Free Agents to Target Key
Acquire: Players you should target to add to your team immediately.
Look to Acquire: Players you should consider adding if you have a need at the position, are looking to build depth or have the available roster space to block other owners from capitalizing on building the talent on their team.
Watch List: Players you should keep an eye on based off current trends or developing situations.
One-Week Play: Players you can acquire to play in only the upcoming week.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans - It didn't take Schaub long to enjoy his return. Less than three minutes into the first quarter in Week 11 against the New Orleans Saints, Schaub found wide receiver Andre Johnson (a fellow returnee from injury) for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Now reunited with his favorite target after Houston's 23-10 victory, Schaub established himself as a hot pickup even while the Texans were still playing. He should also continue to look to tight end Owen Daniels and ignite the Texans' offense. He's a great depth pickup for the position, and he is available in 63 percent of casual leagues and 29 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Quarterbacks: Look to Acquire
David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars - Another returning quarterback that helped lead his team to victory, Garrard went 15-for-24 with two touchdown tosses in Jacksonville's 24-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Members of the offense immediately praised Garrard in their postgame comments, and it seems that Jacksonville is happy to have him back after quarterback Quinn Gray's inconsistent performance in place of their injured starter. Garrard has a strong matchup this week against the Buffalo Bills, who were just manhandled by the New England Patriots. The Jaguars aren't on New England's level (a large understatement) but Garrard could work effectively off the Jaguars' penchant for the running game both through the play action and his own feet. If you need a reliable backup or a new starter, Garrard could serve both roles. He's available in 76 percent of casual leagues and 48 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Running Backs: Acquire
NEW - Kolby Smith, Kansas City Chiefs - It appears running back Priest Holmes (neck) re-injured his neck in Week 12, and his career is in jeopardy. With Larry Johnson (foot) out this week, that means Smith is likely to be the starting running back. The rookie has seen limited action thus far as he has 10 rushes for 19 yards (1.9 yards per carry) and seven receptions for 62 yards. He was a productive back his senior year at the University of Louisville. He rushed 154 times for 862 yards and seven touchdowns in relief of now-Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush, who went down with a broken leg early in the season. Pick up Smith in all formats, but hurry because he's available in 99 percent of casual leagues and 74 percent of competitive leagues.
Ron Dayne, Houston Texans - Dayne has looked strong in back-to-back starts rushing for 211 yards and a score during that span. He faced a tough defense last week and managed to rush for 89 yards and bring in three receptions for 26 yards. The status of running back Ahman Green (knee) remains a weekly question, and if he is unavailable play in upcoming weeks Dayne should continue to be the lead running back for the Texans. This week he faces a Cleveland Browns defense that is allowing 97 yards and 0.50 touchdowns per game to the position over the last four weeks. Dayne is available in 95 percent of casual and 33 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Chester Taylor, Minnesota Vikings - Taylor exploded out of the gate last week carrying the ball 22 times for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor takes over the starting role after rookie running back Adrian Peterson (knee) injured his knee in Week 10. While Peterson's status remains unclear, Taylor will likely carry the load in his absence, and after last week's performance, it certainly looks like he has something to prove in the Vikings backfield. He has a weak play matchup this week against the New York Giants who are allowing just a little more than 68 yards and no touchdowns per game to the position over the last four weeks. Taylor is available in 36 percent of casual and 3 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Running Backs: Look to Acquire
NEW - Reuben Droughns, New York Giants - Droughns could be looked at to start this week with the unknown status of running back starting running back Brandon Jacobs (hamstring). He carried the ball 11 times last week for 13 yards and pulled in three receptions for 26 yards after replacing Jacobs. Droughns has been the team's primary goal-line back and leads the team in rushing touchdowns with four. He has a strong play matchup this week against an inconsistent Minnesota Vikings run defense. They are allowing a little more than 66 yards and close to a touchdown per game over the last four weeks. Keep in mind that Droughns's value is contingent upon the health of both Jacobs and running back Derrick Ward (groin, ankle). He is available in 95 percent of casual and 65 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Justin Fargas, Oakland Raiders - Fargas wasn't as successful last week against the Minnesota Vikings after the team allowed 119 yards rushing to Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant in Week 10. Fargas carried the ball 22 times for 60 yards and added three receptions for 29 yards. This week he faces the Kansas City Chiefs who are allowing more than 88 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game to the position over the last four weeks. This week could be a good week to buy low on Fargas considering he should be carrying the load in coming weeks. Fargas is available in 53 percent of casual and 8 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Running Backs: Watch List
NEW - Andre Hall, Denver Broncos - In a shocking fantasy development, another relatively unknown Denver Broncos running back found the end zone last week. Then again, this isn't so shocking with those familiar with the running back fantasy chaos caused by Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. The undrafted rookie from the University of South Florida broke off a 62-yard touchdown run during Monday night's game while spelling running back Selvin Young, who left the game after suffering a minor injury and later returned. Hall's other six carries totaled 27 yards for a little more than four yards per carry. With the status of running back Travis Henry (knee) still in limbo regarding a possible NFL suspension, Hall could become a wild card in the carry split with Young. This is by no means a guaranteed development, but given the Broncos' Hall is certainly worth picking up in most fantasy formats. Don't rush to pick him up since he's still available in 99 percent of casual and 97 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Wide Receivers: Acquire
NEW - Javon Walker, Denver Broncos - Walker (knee) started light practice last week and could possibly be available for this week's matchup. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19, and it was originally thought that he would miss six weeks. However, his presence on the practice field is a good sign that he could return ahead of schedule. Walker should be acquired if you have roster space; he is a dynamic wideout that has the potential to be a top-tier receiver when healthy. He is available in 46 percent of casual and 39 percent of competitive leagues polled.
D.J. Hackett, Seattle Seahawks - Hackett has been rolling since his return in Week 10. He has combined for 23 receptions and 295 receiving yards in his last three games while also scoring a touchdown in each of those contests. With 13 looks in Week 11, Hackett continues to serve as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's latest favorite target and may continue to pick up the slack as returning wideout Deion Branch gets back in the swing of the offense. Hackett has a strong play matchup in Week 12 against the St. Louis Rams, and is available in 54 percent of casual leagues and 30 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Deion Branch, Seattle Seahawks - As stated above, Branch might take a bit of time to become reacquainted as a main target in the offense. He had four catches for 31 yards on seven looks in Week 11 and is expected to continue reasserting his position as a starter. With Hasselbeck airing it out at least 40 times in each of his last three games, he should be able to fit Branch into his scheme. Branch is available in 18 percent of casual leagues and 8 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Chris Henry, Cincinnati Bengals - In his second week of action since returning from his suspension, Henry had eight receptions for 81 yards and his first touchdown of the season. He has combined for 12 receptions and 180 receiving yards as the Bengals compensate for a lackluster running game from the platoon of running backs Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson. He was on the end of 11 looks in Week 12 after being sought seven times in his first game of the season. If you need more reason to grab Henry, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hip) injured his hip in Week 11, so Henry could increase his presence. Despite his weak play matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Henry has a large enough involvement in Cincinnati's passing game to warrant a roster spot. He's still available in 45 percent of casual leagues and 20 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Wide Receivers: Look to Acquire
Brad Smith, New York Jets - With Jets wideout Laveranues Coles (ankle) expected to miss the Jets' Thanksgiving matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, Smith could slide into a more frequent role in the passing offense. Smith has not been a huge fantasy factor (10 catches in his last three games), but he had nine looks in Week 11 during the Jets' overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith should be expected to serve as the No. 2 receiver across from wideout Jerricho Cotchery, so he's worth a flier if you're desperate or play in a deep league. If Coles remains hindered by his injury, Smith could hold marginal long-term value as a lower-tier wideout. He's available in nearly every league polled.
Wide Receivers: One-Week Play
NEW - Brandon Jones, Tennessee Titans - Despite catching just three passes for 25 yards, Jones still managed to find the end zone on Monday night. Jones ranks as a strong play this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have allowed per-game averages of 14.25 receptions, 181.8 receiving yards and 1.25 touchdowns to wide receivers over the past month. His touchdown went for 21 yards, leaving easy mathematics for his other two catches on the night. Jones hasn't received a red zone look over the last four weeks, but he could be helpful against Cincinnat's weak aerial wall since no one has really taken the lead in Tennessee's receiving corps. He's available in 78 percent of casual leagues and 88 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Tight Ends: Acquire
Donald Lee, Green Bay Packers - After his pair of touchdown catches in Week 11, Lee has three end zone grabs in his last two outings. He only amassed one touchdown this season before his recent streak. He has kept a place in quarterback Brett Favre's playbook, and that alone gives him at least a minimal foundation for ownership. He has been on the end of five looks in each of his three games. The Detroit Lions have allowed an average of seven receptions and 0.75 touchdowns per game to the position over their last four contests, giving Lee a strong play matchup for Thanksgiving Day. He's available in 34 percent of casual leagues and 30 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Tight Ends: Look to Acquire
L.J. Smith, Philadelphia Eagles - Smith played a main role in reigniting the Eagles' passing offense, catching four passes in each of his last two games. With the injury to quarterback Donovan McNabb (ankle), Smith could be a reliable source in the passing game. His total of seven looks in Week 11 was two more than his Week 10 total. That figure has risen in each of his last three games. Despite lining up as a weak play this week against the Patriots, he could rack up some garbage-time points. Keep him on your radar as he's available in 64 percent of casual leagues and 66 percent of competitive leagues.
Tight Ends: Watch List
Alex Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Coming off a Bye week, Smith registered three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Bucs' 31-7 thumping of the Atlanta Falcons. This bodes well for his stock given the inconsistent state of Tampa Bay's wide receivers; outside of wideout Joey Galloway, there isn't a stable option in the corps. Smith could situate as the No. 2 target in the near future, especially with his strong play matchup against the Washington Redskins in Week 12. Washington's secondary was torched by the Dallas Cowboys (well, mainly Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens) in Week 11, so there is potential for the 6-foot-4 tight end to break through for at least a modicum of fantasy points. Smith is available in 86 percent of casual leagues and 94 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Tight Ends: One-Week Play
NEW - Chris Baker, New York Jets - The Jets passing game has seen some changes over the last week, and another one could influence the value of Baker in the coming week. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles (ankle) is unlikely to play this week, and after hauling in four receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown last week, Baker could see an increased role in the offense. This week he faces a Dallas Cowboys defense that is allowing eight receptions for 92 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game over the last four weeks to the position. Baker's matchup makes him a solid one-week play, and he is available in 95 percent of casual and 90 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Place Kickers: Acquire
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders - Janikowski kicked a career-high five field goals this past Sunday that included three from 40 yards or more and one from 52 yards. He has overcome a slow start where he missed four of his first five attempts to begin the season, to miss only one field goal in his last 12 attempts. The dome may have had something to do with last week's performance, but Janikowski is hitting on 91.7 percent of his attempts and continues to get opportunities; averaging three attempts over the last four weeks. He has a strong play matchup this week and is a solid No. 1 option at kicker. He is available in 97 percent of casual and 86 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Phil Dawson, Cleveland Browns - Dawson literally had things bounce his way in Week 11. As time expired in regulation, his game-tying 51-yard field goal attempt bounced off the curved center support behind the crossbar. The original ruling of no-good was later reversed to tie the game, and Dawson won the contest with a 33-yard boot in overtime. That kick capped a productive afternoon as Dawson tallied 15 kicker points. This week Dawson faces the Texans, and you should ride his foot while you still can. He is available in 78 percent of casual leagues and 48 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Kris Brown, Houston Texans - Dawson's opposing kicker in Week 12 should also garner some looks from waiver wire scavengers. The Browns' defense has been a haven for the kicking game, allowing 10.8 kicker points per game over their last four contests. Brown collected 11 kicker points against the Saints last week, and he faces a weaker Browns defense this coming week. Brown is available 50 percent of casual leagues and 46 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Place Kickers: One-Week Play
Mike Nugent, New York Jets - Nugent was another game-winning kicker for Week 11, booting a 38-yard field goal in overtime to break the Jets' six-game slide. Nugent contributed 11 kicker points, and could have similar success against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys pass defense could allow new Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens to at least position the Jets for field goals. Despite their success the Cowboys have allowed eight kicker points per game over their last four contests. Nugent ranks as a strong play this week, and is available in 95 percent of casual leagues and 81 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Lawrence Tynes, New York Giants - Besides converting on 10 of his last 11 field goal attempts, Tynes has posted at least seven kicker points in each of his last five games with at least two field goal attempts in his last four. He has a strong play matchup this week against the Vikings. The Giants could have success in attacking the Vikings' vulnerable pass defense, which could in turn give Tynes more opportunities for field goals and extra points. He's available in 90 percent of casual leagues and 74 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Detroit Lions - Somehow the Lions remain on the wires. At first glance, many fantasy general managers would be frightened at their Week 12 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, who have put up at least 30 points in their last three contests. Despite starting at the daunting task of facing Favre, the Lions defense has the potential to negate points allowed with takeaways and sacks. The only hitch in their last five games was their 31-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals; in the other four games, they allowed a combined 46 points. Over that span they have 11 sacks, six interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. They lead the league in fumble recoveries (13), rank second in interceptions (15) and are tied for third in sacks (26.0). If they're somehow available, you should perform your own takeaway and snag them off the wire. The Lions are available in 23 percent of casual leagues and 26 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Defense: One-Week Play
NEW - Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs return home this week after holding the battered Indianapolis Colts offense to just 13 points while sacking quarterback Peyton Manning twice and picking him off once. The Oakland Raiders come into this week averaging more than 13 points scored and allowing one interception, one fumble and more than three sacks per game over the last four weeks. The Chiefs rank as a solid one-week play with a strong play matchup and are available in 67 percent of casual and 42 percent of competitive leagues polled.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals make for an enticing play this week against the San Francisco 49ers. In their last two games the Cardinals have five sacks, six interceptions and three fumble recoveries. They tipped 11 passes against the Bengals last week while intercepting Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer four times. Of course, take the numbers with a grain of salt as backup cornerback Antrel Rolle picked off Palmer three times and housed two of them. Arizona could see a big defensive week against whoever ends up under center for San Francisco - either injured quarterback Alex D. Smith or ineffective veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer - so you could ride the Cardinals this week against one of the NFL's worst offense if you need a fill-in. Arizona is available in 89 percent of casual leagues and 76 percent of competitive leagues polled.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints' pass defense is widely considered one of the worst in the NFL this year. However, that might not matter this week since the Carolina Panthers don't have a quarterback threat. They reportedly sent quarterback Vinny Testaverde (Achilles') to the field against Green Bay in Week 11 so they could rest quarterback David Carr for what they considered an easier matchup this week. As a group, Carolina quarterbacks have posted a 53.8 percent completion rate over the last four games, ranking them near the bottom of the league in that span. New Orleans' stout run defense is expected to force the action into the hands of whoever steps under center. The Saints rank as a strong play this week if you need a change of pace. They are available in 94 percent of casual leagues and 73 percent of competitive leagues polled.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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