On the Waiver Wire: Week 7 Pickups and Who is Danario Alexander?

Week 6 dropped a few gifts into our lap as a result of recent injuries and trades, which comes at a very opportune time in the midst of bye weeks

I normally do a little digging on players I list on the waiver wire in order to assess their potential. Sometimes I share a little tidbit of this info, but I rarely go into great detail. In one case today, I think it’s necessary, so I went the extra mile on the Rams latest prospect. I think you’ll see that the background of this wideout makes him an even more appealing grab than his stat line on Sunday would attest.

You may not have seen the Rams’ game on Sunday, but I think this is name you’ll want to remember.

Danario Alexander, WR, St. Louis Rams

Let me introduce you to Mr. Alexander, the actual beneficiary of Mark Clayton’s absence who stole our hearts Sunday with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Alexander had an injury-plagued college career at Missouri, which included two ACL surgeries and a wrist surgery, but when he was able to stay on the field for his entire senior season, he amassed 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns and had the most receiving yards per game in FBS football in 2009. [Source: Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, Alexander suffered another injury the week of the Senior Bowl and had to have surgery in February 2010, which prevented him from showing his skills to any pro teams prior to the 2010 NFL Draft.

So, with concerns about his heatlh, he went undrafted, but the Rams thought enough of him to bring Alexander in and develop him as a project. When he didn’t make the team due to his health, the Rams placed him on the practice squad to rest up and continue to devlop for the long-term.

After the final roster cuts, Alexander began the year on the practice squad and worked on strengthening his left leg. The problem wasn’t the left knee per se, the one that has been operated on four times. It was atrophy in the muscles around that knee — particularly the quad muscle. The left quad was smaller than the right, and the fear was that Alexander might suffer an injury compensating.

It just so happened that his left leg size, measured by the St. Louis staff throughout his recovery, got up to par with his right leg just this week and just in time for him to contribute in the absence of Mark Clayton, who was knocked out for the season with an knee injury in Week 5.

Of note, the Rams signed Alexander to the active roster prior to Week 6 with a four-year deal. That’s pretty good for someone who wasn’t even drafted and unusual for a guy signed off the practice squad. But it just reveals how much the Rams want to hold onto this guy. They may not have given him much money, but they’re fully invested in making him a part of this young franchises budding offense.

You probably know the rest of the story. Alexander went to work immediately with the first-team offense in practice and took the field for his first NFL game in Week 6 (after proving he could play by doing standing back-flip, of course).

His impressive, out-of-nowhere day gives us some idea of what he’s capable of as a top target for Sam Bradford. He’s got the physical tools that no other Rams’ wide receiver can offer — size and speed. He’s on par with Jahvid Best in the speed department.

Some fantasy owners might shy away from him because this was just one performance…by a rookie…against a Chargers defense that was unprepared for him. The defense had no film on him. (They certainly do now.)

But I’m not afraid to go after Alexander on the waiver wire this week, even with reports that his knee was a little sore after the game. He’s the potential No. 1 on an offense that throws the ball a lot more than any of us expected the Rams to this year. He’s shown a commitment to the game and his craft as a receiver, and he’s won the favor of his coaches enough for them to shove him straight into the first-team offense off of the practice squad.

If he starts looking like the Danario Alexander that scored 14 touchdowns in 2009 for Missouri, I want a piece of that. So Danario Alexander is my No. 1 recommendation off the waiver wire this week.

If you need a WR3 with WR2 upside, go get him. He could be the Sidney Rice of 2010.

Danny Woodhead, WR/RB, New England Patriots

I mentioned Woodhead just before the Patriots went on bye when the Jets’ favorite little running back first became a part of the Patriots’ offense. After the bye week and with the Randy Moss-less offense, he looks to be an every week contributor for the Pats. As an added bonus, depending on which site you use to manage your league, you may be able to take advantage of him as a wide receiver. I’d take Woodhead over most WR3s on the board so go get him if no one else has discovered this loophole yet.

Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans Saints

He ran hard on Sunday, possibly hard enough to earn a role even after Pierre Thomas returns. Clearly, he’s the best back to own in New Orleans until then, but don’t count on him to be a factor all season long. Ivory will have to learn how to share with both Thomas and Reggie Bush when they are both back to 100 percent.

Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots

Did you see Belichick run over to hug Branch after the game? It seems that Brady and Belichick really wanted Branch. They love Branch, and while he might not score every week, he should remain a pivotal part of this New England offense. We know New England’s game plan changes every week, but Branch should be owned in every league. He looks like a great WR3 to start for the rest of the season.

Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions

It never hurts to play second fiddle to Calvin Johnson, and we know the Lions are going to be playing from behind a lot this season and forced to throw. Burleson is a decent WR3 and borderline WR2 for the rest of the year as long as he keeps taking advantage of his opportunities by getting in the end zone.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers

The Packers felt comfortable rolling with what they had at running back after Ryan Grant went on IR because they knew Starks was on his way back to the active roster. He still needs time to work his way into the offense, but if you’re hurting at running back, you might as well stash him now. He may not unseat Brandon Jackson for the starting job, but he could end up stealing touches and fantasy points from the Green Bay ground game. There aren’t a lot of those to go around the way the Packers have been passing the ball this season.

Before you go grabbing Starks to put on your bench, make sure you grab the “instant gratification” stashes first like LeGarrette Blount.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of Blount, I mentioned him so I might as well note that Kareem Huggins and Earnest Graham were injured in Week 6. The door is wide open for Blount to contribute on the field against the Rams in Week 7, and I don’t think that Cadillac will stop him from carving out a role in this offense once he gets started. The only potential setback for Blount is that he still needs to learn how to pick up the blitz and protect Josh Freeman.

Derrick Ward, RB, Houston Texans

Arian Foster, you have been Kubiak-ed. The Texans coach now says Ward has earned a larger role in the offense moving forward. That probably just means a few touches here and there, but he will get the chance to score every now and then like he did on Sunday. Pick him up if you own Foster or if you just another warm body at running back.

More fantasy football waiver wire goodness from around the Web:

On the Wire: Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups to fix your Jermichael Finley, Mark Clayton and Aaron Rodgers woes

So Deion Branch is now a Patriot? That’s exciting for Bill Belichick and all — that man knows how to swing a three-way trade while moving up in the draft. But I don’t think the trade changes Branch’s fantasy value much.

Branch wasn’t that useful as a Seahawk, and they are hurting for playmakers. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their magic and integrate Branch into their system, but don’t expect Randy Moss-like numbers out of the Patriots’ new acquisition this year.

Oh, and did you hear that Brett Favre threw his 500th touchdown? And it was to his own team, no less.

Even less exciting, the presence of Branch in New England will muddy the fantasy waters for Brandon Tate, who was Week 5’s hot waiver wire pickup. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.

First, the guys you’ll need if you just lost Jermichael Finley this week:

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

You may not have noticed, but Lewis has become the only person David Garrard throws touchdowns to this year. I’ve heard a legend about a man named Mike Sims-Walker who used to be targeted more often, but that man could just be a ghost. He has been for at least two games this year. Meanwhile, Lewis has two games with two touchdowns and only one really miserable fantasy performance, 15 yards receiving and no touchdowns in Week 3 against the Eagles. He trails only Antonio Gates (so does everyone), Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller in total fantasy points this season among tight ends. Yes, I’d say it’s safe to bet on him to fill the void left by Finley if you just lost your starting tight end. It also might not be a bad play to trade him out for the guy you’re currently starting unless you have one of the elite.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Lewis may already be off the board, and in that case, Moeaki is not a bad consolation prize. He’s got great hands, and he’s one of Matt Cassel’s favorite (read: only) targets. He comes it as the No. 12 tight end in total points even after sitting out for his Week 4 bye. Don’t hesitate to rely on Moeaki.

Brandon Pettigrew and/or Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions

Both Lions tight ends have had off and on weeks throughout the season while without their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Shaun Hill has proven to be a strong replacement, if only we knew which tight end he liked in any given week. At this point in the season, we can’t tell, but if forced to choose, I’d take Pettigrew over Scheffler. Pettigrew currently ranks No. 10 in total tight end fantasy points while Scheffler comes in at No. 16. If Calvin Johnson’s shoulder injury keeps him out in Week 6, both of these tight ends would receive more attention than usual…as long as they’re not too busy blocking the Giants’ attack.

Wide receivers you should grab now before they go off big time:

Obvious ones to grab before these guys: Kenny Britt, WR, Titans and Danny Amendola, WR, Rams

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

A hot sleeper this preseason, McCluster hasn’t carved out a role in the Kansas City offense just yet. But Todd Haley finally came around on Jamaal Charles in Week 5 and gave Charles the majority of the carries in the running game. Surely, Haley will soon realize what he has in McCluster and find a way to get him on the field more frequently. Thus far, McCluster has just 7 catches this season, but he’s shown hints of his big play ability. You won’t be able to get him on the cheap if you wait for him to breakout.

Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins

I almost listed Armstrong last week when he made a big catch downfield for McNabb, but I thought I should probably wait until he had more than one big catch in a game. Last week, he went out and got three of them, including one for a touchdown. So now he’s on a lot of fantasy radars. If you’re looking for a WR3, he just might be the guy you need. He could soon be the No. 2 receiver in Washington, replacing Joey Galloway, who turned 200 this preseason for those keeping a tally at home.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills

I wouldn’t call the Bills’ offense “good,” but when they do score, they’ve been looking Johnson’s way ever since he moved from the No. 2 receiver role to the slot position. Lee Evans may be the big play threat, but Johnson’s just in the right place at the right time. That has value. Take a chance on Johnson if you have the space on your roster.

Those who will benefit from trades and injuries:

Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Addai got hurt on Sunday and left the running duties to Hart, who filled in nicely. If Donald Brown can’t get back on the field in Week 6 and if Addai misses some time, Hart is the starter in Indy. Remember: you can never have enough starting running backs. Don’t be afraid to go after Hart this week, but check Brown’s status first.

Deon Butler and/or Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

I care more about what the Deion Branch trade does to the Seahawks than how it affects the Patriots. Without Branch, the Seahawks will have more snaps for Butler and Tate. Golden Tate would appear to be more likely to take over as a starter since he’s the guy they drafted just this year to make an impact, but I can’t get over my sleeper love for Butler. Both have the potential to excel with more playing time, but if forced to choose, pick up Tate and just keep an eye on Butler.

UPDATE: Forget what I just said. Now I’m hearing that the starting job is Butler’s. I actually like him better than Golden Tate so make sure you go out and get him. He could be the big winner of the Deion Branch trade, and he has the speed that Mike Williams (SEA) lacks to make big plays in the passing game.

Laurent Robinson and/or Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams

Clayton’s injury comes at a bad time for the Rams. Robinson is still trying to come back from an injury, and Gilyard has been taking his time learning his way in the Rams’ offense. Both have a shot at the starting job and a chance to fill the void in targets that Clayton leaves behind. Brandon Gibson has sniffed the fantasy value charts this season, but I don’t see him becoming a dominant force anytime soon. Danny Amendola is one helluva pass-catcher (and he stands to gain the most from Clayton’s injury), but someone has to play Robin to his Batman. That leaves these two. Choose your own adventure! I loved Robinson before the Clayton trade (and before he got injured, which he seems to do pretty frequently), but time will tell whether he can make it back on the field at 100 percent. For now, I’d say the best bet to replace Clayton in the lineup is Gilyard.

Some speculative picks if you have some room for a stash:

Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins

Williams rejoined the active roster after Portis went down with injury, and even though he’s only playing passing downs and half as many snaps as Ryan Torain, he’s one Shanahan-igan away from the starting lineup. Stash him now if you want to benefit for the few weeks (or snaps) that Williams remains Shanahan’s preferred running back in Washington.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I highlighted Benn in previous “On the Wire” items, but consider this your final reminder. He’s working his way into the Bucs’ offense, and they’re starting to impress in the passing game.

Defenses that might be an upgrade over your current squad:

New York Giants D/ST

At first they seemed like they’d fallen off the wagon, but the Giants D/ST has stepped up in the past two weeks. That’s enough for me to recommend you jump on them before the rest of your league. I wouldn’t say they’re an every-week start just yet, but as long as the matchup is right, the Giants will put pressure on the quarterback and fantasy points on the board. This week, they get the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST

They somehow managed to slow down even the Colts’ offense. I believe. You should, too.

And some quarterbacks that might be available in your league for the bye week or if you are scared about starting Matt Flynn:

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Trust me, he’s better than David Carr. And this week, he gets to play Oakland, fun for the whole family.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are better than expected, and Freeman is a big reason why. Mike Williams (TB) is another. He’s not a bad fill for an injured quarterback or a quarterback on bye. This week, he faces the Saints, which may not seem as scary as it should after they dropped one to the Cardinals last week. Even if they do show up to play against the Bucs, we know that Freeman will have to throw it a ton to keep up with Drew Brees. Hopefully, that’ll make up for his mistakes.

Moves that don’t excite me: John Carney released by Saints to make Garrett Hartley (woohoo, a kicker!) their starter, and the Saints signing Julius Jones (depth at best)

More waiver wire wonders from around the Interwebs:

  • TMR wants to help you find the best hot dog ever. No, really.
  • Just in case they’re still on your waiver wire, FF Toolbox reminds you about Vince Young, Ryan Torain, Brandon Lloyd, and a few more guys
  • FF Librarian has compiled a linkfest of waiver wire love both here and here
  • Fanhouse highlights Mike Hart’s potential and a few players you may have left on the wire a bit too long: Floyd, Hill, Gaffney and Kolb just to name a few. They also chatted it out earlier this week.
  • Razzball hits on a few names for Week 6
  • Pro Football Focus has you covered, even if you’re looking for Finley’s backup’s backup this week to fill in at tight end
  • The Hazean picks three important adds
  • The FF Geek Blog spreadsheets it up
  • Sports Illustrated runs down the list of pickups a few starters in the hot seat

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: Lance Moore, Arrelious Benn and More Waiver Wire Wide Receivers Stepping It Up

Now that I’ve given you my list of running backs worth stashing off the waiver wire this week, it’s time to talk wide receivers.

When it comes to receivers, you might not have the room to “stash” them on your bench. Instead, there are guys you might like to add to your fantasy receiver rotation right away. Lucky for you, many of them have already had an impact, especially the first guy on my list.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints

Well, he certainly snapped right back into his 2008 form this week. Moore had two touchdowns and a huge day against the Falcons. If you remember back in 2008, Moore went off in Reggie Bush’s absence. It looks like he’s doing it again here in 2010.

I should credit Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com for pointing that out on The Audible podcast last week. It almost made me go grab Moore out of the free agent pool before Week 3’s games, but I decided to give it one more week…now I’m out of luck. If you can get him this week or have him already, expect Moore to produce fantasy WR3 numbers as long as Reggie Bush is out with the upside to do what he did on Sunday again whenever Drew Brees locks onto him.

Playing with the Saints receivers may be a bit of a shell game, but Moore is probably the most reliable option beside Marques Colston, who hasn’t been much more than a glorified possession receiver in the first three weeks of this season.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Everyone wanted to write off Williams this season. He’s disappointed since coming to Cowboys via trade, and the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant to challenge Williams for his starting job this year.

So far, it looks like Williams is going to be keeping that, and dare I say, he might even excel in it. Williams had the biggest game of his Cowboy career Sunday with two scores against the Texans. If he can make it happen again, he just might start to win back the fans in Dallas.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Carbonell of  RotoExperts.com had a  great piece about Dexter McCluster this week as part of his slot receiver series at Fantasy Joe.

He had a nice game in Week 3, but, as is the case with Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City coaches haven’t shown a commitment to getting their best, most explosive playmakers on the field with any consistency. You’d think that’d go hand-in-hand with winning, but alas, it does not.

McCluster should, hopefully, be a larger part of what the Chiefs do moving forward. There was no life in the passing game until Week 3, but McCluster helped liven things up with his big play ability. He’s worth a stash now because if and when the Chiefs do understand how best to use him in the offense, he could put up the kind of numbers that Percy Harvin did in 2009.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Benn was touted as the more talented receiver than Mike Williams (TB) when they were both drafted this year, but until now, he wasn’t getting on the field.

News out of Tampa Bay this week reveals that they will be working him into the offense as the starting flanker over the bye, which makes him an interesting stash for this week. We’ve seen what the Bucs could do with Mike Williams, a rookie who scored in each of his first two games and had a strong performance against a tough Steelers secondary.

With Benn in the mix on a team that has to play from behind as much as the Bucs do, Benn could get his as well. Feel free to take a chance on the rookie as I stand behind my belief that they will continue to look to their young playmakers this season.

And since he’s more or less a wide receiver playing tight end…

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots

Aaron Hernandez may not be the tight end that Tom Brady targets in the red zone — that’s Rob Gronkowski — but he does have a big role to play in this offense. He’s made big play after big play as the Patriots go down the field, and he should continue to be a factor there.

If you need a tight end or have the option of playing a tight end in a flex spot, consider using Hernandez from time to time or just saving him for a rainy day. Maybe he’ll even do you a favor and make it to the end zone sometime soon. Right now, he’s producing borderline WR3 numbers.

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.

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.

Sorry, Kolb. Michael Vick starts in Philadelphia after all

Sometimes you draft poorly. I’m told it happens.

You may end up with a worthless set of running backs — guys who got too old without letting you know that you should remove them from your draft board. Maybe you ended up with a horrible corps of wide receivers — the worst of the worst who couldn’t catch a ball if their life depended on it.

Maybe the quarterback you set your sights on just can’t seem to get it through his head which color his team’s jerseys are, and he spends his free time checking down to the running back before he is pummeled by the defense.

Maybe you just drafted a bunch of Buffalo Bills.

When you come to grips with the reality that your fantasy football team needs work, you wish and wish upon a star that someone would save you, that somehow, someway, a top 10 quarterback would drop from the heavens and into your lap — someone to help you rise above your 0-2 record.

Well…that just happened. Michael Vick is now the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Oh, and all you guys who picked him up to start in Week 2 and just happened to land him for the entire season…for shame.

We would say more, but we won’t because it’s clear that you’ve made a deal with the devil, and that’s not the kind of juju I want coming after my own fantasy football team.

On the Wire: Mark Clayton, Josh Freeman, and Jason Snelling top ones to grab for Week 3

With two weeks to gauge our free agent stock, we’re now more able to tell who’s rising to the top and who will be free agent fodder all season long. Here are a few frequently available players who caught my eye in the last two weeks.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wow. A quarterback on a terrible team is actually putting up decent points for two weeks straight? I’ll buy it. Freeman could make a decent QB2 for the rest of the season. We know the Bucs are going to have to throw the ball to win, and they’ve been doing it successfully for two straight weeks against low-end defenses.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons

He’s probably one of the most popular pickups this week, but keep an eye on Michael Turner’s status. It seems that he could have gone back into the game. The Falcons just chose not to put him back in because they hate his fantasy football owners, err..I mean, they didn’t want to risk him getting hurt again in a blowout. As long as Turner’s injury is nothing too serious, all this excitement around Snelling is unnecessary, but you may want to pick him up if you own Turner in case the injury is more serious that the Falcons thought.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Well, Denver’s rookie wide receiver finally hit the field after recovering from his injury, and it looks like he trumps pretty much everyone the Broncos were rolling out at wide receiver earlier in the year. If you bet on Jabar Gaffney, like I did, you may need to go get Thomas. I haven’t completely given up on Gaffney, but I do feel that Thomas will be getting a lot of the work the rest of this season. He had all the fun Sunday with 97 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego Chargers

Much like Snelling, Tolbert benefited when his starter went out with an injury, but unlike Snelling, I think Tolbert could have some value throughout the year. He vultured a touchdown from Mathews, and, as I said in the top scorers post Monday, it appears the Chargers would rather roll with Tolbert rather than Darren Sproles if anything were to happen to their rookie. Keep that in mind and pick him up accordingly. He’s not a starter now, but he’s got that upside.

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Alongside his quarterback, the Bucs’ young wide receiver is worth having on your team if someone hasn’t picked him up already. Two weeks, two scores. As long as Josh Freeman remains a strong QB2 option, Williams will consistently turn in WR3-worthy points for you.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

He’s still not owned in plenty of leagues, and he’s still getting the more productive end of the Cleveland rushing yards. Don’t give up on Jerome Harrison just yet, but Hillis has value, too.

Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans

We all forgot about Walter this year with the hype about Jacoby Jones finally rising to the top, but Walter reminded us all he still had a pulse in Week 2. If he’s undrafted, put a claim in for him this week. He’s worth owning, especially for the weeks he puts up a stat line like the 100+ yards and a score he had against the Redskins.

Don’t expect him to consistently turn in WR2 numbers, but he should remain a WR3 as long as he starts opposite Andre Johnson for the Texans. And if you’re prioritizing, I’d pick up Mike Williams (TB) and Demaryius Thomas before Walter.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans

Washington is the only Titans wide receiver worth owning…as long as you don’t care how often he touches the ball. He could be a decent WR3 this year, but I have a feeling his touchdown streak won’t continue.

Mark Clayton, WR, St. Louis Rams

Unfortunately for those of us that bet on Laurent Robinson breaking out this season, it appears Mark Clayton is Sam Bradford’s guy. He’s gotten the most targets and two scores this week. I’m still hoping to see Robinson rise to the top, but if you don’t own him (or want to back up your investment), get Clayton this week on the waiver wire.

Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland Raiders

Murphy is the only Raiders receiver worth owning. I guess that’s got to count for something. That’s how exciting this waiver wire selection is to me.

More waiver wire goodness: The Hazean’s early thoughts and grab bag,  Razzball, Football Jabber, Fantasy Football Librarian, The FF Geek Blog, TMR, and FF Toolbox’s pickups and super sleepers for Week 3.

On the Wire: Brandon Jackson, Mike Williams(es), Legedu Naanee top list of free agents to claim after Week 1

BREAKING NEWS: See below for an update on Brandon Jackson, who is now the No. 1 guy to get on waivers this week.

So it seems the Seahawks are a little less helpless than we expected them to be at the start of the season. The 49ers D/ST was a hot defense to target in drafts this preseason, but the San Francisco unit was embarrassed by Matt Hasselbeck Sunday in a 31-6 beat down. And that was just one of the games that revealed a few undrafted gems this weekend.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck’s premiere target in the offense is now Mike Williams, who replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the starting lineup after the Seahawks parted ways with the veteran wideout. While Williams didn’t score in the blowout victory Sunday, he played a significant role. Williams’ four catches for 64 yards led the team, and he was stopped just short of the goal on one of those four catches.

As long as the Seahawks can play like they did Sunday, Williams is a man worth owning. To keep the two fantasy relevant Mike Williams(es) straight, feel free to refer to the Seahawks’ Mike Williams as BMW, or Big Mike Williams. I’m told he’ll like that, but let’s be honest…I don’t care either way.

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Drafted in many leagues after a productive preseason, this rookie wide receiver scored Sunday and could have had two if not for a high pass by Josh Freeman, still recovering from a broken thumb. He’ll see plenty of targets this season as Freeman matures/heals and as the Bucs, more than likely, play from behind. Go after him if his current owner doesn’t know what he has.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers

BREAKING NEWS: Fox Sports’  Jay Glazer is reporting that Ryan Grant’s injury will put him on season-ending IR, which leaves Brandon Jackson as the No. 1 back in Green Bay. While some conflicting reports are still out there, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has also confirmed that Grant will need surgery on his ankle and miss at least 10-12 weeks. I’m in agreement with Footballguys.com’s Sigmund Bloom that Brandon Jackson is now a must-have. Bid or prioritize him on the waiver wire accordingly. See what I said about him this morning below and GO GET HIM PEOPLE! GO! NOW! MOVE!

As long as Ryan Grant is out, Jackson is the man in Green Bay. He should be productive enough to fill in as a full-time Grant replacement while the Packers offense rolls without its starting running back. In fact, Jackson is better at catching passes than Grant, which makes him more valuable than Grant was in PPR leagues.

Several times since Grant’s breakout season, we’ve heard rumors that Jackson could take the starting job from him in Green Bay, but Jackson’s health and inexperience has kept him from claiming the top spot. This opportunity is his best chance to show what he can do. If he compliments the Packers potent passing attack well while Grant is out, he could keep the job. Just keep that in mind.

Legedu Naanee, WR, San Diego Chargers

If you watched the second matchup of the Monday Night Football marathon last night, you saw Legedu Naanee sneak out for a 59-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. That was luck, but Naanee is bound to have more of it.

Malcom Floyd is the No. 1 in Vincent Jackson’s absence, but Naanee is another tall and perhaps equally talented wide receiver who Philip Rivers is more than willing to get the football to as long as he is open. The Chargers didn’t look so hot in their first showing Week 1, but as this offense rights the ship and, hopefully, gets starting LT Marcus McNeill back on the field, Naanee will only get better.

His value does depend on Vincent Jackson’s absence, but I don’t see Jackson playing for the Chargers again this season…or ever. So there’s that.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

As we feared, Jerome Harrison lost touches to Hillis against the Bucs on Sunday, and Hillis recorded the only rushing touchdown for the Browns, even after Harrison did the hard work to get them there with a big run. It looks like Harrison will have to play Eric Mangini’s running back “Cupid Shuffle” again this season. Hillis is a guy to keep on your roster in the meantime, especially if he ends up carrying the rock for the Browns near the red zone.

Mark Clayton, WR, St. Louis Rams

The Rams passed the ball quite a bit on Sunday, and Clayton took advantage of his opportunities and racked up 119 yards. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford also threw three picks on Sunday, which tells us they might not throw the ball as much in future contests, but for now, Clayton has immediately become a big part of this offense. He might not make it to the end zone often…or ever, but he could develop into a decent WR3, especially in PPR leagues.

Who else you got on the free agent wire? Give me names, and I’ll give you suggestions. You can also find plenty of waiver wire help at these fine establishments: Fantasy Football Librarian, The Hazean, The FF Geek Blog, Fanhouse, Razzball, FF Toolbox and a note on Michael Vick from KFFL.

Believe it or not: Arian Foster, Hakeem Nicks and More Top Scorers from Week 1

If you played against Arian Foster this week, you lost. This rule applies to Peyton Manning. But what should we expect in Week 2?

Arian Foster: 231 yards, 3 TDs, 1 pass for 7 yards

Believe It – Foster came up big in Week 1 for the owners who jumped on his sleeper bandwagon. This week’s performance even makes drafting him as a No. 2 running back, and not the sleeper he was this offseason, reasonable. Will he repeat a performance like this? Maybe when he faces the Colts’ miserable run defense again in Week 8. But until then, expect him to hold down the RB2 spot on your team just fine.

If you want a Foster on your roster (yeah, I just said that), wait a few weeks. He faces the Redskins and the Cowboys in Week 2 and 3, which should chip away at his epic Week 1 performance and make his owner’s asking price a big more reasonable. The price won’t go down after Foster blows up the Raiders in Week 4, and there are a few more nice matchups for Foster in the chewy center of the Texans schedule.

Matt Forte: 50 yards, 7 passes for 151 yards and 2 TDs

Believe It – Another popular sleeper candidate makes the list this week. We spent all offseason trying to figure out which Bears’ receiver would benefit the most from the new offensive system by Mike Martz. Turns out, it was Forte in Week 1. It was worrisome that he had trouble punching one in on Sunday, but we’ll have to hope that improves. For now, just be glad he’s a big part of the passing game in this mad scientist system. Expect a few more weeks in which he looks like the Forte of old (2008) and makes for a very nice RB2.

David Garrard: 16-of-21 for 170 yards and 3 TDs

Not Buying It – It’s hard to believe that the Jags won through the air with Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield and when facing Champ Bailey and the Broncos…but they did. Garrard did throw primarily to his tight end Marcedes Lewis, who scored on both his touches.

Needless to say, when the Jaguars defense doesn’t get them the prime field position they benefited from against the Broncos, Garrard will have a more difficult time putting up these kinds of numbers, and Garrard doesn’t have many pushover secondaries on his schedule. Fool me twice before I believe in you, Garrard.

Marcedes Lewis: 2 passes for 31 yards and 2 TDs

Not Buying It - It certainly is efficient to score on both your touches in one game, but it doesn’t lead me to believe you’ll do it again. Lewis may have improved this offseason and may now be the red zone target in the Jaguars offense, but that still doesn’t mean his next 31 yards will get him into the end zone. Don’t jump on this bandwagon just yet. Plenty of talent at tight end this year anyway.

Hakeem Nicks: 4 passes for 75 yards and 3 TDs

Believe It – Nicks was supposed to be the guy that replaced Plaxico Burress in the Giants offense. In Week 1, he did. He wasn’t the most targeted receiver on the field (Steve Smith), and he didn’t get the most yardage (Mario Manningham). But he did get all the scores against a passing defense that kept a tight lid on wide receivers last season. Without Kevin Boss (injured Sunday) in the lineup, Nicks is the lone big man in the passing game.

I was a big fan of the Giants’ Steve Smith last season, but this season, all bets are off in the passing game as long as Nicks stays healthy. Eli Manning now has three excellent receivers to target, and Nicks could end up with the most points at the end of the day because he’s the easiest to hit in the end zone. Get him on your roster if you want to play the receiver lottery with the Giants this season. Eli Manning might just show us that last year wasn’t just a fluke.

Austin Collie: 10 passes for 131 yards and a TD

Not Buying It - Collie got most of his yardage on just one play for a touchdown, and even though I expect him to be a regular weapon in the Colts’ offense all season, I can’t fully buy his big Week 1 performance because it won’t be a lock to happen again. He’s a great weekly sub if you have an opening for an occasional WR3, but don’t rush out to grab him. You’ll be taking a chance every time you start him.

Darren McFadden: 95 yards, 6 passes for 55 yards and a TD

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Even a blind squirrel finds the end zone every now and then. McFadden had free reign in the running game this week against the Titans with Michael Bush still recovering from surgery on his hand, but I don’t expect him to get the majority of carries once Bush is back to full healthy. He does have a promising matchup against the Rams in Week 2, but as Bush works his way back on the field, McFadden is likely to work his way out of your heart. If his current owner is willing to sell him cheap, take that price and see what you can get out of him. But I think the better gamble is to “buy low” on Michael Bush while McFadden is getting all the attention.

Michael Vick: 16-for-24 for 175 yards and a TD, 103 rushing yards

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Whaaaa? Now that’s not a name you expected to see on the top of the pile Sunday, but when Kevin Kolb got concussed, Vick showed us why the Eagles coveted him the most this offseason of all the Eagles quarterbacks. He’s a nice security blanket for Kolb until the young guy finds his football legs, and Vick could start in Week 2 if Kolb is not cleared from his concussion.

Watch the latest updates (or follow me on Twitter) to see whether Vick gets his second chance to shine, but as long as Andy Reid insists there is no quarterback controversy, Vick is nothing more than a long-term gamble who might pay off if Kolb suffers another injury or struggles to get back on the field after this concussion. Still, you might entertain the idea of grabbing him if you have some room on your roster and no affiliation with PETA.

Notice a name I didn’t cover among the top scorers this Sunday? Feel free to spark up a conversation in the comments, but note that I assume you’ve heard of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Chris Johnson, Miles Austin, and Chad Ochocinco, which is why they weren’t listed here.

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.