As we prepare for the final week of byes, the waiver wire pickings are becoming slim. In most leagues, owners have already gobbled up the best fantasy options. But there are still a few gems to be had.
Here is a look at five players who will be top waiver wire targets heading into Week 11 and my thoughts on whether or not you should pursue them.
Lance Ball, RB, Denver – I’m going to state the obvious here: The Denver Broncos will to run the football.
What makes me say that? Well, Ball entered the game in the second quarter against Kansas City after Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno left with injuries and finished with 30 carries for 96 yards. That’s a pretty good workload for two-and-a-half quarters.
The thing about the Broncos is they’re not going to be able to do to most NFL team what they did to the Kansas City Chiefs, which is only throw the ball nine times. Denver plays the New York Jets on Thursday and there’s no way that college offense is going to work consistently against Rex Ryan’s defense.
Ball has some value because the guys ahead of him are banged up but nobody really knows who’ll get carries. However, Tim Tebow is still going to be the main running back on that team, especially near the goal line, so Ball’s upside is limited.
The Final Call: I wouldn’t go crazy trying to get Ball. He’s still the third-string running back, and to be honest he looked like a third-stringer on Sunday.
Kendall Hunter, RB, San Francisco – Frank Gore injured his knee on Sunday and Hunter responded by scoring a touchdown, although with the way Gore has been playing it’s doubtful anyone had him in their lineup.
Hunter has shown flashes this year while filling in for Gore, but his fantasy value is tied directly to Gore’s health. Gore has already said he expects to play this week, and if that’s the case Hunter will be reduced to his usual backup role.
One thing to keep in mind is that Gore has carried the ball a lot this year and he’s far from the most durable player in the NFL. Gore is now dealing with a sore knee and ankle, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hunter sees more playing time in the near future.
Keep an eye on Gore’s status, but as of right now it looks like he’s a go Sunday against Arizona, meaning Hunter won’t be an option.
The Final Call: If Hunter is on your waiver wire he’s worth adding in deeper leagues but he’ll only be a fantasy option if Gore’s injuries cause him to miss time.
Steve Smith, WR, Philadelphia – Smith saw his most extensive action of the season on Sunday because DeSean Jackson was inactive and Jeremy Maclin injured his shoulder. Smith responded with a decent game, catching five balls for 47 yards.
I’ve heard some people rave about how good Smith looked on Sunday. I didn’t really see it. He still looked a little sluggish and rusty to me. There’s no denying that Smith knows how to get open on underneath routes, though, and with Maclin not likely to play Sunday, Smith’s role in the Eagles’ offense will increase.
The Eagles are a mess right now. Maclin is hurt and Michael Vick has two broken ribs. Still, Smith will see a bump in targets regardless of who the Eagles’ starting quarterback is this week.
The Final Call: Smith is on the waiver wire in most leagues and I think he’s worth adding at this point. I’m still not sold that he’s all the way back, but Smith isn’t a terrible option if you need receiver depth.
I’m concerned about Jones. A large part of his game is predicated on speed right now and he’s dealing with hamstring injuries in both legs. That’s something he’s going to have to battle for the rest of the year. I can see Jones missing more time.
Douglas could really become a solid fantasy player if Jones is out for an extended period of time. Defenses are doing whatever they can to take Roddy White out of the game and that’s opening up the middle of the field for players like Douglas and Tony Gonzalez.
Douglas isn’t an every week starter by any means, but keep an eye on Jones. It sounds like these hamstring problems will be an ongoing issue. If that’s the case, look for Douglas to take advantage of his increase in targets.
The Final Call: I’ve always liked Douglas, and while he’s only a spot fantasy starter, I think he should be added in most leagues considering Jones’ shaky situation. He could end up being the Falcons’ version of Laurent Robinson.
Ed Dickson, TE, Baltimore – Dickson has quietly had a nice fantasy season for the Ravens. Dickson had the best game of his career on Sunday, catching 10 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Dickson has 40 receptions for 356 yards and three scores.
The Ravens have been using two tight ends a lot this year with both Dickson and Dennis Pitta on the field at the same time. It’s Dickson, though, who is becoming the better fantasy option of the two. In his last four games, Dickson has 22 receptions, which leads the Ravens over that span.
Dickson is really coming on of late and he’s still only owned in 15 percent of leagues. I expect Dickson’s role in the Ravens’ offense to continue to increase. Baltimore still doesn’t have a ton of options at receiver, and when defenses try to take away Boldin, Dickson can make them pay. Dickson will be a nice fantasy option for the rest of the season. I really like him going into 2012.
The Final Call: I’m high on Dickson. If you’re unhappy with a tight end like Dustin Keller go get Dickson. I expect him to be a solid fantasy contributor going forward.
You can read Thomas Casale’s column ‘The Fire Sale’ every Tuesday on si.com. Also, you can follow him on Twitter or email him at email@example.com for more fantasy advice.