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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Waiver Wire Warriors - Week 6
Dennis Leonard
October 13, 2005

Hello again and Welcome back to Waiver Wire Warriors. I’ve got little in the way of pithy banter for you today, loyal readers. I got creamed in my Huddle league and lost by the narrowest of margins to the only other team who stood a chance against me in my local. It never ceases to amaze me what a profound impact on one’s mood a win or a loss can mean for a fantasy freak. The funny thing is that I’ve got a very healthy lead as the points leader in my local and the second highest points in my Huddle league, so I probably shouldn’t care about one not-so-great week. Hopefully a win or two in Week 6 will dispel my funk.

Furthermore, to add insult to injury I also missed the majority of Sunday’s day games to participate in my home town’s village fair parade. Having never been in a parade before, I suppose I can at least check that off my list of things to do before I die. However, on the plus side at least I did get to see:

  • A two-humped camel urinate on a (very surprised) senior citizen’s leg;
  • An all-Hispanic troupe of bag-pipers; and
  • My old high school boss who, after more than a decade and a half, I finally got to thank for straightening my delinquent-ass out so many years ago.

And on that obscure and irrelevant note, let’s proceed to the main attraction.

The New Recruits

Matt Schaub – ATL QB: *IF* he plays, Schaub – who demonstrated some skills against the Patriots in Week 5 – would be my pick for Week 6’s “QB Desperation Play.” Brett Favre simply chumped the Saints last week and exposed their defense as a fraud. There is no reason why Schaub, who isn’t owned by anyone, couldn’t meet with equal or greater success against New Orleans than he did against the Pats. And he laid 298 passing yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs on them.

Keep an eye on Vick’s status this week, though Schaub is absolutely worth a short-term speculative upside pick up in the mean time for a team who’s been crushed at the QB position, or for Vick owners lacking reliable QB depth. At the very least, you could pick Schaub up until more is known on Vick. While there really aren’t any historical stats to back Schaub up, make no mistake about it: Vick’s status is still very unclear for this Sunday. He did do some running on Monday, but that’s about it. And coach Mora was hardly committed to the idea of starting Vick this week when he said, “I’ve got to believe Mike will make progress. We’ll see if that’s enough, in my opinion, to play him.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement anyone should be banking on.

Tyson Thompson – DAL RB: Thompson is a niche play. His primary value comes with the new-found revelation that he has leap-frogged Marion Barber and Anthony Thomas as the back up and hand cuff to Julius Jones. Given the injury scare with Julius in Week 5 (allegedly minor leg injury), and the injuries to other key backs this year (namely McAllister, Blaylock, Dillon, Williams, Green, Martin, Staley, etc.), insuring one’s key running backs is sounding better and better with each passing week. Of course, in order to do that you must have confidence in two things: (1) who the handcuff is; and (2) that they will be productive if given the leading role. With the Cowboys, no one really knew either of those answers this year. Until now.

Here is what little we know about Tyson Thompson:

  • He’s a rookie who measures up at six foot even, 220 pounds (relative to Jones, who is 5’10”, 215);
  • Thompson actually has a narrow lead for the team’s highest average yards per carry at 3.7 (Jones trails at 3.6);
  • He has racked up a very impressive 305 yards on 12 kick off returns, averaging 25.5 yards per return, which is about the 9th best average out of those who have returned more than 3 kicks thus far;
  • Not real active in the passing game, as he has only been targeted 3 times, though he did catch two of those; and
  • Perhaps most significant is that Thompson was able to handle 20 carries in Week 5 and register 75 yards against the Eagles without getting himself – and more importantly his quarterback – injured.

Thompson is basically this year’s version of the Cowboy’s RaShard Lee; except coach Parcells likes Thompson. Its pretty clear Thompson would be good enough in a starting role to be useful, and it is also clear Parcells doesn’t seem to trust his other back ups, Barber or Thomas. While Thompson is a stretch for non-Julius owners, Jones missed significant time last year. And last week’s injury – the extent of which is not yet official – fails to imbue blue chip confidence in Jones’ durability. So, at least in large leagues, Thompson could be worth a look based on his speculative upside as an injury-related gamble. While Jones says he’ll play next week, it’s not his decision to make. Assuming Jones sits – and as of Wednesday that’s looking like a real possibility – Thompson could save your bacon if you just need a one-week filler at the RB position, though there is no reason to believe he’ll be useful beyond that.

Patrick Pass – NE RB: I was really liking Kevin Faulk a few weeks ago for leagues that awarded both points for receptions *and* individual points in the return game. Plus he was the presumptive Dillon handcuff. Then Faulk went and got hurt. Oh well. But then Dillon missed some time in Week 5, in a close game, due to an undisclosed injury. Hmmm. Given the Patriots’ inability to be forthright when it comes player injuries (whatever, that’s their right) you should have zero faith that enough information will be available prior you league’s waiver deadlines regarding the extent of Dillon’s mystery injury, or whether he’ll play in Week 6. Could be something serious, could be a hangnail. Therefore, I recommend assuming the worst and adding Pass – even if you don’t own Dillon, but especially if you do – until more is known.

Pass filled in admirably last week, rushing 6 times for 34 yards (5.66 yards per carry), scoring one TD on the ground, and adding another 6 yards on 1 reception. Assuming Pass can handle a full work load (however, with Amos Zeroue recently added to the team, Pass might not even if Dillon did miss an extended amount of time) Pass appears poised to capitalize on whatever opportunity he’s given. Let’s consider the few goodies we can:

  • Averaging 5.6 yards per carry, which is vastly superior to either Faulk’s 2.0 or Dillon’s 3.4;
  • 4 of his 8 carries have come in the red zone, which means he’s a scoring threat;
  • He’s pretty involved in the passing game. He’s received 12 looks in the passing game – 11 in just the last two weeks – and caught 10 for a 83.33% reception ratio, 75 yards, and yet another look in the red zone; and
  • Aside from Faulk and Dillon, Pass is the ONLY other Patriot’s RB to register any production whatsoever. So given his involvement last week, it is fairly safe to assume that *if* Dillon were to miss any time Pass would be new primary running back for New England.

Pass should be viewed as paranoia insurance for Dillon owners, but a valid (though perhaps very temporary) speculative investment for everyone else, the value of which will not be known until the Pat’s loosen their clamps on Dillon’s injury info. FYI, I snagged him in both leagues, so I’ll be riding this pick with y’all.

Antowain Smith – NO RB: Smith’s best days are way, waaaaay, behind him. He’s a plodding workhorse who hasn’t broken 1,000 yards or 4.0 yards per carry in the last three seasons. And this season won’t be any different.

However, Deuce McAllister is, in all probability, done. Garçon, fork please. And that leaves the Saints’ starting RB position up for grabs. Smith performed serviceably last year when he performed similar duties for the Titans. He never broke a 100 rushing yards in any game, but seemed to produce when given the opportunity. In the five games he was given 14 or more carries he registered:

  • 109 combined yards and a TD in Week 11;
  • 101 combined yards in Week 12;
  • 83 combined yards in Week 15;
  • 62 combined yards and a TD in Week 16; and
  • 105 combined yards and a TD in Week 17.

Not spectacular, but certainly useful. While Aaron Stecker is technically in the mix for rushing work, as well, Stecker has posted a laughable -1 yard on 2 carries this season so far. With Stecker dealing with injuries of his own earlier this year one can only assume that Antowain Smith will get first crack at the rushing yards, though Stecker is admittedly better suited for receiving duties. For a RB-starved team, Smith makes a great pick up this week, though his meager 2.8 yards per carry in 2005 leaves a little to be desired. But hey, we’re talking about a starting running back laying around on waivers here. So beggars can’t be choosers.

David Patten – WAS WR: I’ve had a hunch about a Patten ever since I noticed the beginnings of Mark Brunell’s surprise start to the season. I figured that Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and Clinton Portis would be the go-to guys in the Redskins offense, and they have been: predictable as a sitcom. The natural extension of that logic was that opposing defenses would study game film and, thus, begin focusing more attention on those key offensive weapons, which they have. The natural end-game of this exercise is that some other offensive player was going to start seeing more opportunities as Joe Gibbs began to exploit the ensuing mismatches. The only unknowns were: (1) who; and (2) would that player rise to the occasion? Long story short, it looks like the answer to Question 1 is “Patten” and the answer Question 2 is “could be.”

The deal with Patten is basically three fold:

  1. His ugly duckling quarterback is en fuego – muy caliente.* As I’ve documented week in and week out, Brunell is somehow managing top-10 QB status, apparently by sheer force of will. So there is certainly room for another legitimate pass target in this offense, which is averaging 37 pass attempts per game (7th most in the NFL) and 233.5 passing yards per game (12th most in the NFL). But here’s the money shot: the Redskins have thrown the ball 25, 34, 36, and then 53 times in their last four games, respectively. While I doubt those number will continue to climb, it is abundantly clear the ‘Skins have grown much more comfortable passing the ball, so if Patten can step up, there’s room for him at the big kids’ table.
  2. Then there’s the weakness of Washington’s next few opponents, which adds some nice flavor to this pick. As I detailed last week, the Redskins face the Chiefs, Niners, then Giants, all of whom are bottom-feeder pass defenses – they have literally allowed the three highest averaging passing yards per game (273.2, 322, and 343.6. respectively). So the table’s been set for Patten, at least for the next three weeks.
  3. Then there is Patten himself. He started the season quiet. But he has been thrown to 4, 5, 7, then 11 times in the last four games and I like the direction of those numbers. His reception ratio is a little low; only about 52%. However, Patten had his best game of the season thus far last week when he hauled in 7 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 63 yards. That tied Patten with Chris Cooley as the second most targeted Redskin with 27 pass attempts after 4 games. So it looks like Patten’s hungry and beginning to vibe with Brunell.

Patten is available in 78% of Fanball leagues, so he’s largely available. I think the most likely scenario is that he continues to put up decent stats as a possession receiver, which makes him more valuable in leagues that award points for receptions. However, at least during the next three weeks, his upside is good enough to warrant his use as a bye week filler/injury replacement, added depth, or a #3 starting WR for a team whose receivers just aren’t producing right now. (Yeah, that’s right: I’m looking at you, Michael Clayton).

Dennis Northcutt – CLE WR: Northcutt hasn’t gotten much action this year but has two things going for him: (1) his QB – Trent Dilfer – is playing inexplicably well; and (2) the widely anticipated stardom of rookie receiver Braylon Edwards is on hold for weeks, or perhaps months, with some grotesque arm infection. Therefore, the pieces are in place for Northcutt to step it up for his 2-and-2 Cleveland Browns. While there is some chance Week 1 enigma – Frisman Jackson – could get a few extra looks as well, Northcutt is listed on the Browns’ website as a starting receiver, so all signs point Northcutt seeing more opportunities on a go-forward basis. Here’s some admittedly bland data to sift through on the guy:

  • Over the last three seasons his cumulative reception ratio was 66.95%, which is demonstrative of good receiving talent. However, this season he’s started of with a much lower 55% reception ratio;
  • Over the last three years he recorded 614, 729, then 806 receiving yards, which at least shows movement in the right direction;
  • He’s never been a big TD scorer, with 5, 2, then 2 over the last three years;
  • He appears to be the only punt returner for the Browns, if you get individual points for that. However, he has zero yards on five attempts, so even in leagues that award points for this stuff it doesn’t exactly add a bonanza of value;
  • Even before Edwards’ icky arm Northcutt was the 2nd most targeted Brown (thrown to 20 times), next to Antonio Bryant;
  • 3 targets in the red zone – tied with Steve Heiden for the team’s most so far; and
  • He has a four game stretch coming up that looks pretty good versus the divisional rival the Ravens in Week 6 (not nearly as scary as they used to be), Detroit in Week 7 (not nearly as good as their defensive stats imply), Houston in Week 8 (NFL’s new whipping boy), and Tennessee in Week 9 (has allowed 11 passing TDs so far – 2nd most in the NFL). That’s not ideal, but it’s hardly brutal, either.

Considering Northcutt is available in like 96% of Fanball leagues, he should be free agent in most leagues. Of the two Browns’ receivers I’d certainly rather own Antonio Bryant because he is contributing presently. But if Bryant isn’t available, Northcutt is at least in a good position to contribute. And that sets him a cut above the rest of the trash on waivers.

Marty Booker – MIA WR: I was sort of surprised to see that Booker was on waivers in both my leagues. Due to injures in my local, and impending byes in my Huddle league, I thought I’d take a gander to see if Booker had any under appreciated value. Honestly, I think he’s a decent receiver with some upside due to a nice stretch of opponents on the horizon. Basically, Booker makes for good disposable depth at WR.

  • Interestingly, he’s about the 37th most productive WR in leagues without points per reception, but only the 44th most productive in leagues that do award such points;
  • He’s been targeted 6, 5, 6, then 6 times in the Dolphins’ first four games, which shows nice consistency, though the raw opportunity is kind of on the low side;
  • He’s caught 1 TD;
  • 212 receiving yards and is averaging 53 yards per game, which isn’t a ton, but is still more than Coles, Porter, Keyshawn Johnson, Ferguson, or Roy Williams can say;
  • Those 212 yards are the 2nd most for any Dolphin pass-target and only 2 less than Chris Chambers’ 214, and Chambers has had 41 passes his way, relative to Booker’s 22 (or 23, depending on who you ask);
  • Has a low 50% reception ratio, but that’s about ballpark for him, as he’s only averaged a 53.06% reception ratio over the last three seasons; and
  • Has demonstrated nice yards per catch – averaging 19.3, which is the 18th best in the NFL.

No, those stats aren’t amazing, by any stretch. But after the Bucs in Week 6, Miami faces the following opponents:

  • Chiefs: allowing the 3rd highest averaging receiving yards per game;
  • Saints: falling apart at has allowed 8 receiving TDs – only 6 teams have allowed more;
  • Falcons 10th most receiving yards and 7 receiving TDs;
  • Patriots: 12 most receiving yards and a surprising 10 receiving TDs – only two other teams have allowed more;
  • Browns: 11th most passing yards; and
  • Raiders: 4th most passing yards.

During this stretch of games Booker makes for nice bench depth. If you get caught on a bye week and an unexpected injury bites you at WR, you shouldn’t have any qualms about calling Booker up to the starting side of your roster. He’s consistently involved and if his level of involvement ever increased, his very high yards per catch suggest some potential upside exists. I added him in my Huddle league as a #5 WR, for what its worth.

Chris Henry – CIN WR: Interestingly, his role didn’t really expand in teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s Week 5 absence. However, Henry’s productivity certainly did. So it’s hard to say if the two events were related or not. Henry didn’t really get any more passes than usual, as he saw 4, 4, 2, then 5 in Weeks 2 through 5. And he didn’t really register any more receptions than usual, as he pulled in 4, 4, 2, then 3 in Weeks 2 through 5. While Henry’s 86.7% reception ratio is extraordinarily impressive, as is the fact that he’s scored twice in four games despite his limited involvement, it’s that limited involvement that makes him a risky play. Henry would undoubtedly produce big numbers if he became a more featured receiver. But until then he is little more than deep bench depth and an upside investment. Though, if Houshmadzadeh’s injury is worse than expected, Henry’s upside could get tapped into sooner than expected. Given his involvement in the end zone, but limited receptions, his present value is higher in leagues that don’t award points for receptions.

Josh Brown – SEA KR: Brown had a terrible start to the season getting no field goal opportunities in Weeks 1 or 2, then missing two of his three field goal attempts in Week 4. However, Brown makes a great play this week for two reasons. First, the Seahawks are scoring touchdowns like Girl Scouts sell cookies. And it shows in Browns’ extra points: 15 so far, which the 3rd most of any kicker. Second, the ‘Hawks face the Houston Texans in Week 6, who have allowed the most field goal-kicking opportunities per game to date: 14 in 4 games. Expect Brown to see a greater than usual number of opportunities this week.

Rob Bironas – TEN: Strictly a bye week filler, Bironas should be available in almost any league. He’s gone 11 of 11 on extra points and 8 of 11 on field goals. However, of the field goals he did make, 4 were from 40 or more yards out, which is typically “bonus” range in leagues that award extra points for the long kicks. He had three nice games against the Ravens in Week 2, Rams in Week 3, and Texans in Week 5, so he’s certainly got upside. However, if a more reliable kicker – like perhaps Josh Scobee (who is a top 6 kicker, despite being owned in only 29% of fanball leagues) is available, I’d go that route. But in big leagues, or leagues that require teams to carry two kickers, I’d have no problem rolling with Bironas against the Bengals this week.

Veteran Recommendations

Mark Brunell – WAS QB: This is my last and final entry for Brunell. His ownership in Fanball leagues is up from 6% last week to 25% this week, which should climb even further was waiver claims start to roll in before Week 6 because last week was yet another strong performance against a normally tough opponent. Against the Broncos Brunell posted:

  • 322 passing yards – the 4th most in Week 5;
  • 2 passing TDs – only 4 QBs threw more; and
  • 0 INTs.

In addition to his previously strong performances, and based on his Easy-Bake cakewalk schedule over the next three weeks, I simply do not know what more I could possibly say to convince a person that Brunell is a worth while pick up in any sized league. What does this guy have to do to earn some respect in ‘05, negotiate peace in the Middle East?

Chris Perry – CIN RB: I performed a detailed analysis on Perry a few weeks back and all he has done is more of the same – produce in his limited role. In leagues that award points for receptions he’s somewhere in the top 32-36 running backs, despite playing second fiddle in the backfield, and despite not having notched a TD yet. Rudi owners are still advised to add Perry as insurance. Anyone else who’s looking to add RB depth with upside should seriously check to see if Perry is available. He’s useful on a modest but acceptable level in his current role, and if Rudi ever went down, Perry would be worth using on an every-week basis. His upside would be unreal as a starter, as he’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and is an active receiver out of the backfield.

Kevin Johnson – DET WR: recommended last week, Johnson was a “good news, bad news” pick. The good news was that he led all Lions’ pass targets in receptions and receiving yards. The bad news was that amounted to 3 catches for 25 yards. However, now Roy Williams probably won’t play in Week 6 (leg injury). By process of elimination Johnson is becoming the only Detroit receiver worth owning, as Mike Williams also his own set of dings and dents to contend with (hamstring and back spasms). However, given the Lions’ success last week running the ball, expect Week 6 opponent Carolina to stack the box on Detroit forcing them to go to the air. That means Johnson will likely see continued and increased opportunities coming his way. Though, he’s still a big gamble given that he hasn’t done anything of note yet this season.

Guys I Thought About Recommending In More Detail, But Opted Not To

Kelly Holcomb – BUF QB: Well, if he’s starting… Nah, not yet.

Josh McCown – ARI QB: He proved a lot in his losing effort last week. Two things about McCown should be readily apparent to everyone at this point: (1) he’ll always have an opportunity to roll up good fantasy production even if he loses because the Cardinals can’t run the ball; and (2) he’s got tons more upside than Warner. No word yet on who the starter will be after the Cards Week 6 bye, though Warner says he’s healing faster than expected. Personally, I’d still rather have a QB like Brunell or Dilfer, if we’re talking waiver wire additions. But if you like McCown enough to add him, I can respect that.

Tony Fisher – GB RB: Davenport was recommended with massive success last week. Of course, that gravy train lasted all of one week. Now Fisher gets his opportunity to back up Ahman Green. I’ll omit a lengthy analysis on Fisher until he proves he can make it through Week 6 in one piece. However, he’s clearly the Green Bay handcuff to own going forward and even has an outside chance at starting for the Pack in Week 6, at least until something official is announced on Green’s status.

Joe Jurevicius/D.J. Hackett – SEA WR: What can I say? I thought it would be Peter Warrick and it wasn’t. Unfortunately, the information naming Seattle’s replacement starting receivers last week didn’t come out until after my article had been submitted. However, suffice it to say, Hasselbeck didn’t miss a beat with Engram and Jackson staying at home. So if Jurevicius is still available he’s worth the pick up based on opportunity, schedule, and surrounding cast. However, Jurevicius himself reportedly suffered an injury late in the forth quarter, so pay close attention to the injury reports that come out this Wednesday before adding him. Hackett, if he’s available, makes a decent play for all the same reasons, too. With Darrell Jackson out for at least another month, and Engram out for at least another 1-2 weeks, Jurevicius and Hackett have some value going forward.

Shaun McDonald/Kevin Curtis: blah, blah, blah. The Rams’ passing game is smokin’ hot, so neither of these guys should be on waivers. They may alternate who has the better game from week to week, but both deserve homes in leagues of all sizes. And with that, I’m done recommending these two. You’re either on board with these guys at this point, or you’re not.

Brian Finneran – ATL WR: I told you he was worth investing in a few weeks ago he proved me right with his first 100+ yard performance. However, despite the fact that Finneran is doing a lot with a little, it’s clear as day his value is dependant on who is under center for the Falcons. If it’s Schaub, Finneran is a legit play this week.

Ernest Wilford – JAX WR: The team says they’ll involve him more going forward. We’ll see.

Az Hakim – NO WR: he’s really slowed down over the years, but he was the lone bright spot in the Saints’ box score last week. If Horn can’t go this week – and it appears he will – then Hakim would be worth a look as a bye week filler medium and large leagues. However, as it’s shaping up, I doubt Hakim is worth picking up.

Chris Cooley – WAS TE: He is involved and punctuated his usefulness last week with his best performance to date. If you’ve got him, continue to play him. But Cooley should be owned in most TE-mandatory leagues (if he isn’t, he makes for an excellent pick up), and he isn’t quite productive enough to start as a TE/WR in leagues that allow it. So I’m going to leave him alone for now.

Texans’ Receivers Not Named Johnson: With Andre Johnson likely limited, if not sidelined, for a game or two, the likes of Jabar Gaffney, Corey Bradford, and Jerome Mathis will have the honors of vying for new #1 Texans’ wide receiver position, at least on a temporary basis. The problem is that each of these guy’s aggregate stats over the last four weeks looks like half a game’s worth for Steve Smith. Despite the apparent opportunity Johnson’s absence might suggest, these guys are only worth a look in crazy 20+ team leagues because the odds are just too long given the state of the Texans’ passing game, outside of Dom Davis.

* Non-football note: I’m not much of a linguist. So I was appreciative when a fellow Huddler shared this link to what is known as an “internet translator.” Type in whatever foreign word you want to translate and *pow* there it is in English. The reverse is also true if you want to translate from English into another language. Moreover, it’s good for more than just a single word. You can ask it to translate entire paragraphs. While the AI certainly fails to get every aspect of grammar, context, slang, and/or local dialects correct, this handy little tool has proven useful enough that I keep it book marked. Enjoy: http://translation2.paralink.com/