It’s that time of year when teams are getting close to the fantasy playoffs and hoping to make a push. We also have 28 of the 32 teams done with their bye weeks, so depth becomes a little less of an issue now. Take a look at your roster and ask honestly in regard to everyone, “what circumstances would be necessary for me to start that guy?” from matchup to injuries of other players on the team, etc. Having the mediocre back on a bad team that gets 12 touches a week may not do you any good. You might need to go for the big play on your bench, and take a chance on some speculating.
Every year, a back comes on without much prior fanfare and is a big part of why teams win the title. In the last 8 years, here are some names that came on to be key parts late in a year, some of whom became starters and others who went back to anonymity: Larry Johnson (2004), Nick Goings (2004), Ladell Betts (2006), Jamaal Charles (2009), Jerome Harrison (2009). Sometimes stocking a speculative backup is worth the risk. I have had my share of pickups that never hit, but I also had Johnson, Betts, and Charles on a roster and went to three different title games in part to that boost.
This week, instead of putting starting lists like the last few, I’ll just recommend a few pickups, and maybe I’ll put some starting recommendations later. It’s not as beneficial to list matchup starts when the injury reports haven’t crystallized.
Christian Ponder is the best option of guys likely on the waiver wire, with the matchup at Green Bay and coming off a bye week to prepare. Other than that, Matt Cassel has a good matchup with Denver at home, though honestly, I don’t trust him at all, especially after 3 points at home against the Dolphins a week ago.
Roy Helu is the hot pickup this week. He had 14 catches last week from John Beckdown. The problem here is Mike Shanahan. Ryan Torain has looked bad recently, so the opportunity is there for Helu. This is exactly the type of situation where Shanny likes to give Helu 3 carries and Torain 20 in the next game. If you need a start, I would roll with Helu but temper expectations because of the Shanahan factor and the injuries on the line.
Other than that, there are some speculative adds, many of whom I’ve already discussed in previous weeks. The two I would target, who might be available: Jacquizz Rodgers of Atlanta and Kendall Hunter of San Francisco. Neither will be playable unless there is an injury, but these are the types of situations where an injury can produce huge value. After that, taking a chance on Ronnie Brown may be worth it in the event of a McCoy injury, given the offense. Ricky Williams is another veteran who would provide an instant start in the case of injury, in a favorable situation.
Laurent Robinson should see more action and gets a decent matchup for a start this week with Miles Austin’s injury. I wouldn’t normally recommend anyone from the Jaguars offense, but when the resistable force meets the moveable object of Indianapolis, it’s worth a chance if you need a flex start. Jason Hill, and maybe Mike Thomas are available for a pickup and matchup start.
Jacoby Ford and Malcom Floyd both present good starting opportunities on Thursday night, and may also be available.
Jake Ballard continues to show up as a free agent in a fair amount of leagues, and is meriting more looks with some fantastic catches that have gained Manning’s confidence. Brent Celek continues his recent form and is now playable. Daniel Fells may get some looks down the middle as Tebow’s running opens things up, particularly against the team that made Scott Chandler a star earlier and also gave up two touchdowns to Anthony Fasano last week. Chicago has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than anyone, so Tony Scheffler is a desperation start.
Jacksonville draws the Colts, and has played well recently against Baltimore and Houston, and might get a little more help from the offense for once. Denver goes against a Chiefs team that is wildly inconsistent.
TOP TEN PICKUPS (players owned in less than 60% of leagues)
- Laurent Robinson, WR, Dallas
- Roy Helu, RB, Washington
- Jake Ballard, TE, NY Giants
- Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland
- Jason Hill, WR, Jacksonville
- Kendall Hunter, RB, San Francisco
- Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta
- Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia
- Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota
- Ronnie Brown, RB, Philadelphia