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Some key injuries dominated the storyline in NFL’s week 10. Some were season-ending, and some just minor hiccups. Regardless, a derailment of any scale can dramatically alter the outcome of your fantasy league championship. Whether it be Carson Palmer‘s season-ending torn ACL, or Ronnie Hillman‘s foot sprain that will cost him two weeks, depth is usually a crucial recipe to fantasy success. If they’re not contributing to your team right now, the time has probably passed to move on and focus on winning today.
Be careful if attempting to pick up Steven Jackson in your league, as there is another running back named Steven Jackson who last played for Kansas City. Like the Manny Ramirezes, Brandon Marshalls, Adrian Petersons, Cam Newtons, and Jay Cutlers of the world, one of these is not like the other. This writer once drafted both Adrian Petersons in a moment of panic, not much unlike the year he selected kickers in back-to-back rounds, only to keep the one serving a P.E.D. suspension. Those memories were trumped this season when a league-mate bragged about the shocking midseason pickup of Andre Williams that was, in fact, an acquisition of Andre Brown, who has accrued as many 2014 stats as the less-successful of the Steven Jacksons. But back to what you came here for, more jokes and stats.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Drew Stanton (owned in 0.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
The Cardinals have the best record in the NFL, with a bevy of talent on offense. Andre Ellington, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Floyd will continue to contribute without Carson Palmer on the field. The team already survived three games without their captain, while Palmer dealt with a nerve issue earlier in the season. Backup Drew Stanton led Arizona to two wins in his three starts, and completed week 10’s game for another win.
With over three full games of action this season, Stanton has completed 49.5 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. During his three starts, he averaged 176.3 yards. During Sunday’s game against the Rams, Stanton threw a 48 yard touchdown to John Brown to take a fourth quarter lead. The Cardinals scored twice more, finishing with 21 unanswered points to end the game. Detroit’s third ranked pass defense hosts Arizona in week 11.
Kyle Orton (owned in 17.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since taking over as starting quarterback week five, Kyle Orton ranks seventh in the NFL with 277.4 yards per game. He has completed 65.6 percent of his passes this season, which is ninth best in the league. Orton’s 18.4 fantasy points per week rank 11th over this period. Over the last two games, the 10 year veteran has thrown five touchdowns without an interception, against the Chiefs’ and Jets’ first and 17th ranked pass defenses, respectively. Buffalo gets to see Miami’s second ranked pass defense in week 11.
Honorable Mention: Josh McCown.
Past targets include: Brian Hoyer and Mark Sanchez (week 10), Ryan Tannehill and Ben Roethlisberger (week 9), Derek Carr, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, and Mike Glennon (week 8), Carson Palmer and Kirk Cousins (week 7), Teddy Bridgewater (week 5).
Terrance West (owned in 66.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Two weeks in a row, Terrance West has led the Cleveland backfield. During these two games, West had 41 rushes for 142 yards, Ben Tate had 20 carries for 37 yards, and Isaiah Crowell ran 12 times for 41 yards. West scored two offensive touchdowns, and Tate and Crowell each scored once. West played 73 snaps (50.1 percent of team’s snaps) during these games, while Tate hit the field for 55 snaps (38.2 percent), and Crowell, 16 (11.1 percent). On Thursday Night Football in week 10, West ran 26 times for 94 yards (3.6 yards per carry). When asked about the running back rotation, head coach Mike Pettine answered, “It will still come down to the game plan and how the week of practice goes.” West leads the Browns in rushing this season with 396 yards (3.7 yards per carry).
Steven Jackson (owned in 81.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
On to the former St. Louis and current Atlanta running back Steven Jackson. Since week eight, the three-time Pro Bowler ranks eighth in the NFL with 17.0 rushes per game, and 11th with an average of 70.5 rushing yards. Jackson also scored in each of the Falcons’ last two games, both touchdowns coming from one yard out. He has 17 red zone carries this year, which is 13 more than the next closest teammate. Jackson has 111 carries this season (12.3 per game), while Devonta Freeman is second on the squad with 29 rushes. He may not be a sexy piece to the puzzle, but every little bit counts, especially in a year so devoid of solid fantasy running back production.
C.J. Anderson (owned in 2.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
Some drafted C.J. Anderson in August as the next-man-up for the Broncos backfield. A lot has changed since then. Through week eight, Anderson played on 38 of Denver’s 410 snaps (9.3 percent). He had rushed 14 times for 64 yards (4.6 yards per carry). Week 10’s game in Oakland changed everything, again. From weeks five through nine, Ronnie Hillman ranked fourth in the NFL with 363 yards rushing. Hillman left Sunday’s game with a sprained foot, and that opened the door for Anderson. The backup came in and used 17 touches to produce 163 total yards that included a 51-yard receiving touchdown. With Hillman expected to miss at least two games, and Montee Ball set to return this week from a severe groin injury, Anderson has a shot to lead the team in St. Louis.
Montee Ball (owned in 54.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Montee Ball began the season as Denver’s lead back, after the team let Knowshon Moreno walk in free agency. Through three games, he had 56 touches for 216 total yards and a touchdown. Ball was also the only Bronco with a red zone carry, having toted the ball 10 times within the opponent’s 20-yard line. But in their fourth game in week five, Ball fell to the ground with a torn groin and has been out since. Hillman since played very well in his absence, though Hillman will now miss two weeks or more with a sprained foot. Ball is expected to make his return this week in St. Louis, and fantasy owners will be scrambling to guess what happens to this backfield. The Rams own the 24th ranked run defense, and Denver is rushing for 96.8 yards per game with seven touchdowns through nine games. The Broncos also rank second in scoring offense (31.8 points per game), and score the fifth most points per drive (2.42).
Past targets include: Bobby Rainey, Tre Mason, Alfred Blue, and Jeremy Hill (week 10), Ronnie Hillman, Charles Sims, Jonas Gray, and Christine Michael (week 9), Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon, and Jonathan Stewart (week 8), Branden Oliver, Juwan Thompson, and Chris Ivory (week 7), Antone Smith , Joseph Randle (week 6), Jerick McKinnon, Khiry Robinson (week 5), Lorenzo Taliaferro (week 4), and Knile Davis (week 3).
Mike Evans (owned in 70.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Mike Evans is a 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver who played college ball with Johnny Manziel. It’s his rookie season, and the Buccaneers wideout is on pace to catch 78 of 124 targets for 1,170 yards and ten touchdowns. Over the last two weeks, Evans ranks second in the NFL with 249 receiving yards, and leads the league with three touchdown grabs. Tampa Bay travels to Washington this week, where the sixth ranked pass defense will host.
Martavis Bryant (owned in 60.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Martavis Bryant has played four NFL games. He has caught six touchdown passes. At 6-foot-4, the rookie stands a full five inches above any other Steelers wideout. In the red zone, no one has more catches (4), yards (44), or touchdowns (4) for Pittsburgh over this time. Since hitting the field, Bryant ranks behind only Antonio Brown in targets (25), receptions (14), yards (310), and yards after contact (62), and the rookie’s six scores are more than any of his teammates. The Steelers visit Tennessee’s 11th ranked pass defense this week before a week 12 bye.
Odell Beckham Jr. (owned in 57.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since making his first NFL start in week five, Odell Beckham Jr. leads the Giants with 25 receptions, 370 yards, and three touchdown catches. Rueben Randle has caught 24 of a team-high 49 targets over this span, but the rookie has been far more efficient with his 35 targets. Over the last two games, Beckham leads the NFL with 264 receiving yards, and ranks fourth with 15 catches. He scored three times in his first three games, but has not found pay dirt since week seven. During Beckham’s five games of action, he and Randle share the team lead with seven red zone targets. Beckham caught six of those for three scores, while Randle caught two for one touchdown.
Past targets include: Donte Moncrief, Malcom Floyd, and Doug Baldwin (week 10), Brandon LaFell, Martavis Bryant, Josh Gordon, and John Brown (week 9), Jermaine Kearse (week 8), Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Mohamed Sanu, Cecil Shorts, and Andre Holmes (week 7), Terrance Williams, Andrew Hawkins (week 5), Jordan Matthews, John Brown, and Brian Quick (week 4), Allen Hurns and Steve Smith Sr. (week 2).
Mychal Rivera (owned in 39.7 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last three weeks, Mychal River leads all NFL tight ends with 28 targets. Only Jimmy Graham has more receptions (22) than Rivera (21) at the position over this stretch. Since week eight, the Raiders tight end also has 185 yards and three scores. Rivera has started six of Oakland’s nine games this year, averaging 3.8 catches on 5.7 targets, for 31.8 yards and 0.3 scores. The Raiders next face San Diego’s ninth-ranked pass defense, who have allowed the sixth fewest points (5.0) to opposing tight ends.
Honorable Mention: Charles Clay.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, and profootballfocus.com.