If your team is in dire need of free agent help right now, brace yourself. The Week 11 Waiver wire is relatively barren of high-impact options. The most appealing candidates for addition are likely owned in competitive leagues. Get out your rustiest ladles, hobo heroes of fake football; it’s time to scrape the bottom of the barrel:
BLTN: Jason Campbell
Skepticism about Jay Cutler’s quick return from his groin injury was appropriate and to nobody’s surprise, his overall condition worsened in Sunday’s game against the Lions. Josh McCown stepped in for Cutler again (6-of-9, 62 yards, 1 TD) and he’ll be Chicago’s starter in Week 11 against Baltimore. This is still Cutler’s team, but the Bears would be unwise to rush Cutler back again and McCown has shown that he can put up decent-to-good fantasy numbers as a starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was also called back to duty when his team’s starter left early on Sunday and he delivered a top-5 fantasy line among quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick’s uncommon performance makes more sense when you consider his uncommonly good match-up against Jacksonville. Go get him if you need the QB help, but don’t expect 20+ points every week.
The Aaron Rodgers injury was bad for his fantasy owners and football fans, in general. The Seneca Wallace injury, not so much. It would have been hard for third-stringer Scott Tolzien to compare to Rodgers, but he didn’t represent any sort of downgrade after Wallace exited Sunday’s game. In his first ever game action, Tolzien used the Green Bay infrastructure to the best of his abilities, throwing for 280 yards, a TD, and two INTs. Fitzpatrick may have more NFL experience, but one could make an argument for Tolzien going forward based on the Packers organization around him.
Mike James broke his ankle on Monday night, so Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey carried the rock in his wake. The veteran Leonard is preferable in PPR leagues for his pass-catching chops, but Rainey scored Tampa’s go-ahead TD in crunch time and looked much better on a per-carry basis, averaging 5.6 yards per tote to Leonard’s 2.9. I’ve been a sucker for Rainey since the preseason, so it’s no surprise that I’m back on the bandwagon now, but Leonard is the safe bet for touches week-to-week.
Donald Brown outscored Trent Richardson yet again on Sunday. No one can deny that Brown has value, but I’m still hesitant to crown him as the lead fantasy tailback in Indy. Richardson was ineffective (5 carries for 2 yards), but Brown was just as bad on the ground (2 carries for -1 yards). The Colts fell behind big, forcing them to rely solely on the pass for most of the game. That took Richardson out of the equation and allowed Brown to flourish as a receiver with 5 catches for 64 yards and touchdown. Brown is worth an add, especially in PPR formats, but I’m not completely abandoning Richardson yet.
BLTN: Shonn Greene
Mark Ingram returned to fake football relevance on Sunday with a beastly 145 yards and a score on 14 carries. We fantasy pundits are known for advising against paying for a career year in draft season. The same goes for a career game. Ingram is still the player who only broke double-digits in fantasy scoring 4 times in 2012. He’s still competing with at least two other running backs for touches in an offense that likes to spread the ball around. Don’t cut Ingram a blank FAAB check based on the best performance he’s ever had.
Ben Tate is the new Arian Foster, making Dennis Johnson the new Ben Tate. That is to say Johnson is the running back who will rot away on your bench while you make secret offerings to the fantasy gods in exchange for a Tate injury. The good news for Johnson owners is that Tate already has cracked ribs. The bad news is that Tate appears to be able to play through the pain relatively well. It won’t be fun to own Johnson the handcuff, but he must be owned on the chance that he becomes Johnson the starter.
BLTN: Riley Cooper
Andre Roberts led the Cardinals in targets on Sunday thanks in part to Michael Floyd leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Floyd’s availability for Week 11 is in doubt, making Roberts one of the few must-adds this waiver period.
Ryan Tannehill isn’t an exceptional passer, but his skill at flinging psychic feces at Mike Wallace’s fantasy owners is unparalleled. Working primarily from the slot, Rishard Matthews posted Brandon Gibson-esque stats: 11 receptions, 120 yards, and 2 TDs. It would be easy to write off this performance as a flash in the pan, but viewing Gibson’s pre-injury game log as a template, Matthews could continue to have value going forward.
Mario Manningham did do much in his return to the 49ers (3 catches, 30 yards), but his 6 targets are promising for future weeks. As he regains his conditioning and in-game instincts, he should put up better numbers. The opportunity for targets is certainly there in the San Francisco offense, especially if Vernon Davis misses any time.
Nate Burleson returned to practice last week, but didn’t suit up against the Bears on Sunday. Kris Durham was solid, but unspectacular while Burleson was out, putting up between 4 and 9 fantasy points each week in standard scoring. The lack of a significant connection between Durham and Matthew Stafford leads me to believe Burleson will reassume the #2 wide receiver role for Detroit as soon as he’s ready to play, which should be this week.
Nothing is certain in this life except death, taxes, and Jerricho Cotchery scoring touchdowns. Cotchery found the end zone for the sixth time this season on Sunday to go with a modest 31 receiving yards. You don’t want to rely on him if you can help it, but Cotchery is a fine deep-league play as long as he’s got Ben Roethlisberger’s attention in the red zone.
Jermaine Kearse caught his second touchdown in as many games on Sunday against the Falcons. He’s settled comfortably into the WR3 role for Seattle, but that’s not likely to hold up after Percy Harvin returns.
Like Burleson, Michael Crabtree also returned to practice last week, but in a limited capacity. As with Percy Harvin, I’m not ready to trust Crabtree before seeing him in a live game. After what Adrian Peterson did last season, it’s easy to forget that players returning from injuries tend to require some time to get back to full speed even after their initial return. Crabtree should be no different. He’s targeting a Week 13 return, but he might not be startable until it’s too late for fantasy purposes. Gamble on Crabtree if you have the roster flexibility, but I recommend avoiding him in most leagues.
If you’re desperate enough to consider Leonard Hankerson or Cordarrelle Patterson, you probably aren’t still in the running for a fantasy championship, but both are fine lottery tickets for the final weeks in deeper leagues.
BLTN: John Carlson
Jermaine Gresham missed Sunday’s game and Tyler Eifert was rewarded with a season-high 10 targets. He caught 3 of them for 55 yards. A.J. Green is Andy Dalton’s only established receiver, so there’s a chance Eifert could become useable if Gresham stays sidelined.
For the first time since Week 8, Delanie Walker has returned to the Waiver Wire. There’s nothing exceptional about his game, but sometimes you just need a warm body in your lineup.
Rob Housler was featured in the Week 8 Waiver Wire as well. He hadn’t done much before the Cardinals’ Week 9 bye, but his touchdown and 57 yards on Sunday made for a season-best 11 fantasy points. He’s averaging 4 receptions and 5 fantasy points per game over his past 4 and like Andre Roberts, he’s in line for extra usage if Michael Floyd can’t play.
Finally, I’m obligated to note Vance McDonald’s existence as a result of Vernon Davis’ injury, but Mario Manningham (discussed above) would be the primary beneficiary on the Niners if Davis misses any games.