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The Ticker, Week 13: The best fantasy teams are waiver-wire monsters

Check the numbers. The best teams are also the ones using the waiver wire like it's the new Apple product.

Look, ultimately I don't know whether constantly trolling the waiver wire helps you win your league. The best fantasy football players are probably the best drafters, which means maybe they don't need the waiver wire as much.

But I certainly think so. And here's what I can tell you. Yahoo! tracks transactions for each team on the league homepages. So I went to the homepages for my three Yahoo! leagues and checked. Teams currently slated to make the playoffs have made an average of 25.3 roster moves this season; teams out of it have made 19.6.

Going further, I checked the number of roster moves by team record across my three leagues, with a combined 34 teams:

Record No. of teams Average No. of moves
10-2 2 31.5
8-4 6 26.2
7-5 9 20.3
6-6 3 30
5-7 8 16
4-8 1 39
3-9 2 8
2-10 2 12.5
1-11 1 5

(That one 4-8 team that makes the numbers just a little wonky? That's my team in my primary league. What can I say, I'm a number skewer.)

This isn't conclusive. No data sample with only 34 data points can be. But it does jibe with conventional wisdom that says that to succeed in this game, you can't set it and forget it. I'm in a longtime league with a friend, Sean, who has repeatedly says he only stays in the league to maintain contact with all of us. He drafts, and he drops hurt players for healthy ones, but that's about it. No trades, no strategy. Sean's made six moves this season. His team? 3-9.

This time of the season, the teams on their way to the playoffs are unlikely to need to troll the wire for a season-saver. But there are other uses. Maybe you need to stash a playoff defense. Maybe you have a guy on a one-week injury. Heck, maybe you're the No. 1 seed, and you just want to snag someone before a threatening No. 6 seed, who might be able to knock you out should it come to that.

The waiver wire doesn't go away just because your team is great. Keep at it. And while you're keeping at it, this is The Ticker, my stock-minded trip through the waiver wire. There are six categories:

Stocks I'm buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I believe it

Stocks I'm not buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I don't believe it

Stocks I'm selling: high-owned players who struggled, and I'm bailing on them a bit

Stocks I'm not selling: high-owned players who struggled, but I still trust them

Hedges: handcuffs; low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them, but injuries or starter awfulness could change things

Futures market: low-owned guys without an obvious line to fantasy productivity yet, but there are things that could change in that department

(All ownership percentages are as of Monday morning.)

Stocks I'm buying

Ben Tate

Ben Tate, RB, MIN (68 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)

Normally I limit myself to only players who are 50 percent owned or less for these categories, but I'm making an exception here. I don't really think Tate is any great shakes at running back -- if he were, (a) we'd have seen it by now, and (b) he'd still be in Cleveland. But at the very least, Tate could pop in Minnesota. Jerick McKinnon, whether because of him or his usage, isn't getting it done. And this time of year, guys like Dan Herron aren't likely to make a difference come the fantasy playoffs. Tate probably isn't either, but he at least has the theoretical potential to do so.

Toby Gerhart

Toby Gerhart, RB, JAC (30 percent)

There are approximately zero people other than Robinson family members and Michigan alumni who, three months ago, would have preferred Denard Robinson as a fantasy option to Toby Gerhart. But when the season started, Gerhart did absolutely nothing, and he was replaced, first by Storm Johnson and then by Robinson, who did really well in the role. And far be it for me to doubt a tiny, oft-injured ex-quarterback, but Robinson isn't likely to keep that going; he's the beneficiary of getting the job right as the offensive line improved. Robinson has lost fumbles in consecutive games, and Sunday was his worst game as the top guy. If that continues, Gerhart could get the job back, and do better with it this time.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN (7 percent)

I said in the preseason that I thought Bridgewater was likely to be the best of this rookie class of quarterbacks. And I suppose, if you want to get really nitpicky about it, he has been. Johnny Manziel has barely played, Blake Bortles has been pretty awful, Derek Carr is 1-10 and Zach Mettenberger doesn't really have a track record yet. Still, Bridgewater hasn't been great, with six touchdowns against seven interceptions so far. But he's been improving; in his last four games, he's 2-2 with five touchdowns against two picks. He's shown enough of late to rejuvenate intrigue in the Louisville product.

Stocks I'm not buying

LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount, RB, NE (31 percent)

This is really a "come on, Belichick" post. If I knew that Blount, or Shane VereenJonas Gray or heck, Brandon Bolden, were going to get full-time touches as the New England running back, I'd rank whichever guy it was as a top-20 or so running back. But instead, Belichick moves things around, punishes guys for stuff, draw names out of a hat, whatever it is he does. Regardless, Blount isn't markedly better than the other New England options, and Belichick is going to keep flipping it around. Owning Blount is investing in heartache.

Theo Riddick

Theo Riddick, RB, DET (9 percent)

If you told me today that Reggie Bush was ruled out for the season or just vanished into thin air, I still would include Riddick here. The second-year third-stringer saw his value rise when he scored receiving touchdowns in three straight games, sandwiched around a bye and an injury. But this is a guy with 47 rushing yards in nine games. He's a pass catcher, but 149 of his 218 receiving yards came when Calvin Johnson was on the shelf. In short, there just isn't enough offense to go around for Riddick, and I can't defend rostering him even in super-deep leagues.

Stedman Bailey

Stedman Bailey, WR, STL (0 percent)

There is not a single pass catcher in St. Louis worth owning in fantasy. That's really the point here. In Week 11, Kenny Britt had 128 yards and a score. In Week 12, he had 37 yards. In Week 11, Bailey had 26 yards. In Week 12, he had 89 and a touchdown. Next week, maybe it's Tavon Austin who puts up numbers. Or Chris Givens. Or maybe (most likely) no one. This is a bad offense with a subpar quarterback, and all these pass-catching options are a bunch of "meh." One good game from that sort of situation is not worth an investment.

Stocks I'm selling

Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (97 percent)

Have you looked at the Lions' schedule down the stretch? Over the next five weeks, they host Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota, then travel to Chicago and Green Bay. It's hard to have a friendlier schedule than that. But it's not like Stafford has been feasting on such situations so far this year. He had 11 fantasy points against Minnesota last time, 15 against New Orleans, 19 against Atlanta. This is supposedly a star quarterback who hasn't reached 20 fantasy points since Week 4, and whose team hasn't gone for more than 24 points in a game since Week 1. He's outside my top 10 at the position the rest of the way.

Martellus Bennett

Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI (95 percent)

Ready for a little chart? I'm going to give you Bennett's average stat line through Week 4 in each of the last three years, then his average stat line afterward.

Year Weeks 1-4 Week 4-on
2014 71 yards, 1 TD 48 yards, 0.14 TD
2013 56 yards, 0.75 TD 45 yards, 0.17 TD
2012 47 yards, 0.75 TD 37 yards, 0.17 TD

There isn't some switch that flips off in Bennett's game when October starts. But for whatever reason, this guy fades as the season goes on. So when you look at Bennett, you see a top-performing tight end, and that's just not what he is at this point.

Stocks I'm not selling

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates, TE, SD (96 percent)

In Weeks 3 and 4, Gates had a combined four catches for 38 yards. In the four games after that, he had 202 yards and six scores. So when you look at his last three games and see a combined eight catches for 74 yards, it can seem pretty bleak. And Gates definitely isn't in the top tier of tight ends (in some order: Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen). But once you're past those guys, the position offers so many question marks that Gates is still going to be worth a spot.

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler, QB, CHI (93 percent)

Psychoanalyzing Jay Cutler seems like the world's worst parlor game. ("Parlor game"? Am I 70 years old?) So I have no idea what causes his performance over the last six games (in order, his fantasy totals by game have been 22, 7, 21, 8, 23, 7). Home and road don't seem to matter. Quality of opponent doesn't seem to matter. He just bounces around. All I can say is that, when I see a quarterback with the obvious talents of Cutler, a group of offensive weapons that includes Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and a not-terrible rest-of-season schedule, I'm investing, for better and for worse.


Tom Savage

Tom Savage, QB, HOU (0 percent)

We know that Ryan Mallett is done for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. We also know that Ryan Fitzpatrick was outright terrible this season. For now, the Texans will probably give Fitzpatrick one last shot, but as they fade from the playoff picture (5-6 in a conference with 11 teams with winning records), there's no reason at all to not let the rookie fourth-rounder at least get his feet wet. Ultimately, this probably won't do anything in fantasy, but in a super-deep league or a dynasty? Heck, a starting quarterback's a starting quarterback.

Marcel Reece

Marcel Reece, RB, OAK (0 percent)

I'm not an NFL scout. And lord knows I don't watch every single Raiders game. But every single time they give Reece real playing time, he responds with numbers. Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have been awful, and with Latavius Murray hurt a week ago, Reece was a crucial part of Oakland's win. He did it last year when McFadden and Rashad Jennings were both hurt. So I don't know why the Raiders keep avoiding giving Reece serious touches, other than that he's been a really good fullback, but if Murray can't rebound from his concussion, I expect Reece to get another chance in Week 13.

Futures market

Jordan Cameron

Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE (46 percent)

Another week, another hurt tight end. Cameron has missed four straight games with a concussion, and while that's terrifying, he does appear to be on track for a Week 13 return (maybe, possibly, don't count on it though). A healthy Jordan Cameron is a top-10 tight end, so if you are hurting at the position -- and you probably are -- he could help out. Let him play a game before you put him in your lineup, but stash him on your roster first.

Jason Avant

Jason Avant, WR, KAN (0 percent)

*Checks* Nope, still no touchdowns for any Kansas City wide receivers this year. Donnie Avery's injured groin just isn't getting better, and after Dwayne Bowe, no one else in that offense is any sort of consideration. Enter Avant, cut by the Panthers last week. Sure, Avant's next fantasy-relevant moment will be his first, but reunited with Andy Reid, and on a team with precious few options, he at least has potential in this situation if things have gotten really bad.