A year ago I decided to stop saying no when friends asked me to join fantasy leagues. Managing a fantasy football team isn't that much work to begin with, and after doing research adding on an extra team or two didn't sound like a big deal.
I'm now in six fantasy leagues. The consequences: Sometimes I pay attention to none of them. My friends in my most important league -- the one with the best trash talkers that also happens to be for the most money -- have chastised me for not even making the pickups I write about in this column. When you're in that many leagues, sometimes you just forget.
The plethora of leagues I'm in has taught me some things about working the waiver wire, though, even if I don't always put it to good use. There are two different types of leagues: Cut-throat ones, where everyone pays attention and treats running backs like they're platinum (e.g., my big money league) and ones where people pay attention and make pickups, but serviceable players sit on the waiver wire for weeks (i.e., my rotisserie baseball league's fantasy league).
It's important to know what kind of league you're in. If running backs get snatched up quickly, you have to be willing to take fliers on running backs, even backups, who might break out in the coming weeks. The best available running back in my most important league is Correll Buckhalter. In another, all three Dallas running backs are available.
Know your league and you can conquer it by working the waiver wire. If you remember to put in claims, that is.
That's two solid games in a row for Mark Sanchez, who, after four weeks, is suddenly the sixth-best fantasy quarterback. The second-year Jets QB went 14-of-24 for 161 yards and 2 scores in Week 4; those aren't earth-shattering numbers, but good enough top help account for eight touchdowns in the last three weeks. His only bad fantasy performance this year was in Week 1, against the Ravens defense.
It's unlikely Sanchez will continue to put up two touchdowns a game, but the Jets face only one tough pass defense (at home against the Packers on Halloween) the next six games. If this column's weekly quarterback pickup option isn't available, Sanchez could be a rewarding selection.
Kyle Orton (35-for-50, 341 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT ): Let's just make it as direct as possible this time: Go get Orton if you need a quarterback. He throws the ball 44 times a game. He leads the league in passing yards. With Knowshon Moreno hobbled, the Broncos absolutely cannot run the ball. Orton was even the team's leading rusher Sunday! He's still available in about 20 percent of leagues. He does only have six touchdown passes this year, but they'll come. Get him if he's available!
Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers have a bye this week, but Big Ben is finally off suspension and is expected to return to the starting lineup in Week 6. He's stashed on the bench in most leagues, but if he's available in your league pick him up before someone else does.
Is Mike Tolbert the Chargers' top running back even when Ryan Mathews plays? That was the case Sunday, as Tolbert (16 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD) got 11 of his carries in the first half as the Chargers routed the Cardinals.
Mathews did run nine times for 55 yards and a score, but most of that was in garbage time. Tolbert didn't get another carry after the Chargers grabbed a 31-7 lead. It appears Mathews was healthy -- he played throughout garbage time -- but Tolbert continued to play on kickoff coverage despite being the No. 1 back Sunday. Tolbert is available in about 40 percent of leagues.
Ryan Torain (18 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD): Who knows what unknown running back will take the bulk of the carries for Mike Shanahan's offense in Washington next. For now, though, it's Torain, who had 18 carries to Clinton Portis' 11. He also helped the Redskins establish a running game for the first time this season. Of course, it came against Philadelphia, one of the league's worst run defenses. Still, Torain's a decent bet for the next few weeks, at least, as the Redskins face Indianapolis, Chicago and Detroit. Only the Bears have a solid run defense of those three.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16 rushes, 76 yards, 1 TD): He probably started for somebody in your league this week, but if he's available, grab him. With Sammy Morris out for the year and Fred Taylor already injured, Bill Belichick might go with Green-Ellis for the rest of the season in New England.
Ricky Williams (8 rushes, 56 yards; 4 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD): Hey, look who showed up! Williams averaged seven yards a carry on Monday night for the Dolphins and scored a receiving TD. Plenty of owners probably dropped him already, but depending on what type of league you're in, he's worth grabbing and crossing your fingers. At the least, monitor what he does next game.
Michael Bush (7 carries, 40 yards, 1 TD): Darren McFadden suffered a hamstring injury, and Bush looked good for the Raiders against a solid Houston run defense in his first extended action of the season. It appears McFadden will be OK, but Bush did not appear hobbled by the broken thumb that kept him out of the first two games. It's conceivable Bush could return to being Oakland's No. 1 back by the end of the season.
Derrick Ward (12 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD): This is one of those deep looks for players in leagues where running backs are stockpiled. Ward scored his touchdown for the Texans when the NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster, was benched for disciplinary reasons for the first quarter, but he did get seven of his 12 carries in the second half. Meanwhile, Steve Slaton's precipitous fall continues as Ward seems to have solidified his role as Foster's primary backup. Foster isn't going to break team rules every week, so a Ward pickup is for well down the line.
Mike Bell (3 carries, 6 yards; 1 catch, 5 yards): Be wary. LeSean McCoy injured his rib on Sunday. The Eagles say they won't bring in any short-term replacements, so if McCoy can't go Bell will start. He's been horrid this year (12 carries for 20 yards) and the Eagles' next opponent, San Francisco, has a decent run defense (and a badpass defense), but if you're absolutely stuck, Bell would be the interim starter.
Marshawn Lynch (4 carries, 8 yards): The Bills shipped Lynch to Seattle Tuesday for two picks, including a fourth-rounder next year; Seattle then released Julius Jones. Lynch has carried 37 times for 164 yards this year, but Seattle hasn't had a cohesive offensive line all season. Lynch could be a steal -- for your fantasy team and for the Seahawks. He won't put up huge numbers, but owners in desperate need of a running back should pounce.
Did you take this column's advice last week and pick up Jabar Gaffney over Brandon Lloyd? Um, sorry. Gaffney had five catches for 51 yards for the Broncos, but Lloyd had more than double that: 11 for 115. (For his part, Eddie Royal had eight catches for 113 yards and a score.) Kyle Orton obviously likes to spread the ball around; it's definitely worth taking a flier on whichever Denver receiver is available in your league.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (3 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD): The ex-Cincinnati and Seattle receiver finally made an impact in Week 4 by catching a TD to push the Ravens over the Steelers. Houshmandzadeh signed with the Ravens after being cut, so it seemed like it would take him a few weeks to get adjusted. If you pick him up now, you're not betting on him starting next week, you're betting on continued improvement throughout the rest of the season.
Brandon Tate (4 catches, 39 yards; 153 kickoff return yards, kickoff return TD): If your league rewards individual players for kickoff return yardage, pick up the Pats' Tate. Now. Otherwise, he's only going to put up fantasy-worthy numbers later in the season and can stay on the waiver wire, as Randy Moss won't be held without a catch every week.
If you're looking for help from the waiver wire from the Lions, your team might be in trouble. But Brandon Pettigrew has put up respectable numbers so far, even if it doesn't include a score yet. Despite Matthew Stafford's injury, the second-year tight end has 22 receptions for 249 yards. He's caught seven, six and eight passes the past three games; it might not continue when Stafford returns, but for now he's a decent pickup.
Marcedes Lewis (2 catches, 22 yards, 1 TD): Lewis reached the end zone Sunday for the first time since scoring twice in the opener. A fluke? Well, the Colts-Jaguars game did feature a 25-yard David Garrard touchdown run on the option (as well as a Jags upset), so weird things were happening. Lewis looks to be a boom-or-bust tight end, but there are worse options.
Take a look Dallas coming out of the bye. The Cowboys are available in a lot of leagues, don't face high-powered Green Bay until Nov. 7 and looked solid in Week 3 against a good Houston offense.
Interested in tying your kicking game to a guy with long range? Go get Josh Scobee, who nailed a 59-yarder to beat the Colts Sunday and also hit a 51-yarder against Philadelphia the previous week. There will be weeks the Jags can't move the ball and Scobee won't get any opportunities, but if your league offers big points for long field goals, it might not matter.