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Fantasy football waiver wire: Saints RB Tim Hightower a strong pickup ahead of Week 9

After Saints RB Mark Ingram fumbled early, Sean Payton handed the ball to Tim Hightower and he ran away with it. Fantasy football owners should scoop him up if he's available.

Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we’ll list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.

Tim Hightower became a fantasy football legend last December went he went from being almost completely unowned to carrying thousands of fantasy teams to championships. After the Saints’ Week 13 game, Mark Ingram was placed on IR with a shoulder injury, and Hightower took over as the lead back. He produced 95 total yards and a touchdown in Week 14, 85 total yards in Week 15 and 169 total yards plus two touchdowns in Week 16—championship week in most fantasy leagues. Now, Mark Ingram has been sent to the principal’s office for fumbling, and Hightower is poised to become an important fantasy asset yet again. Who else is worth your precious FAAB dollars this week? Read on...

Quarterbacks

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (21% owned)

An enticing matchup against the Jets gives Tannehill streamer appeal in a bye-laden week. The emergence of Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi could help the Miami passing game function more efficiently, and Tannehill is a pretty good runner in his own right, which gives a slight boost to his fantasy value.

(Talent: C | Supporting cast: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (16% owned)

Despite operating in a conservative scheme, Bradford had averaged a respectable 242.8 yards and 14.1 fantasy points per game entering Monday night’s contest against the Bears, with at least one TD pass in each of his first five starts. He has a strong home matchup against the flammable Detroit pass defense this week, and he’ll see the Lions again in Week 12.

(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)

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Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns (3% owned)

Returning from a separated shoulder, McCown completed 25 of 49 passes for 341 yards, two TDs and two INTs in a loss to the Jets. As a streamer, McCown has a few things going for him. The Browns’ ineptitude should lead to a lot of pass-heavy game scripts. With rising star Terrelle Pryor and steady veteran Gary Barnidge, McCown has some pass-catching weaponry to work with, and he’ll soon get talented rookie WR Corey Coleman back from a broken hand. McCown isn’t a bad option if you need inexpensive QB help.

(Talent: C | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C)

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (7% owned)

Kaepernick has completed a laughable 46% of his passes in his two starts and is averaging a mere 5.4 yards per pass attempt. The attractions here are Kap’s rushing potential and his Week 9 matchup against the Saints. Kaepernick has run for 150 yards in his two starts and is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Hey, sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

(Talent: C- | Supporting cast: D | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: C)

Window shopping:

No one will ever be excited to start Case Keenum, but he has very good matchups in each of the next two weeks, first against the Panthers and their atrocious secondary this Sunday, then against the Jets in Week 10. Even in a plus matchup against Oakland this week, Trevor Siemian is just a so-so streaming option; he’s averaged 236.5 passing yards in games he’s started and finished, but he’s thrown multiple TD passes in just one of those games and has been held without a TD pass twice. Joe Flacco has been a fantasy non-entity this season, but his matchup against the Steelers this week isn’t a bad one, and his matchup against the Browns in Week 10 is excellent. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed less than half of his throws against a shoddy Browns pass defense Sunday, which suggests that he’ll have minimal fantasy value in the weeks to come. Alex Smith will be usable against the Jaguars this week if he’s able to clear the concussion protocol, and if he’s not, Nick Foles could be rolled out if you’re in dire QB straits. The production of rookie Carson Wentz has tapered off lately, and his matchup against the Giants this week isn’t attractive.

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Running backs

Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints (4% owned)

After playing a pivotal role for so many owners in last year’s fantasy playoffs, Hightower could be poised to make a big splash in this year’s playoff chase. Mark Ingram landed squarely in Saints coach Sean Payton’s doghouse after losing a first-quarter fumble Sunday against the Seahawks, playing only six snaps for the game. On the other hand, Hightower played an unofficial 47 snaps and carried 26 times for 102 yards. It’s hard to tell how long Ingram will be in dutch with Payton, and I’d be hesitant to believe anything we hear out of New Orleans this week in that regard. But Hightower is most certainly worth a robust bid this week, as we’ve already seen that he’s capable of carrying fantasy teams.

Hightower has a terrific matchup this week against the 49ers, who have been completely unable to stop the run, so he could conceivably be ranked as a top-10 RB this week if he draws the start over Ingram. If you’re short on RBs at the moment, you could certainly justify spending a big chunk of your remaining FAAB budget on Hightower.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: A | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: A-)

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (48% owned)

DeMarco Murray is clearly the main man in the Tennessee running game, but as we enter this critical stretch of the fantasy season, Henry becomes an indispensible handcuff for Murray owners. This point was underscored when Murray briefly left the Titans’ Week 7 win over the Jaguars with what turned out to be a minor foot injury. Henry also makes a fine speculative play for those who don’t own Murray, since the powerful rookie from Alabama would inherit a windfall of a workload if anything were to happen to Murray.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)

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Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (5% owned)

The near-term value of West is largely dependent on the status of Spencer Ware, who sustained a concussion on Sunday—and to a lesser extent, on the status of Jamaal Charles, who’s having difficulty coming back from a knee injury sustained last year. The near-term outlook for Charles seems bleak. And if Ware is ruled out for this week, West becomes a huge Week 9 asset. West had 14-52-0 rushing Sunday against the Colts and also had a pair of receptions for eight yards. Owners in need of bye-week RB coverage should pay close attention to the situation in Kansas City. And Ware owners might want to shell out for the insurance policy.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)

Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks (43% and 2% owned)

Is Christine Michael losing his grip on the Seahawks’ lead RB job? Although Michael has run for three touchdowns in Seattle’s last four games, he’s been held under 65 rushing yards in each of those games and has averaged just 3.45 yards per carry during that stretch. Rawls is expected back from a broken fibula sometime in the first half of November, and if he’s anything close to the player we saw last year, he’ll mount a serious challenge for the alpha-dog role. He’s worth an investment from any owner looking for extra RB firepower for the stretch run. Prosise had 103 yards from scrimmage in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, though 43 of those yards came on a gadget play where he caught a pass from WR Tanner McEvoy. Prosise is only worth a deep dive in deep PPR leagues.

(Rawls: Talent: A- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
(Prosise: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: D | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C-)

Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (12% owned)

I recommended Dixon earlier this season, and he hasn’t panned out thus far. But like the boy who cried wolf, I’m sounding the alarm once again. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said last week that he wanted Dixon to be more involved in the offense, which is just what Dixon enthusiasts like myself wanted to hear. Terrance West had been playing well this season before running into a brick wall against the Jets in Week 8, and Lorenzo Taliaferro has also become a factor in Baltimore, so Dixon still has hurdles to clear in order to get meaningful playing time. He’s also done very little with the few touches he’s had. But Dixon is a talented dude, and it’s encouraging that Harbaugh seems interested in boosting his role. This is a cheap investment that could pay dividends.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)

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Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars (42% owned)

The Jaguars have used sleight of hand in making Ivory disappear from their offense. The burly back has carried the ball just nine times in his last two games and is averaging eight totes per game this season. Three possible reasons for optimism: (1) the Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson after their embarrassing Thursday-night loss to the Titans, and perhaps his replacement, Nathaniel Hackett, will make better use of Ivory; (2) it would seem to make sense for the Jags to re-emphasize the run and reduce the burden on overmatched QB Blake Bortles; and (3) Ivory has a fairly decent slate of matchups for the balance of the regular season.