Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.
The waiver wire had offered little help at running back in recent weeks, but this is shaping up as a great week for the position. Which widely available backs are worth your while? Read on for our entire slate of waiver recommendations ...
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (12% owned)
If you’re buying Kaepernick, you aren’t paying for aesthetics. He’s completing 53% of his throws, and his mechanics are a mess. But in his four starts this season, Kap has averaged a respectable 234.5 passing yards, has thrown at least one TD pass per game, and has averaged 57 rushing yards. The dirty little secret is that Kaepernick is not only a credible streaming option, he’s a borderline QB1. Kap also has some very playable matchups over the next five weeks, including a home matchup against the Patriots this week. In a week where the pool of streaming options is shallow, Kaepernick is a worthwhile target for owners in need of a one-week QB patch.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: C- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B)
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (32% owned)
After throwing only six TD passes in his first eight games, Flacco used an advantageous Week 10 matchup to fatten up his numbers, lighting up the hapless Browns for 296 yards and three touchdowns. This week’s road date in Dallas will likely prove more difficult, but it’s followed by a less daunting Week 12 matchup at home against the Bengals. One reason for optimism on Flacco: improved pass-catching firepower. Steve Smith is healthy, Breshad Perriman is starting to contribute, and Kenneth Dixon is emerging as a receiving threat out of the backfield.
(Talent: C+ | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
It’s hard to find good things to say about Brock Osweiler, especially on the heels of a 99-yard passing day, but if you’re desperate for a Week 11 streamer, Osweiler at least has a playable matchup against the Raiders. Alex Smith has a favorable matchup against the Buccaneers, but the Kansas City passing game has been so dismal from a fantasy perspective that I can’t recommend Smith in good conscience, with the possible exception of two-QB leagues. The Dolphins’ shift to a run-heavy offense has dented the fantasy value of Ryan Tannehill, though Tanny’s matchup this week against the Rams makes him streamable in a week where streaming options are thin.
C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls (33% and 48% owned)
The Seahawks’ Sunday-night victory over the Patriots confirmed suspicions that Christine Michael has lost his grip on the lead role in the Seattle backfield. Prosise had 17-66-0 rushing and 7-87-0 receiving, out-touching Michael 24-6 and outsnapping him 54-11. Prosise is a hyper-athletic rookie from Notre Dame whose background as a wide receiver suggests that he’ll be a versatile run-catch threat. Although he’s averaging only 3.7 yards per carry, Prosise has caught 15 of his 16 targets so far and is averaging a zesty 12.7 yards per target. Rawls could turn this backfield into a challenging weekly puzzle for fantasy owners when he returns from a broken fibula, and it’s quite possible he could be back this week. Rawls had an impressive, uber-efficient rookie year in 2015, rushing for 830 yards and averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Their respective skill sets suggest that there might be some sort of logical workload distribution that has Rawls seeing early-down action and Prosise working as the passing-down and change-of-pace back. Prosise is the proverbial bird in the hand right now, so he’s the recommended buy here, but Rawls has legitimate appeal to speculators and will probably go for a pretty penny in a lot of FAAB leagues this week. Owners interested in Prosise should be prepared to go all in, because he’s destined to be expensive in leagues where he remains available.
(Prosise: Talent: A- | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: A-)
(Rawls: Talent: A- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B+)
James Starks, Green Bay Packers (26% owned)
There aren’t many chances to grab a lead running back off the waiver wire this time of year, but this may be a rare opportunity to do so. After missing more than a month with a knee injury, Starks returned to action in action in Week 10 with 7-33-0 rushing and 3-11-1 receiving in the Packers’ lopsided loss to the Titans. It appears that I was wrong in thinking that Ty Montgomery would continue to be Green Bay’s lead RB even after Starks returned. Starks out-snapped Monty 55-22 on Sunday, and two of those Montgomery snaps came at wide receiver, according to snap data guru Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. I’m not a big believer in Starks’ talent, but he’s a competent NFL running back with a clear path to double-digit weekly touches. This is one of those instances where opportunity means far more than ability. At this late date, Starks is worth an enormous chunk of your remaining FAAB if you need help at running back.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: A-)
Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (47% and 29% owned)
It really doesn’t matter that Kelley has a mutt-like college pedigree and ordinary athleticism. What matters is that he’s playing a lead role for Washington and making the most of his recent promotion. In two games as a starter, Kelley has rushed 43-184-1 for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Matt Jones is so deep in the doghouse that he was a healthy scratch on Sunday, so Kelley should continue to get a full buffet of carries. The drawbacks are that he faces a seemingly endless string of strong defenses the rest of the way, starting with Green Bay this week, and he rarely catches passes. Thompson, who now has 30 catches this season, has some PPR flex appeal and should be rostered in all but the smallest of leagues.
(Kelley: Talent: C | Opportunity: A | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B+)
(Thompson: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (19% owned)
The chance to get him cheaply has passed. Dixon will be a popular waiver target after enjoying a breakout of sorts in Baltimore’s Week 10 win over the Browns. The rookie from Louisiana Tech had 6-38-0 rushing and 5-42-0 receiving against Cleveland (and also had a nice run negated by a penalty late in the game). Dixon played a season-high 26 snaps against the Browns. Starter Terrance West played 34 snaps, but West posted a mediocre 21-65-0 rushing line against a bad Cleveland run defense, and you can feel the momentum shifting toward Dixon in this backfield. Invest if you still can.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B+)
Paul Perkins, New York Giants (20% owned)
Perkins’ snap counts have been inching upward, and the rookie from UCLA might be on the verge of surpassing sluggish veteran Rashad Jennings, who’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry this season. This column is posted on Monday afternoon, so Perkins’ Monday-night performance against the Bengals isn’t being taken into account here, but it will obviously affect his price in the leagues where he’s available. One thing to consider is that the Giants have one of the league’s worst run-blocking offensive lines. On the bright side, Perkins is a good pass catcher, so he isn’t entirely at the mercy of his offensive line. I’d rather have Kenneth Dixon than Perkins, but Perkins certainly has a path to fantasy relevance.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings (47% owned)
The Vikings’ backfield is yielding painfully little value these days, so even though McKinnon had 33 snaps in Minnesota’s Week 10 loss to Washington, out-snapping teammates Matt Asiata (24) and Ronnie Hillman (12), it’s hard to get enthusiastic about his fantasy prospects. If you’re the sort of owner who’s willing to bet on a player’s talent and athleticism even if the ecosystem in which he dwells isn’t particularly nurturing, then McKinnon is worth a modest investment.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C+)
Dwayne Washington appears to outrank Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett in the Lions’ RB pecking order, but he doesn’t outrank Theo Riddick, and it’s not as if there’s a lot run volume to go around in Detroit, where the offensive line’s poor run blocking gums up the works. Bilal Powell is on bye this week and has a somewhat difficult matchup against the Patriots in Week 12, but he gets the soft Indianapolis and San Francisco run defenses in Week 13-14 and might be playable those weeks even in his role as change-of-pace back behind Matt Forte. Rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard both have right around 400 yards for scrimmage for the Raiders, but they have one TD between them, and Latavius Murray is clearly the lead back for the Raiders. Peyton Barber might continue to play a supporting role behind Doug Martin for another week or two if Jacquizz Rodgers still isn’t ready to return from a foot injury. Wendell Smallwood had 13 carries for 70 yards Sunday against the Falcons, but Doug Pederson’s inscrutable deployment of his running backs prevents an enthusiastic endorsement of the rookie. Some handcuffs worth considering, in no particular order: Mike Gillislee, Charcandrick West, Derrick Henry, Alfred Morris, Damien Williams, Kapri Bibbs, DeAngelo Williams, Alfred Blue, DuJuan Harris, Kenneth Farrow.
Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton, Pittsburgh Steelers (35%, 10% and 0% owned)
I’ve been trumpeting Coates for weeks, but admittedly, things aren’t looking rosy right now for the speedy second-year man out of Auburn. Coates has caught just one of 11 targets over his last four games. He played only two snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. The Week 10 debut of TE Ladarius Green, who had been out all season with an ankle injury, seems destined to shrink the available WR snaps in Pittsburgh since the Steelers are now free to use more two-TE sets. Hamilton played an unofficial 67 snaps on Sunday, which was only four fewer than Antonio Brown. Rogers played 62, leaving Coates as the odd man out (at least for now). I remain bullish on Coates and his prodigious talent, but it would be foolish to disregard the story that the snap counts tell us. Over the last three weeks, Rogers has been targeted 20 times and has caught 14-180-1. He’s a solid PPR asset and has some matchup-based flex value in standard leagues. Hamilton is the wild card here. In four games he has only 6-111-1 on 10 targets, so not many people will pick up his scent on the waiver trail. But Hamilton caught 90-1,335-5 in his final college season at Arkansas, and high snap counts in the Steelers’ high-powered passing game could deliver some sneaky fantasy value.
(Rogers: Talent: B | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B+)
(Coates: Talent: A- | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B-)
(Hamilton: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: C)
Michael Floyd and J.J. Nelson, Arizona Cardinals (45% and 49% owned)
On the heels of a zero-catch game in Week 9 that made it seem as if his fantasy value was all but gone, Floyd bounced back with 5-101-0 Sunday against the 49ers. Perhaps even more encouraging than the 100-yard day was Floyd’s snap count. He played 59 of 79 offensive snaps—nine more than J.J. Nelson and 30 more than John Brown. The reduced snap count for Brown is at least partly attributable to a lingering hamstring injury that’s reportedly related to the sickle cell trait. It’s possible Floyd will fall behind Brown and Nelson again, but Week 10 provided encouraging signs that he’s out of the doghouse. The revived fantasy fortunes of Brown bode less promising for Nelson, who was a popular waiver addition last week. He’s a dangerous burner capable of making his weekly fantasy quota on a single play, but the multiple branches in the Cardinals’ passing tree give Nelson a dangerously low weekly floor. And it’s entirely possible that Nelson will claim Floyd’s old spot in Bruce Arians’ doghouse after losing a fumble on Sunday and also letting a pass bounce off his hands for an interception. Neither of these guys will be a very attractive Week 11 play in a difficult road matchup against the Vikings.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B)
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C+)
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (14% owned)
The lightly owned Woods erupted for 10 catches and 162 yards against the normally tough Seattle pass defense in Week 9, but he’s still available in many leagues because the Bills were on bye in Week 10, which tamped down interest. Woods has averaged 8.1 targets per game since Week 3, but he’s averaging under a point per target and has scored only one TD. Better in PPR formats than in standard leagues, Woods is a solid volume play, but it’s unrealistic to expect a string of 100-yard outings.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B-)
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (15% owned)
With Jeremy Maclin sidelined by a groin injury, Hill had a season-high 10 catches for 89 yards against the Panthers in Week 10, along with a 12-yard run. Hill has totaled more than 100 yards from scrimmage in two of his last three games, and he has four TD catches on the year. The mercury-quick rookie from West Alabama will be startable in a nice Week 11 matchup against the Buccaneers if Maclin remains out, and Hill will be worthy of flex consideration even if Maclin plays.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (37% owned)
Placed on injured reserve in September with a foot injury, Watkins is eligible to return to practice, but the Bills declared on Monday that he hasn’t been cleared by their trainers. It’s rare to find this sort of talent on the waiver wire, but the medical issues make Watkins a complete wild card.
(Talent: A | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: B-)
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (14% owned)
Wright has a TD catch in three of his last five games and has averaged 58.6 receiving yards over that span. Thing is, he’s being substantially out-snapped by teammates Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe. Wright has played 51% or less of the Titans’ offensive snaps in four of his last five games, and he hasn’t seen more than five snaps in a game over that span. He should be considered only in deeper leagues.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
With Travis Benjamin plagued by a sprained PCL, Dontrelle Inman has played a larger role for the Chargers of late, with 18-229-0 on 31 targets over his last four games. More valuable in standard leagues than PPR leagues, streaky Patriot Chris Hogan might be a reasonable spot starter this week in a choice matchup against the 49ers. Breshad Perriman had a season-high 64 yards and scored his first professional touchdown in the Ravens’ Week 10 win over the Browns, but he’s seeing spotty target volume playing behind Steve Smith and Mike Wallace. Brandon LaFell has produced some pretty nice numbers this year (28-378-4), but his targets have plummeted with the recent return of TE Tyler Eifert. Brian Quick has been consistently involved in the Rams’ passing game, averaging 5.7 targets over his last six games, and he’s averaged a healthy 16.2 yards per catch, but he hasn’t scored a TD since Week 4. Marqise Lee is in some sort of bizarre fantasy purgatory, consistently doing enough to draw fantasy attention but not doing enough to actually be useful. With 42-477-1 this year, Pierre Garcon has solid PPR value but little standard-scoring value. Anquan Boldin is old and slow, and he has to compete for targets with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick, but he’s at least worth rostering in PPR leagues. Quinton Patton has been targeted 18 times in the 49ers last two games and has produced 9-158-0. Jeremy Kerley caught all seven of his targets Sunday for 7-71-1, raising hopes that he’ll recapture the PPR value he had earlier this season. The Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen are no better than low-level (read: desperation) PPR options this week in a tough matchup against the Cardinals. Devin Funchess is starting to play a slightly larger role in the Carolina offense, with 19 targets in his last four games and 3-56-1 receiving in Week 10. Adam Humphries is a viable if uninspiring one-week PPR Band-Aid.
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (10% owned)
Fresh off the PUP list, Green played only 12 snaps in Week 10 but was busy when he was in, catching 3-30-0 on four targets. Green has said that his surgically repaired ankle still isn’t back to normal. He also might need some time to get comfortable in the Pittsburgh offense, since he was robbed of valuable training camp reps. Still, Green has a tremendous combination of size (6-6, 240) and speed (4.5-something), and there are a lot of receiving stats to go around in the Steelers’ passing game. Also worth noting: Green has a pillow-soft schedule the rest of the way, starting with a primo matchup against the Browns this week.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: A | OVERALL: B+)
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans (21% owned)
Fiedorowicz had only 3-26-0 receiving Sunday against the Jaguars, but Jacksonville has been tough against opposing TEs this season. Despite the struggles of Texans QB Brock Osweiler, Fiedorowicz has chipped in 27-298-3 receiving over his last six games, and he doesn’t have another difficult matchup until he sees the Jaguars again in Week 15.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (36% and 29% owned)
Allen’s return from an ankle injury has dimmed the fantasy outlook for Doyle, and neither of these guys is especially trustworthy on a week-to-week basis. Still, these two have combined for 74 targets, 55 catches, 586 yards and six TDs, so while they siphon value from each other, there’s still TE value to be milked from the Colts most weeks. Indy’s next three matchups—against the Titans, Steelers and Jets—are all pretty TE-friendly.
(Doyle: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
(Allen: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Window shopping: Vance McDonald has turned 12 targets into 7-134-1, with gains of 65 and 32 yards. Charles Clay has only 283 yards and no TD catches this season but has a streamable matchup against the Bengals this week. In his last two games, Will Tye doesn’t have an especially good matchup against the Bears this week, but his schedule is extremely favorable from Week 12 on. Chargers’ rookie Hunter Henry has lost targets due to the improved health of Antonio Gates, but Henry had a TD catch in Week 10 and could potentially re-emerge as a fantasy-relevant asset.