Old Vikings Marching Down a Street

Week 4 Pickups: The One With All the Vikings

Old Vikings Marching Down a StreetI’m 0-3 in one league, and I can’t stand it. So I’ll be all over the wires this week. You stand to benefit from my helpful or misguided research.

Obviously, we had an eventful weekend of football. Or whatever you call the sport the replacement refs are now calling for us.

Unfortunately for us all, there isn’t too much on the wire unless you’re in a very shallow league. Leshoure is probably owned. Brown probably got snatched before his start Thursday night. That leaves slim pickings if you’re in need of a running back because the injuries don’t seem too severe to the starters who went down Week 3.

As always, my pickups are listed in the order I would go after them and with FAAB estimations.

Week 4 Pickups

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions (75%+)
If you waited this long, sorry. I talked about him before he hit the field. You’re going to have to luck out to land Leshoure, who looks to be the Lions’ preferred rusher. At least until Jahvid Best returns.

Andre Brown, RB, Giants (25%)
You probably missed your chance at him by now, but Brown could continue to see action even when Bradshaw returns from his injury.

Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings (15% if need be)
There’s a lot of hype around Simpson’s return from suspension this week with the Vikings offense moving the ball this year. I think you have to jump on him before he breaks out. He’s my top recommendation this week besides Leshoure.

Jake Locker, QB, Titans (10-15%)
This is the kind of potential we’ve been waiting to see. With Britt getting healthy (and MAYBE a running game showing up sometime soon), Locker should put together a nice season as a QB2 with QB1 upside.

Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings (10-15%)
To follow his new WR target, I’d offer up the Vikings QB, who looks good enough to enter QB1 territory these next few weeks. His schedule is excellent if you’re looking for bye week replacement help.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (10%)
Rudolph caught two touchdowns this week, which probably serves as his coming out party, but Rudolph is worth owning in all leagues as we enter the byes. He’s a great target for Ponder near the redzone. And Simpson’s return should open up this offense, not take opportunities away.

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Bengals (5-10%)
The Hawk can play. I’m ready to grab him now, and you should, too. He’s shown he can produce with few targets. I expect inconsistency, but he’s solid enough to be rostered.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons (<10%)
Stash him now before anyone else sees him. I’m high on Rodgers, and as a result, high on the demise of Michael Turner. Turner can’t even drive fast.

Donnie Avery, WR, Colts (5-10%)
Without Austin Collie for the rest of the year, Avery now gets my confidence.

Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (<5%)
He looks to be a lot more involved in the offense this year than years past. He’s worth acquiring as the reigning No. 3 fantasy tight end.

Leonard Hankerson, WR, Redskins (<5%)
He’s secured a starting spot, even when Garcon returns. For now, he’s getting to run as the first read for Robert Griffin III. Just don’t do anything crazy like I did this weekend if you pick him up.

Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals (15%)
I don’t love the Arizona running game, but Williams looks to be the best part of it.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins (10-15%)
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins (5-10%)

The more explosive and dependable of the two Dolphins running backs, I think Miller can emerge if given the opportunity. Daniel Thomas will probably get more action, but he may be owned in most leagues.

Tashard Choice, RB, Bills (10%)
Whoever starts in Buffalo is going to rack up yards. They just run the ball well up there. But there is no guarantee Choice even gets this one start in Week 4 if Fred Jackson can get in a full week of practice. Be careful how much you bid on him here.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions (<10% if you own Stafford)
If you’re in a very deep league and want to make sure you get points for the Lions’ passing game, you might need Hill to play safe with Stafford’s injury. But it sounds as if Stafford could make the start Week 4 if the team lets him.

Stashes

I’m not yet ready to bite on Nate Burleson (maybe in PPR), Brandon Stokley, Jacoby Jones, or T.Y. Hilton, but they may be worthy stashes if you have the roster room. Cecil Shorts is hard to buy as long as he’s still in Jacksonville.

Brandon Myers and Jordan Cameron look like they can ball, but the tight end position is DEEP this season.

I’m not sure what to think of Ronnie Hillman or Lance Ball just yet if McGahee sits out Week 4, but I think I’d rather stash Ball if I’m a McGahee owner.

Don’t forget about Bilal Powell just yet, but I don’t think it’s an emergency that you get him on your roster. Especially not when he faces the 49ers this week.

Drops

Austin Collie (sadly), Stephen Hill, and Greg Little are all droppable if you have a more promising guy on the waiver wire. David Wilson is bordering on droppable territory, but we’ll have to see how he’s used once Ahmad Bradshaw returns to the field.

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:

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

Believe it or not: Brandon Lloyd, Hakeem Nicks Prove They Are Legit and More Top Scores from Week 5

This week’s top performers weren’t too surprising. A few of them we’ve heard of before, and a few of them have already been consistently working their way towards greatness over the first four weeks of the season. Then, there are the defenses.

Matt Forte, Bears RB: 166 yards, 2 TDs, 2 catches for 22 yards

Surprise, surprise, Forte can still run the ball. With Cutler out, Martz finally let them keep the ball on the ground, and Forte produced. It was the only possible strategy with Todd Collins starting at quarterback, but only time will tell if Martz ever lets it happen again.

Martz’s offense is really all about the passing game, and Forte’s doing well enough in that. But it’s always good to see that, if called upon, he can run the ball, even against a defense that expects him to be the entire offense and focuses on stopping him.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers WR: 8 catches for 213 yards, 1 TD

When Vincent Jackson decided to sit out 2010, Floyd owners hoped he’d be able to step right into Jackson’s shoes as the big play threat. While Antonio Gates has gotten most of the fantasy points thus far, Floyd finally had a “breakout” level performance against the Raiders in a loss. Let’s hope he keeps getting the looks.

Ray Rice, Ravens RB: 133 yards, 2 TDs, 4 catches for 26 yards

If you’ve been waiting for the Ray Rice you drafted to show up for your fantasy team, I think it’s safe to say he’s back.

Detroit Lions D/ST: 6 points allowed, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery, 2 TDs

Unfortunately, they don’t get to play the Rams every week. The important thing to note here is that the Lions’ defense isn’t without its playmakers, and they are hungry for wins this season. They may not be a top dog in the NFC North just yet, but they are beginning to turn the corner.

Oakland Raiders D/ST: 27 points allowed, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 TD

The much-feared Raider defense? No, not so much. But they did turn in a big day as the Chargers’ gave the ball away, even while putting points on the board. The Chargers really shot themselves in the foot in this one.

Brandon Lloyd, Broncos WR: 5 catches for 135 yards, 2 TDs

I hate, hate, HATE that I missed on Lloyd, especially after seeing a week like this one. The Broncos may not have a consistent No. 1 receiver, but Kyle Orton is definitely looking Lloyd’s way each and every game. He’s been huge, and this week’s performance was his biggest yet.

I was offered Lloyd for Michael Bush during the first two weeks of the season, but I passed…and laughed it off, in fact. Now it seems that might have been a bargain. (To my credit, the owner who offered him to me dropped him the very next week. They didn’t see it either. I’m still not sure if I should believe.)

Hakeem Nicks, Giants WR: 12 catches for 130 yards, 2 TDs

So I guess this is going to happen more than once this season. Nicks is finally the Plaxico Burress replacement that the Giants needed out there, and Steve Smith will have to take a backseat in the touchdown department. That’s the good and the ugly of it.

And the ones we expect to be up there: Chris Johnson, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Miles Austin, Josh Scobee (There is nothing more to be said when a kicker makes this list.), Shaun Hill, and Kyle Orton.

Believe it or not: T.O., L.T. not done yet, Arian Foster only needs three quarters, and more Week 4 top scores

Last week’s top scores featured some pretty normal names. I thought this feature might be getting boring…so, of course, this week was full of surprises.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 131 rushing yards, 1 TD and 3 catches for 56 yards, 1 TD

Yeah…that guy again. Foster was benched for the entire first quarter for missing one team meeting and being late to another, and he still scored the most fantasy points on Sunday. If you’re a Foster owner, never complain about a loss. You have no excuse.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 222 yards, 1 TD

Take away the long bomb that T.O. caught just as the corner covering him fell down and these numbers aren’t quite as impressive. T.O. benefits from playing opposite Chad Ochocinco, and Carson Palmer doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to turn back into the top quarterback he used to be.

I’m not saying that T.O. won’t keep producing these kinds of numbers. He is likely to rack up 100+ yards in a few more games this season, but I’m not in love with him long-term. He could just as easily disappear off the radar next week, never to be seen again.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 163 passing yards, 2 passing TDs and 44 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Even in the worst of times for the Jaguars, Garrard manages to put up stats against the Colts. This big day may make up for his team’s shortcomings the first three weeks, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a solid fantasy quarterback. You never know when he will show up and when he won’t. Garrard is a risky bye week fill right now and that’s it.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: 133 yards, 2 TDs and 3 catches for 22 yards

There was a lot of excitement around L.T.’s numbers this Sunday, but keep in mind that these stats were against the Bills. While he’s holding his own as the No. 1 back in New York right now, I doubt L.T. will be able to sustain this kind of production all season long. He has gotten up there in age and carries, and this game was his first 100+ yarder in two years. If you can sell him high to the Shonn Greene owner, I would.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions: 331 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs and 53 rushing yards

The Lions got behind big in this one, but they did fight back admirably. Hill’s numbers just show you how nice it is to have Calvin Johnson to catch passes for you. Lucky for Megatron and the Detroit Lions, Stafford should be back soon, and when he returns, these Lions’ quarterback numbers could get even better.

And the usual suspects who also showed up big for their owners this week: Antonio Gates, Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

By the way, if you saw Kyle Orton in the “usual suspects” just now and found that odd, let me just say that Kyle Orton is for real. He had another 300+ yards against the Titans, who were looking like a fairly stout passing defense this season. Orton is going to have to carry this team, especially with all the injuries in the running game. Look for him to remain a quality QB1 starter.

Believe it or not: Jahvid “THE” Best, Jason Snelling, LeSean McCoy, Jay Cutler and More Top Scorers from Week 2

This week was not a good week to bench Jay Cutler or Jahvid Best. I have Jay Cutler as my QB1 in two leagues, but I chose to bench him in one of the two to “play it safe” with Favre. I hate it when I play it safe. I hate it even more when it backfires. Uh, needless to say, I won’t do that again.

We knew Jahvid Best was going to be good, but THIS good…against the Eagles. Surprise! Hate yourself for doubting him. I loathe myself because I was already high on the kid.

Here are the rest of the unusual top scorers from Week 2, a week that will haunt me for a lifetime.

Jahvid Best: 78 yards, 2 TDs, 9 catches for 154 yards, 1 TD

Believe It — Best was excellent, especially on the short pass from Shaun Hill that he turned into a 75-yard touchdown. Some were comparing him to Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson going into this season, and this Week 2 performance certainly shows hints of that kind of ability. I don’t think you’re going to be able to “buy low” on him anymore this season, and I doubt you’ll really want to “sell high” on him either.

Best proved this week that he can score plenty of fantasy points against even the toughest of defenses and without his starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. That makes him a must-start in my book for the rest of the season, and we’ll see if we can confirm that next week when he faces Minnesota.

Jason Snelling: 129 yards, 2 TDs, 5 catches for 57 yards, 1 TD

Believe It (When He Plays) — We’ve never forgotten about Snelling’s abilities, and when Michael Turner went down with a groin injury in this one, Snelling jumped right into his role to reap the rewards. I don’t think the Cardinals put a defense on the field as they allowed the Falcons to run up 41 points. Ouch.

Unfortunately for Snelling, the Falcons have said that Michael Turner’s groin injury is not severe and that he could have gone back into the game if it was close. So while Snelling was awesome this week, it’ll be hard to predict when the Falcons will next have to rely on his talents. He will at least continue to spell Turner, but he really only has value when the full load is put on his back.

Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add him to your bench if you own Michael Turner. You’d definitely want a piece of this action if Turner were to reaggravate his injury later in the season.

LeSean McCoy: 120 yards, 3 TDs, 4 catches for 8 yards

Believe It — No Leonard Weaver and a banged-up Mike Bell makes McCoy a happy boy. Of course, this stat line was against the Lions, which really makes it like saying Neil Armstrong had a great vertical when he was jumping in zero gravity on the moon.

I am not a huge fan of McCoy, but he appears to have stumbled into more of a workload that I expected him to have this season. If he makes the best of it, he should be a solid stud. We’ll get another chance to see what he can do against a slightly more difficult defense next week when he faces Jacksonville.

Jay Cutler: 277 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It — Look at that stat line. No interceptions? None? Cutler put his critics on notice this week. It’s physically painful to me knowing that I sat Cutler in one league, but at least I started him in another to benefit from his huge day in Dallas.

Mike Martz has made this offense into a force to be reckoned with, and Cutler made all the right throws Sunday. Looks like those who counted on Cutler to put it all together this season in Chicago have hit it big. I believe in him going forward.

Mark Sanchez: 220 passing yards, 3 TDs

Not Buying It — “Sanchize” went from one of the worst games of his career to one of the best in just one week, but it’s hard to say he’ll do this on a regular basis. Sanchez may have the tools, but he’s still very young. He outplayed Tom Brady with the help of the Jets’ non-stop attacking defense.

New York will frequently rely on their running game and defense this season and allow Sanchez to do just enough not to lose. He’ll be better when Santonio Holmes gets on the field, but he won’t be matching Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s numbers every week.

Sanchez owners  should expect stats similar to what Matt Ryan has posted over the last couple of years.  Just be pleasantly surprised when he puts together a game like he did Sunday.

Shaun Hill: 335 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Not Buying It — Clearly, Hill can run the offense in Stafford’s absence, but he’s not going to create any quarterback controversy. Take away the 75-yard score by Jahvid Best, and this stat line reads 260 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, which is a little more ordinary.

Kyle Orton: 307 passing yards, 1 TD

Believe It — The Broncos are a passing team, and even though he didn’t take great advantage of that with passing touchdowns this week, Orton once again put up big yardage. Expect him to be a solid QB2 this season with QB1 upside depending on the matchup.

Mike Tolbert: 82 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 13 yards

Believe It — Mike Tolbert got the rock in Ryan Mathews absence, but unlike Snelling, he could be gunning for a larger share of the carries even when Mathews is healthy. Tolbert punched in 2 touchdowns and seemed adequate enough in the running game for San Diego. Meanwhile, Mathews seems to have a fumble problem.

The Chargers appear more apt to use Tolbert over Darren Sproles if Mathews were to miss any time or shows that he is too green to start at running back for a playoff contender. So take note of this stat line and waiver wire accordingly if you want to protect your Mathews investment or if you want to snipe a LeRon McClain-type talent to keep in reserve.

Kevin Walter: 11 catches for 144 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It — The hype train is still rolling out of Jacoby Jones’ station. Jones also had a touchdown, but he didn’t rack up more than 100 yards like Water did. Expect these two to battle it out for a good while, similar to the way Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson seem to battle it out beside Marques Colston for the Saints.

It’s hard to predict who will be the most solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver beside Andre Johnson on the Texans this season, but keep your eye on both Walter and Jones. Walter received a good amount of targets while Johnson was being attended to in the locker room, and I don’t believe his bigger game this Sunday means he’s won the competition.

Not mentioned for the sake of obviousness, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Steelers D/ST, Peyton Manning, and Andre Johnson.

Now about that Calvin Johnson catch

Was a touchdown (and, therefore, six fantasy points, which is really what we care about here) stolen from Megatron this week by the refs?

I know there has been plenty of discussion this week about how goofy the rules are surrounding completing a catch in the end zone, and I agree that those rules could be clarified. But  I also have to take the side of the NFL officials in this one. It was not a catch.

It’s the receiver’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he caught the football, even if you have to use your helmet to do it.

In Calvin Johnson’s case, he didn’t hold up his end. It’s a technicality, but it’s part of the game. You must protect and secure the football. Slamming the ball into the ground was unnecessary. If he had pulled it into his body, it would have spared us all this drama.

In case you just escaped from under a rock, here’s the tape…

Watch a high-quality replay on NFL.com

Bill Polian explains (via Pro Football Talk):

And, ultimately, Polian said it was Johnson’s mistake to put the ball on the ground, rather than keep it in his hands and show the officials that he had it. Polian said it’s on the receivers to demonstrate to the officials that they’ve completed a catch, and not on the NFL to change the rule.

I have to agree with Polian here. Megatron clearly could have tucked his arm with the ball against his body, slid to a stop, and come up with the ball to show the refs. Instead, he spun into the ground and launched himself, using the ball, back to his feet.

Sure, he easily maintained possession all the way to the ground, and, sure, there is no question that he had control of the football. But you can’t call it a catch just because it seems that he had the chance to do it the right way.

To me, this whole incident isn’t much different from when DeSean Jackson prematurely dropped the football on his way into the end zone in 2008 — just a young receiver neglecting the small details when he makes a big play.

I’m sure this won’t ever happen again to Megatron. His fantasy owners can count on that.

Michael Crabtree signs…and I don’t care [Fantasy Impact]

Michael Crabtree, who majored in diva-ology at Texas Tech, has finally signed with the San Francisco 49ers as of yesterday. Apparently, that whole “we can win without you” message got into his head, but he’ll certainly be upset that his own signing was upstaged by the Braylon Edwards trade, relegating Crabtree to just a footnote.

After weeks of speculation about why he was holding out and accusations that the New York Jets were tampering, which will still be investigated despite Crabtree’s signing, the wait is over.

Full of rookie potential and college hype, scouts expect Crabtree to become one of the truly dominating receivers in the NFL, a weapon that the 49ers could really use to make their offense more dynamic–or as dynamic as an offense can be with Shaun Hill at quarterback.

But don’t expect Crabtree to immediately jump into the 49ers offense and start diva-fying everything. The 49ers have no room for divas. They run the ball, and I don’t expect that to change just because Crabtree is now a member of the NFL club. He’s likely to spend most of the coming weeks learning the offense.

When the 49ers activate him, he could still be just the second option behind Josh Morgan, who hasn’t been terrible, or even the third option behind both Morgan and a surprisingly productive Vernon Davis.

I don’t hate Shaun Hill as a quarterback; in fact, I view him as a fairly decent QB2 option most weeks. But Hill’s been far more likely to throw to Davis and hand the ball off to Frank Gore or Glen Coffee in these early weeks of the season than he has to try something deep to Morgan or Isaac Bruce. I don’t think Crabtree will change that.

So if Crabtree is floating on your waiver wire, and you have the roster spot on your bench to spare, feel free to go out there and get him, but make sure you view it as an investment for the end of the season.

In redraft leagues, Crabtree may be nothing but a blip on the fantasy radar as a situational receiver for the 49ers down the stretch, but at least you’ll be first in line to benefit when he sees the field.

If you, like many owners, need that bench spot to survive the upcoming bye weeks, I think it’s safe to wait on the diva. He will mind, but I don’t care.

On the Wire: Quick Week 1 Pickups and Sleepers

It’s time…

I’m almost giddy now that I can finally write up a few sleeper grabs that may have gone undrafted in your leagues this season. In less than 24 hours, the 2009 NFL season will be upon us. Are you ready? Probably not, but that’s why you’re doing your homework. Consider this your Week 1 bailout.

For the sake of being more easily absorbed in this 24/7, twittered news cycle, I’m tightening up the weekly “On the Wire” and making it a little more rapid fire — less bulky. If you don’t find what you crave in this handful of player mentions, leave a comment, and we’ll discuss. That’s what we’re here to do.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
If no one drafted Ray Rice in your league, you should go pick him up immediately. Actually, first, you should slap yourself, and then you can go get Ray Rice off that waiver wire. Rice was a popular sleeper pick in the offseason, but he’s been climbing up draft boards all preseason, especially now that he’s officially the Ravens’ starting running back.

Anyone who hasn’t either missed their chance to draft him or secured him on their team’s roster needs to dust off the fantasy cobwebs and wake up before he does — probably this weekend against an incredibly bad Kansas City defense.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
For three weeks, Jackson will be the feature back of the Buffalo Bills offense while Marshawn Lynch serves his suspension. The Bills let Dominic Rhodes go just days before the season and confirmed their confidence in Jackson’s abilities.

Whether you own Lynch or not, Jackson’s worthy of a roster spot until Week 4.

Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Another of my favorite sleepers this preseason, the troubled young wide receiver is back with the Bengals and seems to be on the right track legally. Henry caught touchdown bombs in all four weeks of the preseason, even while Carson Palmer was out. I’d say that’s a good sign of things to come with Palmer healthy — at least for now.

Get Henry on your team this week before he shows his skills against the Denver Broncos.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints
If Pierre Thomas misses the Saints’ Week 1 showdown against the Detroit Lions, who has two thumbs and all the carries near the goal line? THIS GUY. (I’ll admit, that was bad, but you should try to do better.)

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
The other Peyton is a dark horse fantasy back in Denver this season. While Knowshon Moreno gets all the hype, the ladies and the knee injuries, Hillis is the guy who should end up running with the team in two-minute drills and when it counts.

He catches passes, he runs the ball effectively and he’s deceptively known as a fullback on the Broncos’ roster, but you should keep an eye or a roster spot on this rookie standout from 2008.

Shaun Hill, QB, San Francisco 49ers
If Matt Schaub or Kyle Orton is making you nervous, Hill could cure just what ails you. He was productive enough to deserve a few fantasy starts when he finished out the season for the 49ers.

Confirmed as the starting quarterback for 2009, he should take full advantage of all the opportunities exposed when defenses stack the box to stop Frank Gore. Expect Hill to step up this week against the potent Arizona attack.

That’s all for this week. No droppable players to discuss this week, but we’ll revisit next week once we’ve seen how disappointing our fantasy teams can be in real life.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a guy you’re thinking about adding to your roster? Need help at receiver or quarterback this week? Just ask.