HOT ROUTES: WEEK 13 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 and “speculative” adds.

QB:

  • Priority
    • None. But two speculative streaming possibilities for teams in need at QB, see directly below:
  • Speculative:
    • Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (29.5% ownership)
      • Cutler is always easy to scoff at, given his “Don’t Caaaaaaaare” reputation (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/career-arc-the-collateral-damage-of-smokin-jay-cutler/)  and penchant for a bad interception here and there.  He’s always had talent, however, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase is getting the most out of Cutler this year.  Now, Alshon Jeffrey is healthy, giving Cutler his best weapon down the fantasy playoff stretch.  His next four matchups, the final week of the regular season and the fantasy playoffs? Home against the 49ers, home against the Redskins, at the Vikings and at the Buccaneers.  With the exception of perhaps the Vikings matchup week 15, I’d feel no qualms about firing up Cutler as a streaming option in these must-win games to come.
    • Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (26.3% ownership)
      • I can’t say I’d be thrilled about my season coming down to conjuring some FitzMagic, but he did finally look healthy this past Sunday  against the Dolphins.  If you need a plug-in quarterback, Fitzpatrick does have the Giants and Titans weeks 13 and 14, two somewhat appetizing quarterback fantasy matchups.  He did throw for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Dolphins as well, for what it’s worth.

RB:

  • Priority:
    • David Jonhson, Arizona Cardinals (22.9% ownership)
      • Chris Johnson, the Cardinals starting running back entering week 12 against the 49ers, reportedly has a fractured tibia and should miss 6-8 weeks.  His primary backup, Andre Ellington, is now suffering from turf toe and should miss week 13, and perhaps another week or even more.  This sets up David Johnson, a third round rookie out of Northern Iowa, as the Week 13 starter for the Cardinals, and potentially the starter moving forward throughout the fantasy playoffs.  His value beyond week 13 will depend on the severity of Ellington’s injury, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David Johnson significantly eats into Ellington’s touches even if Ellington is healthy by week 14.
    • Shaun Draughn, San Francisco 49ers (35.3%)
      • With Carlos Hyde still out with an injury and no timetable on his return, Draughn has been the bellcow in the backfield for the 49ers and will continue to be so in week 13, and potentially for the rest of the season.  Given the 49ers’ overall offensive limitations, the fantasy upside isn’t quite there, but the touches certainly are, and any running back serving as a bellcow, no matter the ineptitude of the offense, is worth owning in all but the shallowest of leagues.
  • Speculative:
    • Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (1%)
      • Ahmad Bradshaw is done for the year, leaving Dan “Boom” Herron as the primary backup running back for the Indianapolis Colts.  With starter Frank Gore fading badly the last few games, I’d scoop up Herron if you have the room, given his upside should he step into the starting role for a game or two.
    • Robert Turbin, Dallas Cowboys  (8.5%)
      • Turbin, too, is a handcuff who would have serious value should he step into the starting role, as the backup running back to Dallas Coyboys’ starter Darren McFadden.  However, the ultimate upside of this backfield, despite a stellar offensive line, has certainly taken a major hit in the wake of quarterback Tony Romo’s season-ending injury.
    • Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens (2%)
      • With Justin Forsett out for the year, West has stepped into the backup running back role in Baltimore behind Buck Allen.  West did see 7 carries in week 12, so perhaps it will be closer to a RBBC between Allen and West than we previously imagined.

WR:

  •  Priority:
    • Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (34%)
      • Perennial mediocre WR3/4, Doug Baldwin had a career game against the Steelers week 12, putting up 6 catches for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns.  I wouldn’t expect that to continue, given Russell Wilson’s tendency to spread the wealth, but with Jimmy Graham now out for the year, Baldwin should see added looks moving forward.
  • Speculative:
    • Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins (4.8%)
      • Devante Parker, a first round draft pick out of Louisville, has been a disappointment his rookie year, unable to get on the field much at all for the Dolphins.  With Rishard Matthews now hurt with multiple fractured ribs, Devante Parker should finally serve in the number 2 wide receiver role, having scored his first career touchdown week 12.
    • Cecil Shorts, Houston Texans (9.3%)
      • Shorts has seemingly passed Nate Washington on the depth chart since his return, and the Texans have been force feeding Shorts the ball via the air and the run game, and even via the pass on a pretty trick play.  He’s not going to put up flashy numbers every week, but the targets should settle in Shorts as a wide receiver 4 the rest of the way.
    • Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers (23.8%)
      • Devin Funchess, a second round rookie out of Michigan, may have just become the “number one” receiver for the Carolina Panthers. I use quotations since we know tight end Greg Olsen is the functional top receiver, and amongst receivers, Cam will continue to spread it around.  Still, Funchess is worth an eye on, or a stash, if you have the room.
    • Dontrelle Inman (7.7%)
      • With Keenan Allen injured the rest of the way, expect Inman to continue to receive added looks, albeit while remaining behind Antonio Gates and Stevie Johnson in Rivers’ target pecking order.
  •  TE:
    • Priority:
      • Scott Chandler, New England Patriots
        • With Gronk sadly injured, as well as Edelman and Dion Lewis, (and perhaps Amendola) expect Scott Chandler to soak up targets week 13.  Gronk owners will obviously want to bid even more for Chandler given the uncertain extent of Gronk’s knee issue.

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)

  • Houston Texans (@ Buffalo Bills; 49.7%)
    • Remember when we watched Hard Knocks and everyone thought this team would look like the 2000 Ravens? Yeah, that didn’t happen.  Finally the Houston defense is hot, playing like an elite unit the last few weeks, including making Drew Brees miserable in week 12.  Houston’s defense should be owned at this point, period.
  • Tennessee Titans (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars; 24.4%)
    • The Titans have an underrated rush defense, a pretty decent pass rush, and Blake Bortles is good for a costly mistake or two.  I wouldn’t feel too nervous tossing the Titans into the fire, despite their 2-9 record.

HOT ROUTES: WEEK 11 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.

Week 11 Bye Weeks: Saints, Giants, Steelers, Browns

QB:

  • Priority
    • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (47.4% ownership)
      • Romo returns to this page for the fifth time – and this time, he’s actually back and starting Week 11.  Romo should ensure that the dezperate times have ended in Dallas.  He gets the Dolphins, and I’d slot him right in as your starting QB if you’re currently stuck without a top 6-8 starter. His schedule gets tough down the fantasy playoff stretch, but we’ll soon see if Romo and Dez pick up right where they left off Week 1.
    • Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (26.3%)
      • Cutler’s been pretty darn good since returning from injury, showing comfort in offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s new scheme.  Turnovers, Cutler’s career bugaboo, haven’t been much of an issue lately, with only two interceptions in the last five weeks.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (43.0%)
      • Mariota isn’t going to win anyone their fantasy championship – not his rookie year anyway.  But if you’re a Brees, Ben or Eli owner stuck singing the bye week blues, roll out Mariota this week against the Jags with confidence.
  • Speculative:
    • Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos (0.3%)
      • Peyton Manning was benched week 10 against the Chiefs, and while he may be back in the starting lineup when healthy, I would take a flier on Osweiler if you have the roster space.  Who knows, he may be terrible, but the Broncos defense is so good, and he has elite receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to, so it’s certainly worth finding out if he’s good enough to realize some fantasy upside.
    • Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns (4.4%)
      • Manziel had his best professional game against the Bengals, and has been named the starter for the Browns the rest of the season.  We all know he can run, and, like Osweiler above, he’s worth a flier if you have the roster space in order to get a “free” look at Manziel’s upside as a starter.  Really, it will depend on whether Manziel looks competent – if he does, his wheels will make him fantasy relevant.

RB:

  • Priority:
    • None. It’s a bare week for running backs on the waiver wire.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Shaun Draughn (9.4%)
      • Carlos Hyde will likely miss week 11 against the Seahawks, and if that is the case, Draughn should lead a 49er committee in the backfield.  Remember, he’s facing the ‘Hawks, so temper expectations and slot in Draughn as an emergency bye week solution.
    • Speculative:
      • James White, New England Patriots (36.7%)
        • Some expected White to somewhat step into the Dion Lewis role in New England as a result of the latter’s devastating injury. He was certainly on the field more in Week 10 as a result, but saw only 2 touches.  This isn’t the most inspiring add, but in the wake of Julian Edelman’s (fantasy) season-ending injury, perhaps James White will pick up a few more targets as a result.

WR:

  •  Priority:
    • Danny Amendola, New England Patriots (22.2%)
      • With Edelman now done for the fantasy season, Amendola should step into Edelman’s position in the slot and provide immediate returns.  Amendola has flashed an improved rapport with Brady all season and has made a number of highlight grabs.  Brady will need to lean on him even more with Dion Lewis already done for the year as well.
    • Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (46.4%)
      • Wright’s been dropped in a bunch of leagues due to his recent injuries, but he should still be back by week 12.  While DGB could garner more targets in his absence, and Delanie Walker is the true number one receiver for the Titans, I expect Wright to regain his role upon return from injury, as he plays out of the slot, unlike DGB.
    • Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (45.8%)
      • Aiken has never been, and never will be, an efficient receiver, and it’s really night and day between him and Steve Smith.  But with Smith done for the year, the targets (14 in week 10!) will continue to be there.
    • Chris Givens, Baltimore Ravens (2.8%)
      • Givens, like Aiken above, is seeing more targets in the wake of Steve Smith’s torn achilles, and brought in 4 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown week 10.  I expect his role to continue to increase, as Givens was acquired during mid-season and can thus be expected to improve his chemistry with Flacco throughout the season.  His deep ball specialty makes for a logical pairing with Flacco, who throws an elite deep ball, and who formerly had such a connection with Torrey Smith.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Leonard Hankerson, Atlanta Falcons (11.8%)
      • Hankerson should be returning from injury in a nice matchup against the Colts defense – remember, Julio Jones will be busy sparring with stud corner Vontae Davis, which could lead Matt Ryan to pepper Hank with more targets as he slides back into the number 2 receiver position.
  • Speculative:
    • Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (9.4%)
      • Harris has manned the slot, and with Cruz officially never returning to a Giants uniform in 2015 (or ever?), he should maintain that role until season’s end.  Eli does spread the ball around, but after an excellent toe-tap touchdown catch in week 10, Harris has simply continued to play like a genuine slot receiver, not just the kick return specialist many thought he was.

 TE:

  • Priority:
    • Crockett Gilmore, Baltimore Ravens (11.0%)
      • Gillmore is the starting tight end in Baltimore and, as noted above, Steve Smith is out for the year.  Those targets gotta go to somebody!
  • Speculative:
    • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16.7%)
        • 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 may return this week, and with V-Jax hurt, expect ASJ to be thrown into the mix early and often. Be forewarned, it’s become impossible to guess when ASJ will actually see the field.

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)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Philadelphia Eagles; 10.6%)
    • The surprisingly peppy Bucs defense gets turnover machine Mark Sanchez week 11.  I’d bank on at least one interception with the potential for a fumble and several sacks to boot.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (@ San Diego Chargers; 24.4%)
    • Really not the best matchup for a streaming defense, simply because Phillip Rivers is awesome at football.  But two mitigating factors: (i) the Chargers’ offensive line is decimated, so Justin Houston and co. should have little trouble making Rivers’ life miserable, and (ii) the Chiefs defense is too good not to be owned – after a rough start to the year, several contributors have returned from injury and taken this unit to another level, most recently evidenced by ending Peyton Manning’s career week 10.

Hot Routes: Week 9 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.

QB:

  • Priority
    • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (41.5% ownership)
      • Romo returns to this page for the fourth straight week – he needs to be picked up now while other owners are still focusing on dealing with quarterback bye weeks.  He could be back as early as Week 11 and should be added if your quarterback isn’t Brady or Rodgers.  Romo’s upside may match any other quarterback’s down the stretch.
    • Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (35.4%)
      • Listed as a speculative add here just a week ago, Carr threw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns week 8 against the vaunted Jets defense. Look for him to become a back-end QB1 with upside as the season continues; consider his difficult remaining schedule an annoyance Carr will generally be able to deal with.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17.4%)
      • Winston hasn’t thrown an interception in a month and now has a Giants defense that just gave up 7 passing touchdowns last week (to a Hall of Famer, but still . . .).  Despite injuries all over the Bucs offense, Winston is worth consideration as a bye week plug-in for week 9.

RB:

  • Priority:
    • DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (28.4%)
      • With LeVeon Bell done for the year, look for DeAngelo Williams to resume lead back duties, as he did weeks 1 and 2 during Bell’s suspension.  He doesn’t have the same gamebreaking or receiving ability, but DeAngelo has proven to be more than competent in the lead role, and in this prolific offense, he could be a solid RB2 down the stretch.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears (3.7%)
      • With Matt Forte now sidelined two weeks, Langford will likely lead Chicago’s backfield this week against the Chargers and makes a solid play against the embattled, beat up Chargers defensive front.  Remember that Forte will be back down the stretch, however.
    • Speculative:
      • David Cobb, Tennessee Titans (14.9%)
        • 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’s eligible to return this week, and I’ll be surprised if he fails to carve out a meaningful role quickly, given the current quagmire in the Tennessee backfield.
      • Kendall Gaskins and Pierre Thomas, San Francisco 49ers (0.1% and 0.2%, respectively)
        • With Hyde, Bush, and Mike Davis all hurt, I’d monitor Gaskins and Thomas closely to see who looks primed to lead San Francisco’s injury-depleted backfield this week.

WR:

  •  Priority:
    • Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (20.6%)
      • With the one and only Steve Smith also done for the year, Kamar Aiken will serve as the nominal number one receiver.  He’s not 1/100th of the receiver Smith is, but at least the targets will be there, and that’s enough.
    • Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers (28.6%)
      • Keenan Allen is also injured for the rest of the year with a scary kidney injury.  Stevie Johnson, a renowned route runner, could be a primary recipient of the extra Rivers targets to go around.
    • Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (27.7%)
      • And Floyd, like Stevie, should see an uptick in targets as well due to the Allen injury.  His should be more of the high variance, deep ball variety.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Marquess Wilson, Chicago Bears (3.7%)
      • Eddie Royal will almost assuredly miss week 9.  Wilson will step up into the number 2 WR role. With Forte sidelined as well, Cutler may need to lean on his secondary receiver more often than usual, making Wilson a sneaky start this week.
  • Speculative:
    • Chris Givens, Baltimore Ravens (0.1%)
      • I’m sure you’re noticing a theme here – with so many injuries around the NFL week 9, most adds in this space are related to little used receivers and backs expected to have an enlarged role in the wake of recent injuries.  Givens, a deep threat Baltimore recently traded for from St. Louis. could gain a bigger role in the wake of Steve Smith’s torn achilles.

 TE:

  • Priority:
    • Vernon Davis, Denver Broncos (15.5%)
      • Traded to the Broncos this week, Vernon’s upside instantly increases in a competent offensive system.  Don’t expect Julius Thomas 2013 – it’s not Peyton Manning in 2013, after all – but it’s ok to be excited about an athletic freak being added to the mix in Denver.
    • Crockett Gilmore, Baltimore Ravens (13.7%)
      • Gillmore is the starting tight end in Baltimore and, as noted above, Steve Smith is out for the year.  Those targets gotta go to somebody!
  • Speculative:
    • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9.7%)
        • 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 may return this week, and with V-Jax hurt, expect ASJ to be thrown into the mix early and often.

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)

  • Cincinnati Bengals (@Cleveland Browns; 38.9%)
    • The Bengals did a strong job defensively against Big Ben in week 8 and now face Johnny Manziel on Thursday Night Football.  Defensive takeaways galore, baby.

HOT ROUTES: WEEK 8 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 8 NFL bye weeks and league schedule.

QB:

  • Priority
    • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (39.2% ownership)
      • Romo returns to this page for the third straight week – he needs to be picked up now while other owners are still focusing on dealing with quarterback bye weeks. 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.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (24.4%)
      • With the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans on deck weeks 8 and 9, you can roll out FitzMagic as your quarterback bye week solution and hope Brandon Marshall makes the bearded one look good.  22 of 39 for 295 yards with two touchdowns week 7 against Belichick and the Patriots doesn’t hurt his cause, either.
    • Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (49.0%)
      • Flacco will have a nice week 8 matchup at home versus a struggling San Diego defense that was just shredded by the Raiders, and star safety Eric Weddle is hobbled by a groin injury.
  • Speculative:
    • Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (33.0%)
      • Carr was awesome this week, dismantling the Chargers’ secondary (again, down Weddle, but still) to the tune of a 24 for 31 line with 289 yards and three touchdowns.  As just noted above, the Chargers’ defense is nothing to write home about, but it was important to see Carr realize the upside we thought he might have early this season.  Why a speculative add, then, instead of a solid bye week fill-in?  The Raiders face the Jets this week, and were I gambling man, I’d put my money on Revis and Bowles over Carr and Del Rio.

RB:

  • Priority:
    • Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys (42.6%)
      • Hopefully as a Randle owner you were already stashing Run DMC, but he’s still available in most formats. McFadden garnered 159 yards and a touchdown, so the extra touches that went to McFadden this week (and that reportedly were to go to Michael) may continue moving forward.  With Dez Bryant back soon and a Romo return on the horizon, whomever happens to lead the Dallas backfield should have real value when the fantasy football playoffs come knocking.
    • Alfred Blue, Houston Texans (18.8%)
      • Arian Foster is sadly done for the year with a torn Achilles. Based on early week usage during the last Foster injury, Blue is predicted to lead the Texans backfield week 8. Just don’t expect him to realize any of Foster’s upside in this sorry offense.
    • Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (0.0%)
      • Orleans came out of nowhere to lead the Giants in carries week 7 against the Cowboys and finished with a 8-48-1 line. One can’t be happy with such a muddled Giants backfield – Jennings, Vereen, and Williams were all still involved – but Darkwa at least presents the chance of becoming the leader of this New York carry committee.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (31.1%)
      • A viable bye week plug-in in PPR leagues – his pass-catching prowess and involvement in the Lions gameplan provides a relatively high floor, despite Ameer Abdullah’s presence.
    • Speculative:
      • David Cobb, Tennessee Titans (7.3%)
        • While Antonio Andrews did see more work on the ground week 7 (with 10 carries), it’s clear that Tennessee’s backfield is an unappetizing committee. 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’ll be back week 9, and I’ll be surprised if he fails to carve out a meaningful role quickly.

WR:

  •  Priority:
    • Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (43.8%)
      • 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.  He kept it up week 7 with 6 receptions, 108 yards and a touchdown on another 9 targets (highlighted by this beauty at the 30 second mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKCPKrbPO-Q).  Expect his high target totals to continue – he and Bridgewater have a clear rapport.
  • Bye Week Fill-In:
    • Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (34.7%)
      • Remember, Jones might have been dropped Week 7 during the Bengals’ bye week by teams scrambling for bye week alternatives at the Flex.  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 (20.7%)
      • Another guy who may have been dropped week 7 during the Bears bye week by fantasy owners dealing with roster space limitations.  Back from injury in Week 6, 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 improved 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.
    • Danny Amendola, New England Patriots (16.1%)
      • With Brandon LaFell returning from IR week 7 against the Jets, it was instead Amendola who stepped up for Brady and the Patriots, pulling in 8 of 9 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown.  LaFell may still have more upside down the stretch, but if you need help right now, Amendola presents a safer play given Brady’s trust in him and LaFell’s case of the dropsies.
    • Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers (33.8%)
      • He’s the number 2 receiver behind Greg Olsen in Carolina, and that counts for something with Superman at quarterback, including more consistent production than we probably expected from an underwhelming receiving talent.
  • Speculative:
    • Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (37.6%)
      • LaFell, in his first game all year week 7, was downright awful, dropping 6 passes (3 official drops). While it’s right to already worry whether LaFell will regain his top-25-WR 2014 form, that’s why this is a speculative add – his 2014 represents known upside in an incredible offense, so add him now and let’s see if Amendola continues to steal his targets, or whether LaFell can remember how to hold onto the ball.

 TE:

  • Priority:
    • Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (41.7%)
      • Reed lit up the Bucs in week 7 for 11 catches, 72 yards and two touchdowns. If he was dropped in your league after his scary concussion, pick him up now, as Reed is an every week starter with the way Cousins focuses on the underneath target.
    • Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (27.3%)
      • Ebron returned from injury week 7 and picked up where he left off with 5 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.  The Lions offense looks competent again, and Ebron no longer looks like a total bust for the Detroit front office.  Expect Stafford to continue to feed him enough looks to make Ebron borderline start-worthy even when he can’t come through with a touchdown.
  • Speculative:
    • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9.7%)
        • 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 week 8, 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)

  • Minnesota Vikings (@Chicago Bears; 47.4%)
    • The Vikings have an excellent defensive wizard at head coach in Mike Zimmer, and the defense has unsurprisingly improved in Zimmer’s second year in charge. The Bears, while competent of late, always present the enticing potential of a Cutler turnover or two. I’d bet on the Vikings stop unit.

——————————–

Week 8 NFL Bye Weeks:

Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins

———————————

Week 8 NFL Schedule:

Thursday, October 29:

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots, 8:25 PM ET

Sunday, November 1:

Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs, 9:30 AM ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 PM ET

Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 PM

San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams, 1:00 PM

NY Giants at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 PM

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 1:00 PM

San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 PM

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 PM

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1:00 PM

NY Jets at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 PM

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 PM

Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos, 8:30 PM

Monday, November 2:

Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers, 8:30 PM

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

Hot Routes: Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

All recommended pickups are under 50% ownership in ESPN Leagues.  Scroll down to the bottom of this page for the week 6 NFL schedule and bye weeks for easy reference.

QB:

  • Tony Romo, DAL (44.3% ownership)
    • If you’re lucky enough to be eyeing the playoffs already, open up a roster space for Romo now.  He has top 5 upside, yet is a forgotten man in many leagues.
  • Jay Cutler, CHI (19.1% ownership)
    • Cutler has had two straight strong games without Alshon Jeffrey (or Eddie Royal in week 5).  Let’s see if he can keep it up when Alshon makes it back

RB:

  • Charcandrick West, KC (1.2% ownership)
    • Sadly, Jamal Charles is done for the year.  West is poised to step into Charles’ shoes (but not his upside).
  • Knile Davis, KC (23.7 % ownership)
    • Many, including myself, thought Knile would be the back to own should Charles go down.  It seems to instead be West, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bid a low dollar figure at Knile Davis on the chance he ends up beating out Charcandrick.
  • Marcel Reece, OAK (1.4%)
    • Remember him?  Ol’ fantasy favorite Marcel Reece got some work week 5, so he’s worth a speculative add in case Latavius Murray loses touches.
  • Chris Thompson, WAS (5.8%)
    • The new 3rd down back in Washington.

WR

  • Brandon LaFell, NE (14.6%)
    • LaFell is eligible to return to action Week 7.  A high upside add who could be the Flex play you’ve been searching for all season down the stretch if he can flash his 2014 form.
  • Willie Snead, NO (29.2%)
    • The production that folks thought Brandon Coleman could have as Brees’ number 2 receiver.
  • Marquess Wilson, CHI (5.2%)
    • Next man up in Chicago with Alshon and Royal out, Wilson delivered big time week 5.  He’s a valuable bye week play this week, but only if Alshon and Royal miss another game.  Even if they suit up, I’d add him as a stash, as his athletic ability could lead him to pass Eddie Royal on the depth chart.
  • Charles Johnson, MIN (29.2%)
    • Many have given up on the number 2 receiver in Minnesota, but if he’s been dropped in your league, snatch him up and stash him.  His tremendous athletic ability leaves him with upside, and the Vikings have already had their bye and Johnson missed a game with injury – his chances to blow up and realize that upside haven’t come yet, but the high ceiling very well may still be there.

TE:

  • Gary Barnidge, CLE (37.7%)
    • With three straight great games, it’s Gary Barnidge’s world now – we’re just living in it.

Week 6 NFL Bye Weeks

Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 6 NFL Schedule

Thursday, October 15

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints – 8:25 PM ET

Sunday, October 18

Washington Redskins at NY Jets – 1 PM ET

Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers – 1 PM ET

Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings – 1 PM ET

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills – 1 PM ET

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions – 1 PM ET

Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns – 1 PM ET

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars – 1 PM ET

Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans – 1 PM ET

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks – 4:05 PM ET

San Diego Chargers at Green Bay Packers – 4:25 PM ET

Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers – 4:25 PM ET

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts – 8:30 PM ET

Monday, October 19

NY Giants at Philadelphia Eagles – 830 PM ET

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