Standard ESPN league finds
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (owned in 17.2 percent of ESPN leagues): It's Super Bowl week in fantasy football, and that means waivers probably shouldn't be the foremost thing on your mind. Conveniently, very few studs suffered injuries in Week 15, and frankly the free-agent pool is a bit brackish. But I thought it might be worth noting how involved Baldwin -- who's been a fixture in my "Deeper League Finds" for two months -- has been lately. He's got four TDs in his past six contests, but that doesn't tell the full story. He's also been a reliable source of targets as Russell Wilson's slot machine (25 of Baldwin's 36 routes in Sunday's win came out of the slot, a fairly common percentage for him). As Golden Tate has seen his reliability wane -- he caught what would've been a 29-yard TD strike Sunday but stepped out of bounds on his pass route, and also saw a first-quarter target near the New York Giants' red zone clang off his hands -- Baldwin has become a presence. It's true that when Wilson does his Fran Tarkenton thing and scrambles around looking for something deep, the target is more likely to be someone like Tate or Jermaine Kearse. That said, Wilson did miss Baldwin on a wheel route Sunday that would've led to a second TD. No Seahawks WR is a must-start, but especially in a PPR league, Baldwin probably has the most value at the moment.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins (3.0 percent): If you're looking for someone to give you his blessing to bench your usual fantasy starter and ride with Cousins, you've got the wrong guy. I admit his numbers from Sunday -- 29-of-45 for 381 yards, three TDs, two INTs and a lost fumble -- look fine, I admit that he actually lit it up in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons (though his second-half work, except for the game's final drive, was mostly poor) and I acknowledge that the Dallas Cowboys' defense should present Cousins with a whale of an opportunity in Week 16. But it comes down to philosophy. If I'm, say, a Tom Brady owner nervous about a road matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, and I see Cousins grinning at me from the waiver wire, personally I tend not to be tempted. Tom Terrific has gotten me this far, and even with diminished weapons, he's a pretty darned good player. If he goes off on my bench while Cousins submits stats like a dude making his third NFL start, I'd have a tough time sleeping for a month. That's why Cousins isn't going to be in my top 10 QBs for the upcoming week. But if you prefer living dangerously, and don't mind the idea of it blowing up on you, I completely understand the logic behind adding, and starting, Cousins.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (6.0 percent): Adding Eifert is entirely contingent upon the health of Jermaine Gresham. Gresham left Sunday night's game late with a right hip injury, and as of this writing, his status for next week was unknown. Eifert and Gresham have canceled one another out all season, but if you could somehow combine them into some orange-and-black-striped monolith, they'd be sitting on 81 catches for 851 yards and five TDs. That would be fantasy's No. 5 tight end. So if you can get confirmation that Gresham won't play in Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings, Eifert might merit top-10 consideration.
Detroit Lions Defense (8.1 percent): The Lions' D got back on track Monday night, putting its awful Snow Bowl second-half effort in the rearview mirror. Nick Fairley got back to his beastly ways against the run, and Willie Young chipped in, as well. But mostly, you want to add this D/ST because of its Week 16 matchup against the Giants. There's danger assuming that a quarterback having a terrible season will necessarily screw up when you need him to most; that's paint-by-numbers analysis and, for instance, it burned us just a couple of weeks ago when we all assumed the Oakland Raiders' D/ST would be a good start against Geno Smith. But in this case, you also get a piece of return man Jeremy Ross, who scored two special-teams TDs a couple of weeks back. Eli Manning is lost, and hopefully the Lions don't help him find himself.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins (16.8 percent); Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars (2.3 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (46.9 percent); Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (25.3 percent); Rod Streater, WR, Raiders (7.3 percent); Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings (9.2 percent); Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (41.5 percent); Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (22.6 percent); Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (8.5 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (16.2 percent); Timothy Wright, TE, Buccaneers (1.7 percent).
Matt Asiata, RB, Minnesota Vikings (0.8 percent): Give Asiata credit for doing the best with what he has. In Week 15, he scored three TDs from inside the Philadelphia Eagles' 5-yard line while subbing for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, though his 51 yards on 30 carries is indicative of his ability. He's a big guy with absolutely no wiggle. Even if AP and Gerhart sit out Week 16 versus the Bengals, Asiata wouldn't be a recommended standard-league start. And given that early reports have Peterson returning from his foot injury, you probably don't need to mess around with Asiata at all.
Matt Cassel, QB, Vikings (1.1 percent): We all know exactly what Cassel is: He's a backup who can inject a little life into your squad, but who'll inevitably wilt the moment you start counting on him. (His AFC analog: Ryan Fitzpatrick.) Cassel rallied the Vikes late in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, and carried that effort over into a big home win Sunday over the Eagles. He even ran for a score, and his connection with Greg Jennings was sweet. But remember what I told you earlier in this column about the philosophy of inserting Kirk Cousins into your lineup for the Super Bowl? That goes quadruple for Cassel next week, on the road, against the Bengals.
Edwin Baker, RB, Cleveland Browns (0.0 percent): Norv Turner clearly sees something in this player. Turner drafted Baker in the seventh round when he was with the San Diego Chargers, and last week he picked Baker off the Houston Texans' practice squad. With Willis McGahee out Sunday because of a concussion, Baker got in the mix, playing 21 out of 61 offensive snaps compared to 36 for Chris Ogbonnaya and 10 for Fozzy Whittaker. But Baker was fortunate enough to get the call near the goal line, and scored a TD to go with his 12 touches and 84 yards. He didn't particularly make a bunch of people miss or outrun anyone, but he did that "ham-and-egger" thing of getting what was blocked and making some nifty short catches. Baker doesn't look anything like a future star, we don't know what McGahee's status is and Ogbonnaya and Whittaker are still around. You'd have to be way desperate to ride this guy next week against the New York Jets. But that doesn't mean it's not a nice story.
Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay Packers (1.6 percent): Again, if it's Week 3, maybe I'm more excited about Quarless, who now has back-to-back games of identical six-catch, 66-yard, one-TD stat lines. But we're in the title game here, people. All Quarless has really done is elevate himself into the bottom part of the vast tight end middle class, where week-to-week performance is mighty unpredictable. Brandon Bostick was carted off the field Sunday with a foot injury, so you'd have to believe that Quarless could be the only TE game in town in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But do you have the guts to start him?
Andre Caldwell, WR, Denver Broncos (0.5 percent): Wes Welker sat out last Thursday's contest with a concussion, leading to speculation (present company included) that Jacob Tamme might get some run out of the slot. In fact, Virgil Green played more than Tamme did, but Caldwell was the big winner. On a night when Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker all disappointed, Caldwell grabbed a team-high six catches for 59 yards and two TDs. Welker has a chance to return against the Houston Texans on Sunday, plus it's hard to imagine Denver's more accomplished weapons getting blanked for a second straight game. But I include Caldwell here for the sake of thoroughness.
Jerrel Jernigan, WR, New York Giants (0.1 percent): Victor Cruz took a nasty tumble in Sunday's shutout loss, and early reports out of Gotham indicate he suffered a concussion and a sprained knee. It sounds like there's a chance Cruz could sit out the season's final two games. If that happens, Jernigan likely becomes Eli Manning's slot receiver, and he did catch seven passes for 67 yards Sunday, though a couple of those grabs came from Curtis Painter on a final meaningless drive. The bottom line obviously is that you'd probably rather not use any of Eli's weapons in a season in which the Giants QB could throw the most interceptions since Vinny Testaverde winged 35 in 1988.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Titans (3.7 percent); Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals (12.1 percent); Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins (7.5 percent); LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots (6.4 percent); Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns (18.7 percent); Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers (18.6 percent); Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings (19.6 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (5.4 percent); Andre Holmes, WR, Raiders (0.4 percent); Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals (21.1 percent); Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (10.2 percent); Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Colts (5.7 percent); Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers (20.9 percent); Ace Sanders, WR, Jaguars (0.4 percent).