Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 11
Every Tuesday I will be bringing you the NFL players who have somehow flown under the fantasy radar and are owned in far too few leagues given their production and/or ceiling. Injuries and byes are inevitable, too.
With the first game of the week a mere 48 hours away, here are some players that are on quite a few waiver wires out there that simply shouldn’t be.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans (Yahoo 2% owned; ESPN 0.5%) – 3% FAAB
With Jake Locker (Lisfranc injury) officially done for the season, this is Fitzpartrick’s offense to run for better or for worse. You shouldn’t expect him to light the fantasy world on fire, but his resume as a starter in Buffalo suggests that he offers some upside. The Titans lack elite weapons, but with Kendall Wright, Chris Johnson, Delaine Walker, and Nate Washington, they have enough talent on offense to give Fitzpatrick some value if you’re struggling to cope with an injury (i.e. Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler) or inconsistency (i.e. Andy Dalton or Colin Kapernick).
The schedule lines up nicely as Tennessee will face the Colts (a defense that has looked very average after their impressive win over the Broncos) twice, Raiders, Broncos, and Jaguars.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (Yahoo 7% owned; ESPN 8%) – 8% FAAB
Much of the focus in the NFC North this week was centered around injured quarterbacks (Rodgers and Cutler), but it was Ponder’s gutty performance that paced his team to an impressive win, continuing his upward trending play that has him as the favorite as the second best fantasy QB in this division from this point forward. He dislocated his non-throwing shoulder diving for the endzone last week, but with a long week to prepare, it seems likely that he doesn’t miss a beat.
I obviously don’t love him against the Seahawks this week, but with an increasing completion percentage over his last four games (peaking at 81%), he has some appeal down the stretch. Ponder will face the Packers, Bears, Ravens, and Eagles in weeks 12-15, and with every defense in the league focusing on stopping Adrian Peterson, he will have plenty of opportunities to make the big play. He’s no Mike Vick, but Ponder can scramble in an effective manner, tallying at least 29 rushing yards and a rushing TD in three of the past four weeks.
Andre Brown, New York Giants (Yahoo 49% owned; ESPN 25.2%) – 10% FAAB
Brown was the third different running back to have 20-plus carries in the last four games for the G-men (had zero running backs carry that workload in the first five games) and while his fantasy output was nice (115 yards and a TD), his 3.8 yards per carry wasn’t exactly impressive. That being said, the Giants have inched themselves back into the playoff picture and Eli Manning has been as inefficient as any quarterback in the league, so the commitment to the run game should remain constant. Brandon Jacobs was inactive this week and Peyton Hillis recorded all of 21 yards on six touches, making this Brown’s (26 years old) job to lose.
New York draws a very favorable schedule (Green Bay, Dallas, Washington, San Diego, Seattle, Detroit, and Washington) the rest of the way and if they are going to continue to win games, it will be on the shoulders of their supersized running backs. I think the Giants want the younger Brown to win this job (now and in the long term), and if he can stay healthy, this is a great chance for him to do just that.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders (Yahoo 49% owned; ESPN 44.8%) – 7% FAAB
Darren McFadden practiced last week but did not suit up on Sunday, and for a second consecutive week, Jennings handed the bulk of the running back work in a very efficient manner (44 touches 283 yards and a touchdown). Based on his participation in practice last week I’d expect McFadden to try to play this weekend (@ Houston), but with an injury riddled past, Jennings is worth a roster spot in most leagues. After the Texans, Oakland has two porous run defenses on the books (Titans and Cowboys), making Jennings a RB2 in crucial weeks for fantasy owners should he continue to carry the mail.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (Yahoo 16% owned; ESPN 6.6%) – 3% FAAB
Trent Richardson hasn’t just been bad for a fantasy first rounder, he’s been bad for any NFL running back (88 carries for 250 yards and five consecutive touchdown-less weeks for the Colts), leading to whispers that Brown could be in for an extended workload as the Colts prepare for a playoff run. While Brown is averaging a far superior 5.9 yards per carry (albeit on only 41 carries), I like his potential increased involvement to be more in the pass game than the running game as a result of his familiarity of the offensive system.
He has caught multiple passes in four of the last five weeks and I’d project 10-12 touches per game from this point forward. That may not be a heavy workload, but in deeper leagues where it is difficult to find consistent touches, that’s valuable. Indianapolis has three sneaky good matchups for running backs in the final six weeks of the fantasy season (the Titans twice and the Chiefs), giving Brown a shot to peak from a fantasy perspective in the later weeks of the season.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints (Yahoo 73% owned; ESPN 54.7%) – 6% FAAB
He looked good on Sunday night against the Cowboys, but I’m fairly confident I would have gained 40 yards on that defense. I don’t expect the Saints to display that type of balance on a consistent basis, but Thomas has been very effective over the last month (5.7 yards per touch) and has been quietly important in the pass game this season (ranks 25th in the league in receptions and has caught over 90% of the passes thrown his way). The rushing numbers will come and go but I’m buying that involvement in an explosive pass game, allowing Thomas to rank as an RB3 in PPR leagues for the rest of the season.
Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams (Yahoo 43% owned; ESPN 72.6%) – 7% FAAB
Three 57-plus yard touchdowns in less than 12 minutes of game time is impressive, and at this point in the season, the big play potential is at least worth a flier. That being said, he still only saw three targets in the pass game (not to mention he was only on the field for 15 of 55 snaps) on Sunday and even with his 69 yard per reception performance, he is still averaging just 6.7 yards per catch during his rookie campaign.
This passing game often stagnet and Kellen Clemens doesn’t have the skill set to maximize the physical gifts of Austin. I don’t doubt the Rams try to get him the ball a bit more as a result of this show stopping game, but expecting him to consistently rank as a top 30 receiver is overly optimistic.
Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles (Yahoo 49% owned; ESPN 31.3%) – 5% FAAB
Who didn’t see this coming? After a tumultuous offseason (talk about a story that has been overshadowed), Cooper struggled to produce in the early going this season with an ever changing quarterback situation. But in the last two weeks he has caught eight of the 11 passes thrown his way for 241 yards and five touchdowns thanks to the elite play (statistically speaking there is no other way to describe it) of Nick Foles.
None of the Eagles final six opponents have a defense that should scare you save the Cardinals, and there is simply no way Foles losses this starting gig in the near future (right?). He has become a favorite of Foles, so his value takes a hit should Vick reclaim the starting gig, but he has earned his spot on the field, giving him value in the up-tempo Chip Kelly offense.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (Yahoo 22% owned; ESPN 20.5%) – 5% FAAB
We gave him to you last week and he delivered five catches on eight targets for 76 yards. He has caught a pass of at least 24 yards in eight of ten games this season and with 18 targets in the last two weeks (he totaled six targets in the previous three weeks), he seems to have the trust of Russell Wilson. Percy Harvin will return to action this week against the Vikings, but I’m not buying him as an elite playmaker right away, thus keeping Baldwin as a reasonable fantasy option for now.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (Yahoo 53% owned; ESPN 38.3%) – 7% FAAB
Caught seven passes on nine targets for 78 yards, the seventh time in eight games he has caught at least five passes, tallying at least 54 receiving yards in every one of those games. This pass game is far from explosive, but he has offered the type of consistent production that is nice for a WR3 in PPR formats. His aDOT of 7.6 tells me that the switch from Locker to Fitzpatrick at quarterback shouldn’t change his value much, as he will continue to serve as a chain moving option.
John Carlson, Minnesota Vikings (Yahoo 2% owned; ESPN 0.1%) – 3% FAAB
Seven catches on seven targets for 98 yards and a touchdown was an impressive first start in the absence of Kyle Rudolph, and as long as Ponder is under center, I don’t think it was a fluke. Greg Jennings hasn’t been the steadying force in the pass game that the Vikings were hoping for, thus the door is wide open for any sort of consistent pass catcher to emerge. Adrian Peterson is the primary focus of defenses, which should allow Carlson to have his chance to shine in the intermediate pass game. It was only last season when Rudolph (another Norte Dame alum) hauled in nine scores, proof that there is value to be had in through the air in Minnesota. I’ve got Carlson as a top 15 tight end from this point forward.
Soppe’s Spot Start Specials
This segment will typically be filled with players poised to breakout, in an effort to help you navigate your bye weeks. You’ll notice that I very much like players coming off of a bye week, as the extra preparation can help even the playing field a bit.
Alex Smith (vs Denver Broncos)
The mistake-free Smith will be coming a bye week and facing a questionable Broncos secondary. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this will be a shootout, but it won’t be your standard dink and dunk Chiefs game plan either. Look for Smith to be closer to 300 passing yards than the 213 he averages in an effort to support his defense, allowing him to rank as a top ten fantasy signal caller this weekend.
Ben Tate (vs Oakland Raiders)
The Giants have a questionable pass game (much like the Texans) and elected to run the ball down the throat of this Raiders team last week, winning the game in the process. I’m expecting Houston to follow this game plan, thus making Tate a valuable option in all fantasy formats. He hasn’t been overly efficient of late (3.18 yards per touch in his last four games), but quantity of attempts has value in this era of spread offenses and dual back systems.
Leonard Hankerson (@ Philadelphia Eagles)
There are going to be points scored in this one, and Hankerson has a good shot to emerge as a great value play. He caught five of his seven targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the first game against the Eagles (Week 1) and while his production has had its ups and downs, he has been targeted at least five times in seven of his nine games this season. Hankerson has caught ten of the 11 passes thrown his way over the last two weeks as Robert Griffin III has finally found his form throwing the ball (47/69 for 572 yards).
Delaine Walker (vs Indianapolis Colts)
For the second time in three weeks, Walker notched at least three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick is taking over on a short week and will be facing the occasionally explosive Colts offense, making it very reasonable to think this Titans offense could look to move the ball via the run game/short pass game. Indy’s defense hasn’t been impressive of late, so there figures to be points to be had. It is very possible that Walker tallies a third stat line of at least 3-52-1 over his lat four games after this week.
Cleveland Browns (@ Cincinatti Bengals)
The Browns own a stingy defense that ranks fourth in total yardage, a trend I like to continue as they are off a bye week and opposing a divisional opponent that they are very familiar with. The Bengals offense looked inpet last week against a Ravens defense that isn’t as good as this Cincinnati unit. The Browns have surrendered just one touchdown to an opponent’s WR1 this season, and if the Bengals aren’t getting production from A.J. Green, they aren’t going to score more than three times.