Leshoure leads weak waiver crop
Despite being untested, Mikel Leshoure's upside worth taking a chance on
It's going to be tough to make a flashy, high-impact signing off your waiver wire this week. To be sure, Week 2 featured some crucial injuries: Matt Forte's ankle, Aaron Hernandez's ankle, Steven Jackson's groin, Ahmad Bradshaw's neck, Jeremy Maclin's hip. But in none of these cases is there a lightly owned replacement player who obviously benefits to the point where you'd feel great about starting him in Week 3. For sure, if you're a Jackson or Bradshaw owner, there seem to be new leaders for the handcuff job, players we didn't expect when the season began. I discuss them below. But even those guys figure to have their upsides muffled by potential platoons should the starter stay injured. Anyway, let's get to an underwhelming bunch:
ESPN Standard-League Finds
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions (owned in 19.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues): That's right, I'm leading with a guy who hasn't taken the field in a regular-season game yet, and who tore his Achilles last preseason. Leshoure was in the "Deeper League" section of this column last week, and after Joique Bell stole significant snaps from Kevin Smith in the first half Sunday night, one gets the sense that the Lions may be restless with their backfield situation. (And Bell obviously isn't the answer.) Leshoure weighs 227 pounds and in his final season at the University of Illinois had 20 TDs and 1,893 yards from scrimmage. If he's fully recovered, he's a thumper who could get involved in goal-line work right away. He won't be startable in Week 3, and it's worth noting that the Lions are reportedly bringing in both Steve Slaton and Ryan Grant for tryouts this week, but I still say Leshoure is worth a stash in all leagues.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins (0.4 percent): Yikes, the pickings get slim mighty fast. Hartline caught nine of 12 targets for 111 yards Sunday, though while I haven't watched the tape yet, the story I've read from beat reporters is that he found himself matched against Oakland Raiders fill-in corner Pat Lee an awful lot, and Lee (who was making his first start in place of Ronald Bartell, who has a broken shoulder blade) struggled mightily. Hartline had two catches or fewer in nine of 16 games last season, and until this week didn't have a single game with more than five grabs in his career. He has fine straight-ahead speed and above-average size, but has never been much of a route runner. This week, you'll hear a lot of folks say, "Well, the Dolphins have to throw it to somebody," but I'm concerned that "somebody" will change from week to week. I mean, Hartline had three catches in Week 1. But if you're speculating, I suppose you could do worse than a 6-foot-2, 200-pound, three-year veteran operating in Joe Philbin's offensive system that until recently highlighted Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Just keep those expectations in check.
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (17.3 percent): In a point-per-reception league, Amendola is a top-30 fantasy wideout. Amendola leads the NFL with 20 receptions and is third in the league with 230 receiving yards. The first of those two statistics isn't surprising, but I don't expect the second to persist. I'm not sure what in the world the Washington Redskins' defense was doing in the first half Sunday, but Amendola had a ludicrous amount of space to roam, and produced uncontested catch-and-runs again and again; heck, six of Sam Bradford's first seven passes were intended for Amendola (he caught five but fumbled one). Eventually, Jim Haslett's defense figured this out and clamped down on the slot, which is Amendola's biggest fantasy flaw: He doesn't possess the physical gifts to beat defenses that are paying him close mind, and I don't see enough other weapons on this Rams team to distract opponents. If I'm in a 10-team standard-scoring fantasy league, I have a difficult time imagining Amendola producing enough yardage or TDs to be startable.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (2.3 percent): If I can mention Amendola, there's no reason not to mention Hawkins, another possession receiver who's done a bit of damage through two weeks. The former CFL star caught eight of nine targets for 86 yards in a Week 1 blowout loss, and on Sunday grabbed a short pass for a highlight-reel fourth-quarter run that produced a TD. Again, don't get carried away. Hawkins is a very small, quick player who didn't play much in two-receiver sets this week; according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, he was on the field for 32 out of 62 plays. Seeing him become a factor in NFL games is a fantastic story, but don't confuse that with being starter-worthy. Heck, even in PPR leagues he'd have been a big ol' bust Sunday without his touchdown, considering he had only two grabs all day. Those in PPR leagues, though, can feel free to take a look.
Kellen Winslow, TE, New England Patriots (0.2 percent): As of this writing, ESPN Boston is reporting that Winslow will join the Pats pending a physical. If that happens, his name and situation are going to spark interest, since Hernandez is likely out for at least a few games. Winslow only seems as old as the hills; he's actually 29, and he's coming off a competent 763-yard season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England has certainly run a ton of two-TE formations over the past couple seasons, and if Winslow is ready to contribute, he could hit the mother lode. But with no training camp to learn the Patriots' complicated offensive system, Winslow could also struggle to see the field. Personally, I prefer a few of the TE names I mentioned last week (Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta, Coby Fleener, Kyle Rudolph), but if you're feeling lucky, maybe Winslow outdoes them all for a while.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (25.4 percent); Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants (35.7 percent); Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (24.3 percent); Coby Fleener, TE, Colts (32.9 percent); Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (11.2 percent).
Donnie Avery, WR, Indianapolis Colts (0.5 percent): Anybody starting to feel like new Colts head coach Chuck Pagano plays fast and loose with the facts regarding his injured players? For two straight weeks, Austin Collie was supposedly rounding into shape and ready to contribute, then two straight weekends, we're told he'll be inactive. In Collie's stead Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Avery caught nine passes on 10 targets for 111 yards. If Collie is out for many more weeks (and at this point, who the heck knows?), Avery could be a sneaky fill-in in deep leagues.
Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams (0.6 percent): When Steven Jackson tweaked his groin Sunday, it was Richardson, not Isaiah Pead, who took over feature-back duties. In fact, Pead never touched the ball from scrimmage. Richardson is a speedy rookie without ideal feature-back size, so it's legit to wonder whether he'd hold up to every-down pounding if Jackson missed extended time. (Jackson has told reporters he doesn't think his Week 2 injury is a big deal, and he could play against the Chicago Bears next week.) Pead would probably get in the mix with Jackson out of the picture, but at the moment it seems clear that Richardson would have the lead role in that speculative platoon. If you own Jackson, you should probably find roster space for Richardson. If you don't own Jackson and are in a deeper league, Richardson is probably also worth an add.
Andre Brown, RB, New York Giants (0.4 percent): Everything I just said about Jackson, Richardson and Pead can basically be reiterated for Bradshaw, Brown and David Wilson. Because Wilson was a first-round pick this spring, and because he produced some scintillating preseason highlights, it's widely been assumed that he'd be Bradshaw's handcuff. But a Week 1 fumble and a horrible Week 2 drop may have shaken the Giants' faith in Wilson. That led to Brown's ascendancy in Sunday's comeback win: He racked up 15 touches for 90 yards and the game-winning TD run, looking like the rough, physical player I remember from his NC State days. The Giants play Thursday against the Carolina Panthers, so it seems possible Bradshaw will have to rest his injured neck. As with the Rams, I envision a platoon in such a situation: Brown and Wilson would likely each get early chances, and the Giants would probably ride the hot hand thereafter. Wilson, of course, is owned in more than 80 percent of leagues, whereas Brown is essentially unowned. It would take stones to start him on your fantasy team Thursday, but Bradshaw owners in deeper leagues may not have a choice.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (0.7 percent): Shonn Greene appeared concussed after an early second-quarter carry Sunday, and Powell asserted himself as the clear second-stringer by dominating the subsequent drive that led to a Jets field goal. Greene surprisingly returned to the field after halftime, relegating Powell to his typical "breather" role (he had only two second-half carries), but any notion that Joe McKnight is close to a fantasy-relevant role went out the window. If you need to own Greene's handcuff in a deeper league, Powell is your guy. He ran impressively when given the chance, illustrating a power/speed combo that frankly I don't believe Greene has ever possessed.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots (0.1 percent): The likeliest scenario that comes out of Aaron Hernandez's injury is that Wes Welker reclaims his full-time role and reasserts himself as a top fantasy player. But considering Edelman apparently beat out Welker for a spot in two-WR sets this summer, I can't rule out the possibility that it actually winds up being Edelman who benefits most from Hernandez's absence. It doesn't seem particularly likely; all that juicy playing time Edelman has seen so far has netted him eight targets in two weeks. But those in deep PPR leagues could hedge by adding the former collegiate QB.
Jackie Battle, RB, San Diego Chargers (0.3 percent): Ryan Mathews didn't play in Week 2, giving his busted collarbone (and his cardio conditioning) one more week before his season debut. In Mathews' place, Curtis Brinkley got 18 carries compared to 14 for Battle and only four for Ronnie Brown (who can be dropped in all leagues). But whereas Brinkley slogged for 43 yards on 18 carries, Battle produced a pair of 1-yard scores. This is probably another situation where there's no viable handcuff, which is why standard-leaguers probably can just avoid Mathews' backup situation entirely. But the thundering, 238-pound Battle would probably get first crack at being the TD-maker in the event of another Mathews injury.
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills (17.5 percent) and Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders (0.1 percent): The NFL is tight end-happy right now, so much so that the position is starting to feel a little bit like kickers. Fourteen TEs scored touchdowns in Week 1, and 15 scored in Week 2. Alas, only six of these men scored both weeks. Chandler is one of those TEs (along with Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Heath Miller and Martellus Bennett), but as anyone who owned Chandler last year knows, when he doesn't get into the end zone he's borderline useless. He had just 389 yards receiving last season, after all. Myers is supposed to be a block-first TE, but has somehow racked up 11 grabs and 151 receiving yards so far in '12. In theory, neither of these guys is as attractive to me as the myriad other lightly owned TE replacement options. If this many TEs are going to score TDs each week, heck, throw their names in a hat.
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