Free-agent finds for Week 4
Waiver-wire news changes fast and furious throughout the week, as injuries and depth-chart shenanigans overtake us. So be sure to follow me on Twitter, @CHarrisESPN, and I'll keep you updated as news warrants. Let's get to Week 4's best fantasy roster additions:
Standard ESPN League Finds
Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons (owned in 15.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues). It's been slim pickings at the top through the first month of waiver adds. Last year we had Alfred Morris and James Jones. This year we get ... Jason Snelling? Don't get me wrong, both Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers (who's owned in 82.8 percent of leagues) played well Sunday. Rodgers was the lead back, playing on about 60 percent of snaps, while Snelling played on about half. Quizz is the guy you'd probably rather start, but Snelling -- the close-in TD maker and a good pass-catcher -- isn't horrible in a pinch for Steven Jackson owners, who are reportedly likely to be without their man for at least another couple of weeks. I made Snelling a "deep-league" add in last week's column simply because it sounded as though Jackson wouldn't be out that long. Now he graduates to being ownable in all leagues.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, Packers (1.6 percent). I was to blame for Franklin's high fantasy ranking all summer. I loved him at UCLA, loved him coming into April's draft, and kept propping up his ESPN rating despite reports that he was botching his first training camp. Some of you probably drafted Franklin because of me, and rightly dropped him when he didn't sniff the field through two games. But Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn missed Sunday's game and James Starks suffered a knee injury, meaning Franklin was the last man standing. And for most of the game, he was a revelation, running with the speed and power I admired from his college days. Unfortunately, he also fumbled on a fourth-and-short as the Pack was in clock-killing mode, a turnover that the Cincinnati Bengals returned for the game-winning TD. Green Bay would be best off with Lacy as their early-down back and Franklin as the changeup man. We'll have to see how things shake out after this week's bye. But Franklin can once again be added in all leagues.
Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns (27.7 percent). The numbers in McGahee's first game with the Browns don't look good: 9 yards on 8 carries. And in a shootout with the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns passed it 54 times and rushed it only 17. Unless Brian Hoyer is ready to become Kurt Warner, that ratio isn't anything close to sustainable. Trent Richardson is, of course, gone, and only McGahee, Bobby Rainey and Chris Ogbonnaya remain. I'll talk about Rainey below, but despite this first effort, McGahee still seems like the guy to own. He had a couple nice runs Sunday, and still welcomes contact as frequently as ever. He's a battering ram.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints (17.8 percent). It's pretty crazy to think that while Mark Ingram is out with a bad toe, Frenchy is still only owned in 17.8 percent of leagues. True, even with 17 touches Sunday, he accounted for only 67 total yards. But Thomas is still the same spark plug you remember from the past five-plus seasons, still an all-around winning player. My only reservation in adding him in all leagues is imperfect knowledge about Ingram's future. Certainly, to date Ingram hasn't proved he's an NFL-caliber RB, and if the Saints decide to marginalize him, then Thomas is going to get enough work to be a fantasy factor. But if Sean Payton keeps Ingram around as part of the game plan, well, Thomas will continue to be the frustrating dude we've known for two years.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions (54.9 percent). This is a clear violation of this column's rules, which call for omitting anybody owned in more than half of ESPN.com leagues. But I have an excuse. The first draft I wrote had Nate Burleson in it. And then Burleson crashed his car early Tuesday morning, fracturing his arm in two places. Burleson had been the clear No. 2 wideout in Detroit, with 23 targets and 19 catches, but he's out indefinitely, and the Lions have no choice but to look back at Broyles. A flag player of mine this summer, Broyles has a ton of route-running chops and great hands out of the slot, so the only question comes down to his surgically repaired knees. If he holds up, he'll be a startable fantasy player, especially in point-per-reception leagues. You probably can't put him in your lineup right away, but you can definitely add him.
Kansas City Chiefs D/ST (40.9 percent). I've said it a hundred times this year: We stink at predicting fantasy defenses before the season starts. There's a reason you shouldn't select your fantasy defense before the final couple of rounds of your draft. The Chiefs are an example why. Do I think this is a great Kansas City squad? Absolutely not. Do I think we're going to see better, more consistent offenses poke holes in this defense? Sure. But you can't watch Justin Houston blossom as an elite pass-rusher opposite Tamba Hali and not have your interest piqued. Heck, somehow Andy Reid is getting strong play out of former No. 3 overall pick (and four-year bust) Tyson Jackson. If there's a weakness here, it's actually the fairly poor play of high-priced corners Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson, but they could come around. As it is, this unit is the highest-scoring D/ST in fantasy through three weeks, and probably should be added in all leagues.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins (7.0 percent); Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots (8.1 percent); Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots (34.9 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (50.0 percent); Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars (10.6 percent); Andre Roberts, Cardinals (29.3 percent); Marlon Brown, WR, Ravens (16.5 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (6.7 percent).
Deeper League Finds
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots (0.3 percent). This is cheating. I had Bolden on the "deep" list just two weeks ago. But I removed him after he didn't contribute in a Thursday night win over the New York Jets, so I'm writing him up again to mark his return to the column. With Shane Vereen out, Bolden is the Pats' best pass-catching back, and he grabbed five passes for 49 yards Sunday. You'll probably get the biggest bang for your buck out of Bolden in a PPR league, because Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount will do most of the heavy lifting on early downs. But if the Patriots can get back to their up-tempo ways and keep defenses from substituting, Bolden might be a prime beneficiary.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets (8.1 percent). Let's face it, Holmes is hard to trust. He's catching passes from a rookie quarterback. He's coming off a serious foot injury. And he'd caught four passes for 64 yards in his first two games of '13. But he looked mighty fine Sunday. Playing against overmatched Buffalo Bills corner Justin Rogers for most of the day, Holmes separated at will and hauled in a couple of circus catches, winding up with 154 yards (albeit on only five grabs). Does this presage a return to form for Holmes? I'm skeptical, not least because of Geno Smith's inconsistency. But if you're in a deeper league, I don't hate the idea of stashing him to find out.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Browns (2.5 percent). I already mentioned that McGahee is my favorite for value in the Cleveland backfield, but that's really because I'm a stubborn old coot who only begins to believe things he sees over a longer period of time. Though he had only five touches, you can make the argument that Rainey was the most impressive man in the Browns' backfield Sunday, in that he was only stuffed once and looked shot out of a cannon a couple of times. I'm fine adding Rainey in a deep league and waiting to see how things shake out. Remember, though, that Chris Ogbonnaya (1.6 percent) is also in the mix as the primary passing-down back.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins (20.3 percent). By this point, you should be convinced that Moss is a deep-league PPR staple. I know he's 34 and any outside-receiver chops he had early in his career are long gone. But he's a fine weapon out of the slot. He's got 15 grabs already in '13, as Robert Griffin III turns into checkdown Charlie. He won't threaten 1,000 yards, and he probably won't approach the fluky eight TDs he scored last year. But his 23 targets have him inside the top 30 among WRs, and it won't be a shock to me if he stays there all year.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans (7.6 percent). Washington submitted a terrific game worthy of a No. 1 NFL wideout in Sunday's come-from-behind win, flashing deep speed and all-around route running, albeit against a San Diego Chargers pass defense that's struggling. Washington wound up with eight grabs for 131 yards. Unfortunately, he had only seven catches combined in the Titans' first two games, and that has been the story of Washington's career: He's got five career 100-yard receiving days in Tennessee, and has never followed one up with more than 62 yards the following week (and has averaged 30.6). So while it's tempting to imagine Jake Locker will get some great consistent chemistry going with Washington, it's just not likely.
Donnie Avery, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (4.3 percent). Seven grabs for 141 yards! Yes! Donnie Avery is back, baby! I mean, except he was never really here in the first place. It's not only that I don't trust Avery, who's inconsistent as a route runner. It's that I don't expect opposing defenses to be as ridiculously incompetent covering the underneath stuff on which Alex Smith is focused as the Philadelphia Eagles were last Thursday. If you were paying attention to the Indianapolis Colts last year, you saw Avery produce a couple fantasy-relevant games, but he'd be mighty tough to trust in anything but a deep league.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (2.2 percent). LaFell was a flag player of mine last summer and began the '12 campaign with two solid games, but he disappeared thereafter. So it's tough for me to be persuaded by a single great outing, especially one in which he caught three balls and two TDs. I've always been tempted by LaFell's raw tools. He's big and is a great leaper, the kind of flanker who should be a solid complement to Steve Smith. But he just doesn't get open. Add him in a 14-teamer, but don't start him until you see something resembling consistency, especially because Ted Ginn Jr. (1.3 percent) has siphoned off looks as a situational deep threat.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders (18.2 percent); E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills (12.8 percent); Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs (32.0 percent); Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals (2.7 percent); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (6.0 percent); Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers (13.3 percent); Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers (0.4 percent); Stephen Hill, WR, Jets (2.8 percent); Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons (2.6 percent); Robert Woods, WR, Bills (5.6 percent); Kenny Stills, WR, Saints (1.5 percent); Coby Fleener, TE, Colts (15.4 percent); Charles Clay, TE, Dolphins (12.8 percent).
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