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The Ticker, Week 4: The worse you're doing, the more you need the waiver wire

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If your team is in first place, you need the waiver wire. If your team is in last place, you NEED the waiver wire. Here's some shorthand.

Want to see something sad?

It's been a rough, rough start to my season so far in my primary league, with my record sitting at 0-3. (I am writing this before Monday night's game, so if Robbie Gould kicks, I don't know, 19 field goals, you can disregard that. Seems likely, yeah?) Some of my other teams are doing much better, so it's not that I'm a moron or anything (I hope), but that's been frustrating.

Sunday, I was without Doug Martin and Arian Foster, and lost Danny Woodhead, Dennis Pitta and T.Y. Hilton in the early games. My quarterback and two receivers are on a bye this week. I have a trade offer on the table that would net me Andre Ellington, who I'm high on, but that's another guy on a bye, which means my best apparent option puts me even worse off for the week to come.

Anyway, the point is that I'm looking through the waiver wire closer than anyone, and even closer than I, a fantasy writer, would have looked were my team doing well. And there is some definite intrigue out there.

Which brings me to The Ticker, my stock-minded trip through said waiver wire. You know the drill. 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 out on them

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 huge usage yet, but could force their teams' hands later on

(All ownership percentages are as of Monday morning.)

So here we go. Read on, and if you ever run into my buddy Nate, tell him it's mean to hoard Alfred Blue from me while Foster is injured:

Stocks I'm buying

Jordan Matthews

Jordan Matthews, WR, PHI (18 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)

The rookie second-round pick was fairly quiet through the season's first two weeks, with three combined catches for 54 yards, but he had a coming-out party Sunday, with 59 yards and two touchdowns. The most telling number to me, though, is that Matthews was targeted nine times, pulling in eight catches. Riley Cooper, ostensibly the Eagles' No. 2 receiver, was targeted only seven, and he hasn't had anything even approximating a good game yet. Jeremy Maclin is the top option in Philadelphia, but Matthews looks like a better choice for the No. 2 guy going forward.

Devin Hester

Devin Hester, WR, ATL (11 percent)

I'll temper this a bit with noting that much of Hester's value is fluke-play dependent, and it's even lower when you consider the fact that many leagues give credit for return touchdowns to the players' special teams units instead of the players themselves. Still, after a career in Chicago where Hester got the chance to return kicks but was otherwise used as an entirely conventional football player, it looks like he's on a team that is more willing to use Hester creatively. Creativity was never a hallmark of Lovie Smith in Chicago. Add to that the fact that Roddy White and Harry Douglas are increasingly brittle, and Eric Weems is in his eighth year, and there's reason to think Hester could see decent usage going forward.

Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight, RB, KC (0 percent)

I think I remember hearing someone on a podcast last week say that McKnight was on the Chiefs, but I'm not even positive of that, and otherwise I'm not at all sure I knew McKnight was still on any team. And then Sunday, he had one rush for 3 yards. Oh, and six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. McKnight is a Chiefs running back like Dexter McCluster before him was a Chiefs running back. With Jamaal Charles' injuries and general health, Knile Davis' lesser contributions in the passing game and the general not very goodness of Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, McKnight could continue to see targets going forward.

Stocks I'm not buying

Stevie Johnson

Steve Johnson, WR, SF (10 percent)

Johnson had nine catches on nine targets Sunday. He went for 103 yards. It was his first 100-yard game since Week 2 of last year, and a nice reappearance for an ex-Wildcat (On, on U of K! Sorry, I was having a moment), but it comes after four catches and 59 yards in the first two weeks, and a decidedly subpar season in Buffalo last year. With Vernon Davis out, the 49ers looked elsewhere for his normal touches. Davis should be back going forward, rendering Johnson, what, the team's sixth option on offense? Davis, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde (in some order)? You can't buy in on this.

John Brown

John Brown, WR, ARI (8 percent)

Everyone loves Brown through three weeks. He was the preseason darling, and he's gone on to catch nine balls for 109 yards and three scores in the regular season. I'm not going to lie, he is intriguing. But I refuse -- refuse -- to believe Brown is superior to either Michael Floyd or Larry Fitzgerald in that Arizona offense, despite Floyd's minor struggles and Fitzgerald's major ones so far. I can't find any reason to think Fitzgerald is done, or close to it. Brown's been fun, but come on, Fitzgerald gon' Fitzgerald.

Eddie Royal

Eddie Royal, WR, SD (4 percent)

Sigh. We've been through this before. Royal had five touchdowns in the first two games last season, then had three more scores (and 517 total more yards) the rest of the season. He's not a player you can rely on week to week, or even month to month. For whatever reason, Philip Rivers likes to look to Royal on goal-line passes, but with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green in that offense, I find it hard to imagine that is any sort of long-term thing. Let Royal score those occasional touchdowns on the waiver wire.

Stocks I'm selling

Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb, WR, GB (100 percent)

Oooooooooh, C-A-T-S Cats Cats Cats! (Sorry, don't know what came over me.) In our wide receiver rankings for Week 3, three of us had Cobb as a top-10 play, and one ranker had him in the late 30s. It drew the attention of a commenter, and John (the outside-the-box ranker) explained that he was scared off by (a) Cobb's touchdown dependency, and (b) Davante Adams' rise. In retrospect, I'm not close to putting Adams ahead of Cobb, but the touchdown thing is a real concern. Cobb has only 126 receiving yards through three games, with the only thing keeping him valuable his three touchdowns in the first two games. You want a player who can accumulate yardage and get occasional scores, not a player who needs a score to offer anything.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, MIN (98 percent)

This is hardly conclusive, but in one game with Adrian Peterson this season, Patterson had 128 yards and a score. In two games without Adrian Peterson, he's had 110 yards and no scores. Patterson is still the Vikings' best offensive player, but there were some who theorized Peterson's absence could help Patterson, under the thinking that someone else had to get the work Peterson got. The reality is that Peterson's skills gave Minnesota opponents more to worry about and put Minnesota in position to score more often. Without Peterson, the Vikings just don't have an impressive offense, and it seriously limits Patterson's upside. He'll still pull the occasional big play, but I don't think he's even close to a must-start in fantasy.

Stocks I'm not selling

Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (100 percent)

He put up 29 fantasy points in Week 1, but has a total of 16 points since, bottoming out (I hope?) with a three-point outing Sunday, in a game that didn't make any sense at all. Seriously, a Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers game featured only 26 total points, and the only fantasy-relevant player who scored a touchdown was Reggie Bush? I have no idea what to make of that game. This is still a basically identical offense to the one that Stafford has succeeded in for years, plus Golden Tate. Stafford has some friendly defenses coming up. I'm still on board.

Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy, RB, GB (100 percent)

Speaking of that Green Bay-Detroit game, man. Lacy now has 10 total fantasy points through three games, with only one fantasy point in Sunday's game. It's true that part of the reason you use an early pick on the superstar running backs is that they are supposed to put up points even against a good defense, but you've got to concede that, in the Seahawks, Jets and Lions, Lacy has had as rough an early-season slate of run defense as any running back could have had. Now, Lacy gets the Bears, Vikings and Dolphins, which is a nice palate cleanser. I'm buying low. Trade offers out for Lacy in a bunch of leagues.

Hedges

Jacob Tamme

Jacob Tamme, TE, DEN (0 percent)

Oh, look, another ex-Wildcat. Blue! And! White! (I seriously didn't plan that, only realizing I had a bunch of my school's guys when I started writing.) Tamme now has exactly three catches in three games, for 26 total yards. OK, whatever. But two of his three catches have gone for touchdowns. We know Peyton Manning loves him, having by all accounts pushed to bring Tamme over from Indianapolis when he joined the Broncos. Tamme's a touchdown hound, so if you're truly desperate for a tight end he's interesting, but more interesting is his potential if Julius Thomas ever gets hurt. That happens, Tamme becomes a must-start tight end.

Mike James

Mike James, RB, TAM (0 percent)

If not for a James broken ankle last year, Bobby Rainey wouldn't even be a Buccaneer. He might not even be a football player, as Tampa Bay signed him off the scrap heap. James had 158 rushing yards in his second-to-last game of 2013, and had 41 yards on five carries in his last game before his injury. This year, Doug Martin was terrible in Week 1 and then injured, and while Rainey looked good in Week 2 and parts of Week 3, he's also lost three fumbles in three weeks, an untenable rate that will be corrected either by increased ball security or decreased Bobby Rainey. James is an interesting option for Tampa Bay.

Futures market

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN (3 percent)

There, I capped off this Wildcat-heavy Ticker with a Louisville player. Equal(-ish) time, all that jazz. Bridgewater took over for Matt Cassel after the latter was injured Sunday. Cassel will miss some time, and the Vikings' only other real option is Christian Ponder, meaning Bridgewater's leash is long. He might not be super-good out of the gate (especially considering, as noted earlier, Adrian Peterson's absence), but I've been on the Bridgewater bandwagon since before the draft. You can't start Bridgewater in fantasy, but if you've been frustrated by the performances of, say, Tom Brady or Tony Romo or Ryan Tannehill (or if you're the guy I faced this past week whose only roster options were Carson Palmer and Josh McCown), Bridgewater could be a flier pickup with down-the-road potential.

C.J. Anderson

C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN (2 percent)

Montee Ball's been pretty awful through three games, with only his Week 1 rushing touchdown buoying his value at all. His week-by-week yardage total is 83-89-44, and Sunday's rough numbers were also accompanied by a lost fumble. Part of the reason Knowshon Moreno was the superstar he was last year in Denver was the fact that Ball lost two fumbles in the first three games, with three on the season, and if that's something he's still battling, don't be surprised if the Broncos start to look elsewhere, and that means Ronnie Hillman, himself not exactly a bastion of ball security, and Anderson, who has virtually no track record. Odds are that Ball remains the guy in Denver and gets back on track, but it's no guarantee.