We have reached the crucial weeks of the fantasy football season. You win championships directly in weeks 15, 16 or 17, but we submit you win it indirectly now by handling the bye weeks and tighter rosters.
Everyone cares most about the start of the year -- when all fantasy teams are on the same level -- or the playoffs, when the stakes are the highest, but the middle weeks of the season are where roster management makes the most impact on your year.
Teams are going off byes or coming off byes. Players are going out for a few weeks because of injury, or coming back. And, in some cases, NFL teams are re-evaluating their own lineups and making changes. Hello, Tim Tebow and goodbye, Kyle Orton and Knowshon Moreno.
In this Weekend Watch List, we break down the roster trends, which tends to be a more common feature in fantasy baseball than football. But, at this time of the year, it can make the difference between building a championship-caliber roster or turning focus to family holiday activities. No one wants to fall back on the latter.
It is rare the most-added player is one heading into a bye week, but Tebow is a rare rags-to-riches fantasy commodity. He can be a poor man's Cam Newton, averaging around 200 yards passing a game with a rushing TD and throwing score per game. Tebow scored 18 fantasy points last week, coming into the game late and attempting just 10 passes. It also shouldn't be forgotten the fantasy leagues he won a year ago, coming off the bench in the final three games of the season.
Heck, he is the only player in the NFL who is going to be celebrated by the opposing team: the Dolphins are honoring the Florida Gators title teams at halftime of next week's game. Tebow is either loved or hated by the masses, for whatever reason, but he should be owned in your league.
You probably have heard of the third-year wide receiver phenomenon, but you might have not bought into it. DHB can change that. He was a waste of a first-round pick by the late Al Davis for his speed, and until recent weeks he hadn't shown anything to date in the NFL. But Davis is smiling down (up?) on him now.
DHB posted a 115-yard game in Week 4 and 99 yards and a score in Week 5. He has made rookie Denarius Moore last month's news and Heyward-Bey this week's sexy pickup. You can dislike Jason Campbell all you want, but someone in the Raiders offense is going to be catching passes, especially with Darren McFadden finally looking like a fantasy star himself. The Raiders' play-action pass is going to open up some big plays for Heyward-Bey down the field -- just like Davis drew it up decades ago.
DHB is finally worth owning and you might finally buy into the belief that receivers in their third year can really catch on.
Yet another popular waiver-wire option this week who is certain to post a zero (because of a bye). When Jamaal Charles went down, it was common to think Thomas Jones was going to prove more capable for fantasy owners. If not Jones, it was supposed to be Dexter McCluster as a scat back.
Instead, Battle has emerged. Jones is showing his age -- running backs just don't stay productive into their 30s -- and McCluster's improvement has been marginal. The best part about Battle is he will be coming off bye against the Raiders, a team that has given up the second-most points to backs in fantasy to date. Battle will be a viable starter for fantasy owners there on out.
Jordy Nelson was a breakthrough star in the postseason and had fantasy owners anxious to see what he could do among a full set of healthy Packers receivers, including tight end Jermichael Finley. Jones was left in a lurch out of the gate. He now looks better than all but Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings among Packers, though.
Jones has posted a receiving touchdown in back-to-back games, including the long one he broke in his 140-yard performance in prime-time against the Falcons. Welcome back to fantasy starting lineups.
Jones is a talented receiver in a very productive offense, featuring a great quarterback: He is the best waiver pickup on this list.
Remember what we said about backs past the age of 30 when referring to the Chiefs' Jones above? Look the other way here. Graham has a chance to be pretty good on the cheap for fantasy owners because of the injury to LeGarrette Blount.
The Bucs offense has been a disappointment with the regression of Josh Freeman, but they are still a team focused on running the football -- a rarity in this modern, pass-happy NFL. Graham might be 31 and have been around a long time in NFL RB years, but he still has tread on the tire and is in a decent situation to be a feature back for the next few weeks. Blount might not return until Week 9.
Graham can help you get through the bye-week season, especially this Sunday against the Saints.
Naturally the most-added player is related directly to the most-dropped. Orton just isn't worth owning anymore. You probably were only counting on him in two-quarterback leagues anyway.
After a hot start to the season, the Titans have given up over 400 yards in each of the past two weeks heading into their bye. Then they come out of the gate with the Texans, who could have Andre Johnson (hamstring) back. The Titans are merely a streaming option for fantasy owners anyway.
McCluster is a good talent, so he might be the most likely of this most-dropped list to wind up back on the most-added list. The Chiefs don't seem to be quite sure if he is a running back or a receiver. He clearly is a receiving back, but the between-the-tackles running is a question mark, particularly since they have Jones and now Battle to do that dirty work.
Watch McCluster after the bye week. He could prove intriguing down the stretch still -- like Charles each of the past two seasons.
Moore was all the rage in training camp and he came through for the Raiders and fantasy owners in the early part of the season. Now, it is DHB. Moore will prove to be a factor again, but he is like every rookie receiver in NFL history: frustratingly inconsistent.
Redman was the flavor of the week with Rashard Mendenhall banged up last Sunday. It wound up being Jonathan Dwyer who made a bigger impact in the game, though, breaking a long run. Redman will share carries with a returning Mendenhall this week now, too. Redman still is a must-have handcuff for Mendenhall owners -- or if you just need someone to stash for potential rewards later.
Seeing Newton being swapped the most right now makes a lot of sense. He likely wasn't drafted as anyone's true starter at quarterback and it is justifiable to see him as a sell-high candidate. It makes him the most tradable commodity in fantasy. He is excess and yet still has good value to a team that has lost Peyton Manning or is unhappy with a Freeman or Sam Bradford.
Would the real Chris Johnson please stand up? This cannot be him. He is a great buy-low candidate, especially considering he is as affordable as ever heading into his bye week. The chance to pick up a star for the stretch run is right before it happens. Make an aggressive deal for CJ2K right now. He could be as productive as anyone down the stretch. The Titans are going to fix their run blocking issues during the bye week.
Fitzy is in the same position as Newton for fantasy owners. Not likely a starter, but he was performing like one in the early going. The weather is going to turn ugly in the crucial weeks of the fantasy postseason in Buffalo, so selling now is a wise move. We have already seen Fitzy slow down.
You might be a week late, but if the getting is still good, go get the Jets' Greene. His team has gotten off to an awful start and they haven't been able to run or stop the run to date. Rex Ryan is going to make sure that changes in a hurry. Greene is still going to be a must-start fantasy option this year, and the Jets are going to be a team that can run and stop the run, guaranteed. The Jets' schedule gets considerably easier -- just like Mendenhall's Steelers.
The 49ers look like fantasy gold right now, even if Gore was a disappointment out of the gate. It might be a good time to sell. Gore is the linchpin for a contender in San Francisco, a team that has mastered what the Jets want to do: run and stop the run. Gore is going to see a lot of eight-man fronts, though, because we still are not believes QB Alex Smith has turned the corner on his career.