Any fantasy owner will tell you that most waiver wire pickups are only worth their weight for a week or two. After that they're likely to fall back into the free agent bin or sit rotting deep down on someone's depth chart.
But each year there are those free agents who offer considerable value for several weeks, sometimes even an entire season. Whether it's an injury that thrusts them into the limelight, or if they simply revive an old spark, these players are the fantasy gold every owner searches for when considering available free agents each week.
This year witnessed a number of such players. To highlight their contributions we've assembled a team of the best pickups at each position. Here is the 2009 all-Wire Tap squad:
Stepping in for Tom Brady, Cassel has done a magnificent job of holding everything together in New England. He's thrown more touchdown passes (18) than Ben Roethlisberger, and collected more passing yards (3,270) than Brett Favre and Eli Manning. Not bad for a player whom 90 percent of fantasy owners hadn't heard of prior to Week 1.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan will probably win the NFL rookie of the year award but Slaton deserves to be named the league's top 'fantasy' rookie. The third round pick out of West Virginia was deemed too small by a number of the NFL scouts who passed him over, but Slaton has proved them wrong, and currently ranks among the top 10 in the league in rushing yards (1,124) and yards per carry (4.9). And fantasy owners in point-per-reception leagues dig his catch total (40).
Several players could have filled in as the No. 2 back for this team (Le'Ron McClain and Mewelde Moore come to mind) but Thomas has been a more consistent fantasy back than those other options. Thomas has found the end zone 11 times this year, and he's also been a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. When Reggie Bush's injury took him out of the lineup the Saints began to rely more heavily on Thomas, who has gained more than 100 yards of total offense in four of the past five weeks.
Before T.O. terrorized Dallas it was Bryant, who came out of the University of Pittsburgh with a chip on his shoulder. Never short on talent, Bryant's career was thought to be dead until he re-surfaced in a Week 3 overtime win over the Bears. That day he caught 10 passes for 138 yards and instantly became a fantasy hit. In the past three weeks alone he's hauled in four touchdowns, and his 200-yard performance against Carolina in Week 14 is one fantasy owners will not forget when they consider Bryant in drafts next year.
Most fantasy owners pegged his seven-catch, 78-yard effort in Week 3 as a fluke. But Moore followed that up with a seven-catch, 101-yard and two-touchdown game the following week. This season Moore has managed to gain 90 or more yards in five games, and he's found the end zone eight times. And with two weeks left he might still eclipse the 80-catch and 1,000-yard marks.
The more popular pick here would be the Giants' Kevin Boss, but he was drafted (albeit late) in too many leagues this past summer to make him eligible for this selection. Besides, Shiancoe's numbers are every bit as good, if not better, in most statistical categories. Through 14 games Shiancoe has caught 33 passes for 446 yards and five touchdowns -- not too shabby.
Carney's story might trump all others. At 44 he was prepared to call it a career, and had, when New York called to see if he'd be able to replace injured starter Lawrence Tynes. Since then Carney has produced arguably the finest year of his career, having made 29 of 31 attempts. Give him the six points Tynes scored in Week 11 against Baltimore and Carney would be leading all NFL kickers in scoring. As he sits now, the old man is third with a very respectable 122 points.
Mike Beacom is the publisher of SportsBuff.com