Each Tuesday we highlight the most valuable waiver wire pickups in fantasy football. We also give you a few guys to avoid, despite their "waiver buzz."
Tashard Choice - Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills seem to be cursed at the running back position. First, Fred Jackson goes down with a knee injury. Then, C.J. Spiller—who was taking the fantasy football community by storm—gets his shoulder squished. And yes, "squished" is an official medical term.
To continue the curse, the Bills are forced to trot out 3rd-stringer Tashard Choice. While Choice did pick up 91 yards on 20 carries, his skill set is vastly diminished compared to Jackson and Spiller. Our theory is that the defensive coordinator focused purely on the passing game once Spiller left the game with injury. Choice simply got what the offensive line blocked—he's not an explosive runner.
And he won't be an explosive runner against the New England Patriots in Week 4. The Pats' run defense is ranked 7th in the league, giving up 82.0 yards per game. Those numbers are a bit misleading because New England faced "The Runner Former Known as Chris Johnson" and Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Ray Rice averaged 5.0 yards per carry in Week 3.
Nevertheless, reports are that Fred Jackson may suit up this week and that C.J. Spiller should be back in, at most, two weeks. Choice is worth a look as a one-week spot play in deeper leagues, but keep expectations tempered.
Ronnie Hillman/Lance Ball/Knowshon Moreno - Denver Broncos
If Willis McGahee (ribs) sits out Week 4 or longer, deciphering the Broncos' backfield will be key leading up to Sunday. All three of McGahee's backup running backs have a shot at starting.
Lance Ball may have ruined his opportunity by gaining a measly seven yards on five carries after McGahee left the game. And Hillman didn't do much better: two carries for seven yards. Moreno was a healthy scratch in Week 3.
If you're going to grab one of these guys, we'd suggest Hillman. He's a more dynamic running with solid pass-catching skills. Ball just has capitalized on his opportunities.
Lamar Miller/Daniel Thomas - Miami Dolphins
Initial thoughts were that Dolphins starting running back Reggie Bush would miss multiple weeks with a knee injury. Since that time, it appears that Bush is only at risk of missing one week, if that. He still hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
If Bush can't go, then look for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to get an equal amount of carries. While Miller is clearly the better of the two (he's averaged 5.95 yards per carry and 1 touchdown on first 19 NFL carries), we'd advise staying away from both of these guys because of Ray Horton. Horton is Arizona's defensive coordinator. He has the Cardinals locked in as a top-5 defense this year. They're legit. Your team won't be if you pick-up and play either Miller or Thomas.
Bilal Powell - New York Jets
Powell will receive a ton of waiver wire buzz this week, but you should ignore it. Sure, Powell will take over the New York Jets backfield. And yes, he's a better runner than Shonn Greene. (Who isn't?)
But the Jets won't offer much in terms of offensive production. Certainly not in the coming weeks. They face the following run defenses over the next five weeks: Niners (8th), Texans (5th) and Colts (25th) at home in Weeks 4, 5 and 6, respectively. In Week 7 they travel to New England (7th) and then have Miami at home in Week 8 (3rd).
Leave Powell on the waiver wire, unless you are completely desperate at the running back spot.
Damaris Johnson - Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick targeted rookie wideout Damaris Johnson a team-high 11 times in Week 3. Johnson converted those looks into five catches for 84 yards.
Johnson got his opportunity because starter Jeremy Maclin was out with a hip injury. Check Maclin's status through the week, and if he can't go in Week 4, the 5'8" Johnson is worth an add against the Giants' 23rd ranked pass defense.
Cecil Shorts - Jacksonville Jaguars
Shorts' game-winning 80-yard touchdown catch raised several eyebrows in the fantasy football community. So did his Week 1 performance (74 yards and a touchdown).
Don't get fooled into thinking Shorts will continue to produce those stat lines. He will continue to be hit-or-miss each week, even with Laurent Robinson likely to miss time with a concussion. And when he misses, it's most likely to be a catch-less week leaving you with a goose egg. Let someone else chase those stats.
Nate Washington - Tennessee Titans
After three weeks of play, Washington leads the NFL in yards per reception at 26.4. He's a big-play wide receiver who will continue to get looks from Jake Locker.
One thing to consider, however, is that Kenny Britt is making his way back onto the field. And during Week 3, it was evident that the Titans want to get the ball in Britt's hands.
Britt is brittle though. Washington is worth picking up and seeing what he produces as Britt gets his legs back.
T.Y. Hilton - Indianapolis Colts
Over the first two weeks of the regular season, Hilton was non-existent. He was inactive for Week 1 and caught a single pass for 15 yards in Week 2.
In Week 3, Hilton showed big-play ability while he was rotating with Austin Collie. Collie is now on injured reserve, so the slot now belongs to Hilton.
In the third week of the preseason, Hilton showed great chemistry with quarterback Andrew Luck. He caught four passes for 54 yards and a score before sustaining his shoulder injury that has limited him ever since. Now that Hilton is back to full-health, it looks as though him and Luck have picked up where they left off in the preseason. Luck and Hilton connected on four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in Week 3.
Hilton should be rostered in all formats.
Kyle Rudolph - Minnesota Vikings
Over the past three weeks, Rudolph has been brimming with potential. And in Week 3, he lived up to it catching two touchdown passes from quarterback Christian Ponder.
In Weeks 1 and 2, Rudolph displayed nice receiving skills, and even caught one touchdown. He continues to impress in the red-zone, although not with a ton of yardage. We think his total yardage will increase as the season wears on, however.
Grab Rudolph in all formats.
Shaun Hill - Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford injured his hamstring after he attempted to make a tackle. His status for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings will be decided on Friday. Until then, back-up quarterback Shaun Hill is a must-add for Stafford owners.
Hill proved his worth in 2010 when he averaged 259.8 yards per game, while throwing 16 touchdowns. Hill allows the Lions to continue their pass-heavy offensive game-planning. While the Vikings boast one of the better pass-rush defenses in the league, Hill is a viable option for fantasy owners in Week 4. As he has done in he past, Hill will most likely rely on Calvin Johnson to move the chains.
Christian Ponder - Minnesota Vikings
During the preseason, Ponder showed significant improvement from last season. That improvement culminated into a Week 3 performance that has fantasy owners adding him by the thousands.
Ponder threw for 198 yards and two scores, while running for 33 yards and another touchdown. Not only did Ponder have solid stats, he showed great decision-making ability. He hasn't thrown an interception in three weeks of play.
With Adrian Peterson looking like Adrian Peterson, Ponder is gifted with defenders needing to focus on the run. And his connection with tight end Kyle Rudolph cannot be over-stated. Throw in ultra-talented wideout Percy Harvin, and Ponder has the makings of a solid QB1 each week. Grab him.
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