Maybe the Cowboys’ brain trust just likes having the undivided attention of the fantasy community when it comes time to place waiver bids. All eyes and wallets were focused on Dallas last week when the team gave the world every indication that Christine Michael was finally going to get his chance to prove he could be a starter in the NFL. As we all know now, that did not come to fruition. For the second straight week, the most important player on the wire is a running back in Dallas. The good news, however, is that this one just might have staying power.
Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys (Bid: All remaining money)
McFadden is the gem on the wire this week, and he could very well end up being the waiver wire MVP by the end of the season. While everyone was wringing their hands over the Christine Michael/Joseph Randle battle, no one paid a moment’s notice to McFadden. When Randle went out with an injury, it was McFadden who made the Dallas run game look better than it has all season. He carried the ball 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Giants on Sunday, and that might be just the start of things to come. Randle will miss a few weeks with his oblique injury, and that means McFadden will move to the top of the depth chart in Dallas. Michael's role and performance last week proved that he isn’t a significant threat in the backfield. This is McFadden’s show, and with the Dallas line still among the league’s best, he could finally, after all these years, get back on the good side of the fantasy community. I’d be willing to empty my budget for McFadden if he were available in any of my leagues. Understand, however, that he could slow down over the next few weeks. Dallas’ upcoming schedule includes Seattle and Philadelphia, two of the better run defenses in the league. Still, the McFadden optimism is justifiably high.
Alfred Blue, RB, Texans (Bid: $10)/Chris Polk, RB, Texans (Bid: $3)
We’ll take these two together since you can’t place a value on one without considering the other. Blue and Polk will do what they can to replace Arian Foster, who is out for the season, in Houston. We know that neither is a rock-solid fantasy starter, even if one emerged as the sure-fire play in the Texans’ backfield. In the three games before Foster made his 2015 debut, Blue did nothing before exploding for 139 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Buccaneers. Polk, meanwhile, totaled 65 yards on 24 carries. Blue will likely take over as the starter, but Polk will be involved as a change-of-pace back. You should put in a claim for Blue the same way you buy a $1 scratch off lottery ticket. It’s a low-risk move that could come with a modest reward. As for Polk, you’re really only looking at him in deeper leagues. There just isn’t much value in this backfield without Foster, especially since they could realistically lose out this season.
David Cobb, RB, Titans (Bid: $5)
Dexter McCluster is the Titans’ leading rusher with 176 yards on the season. Lamar Miller ran for 175 yards last week. Todd Gurley has 213 rushing yards in fourth quarters alone. To say the Titans could use some help in their backfield would be a bit of an understatement. Antonio Andrews appears to have taken over as the primary back, and he has all of 138 yards on 38 carries. Cobb, the rookie out of Minnesota, has spent the entire season on the IR designated to return list because of a calf injury, but he’s going to get every shot to prove himself when he makes his NFL debut. That could come as soon as Week 9, and the fact that he returned to practice last week was an indication that he will spend the minimum required time on the IR boomerang. It looked like Cobb would open the season as the team’s starter before he suffered the injury, but the good news is no one has taken advantage of his absence. Andrews and Bishop Sankey are caretakers provide what baseball teams refer to as organizational depth. They’re better cast in an emergency role than anything else. Cobb, who ran for more than 1,600 yards at Minnesota last year, can be an impact player. Take a shot on him now before he becomes a popular name immediately in advance of his pro debut.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants (Bid: $3)
First, allow me to paint the picture of a fantasy owner who would put in a claim on Darkwa this week. He or she almost certainly had Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster at happier times of the season. There’s also a good chance said owner has T.J. Yeldon, LeSean McCoy or DeMarco Murray, all of whom are on bye this week. If you’re very thin at running back and are desperate to find someone for this week, Darkwa could be third in your wavier-wire pecking order behind McFadden and Blue. Darkwa gave the Giants’ run game a shot in the arm last week, running for 48 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Those were his first eight touches of the season, and the Giants have a crowded backfield. Still, he led the team in carries last week, and it’s not like Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams is running roughshod over the league. The Giants visit the Saints next week, and they’ve allowed the 10th most points per game to running backs this year. If you’re desperate, you could do worse than to spend a few bucks on Darkwa and hope he does something with eight or so touches.
Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots (Bid: $6)
Amendola has been a quiet, consistent presence in the Patriots’ offense all year, playing at least 41.9% of snaps in every game, and totaling 61.1% of the snaps on the season. That hasn’t shown up in the box score until recently, but Amendola made a statement in the team’s wins over the Colts and Jets. In those two games, Amendola got 18 combined targets, catching 15 of them for 189 yards and a touchdown. We saw the Patriots look like some of their teams of yore last week, eschewing the run and replacing it with the short pass, a gameplan that really suits Amendola’s skill set. That won’t be the script every week, but Amendola’s role in this offense makes him relevant in all fantasy formats. He’s really just a depth receiver, but we still have four more weeks with at least four teams on bye. Depth players remain critical for the next month.
Stevie Johnson, WR, Chargers (Bid: $5)
Like Amendola, Johnson fits the description of a depth receiver who can help you fill in the blanks when your regular starters go on bye. He returned from a hamstring injury in Week 7, catching four of his eight targets for 50 yards. He got off to a decent start this season, scoring in both of the Chargers’ first two games, but he slowed down before injuring the hamstring. If you have to consider him as a regular starter, you’re likely in some trouble, but he can turn a profit if you only have to start him once or twice the rest of the season. San Diego isn’t getting a thing out of its passing game, which helps explain why Philip Rivers has attempted at least 48 passes in each of the last three weeks. The opportunity will be there for Johnson, and the schedule is friendly to receivers. The Chargers' next four games are against the Ravens, Bears, Chiefs and Jaguars.
Albert Wilson, WR, Chiefs (Bid: $2)
Wilson has taken on a larger role in the Kansas City offense with Jeremy Maclin injured over the last game-and-a-half, and he's taken advantage to the tune of 128 yards and a touchdown. Those, of course, aren’t world-beating numbers, but they’re ones that should at least have your eye during the meat of the bye-week portion of the schedule. Wilson checks in at just 5’9”, so he’s not going to be a significant red-zone weapon for Alex Smith, but he has had a pair of 40-yard plays on just nine receptions this season. He can pay short-term dividends if you need help at the receiver position, especially if Maclin is out another week. The Chiefs visit Detroit on Sunday, a team that has allowed the seventh-most points per game to receivers this season.
Eric Ebron, TE, Lions (Bid: $12)
Here’s Ebron’s game log, not including the Seattle game in which he suffered a knee injury that cut his night short and forced him to the sidelines for two weeks.
Week 1: four receptions, five targets, 53 yards, one touchdown
Week 2: five receptions, 10 targets, 43 yards, one touchdown
Week 3: four catches, five targets, 61 yards
Week 7: five catches, five targets, 89 yards, one touchdown
In the games he has started and finished, Ebron has averaged 10.65 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. That average would place him fourth at the position in points per game among those who have played at least four games, trailing only Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert and Gary Barnidge. When Ebron is on the field, he’s getting chances to make plays and consistently capitalizing on those opportunities. The Lions’ run game is downright terrible, forcing Matthew Stafford to attempt an average of 37.6 passes per game. Ebron is benefitting from that volume, and it’s hard to see a turnaround coming from a backfield that is led by Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell. Ebron isn’t just a good waiver add this week. He should be a TE1 for the remainder of the season.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Buccaneers (Bid: $7)
Seferian-Jenkins appeared in this space last week before missing his fifth straight game with a shoulder injury, so not much has changed for him. The Buccaneers coaching staff is optimistic that he’ll return this week, and that makes him a worthwhile addition from the wire. He was a below-the-radar breakout pick during draft season, and scored two touchdowns in Week 1 prior to suffering the shoulder injury in the team’s following game. Once he’s back out on the field, he’ll give Jameis Winston a third big red-zone target, and defenses won’t have the luxury of paying him a ton of attention with Doug Martin and Mike Evans on the field. I prefer Ebron for the rest of the season, but Seferian-Jenkins can help anyone in need.