- 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...
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+)
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)
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.
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)
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-)
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.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Antone Smith and Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7% owned)
With Jacquizz Rodgers sustaining a foot injury Sunday and Doug Martin still out with a hamstring injury, Smith and Barber might be asked to carry the mail for the Bucs this week against the Falcons. Smith out-carried Barber 4-1 in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Raiders and out-snapped him 22-3. Seek information on Rodgers’ injury before bidding on either Smith or Barber. If Rodgers is going to be out for at least a week, Smith is worth a serious bid, and Barber might be worth a very modest investment.
(Smith: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: C+)
(Barber: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: C-)
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (33% owned)
Lewis returned to practice last week, so the Patriots have less than three weeks to activate him from the PUP list. Some have suggested that Lewis, who’s coming back from a patella stress fracture, is ahead of the standard timetable for a return—that’s not necessarily a good thing, because Lewis is still a high-risk fantasy proposition. And by the way, James White has done a pretty good job of filling a similar role as Lewis. It’s also unlikely that the Patriots would stop handing the ball to LeGarrette Blount, who’s been an unrepentant masher this season, punishing opponents with his power. Lewis has the potential to offer late-season help, but at this point it’s more of a long shot than a sure thing.
(Lewis: Talent: A | Opportunity: C | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C+)
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (37% owned)
Powell’s value has ping-ponged this season due to the Jets’ erratic usage of Matt Forte. Forte carried a heavy load the first couple of weeks of the season, shared snaps with Powell for a few weeks, and now has gone back to hogging the vast majority of the carries. Forte out-carried Powell 25 carries to six on Sunday against the Browns, but Powell made the most of his limited work, rushing for 76 yards and a TD. It’s possible the Jets will return to a more even touch distribution between their two backs. Even if they don’t, Powell might be a worthwhile investment for Forte owners.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (32% owned)
As I mentioned in my weekly Friday roundtable with colleague Michael Beller, holding out hope for Peterson’s return is a bit like going on a Yeti expedition. If you get lucky, you’ll have fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams. But the odds of success are extremely remote, and you’re going to spend a lot of frigid nights on a Nepalese mountainside waiting for your quarry. If you can spare the roster spot, fine. But I can’t recommend a significant expenditure.
(Talent: A | Opportunity: D | Schedule: F | OVERALL: C-)
Rob Kelley had 21-87-1 rushing against the Bengals in Week 8, and if Matt Jones isn’t ready to return from a knee injury when Washington comes off its Week 9 bye, Kelley might be usable in Week 10 despite a tough matchup against the Vikings. With the Giants averaging a meager 70.3 rushing yards per game, and Rashad Jennings sputtering along at 2.7 yards per carry, rookie Paul Perkins is an interesting speculative play. Jeremy Langford lost his starting gig to Jordan Howard and is on bye this week, but he’s still mildly interesting as a speculative play. DeAngelo Williams is an essential handcuff for Le’Veon Bell owners as we enter the home stretch. Oakland rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are talented kids, but with the two of them splitting backup duty behind Latavius Murray, they’re only rosterable in the deepest of leagues. David Johnson owners should think about adding Andre Ellington as a handcuff in larger leagues.
Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers (42% owned)
A hand injury has slowed Coates’ momentum, as has the injury to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Coates has been a big-play machine this year, and if he’s available in your league, it’s worth tucking him away. By the time Roethlisberger gets back, perhaps Coates’ hand will be fully repaired. If so, these two could make beautiful music together down the stretch. Coates is averaging 21.3 yards per catch and has six receptions of 40 or more yards.
(Talent: A | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: A-)
Kenny Britt, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (39% owned)
Britt was dropped in a lot of leagues with the Rams idle in Week 8. He’ll be back this week with a choice matchup against the Panthers, whose secondary has been torched repeatedly. Britt has established himself as the Rams’ top downfield pass-catching threat and is on pace for 1,223 yards. He’s worth a healthy bid if the heavy bye week puts you behind the 8-ball at the WR position.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B+)
Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns (42% owned)
The playmaking rookie should be back soon from a broken hand—if not this week, then probably by Week 10. The return of Josh McCown from a shoulder injury improves the outlook for Coleman, since he stands to do better with a capable veteran at quarterback than with either of youngsters Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan. With pass-heavy game scripts for Cleveland, there should be enough targets to support Coleman, Pryor and Barnidge.
Talent: A- | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B+)
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (44% owned)
Enunwa has made some big catches the last two weeks, with six receptions for 166 yards and two TDs over that span. The target volume should continue to be solid for Enunwa, who’s seen 60 targets in eight games. He also has an appealing Week 9 matchup against the Dolphins.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (9% owned)
Granted, his production has come in somewhat gimmicky ways, but his prominent involvement in the Minnesota offense is encouraging. Entering Monday night’s game against the Bears, Patterson had averaged six touches over his last three games and had scored touchdowns in his last two. Could it be that C-Patt is turning into a PPR specialist with TD upside? He has a compelling matchup this week against a bad Lions pass defense.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C+)
Jeff Janis, Green Bay Packers (2% owned)
Yeah, I’m a Janis truther, so feel free to disregard what you’re about to read if you’re a disbeliever. Janis caught four of four targets Sunday against the Falcons for 30 yards and a TD. Perhaps more significant, Janis played an unofficial 58 snaps against Atlanta, just one fewer than Jordy Nelson and the same total as Davante Adams. Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery were both sidelined, of course, and neither is expected to be out long. But the Packers seem intent on using Montgomery as a running back, so Janis might only be one injury away from getting heavy snaps on a weekly basis. It’s also somewhat noteworthy that the Packers released WR Jared Abbrederis last week, suggesting that they might have some trust in Janis after all. A minimum bid could pay dividends in the weeks to come.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Jamison Crowder, who caught 9-107-1 against the Bengals on Sunday, is on bye this week but should be owned in every league. Marqise Lee hasn’t scored a touchdown and is averaging a modest 11.9 yards per catch, but he’s certainly worth owning, at least in PPR leagues. Titans WRs Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright are viable Week 9 options for the bye-afflicted: Matthews has scored touchdowns in three of his last four games, and Wright has come on lately, with 14-229-2 in his last three outings. J.J. Nelson is on bye this week, but he caught 8-79-2 against the Panthers on Sunday, and with Michael Floyd falling out of the picture it Arizona, it might be worth thinking ahead and claiming Nelson in advance of a favorable Week 10 matchup against the 49ers. Dependent on big plays, Kenny Stills has three TD catches and has tallied 74 yards or more in three games, but he’s also had some virtual no-shows. Dorial Green-Beckham does just enough every week to remind you that he’s still around, waiting for a genie or some other magical entity to unleash all of that vast latent talent. Brian Quick has caught 12-204-0 in his last three games and has good matchups in each of the next two weeks. Brandon LaFell may still have some utility in deeper leagues, but the return of Tyler Eifert really puts a dent in LaFell’s fantasy value. With six teams on bye, the streaky Ted Ginn is a reasonable one-week flyer. The return of RB Theo Riddick and TE Eric Ebron dims the fantasy outlook somewhat for the venerable Anquan Boldin, though he might still have some back-of-the-roster depth value. Tyler Lockett is now owned in only 46% of Yahoo leagues, and though he’s a talented dude, his limited role in the Seattle offense prevents a ringing endorsement.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens (43% owned)
Pitta hasn’t scored a touchdown this season and is averaging 8.8 yards per catch, so it’s easy to understand why his ownership rate has been slipping. There’s still PPR value here, however, as Pitta is on an 87-catch pace and has had at least three receptions in all seven of Baltimore’s games. He also has some very favorable matchups in the weeks ahead.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans (15% owned)
Fiedorowicz has a bye this week, which will squelch interest in him. That presents a nice buying opportunity. Over his last five games, Fiedorowicz has caught 24 of 34 targets for 272 yards and three TDs. He’s had seven or more targets in four consecutive games and has become the favorite check-down option for Brock Osweiler. Take the bye-week discount.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B-)
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (37% owned)
Returning from knee and ankle injuries that kept him out for three games, Ebron caught seven passes for a team-high 79 yards against a Houston defense that had been shutting down opposing tight ends all season. Ebron is a talented young dude who’s starting to make an impact, but there are a lot of mouths for Lions QB Matthew Stafford to feed. Ebron has a difficult matchup against the Vikings this week, then goes on bye in Week 10.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: B-)
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (8% owned)
Green returned to practice last week and is on the verge of making his Steelers debut. It won’t be worth inserting him Green into your lineup until Ben Roethlisberger is back from injury, but the athletic tight end is an interesting late-season flyer, considering the potency of the Pittsburgh passing game.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
After a promising start to his season, Cameron Brate has been held to three or fewer catches and less than 40 receiving yards in each of his last three games. Virgil Green had four catches for 55 yards in Week 8 and might have low-level streaming appeal this week against the Raiders. Jacob Tamme’s shoulder injury could create some short-term interest in Falcons rookie Austin Hooper, who had five catches for 41 yards Sunday and offers significantly more upside than does Tamme.