles’ absence. He’s nothing spectacular as far as skills go, but he’ll get the job done for the Chiefs when they are moving the ball through the air like they did in Week 5.

Don’t rush out to snag him, especially because he’ll be on bye in Week 6, but Battle looks like the back to own in Kansas City.

I’d trade him in a heartbeat if anyone offered anything of value for him. The Chiefs just aren’t going to get a lot of rushing yards this season, no matter who is doing the rushing.

Victor Cruz (Giants)

If he’s been wasting away on your waiver wire, don’t let that happen again.

Darrius Heyward-Bey (Raiders)

For two weeks, he’s looked like the wide receiver the Raiders drafted him to be. I still doubt he is, but you can’t just ignore two weeks of production. Denarius Moore is still the receiver I’d prefer to own in this offense, but take a chance on DHB if you’re looking for help in that department.

Steve Breaston (Chiefs)

The Chiefs broke out the passing attack in Week 5 against the Colts. Don’t expect it to be that easy for Matt Cassel against many other opponents, but when it is, he’s obviously got an eye for Breaston this season.

Alex Smith (49ers)

Nobody’s calling him a starting fantasy quarterback just yet, but Smith turned in a nice day in Week 5 and has spot-starter value moving forward. He could have more if Crabtree gets back to 100 percent health. Without Josh Morgan, Smith’s fantasy prospects might take a dip otherwise.

STASHES

Greg Little (Browns)

A sneaky play this week, Little became a starter during the Browns’ bye week. He was already seeing the most snaps before being named a starter, so this move likely means they’ll be focusing more on him in the offense. He’s the only Browns receiver I’d feel the need to own in standard leagues.

Damian Williams (Titans)

Williams is starting opposite Nate Washington, and he’ll share in those touches Kenny Britt used to receive now that Britt is on IR.

Doug Baldwin (Seahawks)

He’s making plays for the Seahawks, and that should keep him on the field. But I like him better when Charlie Whitehurst is under center than I do when Tarvaris Jackson returns.

Delone Carter / Donald Brown (Colts)

It isn’t pretty, but if Addai misses any time, these two would split carries. I have liked Carter as a sleeper and as the goal-line back in Indy, but he hasn’t shown the coaches anything to inspire confidence in him thus far this season. On the other hand, Brown’s already underwhelmed the coaching staff on multiple occasions.

If given the choice, I’d stash Carter.

Bernard Scott (Bengals)

It’s starting to look more and more hopeless to hold onto Scott for a chance to benefit when Cedric Benson’s suspension is finally enforced. If and when that suspension comes, Scott will still probably split time.

Unless you’re really desperate for the help, I wouldn’t hold onto Scott. You can reconsider grabbing him after his Week 7 bye for a potential start in Week 8 if we know Benson’s situation by then.

Jonathan Dwyer (Steelers)

He looked good in Week 5 and broke a big run, but Dwyer won’t see the ball much once Mendenhall’s healthy. Mendy’s expected to return this week, and that makes Dwyer a deep stash at best.

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.

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:

On the Waiver Wire: Remaining Week 11 Pickups, Fantasy Football Playoff Sleepers, Stashes

It’s getting to be that time when you just have to roll with what you’ve got, and there’s not much talent left on the waiver wire. So I took a few extra hours this week to peruse all the latest and greatest analysis to recommend just a few guys who I think should be owned in every league as we head down the stretch.

Some of these guys might help you in the playoffs. Some might help you right away. But the important this is that they are far more valuable than a backup kicker, second tight end or platoon of defenses at this point in the season.

If you have concerns about whom you should drop to claim these guys, leave your questions in the comments.

And don’t miss my roundup of waiver wire links at the bottom of this post. There were some great contributions this week from around the Web that offer up even more players than the ones I have listed here.

High Priority Adds

I bet these guys are on your radar, and in all likelihood, they’re on someone’s roster already. But if not, you need to make sure you get your hands on them because they should make an impact in the next few weeks.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers

I’ve mentioned Jackson the last several weeks as a player to add if someone dropped him while he was sitting out the season. By all accounts, he’ll be ready to go and in Pro Bowl form in Week 12 when he finally takes the field, and he’ll have Philip Rivers throwing to him plenty during those juicy fantasy playoff matchups. Get him while you can.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants

As long as Steve Smith’s injury keeps him off the field, Manningham will be a true stud at wide receiver. His stat line in Week 10 with Smith out was no fluke. Make sure he’s on a roster.

Louis Murphy and/or Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders

Murphy should return from his injuries this week to play the Steelers, but Ford was the wide receiver Campbell made into a superstar in Week 9, just before the Raiders’ bye. With Campbell remaining the starter, he could look to Ford again since he showed such trust for the speedster when the game was on the line. Ford could cut into Murphy’s snaps, but if the Raiders know what they’re doing, they’ll start Murphy and Ford at receiver, and push Darrius Heyward-Bey into the third receiver spot.

The Raiders have some great, GREAT matchups in the fantasy playoffs in which their explosive rushing attack with Darren McFadden will open up opportunities for these receivers. I’d stash one on your roster and see what develops. They should start quietly this week against the Steelers. I’d assume Ford is no longer on waivers after his big week last week, but if so, I’d choose him first and Murphy second.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills

C.J. Spiller went down with a thigh injury in Week 10 and gave Fred Jackson the stage to show off his skills against the Lions. He didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too long ago that Fred Jackson was making a name as one of the top backs in fantasy. Remember that? His schedule isn’t fantastic, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick uses him in the passing game like he’s used Steve Johnson, Jackson will produce enough to remind us of his 2009 production. He’s a startable option this week against the Bengals.

The Ones I Have to Mention

I don’t love them, but these players made a splash in Week 10, and I have to mention them. Otherwise, I have to give up my fantasy football blogging license, and that cost me a whole $5.

Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins

Shanahan has never played fantasy football…or does he? Did his team need some points from Rex Grossman when he decided it was time to bench McNabb for the two-minute drill?

Was his opponent starting Ryan Torain going into Monday night when he decided Torain couldn’t see the field if his hammy wouldn’t loosen up? Sure, this decision might have been out of his hands, but maybe Shanahan kept the team’s locker room a few degrees colder to make loosening that hamstring that much more difficult on his prized runner.

It sounds like something a guy in my league might do.

In reality, I think it’s safe to assume he just doesn’t care about how his coaching decisions affect fantasy teams, and so we saw a huge helping of Keiland Williams on Monday night. His final numbers were impressive, but he was about the only thing working in the Redskins offense after a miserable defensive showing allowed the Eagles offensive to have a record-setting first quarter.

He could start in Week 11 against the Titans, but by Week 12, I would suspect that Ryan Torain and/or Clinton Portis would be back in the mix and taking away from Williams’ value. There’s always the chance that Shanahan takes a liking to Williams and makes him his new favorite, but Torain has always had Shanahan’s eye. When he’s healthy, I think he’s the best back to own in this offense.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Don’t go nuts about his three-touchdown performance in Week 10. The Steelers weren’t stopping him, so the Patriots kept going there. Aaron Hernandez is still there and will get catches too as long as the Patriots don’t shift their offense in Gronkowski’s direction.

Gronk got so many passing plays (with a nod to Sigmund Bloom for pointing this out) because it was a package designed for Gronkowski, not Hernandez that kept beating the Steelers. I trust that the Patriots will continue to adapt and move away from that package as the season continues.

But if you’re in a touchdown-only league or a deep league with so little on the waiver wire that you’re taking chances at tight end, Gronkowski is not a terrible play. I just don’t like the idea of betting on Patriots to win me a championship.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers

I don’t love any Panthers as long as Jimmy Clausen remains their starter. The offense just won’t move well enough until he’s matured as an NFL quarterback. But Good son remains the starter this week against the Ravens.

The Panthers placed DeAngelo Williams on IR today, which means Goodson’s probably the guy until Sutton or Jonathan Stewart returns from their injuries. So he’s a starting running back, but there isn’t much to go with here. His schedule is brutal down the stretch. Other than two soft ones against Seattle and Arizona, the Panthers face the Ravens, Browns, Falcons (twice)  and Steelers the rest of the season.

Overlooked Playoff Quarterbacks

So you’re still holding onto Brett Favre? These quarterbacks could produce top 10 numbers between now and your fantasy championship. Don’t let them waste away on the waiver wire.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions

The Lions throw the ball plenty, and Hill is the likely start the rest of the way. The schedule isn’t so nice once the fantasy playoffs start, but it isn’t too shabby right now. If you’re outside the playoff bubble, Hill might be able to get you in there.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys

Don’t love the idea of betting on any Dallas player in these critical weeks, but we have at least one week of evidence to support a Jason Garrett revival in Big D. You can’t go wrong stashing Kitna on the bench and seeing what he’s worth. Plus, this week’s matchup with the Lions could be a great time to use him.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

You may not be convinced of his talent, but his schedule is something to believe in: Bucs, Cards in next two weeks; Seattle, Chargers, Rams during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16). He’s one sleeper quarterback I’d try to put on my bench if there wasn’t much out there.

Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders

I’m digging a little deep with this one, but he does have a fantastic playoffs schedule. With Louis Murphy and Zach Miller returning to the field, he could be that extra push you need to make it to a championship. In Weeks 14-16, the Raiders face the Jaguars, Broncos, and Colts — the last two of those at home in Oakland.

Lottery Pick Wide Receivers

These are the high-risk receivers who make me wish I had enough bench spots to hold onto them all…

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams

Alexander was a favorite of mine when he finally got his chance to start for the Rams. I loved the guy. Not only because of the opportunity in that offense but also because of his work ethic.

He went down with injury, and that may have forced some owners to let him go during the byes. But now that he’s back on the practice field, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to grab him. He could shine again if he gets back on the field against the Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, or 49ers in the coming weeks.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers

Vincent Jackson’s the sure thing in the Chargers passing game, and Malcom Floyd is your second best bet. But if you can’t land either one of those receivers, I don’t think taking a chance on Ajirotutu is such a bad idea.

What if he stays on the field as the third receiver? We all know Naanee could stand to have someone push him for playing time. And the Chargers passing game is far too valuable to overlook with the Chiefs, 49ers, and Bengals on their playoff schedule Weeks 14-16.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Bucs

Benn was drafted higher than Mike Williams this year, even though it’s taken him longer to get on the field. He’s got plenty of talent, and he’s shown it through his efficiency.

I don’t believe he’s dropped a pass yet, and he’s gotten a touchdown for two weeks straight. If you take a chance on him, you could cash in when he faces the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks in Weeks 14-16. He just needs to get more passes his way from Josh Freeman.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings

Sure, he’s talented, but Brett Favre is falling apart on the field. So Rice may just go onto IR rather than risk further injury in a lost season for the Vikings. Besides, that playoffs schedule is not kind.

Tight Ends to Tie Up Loose Ends

I fell victim to the double tight end curse this season by drafting both Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley. I’ve managed to make it as far as I have with the likes of Marcedes Lewis, Tony Moeaki, and Brandon Pettigrew. If you’re hurting even worse and need some help at that position, here’s a list of names I like. I don’t necessarily have any favorites, but I’ll list them in order of my trust of them and their potential.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns, looks like Colt McCoy’s favorite target the rest of the way.

Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins, could be emerging and was once an understudy to Jason Witten when he was a Cowboy. Thigpen could show him some love throughout the fantasy playoffs.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals, one good week does not a stud make, but he’s got plenty of wide receiver talent around him that should prevent him from getting any defensive attention.

Delanie Walker, TE, 49ers, not quite the talent level of Vernon Davis, but Troy Smith has given him plenty of love lately. He’s got a chance to steal some of that production. (H/T to The Audible for bringing Walker to my attention)

More waiver wires I liked from around the Web:

  • The FF Geek Blog: One spreadsheet to rule them all.
  • The Scores Report: Goes deep at every position, including a few tight ends that could save you at that position for the playoffs and a great list of wide receivers ranked in the order you should pick them up.
  • Pro Football Focus: So many names, you’re bound to find an answer to your roster woes.
  • ESPN’s Matthew Berry: A great look at the players with playoff potential and whom you need to use to get you there.
  • The Hazean: Gives us a list of names that might be there to help you these next few weeks.
  • NFL.com: Hits the highlights.
  • Sports Illustrated: Scraping the barrel on running backs, and don’t neglect to check out the Fire sale, a hidden gem of players who are rising, falling, and the ones who could win for you this week.
  • Fanhouse and  Razzball suggest some names that may still be out there, even as teams start to strengthen their bench rosters and drop those bye week fills. (You should be doing the same!)
  • FF Librarian is boycotting Vick and compiling even more fantasy waiver wire links to enjoy.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru: Building suspense by listing your waiver wire targets in video form.
  • FF Toolbox: Most of these names will be snatched up or were snatched up last week, but there’s always a chance, right?

On the Waiver Wire: Week 10 Pickups and Shots in the Dark

I gave away a victory this weekend, and I blame Antonio Gates.

With my tight end, Marcedes Lewis on a bye, I was forced to go to the waiver wire. At first, I tried to grab hot free agent Jacob Tamme, but I was outbid (FAAB league). Next, I tried for Visanthe Shiancoe but missed out again because of my priority. So I settled on Randy McMichael with most expecting Antonio Gates to sit this week out.

Jump to Saturday night, as I’m going over last minute news, I start to see reports of Antonio Gates as a “safe bet” to start in Week 9. Everyone who watched him is saying that he looked good. Since my league doesn’t allow for any roster moves after the final FAAB period on Saturday night, I had to decide right then and there whether I would take a chance on Gates starting and roll with Randy McMichael or whether I would grab another free agent.

Seeing Owen Daniels was available (but also questionable), I decided, for some reason that escapes my logical thinking in hindsight, that taking a chance on Daniels, a starter, taking the field would be a better bet than banking on McMichael to do anything for me.

So I started Daniels and, since I’ve been moving for the past week into a new apartment, I slept in a bit on Sunday until the first set of games had begun. What do I wake up to on Sunday morning? “RANDY MCMICHAEL…TOUCHDOWN!” And the nightmare began…or did the dream become a nightmare since I have just woken up?

Wait…was Randy McMichael “incepted” off my roster? This just raises more questions.

Even with botching my tight end, I had a 31-point lead going into Monday Night Football. My opponent had Big Ben, Mendenhall, and the Steelers D/ST, but I still had a very good chance. Unfortunately, that chance was dashed as soon as Mendenhall went to work. I lost by 7.7 points. Owen Daniels’ point total? 0 points. (He didn’t play.) Randy McMichael’s points for Week 9? 14.3 points.

The lesson? I broke a basic rule of fantasy football: Don’t second-guess yourself. You can drive yourself insane by treating your lineup decisions like a hostage situation, but second-guessing yourself based on limited information and rumors after you’ve already made one educated guess? Terrible. I should have never backed off of Randy McMichael, and you shouldn’t make the same mistakes either.

When it comes to your roster, it’s time to make the tough calls and stick with them. Leave the players you don’t want in the free agent pool. At this point in the season, if you don’t feel like Cadillac Williams or Ryan Mathews is going to help you win a championship, ditch them and invest in someone more promising. Hesitating will only cost you a chance to patch up your team’s weaknesses with some of the best free agents out there — and the fantasy playoffs are just a few weeks away.

So knowing that. Let’s get to some free agents that you may be able to take a chance on and ride into the playoffs. Not all of these guys are worth picking up outside of deep or highly competitive leagues, but if you’re searching for a filler or a desperation play at WR3, some of these might catch your eye.

If you need a quarterback, consider Shaun Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Troy Smith. I’d lean toward Fitzpatrick if you need a starter this week, but for the long-term, go with Hill. The Detroit quarterbacks have been putting up great numbers all season long, and now that Stafford’s out again — and probably for the rest of the season — Hill could be back in the driver’s seat.

Fitzpatrick continues to put up respectable points for a Buffalo quarterback even though his good days are likely behind him. Buffalo will only get colder and less friendly to the passing game.

But he’s done so much this year, and he’s made Steve Johnson look so good, you just have to give him the nod this week to see what he can do against the Lions.

Keep in mind that Troy Smith just joined the 49ers at the beginning of this season after the Ravens cut him loose. He’s had no offseason to prep for this offense, and he’s had to learn the playbook between snaps with the scout team.

Now that’s he’s gotten one official start under his belt and had a full bye week to prepare with the first team, Smith should truly be tested this week against the Rams. With his mobility and Frank Gore, he should be able to produce some fantasy points. He almost cracked 20 fantasy points in his first start for the 49ers, but I view him more as a prospect for the stretch rather than a fantasy starter in Week 10.

If you need a wide receiver, I recommend going after Jacoby Ford. He’s on a bye, but he holds the most value out of any of the recommended free agents this week. Ford showed his speed and gamesmanship on Sunday in fighting for the ball, something Darrius Heyward-Bey has never been caught doing.

Don’t spend any money on Ford if you have a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) system, but he’s worth the speculative grab after the oodles of targets he received in Week 9. The Raiders return from their bye to play the Steelers in Week 11. Ford’s value should be reassessed after that game.

And don’t forget the injured and left for dead. Search your free agent pools for Louis Murphy, Sidney Rice, and Vincent Jackson. Jackson would be my first choice to acquire, but he won’t do anything until at least Week 12. Rice is a close second, but Favre is hardly the quarterback he was last season. He may not be able to get it done even if Rice can hit the field anywhere close to 100 percent.

Murphy, injured for several weeks, may have been dropped by one of your competitors, but he was Oakland’s one consistent weapon in the passing game besides Zach Miller until Murphy’s bruised lung forced him to sit a few out. While Ford has big-play potential and the trust of Jason Campbell, Murphy could do just as much damage when he gets back on the field.

If you need a running back, you’re probably going to have a hard time fishing for one of the waiver wire, but do make sure Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are snatched up. BJGE, or “Law Firm,” disappointed in Week 9, but he should get back in the mix. Woodhead’s the most consistent of all the Patriots’ running backs right now, but he’s limited by the Patriots’ offense as a whole. Neither back is worth starting as anything more than a third running back or flex option.

There also may be some free agent blood on the Redskins’ running back depth chart. Ryan Torain should get the start this week, but Keiland Williams and James Davis should both be watched in case Torain is hurt again or falls out of favor. Maybe someone gave up on Clinton Portis? If so, grab him. Washington might not give him his job back, but he’s sure to have some part of the pie by the time Shanahan is done.

At tight end, if Jacob Tamme is available in your league, GET HIM. That guy is going to be Dallas Clark, Jr. for the rest of the season, and you can buy him on the cheap off the waiver wire. He’s probably more productive and value than the tight end you’re currently starting. Christmas come early!

Need more? Here are a few of my favorite waiver wire folks from around the Web: