Most Yahoo! fantasy leagues had their trading deadlines last Friday. In ESPN standard leagues, it's this Wednesday. One way or another, trades will be off the table soon enough, and your only avenue toward improving your team will be the waiver wire. That, or drinking so much that "Colt McCoy" looks like "LeSean McCoy," but that seems unhealthy.
I don't think I'm alone when I say that I can't help myself. This week, I lost by eight, having left 39 points out of Donald Brown and Coby Fleener on my bench, ending my three-game winning streak and dropping me to 4-7. But I still spent the last twenty minutes with a document open on my computer, figuring out what combination of events has to occur for me to still sneak into the playoffs.
It's actually more possible than it should be. Six out of the 12 teams in our league make the playoffs; there are two 5-6 teams and four at 4-7, including me, in the 6-11 seeds. I'm the highest-scoring of the group and would own any tiebreaker, so if I win out it is possible that I could be a 6-7 six-seed and make a run.
It's silly, I was 1-6 and have no business even dreaming, but I can't help myself. What it means, though, is that I can't afford any waiver-wire mistakes the reason of the year. I have A.J. Green on a Week 12 bye; do I run with Vincent Brown on my roster? Or do I pick up Marvin Jones, or Brandon LaFell, or, I don't know, Cordarrelle Patterson? Literally, my next mistake basically has to be my last, and I doubt you fine folks are going to want to read about my 4-8 roster combing through the waiver wire next week so I can avoid last place.
So that is why we are here - The Ticker. There's a lot to digest as you dive into the waiver wire, and the hope here is to boil that down. Now, telling you that the person writing it can manage only a 4-7 record in his work league probably isn't the best way to establish my bona fides, but whatever, I've been looking at the waiver wire for hours straight, so you're reading what I have to say about it.
It's divided into six categories, with three players in each. Within that, there are three general divisions of players:
Guys who were surprisingly good in Week 11 - These are "Stocks I'm buying," if I believe the performance, or "Stocks I'm not buying," if, you know, I don't.
Guys who were surprisingly bad in Week 11 - These are "Stocks I'm selling" or "Stocks I'm not selling." I would hope you could figure out why.
Guys whose stocks might rise later - "Futures market" and "Hedges." Futures market guys warrant consideration for a pickup for reasons not necessarily related to their Week 11 performances. Hedges are guys whose stock could go up because of injury or other consequence to guys playing ahead of them.
Other than the "surprisingly bad" crew, all of these guys are owned in 50 percent or fewer of Yahoo! leagues (percentages are as of Monday evening, because I got a late start this week). Happy hunting:
Stocks I'm buying
Montee Ball, RB, DEN (36 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Ball was a popular fantasy draft pick in preseason, entering a favorable situation in Denver as the team's second-round draft pick. Then we started hearing murmurs that Ball needed work in pass protection before he could really play with Peyton Manning full-time, which, having watched Peyton Manning over the years, totally makes sense. Knowshon Moreno took the starting job and has been a stud, while Ronnie Hillman has been a disaster in the backup role. After only four touches total in Weeks 4-6, Ball has 28 in his last three, including 11 touches and two scores in Sunday night's win. Well, if he didn't get the job at the start of the season because there was an area of the game that needed work, doesn't it make sense that his workload would increase as he, you know, gets that work? Ball could find himself a big part of the Broncos' offense down the stretch.
Cleveland Browns defense/special teams (18 percent)
I don't really understand why Cleveland's defense is only 18 percent owned. I guess it's because of their Week 10 bye, with people not jumping back on the bandwagon in the aftermath, but this is a defense that managed to put up nine fantasy points in a 41-20 loss, due to two interceptions and a touchdown. They are top-five against the run and have a top-flight cover corner in Joe Haden. The way to beat the Browns' defense is to have a strong second option in the receiving game, which is why their game against Green Bay in Week 7 was their worst outing. Well, the Browns's next two games are against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars, two teams that, behind Antonio Brown and Cecil Shorts III, don't have that next-man-up sort of guy. Good times ahead.
Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, CLE (9 percent)
The Browns worked Willis McGahee up to a full workload inside of three weeks with the team, and almost as quickly worked him back down, as they realized that he's kind of terrible at football at this point. With little else of value among the team's running backs, Ogbonnaya has seen his looks increase dramatically - he had no rushes and one reception in Week 5, and that rose to eight rushes and six receptions Sunday, going for 99 total yards. Ogbonnaya has had at least three catches seven times in his last nine games, giving him pretty decent PPR value. And as McGahee is phased out, the team isn't going to have much choice but to give Ogbonnaya more runs. It's a deep-league play, but there's reason for optimism.
Stocks I'm not buying
Bobby Rainey, RB, TB (26 percent)
This is only partially about Rainey's talent - he definitely has skill, even if it has taken him two seasons and three organizations to display it. I doubt anyone is snapping him up thinking 167 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns is his new reality, anyway, so saying he won't repeat his Week 11 performance is hardly an insight. But Rainey's huge day came against a Falcons' defense that is third-worst in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed, while Tampa Bay's next two games come against Detroit and Carolina, two of the bottom five in that stat. If you're desperate for a running back, by all means, snap Rainey up. He is a starter, after all. But if you're hoping for RB1 or even, frankly, RB2 value in the next couple weeks, you might be barking up the wrong tree.
Delanie Walker, TE, TEN (21 percent)
Walker has three touchdowns in his last four games, and five in 10 games on the season, already a career-best. His 10 receptions and 91 yards Thursday were both single-game career highs, as well. All that said, he had a pretty consistent statline this season before Thursday's game - three or four catches on a few more targets, with 40 or so yards. Maybe a score, but maybe not. That's a mid-level TE2, not the TE1 he might be if you only look at very recent numbers. I'm going to choose to trust his seven-and-a-half years of production over the last two weeks of dominance, thanks.
Matt McGloin, QB, OAK (1 percent)
Thaddeus Lewis scored 21 fantasy points in his first start of the season. Matt Cassel scored 17. Jason Campbell had 20, then 24. Quarterback after quarterback has taken over for the starter, had a really good game in his first or second time out, then remembered that there was a reason he was the backup to begin with. So yeah, it was pretty cool that McGloin scored 19 points in his first career start Sunday, and he's a great story, but the other shoe is going to drop soon enough. No one is thinking he's a QB1 option, but I feel comfortable saying he's not even a QB2, even if the team announces him as the starter long-term.
Stocks I'm selling
Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE (95 percent)
Cameron averaged 11.5 fantasy points a game through Week 8, and now has two total points since. He had double-digit targets three times in the first four games this season and hasn't exceeded nine since. He had five touchdowns in the first four games and has only one since. There are about a billion "XX in his first XX and X since" stats I can toss in here about Cameron. The short version of the story is that the tight end, who was a favorite toy of earlier starters Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, has yet to click with Jason Campbell. Until he does, his status as an obvious top-five tight end is in serious jeopardy, and another game or two of this sort of struggle could have him sliding down to TE2.
Lamar Miller, RB, MIA (85 percent)
I just ... I don't understand. How in the world is Lamar Miller still owned in 85 percent of leagues? How in the Lamar Miller still owned in thirty-five percent of leagues? What is there about his play of late - 19 rushing yards and three fantasy points combined in his last two games - could make anyone think Miller is worthy of a roster slot, let alone started in 40 percent of leagues, as he was in Yahoo! in Week 11? It's a poor team, a struggling offensive line, and they clearly think Daniel Thomas is at least as valuable a running back as Miller. Great that they managed a win Sunday, but there's not a fantasy player on this team I'd touch, with the possible exception of tight end Charles Clay.
In two games since Justin Blackmon was suspended for the rest of the year, Shorts has four total catches and 64 yards. Opposing defenses - and, granted, they've played two good defenses in Tennessee and Arizona - have made it a point to shut Shorts down, and they've been successful in that endeavor. It's hard to imagine Shorts continued being quite as bad as he has been in the last two, but until he turns it around, he's not worth using as anything more than a low-end flex play, and even that might be generous.
Stocks I'm not selling
Any bad performances in this game - basically, every pass-catcher not named "Alshon Jeffery" - ought to be chalked up to the weather, barring any developments in later games. In a game that was delayed by apocalyptic storms (screw you, I wanted to use the word "apocalyptic") and only resumed amid mud, wind, and rain, there were no passes attempted in the entire third quarter, and only Jeffery managed to exceed 50 receiving yards. Marshall was trapped in the 40s with tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte. Sorry if you were stuck mourning Marshall's performance, friend, but it'll get better from here.
Reggie Bush, RB, DET (99 percent)
It is right around midnight on Monday night as I write this, and I ran a quick Google News search on Reggie Bush to see what the latest news was as it regarded his removal from Sunday's game, and this is what I found:
So ... that was helpful information! Reggie Bush was benched for rain, or because he screwed up, or to get Theo Riddick some work! Thank you, Google, for answering all my burning questions! Seriously, that was the least helpful Google search that has ever happened, and I once searched "What search engine should I use?", just to see if I could open a wormhole. Anyway, Bush's 54 combined yards Sunday were his worst of the season, and there's no reason to think he is planning to fall behind Joique Bell despite the benching ... whatever it was for.
Eddie Lacy, RB, GB (97 percent)
In Aaron Rodgers' last start, Lacy had 6.8 yards per carry. In Seneca Wallace's start, it was 3.0. In Scott Tolzien's, it was 1.9. As the quarterbacks have gotten worse, the defensive attention has turned to Lacy and the running game, and that has gone a long way toward crushing Lacy's value, which was only salvaged by his 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. While it's true that the Giants were successful in the "dare Tolzien to beat us" strategy, as he had no touchdowns against three interceptions, but Tolzien also had 339 passing yards, and with another week of practice and strong receivers to throw to, that strategy might not work for long. The ground ought to open up for Lacy soon enough.
Dan Bailey, K, DAL (49 percent)
A kicker in The Ticker! Steven Hauschka is the top-scoring kicker in fantasy this year, and goes on a bye next week. Ryan Succop, Alex Henery, and Mike Nugent are also on byes. Meanwhile, Bailey and Greg Zuerlein are coming off their byes. Bailey is fantasy's No. 6 kicker, and his ownership naturally plummeted last week as his owners dumped him to add a non-bye kicker. It's rare there's a chance at a top-tier player at any position, and while kicker isn't exactly the key position in fantasy, it's not worth ignoring. Also, as a P.S., if your league offers bonus points for long kicks, as many do, Bailey is fourth in the league in kicks of 40 or more yards. He's worth a pickup.
Miles Austin, WR, DAL (26 percent)
Even healthy, Austin is no longer the thousand-yard receiver he was a few seasons ago. But if he can get back on the field, he and quarterback Tony Romo have worked together really well in the past. It isn't common you can find a receiver with thousand-yard potential deep in the waiver wire, and that is the upside Austin has. If he can prove he's healthy, if Terrance Williams hits a rookie wall or gets hurt, Austin could have a big impact in the fantasy playoffs.
Ace Sanders, WR, JAC (0 percent)
It's hard to picture Justin Blackmon ever doing much with Jacksonville again; Cecil Shorts is a free agent after next season. The Jaguars aren't going anywhere any time soon, so why not see if young guys like Saanders have anything to offer? That appeared to be the team's thinking Sunday, as Sanders - a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft - had eight catches on 10 targets, after one or zero catches in each of his last four games. Those who watch college football (or who frequent the GIF Oracle) surely remember some of Sanders' ridiculousness from college, and those skills are surely still there. Don't pick him up yet, but keep an eye on the Jacksonville rookie.
Toby Gerhart, RB, MIN (1 percent)
This is approximately the sixth or seventh time Gerhart has almost been included in The Ticker, but the first time he's actually made the cut. I love Adrian Peterson and his Human Body of Craziness as much as the next guy, but the fact is that he's been on the injury report almost as often as he hasn't been in his career, and he's missed games more often than you'd like - sure, not as much in the last season or so, but running backs don't typically tend to get more healthy, ya know? Gerhart was the yardage leader for both teams in Sunday's Vikings-Seahawks game, which is insane to write, and has averaged 4.5 yards per rush over 251 carries in his career. You never want Peterson to go out, but if he ever does, Gerhart is one of the better backups.
Antone Smith, RB, ATL (0 percent)
Full disclosure? I had no idea who Smith was when he scored Sunday. I saw "A. Smith" on my StatTracker and jokingly guessed that Akili had made a comeback. I assumed he was an undrafted free agent out of some low-end college that the Falcons had promoted from the practice squad, until I visited his ESPN player page, and holy crap, Antone Smith has been in the NFL for four years and played at Florida State. Way to fly under the radar, Antone. I don't even know if your first name is pronounced "An-TONE" or "An-TWAN." But with Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson both aging and awful of late, there's really been no reason for the Falcons not to give Smith at least a little bit of a chance. He scored his first career touchdown Sunday and had two runs - one of 50 yards and one of 38. For a guy who entered Sunday with five career rushing yards, that is if nothing else a great memory. But if he can do anything like that outside of a garbage-time loss to Tampa Bay, he might actually have a real career.
Ladarius Green, TE, SDC (0 percent)
Green had only two receptions in the Chargers' first five games this season. He had one or two catches in the next four games before catching four balls for 81 yards in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins. His increased role has come as starting tight end Antonio Gates has gone from 8-10 catches down to 4-6. No, Green isn't likely to overtake Gates as the team's No. 1, but Gates is an oft-injured 33-year-old who hasn't topped 75 yards since Week 4. If those injuries recur, the second-year Green, who at 6'6" and 240 pounds is even bigger than Gates and basically Rob Gronkowski-sized, could find himself being a fantasy name.