This may have been the first week we didn’t see a massive slew of injuries which is good for your existing team but not so great if you’re looking for waiver wire help. Many of the running backs floating around on the deep league waiver wires could be stunted by their tough schedules. Wide receivers on the waiver wire have extensive injury histories and can be inconsistent. We have to plan for the future though, so let’s take a look at the top waiver wire pickups heading into Week 12, flaws and all.
Bobby Rainey (Owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues): Last week, I wrote that Rainey is definitely the preferred option over Brian Leonard. On Sunday, Rainey showed that it wasn’t even a close call, rushing the ball 30 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns and catching two passes for four yards and a touchdown. It was an impressive performance but certainly not one he’s likely to repeat again. He has the unfortunate task of facing the Lions (#13 vs. fantasy RBs), Panthers (#5 vs. fantasy RBs), and Buffalo (#9 vs. fantasy RBs) over the next three weeks but should continue to see plenty of volume and is certainly worth a claim if he’s still available.
Chris Ogbonnaya (11 percent): After not seeing any rushing attempts in Week 9 against Baltimore, Ogbonnaya carried the ball eight times for 69 yards and caught six passes for 30 yards on Sunday. More importantly, he was targeted 12 times by Jason Campbell and played 58 percent of the snaps to Fozzy Whittaker’s 29 percent and Willis McGahee’s 16 percent. The top guy in a running back by committee is never very attractive but he appears to be the preferred receiving threat out of the backfield which gives him very solid PPR appeal.
Donald Brown (27 percent): As if it weren’t already clear that Donald Brown is the better back in Indy, he put up a big 14 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns and a reception for 14 yards against the Titans on Sunday for his best game of the season. Meanwhile, Richardson continues to struggle, running eight times for 22 yards against the Titans, although he did catch five passes for 31 yards. Unfortunately, outside of a soft matchup against the Titans, Brown will face Arizona (#3 vs. fantasy RBs), Cincinnati (#4 vs. fantasy RBs), Houston (#14 vs fantasy RBs), and Kansas City (#7 vs. fantasy RBs) over the next five weeks so beware. Aside from the Titans game and a game against the Jags to close out the season, it’s going to be very tough to start him.
Santonio Holmes (10 percent): Holmes caught two passes for 71 yards and had another catch that would have taken him to triple-digits called back. More importantly, he was targeted eight times in his first game back from a hammy injury and is clearly the number one option in New York going forward. With Jeremy Kerley sidelined and Stephen Hill downright invisible, he may be the only option.
Miles Austin (26 percent): It appears that Miles Austin is back at 100 percent for the first time in a while and figures to return to his number two role behind Dez Bryant. Despite a hot start, Terrance Williams has caught just three passes on 12 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown over the last two games so he figures to drop in the depth chart. Austin saw 21 targets over his only three games of the season, including 12 in Week 1. Last season, Austin was targeted 119 times and put up 943 yards so despite his age and injury problems, he’s worth taking a shot on and should see plenty of targets.
Rishard Matthews (22 percent): Matthews came back down to earth on Sunday against the Chargers with four receptions on six targets for 52 yards after a huge day against the Bucs last week (120 yards, two touchdowns). His six targets matched Mike Wallace’s total and is right along the lines of what Brandon Gibson was doing before he went down. Like every Dolphins receiver, he lacks the consistency you’d like but he is definitely worth putting out there on a matchup basis against teams who struggle against slot receivers, i.e. two games versus the Jets.
Nate Burleson (11 percent): Burleson is expected to be activated this week and play for the first time since September 22 after suffering a broken forearm in car accident. Before going down, Burleson had caught 19 passes on 23 targets for 239 yards over his only three games and saw an increased workload each week. Not a single Lions receiver outside of Calvin Johnson has put up more than 360 yards on the season so the good-looking Lions number two job looks to be Burleson’s once again.
Michael Crabtree (28 percent): I don’t trust any Niners receiver, and that includes Anquan Boldin. Crabtree certainly won’t be startable this week against the Redskins since he will likely be on snap count which means he may not be able to show enough to be startable the following week. The Niners are ranked dead last in passing and Boldin is the only receiver to surpass 176 yards on the season. Even with all that in mind, though, Crabtree is coming off by far his best year in the NFL and was Colin Kaepernick’s main weapon during an impressive 2012-13 campaign. Although they didn’t have Boldin and Mario Manningham, Crabtree was targeted 11.2 times per game in the Niners’ final five weeks of the season. It’s a lottery ticket but one that could prove worthwhile in the fantasy playoffs.