Hot Routes: Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

By Will Mirrer

Weekly recommended fantasy football free agent pickups, all under 50% ownership in ESPN leagues. Generally divided between “priority” value adds relevant to all teams, “bye week fill-in” adds relevant to teams dealing with byes at that position, and “speculative” adds.  Scroll down to the bottom of this post for easily referenced week 7 NFL bye weeks and league schedule.

QB:

  • Priority:
    • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (42.3% ownership)
      • Romo needs to be picked up now while other owners focus on dealing with quarterback bye weeks. I don’t care if you have Rodgers or Brady – pick up Romo now and deal him later.  Once Dez and Romo are back, this Dallas offense figures to pick up where it left off last season.  And if you’re weak at QB, well, Romo is the kind of guy who could swing a playoff matchup down the road, and that’s the kind of low cost, high upside we dream of here on the waiver wire.  He could be back as early as Week 11.
    • Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (23.9%)
      • Another repeat member of Hot Routes – I suggested Cutler as a pickup last week in this space after two strong games without Alshon Jeffrey, and Cutler responded to the tune of 353 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick (and 12 rushing yards). While the Bears are on bye this week, with Alshon back in the lineup destroying cornerbacks’ lives one jump ball at a time, I’d add Cutler as quarterback insurance for teams holding weaker starting quarterbacks, and he could be a nice bye week play in weeks 8 and 9 against the Vikings and Chargers, respectively.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (47.1%)
      • He has the 6th highest fantasy points of any quarterback. He won’t keep that pace up, but with the bye week blues in full force, you could do worse given the Jags’ propensity to play catch-up all second half and, as a result, to continue passing.
    • Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (11.3%)
      • With the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans on deck weeks 8 and 9, you can roll out FitzMagic on your quarterback bye those weeks and hope Brandon Marshall makes the bearded one look good.

RB:

  • Priority:
    • Christine Michael, Dallas Cowboys (31.7%)
      • This week’s must-add. Some savvy owners have been stashing Michael since Seattle dealt him to Dallas earlier this season, but he’s still available in most leagues.  Michael will get a chance to lead the Dallas backfield this week, and depending on his performance, he could keep the lead job moving forward.  He handled the majority of first team reps at practice on Monday the 19th.  He’s a physical freak taken in the second round of the NFL draft just two years ago.  Yes, the Seahawks gave up on him, but freakish athletic talent behind what one year ago was the best offensive line in football presents tantalizing upside at a (fantasy) talent-starved position.  If you currently start Joseph Randle, everything above counts for double.  Added bonus: Romo’s return will give the lead back in Dallas (Michael or elsewise) additional value when the fantasy playoffs come knocking.
    • James Starks, Green Bay Packers (22.5%)
      • The Packers’ backfield finally provided the production we’ve been waiting for all season – only from James Starks, not Eddie Lacy. Many are chirping that Lacy is losing his job to Starks – I’m not really buying it.  Lacy’s high-level production the last few years will count for something to Mike McCarthy, and the Packers have a history of reverse-hibernating Lacy a bit in the fall before unleashing him down the stretch to run all over the frozen tundra in November – and winter is coming.  Nevertheless, a real risk to Lacy’s job is his ankle – if it’s worse than the public knows, then Starks will keep the job until Lacy fully recovers, the way Starks has looked thus far.  Any chance at the number one job in Green Bay is worth a hasty roster add as long as Aaron Rodgers is still quarterbacking up north.  In the meantime, Starks makes more a fine fill-in play given his independent usage.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (26.0%)
      • Riddick has been earning himself more touches in Detroit with Abdullah fumbling, and had a feature role in the second half of week 6. Still primarily a PPR-add due to Riddick’s pass-catching prowess, Riddick may begin to see a few more carries as well.  A viable bye week plug-in in PPR leagues due to his relatively high floor.
    • Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (8.9%)
      • The third-down back in Washington. With Washington often falling behind and into passing situations, and with Matt Jones banged up, Thompson’s role should continue in the foreseeable future, leaving you with a palatable bye week play.
  • Speculative:
    • David Cobb, Tennessee Titans (6.4%)
      • Sankey, McCluster, West, Andrews . . . the Titans have seemingly tried everyone possible at running back, save putting in a call to their old pal Eddie George. David Cobb, a 5th round rookie running back, received buzz in August in advance of fantasy drafts before being placed on Injured Reserve with a calf injury.  He returns week 9 and, given the lack of success of his competitors, holds a good chance of leading the Tennessee backfield in touches sooner rather than later.
    • Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders (2.4%)
      • Unlikely to pan out, but if you have a free roster spot or you have Latavius Murray, you can do worse than to add Marcel Reece, in the very unlikely event he steals touches from Murray moving forward.
    • Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts (7.8%)
      • Bradshaw has been signed by the Colts and has replaced Josh Robinson as the handcuff to own for Frank Gore owners. At least until Ahmad sadly suffers his own annual season-ending injury.

WR:

  • Priority:
    • Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (20.5%)
      • Eligible to return off of Injured Reserve this week. LaFell was a top-25 fantasy WR last season, and with no receivers other than Gronk and Edelman performing consistently during LaFell’s injury, LaFell looks set to resume his 2014 role as fantasy folk hero.  This is what you’ve been saving your budget for, right?  Ask not for whom La Fell tolls – he tolls for thee.
    • Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers (30.3%)
      • Stevie’s been dropped in a lot of leagues recently, and I have to say that I don’t understand it. It’s true that his upside is capped a bit by the return of Mr. Gates, as Stevie should be third in the pecking order after Allen and Gates.  Still, he’s been hurt recently, not unproductive.  He’s too talented a ballplayer not to roster as a WR5 at the least – Rivers is the best quarterback Stevie’s ever played pitch and catch with by a longshot, and Rivers loves to spread the wealth.
    • Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (29.1%)
      • Third in the Cincinnati target totem pole behind AJ Green and Eifert, there’s been enough volume to go around to leave Marvin Jones with inconsistent, high upside production. Remember, this guy is just two years removed from a ten touchdown season in an inferior offense.  He’s not going to do that again, and he’ll have his off weeks when Dalton funnels targets to an enviable alternative matchup, but the positives outweigh the negatives in this high-flying Red Rifle attack.
    • Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears (25.1%)
      • Back from injury, Eddie Royal received 7 targets and finished with 5 catches for 49 yards. The Bears offense was already functional with Cutler back in the lineup, and looks to improve with Alshon Jeffrey back as well. Alshon’s addition shouldn’t hurt Royal – Royal is out of sorts as a number one receiver anyway and should welcome a return to easier cornerback matchups he can actually win. Fire him up on your receiver bye week.
    • Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (3.2%)
      • A 5th round rookie, Stefon Diggs started week 6 opposite Mike Wallace with Charles Johnson still ailing with an injury. He finished with 7 receptions for 129 yards on 9 targets.  An incredible start to Diggs’ career, but let’s pump the breaks just a bit – Mike Wallace also received 9 targets, and it’s unlikely Diggs passes Wallace on the depth chart anytime soon.  Nevertheless, he may have already passed Charles Johnson as the Vikings’ number 2, and if so, he’ll continue to receive targets as a valued chain mover.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals (41.9%)
      • Only the number 3 receiver in the desert, Floyd retains some value due to: (i) the success of the Arizona offense; (ii) a scheme preference for throwing to three receivers more often than two receivers and a tight end; and (iii) Floyd’s jump ball ability increasing the chance of high upside deep balls and touchdowns.
    • Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (35.3%)
      • The number 2 receiver in Baltimore, but with Steve Smith back, don’t expect consistent targets or production.
    • Albert Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs (0.1%)
      • If Maclin misses any time with a concussion (monitor his status), Wilson should step up as the nominal number one receiver. Kelce will dominate the looks and this offense will struggle without Charles, but a serviceable deep league bye week add.
    • Chris Hogan, Buffalo Bills (0.2%)
      • Sammy Watkins appears out for week 7 with Harvin out as well. Robert Woods and Hogan will serve as the Bills’ starting wideouts in their absence, and thus provide Hogan and Woods with extra targets, if nothing else.  Take your pick between the two – I give Hogan the slight edge due to his higher usage in the redzone.
  • Speculative:
    • Kevin White, Chicago Bears (3.3%)
      • White, the 7th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, underwent surgery for a stress fracture in August and could miss the entire season. Nevertheless, he did resume running at practice last Thursday.  If he does return, he could provide instant fantasy playoff upside as a WR3.  If you don’t have a free roster spot for the whole season, keep an eye on him and pick him up when the rumblings of a possible return gain traction.

TE:

  • Priority:
    • Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (42.6%)
      • Reed may not play week 7, but is working his way back from a concussion. If he was dropped in your league, pick him up now, as Reed is an every week starter with the way Cousins focuses on the underneath target.
  • Speculative:
    • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10.1%)
      • ASJ, a 2nd round draft pick in 2014, went down with an injury in week 2 after lighting up the Titans with two touchdowns week 1. He’s now likely to return this week, and with his athleticism and Winston’s inability to throw downfield consistently as of yet, he may find ASJ an appealingly large target to feed.

DEF:

  • Remember, this list only includes defenses owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues and thus applies only to those who stream defenses weekly.
    • Pittsburgh Steelers (12.2%; @ Kansas City Chiefs)
      • The Chiefs offense is a disaster without Charles, and the Steelers’ defense has been better than the nightmare many expected.
    • Redskins (6.5%; vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
      • Winston will have to stop turning it over for the Bucs to no longer be a delectable defensive opponent.

Week 7 NFL Bye Weeks:

Bears; Bengals; Broncos; Packers

Week 7 NFL Schedule:

Thursday, October 22

Seahawks at 49ers, 8:25 PM ET

Sunday, October 25

Bills at Jaguars, 9:30 AM ET

Saints at Colts, 1:00 PM ET

Vikings at Lions, 1:00 PM ET

Falcons at Titans, 1:00 PM ET

Jets at Patriots, 1:00 PM ET

Browns at Rams, 1:00 PM ET

Steelers at Chiefs, 1:00 PM ET

Texans at Dolphins, 1:00 PM ET

Buccaneers at Redskins, 1:00 PM ET

Raiders at Chargers, 4:05 PM ET

Cowboys at Giants, 4:25 PM ET

Eagles at Panthers, 8:30 PM ET

Monday, October 26

Ravens at Cardinals, 8:30 PM ET

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