Free-agent finds for Week 12
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 12's best fantasy roster additions:
Standard ESPN League Finds
Bobby Rainey, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (owned in 2.3 percent of ESPN leagues): Rainey almost certainly won't be the final unexpected RB to grab hold of a starting gig between now and the end of the season. But injuries are tough to predict, so if you're desperate for backfield help, I wouldn't hesitate to spend a top waiver claim or the bulk of your FAAB to get Rainey. But let's be clear: He's not a star in the making. We're talking about a 5-foot-7, 205-pound player who runs a 4.53 40. Can he be a good NFL player? Sure. Is he ever going to duplicate his 34 fantasy points compiled against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday? I strongly doubt it. There's a reason two other organizations cut him during this season. His best NFL analog might be Kendall Hunter, a useful player but probably not big enough to be anyone's top RB except under emergency circumstances. (Kevin Faulk also comes to mind.) The Falcons are awful against the run right now, and on numerous occasions Sunday Rainey got five yards downfield before anyone touched him. Now, that's lazy analysis, because Rainey's vision and quickness helped him accomplish this. But things will get harder this week against an improved Detroit Lions run defense, and then in Week 13 versus the Carolina Panthers.
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (7.8 percent): The mistake-prone Cleveland Browns absolutely gave away a game Sunday, yet they continue to look brilliant. That's because they acquired a first-round pick for Trent Richardson. At the time, I couldn't have been harsher on the move, and I still have hopes that T-Rich will figure things out and be a Pro Bowl runner, but at the moment he's a disaster. Give the Colts credit: Last Thursday, they came out with a different plan to get Richardson involved. They threw him the ball early and often in the first half, and T-Rich caught all five of his targets for 31 yards. Then in the third quarter he came out and ripped off power runs of 5 and 7 yards, and I was like, "OK, here we go." After that? Five more carries. Nine total yards. No targets. And meanwhile, Brown was playing much better. Stats are fine. Touchdowns are fine. But if you watched that national TV game, you know which RB looked dangerous and decisive. It was Brown. Richardson seems to be deep inside his own head, trying to think two moves ahead and make a big play rather than just pummeling people. I have every confidence that eventually Old Donald Brown will rear his head. But for the moment it won't be a surprise to see Brown play ahead of T-Rich anymore, the way he did in key moments in the fourth quarter during Week 11. Brown should be added in all leagues, just in case the Colts codify a true change in their depth chart.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans (12.0 percent): I hate analysis that goes, "Oh, that receiver is that quarterback's favorite guy, they have really good chemistry, they must have practiced a whole bunch together." Because maybe, but what the heck do we know? Inventing narratives for why a player plays better is dumb. Just go to the tape. Thursday night against the Colts, Walker was everywhere, to the tune of 10 grabs on 10 targets. How often was he the primary receiver on those throws? One can never be absolutely sure because we're not in that huddle, but to me it looked like basically all of them. So, for instance, please don't tell me Walker excelled because Ryan Fitzpatrick liked to check it down to him. The fact is that Walker is more involved of late (18 targets in his past two, and three TDs in his past five) and the Titans probably saw something they liked matchup-wise versus the Colts. I won't try to sell you Walker as an elite player. He's just fine, but he's a tight end, which means some weeks he'll be meh. But he's shaping up as a top-15 TE for the rest of the season, and that's not nothing.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (16.4 percent): Who's No. 6 among all wideouts in fantasy points the past three weeks? This guy. Cotch had a surprise three-TD game versus the New England Patriots in Week 9, and since then has grabbed two more scores as one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite red-zone weapons. But that isn't the main reason you should consider adding Cotchery. Emmanuel Sanders had to leave Week 11's contest with an injured foot. As of this writing, it was unclear whether Sanders would miss additional time, but if he does, Markus Wheaton (0.2 percent) probably inherits that outside job, while Cotchery would continue manning the slot. But there would probably be more targets available for both guys. Given Cotchery's TD-heavy ways, he wouldn't be the worst bet to continue his scoring string.
New Orleans Saints Defense (45.9 percent): The popular conception is that new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a blitz-happy, crazy person, but you, the savvy fan, know better. New Orleans is middle-of-the-pack in its blitz tendencies. The Saints send five pass-rushers or more on pass plays about 30 percent of the time, which ranks 19th in the NFL. (By contrast, the Houston Texans have done so a full 50 percent of the time.) Anyway, this unit plays it a bit closer to the vest than you might expect, and perhaps as a result has allowed more than 20 scoreboard points just twice in 10 contests. They lost No. 2 corner Jabari Greer to a serious leg injury on Sunday, though emerging star Keenan Lewis is still around to shadow Roddy White if need be in Week 12. And frankly, the real reason to like the Saints this Sunday is the matchup. The Falcons are discombobulated on offense. If the Saints are owned in your league, take a look at the New York Giants (8.5 percent), who have been a borderline dominant defense the past month and take on the Dallas Cowboys at home.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Josh McCown, QB, Bears (2.3 percent); Case Keenum, QB, Texans (17.8 percent); Rashad Jennings, RB, Raiders (43.7 percent); Dennis Johnson, RB, Texans (0.8 percent); Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks (45.1 percent); Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots (13.9 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (37.7 percent); Kenny Stills, WR, Saints (37.8 percent); John Carlson, TE, Vikings (1.4 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (15.7 percent); Garrett Graham, TE, Texans (19.5 percent).
Deeper League Finds
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins (5.6 percent): I don't like it. You don't like it. But the Dolphins are as committed as ever to their backfield platoon. Lamar Miller started Sunday but Thomas out-touched him 11-to-6 and received the team's only three carries inside the San Diego Chargers' red zone. If Miller has terrific receiving chops, we haven't seen them yet. He's got 22 targets in 10 games, which is 37th among all NFL running backs. I'll probably keep rating Miller ahead of Thomas on a weekly basis, but it's time to start treating these guys like they're in a straight tandem, and considering they run behind an offensive line whose depletion has been much publicized, you're probably better off starting neither guy.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets (12.0 percent): It's mighty tough to get excited about a guy catching passes from Geno Smith, who himself just submitted a minus-4 fantasy-point game. But Holmes did return, and he looked good on the rare occasion Smith was able to put a ball near him. In the first quarter, Smith threw a dying quail deep down the left side but Holmes adjusted to it much better than Stephon Gilmore and made a 33-yard gain. In the second quarter, Smith threw a better deep ball that Holmes almost grabbed, but Gilmore made a nice play. In the 2-minute drive at the end of the first half, Holmes nearly came up with a ball Smith bounced to him. And in the third quarter, Holmes tightroped down the sideline after a long catch and nearly got in the end zone, ending up with a 38-yard gain. (Holmes saw two more targets the rest of the day -- one of which was intercepted -- before the first-team offense was benched in the fourth quarter.) I was left with the impression that Holmes' troublesome hamstring is OK, but that his quarterback situation is even more troublesome. However in a deeper league, I'd take a shot.
Rob Housler, TE, Arizona Cardinals (2.7 percent): Remember Heath Miller's glory days? Bruce Arians does. He was the playcaller for the Pittsburgh Steelers in those halcyon times, and he'd like nothing more than for the Cards to develop a viable pass-catching tight end. We've been hearing about Housler's raw potential for three seasons, but he's finally translating it into production. Now, it doesn't help when Carson Palmer's first two targets of Week 11 were to Jim Dray and Jake Ballard, Housler's compatriots at the TE position. But the fact is that Palmer launched bomb shots all day against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Housler partook (in fact, Palmer overthrew him on what could've been a long TD). Listen, it's Carson Palmer. I don't trust him at all. But Housler's role has grown significantly, and I think the least we can say is that if and when Arians likes Housler's matchup against safeties and/or linebackers, he's willing to throw it to him deep. That could mean some nice intermittent production.
Matt McGloin, QB, Oakland Raiders (0.2 percent): What can I say? McGloin was pretty good. He was certainly a breath of fresh passing air after Terrelle Pryor, who has all the arm you could want but just can't throw it accurately. McGloin really zipped it hard down the middle at times, showing Pryor-esque zing but pretty strong accuracy, too. His second and third TD passes, in particular, were high-octane throws into tight windows. Of course, there were also the requisite struggles, including some shorter passes thrown behind his receivers, who did him no favors adjusting to the ball. But it was pretty good stuff, and I'd be shocked if he wasn't under center for Week 12's tilt against the Titans.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Buffalo Bills (0.1 percent): You probably shouldn't add Goodwin unless you're in a really deep league, but his numbers are kind of eye-popping, so I figured I should talk about why. When Steve Johnson and Robert Woods are in there, Goodwin is really a pure speed threat (and frankly he shares that role with T.J. Graham (0.5 percent)), and the Bills convert on deep strikes only occasionally. Of course, Johnson and Woods weren't in there Sunday, and Goodwin got to show a more varied game, to the tune of six grabs for 81 yards, including a 43-yard TD that was a thing of beauty. That means, I suppose, that if the more heralded guys here continue to miss time after the Bills' Week 12 bye, you could take a look at Goodwin.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Titans (1.8 percent); Scott Tolzien, QB, Packers (1.6 percent); Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns (7.7 percent); Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (4.3 percent); Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers (23.3 percent); Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (2.9 percent); Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks (16.7 percent); Rishard Matthews, WR, Dolphins (10.2 percent); Kris Durham, WR, Lions (0.7 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (5.1 percent); Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers (4.1 percent); Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (9.9 percent); Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (0.2 percent); Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (30.0 percent); Timothy Wright, TE, Buccaneers (4.8 percent); Dallas Clark, TE, Ravens (6.3 percent); Brandon Bostick, TE, Packers (0.2 percent).