Fantasy football Waiver Wire: Take a chance on Johnson, Patterson

A window of opportunity opened up for Dennis Johnson when Ben Tate was benched in Week 12.
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With playoffs in sight, it's time to take a new approach to the waiver wire. Instead of adding players off waivers to start immediately as bye-week replacements, you now want to add high-upside depth to your bench. Players with an opportunity to thrive down the stretch can alter fantasy standings, so uncover that impact player still available in your league.

Running backs

Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans (Owned in 20 percent of leagues, 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues and zero percent of ESPN leagues) -- Johnson ran for 74 yards on 13 carries after Ben Tate proved to be ineffective and was benched against the Jaguars. After the game, head coach Gary Kubiak said that Johnson "just looked so good running the ball," so expect him to emerge as a nice option for the fantasy playoffs, as long as Kubiak continues to give him carries.

Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots (16 percent, six percent, three percent) -- Bolden filled in as the Patriots' default running back after Stevan Ridley fumbled (again) and LeGarrette Blount fumbled, and he didn't disappoint, carrying the ball 13 times for 58 yards. We can only speculate who Bill Belichick will start in Week 13, but Bolden should be picked up in all leagues if Ridley is still in the doghouse. Shane Vereen, who's easily the Patriots' most stable running back, will be in on the passing downs, but New England doesn't use him like a true workhorse runner. Bolden has as good as a chance as anyone on the roster to get the majority of the carries.

Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams (Two percent, five percent, one percent) -- Cunningham came in to replace Zac Stacy when he went down with a concussion in Week 12, and he proved to be every bit as productive, taking the ball 13 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. He will serve as the primary running back option if Stacy has to sit out the Rams' game in San Francisco this weekend. However, keep in mind that the 49ers run defense is significantly better than that of the Bears, so don't expect a repeat performance.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings (17 percent, two percent, one percent) -- Adrian Peterson owners -- do yourself a favor and pick up Gerhart immediately for handcuff purposes. Gerhart proved capable, rushing for 91 yards on eight carries in Week 12. If Peterson gets hurt or has his workload reduced down the stretch, then fantasy owners will be thrilled to have Gerhart stashed.

Wide Receivers

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (43 percent, 40 percent, 28 percent) -- Many owners dropped Edelman when the Patriots' other offensive weapons returned from injury, and those owners probably regretted that decision watching him score two touchdowns on Sunday night. Tom Brady can turn any of his playmakers into elite fantasy contributors when necessary, showing that Edelman should, once again, be owned in all leagues.

Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions (38 percent, 25 percent, three percent) -- Playing for the first time since Week 3 due to his pizza-related arm injury, Burleson caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He has at least six receptions in all four of his games this season and is a threat to score on any given week. Burleson is a nice compliment to Calvin Johnson, and owners shouldn't be afraid to rely on him for fantasy purposes.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (14 percent, 19 percent, four percent) -- Over the last two weeks, the talented rookie has seen a whopping 34 percent of the Vikings' targets thrown his way. Anyone who has that many opportunities should be owned in most leagues.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans (20 percent, nine percent, four percent) -- The red-hot Harvard product racked up 320 passing yards against Oakland in Week 12, and has thrown for at least one touchdown the last three weeks. The Titans face the Colts this week (yes, the same Colts that allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 314 yards in Week 12), and as an added bonus, they face the Jaguars in Week 16 -- the week many fantasy championships are determined.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams (52 percent, 55 percent, 68 percent) -- Cook was among my favorite sleepers entering the season. He's a athletic freak and was the talk of the fantasy world after his seven catch, 141-yard performance in Week 1. Cook's ownership dipped as a result of his poor performance this season, but it wasn't all Cook's fault. Mediocre and inconsistent quarterback play limited the tight end's enormous upside for a big chunk of the season. Cook may be able to salvage his fantasy season with a big stretch run, as he caught four balls for 80 yards and a touchdown in Week 12, and has all the tools to keep it going.


BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- Could Adrian Peterson run for 200 yards?
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies -- Start Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Richardson
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- Will Dennis Johnson take over for Ben Tate?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Benny Cunningham could start if Zac Stacy cannot play
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers, Maurice Jones-Drew turn it on in Week 12
BELLER: Early Advice -- It's time to sit Andrew Luck, who's struggling without Reggie Wayne

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