The Xpert Eye takes a look at the waiver wire for Week 13, in many cases the final regular season game for Fantasy leagues. The playoff pairings are likely set for many of you already, but some of you may be depending on a win this coming week to cement your berth. Strategy-wise, your rosters should now be pared down to include only those players that you are likely to start or replacements for those players in the event of a disaster that will keep your stud on the bench. For instance, Arian Foster’s owners simply have to own Alfred Blue; it appears that Foster will return next week, but the truth is that he has one of those injuries that can linger for weeks and be re-aggravated relatively easily. DeMarco Murray is healthy (thankfully) but if you own him in your league you should get your hands on Joseph Randle right away because anything can happen on any given Sunday. Just ask Jonas Gray or Latavius Murray about that.
Zach Mettenberger (QB, TEN) – The young Titans QB is making his share of rookie mistakes but there is plenty of good to take away from his fourth NFL start. After a rough first quarter in which he went just 1 for 7 and couldn’t convert a single first down, Mettenberger rebounded to go 19 of 32 for 341 yards over the final three quarters. He’s thrown an interception in each of his four starts, fumbles continue to be a problem, and he’s taken 10 sacks in the last two games; however, the kid is nothing if not resilient and he managed to guide the Titans steadily on four scoring drives, including two TD passes. He also completed eight passes of 15 yards or more. For those of you in QB trouble down the stretch, a look at the Titans’ schedule reveals a bevy of very favorable matchups (Texans, Giants, Jets, Jaguars and Colts). Mettenberger just might be worth adding to your rotation if you are streaming QBs to survive the final games of the Fantasy season.
Brian Hoyer (QB, CLE) – The return of Josh Gordon definitely boosted Hoyer’s value going forward, as he threw for more than 300 yards (322 to be exact) for the second consecutive game and the third time in the last four. Of course, he also threw three interceptions to help keep the Falcons in the game, but Hoyer managed to lead the Browns to yet another victory, thus keeping them in the hunt for a playoff berth. Anyway, Hoyer is another QB to consider streaming, as the Browns schedule shows favorable matchups in Weeks 14-16 for those of you that need an alternative.
Daniel “Boom” Herron (RB, IND) – Well, that didn’t take long at all. The Indianapolis Colts made it crystal clear that they no longer think of Trent Richardson as their primary running back. “Boom” Herron was named the starter of Sunday’s tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars and he carried the ball 12 times for 65 yards (5.42 ypc) and caught five passes (100 percent of targets) for another 31 yards. His performance instantly made him the better of the two backs, as Richardson hasn’t done anything remotely that good all season. Granted, Richardson still got 13 carries and plodded for 42 yards (3.2 ypc) and a score, but I’m attributing that to Herron still needing reps with the first team offense to be completely up to speed and on the same page as QB Andrew Luck. Herron should have no problem outshining Richardson the rest of the way and while the Colts’ schedule isn’t exactly “soft” as far as rushing defenses go, Herron could end up being a valuable flex play because of his participation in the team’s prolific passing game.
LeGarrette Blount (RB, NE) – Just one week ago, Jonas Gray stunned the Fantasy Football/NFL world with a 200 yard, four TD performance for the ages. Who cares? Certainly not Bill Belichick, that’s for sure. Gray overslept and was late for practice one day this week, so Belichick sent him home for the day and had him cool his heels on the sidelines while LeGarrette Blount did his job. Amazingly, Blount has been with the team for about 72 hours, yet he looked as though he never departed at the end of last season. Blount bulled his way for 78 yards on 12 carries (6.5 ypc) and two TDs. In all, it was a pretty amazing performance against a rush defense that had only allowed RBs to gain roughly 3.10 yards per carry and score just four rushing TDs up to that point. Going forward, though, Fantasy owners will be in a difficult position with both Blount and Gray, as they are very likely to be used in tandem whenever the Patriots decide to go into ground and pound mode against an opponent. And let’s not forget that Shane Vereen will continue to be the primary third down/change of pace back, as well as the pass-catching option out of the backfield. This three-headed monster only serves to diminish the Fantasy value of all three running backs, further making their use a complete crapshoot to any owner willing to take a chance on them. If you’re in contention for the playoffs and/or a championship in your Fantasy league, you simply cannot gamble on any of the Patriots running backs.
Latavius Murray (RB, OAK) – Last week on Thursday Night Football, it took Murray just four carries to accomplish several astounding things. First of all, he became the first running back to score a rushing touchdown on the Kansas City Chiefs this season and he did it twice even though he only played a little less than half the game. Secondly, his efforts helped the Raiders to notch their first win of the season and break a 16-game losing streak dating back to last year. Finally, he made the Raiders’ coaching staff look like complete fools for waiting so long to finally play him. Everyone in the Fantasy Football community knew well over a year ago that Maurice Jones-Drew was washed up and Darren McFadden hasn’t been an effective running back since 2010, and since he’s never played a full season you could argue that he’s never really been an effective running back. But I digress. Murray looks like an amazing talent, but keep in mind that he did fumble (on the same play that he suffered a possible concussion) and interim Coach Tony Sparano made it clear that he isn’t going to anoint him as the featured back just yet. Unfortunately, the Raiders’ schedule isn’t exactly a romp in the park either, as they face a surging Rams defense this coming week, followed by the 49ers, Chiefs, Bills and Broncos. So, while Murray looks as though he might be a matchup-proof stud, he’s still a major gamble for use during your Fantasy playoffs and/or championship game.
Charles Johnson (WR, MIN) – Opportunity is the doorway to production in Fantasy sports, especially when it comes to Football, and Johnson is suddenly getting opportunities that were rather scarce (for him anyway) earlier in the season. For example, through the Vikings’ first nine games, Johnson only played in four of them and he received a total of 12 targets, most of them (5) in Week 8. However, over the last two games, Johnson has been targeted a whopping 18 times, including 11 this past Sunday, more than anyone else in the Vikings’ offense. Unfortunately, between QB Teddy Bridgewater’s inaccuracy woes and Johnson’s drops and/or inability to make the tough catch, he nabbed just three of his 11 targets in Week 12. That’s not very encouraging. Because of Bridgewater and this, Johnson is really no more than a depth play for the balance of the season. You might use him in a flex spot if you’re desperate but I doubt it.
Tim Wright (TE, NE) – At the beginning of the season, many analysts thought Wright was to be the second coming of Aaron Hernandez, a classic “move” tight end that could be used in the running game, on short slants over the middle or passes in the flat on screen plays. Certainly, Wright has done a little of that, but mostly he’s been a red zone weapon, best utilized in tandem with Rob Gronkowski, who draws a crowd of defenders and leaves Wright in single coverage or all alone for easy TD passes. In fact, Wright has six TDs in his eight games played this season, at least on in each of the last five games. He is tied with Larry Donnell for fourth-most TDs by tight ends in the NFL, and the only Patriots player with more TDs than Wright is none other than Gronkowski with 9. The problem with using Wright for Fantasy is that for every game in which he’s caught five or more passes, he has two in which he caught two or less, and there have been a couple of games in which he played without catching a single pass. His yardage per game totals has similar issues. Of course, given the state of the tight end position, Wright isn’t all that bad an option and could end up being among the Top 10 TEs in any given week with just a single TD reception. If you need a TE, you could do a lot worse. The main reason to grab him, though, would Wright’s Week 16 matchup against the Jets, who have given up the most TDs to tight ends this season (11) along with the second-most Fantasy points per game to the position (11.6).