This late in the season, finding gems on the waiver wire is harder to do than in early weeks. However, as some teams turn their attention beyond this season and injuries continue to take their toll, some new players are getting opportunities and excelling for their fantasy owners.
As you hit the wire this week to strengthen your playoff team or get your team into the postseason with a late-season push, these are the top 10 names to be on the lookout for. All of these players are available on the waiver wire in many ESPN leagues and all scores and ranks are based on standard scoring for uniformity.
1. Bryce Brown-Philadelphia Eagles-RB: (4.9%) I’ve been all in on Brown since word came down Saturday that LeSean McCoy was out. He was our top sleeper running back (click here for weekly Sunday AM post) and didn’t fail to deliver leading all running backs in scoring and finishing with 178 yards on 19 carries with a pair of touchdowns and four catches for 11 yards in his Monday Night Football matchup with Carolina. The rookie from K-state could be in for another big week coming up if McCoy is unable to go at Dallas this Sunday. Brown’s value is directly tied to McCoy’s recovery from his concussion. The latest update was that McCoy was still feeling the effects on Saturday meaning he could be a few weeks away and since the Eagles season is pretty much over, they should take a cautious approach with him. As long as McCoy is out, Brown should be considered a mid-teen-ranked running back with huge upside in the right matchups as he demonstrated this week.
2. Colin Kaepernick-San Francisco 49ers-QB: (27.6% owned in ESPN leagues) Kaepernick got the starting nod in New Orleans and did nothing to lose the job running for a touchdown and 27 yards while throwing for another score and 231 yards. Coach Jim Harbaugh hasn’t named a starter for this week’s game at St. Louis, but Alex Smith was active and available for the Saints game and never saw the field. It would appear Kaepernick is the new starter and with his rushing ability immediately becomes a high QB2 option with QB1 potential on any given week. He’s gotten San Francisco wins over Chicago and New Orleans, and with the Rams, Dolphins, and Eagles up next should continue to excel.
3. Michael Bush (68.5%) Much like Bryce Brown, Michael Bush’s value greatly depends on the injury situation in his backfield. Matt Forte left injured in Sunday’s game against Minnesota and there hasn’t been much word yet about his status for upcoming weeks. Even with Forte healthy, Bush should be owned in all leagues since he’s serving as the short-yardage and goalline back. He had a big week this week both before and after Forte exited and finished with 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If Forte is out, Bush is a solid RB2. If Forte is active this week, Bush remains a flex play if you need him in deeper formats.
4. Jacquizz Rodgers-Atlanta Falcons-RB: (12.4%) While we’re still waiting on the full-scale changing of the guard in Atlanta, Rodgers did have 10 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in addition to two catches for 30 more yards this week against the Bucs. He looks much more dynamic than Michael Turner (13 carries, 17 yards) and should get the majority of the work going forward. The risk is that he doesn’t get the touches of other running backs, but Atlanta would be wise to call on him early and often against the Saints this coming week. If they do, he’ll be a force for the rest of the season and your fantasy playoffs.
5. Mohamed Sanu-Cincinnati Bengals-WR: (1.1%) Sanu was another of our sleeper picks who delivered hauling in a pair of touchdowns as part of his five-catch, 29-yard performance against Oakland. He’s settled nicely into the second wide-receiver spot in Cincinnati and with Andy Dalton on fire has emerged as a fantasy factor with four touchdowns and 11 catches in the last three weeks.
6. Marcedes Lewis-Jacksonville Jaguars-TE: (7.0%) Lewis had been almost un-ownable with Blaine Gabbert under center but that has all changed the last two weeks with Chad Henne under center. He didn’t find the endzone Sunday but caught four passes for 56 yards while being targeted six times. The reason he’s the top tight end on this list, though, is his matchups going forward against the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots. He had a monster game in week 11 against the Texans with a pair of touchdowns and should continue to be one of Henne’s favorite redzone targets for the rest of the season.
7.T.Y. Hilton (25.5%) Hilton has play-making ability every time he touches the ball as he showed with his electric 75-yard punt return. He was injured later in the game but returned to catch what was the eventual game-winning touchdown. Hilton has found the endzone a total of five times in the last four weeks and has a pair of 100-yard receiving games during that time. He’s still behind Donnie Avery and serves as the third receiver so his touches may be inconsistent making him a risky play as anything above a WR3. He has the talent to produce when he sees the ball, and the developing Colts offense has some nice matchups the next four weeks-Detroit, Tennessee, Houston, and Kansas City.
9. Rob Housler-Arizona Cardinals-TE: (0.1%) Another tight end worth looking at who’s almost universally available is Rob Housler. Only Jason Witten had more catches, and Housler saw a ton of targets as rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley threw his way a total of 11 times. Housler pulled in eight of those passes for a total of 82 yards against the Rams D. Housler has caught four or more passes in four of the Cards last five games, and could continue to be a factor if Lindley favors him going forward. He hasn’t scored a touchdown yet and Arizona’s passing game is far from stable, so he’s a speculative pickup, but he’s also a tight end to consider if you need a fill-in and most of the depth has been sapped from the wire.
10. Bilal Powell-New York Jets-RB: (1.4%) Powell has been in double digits in each of the last two weeks with three total touchdowns and over 50 all-purpose yards, ten carries, and two catches in each game. Powell has played his way into a time-split with Shonn Greene and he should get a long look as the Jets figure out what direction to go with their backfield in the future. The Jets face the Cardinals, Jags, Titans, Chargers, and Bills in their last five games which all rank near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed.