Just when it looked like we might be done with major waiver wire additions at the running back position for the 2015 season, the injury machine claimed two high-profile victims at the position in Week 8. Le’Veon Bell and Matt Forte, two of the five best fantasy backs by any measure, both suffered knee injuries, though Bell’s is much more serious. The Steelers' star is done for the year after tearing his MCL, while Forte’s MCL injury is believed to be far less severe. Their backups highlight this week’s Waiver Wire, though there is help to be found regardless of what position you may need to fortify.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders (Bid: $10)
In what could very well be a breakout season for Carr, he just put together not only his best performance, but one of the best overall quarterback games of the season. Carr torched a previously untouchable Jets defense, throwing for 333 yards, 9.25 yards per attempt and four touchdowns in a statement victory for the Raiders. It hasn’t been all good for Carr, but his season-long numbers are undeniably those of a fantasy starter. He’s up to 1,793 yards, 7.83 YPA and 15 touchdowns against just three interceptions. That 5:1 TD:INT ratio, coupled with nearly eight yards per attempt, displays just how efficient he has become in his second year. Now, consistency is crucial for a fantasy quarterback, and Carr could still use some polishing in that department. The fact remains, though, that he has taken a leap in his sophomore season, and he’s playing with an enviable set of weapons. He and Amari Cooper have it in them to be the best combination in the league in a few short years. Carr should be universally owned in fantasy formats, even if you don’t start him every week
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers (Bid: All remaining money)
Here’s the big prize on the waiver wire this week. Le’Veon Bell’s season-ending knee injury thrusts Williams back into the spotlight, where he flourished earlier this season. In two games as Pittsburgh’s starter when Bell served his suspension at the beginning of the season, Williams ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries, and caught five passes for 20 yards. That comes out to 40.4 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, or 0.88 points per touch. To give you an idea of how good a rate that is, Bell will finish this season with 0.64 points per touch. Williams played well after Bell’s injury, too, running for 71 yards on nine carries and catching four passes for 39 yards. There’s no doubt that he’s already a top-20 back for the remainder of the season, and given the offense around him, he has an RB1 ceiling. Unload the budget for Williams, whether or not you owned Bell. He can be someone who fundamentally changes your season and swings regular-season and playoff championships.
Jeremy Langford, RB, Bears (Bid: $12)
The Bears are one of the worst teams when it comes to divulging injury news, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that we still don’t have much information on Matt Forte’s knee injury more than 24 hours after it happened. We do know that it’s an MCL injury, and one that will likely force him to miss some time, especially after hearing John Fox’s equivocal press conference on Monday. All Fox was willing to say about Forte is that the injury won’t end his season. Chances are he’s going to miss a game or two, and that opens the door for Langford, the rookie out of Michigan State. He has been Forte’s primary backup this season, and as most backup running backs in Chicago have learned since 2008, that means you spend a lot of time on the sidelines. Langford has 27 carries this season, 12 of which came against the Vikings after Forte left the game. Jacquizz Rodgers is on IR, so the only other running back on the roster the Bears may turn to is Antone Smith, who burst into fantasy relevance with the Falcons last year. Forte could be out of Chicago after this season, and Langford may be the heir apparent. You can bet that the Bears will take this opportunity to see what they have in the rookie. Unfortunately, the team’s upcoming schedule is brutal. After a visit to San Diego this week, they get the Rams, Broncos and Packers in succession.
David Cobb, RB, Titans (Bid: $9)
We talked about Cobb as a waiver-wire addition last week, so we won’t go over previously trodden ground. I will simply restate that Antonio Andrews isn’t exactly getting it done as the lead back in Tennessee, evidenced by his 64 yards on 16 carries in a plum matchup with the Texans last week. The Titans used a fifth-round pick to nab Cobb out of Minnesota, but a calf injury suffered in training camp sent him to the IR, with a designation to return. That return will almost certainly happen this week. The Titans are 1-6 with no hope of making the playoffs. Additionally, Cobb was in a position to win the starting gig before the calf injury cut short his summer. This team has its quarterback for the future. It now needs to see if it has a running back to pair with Marcus Mariota. Andrews and Bishop Sankey almost certainly are not the answer. Cobb could be, but there’s only one way for the Titans to find out if that’s the case. You can bet on him getting a lot of work, once he proves to the team that he’s healthy.
Stevan Ridley, RB, Jets (Bid: $4)
The Jets activated Ridley from the PUP list before last week’s game with the Raiders, though he didn’t see any action. While he’s no more than a long-range dart throw, he’d likely stand to gain the most should Chris Ivory, who has dealt with a few minor injuries this year, go down with a more serious ailment. Ridley tore his ACL about a year ago, which is what landed him on the PUP list before the start of the season. Zac Stacy is currently second on the depth chart, but we all saw his true colors with the Rams last year. If Ivory were to suffer an injury, the Jets would likely keep Stacy as the change-of-pace back, and move Ridley into the starter’s chair. This is really only a recommended move for Ivory owners or people with an available stash spot on their roster. It’s more than likely that Ridley won’t make any fantasy impact this year.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals (Bid: $14)
Floyd has now scored in three straight games, and this most recent performance showed why he’s such a dangerous weapon for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. All it takes for him is one catch—in this case, a 60-yard touchdown strike—for him to show up for his fantasy owners. With John Brown active but essentially out because of his hamstring injury, Floyd played 81% of the snaps, catching four passes for 106 yards and the score. Brown may not be that far from returning, but a hamstring injury is even more concerning for a player who is depending on his speed, as Brown is. Floyd likely won’t have the consistency to rate as a WR2 or better every week, but he is firmly on the fantasy radar and is, at the very least, part of the WR2 discussion every week. That’s the mark of a player who should be owned across the board.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens (Bid: $12)
Steve Smith is out for the season after rupturing his Achilles. While everyone across the football world hopes Smith goes back on his vow to retire after this season, that will be a decision with ramifications on the 2016 fantasy landscape. He’s done for this season, and that means Aiken is back atop the wide receiver depth chart in Baltimore. Smith missed about a game-and-a-half after breaking bones in his back a few weeks ago, and Aiken played well in his absence, catching nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in those six quarters. Aiken once again led the team in receiving last week, hauling in six balls for 62 yards. He’s not going to turn into a sure-fire fantasy starter simply because he’s the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him average 10 targets per game the rest of the year. That kind of opportunity makes him instantly relevant in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Malcom Floyd WR, Chargers (Bid: $9)
With both Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson dealing with injuries in the Chargers’ loss to the Ravens on Sunday, Floyd took advantage of his increased opportunities. He hauled in four of his six targets for 92 yards and two scores, tripling his touchdown total on the season. Word broke Monday that Allen has a kidney injury that will force him to miss “some time,” according to head coach Mike McCoy. Johnson’s shoulder injury isn’t likely to keep him out, but either way Floyd will be starting when the Chargers host the Bears on Monday night in Week 9. The Bears haven’t stopped anyone through the air this season, and that’s not likely to change in San Diego. With six teams on bye this week, Floyd is most assuredly a WR2.
Ben Watson, TE, Saints (Bid: $13)
At age 34, Watson has revived his career with the Saints. Through the first four weeks of the season, it appeared it would be another lackluster, nondescript year for the 12th-year man out of Georgia. Even after he scored a touchdown in Week 5, he didn’t really cause much of an uproar in fantasy circles. In the three games since, he has twice had at least nine catches for a minimum of 127 yards and a touchdown, and that has caught everyone’s eye. Drew Brees has been productive from a yards standpoint, but he had just eight touchdowns before last week’s seven-score bonanza against the Giants. The Saints have a remarkably pass-friendly schedule remaining this year, including matchups with the Buccaneers, Lions and Jaguars during the fantasy playoffs. Watson could come up huge during the most important part of the season. Even if you’re looking for short-term help as an owner of Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham, both of whom are on bye this week, Watson can be of assistance.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Buccaneers (Bid: $6)
We’ve covered Seferian-Jenkins’s waiver case in both of the previous two editions of this column. Everything we said before applies here. The only difference is that it’s much more likely that he’ll return from his shoulder injury this week than it was in the last two weeks. Vincent Jackson is expected to be out again on Sunday because of his knee injury. Assuming that is the case, Seferian-Jenkins would likely see somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 targets in a great matchup with the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals defense (Bid: $3)
We’ve got a couple of stream recommendations at defense for Week 9, starting with the Bengals. They host the Browns on Thursday night, which is a phenomenal matchup for a number of reasons. First, short weeks typically favor the defense, especially when that team is favored and at home, as the Bengals are this week. Second, the Browns run game is basically non-existent, and Josh McCown’s shoulder injury could force him to the sidelines this week. No matter if it’s McCown or Johnny Manziel under center, though, the Bengals can take advantage of this offense.
Miami Dolphins defense (Bid: $2)
Don’t hold last week’s performance against this group. The Patriots have made every single defense they’ve seen this year look bad. The Dolphins will be without Cameron Wake, and the Bills will likely get Tyrod Taylor back from his knee injury, but this is still an acceptable streaming defense for Week 9. Sammy Watkins missed the team’s Week 7 game with an ankle injury, and while he will be three weeks removed from its incidence, chances are he’s out again on Sunday. That leaves the passing game with Robert Woods and Charles Clay as its primary targets. The Dolphins aren’t nearly as good a stream option as the Bengals this week, but they are likely the second-best choice that is likely to be available to most owners who ride the defense carousel from week to week.