Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Buccaneers have been shopping Doug Martin to other teams. Zac Stacy is another once-productive back amidst trade rumors, but the lack of recent success for either back may drive down prices. Martin is averaging 2.9 yards per carry, with a single game high of 45 rushing yards this season. Stacy has run for 3.9 yards per attempt, and his top week of the year was for 71 yards against Tampa Bay’s 23rd ranked run defense. Perhaps New England or Denver would be tempted to drive the price up on their rival counterpart, but there may not be enough appeal to spend much on a plodder lacking in talent or any great on-the-field accomplishment.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Ryan Tannehill (owned in 34.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
In the last four games, Ryan Tannehill has played two games with over 74 percent accuracy. Facing Oakland’s 14th ranked pass defense and Chicago’s 24th ranked unit, the Miami quarterback completed 74.2 and 78.1 percent of his passes, respectively. For the season, Tannehill has connected on 62.3 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Since week four, Tannehill ranks 10th in the NFL with 22.8 fantasy points per game. Coming to town week nine are the Chargers, who allow 14.9 points and 219.1 yards to opposing passers. San Diego ranks seventh in pass defense, and fourth in scoring.
Ben Roethlisberger (owned in 80.0 percent of ESPN leagues)
Only 16 times has an NFL quarterback surpassed 500 passing yards in a game. Eight of those 16 belong to men currently in the league, Matt Schaub (527 yards), Ben Roethlisberger (522), Matthew Stafford (520), Tom Brady (517), Eli Manning (510), Drew Brees (510), Tony Romo (506), and Roethlisberger again (503). Pittsburgh’s two-time Super Bowl champion is the only man who has broken 500 twice. On Sunday, Roethlisberger’s 522 yards became the fourth best effort in league history. On Sunday Night Football this week, Pittsburgh will host Baltimore and their 22nd ranked pass defense. The Ravens are also just three weeks removed from a performance by Joe Flacco that included 306 passing yards, five scores, and a 72.4 completion percentage. In a division known perennially for its defense, Roethlisberger currently ranks seventh in passing touchdowns (16), and Flacco, ninth (14).
Honorable Mention: Brian Hoyer (owned in 10.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Ronnie Hillman (owned in 30.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Somehow, four weeks have passed since the sidelining of Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman remains available in 69.8 percent of leagues. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Denver Broncos, who broke several NFL offensive records a year ago. The records continue to fall this year, with more yet in sight. Denver leads the league with 32.0 points per game, 29 touchdowns, and 22 passing touchdowns. Their six rushing touchdowns rank 12th. The Broncos run the sixth most drives (12.0 per game), and score with the ninth highest frequency (40.5 percent of drives) and third most efficiency (2.55 points per drive). The team also ranks first with only 4.8 percent of drives that end in an offensive turnover.
Since stepping in for Ball in week five, Hillman ranks third in rushing in the NFL. Only DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster are ahead of him during this time. He has 347 rushing yards during that span, while punishing defenses at a clip of 4.8 yards per carry. Over the last two weeks, Hillman has run for 5.4 yards per attempt and scored twice. The buy low window is now closed.
Jonas Gray (owned in 0.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
In Sunday’s 51-23 rout of the Chicago Bears, Jonas Gray led all Patriots with 17 carries for 86 yards. Shane Vereen garnered only five carries for 22 yards and three grabs for another 23 yards. Even the widely-adored rookie James White was given just six rushes for 17 yards. Belichick is known for his propensity to a running back carousel in recent years. Last year, four different runners had a turn leading the New England backfield for at least a game. The Bears own the 14th best rush defense, and up next is a Sunday night date with Denver, who are the best at stuffing the run (72.4 yards per game). The Broncos are also sixth in scoring defense. In two games this year, Gray has run 20 times for 98 yards (4.9 yards per attempt). 2014 is his third NFL season, though Gray never touched the ball before this month.
Charles Sims (owned in 0.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Head coach Lovie Smith said that starting running back “Doug [Martin] is a part of it and we’d like to have more, but in order for Doug to get more yards, he’s got to get a lot more touches and we’ve got to convert third downs.” Martin has been the center of trade rumors, which suggests the team has lost confidence in his skill set. Rookie third-round running back Charles Sims returns from injured reserve this week. Bucs reporter Tom Krasniqi of Tampa Bay 620 WDAE offered, “From the sound of things, RB Charles Sims will play a TON when he’s ready.”
Christine Michael (owned in 7.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jay Glazer reported Sunday morning that Marshawn Lynch will not be returning to Seattle next year. The four-time Pro Bowler is due $8.5 million next season if he stays with the team. The Seahawks can cut him and pay just $1.5 million in bonus money. He is one of 77 running backs in NFL history to earn 1,500 carries in their career, and only 36 have eclipsed 2,000. Lynch currently has 1,864 career rushes. With Christine Michael in the wings, and several contracts expiring, the likelihood that a 29-year old rusher makes the cut are slim to nil. Seattle will owe new money to Russell Wilson, Cliff Avril, Byron Maxwell, and Jermaine Kearse, among others.
Head coach Pete Carroll said in May that Michael has “explosive talent, and we just want to get him to fit in.” Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell added, “He has breakaway speed and power behind his pads.” In June of 2013, ESPN Insider’s Matt Williamson listed Michael as one of the five top running backs for 2016, commenting, “he will be a total stud and a true every-down running back.” Especially in deep leagues, the window is closing rapidly to get in on the ground floor price. “Christine’s athletic explosiveness is on par” with Adrian Peterson, according to a Texas A&M strength coach who worked with both players.
Honorable Mention: Travaris Cadet (owned in 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Past targets include: Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon, Jonathan Stewart, and Tre Mason (week 8), Ronnie Hillman, Branden Oliver, Juwan Thompson, and Chris Ivory (week 7), Antone Smith , Joseph Randle (week 6), Jerick McKinnon, Khiry Robinson (week 5), Lorenzo Taliaferro, Alfred Blue (week 4), and Knile Davis (week 3).
Brandon LaFell (owned in 8.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since week four, Brandon LaFell leads all Patriots wide receivers with 26 receptions, 415 yards, and four touchdowns. Only Rob Gronkowski has more receptions (29), yards (442), and scores (5) during that span. Following a 41-14 week four blowout loss, Tom Brady said, “We’re trying to figure out a lot of things on offense. We dealt with that four weeks ago. That’s the way it is.” The quarterback went on to say, “We have who we have. That’s the way it goes. Nobody feels sorry for us. We’re trying to make the best of what we have and what we’re trying to do. Some days it’s good enough. Some days it’s not good enough.” It seems the fifth-year receiver could be one of the answers that Brady needed. Last week, LaFell caught all 11 of his targets for 124 yards and a touchdown. Brady completed 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five scores. Denver’s 17th ranked pass defense will try to slow down the surging Patriots in week nine.
John Brown (owned in 2.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Arizona is 6-1, and no Cardinal has more touchdowns than John Brown (4). The 5-foot-10 rookie is second on the team with 43 targets, and third on the team with 22 receptions and 316 yards. Brown caught five passes for 119 yards and a score Sunday against the Eagles. Carson Palmer ranks eighth in the NFL with 284.0 yards per game, and is protecting the ball better than any other quarterback. Palmer throws a turnover on just 0.6 percent of his passes, and his 8 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is second only to Tom Brady (18 to 2). Arizona will travel to Dallas next, where they will showdown against the 11th ranked pass defense.
Martavis Bryant (owned in 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Ben Roethlisberger is fourth in the NFL with 297.5 yards per game, having just broken 500 yards for the second time in his career. Pittsburgh has run the second most plays of any team this year (564). On average, their drives produce the third most yards (37.3), contain the third most plays (6.3), and last the fifth longest (three minutes even). Despite this productivity, the Steelers have produced just the 12th most fantasy points within the red zone (165.9 total points). Enter 6-foot-4 Martavis Bryant, who stands five inches above any of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Lance Moore. The rookie from Clemson got his first NFL action last week, and has since caught seven passes for 123 yards. More notably, Bryant has caught three touchdowns in his first two NFL games.
Josh Gordon (owned in 16.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
The NFL’s leading receiver from 2013 will be eligible to play week 12, when Cleveland travels to Atlanta. Josh Gordon played just 14 games last year (suspension) and still led all other wideouts by 147 yards. The Pro Bowl Browns receiver caught 87 of 159 targets for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. In the last ten years, that’s the third best season recorded by a wideout. Only Calvin Johnson has created more yards in a year since 2004, having caught 1,964 yards in 2012 and 1,681 in 2011. Cleveland ranks only 18th in passing this year, after finishing 11th in 2013. The Browns also threw the 11th most touchdown passes a year ago, where they currently sit at 29th.
Past targets include: Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse (week 8), Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Mohamed Sanu, Brandon LaFell, Cecil Shorts, and Andre Holmes (week 7), Terrance Williams, Andrew Hawkins (week 5), Jordan Matthews, John Brown, and Brian Quick (week 4), Allen Hurns and Steve Smith Sr. (week 2).
Tim Wright (owned in 3.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
In the last four weeks, Tim Wright has caught three touchdown passes from Tom Brady. On Sunday, the former Buccaneer made seven receptions from seven targets, for 61 yards and a score. Since being blown out in week four by the Chiefs, no one has thrown more touchdown passes than Tom Brady (14). Over that span, Brady also ranks fourth with 317.0 yards per game, and has not thrown a single pick. In fact, the only interceptions for Brady all year were the two he threw in Kansas City. Since week five, Wright ranks fifth among all tight ends with three red zone targets, and second with three red zone scores.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, and profootballfocus.com.
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