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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Waiver Wire Warriors - Week 8
Dennis Leonard
October 26, 2005

Hello again and welcome back to Waiver Wire Warriors. Rough week for me. Lost in my Huddle leagues and my picks last week, on average, lacked their usual luster. Won real ugly in my local, despite getting negative points from Dilfer and a disappointing game from a number of players. But now I’ve got the best win/loss record (5-2), though my lead in the points race is slipping. Not feeling particularly chatty this week, so let’s see what we can find on waivers.

The New Recruits

Jeff Garcia – DET QB: When it comes to Garcia, there are three kinds of people: (1) those who will poo-poo him because of poor arm strength, age, injury risk, etc.; (2) those that are desperate enough not to care; and (3) those willing to objective acknowledge that he was a top 12 fantasy QB last week. That’s right, he out-played the likes of Hasselbeck, Big Ben, Trent Green, Palmer, and Vick. No, I don’t think it will be like that every week. However, it is irrefutable evidence that Garcia does, in fact, have some value.

Garcia looked unpolished and uncomfortable at times in Week 7, but that was to be expected coming off the bench with a leg that was broken less than two months ago. However, Garcia connected on 64.7% of his passes (9th best in Week 8), threw for 210 yards (13th most in Week 8), rushed for a TD, didn’t get sacked, and was one of only six starting QBs who didn’t turn the ball over. Plus, he displayed a few shifty veteran moves that resulted in positive yards instead of a sack or throwing the ball away, which tells me he still has good instincts. Yeah, the Lions lost Kevin Johnson, but that’s no biggy as I’m not recommending playing Garcia this week. Against the Bears I think you show Garcia the bench, if at all possible.

However, in Week 9 Charles Rogers returns from his four game time out. So assuming Garcia makes in through Week 8 intact he’ll have Rogers, Mike Williams, Roy Williams, Marcus Pollard, and the Lions’ running game to work with. Coupled with the Lions’ underrated DEF, Garcia stands a chance to be useful against Minnesota (27th worst DEF against pass), Arizona (9th worst), Dallas (16th worst), Atlanta (21st worst), Minnesota (27th), then Green Bay (23rd worst) in Weeks 9 through 14, respectively. For teams hurting for a QB in larger leagues, Garcia is in position to serve as good depth and an emergency starter beginning in Week 9. If that sounds like you, the only real question you have to ask yourself is whether you think Garcia can continue to play at – or above – his Week 7 level. I’m betting that he’ll settle in, get some receiving weapons back, and continue to play like the 2nd QB he should be viewed as... assuming he stays healthy, of course.

Chris Simms – TB QB: Ugh. I can’t believe it has come to this. In my local I drafted Bulger and Griese. Both are hurt. Snagged McNair off waivers last week, but he didn’t play and most of the Titans’ skill players got injured anyways. So I threw Dilfer in there at the last minute and what’s he do: gives me -2 points. Grrr. Since Bulger probably won’t play this week and Dilfer is a few turnovers from getting the hook, I’m looking for a Plan B in the event that my trade negotiations crater like a cardboard box left out in the rain. Simms, at least this week, should give me positive points, which would be a refreshing change of pace.

This pick is all about the match up because the Niners are serving almost every opposing QB their best game of the season. Depending on your league’s scoring rules this might be a bit different, but:

  • Week 1: Bulger has his 2nd most productive day of the year for fantasy purposes, but virtually as good as his first;
  • Week 2: McNabb has his most productive day to date;
  • Week 3: Bledsoe has his most productive day;
  • Week 4: McCown’s most productive day;
  • Week 5: Payton Manning was an exception to the rule, as the Colts’ passing game took the day off and Manning threw the ball left-handed just to keep things interesting (okay, that part I made up);
  • Week 6: bye week; and
  • Week 7: Brunell’s best game.

Other than Manning, the pattern is as obvious as a diamond in a goat’s ass. Chris Simms may or may not succeed this year. But odds are Week 8 versus the Niners will be his most productive day of the season for fantasy purposes. So if you’re scraping for QB help this week, feel free to take this leap of faith with me. I’ll be going to the game, which should at least make this pick interesting to watch.

Mike Williams – DET WR: Garcia did wonders for Mike Williams’ production and, despite a shaky first half, Detroit nevertheless walked away with a win in Week 7. Williams caught 5 of those passes for 95 yards, which was the best game of Williams’ rookie career thus far. No Lion saw a pass in the red zone, let alone a receiving TD, so you can’t hold the lack of those stats against him. Here is what we like about Williams:

  • Kevin Johnson’s season-ending injury opens a door of opportunity;
  • In the last four games he’s been thrown to 4, 4, 2, then 7 times, which is forward progress in that department;
  • In those last four games he’s posted more receptions (11), receiving yards (151), and – unfortunately – fumbles (2) than any other Lions’ pass target;
  • Of the 18 pass targets he’s seen this year he has caught 12 for a good 66.66% reception ratio;
  • Garcia seems to like throwing to him, as no other Lions’ pass target saw more passes in Week 8 (though Mr. Scottie Vines saw an equal number, which is an occurrence that is unlikely to repeat itself); and
  • Based on the Garcia analysis (above) it is clear that Detroit has a potentially productive passing schedule in Weeks 9 through 14.

I know it isn’t much, but Williams is largely available in medium-sized leagues. Given the upside on the near horizon, he’s worth adding and holding onto for a week or two to see if he continues to develop a rapport with Garcia.

Antonio Chatman – GB WR: Ferguson will be out for at least a month. Therefore, Chatman is the only other experienced receiver for Green Bay, outside of Donald Driver. Last week Chatman caught five receptions for 31 yards and a TD, which isn’t too bad, especially in leagues awarding points for receptions. However, consider that Chatman saw 7 passes last week, Driver saw 11, and the next highest pass target saw only 3. Based on those numbers its clear Chatman has the potential to perform at a much higher level going forward than he has. With Green and Davenport out for the season, Green Bay’s passing game is going to have to find a way to carry the team and Chatman should see his opportunity in that regard sky rocket. Given Chatman’s 65.22% reception ratio, and the fact that he’s scored on all three of his red-zone opportunities this year, I think Chatman stands a good chance to rise to the occasion. Green Bay’s opponents are a mixed bag over the next four games with as many favorable pass defenses (Falcons and Vikings) as unfavorable (Bengals and Steelers). Regardless, expect Chatman to be a popular waiver wire addition this week, and for good reason. His all but guaranteed spike in opportunities makes him a potential starter in most leagues.

Wes Welker – MIA WR: This pick only makes sense if you get individual points in the return game, as Welker returns both punts and kick offs. However, he is consistently involved on a modest level on regular offense as the team’s #3 WR seeing 4, 4, 1, 3, 4, then 4 passes his way. Despite the limited involvement, over the last 5 games Welker has accumulated the team’s second most receiving yards (183) and has as many receptions as Booker (9) on half as many passes. Welker’s 60% reception ratio is good enough, but hardly fantastic. However, he does possess a very high 18.7 yards per catch, which is the highest for any Dolphin and the 7th highest of all pass targets in the NFL. Furthermore, depending on the extent of Marty Booker’s sprained ankle, Welker – at least this week – has a shot stepping into the starting role. (Booker is expected to be listed as questionable on the Dolphin’s injury report). So this pick makes a lot more sense if Booker is limited or if he sits.

Given the weak defenses Miami faces going forward Welker could be a stop-gap measure for a team hurting at WR. But let’s take things one game at a time. The Dolphins play the Saints in Week 8, who are allowing a surprisingly low average of 186.4 receiving yards per game, but have allowed 9 receiving TDs and only registered 4 INTs. Moreover, the Saints have allowed 29 kick returns (only 7 teams have allowed more) for an average of 23.4 yards per return (10th highest), so Welker should contribute some baseline points in this capacity. His regular involvement on offense should chip in a few more points, but there is good upside if he starts over Booker.

Jermaine Wiggins – MIN TE: Wiggins is a top 12 TE so he’s off limits to me in a TE-mandatory context. However, I like him as a WR/TE flex this week as Culpepper is really keying on Wiggins lately. Something must have changed after the Vikings Week 5 bye. Check it:

  • 22 looks in the passing game over the last two weeks. That 5 more than the next highest tight end, Heap and Shockey, and the 2nd most of ANY pass target in the NFL during that span;
  • Leads the Vikings in pass targets to date with 44 – the 2nd highest is Travis Taylor with only 36;
  • Saw five looks in the red zone in Week 6, and has more total red zone targets than any other Viking this year, so he could be a scoring threat going forward;
  • Spectacular 72.72% reception ratio;
  • Has the team’s 2nd most receiving yards – 259; and
  • This week’s opponent – the Panthers – have allowed the 5th most production to tight ends on defense.

Wiggins makes a ton of sense in leagues that awards points for receptions, as he isn’t getting many long catches, but is getting lots and lots of short ones.

Browns’ DEF: Playing against Houston, which is reason enough. But just to show I did my homework, let’s go through the exercise. Houston is currently sporting the:

  • Fewest points per game scored on offense;
  • Most sacks allowed;
  • Fewest yards per game; and
  • Tied for 2nd fewest first downs per game.

Careful with this one, though. If the Texans were going to secure their first win of the season the Browns give them decent odds, as the Browns’ DEF isn’t very potent:

  • Below average 10 take aways thus far;
  • Tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL (8);
  • Allowing the 4th highest average yards per game (359.5); but
  • Cleveland is tied for allowing the 8th lowest average points per game (17.2).

This pick makes is obviously a one-week recommendation.

Panthers’ DEF: I don’t care what the Vikings did last week. That was against Green Bay, who blew it on defense, much to my dismay. The Panthers D is playing flashy and they certainly came up small in Weeks 1, 3, and 4 versus the Saints, Dolphins, and Packers, respectively. But on the flip side, Carolina was useful in Weeks 2, 5, and 6 against Patriots, Cardinals, and Lions.

With Atlanta on a bye this week, the 4-2 Panthers can tie for second place in the NFC South if they win this weekend, which I hope will bring added motivation. Plus, Dan Morgan and Julius Peppers have both said they will play this Sunday, which is also good news. To aid in the endeavor let’s keep in mind the Vikings are dragging around the following offensive stats like a clubfoot:

  • 5th fewest points scored on offense;
  • tied for 3rd most turnovers on offense; and
  • given up the 2nd most sacks.

I’ll probably be gambling on this one myself, as I usually play Atlanta’s DEF in my local. I’m a little skittish because the Vikings can play well on occasion. But I’m just not seeing very many favorable match ups against largely available defenses this week.

Chargers’ DEF: *Not* for this week; for next. The Chargers face off against the Jets in Week 9 who are falling apart faster than lepers in a Tilt-a-Whirl. The Jets are simply handing out points to such an extent that obtaining their team defense opponents a week in advance is highly advised for those of you who are juggling team defense from week to week. If your regular team defense is on a bye in Week 9 (BUF, DAL, DEN, STL) make room for San Diego on your roster.

Giants’ DEF: ditto. They are playing the Niners in Week 9.

Josh Scobee – JAX PK : I still don’t understand why this guy isn’t more popular, especially in medium and large leagues; only owned in 30% of Fanball leagues. Well, if he’s on waivers this looks like a great week to play him:

  • He’s gone 9 for 9 on extra points;
  • 11 for 13 on field goals (3 for 40-49 yards and 2 for 50+)
  • This week’s opponent (the Rams) have allowed 24 extra points – tied for the NFL’s most; and
  • The Rams have allowed 14 field goals – also tied for the NFL’s most.

Phil Dawson – CLE KR: Need to dig a little deeper for a kicker this week? Dawson is your man. It’s Cleveland’s turn to thrash on the Texans this week and no team has allowed a higher percentage of field goals per game: Houston has allowed 13 field goals in 6 games. Toss in the NFL’s 2nd highest number of extra points per game and any kicker looks like a decent play.

While Cleveland’s offense is struggling, there is nothing wrong with Dawson. He’s hit 6 of 7 extra points and all 10 of his field goal attempts. Plus, Houston’s defense is allowing the 3rd highest average yards per game (380.2) and the 2nd highest average first downs per game (23.8), so the Browns shouldn’t have too much trouble getting Dawson multiple kicking attempts this week.

Veteran Recommendations

Kelly Holcomb – BUF QB: Last week I performed a detailed analysis on Holcomb and recommended him for both Weeks 7 and 8, and I stand by that recommendation. Holcomb may not have lit up the scoreboard in Week 7 but he was a top 10 QB for fantasy purposes, putting in about the same kind of performance as Kerry Collins. Expect another serviceable, above average, losing effort from Holcomb this week because the Patriots’ defense:

  • Is allowing an average of 228 passing yards per game – 9th most;
  • 12 passing TDs;
  • Has notched only 1 INT; and
  • Accounted for only 11 sacks – only 6 teams have fewer.

Chester Taylor – BAL RB: I’m not sure what else I can say about Taylor… except this: over the last four games he’s taken 30 snaps and averaged 6.4 yards per carry against some good defenses. The 2-4 Ravens should, by any conceivable interpretation of the laws of probability, lose to the Steelers this weekend and wind up 2-5. That would pretty much drop the guillotine on whatever sliver of playoff hopes the Ravens might have remaining. And, after that point, I just can’t see why Baltimore wouldn’t give Taylor a shot sooner or later, as there seems little point in allowing Jamal Lewis to continue lulling their offense into a hypnotic state of sub-mediocrity when both backs are in contract years. And assuming Taylor were given the keys to the starting spot in a month or so, Baltimore faces Houston, Denver, Green Bay, Minnesota, then Cleveland in Weeks 13 through 17 respectively. So he is in a position to be a potentially valuable asset during the fantasy playoffs. This pick is all about upside and Taylor has it coming out of his ears.

Doug Gabriel – OAK WR: Last week I recommended picking up Gabriel – not to play last week – but to play this week and next week. Given Gabriel’s 5 catch 100+ yard performance against the NFL’s stingiest pass defense, I’d say he’s good to go against the Titans in Week 8. The Titans are allowing a middle of the road 218.4 average receiving yards per game, but have allowed the 2nd most receiving TDs per game (14 in 6 games). So if he’s still on waivers, he shouldn’t be. Here’s some more good news on the guy:

  • After last week he improved his reception ratio to 57.11%;
  • Zero dropped passes;
  • Boasting 18.3 yards per catch – 8th best in the NFL out of ALL pass targets;
  • Over 83% of his receptions have been for first downs, which leads me to believe Kerry Collins will start to trust Gabriel now more than ever; and
  • Will take Moss’ spot if Randy isn’t healthy, but could be making a move on Porter’s starting spot even if Moss does play.

Week 9 the Raiders play the Chiefs and Gabriel has a nice shot to light them up, too.

Bobby Engram – SEA WR: Wow, some folks have short memories. Now only owned in 26% of Fanball leagues, Engram is once again largely available. Sure, he hasn’t played for a while but when he did he was a contributor, especially in leagues that awards points for receptions. Allow us to review:

  • 50% of his pass targets resulted in first down;
  • 79.4% reception ratio – best of any NFL WR and 9th best for all NFL pass targets;
  • Was thrown to an average of 9 times per game; and
  • Dependably averaged just under 7 catches and 80 yards per game.

Engram is practicing again and is expecting to resume playing after the Seahawks Week 8 bye. After that point he should regain his spot in the starting line up just in time for a string of wimpy pass defenses that include Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York Giants, Philly, San Francisco again, then Tennessee in Weeks 9 through 15, respectively. Assuming his ribs hold up, Engram looks like he’ll be plug and play in about two weeks, as he will likely take on the role of the team’s #1 receiving option.

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

Tony Fisher – GB RB: Even a dead squirrel could find this acorn. I advised picking him up going into Week 6 and I’d venture to say he’ll be a top waiver wire pick up this week based on opportunity alone. However, he may not be the starter for long. Packer running backs seem to have the life span of a Spinal Tap drummer this season. That, and it is virtually guaranteed that the Packers will bring in some more warm bodies to compete for the position.

Frank Gore – SF RB: I suggested adding Gore several weeks back purely for the speculative upside RB investment. Not only did Barlow get hurt last week (severity currently unknown, though he’s expected to play in Week 8) but Gore actually produced a little something with the opportunity he was given. If he’s still available my recommendation hasn’t changed.

Travis Henry – TEN RB: Any chance his owner gave up on him already? Double check. Because his lack of stats over the last four weeks means he won’t show up if you’re just sorting free agents based on production to date. Henry is coming back from his suspension in Week 8, he’ll get worked in the mix, and depending on the severity of Chris Brown’s neck stinger (expected to practice this week) Henry might get some opportunities to start a game or two this year, but will at least share some carries. Lord knows with everything else that’s going wrong for the Titans they’d love to have a healthy running back to lean on going forward.

Marion Barber III – DAL RB: Looks like Julius Jones will miss another week and Barber III got most of the carries last week. Pretty obvious pick up, especially for Julius’ owners.

Reche Caldwell – SD WR: Quiet all year then sees 7 passes last week and reels in 4 for 97 yards. I wouldn’t pick him up, unless you’re in super big league, but if he continues to see an increased level of involvement I’ll let you know. Because between his 60% reception ratio and 20.1 average yards per catch he’d be pretty good if he was more involved. His utility going forward will, however, likely be a function of Eric Parker’s availability.

Amani Toomer – NYG WR: Yeah, I saw his stats from last week. But unless you’re willing to gamble on another fluke double digit number of passes, or his continued random TDs, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

Braylon Edwards – CLE WR: Due to the long absence initially expected, Edwards’ owners may have dropped him prematurely. If so, he would appear to be an attractive play this week against the decomposing corpse that is the Houston Texans. However, while Edwards himself has tremendous upside, that upside is shackled to other factors that depress his value. First, Dilfer is playing like ass. While Dilfer could pick things up, or get benched – either of which would help Edwards’ value – the cold hard fact is that no Browns wide receiver saw more than 4 passes last week. Yikes. Plus, the Browns are running the ball a lot more than they are passing right now, which is a pretty fundamental shift in their offensive strategy relative to earlier this year. While adding Edwards his isn’t a horrible idea for team searching for answers at wide receiver, it is very difficult for me to recommend starting him. He is, at best, a calculated desperation play this week.

Devery Henderson – NO WR: With Horn, Hakim, and Stallworth all injured to various degrees, Henderson has gotten a little playing time and been moderately productive. If two of these three guys can’t go this weekend – a distinct possibility with Hakim questionable – look for Henderson to see an increased roll this week against Miami. But based on what we know now, I can’t really recommend picking him up, let alone playing him. Just keep an eye out.

Tyrone Calico – TEN WR: He’ll likely be the only healthy, experienced wide receiver for the Titans this week. And he was targeted 10 times last week – only five wide receivers saw more, so you could do worse if you’re in a pinch. But his blah 56.52% reception ratio and the general uncertainty surrounding the Titans as a whole makes this calculated desperation play. But at least Oakland has a beatable secondary, so there’s some upside here.

Texan’s DEF: Maybe, versus Cleveland? Nope, they’re still the Texans, which means only Dom. Davis can be trusted. Though, targeting Cleveland for week-to-week team defense match ups is looking like a better strategy with each passing week.

Last Weeks Recommendations

Not my best week. Six hits, though most fairly small. Six misses, which irks me to no end. Two pushes. Two wait and sees.

Kelly Holcomb – BUF QB: 159 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 turnover. Completed over 70% of his passes. As stated above, a top 10 fantasy QB last week and, therefore, a decent hit because he did what he was supposed to: contribute.

Aaron Stecker – NO RB: despite getting nicked up mid-game, he still split carries pretty evenly taking 12 to Antowain Smith’s 14. So that upside to be useful is still there. However, 33 yards for 2.75 YPC? If it weren’t for 32 yards on 3 receptions he’d have been pretty worthless in Week 7. I’ll call this one a very, very small hit only because he remains active, didn’t turn the ball over, and if you get points for receptions he outperformed backs like Jamal Lewis. However, I’d be hesitant to use him the coming weeks.

Shawn Bryson – DET RB: Push. Kevin Jones wound up playing, and this pick was sort of predicated on Jones sitting. Nevertheless, Bryson had 20 rushing yards on 5 attempts, another 24 yards on 4 receptions, and no turnovers. Considering Jones played, that’s better than I’d have expected.

Doug Gabriel – OAK WR: Hit. 5 receptions for 101 yards, despite Moss playing. Led the teams in receiving yards, too.

Az-Zahir Hakim – NO WR: Big hit. I played him in my local and it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise depressing week.

Chris Cooley – WAS TE: Miss. He came up pretty small in a game where the Redskins’ offense was scoring at will. I still think he make for good WR/TE flex depth going forward, but I played him this week and I was very disappointed with his totals.

David Martin – GB TE: Miss. Franks played, which wasn’t what I expected. However, they performed about the same, so it wasn’t like you got blanked if you started Martin. Still, you could have thrown darts at tight end free agents and gotten 2 receptions for 30 yards last week.

Brandon Jones – TEN WR: Hit. Despite getting hurt, he hauled in 2 receptions for 50 yards and a TD.

Patrick Pass – NE RB: Wait and see.

Alvin Pearman/Greg Jones – JAX RB: Wait and see.

Dennis Northcutt – CLE WR: Those crickets chirping indicate a miss. I’d love to blame this on Dilfer, who sucked last week. But the fact is Northcutt registered no receptions and he wasn’t hurt. It doesn’t matter whose fault that is (though I think Braylon Edward’s return is the reason), it’s still a miss.

Baltimore DEF: Push. Not bad, as the score was low. Not good, as there were no turnovers. They didn’t kill you if you played them, but you probably could have done better playing a DEF off waivers.

Washington DEF: Hit. But this was a gimme.

Green Bay DEF: Miss. About a half dozen sacks and 1 turnover against a team they should have put away early was a big disappointment.

Jose Cortez – DAL K: Indicative of my weekend as a whole. Not only does he miss an easy field goal, he gets fired. Miss.

Marty Booker – MIA WR: Booker’s deferred adjudication results in a miss. Much like Cortez, not only does he do nothing against a soft opponent, he gets hurt in the process. Insult, meet injury.

Well, that’s it for now. Honestly, I’m not sure if my mojo was running low this week, or what. But I just didn’t seem to be able to channel many good waiver wire vibes going into Week 8. Let’s hope that’s a temporary thing, as baby needs a new pair of shoes and those Robeez* ain’t cheap. Good luck in Week 8 and game on!

Non-football note: Are you a new parent, or expecting to be? Robeez, quite simply, rock. They’re basically little soft leather-soled moccasins that maximize the cuteness of your child’s feet. At first I thought there were pretty stupid, because my kids were just crawling around, so what the heck did they need shoes for? But as soon as my brood got to the walking stage these puppies became invaluable. As far as childhood development goes, hard-soled shoes are not advised for new walkers, as it their little feet require muscle development and balance that comes more quickly when their feet are able to feel the walking surface. But bare feet aren’t always an option, either.

And even if you aren’t a parent (which means you probably stopped reading this portion of the column sentences ago) Robeez are coveted gifts at baby showers, first birthdays, and other similar events where most parents would really prefer that you not get them their child’s tenth battery operated parental irritation generator. Check ‘em out, if you like. Obviously, the football ones are my favorites. http://www.robeez.com/Department.aspx?DeptID=3&PriceCat=2&Lang=EN-US&RefID=2015&SID=9642e880-fe4a-40a0-86cd-29b5d4fe616e