- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Murphy's law dictates that on the most hellacious bye week of the 2012 season, with a whopping six teams taking a breather, new introductions to our standard-league waiver-wire suggestions are at their slimmest.
There are a few obvious adds for the desperate, but I'm guessing you're going to find the best solutions to your fantasy problems in names that I've mentioned in earlier columns. That's why I want to emphasize the italicized section that comes after all my new-player verbiage, because it may hold the key to your roster salvation. I can't write about the same players week after week, so we have a handy compendium of past players I've mentioned who are still viable transaction fodder. Pay attention to this list!
For example, this week I'd say Alex Green is probably my No. 1 long-term waiver add. Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters he is going to use Green as his lead back, and while the second-year man from the University of Hawaii didn't produce a huge Week 6, he is good enough to be a flex in most standard leagues. However, since I discussed Green at length last week, I'm not going to go on about him now. And that's the case for many of the better adds each week.
So here I go with some descriptions of new free-agent finds, but please don't forget the old ones. In several cases, they're better.
Week 7 byes: Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons
Standard ESPN League Finds
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys (owned in 51.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Yeah, this guy. I'm breaking my self-imposed rule of including only players owned in fewer than half of ESPN leagues to bring you one of the great fantasy teases of our time. Jones is a former first-round draft pick who was supposed to rise to superstardom once Marion Barber left Big D. Instead, all Jones proved in 2011 is that he's not a very good feature back. But DeMarco Murray sprained his foot Sunday and has little chance of playing in Week 7, plus anyone who owned Darren McFadden last season knows that a "mere foot sprain" can turn into an operatic, multiweek absence. Will Jones do a dang thing with this opportunity? I'll admit I'm skeptical, though he did have 105 total yards on 19 touches Sunday, including a strong 22-yard touchdown while Murray was still healthy. Jones certainly needs to be added by all Murray owners, and the Carolina Panthers have been the fifth-easiest matchup for opposing running backs over the past five weeks, according to my metrics. Still, don't you have a sense that if there's a way for Jones to screw up this opportunity, he will?
Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts (32.0 percent): News of Donald Brown's knee scope didn't arrive until last Wednesday, so Ballard missed last week's Free-Agent Finds column. Folks who added and started him in what looked like a plum matchup against the New York Jets were disappointed by 10 touches for 42 yards, and the tape shows that Ballard is a workmanlike, replacement-level back. But Sunday he was caught in the crossfire of an utter blowout, during which Indy passed 30 times and ran eight times in the second half. The good news for Ballard's (temporary) owners is that the Mississippi State rookie played on a majority of first and second downs and showed some pass-catching ability. He is still a stopgap solution, but I'd imagine the results will be a bit better against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7.
Montario Hardesty, RB, Cleveland Browns (0.4 percent): Trent Richardson took a helmet to the ribcage Sunday and had to leave the Browns' first win of the 2012 campaign. In his place, Hardesty rushed for 56 yards on 15 carries, bettering T-Rich's 14 for 37. There's no comparison between these guys' talent, and if Richardson is able to play Sunday against the Colts, Hardesty should be about as far away from your starting lineup as I am. But if T-Rich can't go, Hardesty would be a suitable, if low-upside, fill-in. For what it's worth, Browns coach Pat Shurmur told reporters he thinks Richardson will be able to play with his rib cartilage injury, but Hardesty still makes for a smart insurance add.
Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams (24.8 percent): Here's another player I'm hesitant to recommend. Gibson was a good player at Washington State and showed promise beginning midway through his rookie season in 2009. There's no reason why Gibson can't be at least a serviceable flanker. He is big enough (6-foot, 204 pounds) and fast enough (4.59 40) with strong enough ball skills to rise above the rest of the flotsam St. Louis has had at wide receiver over the past few seasons. But it never works out that way. Rams fans have been able to count on Gibson for head-clutching drops in key situations for years. That said, Danny Amendola is out for a while, and on Sunday, Gibson had seven grabs for 91 yards and led his team with nine targets. All I know is that Gibson is as likely to commit a false-start penalty or accidentally step out of bounds as he is to produce a massive fantasy day, but in a week without an obvious standard-league WR fill-in candidate, Gibson is probably the best you're going to do.
New England Patriots D/ST (46 percent): Phew, some of these new names are making me nauseous. After one of the 2012 season's worst collapses in Seattle on Sunday, is this knuckleheaded unit really worth a spot start? Well, six teams are on bye this week, and some of the likelier fill-ins, based on talent, have bad matchups. For instance, the Rams play the Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints. The Pats can't muster a pass rush in key situations, which exposes their truly dreadful and non-cerebral secondary, which leads to end-of-game collapses. Remember, though, this team has lost three games by a combined four points, and this fantasy defense has scored five or more fantasy points in all but one game. The Jets' offense played quite well Sunday against the Colts, but it's still a top-eight matchup for opposing fantasy defenses, according to my metrics. If the Patriots aren't available in your league, my next-best lesser-owned D/ST would be the Browns (4.2 percent) against the Colts.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings (36.7 percent); Alex Green, RB, Packers (28.4 percent); William Powell, RB, Cardinals (3.2 percent); Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots (26.6 percent); LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals (23.7 percent); Randall Cobb, WR, Packers (36 percent); Domenik Hixon, WR, Giants (17 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (13.2 percent); Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets (44.3 percent); Andrew Hawkins, WR, Bengals (31 percent); Scott Chandler, TE, Bills (46.1 percent).
Phillip Tanner, RB, Dallas Cowboys (0.1 percent): Deep-leaguers who simply can't get aboard the Felix Jones Express for another railroad disaster could take a shot on Tanner, a more physical and durable player than Jones, who chipped in 31 yards on nine carries against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. (Jones missed time in the second half -- surprise! -- with leg cramps). Maybe the Panthers are bad enough against the run Sunday that both Jones and Tanner get close to a full workload. Or if Murray's absence becomes an extended one, perhaps Jones gets hurt again and Tanner earns the starting gig.
Chris Givens, WR, St. Louis Rams (0.5 percent): Givens had knee issues and reported ego troubles -- he thinks he's the greatest thing since sliced bread, apparently -- which led to a falling stock in April's NFL draft, but the Rams snatched him up in the fourth round and have installed him as their deep threat. I like this kid in a deep dynasty league. Once he proves he can run a full route tree, he has some Mike Wallace potential. For the moment, he is probably no more than a fantasy flyer, but realize that he has made at least one play of 50 yards in each of his past three contests.
Baron Batch, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.3 percent): Steelers running backs were dropping faster than Spinal Tap drummers Thursday, as Rashard Mendenhall injured an Achilles and Isaac Redman followed up his improbable receiving night with a blow to his ankle. That left Batch as Pittsburgh's primary back late, and he responded with 22 yards on 10 carries and a goal-line touchdown. It sounds like Mendy might be able to play Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, in which case Batch becomes, at best, a five-carry fill-in, plus early-season waiver add Jonathan Dwyer could back in the mix at some point. But Batch showed he has just a hint of Willie Parker in him, which makes his a name to remember in deep leagues.
John Skelton, QB, Arizona Cardinals (1.9 percent): Kevin Kolb took a big hit to his rib cage in Sunday's loss, and while X-rays were negative, Arizona has sent their starting quarterback for an MRI. That makes me think Kolb is in a whole bunch of pain, which makes me think there is a pretty good chance he doesn't play in Week 7. That would put Skelton back in the crosshairs. Going on the road to play the Minnesota Vikings is an awful matchup for a struggling Cardinals' offense, and there's no reason to believe this beleaguered offensive line will give Skelton any more time to throw than it did Kolb. But if you're in a two-QB league and have been relying on Kolb of late, you'd do well to add Skelton.
Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Cleveland Browns (0.4 percent): With Richardson sounding likely to suit up Sunday and Hardesty likely to take the reins even if he doesn't, Ogbonnaya isn't more than a fringe addition in deeper leagues. But realize that Obie was playing most third downs last week even before T-Rich got hurt, and he does have 16 catches in five games. PPR leaguers can at least remember this situation, in case injuries take a larger toll on Cleveland's backfield.
Mike Goodson, RB, Oakland Raiders (3.3 percent): Goodson produced 96 yards from scrimmage on five touches Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, but that's probably not the reason deep-leaguers should think about investing in him. McFadden is always an ill-placed step away from the injury list, and it's apparent that Goodson has easily surpassed Taiwan Jones on the Raiders' depth chart. That makes Goodson the handcuff in Oakland.
Cedric Peerman, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (0.1 percent): With Bernard Scott out for the season and Brian Leonard battling a rib injury he suffered versus the Browns last week, Peerman seems in line for third-down touches behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Only take a look at Peerman if you're in desperation mode in a deep PPR league. The Bengals are known to be kicking the tires on free-agent running back, and the journeyman Peerman doesn't fit the mold of being BJGE's handcuff.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns (6 percent); LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (26.8 perecent); James Starks, RB, Packers (7.9 percent); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (15.2 percent); Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (4.1 percent); Joique Bell, RB, Lions (3 percent); Jamie Harper, RB, Titans (0.1 percent); Josh Gordon, WR, Browns (2.5 percent); Stephen Hill, WR, Jets (15.1 percent); Donnie Avery, WR, Colts (7.4 percent); Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks (4.9 percent); Devery Henderson, WR, Saints (2.8 percent); Brandon Myers, TE, Raiders (1.6 percent).
Felix Jones headlines Christopher Harris' top waiver-wire pickups heading into Week 7, a week that will test teams' depth with six teams on bye.