September 08, 2010

Nobody wins a fantasy football league without working the waiver wire. Players get hurt. Starters get benched. Wideouts don't get many targets. A fantasy squad at the end of a season could look radically different than it did in Week 1. The draft is when you do all your trash talking, but the waiver wire is where you win your league.

There are slightly different ways how the waiver wire works depending on your league settings. In most leagues, all players are placed on waivers when games begin for the week (or when a player's team starts its game) and remain there until Wednesday. Owners place bids for players, who are assigned to teams based on waiver priority.

In some leagues, there are no waivers; every player is just a free agent. Don't be afraid to take advantage of the rules if you're lucky to be in one of these leagues. If you see Chris Johnson get hurt, run to your computer and pick up Javon Ringer. The other owners in your league will hate you -- and you'll probably have a waiver system next year -- but there's no shame in playing within the rules.

If you're finding yourself remarkably thin at a position already, don't fret. Unless you're in a 14-team league (and maybe even then), there are players available. Let's take a look at some players who may have fallen through the cracks of the draft.

How do you possibly not have a quarterback? Did you forget to draft one? Did you draft Ben Roethlisberger? No quarterbacks have gotten hurt, so maybe you did. Don't worry; drafting a player suspended for the first four games isn't the end of your season. One of these players is bound to be available in your league.

Vince Young, Titans (Week 1 vs. Oakland): The 2006 Rookie of the Year had a bit of a comeback season in '09 and had a decent enough preseason this year. Obviously, Johnson is going to get the bulk of the offensive touches for the Titans this year, but if the leaky Titans defense causes Tennessee to fall behind early in games, Young could get more passing attempts than expected.

Alex Smith, Niners (at Seattle): Will this be his breakout season? It's certainly possible. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis make a solid top two options, and defenses still have to key on the running game and Frank Gore. For Week 1, Seattle's secondary was one of the worst in the league last year, and Smith could put up big points against the Seahawks and for much of the rest of the season, especially playing in the weak NFC West.

Matthew Stafford, Lions (at Chicago): As expected, Stafford struggled through much of his his rookie season. He was hurt for stretches and there wasn't much talent around him in Detroit besides Calvin Johnson. But Stafford improved his accuracy in the offseason; the Lions also have a solid rookie running back, Jahvid Best.

There might not be much out there for Week 1, but if you need a running back you might be able to grab one of the running backs recently installed as starters or seemingly headed that way.

Justin Forsett, Seahawks (at San Francisco): Pete Carroll just named Forsett the starter (over Leon Washington and Julius Jones) on Monday, so there's a chance he's a free agent in one of your leagues. Forsett averaged 5.4 yards an attempt last season and also caught 41 passes. Grab him if you can.

Tim Hightower, Cardinals (at St. Louis): Don't go wild over Hightower, but he has been installed as the starter for Week 1. Beanie Wells still looks to get the bulk of the carries, but the 24-year old did catch 63 passes last season and could get a decent amount of goal-line carries this season even if Wells supplants him as the starter.

Darren McFadden, Raiders (at Tennessee): With Michael Bush battling a thumb injury, the job could be McFadden's for Week 1. McFadden's been a bust in his two seasons in the NFL. This isn't surprising, of course: McFadden plays for the Raiders. But he went from 4.4 yards a carry his rookie year to 3.4 yards a carry last season. Bush is practicing again, but if you're really stuck you can grab McFadden and pray he takes advantage of Bush's injury.

Donald Brown, Colts (at Houston): Don't trust Joseph Addai? Neither do most people, as his average draft position fell to somewhere in the late fourth round this season. Addai also suffered a concussion in the penultimate preseason game, a scary injury for any running back. Brown had a disappointing rookie season (281 yards, 3.4 yards a carry) but with a year under his belt he could be in for a breakout season.

If you need a wideout, you're in luck: Wide receivers are plentiful! Even starters in need of a home are likely to be found.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ravens (at N.Y. Jets): This is not a guy you want to pick up for Week 1, but he might be useful to stash on your bench if you have an open roster spot. Houshmandzadeh was cut by Seattle earlier this month and signed with the Ravens Monday. Getting cut by the Seahawks is a concern, but he did have 79 catches for 911 yards and three scores last season. If another owner dropped him in your league, he's worth taking a flier on.

Jabar Gaffney, Broncos (at Jacksonville): Don't adjust your monitor. Jabar Gaffney is really the Denver Broncos' No. 1 wideout. He worked in Josh McDaniels' offense during his time in New England, reportedly has good chemistry with Kyle Orton and is a far better option than Eddie Royal (who had one of the most disappointing fantasy seasons of all time last year).

Mike Williams, Seahawks (vs. San Francisco) and Mike Williams, Buccaneers (vs. Cleveland): OK, so Tampa Bay's Mike Williams is probably not a free agent in most leagues anymore; such is the hype around the fourth-round pick out of Syracuse. He was definitely drafted in leagues that went this week. But what about Seattle's Mike Williams? The ex-USC stud and ex-Detroit Lions bust had a solid camp and is a decent pickup in deep leagues.

With only one tight end on each starting roster in almost every league, it's usually pretty easy to find a decent one.

Kevin Boss, Giants (vs. Carolina): Boss had a pretty solid season last year (567 yards, 5 TDs) but barely played at all in the preseason due to lingering foot injuries and has been a bit overlooked. The Giants have a bunch of receivers who'll want the ball, but with the running game a question mark there could be plenty of targets to go around.

Owen Daniels, Texans (vs. Indianapolis): Daniels was the top tight end through eight weeks last season, catching 40 passes for 519 yards and 5 scores, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. Understandably, owners are concerned about him, but he's really fallen off the radar. Daniels says he's 100 percent; if that's true, he could have another big season.

You should have drafted a defense. If you didn't, or accidentally drafted the Rams' defense, don't panic. There are 31 teams besides St. Louis; there is bound to be a solid defense available, especially early in the season.

New York Giants (vs. Carolina): The Giants are not owned in about a quarter of leagues. It's a veteran group, which could mean old, but could also mean lots of turnover and sack opportunities. The Giants have also shored up a pass defense that was horrid in 2009 by signing Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Linebacker Keith Bulluck should also improve the run defense.

Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit): The Bears have a lot of possible holes on defense. With the addition of Julius Peppers and the return of Brian Urlacher, the Bears' D should be outperform last year's squad. Unless your league docks huge totals for giving up points (or passing yards), the Monsters of the Midway are an OK option in a pinch.

Some leagues don't even have kickers. In other leagues, owners don't even draft kickers and simply drop an offensive player before the first week of the season to acquire one. There are always kicking options out there if you need a guy.

Neil Rackers, Texans (vs. Indianapolis): Owners shied away from Rackers, the former Arizona kicker, because he was in a competition and didn't win the job until Kris Brown was cut earlier this month. Now that he's the starting kicker he's a good bet to get a bunch of chances for field goals in the high-powered Houston offense.

Adam Vinatieri, Colts (at Houston): Entering his 15th year in the league, Vinatieri isn't the kicker he once was. But so what? He plays in the Indianapolis offense. He missed a chunk of last season with an injury, but if he's healthy this season he could put up solid point totals. And if he gets hurt, just grab his backup.

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