With the fantasy playoffs just around the corner, there’s not much time left for those teams looking to make a last-minute push. To that end, Athlon Sports has scoured the waiver wire to identify those potential free agent pickups that could potentially buy your squad more time, as you aim to keep those fantasy postseason hopes and championship dreams alive.
The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players you may want to consider.
Teams on bye in Week 12: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle
Week 11 Recap: Ryan Fitzpatrick posted nearly 250 total yards of offense with no turnovers on Thursday night against Indianapolis, but he managed just one touchdown pass in the close loss to the Colts. The elements certainly were a factor in the Ravens-Bears game in stormy Chicago, as Josh McCown struggled with his accuracy (19 of 31) and finished with 216 yards passing. He did have a touchdown pass with no turnovers and helped lead his team to an overtime victory, bringing his record as the Bears’ starter to 2-0. McCown will get a shot at 3-0 this week with Jay Cutler (ankle) already ruled out against St. Louis.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
With a significant helping hand from Michael Floyd (see below), Palmer posted his best numbers of the season, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns in the win in Jacksonville. The yards were Palmer’s second-highest total in his career and, more importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. Palmer has 17 or more fantasy points (Athlon scoring) in four of his past five games and has two appealing matchups on tap in Indianapolis and Philadelphia. After that, however, the sledding gets much tougher with an ending slate of St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle and San Francisco. Think of Palmer as a short-term investment, especially if you need some QB help to get you into the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
It wasn’t always pretty, but Big Ben (above) made the most of his opportunities against the Lions. In a game that didn’t lack for offensive fireworks, Roethlisberger out-dueled Matthew Stafford by throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns. He also didn’t turn the ball over and now finds himself just on the outside of the top 10 in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks. He is by the far the least owned when it comes to the top scorers at his position, despite the fact Roethlisberger has gone over 34 fantasy points in two of his last three games. His schedule the rest of the way is very manageable with four games against teams that are ranked in the top 18 when it comes fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Big Ben is no stranger to postseason success having won two Super Bowl titles. Perhaps he can do the same for your fantasy team this season.
Week 11 Recap: Chris Ivory had a game-high 98 yards rushing in the Jets’ loss to the Bills on Sunday with 69 of those coming on one carry during garbage time in the fourth quarter. He also had a short touchdown run and appears pretty locked in as the Jets’ lead back for the rest of the season. Shane Vereen had just seven rushing yards on Monday night against Carolina, but he led the Patriots with 11 targets, eight receptions and 65 yards receiving. Vereen should be active enough in the Patriots' offense to maintain flex consideration, especially in PPR leagues. Rashard Mendenhall got a team-high 13 carries, but he managed just 14 yards against the Jaguars. He did post his second rushing touchdown in three games and as long as he gets more touches (16) than Andre Ellington (10), he will remain a factor.
Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Was Sunday night a coming out party for the highly regarded rookie? Even though Knowshon Moreno dominated the carries (27 to 8), Ball scored two rushing touchdowns and caught three passes in the Broncos’ big win over the previously undefeated Chiefs. Ball’s not going to take the No. 1 job away from Moreno, not as long as he continues to have issues with ball security (fumble against the Chiefs) and in pass protection, but it’s clear the Broncos aren’t going to ignore him either. He has seen consistent work in each of the past three games and has three touchdowns during that span. It’s a bit of risk with Moreno getting the vast majority of the touches, but Ball could be setting the stage for a strong finish to his rookie season.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Brown is not a “new” name for this space, but it’s probably time to start viewing him, and not Trent Richardson, as the Colts’ primary back. Brown led the team in carries (14) against Tennessee on Thursday night, turning those into 80 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile Richardson had just 22 yards on eight carries. Richardson isn’t getting the job done, and considering Brown’s versatility (15 rec., 153 yds., TD), don’t be surprised to see him get more touches than T-Rich the rest of the way.
Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Following Mike James’ injury, the thinking was that Brian Leonard would get the majority of the carries. Instead, the coaching staff turned to the diminutive (5-8) Rainey, who gashed the Falcons for 163 yards on 30 carries. Rainey also had two rushing touchdowns and caught another, which is pretty impressive considering his size and the fact that he started the season with Cleveland. There is no guarantee that Rainey will come anywhere close to replicating this type of success, especially with some tough games remaining (Carolina, Arizona, San Francisco), but any back who gets more than 30 touches and produces more than 35 fantasy points deserves a little recognition.
Week 11 Recap: Jerricho Cotchery caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown against Detroit. It was his fifth touchdown catch in three games and it’s possible he could continue his hot streak if Emmanuel Sanders’ foot injury causes him to miss some time. Aaron Dobson had four catches for 38 yards in New England's Monday night loss to Carolina, as the Panthers' defense did a good job limiting the big plays. Percy Harvin made his season debut for the Seahawks, catching his lone target for 17 yards, but he also had a 58-yard kickoff return, displaying the explosiveness and big-play ability that makes him so appealing in fantasy. St. Louis rookie Tavon Austin has a similar skill set and is coming off of his best game (314 total yards, 3 TDs) as the Rams got an extra week to prepare for Sunday’s home date with Chicago.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Similar to Harvin (see above), San Francisco’s offense could get a much-needed jolt with the return of Crabtree. The 49ers’ leading receiver last season, Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in late March, but returned to practice last week and could be activated in time to play in the Monday night game against Washington. While it’s certainly risky to trust Crabtree to produce immediately, don’t forget that in the 10 games, including playoffs, that Colin Kaepernick started last season, Crabtree posted the following numbers: 61 receptions, 880 yards, 8 touchdowns.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
After injuring his shoulder last week, Floyd was actually questionable to even play against Jacksonville. Six catches, 193 yards and a touchdown later, the only question that remains is how good can Floyd be the rest of the season? Floyd was targeted a team-high 11 times and his touchdown came on a catch-and-run that covered 91 yards. Larry Fitzgerald (9 targets, 6 rec., 61 yds., TD vs. Jaguars) is the Cardinals’ top target, but if Carson Palmer (see above) can continue his recent strong play, there should be enough passes for both Fitz and Floyd to provide WR1/WR2-level production.
Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills
A long jumper on the 2012 U.S. Olympics team, Goodwin also has plenty of speed to burn on the football field. He ran a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Combine, one of the reasons why the Bills took him in the third round of April’s draft. He and fellow rookie Robert Woods are considered the Bills’ future at wide receiver, but with Woods nursing a high ankle sprain and Stevie Johnson hobbled by a groin injury, Goodwin has made the most of his additional opportunities. He has 56 or more receiving yards in three of his past four games, including 81 on six catches in Sunday’s win over the Jets. He also has two touchdown catches in his last three outings, both of those covering more than 40 yards. The Bills are on bye this week, but Goodwin is certainly one to keep an eye on as the season winds down, especially if Woods’ or Johnson’s injury lingers.
Week 11 Recap: John Carlson led Minnesota in catches (five) and receiving yards (69) for the second straight game, further strengthening his case for more ownership as long as Kyle Rudolph is sidelined with a broken foot.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker’s role in the Titans’ passing game has seemed to evolve as this season has progressed. A member of San Francisco’s NFC championship team, Walker signed with Tennessee during the offseason and he has quietly put together respectable numbers, totaling 39 catches for 403 yards and five touchdowns. He may not be Jimmy Graham, but Walker has three touchdowns in his last four games and has averaged 12.6 fantasy points per outing during that span. He recorded a season-high 10 catches (on 10 targets) for 91 yards and a score against the Colts on Thursday night. Put it all together and he’s a borderline top-10 fantasy tight end who is barely owned in a fifth of all Yahoo! leagues.
Week 11 Recap: The New York Giants’ DST maintained its stretch of hot play with three interceptions, including one by Jason Pierre-Paul returned for a touchdown, and only 13 points allowed in a win over Green Bay. This Sunday the G-Men host Dallas and still have two games with Washington on the schedule.
New Orleans Saints
It has been quite the turnaround for the Saints’ defense. From setting the all-time record for most yards allowed (7.042) last season to ranking fourth in the NFL in the same category entering Week 12, first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has done an impressive job. The Saints have been especially stingy against the pass (191.4 ypg) and are near the top of the rankings in sacks (32). Next up is an Atlanta (2-8) team that is in shambles and one that New Orleans fared pretty well against back in Week 1. The Saints sacked Matt Ryan three times, forced two turnovers and held them to just 17 points in their season-opening victory, and that was with Julio Jones in the lineup. Jones is on injured reserve, a bunch of other key Falcon players are banged up, and this is basically a team that’s ready to pack it in and focus on turning things around next season. With Seattle, Cincinnati and Buffalo all on bye, there are worse fill-in DST options than New Orleans.