Last Updated: Jan 28, 2011 8:59 PM
If you want to make the Post-Season of your Fantasy League, doing research in the off-season and drafting a solid team are steps 1 and 2. But the draft is just the foundation for what you will continue to build on throughout the year via trades or more importantly Free Agents and the Waiver Wire. Scouring the Waive Wire and scooping up players that can make an impact are what separates championship caliber teams from playoff teams. There are two parts to grabbing a player off waivers and that's knowing who and when to pick up a player, and that's what the best Fantasy Managers do best.
Over the next few minutes or however long it takes you to read this article, count how many times you say something along the lines of “oh wow-that's right he was a pick-up this season.” It's really incredible to think some of the following players weren't even drafted last season. So without further a-do here is the list of Waiver Wire Warriors from 2010.
Michael Vick-Philadelphia Eagles:Whether he was running or passing, when the ball was in his hands, Vick was making plays. Despite being the backup when the season started, Vick didn't need to wait long before making an impact. Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion the very first game of the year, opening the door for Vick to have one of the best seasons in Fantasy history. Keep in mind Vick missed four games due to injury, but still finished the season with 3,018 yards and 21 TDs. And though he plays Quarterback, Vick finished with 676 rushing yards and ran in another 9 TDs. Which is pretty amazing considering RBs like Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, and Maurice Jones-Drew all finished with just 5 rushing TDs. Vick was a lock for 25-30 fantasy points every week and threw in a few 40-50 point performances. He was stellar in 2010 and if there was an award for Best Pickup of the Year, Mike Vick would be the unanimous winner.
Matt Cassel-Kansas City Chiefs:Much like the team he played for, Matt Cassel's stats were a big surprise in 2010. He started off slow, throwing 7 TDs in the first 5 games but then he and Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe went on an absolute tear in the second half of the season. Cassell finished with 27 TDs, good enough for 7th best in the league. He passed for two of more touchdowns in eight games this season; in two of those games, Cassel threw 4 TDs. Just as impressive is the fact Cassel threw just 7 INTs all season, a TD-INT ratio that was second best only to Tom Brady.
Josh Freeman-Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Another surprise player on a surprise team is Tampa Bay's 2nd year QB. Freeman finished the year with 25 TDs and 3,451 yards and led the Bucs on five 4th Quarter comebacks this season. Over the final eight games of the year, Freeman threw just one interception. He passed for 15 TDs during that same span. Most Fantasy Managers probably didn't trust Freeman on a weekly basis, which is very unfortunate, because although he never completed more than 25 passes in a game all season, Freeman was about as consistent as they come. He was a lock for 225-275 yards and 2 TDs every week, which is why he finished in the Top 10 among Fantasy QBs this season. Unless devastated by injuries at the QB position, Freeman was likely just your backup. Nonetheless, he was still a great claim off the Waiver Wire, even if it just meant preventing your opponents from using him.
Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow-Denver Broncos:In the Pre-Season, most Fantasy Rankings didn't even have Orton inside the Top 20. But Orton proved many of his critics wrong very early on.For the first half of the 2010 season, Kyle Orton was ranked near the top of every QB statistic. He passed for 295, 307, 476, 341, and 314 yards in his first five games. He finished with 20 TDs and 3,652 yards but was injured/benched for the team's final few games, which just happened to be right around Fantasy Playoff time. Enter Stage Left: Rookie Tim Tebow. The Broncos decided to start Tebow in Week 15 and kept him under-center for the remainder of the season. Tebow did not disappoint. He threw four TD passes and ran in three scores in the last three games of the season. Tebow even managed to eclipse the 300-yard mark in Week 16 against Houston. Tebow wasn't very valuable for the large majority of the season, but considering he scored an average of 25 points in Week 15, 16, and 17, which is the most crucial time for any Fantasy Manager, we decided to group him with Orton and give him the honor of being named to this list.
Just missed the cut: David Garrard, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns:After watching Jerome Harrison rush for over 500 yards during the final three games of the 2009 season, many thought Hillis would serve a complementary role in 2010. But nothing was further from the truth. Though he did rush for a TD in each of the first two games, Hillis had just 8 and 9 carries, causing many Fantasy Managers to overlook his 4.5 ypc average and tremendous ability to score inside the Red Zone. But in Week 3, Hillis busted onto EVERYONE's fantasy radar, by rushing for 144 yards and one TD against the tough Baltimore Ravens Defense. Harrison would eventually be traded and Hillis would go on to reach the 100 yard mark another four times throughout the year, totaling 1,117 yards on the ground in 2010. Plus he chipped in with 61 receptions and 477 receiving yards. Hillis scored 13 TDs this season, 11 of which were rushing TDs, good enough for 6th best among all RBs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots: At the start of the season the New England Patriots had one of the most crowded backfields in the NFL. But the combination of injuries to Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk and the decision to trade Laurence Maroney, and suddenly New England actually had a favorable RB option for Fantasy Managers. In fact, they had two favorable options considering they signed Danny Woodhead the same week they traded Maroney. The RBBC duo of Woodhead and Green-Ellis was a perfect combination of speed/shiftiness with a punishing/powerful rushing style. Woodhead instantly made an impact by scoring two TDs in his first two games in a Patriots uniform. He wasn't exactly good enough to be relied on as an RB2, but in a PPR-league with a Flex option, Woodhead was an ideal starter. He finished the year with a combined 926 yards, 34 receptions, and 6 TDs. Green-Ellis on the other-hand was a quality RB2 in most Fantasy formats. His 13 rushing TDs was second in the league behind Arian Foster. BJGE became the first New England Running Back to reach 1,000 yards since Corey Dillon in 2004. BJGE was 4th or 5th on the team's depth chart during the Pre-Season and Woodhead wasn't even on the roster until after Week 1, makes this combo even more special among our list of Waiver Wire Warriors.
Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers:Rookie Ryan Mathews got a ton of Pre-Season hype and was expected to finish the season as a Top 10-15 RB. Instead, Mathews battled injuries for much of the season which opened the door for the team's would be Full-Back to take over as the leading man in the Chargers backfield. Also keep in mind many Fantasy Managers believed Darren Sproles would be the handcuff for Mathews, which makes Tolbert that much more of a hidden gem. At 5'9, 243 pounds, Tolbert pounded his way through defenders often breaking multiple tackles on a single carry. His yards didn't WOW people (Chargers were mostly a pass first team), but inside the Red Zone and especially from short distances, Tolbert was nearly unstoppable. He barreled his way to 11 TDs this season. While Mathews was out of the lineup, Tolbert averaged 16 fantasy points, good enough for RB2 type productivity. Not to shabby for a player who before this year only had a total of 38 carries and 1 TD in his first two seasons.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Blount started off his NFL career as part of the Tennessee Titans, but after a scuffle with a teammate, he was cut before Pre-Season ended. Blount landed in Tampa where he would eventually take over as the team's #1 RB. During the first half of the season, Blount didn't produce much, but that all changed in Week 8 when he rushed for 120 yards and 2 TDs against the Cardinals. Despite getting just 10 carries in the first 6 games of the year, Blount finished with 1,007 yards, 6 TDs and average 5-yards-per-carry. Plus he rewarded Fantasy Managers when it matter most by posting monster stats during the Fantasy Playoffs, rushing for 110 yards and a TD in Week 15 and 164 yards in Week 16. He wasn't much of a threat catching passes out of the backfield, but he got 20-25 carries a game, which isn't very common in the RBBC era that has seemingly taken over the NFL. The Bucs rookie was very valuable for any Fantasy Manager who decided to scoop him, even more so if that Manager is in a Dynasty League.
Just missed the cut: Ryan Torain, Chris Ivory, Brandon Jacobs
Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos:Most of the players on this list aren't seasoned veterans (except Michael Vick). Most have been in the league for under 3-4 years, some are even Rookies. Their unproven history in the NFL is what makes Fantasy Managers pass them up on Draft Day, only to realize their stardom and claim off Waivers later in the season. Well that rule doesn't apply to Lloyd, who's an eight-year vet. And yet, Lloyd would finish with his best season in 2010 by posting career highs in yards, receptions and TDs. His 1,448 yards led the NFL and his 11 TD grabs was 4th highest in the league. Lloyd is truly an anomaly, just unexplainable how he managed to stay so quiet/unproductive his first 7 years in the league. Lloyd played for three other teams before joining the Broncos in 2009. Add up the total yards, TDs, and receptions from his previous four seasons, and it doesn't come close to the numbers he posted in 2010. Lloyd didn't miss any games due to injury this season, so if you were lucky enough to grab Lloyd off Waivers, you got a #1 WR that produced for you all season (which can't be said for Andre Johnson or Hakeem Nicks, both of whom missed time due to injury).
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills:The Bills may be one of the worst teams in terms of producing Fantasy Stars. If you believe the hype surrounding 3rd year WRs, Johnson should have been on your radar all along, but since he was stuffed deep down on the depth-chart, he didn't get any respect to start the season. So when Johnson caught three passes in each of the first four games, many overlooked his 2 TDs during that span. Afterall, what's three receptions in one game? But opinions about him quickly changed after his 2 TD performance in Week 5. Johnson suddenly had 4 TDs in five-games. He pushed Lee Evans to the side and became Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite target for the rest of the year. Johnson would finish with 10 TDs, 1,073 yards, and 82 receptions on the year, which is actually good enough for low-end WR1 numbers or a high-end WR2. Don't think Johnson can be considered a #1 WR? Well, receivers like Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, and DeSean Jackson all were drafted in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds and all finished with less than 10 Touchdowns. We may have to reconsider our opinions about Buffalo players in 2011.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Notice a trend with Tampa Bay players? So far we've listed one Buccaneer at each position. Just goes to show how surprising it was to see Tampa Bay have success in 2010. Like his teammates, not much was expected from the Rookie out of Syracuse, especially since he wasn't drafted until the 4th Round back in April. But like Steve Johnson, Williams out-performed many of the league's veterans when it came to catching TD passes. In fact, Williams caught 11 TDs this season and fell 36 yards short of being a 1,000 yard receiver. He finished with 964 yards and 65 receptions. Plus he was hot during the Fantasy Playoffs, catching four TDs in the final three games.
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars:Like his teammate Mike Sims Walker in 2009, Thomas emerged as a hot commodity in 2010. In fact, Thomas was what many thought MSW would be this season, and that was the Jaguars top receiving option. The 2nd year wide-out, led the team with 820 yards and 66 receptions. His four TDs aren't anything extraordinary, but don't be spoiled by the previous above-mentioned WRs who all had Double Digit TDs. Thomas caught five or more passes in seven games this season and went over the 60 yard mark in six games. He also gained 358 yards on punt returns and ran one punt back for a TD. It seemed to work out for Steve Johnson this year, so if you buy into the hype about 3rd WRs, be sure to keep Thomas on your radar in 2011.
Just missed the cut: Mike Williams (SEA), Deion Brach, Davone Bess, James Jones, Danny Amendola
Somewhat of a preface for this position... Heading into Draft Day many thought TE's was a very deep position this year. But season ending injuries to Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley, and Dallas Clark and setbacks for guys like Zach Miller and Owen Daniels, forced Fantasy Managers to scramble for replacements.
Jacob Tamme, Indianpolis Colts:Dallas Clark was one of the only Tight Ends to come away with 1,000 yards, double digit TDs, and over 100 receptions in 2009. So when Clark went down in mid-October with just 37 receptions, 347 yards, and 3 TDs on the year, there was about 60 receptions, 700 yards and 7-TDs someone on the Colts roster had to make up. Tamme didn't exactly make up for the TDs, he finished with just four, but filled the void left by Clark in the reception and yardage category. Tamme hauled in 67 receptions and gained 631 yards from Week 8-17. Any Fantasy Manager who lost Clark but passed up on Tamme because he wasn't well known, was surely bitter by the time the season ended.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars:Lewis entered his 5th year in the NFL this past season. During his previous four years as a member of the Jaguars he caught a combined 7-TDs. That all changed in 2010 when Lewis came down with Double Digit TDs and posted career highs in yards and receptions. He finished with 700 yards, 58 receptions, and 10 TDs. Like his teammate Mike Thomas, not many people expected this type of production from Lewis. But because of injuries to some of the above-mentioned “star” TEs, many Fantasy Managers gave Lewis a shot in their starting lineup… and it paid off.
Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots:These two Rookies are the second set of dangerous duos from the Patriots to make this prestigious list. Gronkowski was a 2nd Round pick and Hernandez was a 4th Round pick during the 2010 draft in April, but it's likely neither were drafted by Fantasy Managers in July-August-Septemeber. Nonetheless, both of these Rooks proved their playmaking ability this season. Hernandez started off hot, catching nearly 30 passes in the team's 1st-six games, while gaining at least 50 yards in four of those six outings. But Hernandez didn't find that end-zone until Week 9, when he scored twice against the Browns. He would go on to catch four more TDs passes the rest of the season and finished with 6 TDs on the year, along with 45 receptions and 563 yards. Gronkowski on the other hand, found the end-zone early and often. He caught his 1st professional TD in the very first game of the season (his only catch of the game). He would go on to score a total of 10 TDs and nearly matched Hernandez's yards and receptions by catching 42 passes for 546 yards.
Just missed the cut: Tony Moeaki, Jermaine Gresham, Anthony Fasano, Kevin Boss
So how many times did you say: “Wow I can't believe he was just a pick-up?”