Free-agent finds for Week 9
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 9's best fantasy roster additions:
Standard ESPN League Finds
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (owned in 1.1 percent of ESPN leagues): It's not a great week for waiver adds. If you've got the top claim in your league, look at the "previous weeks" section below for a whole bunch of better options who are still unowned in more than half of ESPN leagues. But Jones made headlines in Week 8 by scoring an incredible four TDs versus the New York Jets, giving him six scores over the past three games. However, realize this: Unless there's an injury, Mohamed Sanu (0.9 percent) plays with A.J. Green in two-wide sets. Jones is on the field only when the Bengals go multiple, and in Sunday's game (according to ESPN Stats & Info), that meant he played on only 18 of 47 offensive snaps. Meanwhile, Sanu played 29 snaps. Jones hasn't even run a route out of a two-wide formation since Week 6. Does this mean Sanu is a more attractive waiver add than Jones? Absolutely not. But it does limit Jones' potential for consistent production. So far this year, the Bengals have had three or more WRs on the field on fewer than half of their offensive snaps. So you can add Jones, and I'll rank him among the top 40 receivers for Thursday's matchup against the Miami Dolphins. But your expectations should be held in check, unless Sanu can't play because of his shoulder injury.
Mike Tolbert, RB, Carolina Panthers (17.3 percent): The Panthers have been a backfield platoon team for years, but few expected that Tolbert would a leading member this season. While DeAngelo Williams leads Tolbert in total yards, 598-252, D-Willy almost never gets involved in high-leverage situations. He did score his first TD of 2013 last Thursday from 12 yards out, but Tolbert had a red-zone TD catch in that same game, his fifth score of the season. He's the third-down and goal-line back. Clearly, when an RB is averaging fewer than nine touches per game, he's tough to justify as a must-start or even a must-add. But there are far worse ideas if you're struggling to field a fantasy backfield. You know Tolbert's ceiling is low, but his floor is surprisingly high. He's averaged 13 fantasy points per game over his past three and has eclipsed the seven-point mark in four of seven games. Realize, however, that Jonathan Stewart could return soon, and that would dampen the values of both Williams and Tolbert.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals (43.5 percent): What can I say? The Red Rifle is ablaze. In his past three games, Dalton has totaled 1,034 passing yards, 11 TDs and 2 INTs. He's on pace for a 4,498-yard passing season, which would shatter his previous career best by 823 yards. It seems to me that Dalton accumulates many of his stats on deep jump balls, and indeed 324 of his yards the past three weeks came on eight completions that traveled 20-plus yards in the air. But that's absolutely not a criticism; after all, don't we want QBs who can make big plays? The trouble I have is that on film, I see Dalton missing even more deep throws. I'm thinking of one this past Sunday that he blew to Mohamed Sanu down the deep middle, a play Sanu might have made (it was in his hands for a moment), but which was clearly overthrown and had too much air under it despite Sanu's being wide open. This is my way of saying: I believe Dalton will regress to his career mean. In his 40 NFL games, he's averaged 233 passing yards per contest and has regularly evinced a tendency to get flustered in the pocket under pressure. If some of these red-zone TD passes become runs, the numbers will decrease. But there's no sense being stubborn. Dalton is officially a high-level No. 2 fantasy QB, and if you feel the need to bench your underachieving starter for him in an effort to partake in his hot streak, I can't argue.
Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints (1.1 percent): It shouldn't be an either/or question between Stills and disappointing Marques Colston. Stills is an outside receiver and a deep threat, while Colston mainly patrols the middle of the field. But it started to feel like Stills was supplanting Colston in Week 8 versus the Buffalo Bills, didn't it? Drew Brees tried to get Colston involved early, giving him three shots (on one, Colston fell down embarrassingly), including a patented seam route that could've been a TD but was an inaccurate throw. Yet it was left to Stills to make the big plays of the game, and he wound up with two TDs and has three in the Saints' past two games. I'm not dropping Colston yet. I understand if you're frustrated by his three straight horrible games. But realize that Stills hasn't eclipsed five targets in a game yet this season, something Colston has done five times. Stills can be rostered if you need a bye-week fill-in, and he has real talent. But Brees has so many weapons, and there's nothing on film that tells me Colston's game has changed.
Deji Karim, RB, Houston Texans (0.1 percent). As of this writing, it was unclear whether Arian Foster and/or Ben Tate would be able to play coming out of Houston's bye. Remember, Foster left Week 7's game early with a reinjured hamstring, while Tate broke four ribs in that same game. Tate claims he's going to play Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, while Foster has been more equivocal, but all this carnage explains why the Texans signed Karim, Ray Graham (0.0 percent) and Dennis Johnson (0.1 percent) during their off week. Karim is the veteran of the group, and he performed well for the Texans in the preseason, so if neither Foster nor Tate can play Sunday, he'd be my favorite for a featured role. But watch out for Johnson. He's a short guy at 5-foot-7, but he's got some thickness to him plus has real long speed. He was also known as a good pass-protector at Arkansas.
Colts Defense (22.2 percent): I'm not fully sold on this unit, but its decent showing against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a couple of weeks ago was impressive. More important, the Texans lineup it will face Sunday night will feature Case Keenum under center and could be without Foster and/or Tate. And the hard truth is that the Colts have played a nasty schedule, are 5-2, and their defense has registered 12, 22, 10, 1 and 8 fantasy points in their past five contests. In particular, keep an eye on Robert Mathis, whom I view as a top-five defensive MVP candidate to this point, and corner Vontae Davis, who's playing like he did five years ago with Miami and who'll see a bunch of Andre Johnson on Sunday.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals (21.1 percent); Zac Stacy, RB, Rams (21.7 percent); Andre Brown, RB, Giants (18.2 percent); Mike James, RB, Buccaneers (14.3 percent); Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints (34.7 percent); Donald Brown, RB, Colts (5.0 percent); Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks (38.7 percent); Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers (34.1 percent); Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Colts (10.8 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (34.4 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (21.8 percent); Coby Fleener, TE, Colts (26.7 percent); Timothy Wright, TE, Buccaneers (0.4 percent); Garrett Graham, TE, Texans (20.7 percent).
Deeper League Finds
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins (6.1 percent): The pickings really are slim this week. Thomas came out of the Dolphins' Week 6 bye and was the primary early-down back against the Bills, but order was seemingly restored Sunday against the New England Patriots, as Lamar Miller was featured. That said, Thomas played well on a second-quarter drive and scored on a middle screen. He's touched the ball 23 times in the past two weeks combined and has 16 combined fantasy points as a result. If I ran the Dolphins, I'd insist to Joe Philbin that the more talented Miller needs to be a 20-touch-per-week player. But I don't run the Dolphins.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (14.5 percent): Starks returned from the knee injury that cost him three games, and Sunday night he carried it seven times for 57 yards and a TD against the Minnesota Vikings. Now, this game became a blowout in the second half, and Eddie Lacy dominated touches when the game was competitive, so you're probably not considering starting Starks in any-size fantasy league. But it's pretty clear that Starks would be a major part of the solution if Lacy gets hurt again.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots (4.2 percent): For two straight weeks, Dobson has been Tom Brady's split end. Under normal circumstances, the fact that Dobson appears to have supplanted Kenbrell Thompkins would be major fantasy news. Given how poor Brady's numbers are, though, it's hard to work up a lather. Dobson did connect for a lovely second-half TD against the Dolphins Sunday, and if he can keep the starting job in time for Brady to come around, he could end up being a steal. But don't go dropping a full-time productive player for him just yet. (Thompkins, on the other hand, can be dumped in 10-team leagues.)
Tashard Choice, RB, Bills (0.4 percent): C.J. Spiller was inactive for Sunday's loss versus the Saints, leaving Choice in the backup role behind Fred Jackson. He gained 35 yards on seven carries, while Jackson touched it 17 times and gained 52 yards. That ratio sounds about right. If Spiller sits out again in Week 9 because of his bad ankle, Choice would be a legit candidate for double-digit touches against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Drew Davis, WR, Atlanta Falcons (0.1 percent): When will Roddy White be ready to return from his hamstring and ankle injuries? It sounds like we're talking a matter of weeks now, so there's no guarantee he'll be back in time for Sunday's tilt against the Panthers, which means Davis could post another decent day. Against the Cardinals, he grabbed five passes for 77 yards and a score and was entrenched as the team's No. 2 WR opposite Harry Douglas. That's a role that can generate some fantasy pop, as Julio Jones has proved in recent years. Davis could wind up being a deep-league solution even when White returns, but my guess is he'll stay relevant only while White is out.
LaVon Brazill, WR, Colts (0.2 percent): How will the Colts offense work without Reggie Wayne, who's out with a torn ACL? Nobody really knows. T.Y. Hilton will play in two-receiver sets along with Darrius Heyward-Bey, enhancing his fantasy value by quite a bit. But will Brazill be the No. 3? Or will it be possession man Griff Whalen (0.0 percent), lately signed off the practice squad? Brazill would be most interesting, because he's got some legit deep-play ability. But it's fair to simply see how things play out.
Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears (0.3 percent): With Jay Cutler out for at least a month, McCown takes over under center, and in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, you know he's got legit NFL-caliber weaponry. I've seen enough of McCown in Arizona and Oakland to be suspicious that things won't go well here. But he was strong in relief in Week 7.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders (25.3 percent); Jake Locker, QB, Titans (5.6 percent); Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys (49.7 percent); Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (2.9 percent); Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints (0.8 percent); Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns (2.1 percent); Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots (3.7 percent); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (13.6 percent); Kris Durham, WR, Lions (1.0 percent); Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (4.5 percent); Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (2.4 percent); Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets (4.9 percent); Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers (5.1 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (7.1 percent); Dallas Clark, TE, Ravens (5.3 percent); Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (30.6 percent); Jeff Cumberland, TE, Jets (14.0 percent); Andrew Quarless, TE, Packers (3.8 percent).
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