Now that five weeks of the NFL season are nearly in the books, fantasy football owners everywhere are continually refurbishing their rosters in order to stay ahead of dreaded bye weeks. Week 6 is another week with four teams idle, as the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars have the week off.
That means every week fantasy starters like Drew Brees, Maurice Jones-Drew, Cam Newton, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Jimmy Graham will not be available to their owners, which will further challenge those owners to find suitable fill-ins if they don’t already have good roster depth.
Here is my list of “Waiver Wire Pickups” for Week 6 of the 2012 season.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder threw his first two interceptions of the season Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but he did throw for 258 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 31 yards in the game. He has now thrown multiple passing touchdowns in three of his last four games ahead of an excellent matchup against the Washington Redskins in Week 6. The Redskins have allowed at least 299 passing yards in all five of their games and multiple passing touchdowns in four of five games. A tougher matchup is on the slate for Ponder in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals, but after that things get easier again in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who allowed more passing yards than the Redskins entering Week 5. He was dealing with a knee issue prior to last week’s game, but was able to play and the injury does not appear to be an issue. Do not necessarily expect elite level numbers from Ponder outside of very favorable matchups going forward, but he is a more than adequate QB2 and is still available in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden went 22-for-35 for 291 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Week 5 against the New York Giants, and he has now thrown for at least 291 yards and posted double-digit fantasy points (ESPN scoring) in three of his last four games. Week 6 brings what looks to be a favorable matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, who Weeden threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns against back in Week 2. More favorable looking matchups are coming after that from Week 7-Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens. The Colts and Chargers have both been vulnerable to competent quarterbacks this season and Weeden threw for 320 yards against the Ravens in Week 4. With Cleveland at least likely to be throwing the ball a lot late in games, Weeden has the opportunity to produce well for fantasy owners that don’t overlook him. With the Browns also not having their bye until Week 10, fantasy owners can consider the rookie a viable QB2 for the next few weeks at least.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
Bolden had 14 carries for 54 yards along with one reception against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and he now has 30 carries for 191 yards over the last two games. He is clearly behind Stevan Ridley in the running back pecking order for the Patriots, which puts a ceiling on his fantasy upside and consistency, but at this point any running back that is producing well lands on the radar of fantasy owners. A tough matchup is coming in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks, but more favorable matchups will come after that in Week 7 and Week 8 against the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams. Just how the playing time and touches will be split in the New England backfield is always hard to predict, but Bolden is still available in over 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now and is well worth a speculative add for those in need of some running back depth.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Hunter had 11 carries for 81 yards against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, which gives him 137 rushing yards and a touchdown over the last two games. The fact the 49ers have had wins well in hand early over the last two weeks definitely allowed Hunter to see more work than he normally would, and the overall depth San Francisco has at running back limits his upside. That said, he may be the most explosive runner on the team and should see at least some work every week as Frank Gore’s primary backup. If Gore were to go down to an injury at some point, it’s fair to think Hunter would step into significant work and be a potential fantasy starter on a weekly basis. At this point running backs that fantasy owners should consider adding comes down to wide availability, and Hunter fits that bill right now (22 percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues).
Running Backs Watchlist- LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Alex Green, Green Bay Packers; David Wilson, New York Giants; Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots; Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans; LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals
Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints
Henderson had eight receptions (on 10 targets) for 123 yards and a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night, as he saw an expanded role with fellow wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) out. The Saints have a bye next week, which may allow Moore to be ready to go for Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could lead to Henderson once again seeing at best inconsistent snaps and targets. But that Week 7 matchup is very good, as Tampa Bay entered Week 5 allowing the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers (31.3 per game, ESPN scoring). If he is in line for an significant role against the Buccaneers, Henderson could be fantasy starter material in what looks like a tough bye week for fantasy owners at wide receiver. He has always been a maddeningly inconsistent fantasy performer due to the plethora of receivers in the New Orleans passing game, but Henderson is available in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues at this point and is well worth adding in 12-team leagues. Just remember that New Orleans has a bye in Week 6.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Wright had nine catches for 66 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4, as he was also targeted 11 times in the game. The rookie out of Baylor now has 20 receptions on 30 targets over the last three games with Kenny Britt dealing with an ankle issue, and his role should continue to be significant going forward if Britt struggles to get close to 100 percent. Sunday’s game is Wright’s season high for yardage and his only game with over 50 receiving yards in his first five NFL games, but that should also improve going forward if the explosiveness he showed during his collegiate career starts to show. Owners in PPR leagues should absolutely consider Wright to be a must-add with the amount of targets he is getting, and even those in deep standard leagues can consider him if they need a bye week fill-in over the next few weeks. His ownership percentage is likely to rise some, but right now Wright is available in 66 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Robert Meachem, San Diego Chargers
Meachem had three receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints, as he scored his first two touchdowns of the season against his former team. He has been inconsistent to this point in the season, with zero catches in Week 2 and Week 4, as he has struggled to connect with quarterback Philip Rivers. Meachem was certainly motivated to perform against the Saints, but Sunday night’s game could be a sign of positive things to come. He may find himself matched up frequently with Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey in Week 6, which limits his upside, but the Broncos entered Week 5 in the bottom half of the league against opposing wide receivers (21.0 fantasy points per game, ESPN scoring). The Chargers have a bye in Week 7, then after that a couple of very favorable matchups are coming in Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns, and Week 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both of those teams came into Week 5 in the bottom five of the league against opposing wide receivers, so Meachem should easily find room to operate in those contests. Consistency will always be a potential issue and fantasy owners should not look for big catch totals even on his best days, but Meachem is well worth adding in 12-teams leagues based on his potential alone.
Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans
Cook had five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, and he now has at least three receptions in all five games this season with a touchdown in two of his last three games. He appears to have shaken off a previous shoulder injury, now gets a fairly favorable stretch of games over the next few weeks. Starting with Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers four of Tennessee’s next five opponents came into Week 5 allowing at least 6.3 fantasy points per game (ESPN scoring) to opposing tight ends, with three of those four teams allowing five catches to an individual tight end on Sunday. Cook should be a primary option, particularly in the red zone, for whoever is under center for the Titans down the road and his physical tools make him a mismatch for opponents. Bye weeks are likely to leave fantasy owners looking for a suitable fill-in for their primary tight end over the next few weeks, so Cook is a worthy addition in all formats. He is currently available in just over half of Yahoo! leagues.
Nick Novak, San Diego Chargers
Novak went 1-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints, and is now 4-for-5 on field goals and 7-for-7 on extra points over the last two games in place of Nate Kaeding (groin). Kaeding’s status going forward looks uncertain, so Novak could remain the Chargers’ placekicker for a few more weeks. Assuming he is in line to kick again in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos, a favorable matchup is coming. Opposing kickers have yet to miss a field goal against the Broncos this season (8-for-8) and they have allowed at least three extra point attempts in three of their last four contests. San Diego has a bye in Week 7, which may allow Kaeding to get healthy and return to action, but Novak is still a solid choice as a bye week replacement if your normal kicker has the week off in Week 6.
Phil Dawson, Cleveland Browns
Dawson made both of his field goal attempts on Sunday against the New York Giants as well as all three of his extra points, and now has double-digit fantasy points (ESPN scoring) in four of five games this season. The momentum should continue in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals, as Dawson went 2-for-2 on field goals (including a 50-yarder) and 3-for-3 on extra points against them back in Week 2. Then two of the Browns’ following three opponents, the Indianapolis Colts (Week 7) and the Baltimore Ravens (Week 9) entered Week 5 in the bottom 10 of the league against kickers. Dawson himself went 3-for-3 on field goals in Week 4 against the Ravens, with all three makes coming from 50 or more yards out. The Cleveland offense appears to be finding it’s way despite having plenty of young players in key positions, so Dawson should continue to get ample opportunities and make the most of them. He should still be available in most leagues, and is a more than serviceable bye week replacement at minimum.
Team Defense/Special Teams
The Dolphins’ defense put together a nice effort on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, allowing 13 points and less than 300 yards of offense while forcing three turnovers and sacking quarterback Andy Dalton three times. They have now forced seven turnovers and registered 13 sacks over their last three games, with a favorable matchup on the slate for Week 6 against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have scored just 28 points over their last three games, with 19 coming in one game, and they have scored more than 20 offensive points just once in five games. Now St. Louis has lost arguably their best wide receiver in Danny Amendola (collarbone), which will make things even easier for the Miami defense. After their Week 7 bye some more favorable matchups are on the schedule for the Dolphins’ defense, including Week 8 (New York Jets), Week 10 (Tennessee Titans) and Week 12 (Seattle Seahawks). At minimum, fantasy owners that need a bye week replacement for their normal starting defense in Week 6 should have this unit near the top of their list.