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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 8 waiver-wire picks

Before we get to this week's waiver-wire picks, two quick notes:

-- Lions receiver Titus Young is owned in 51.2 percent of the leagues on, a number that is too high for the rankings below. Regardless, Young should be considered a decent flex option in point-per-reception leagues after Nate Burleson broke his leg in Detroit's 13-7 loss to the Bears on Monday night.

In that game, Young had six receptions for 81 yards, and he should get quite a few targets with Burleson out. Detroit has 277 pass attempts, compared to 146 rushes, which also doesn't hurt Young's chances of making an impact.

-- If you're wondering why we aren't writing more about Rashad Jennings here, we did that late last night.

As always, we only consider players who are available in more than half of the leagues on, and we like to go much lower than that.

On to the rankings:

1. Brandon Weeden, Browns (owned in 8.8 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Christian Ponder, Vikings (38.1)
3. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (5.6)
4. John Skelton, Cardinals (2.4)
5. Mark Sanchez, Jets (20.5)
Dropped out: Russell Wilson, Seahawks; Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
Just missed the cut: Hasselbeck (15.0 percent)

1. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars (13.7 percent)
2. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals (10.5)
3. Montario Hardesty, Browns (8.5)
4. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (18.5)
5. Danny Woodhead, Patriots (38.9)
Dropped out: Vick Ballard, Colts (now owned in 45.7 percent of the ESPN leagues, which makes him too obvious of a choice); Alex Green, Packers (59.9); William Powell, Cardinals
Just missed the cut: Daryl Richardson, Rams (11.4 percent); Powell (8.4)

1. Josh Gordon, Browns (36.7 percent)
2. Andre Roberts, Cardinals (35.9)
3. Kendall Wright, Titans (18.5)
4. Brandon Gibson, Rams (29.5)
5. Santana Moss, Redskins (24.9)
Dropped out: Randall Cobb, Packers (now owned in 55.2 percent of the ESPN leagues); Davone Bess, Dolphins
Just missed the cut: Bess (8.3 percent); Greg Little, Browns (16.7); Brandon Stokley, Broncos (12.0); Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (24.3); Donnie Avery, Colts (12.5)

1. Dustin Keller, Jets (16.8 percent)
2. Brandon Myers, Raiders (3.2)
3. Greg Olsen, Panthers (26.3)
4. Joel Dreessen, Broncos (4.5)
5. Coby Fleener, Colts (30.6)
Dropped out: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (now owned in 53.4 percent of the ESPN leagues)
Just missed the cut: Dallas Clark, Buccaneers (2.4 percent)

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7

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Fantasy football: Maurice Jones-Drew injury analysis

In his first six NFL seasons, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed a total of three games.

From 2009 to '11, he averaged 1,440 yards rushing, 11 total touchdowns and 59 receptions for 355 yards per season.

I had all of those numbers in mind when I made a blockbuster trade in The News-Herald fantasy football league prior to Week 5.

Tired of Titans running back Chris Johnson, I dealt CJNoLonger2K and Steelers receiver Mike Wallace for Jones-Drew and Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall.

That weekend, I laughed -- and taunted my opponent on Twitter -- as Mendenhall looked healthy in his first game back from an ACL injury and Johnson turned in another laugher of a performance (15 carries for 24 yards in a loss to the Vikings).

The last two weeks, those laughs have turned to curses, and Week 7 might have marked the death of my season in that league.

Mendenhall didn't play last week because of an Achilles injury, and Sunday, Jones-Drew suffered a left foot injury that will keep him out this week against the Packers -- and possibly much longer.

You probably know Johnson rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns the same day -- adding to my torture -- but what's far more important from a fantasy perspective is the injury to Jones-Drew.

The Jaguars haven't ruled out the possibility Jones-Drew suffered a Lisfranc injury, which could be season-ending.

Regardless, expect to see a mad dash to the waiver wire this morning for Rashad Jennings, who struggled on the ground in place of Jones-Drew on Sunday (21 carries for 44 yards), but did score a touchdown and catch seven passes for 58 yards.

Also expect to read and hear many owners' vows to avoid the next running back who has a prolonged training camp holdout. In 2011, it was CJNoLonger2K. This past summer, it was Jones-Drew.

Jennings, meanwhile, could be a decent No. 2 running back in point-per-reception leagues until, or if, Jones-Drew returns.

His numbers this year aren't impressive (2.6 yards per carry on 34 attempts), but he did average 5.5 yards per carry in the previous season in which he played (2010). That year, with Jones-Drew sitting out the Jaguars' season finale, Jennings rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and caught four passes for 34 yards. Prior to Sunday, it was the only time in his career in which he received more than 15 carries.

The Jaguars' schedule the next two weeks isn't very favorable -- this Sunday at Green Bay (No. 17 vs. the run, but how much will Jacksonville be running if it is trailing by three touchdowns?) and Week 9 against Detroit (No. 10 vs. the run, one rushing TD allowed).

After that, Jennings could have a run of decent starts. Beginning in Week 10, the Jags face four teams in a five-week span with a ranking of 25th or worse against the run -- Week 10 vs. the Colts (No. 26), Week 12 vs. Titans (No. 25), Week 13 vs. Bills (No. 32) and Week 14 vs. the Jets (No. 30).

He's no Jones-Drew. But you already knew that.

Jennings could be, however, a much-needed source of total yards and receptions for owners who have underperforming or injured stars at running back.

Have I mentioned that in the N-H league, Jennings was drafted -- and kept all season, even though he had five carries in his last four games prior to Sunday? And the owner with whom I made the trade now has Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and a possibly revitalized CJMaybe1.2K?

And I'm supposed to know what I'm doing.

Fortunately for many others, Jennings is available in more than 86 percent of the leagues on He should be the top target on the waiver wire today.

Even better: You won't have to make a terrible trade to acquire him.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 7 waiver-wire picks

I'm not saying you should start Brandon Weeden this week.

You shouldn't.

Here is what I am saying, er, writing: The Browns' rookie quarterback is on pace to throw for 4,051 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his last two games, he has thrown for 522 yards and four TDs.

Sunday, the Browns will play at the Colts, who rank third against the pass, allowing an average of 201 yards per game, but are tied for 22nd with 10 touchdown passes given up -- in five games.

I'm aware Weeden is a walking turnover -- a league-high 10 interceptions.

I'm aware he might be throwing to Josh Gordon, Ben Watson and The Uncatchables. (Gordon, Watson and The Stonehands? I'm open to suggestions.)

The only reason I'm bringing Weeden up is there are six teams on a bye this week, and four of them have Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Michael Vick at quarterback. (Or maybe you have Vick or Rivers and are encouraging them to take a week off.)

If you play in a very deep league (say, 16 teams) ... and your starting QB is off ... and you're desperate for a one-week fill-in ... Weeden might not be terrible Sunday.

That's my ringing endorsement.

That brings us to this week's waiver-wire selections. And a reminder: We wrote about Felix Jones -- the top target in many leagues this week -- on Monday. He's not ranked below because he is owned in 51.3 percent of the ESPN leagues -- a number that seems too high.

As always, we only consider players who are available in more than half of the leagues on, and we like to go much lower than that.

On to the rankings:

1. Christian Ponder, Vikings (owned in 36.7 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (12.3)
3. Brandon Weeden, Browns (6.0)
4. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (6.2)
5. Matt Hasselbeck, Titans (6.7)
Dropped out: Kevin Kolb, Cardinals; Mark Sanchez, Jets
Just missed the cut: John Skelton, Cardinals (1.9 percent)

1. Alex Green, Packers (28.4 percent)
2. William Powell, Cardinals (3.2)
3. Vick Ballard, Colts (32.0)
4. Montario Hardesty, Browns (0.4)
5. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals (23.7)
Dropped out: James Starks, Packers; Brandon Bolden, Patriots
Just missed the cut: Bolden (26.6 percent); Danny Woodhead, Patriots (15.6); Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (9.0); Joique Bell, Lions (3.0); Cedric Peerman, Bengals (0.1)

1. Randall Cobb, Packers (36.0 percent)
2. Kendall Wright, Titans (13.2)
3. Josh Gordon, Browns (2.5)
4. Davone Bess, Dolphins (9.7)
5. Brandon Stokley, Broncos (11.4)
Dropped out: Andre Roberts, Cardinals (now owned in 50.6 percent of the ESPN leagues); Jeremy Kerley, Jets (44.3); Andrew Hawkins, Bengals
Just missed the cut: Hawkins (31.0 percent); Donnie Avery, Colts (7.4); Brandon Gibson, Rams (24.8); Domenik Hixon, Giants (17.0); Stephen Hill, Jets (15.1); Santana Moss, Redskins (10.4); Michael Jenkins, Vikings (0.1)

1. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (32.2 percent)
2. Greg Olsen, Panthers (25.9)
3. Brandon Myers, Raiders (1.6)
4. Joel Dreessen, Broncos (5.1)
5. Coby Fleener, Colts (13.7)
Dropped out: Scott Chandler, Bills (now owned in 46.1 percent of the ESPN leagues)
Just missed the cut: Anthony Fasano, Dolphins (2.0 percent)

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Fantasy football: DeMarco Murray injury analysis

Maybe we overvalued DeMarco Murray all along.

Sure, the Cowboys' running back was electric at times as a rookie in 2011 -- rushing for 897 yards, catching 26 passes for 183 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per touch -- but he also managed only two TDs all season, and he fractured his ankle in Week 13.

You might also remember that he wasn't exactly the most durable running back in Oklahoma history.

That didn't stop many of us from considering Murray a late first-round pick in fantasy.

Now we're left with the possibility of not trusting Murray after he suffered ligament damage in his left foot in Sunday's loss to the Ravens. Prior to getting hurt, Murray was on track to have his best game of the season -- he had 90 rushing yards in the first half at Baltimore.

The Cowboys' website reported Monday that Murray could be out this week and possible longer.

In about 4 1/2 games this season, Murray has rushed for 330 yards, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has 17 receptions for 118 yards. The bad: Murray has one TD on 92 touches, and now has all of three TDs in two seasons.

If you own Murray, you have no choice but to hold on to him and hope for the best when he returns.

While owning and hoping, you should also make a bid to acquire Felix Jones via the waiver wire or trade.

Jones is available in almost 49 percent of the leagues on -- a figure that seems low to me, since he isn't on a roster in any of the leagues in which I compete. (OK, that's certainly not scientific, but wouldn't it stand to reason that Jones, who had three carries in Dallas' first four games, would be on the waiver wire in a vast majority of leagues?)

Jones ran for 92 yards on 18 carries Sunday, and he's been productive when given the opportunity in his five-year career.

In a loss to the Giants on Dec. 11, 2011, the game in which Murray broke his ankle, Jones rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries and caught six passes for 31 yards. The next week, Jones had 22 carries for 108 yards and three receptions for 23 yards.

In 2010, Jones rushed for 800 yards and caught 52 passes for 450 yards. In his career, he's averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

The problem, as is the case with Murray, is Jones is injury-prone and out-of-the-end-zone-prone. He had two touchdowns in his otherwise-impressive 2010, and he has 10 TDs in 53 career games.

But you won't be acquiring Jones for anything other than a short-term fix. In that case, he should be a bargain.

Sunday, the Cowboys will play at the Panthers, who rank 23rd against the run. Carolina is allowing an average of 127.4 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.

The following week, the Cowboys will play host to the Giants, who rank 16th against the run, a figure that is deceiving since New York is giving up 4.6 yards per carry.

If Murray is out, as expected, this week, Jones should be considered a decent No. 2 running back, especially in point-per-reception leagues -- and especially in Week 7, when six teams are on a bye.

Don't expect Jones to score a couple of touchdowns.

In hindsight, we shouldn't have expected that from Murray, either.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 6 waiver-wire picks

We didn't expect much from Cedric Benson as the Packers' featured back.

And Ced certainly delivered.

Benson, prior to suffering a foot injury Sunday that could sideline him for at least eight weeks, rushed for 248 yards in five games and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. He caught 14 passes for 97 yards and scored one TD -- a 1-yard run against the Seahawks in the now-infamous Monday night Replacement Referee Bowl on Sept. 24.

With Benson out, running-back needy owners likely will be scrambling to the waiver wire this week, and it's a particularly interesting time to search for a back, since Arizona's Ryan Williams suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week (we broke down the Cardinals' backfield situation on Monday).

The best Packers running back from a fantasy perspective should be Alex Green, who had nine carries for 55 yards Sunday at Indianapolis.

Green, a third-round draft choice by the Pack in 2011, could be Green Bay's back of the future -- and present.

I wouldn't consider him a No. 2 running back in fantasy, but he is a decent option as a flex play in deeper formats if you're desperate for help. For the time being, Green likely will share carries with James Starks, who might get the start Sunday because of his pass-blocking ability.

Starks -- the Packers' leading rusher in 2011 with 578 yards -- hasn't played this season because of a toe injury, and he scored only one TD on 162 touches, including 29 receptions, last season.

Green is the better long-term choice, and he's the top back in our rankings this week.

As always, we only consider players who are available in more than half of the leagues on, and we like to go much lower than that.

On to the rankings:

1. Christian Ponder, Vikings (owned in 27.8 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (16.6)
3. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (5.4)
4. Mark Sanchez, Jets (22.7)
5. Brandon Weeden, Browns (3.7)
Dropped out: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Just missed the cut: Wilson (13.1 percent)

1. Alex Green, Packers (0.8 percent)
2. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals (5.4)
3. James Starks, Packers (5.9)
4. William Powell, Cardinals (0.1)
5. Brandon Bolden, Patriots (21.1)
Dropped out: Jackie Battle, Chargers (now owned in 54.1 percent of the ESPN leagues); Joique Bell, Lions; Bilal Powell, Jets; Lance Ball, Broncos
Just missed the cut: Bell (1.5 percent); Danny Woodhead, Patriots (9.3); Shaun Draughn, Chiefs (4.3)

1. Randall Cobb, Packers (28.8 percent)
2. Kendall Wright, Titans (10.5)
3. Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (31.4)
4. Jeremy Kerley, Jets (33.2)
5. Andre Roberts, Cardinals (29.1)
Dropped out: Brian Hartline, Dolphins (now owned in 91.0 percent of the ESPN leagues); James Jones, Packers (69.0); Donnie Avery, Colts
Just missed the cut: Davone Bess, Dolphins (9.2 percent); Domenik Hixon, Giants (17.3); Rueben Randle, Giants (38.4); Brandon Stokley, Broncos (11.5)

1. Scott Chandler, Bills (40.2 percent)
2. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (33.6)
3. Greg Olsen, Panthers (29.3)
4. Brandon Myers, Raiders (1.0)
5. Coby Fleener, Colts (14.6)
Dropped out: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (now owned in 50.8 percent of the ESPN leagues)
Just missed the cut: Joel Dreessen, Broncos (2.8 percent)

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Fantasy football: Analyzing the Cardinals' options at running back

If you're a fantasy owner who is always interested in acquiring a running back, an injury to a starter is something that usually gets your attention.

Depending on the NFL team, a backup running back might not be owned in your league. And once you get into Week 6, a starting back on the waiver wire -- let me be Captain Obvious for a second -- receives quite a bit of interest.

With that in mind, I researched the Cardinals' situation when it was announced Monday that Ryan Williams -- who was replacing the oft-injured Beanie Wells -- would miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

What I found was the equivalent of looking for a quality movie and seeing Adam Sandler on every cable channel.

The four Arizona running backs who have recorded carries this season -- Williams, Wells (who is out until at least Week 12 with a toe injury), LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell -- have combined for 250 yards on 102 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. Stephens-Howling and quarterback Kevin Kolb have the Cardinals' only rushing TDs this season (one each).

Only Oakland is averaging fewer than Arizona's 63.4 rushing yards per game.

All of which is why it's been speculated the Cardinals will explore free agents -- Tim Hightower, Joseph Addai, Steve Slaton, Cadillac Williams and Maurice Morris were mentioned in this Arizona Republic blog -- or a trade to fortify their backfield.

Unless they traded for, say, DeAngelo Williams, the Cardinals' options would be free-agent retreads such as Hightower or Addai. Translation: Don't expect much.

If they stay in-house, you probably shouldn't have high hopes, either, but at least there might be a serviceable fantasy choice in Stephens-Howling or Powell.

Of the two, Stephens-Howling would seem to be the best option in fantasy.

In 2010 and '11 with the Cards, Stephens-Howling rushed for a combined 280 yards on 66 carries, a 4.2-yard average, and scored three total touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving). In point-per-reception leagues, he will have the most value -- Stephens-Howling had a combined 29 catches for 345 yards in 2010 and '11.

He has missed the last two games with a hip injury, but is expected to play Sunday against Buffalo.

Powell had a strong preseason in 2012, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring touchdowns in three consecutive games. But he's played in two regular-season games in his career and has all of eight touches (three rushes and five receptions).

The third option being mentioned for the Cardinals at running back is Alfonso Smith, who seems to be the least likely of the trio to have an impact. Smith hasn't had a carry this season, and he averaged 3.4 yards on 30 attempts last season.

If you're desperate and Stephens-Howling seems to be over his hip injury, the latter is at best a flex option this week. As noted in the Arizona Republic blog, Stephens-Howling's 5-foot-7, 185-pound frame probably isn't built for 15 carries or more.

Powell might be worth a roster spot in deep formats, but you shouldn't play him until we have a much better idea how the Cardinals plan to divide the carries -- and if they can manage any semblance of a running game.

An advantage for Stephens-Howling this week: Arizona will play host to Buffalo, which ranks 30th against the run and is allowing an average of 171.8 yards per game on the ground.

The Bills have given up a league-high nine rushing TDs.

We'll be back Tuesday with our weekly waiver-wire picks and break down the Packers' options at running back with Cedric Benson out this week.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Fantasy football: The new view of Steven Jackson

The Rams' Steven Jackson turned 29 on July 22.

In NFL running back years, that's 65 for you and me. Almost retirement time.

And Jackson has been playing like it.

In five games, counting Thursday's win over the Cardinals, the former fantasy stud has rushed for 271 yards on 77 carries, a 3.5-yard norm. He has yet to score a touchdown, and much more surprisingly, he has only seven receptions for 48 yards.

Jackson not racking up touchdowns is nothing new. He had 16 TDs in 2006, and he has 30 scores in 75 games since (counting Thursday).

Jackson not being a threat in the passing game is a new development.

He has four consecutive seasons with at least 40 catches, and he had 90 receptions for 806 yards in his monstrous 2006 campaign.

This season, he is on pace to rush for 867 yards -- which would end his streak of seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons -- and catch 22 passes. In St. Louis' last three games, he has three catches.

Part of the reason for his struggles is a groin injury that has hampered him most of the season, but nagging injuries are nothing new for the 6-foot-2, 240-pound back.

To Jackson's credit, he hasn't missed a game this season, and he's played in all but two of 53 contests since 2009.

At some point, however, we realize the current numbers mean much more than Jackson's résumé.

He should be considered a low-level No. 2 running back at best in a 12-team league.

Ideally, he's a No. 3 back you can use as a flex option when bye weeks or injuries have left you short-handed.

Is Jackson near the end?

It's obviously too soon to tell, but this certainly seems to indicate the Rams believe that's the case.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 5 waiver-wire picks

Chargers running back Jackie Battle has four touchdowns in as many games this season.

Sunday, he started over much more celebrated backfield mate Ryan Mathews, who has been in Coach Norv Turner's doghouse (and is there a more terrifying place than Norv Turner's doghouse?) because of fumbling problems.

On the season, Battle -- who rushed for 597 yards for the Chiefs last season -- is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. In Week 4, he had 19 touches, produced 81 total yards (42 receiving) and scored a pair of TDs.

That all sounds promising, right?

Yes, until you remember Mathews, despite the temporary benching, rushed for 61 yards on 14 attempts (one fewer carry but 22 more yards than Battle) Sunday, and he will get more of a workload in future weeks as long as he doesn't put the ball on the ground.

It was Mathews whom we all believed was a top-six running back in fantasy before he broke his collarbone in the preseason.

And it was Mathews who ran for 1,091 yards in 14 games, caught 50 passes for 455 yards and had a norm of 4.9 yards per carry last season.

Make no mistake: Mathews will be the guy in the Chargers' backfield. But it might not be as soon as this week, which gives Battle short-term value if you need a starting back because of bye weeks -- and long-term value if you have Mathews and want to add Battle as insurance.

Before we get to this week's waiver-wire picks -- you might have taken a wild guess and determined Battle is No. 1 at running back -- a quick reminder that we discussed the value of Dolphins receiver and former Buckeye Brian Hartline on Monday morning.

As always, we only consider players who are available in more than half of the leagues on, and we like to go much lower than that.

On to the rankings:

1. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (owned in 7.8 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (31.3)
3. Christian Ponder, Vikings (17.3)
4. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (2.9)
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (14.8)
Dropped out: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (he's now owned in 46.5 percent of the ESPN leagues, which makes him too obvious of a choice); Mark Sanchez, Jets; Jake Locker, Titans
Just missed the cut: None

1. Jackie Battle, Chargers (9.0 percent)
2. Bilal Powell, Jets (5.4)
3. Joique Bell, Lions (0.8)
4. Brandon Bolden, Patriots (0.3)
5. Lance Ball, Broncos (1.5)
Dropped out: Andre Brown, Giants (now owned in 92.8 percent of the ESPN leagues); Mikel Leshoure, Lions (73.1 percent); Tashard Choice, Bills; Jacquizz Rogers, Falcons
Just missed the cut: Rogers (17.9 percent); Danny Woodhead, Patriots (7.4); Shaun Draughn, Chiefs (4.5); Evan Royster, Redskins (4.2)

1. Brian Hartline, Dolphins (26.7 percent)
2. James Jones, Packers (21.6)
3. Kendall Wright, Titans (10.6)
4. Donnie Avery, Colts (11.0)
5. Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (28.1)
Dropped out: Ramses Barden, Giants; Jon Baldwin, Chiefs
Just missed the cut: Randall Cobb, Packers (29.9 percent); Davone Bess, Dolphins (7.4); Andre Roberts, Cardinals (1.9); Domenik Hixon, Giants (0.5); Baldwin (22.4); Greg Little, Browns (17.6)

1. Scott Chandler, Bills (31.6 percent)
2. Greg Olsen, Panthers (16.7)
3. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (40.7)
4. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (24.8)
5. Brandon Myers, Raiders (1.4)
Dropped out: Heath Miller, Steelers (now owned in 46.9 percent of the ESPN leagues); Dennis Pitta, Ravens (62.6)
Just missed the cut: None

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Fantasy football: Is Brian Hartline a reliable starter?

If you enjoy "Hard Knocks" on HBO as much as I do, you might have noticed Brian Hartline wasn't mentioned at all when the outstanding behind-the-scenes reality show discussed the Dolphins' need for a standout wide receiver this past summer.

Well, there is a reason for that: The former Ohio State standout missed almost all of training camp because of a calf injury.

When HBO was filming, Hartline wasn't practicing.

He has since answered the question we all had about the Dolphins -- and done so convincingly.

Hartline -- a fourth-round draft choice by Miami in 2009 -- has 25 receptions for 455 yards in four games. That's a 16-game pace of 100 receptions for 1,820 yards.

Sunday, Hartline had a Dolphins-record 253 yards on 12 catches, including an 80-yard score against the Cardinals.

In Weeks 1 and 3, he didn't do much -- a combined four catches for 91 yards and zero TDs.

In Weeks 2 and 4, he was sensational -- a combined 21 catches for 364 yards and one TD.

Is he a spot starter? Should we start him on even-numbered weeks? Should we play him every week and figure there is a 50-50 chance he will be very good?

The simple answers are yes, no and yes.

In point-per-reception leagues, Hartline should be considered a No. 3 receiver. If you play in a league in which yards and touchdowns are all that matter, play the matchup game with Hartline, who isn't a great source of touchdowns (he has five in 44 career games).

If you own Hartline, you likely acquired him on the waiver wire, so you might have three good receivers ahead of him on your roster. If that's the case, play him if the matchup is very favorable and/or one of your top three wideouts is banged up.

Hartline might not be consistent -- most receivers with rookie quarterbacks throwing to them aren't -- but he is a big-play threat. He is averaging 15.9 yards per reception in his career.

Plus, he has an outstanding mustache in this profile picture.

What about Bess?

Believe it or not, the Dolphins have two wide receivers who merit consideration in PPR leagues.

Davone Bess -- who also didn't get much (or any) airtime on "Hard Knocks" -- has 12 catches for 209 yards and two TDs in his last two games.

With Ryan Tannehill averaging 35.8 pass attempts per game, Bess and Hartline could both go over 1,000 yards.

Bess should be considered a fourth receiver in deep PPR leagues. He has yet to score a touchdown this season, and he has only 11 TDs in his five-year career, so he's not much help in standard formats.

Bess' 16-game pace: 80 receptions for 1,188 yards.

Yes, the Dolphins have two receivers on track for 80-plus catches and more than 1,100 yards.

Chad Johnson, your thoughts?

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