by Ray Kuhn
This is it. We are getting pretty close to crunch time now. There are only two weeks left in the regular season for most leagues, and there is just one bye week left. What that means, is that your waiver wire strategy begins to change.
With just the one bye week left, the need to fill empty roster spots begins to diminish. So as you begin to think about your waiver claims for the week you must begin to look ahead. Either towards the playoffs and Weeks 14-16, or for the best, high upside options for the next two weeks to help clinch or solidify a playoff berth.
Below are five names that you should in mind for this week depending on your needs:
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals, 49.1% ESPN Ownership
Dalton has been a polarizing player so far this season. Entering 2014 he was viewed as a popular sleeper option for those waiting on quarterbacks. Instead his performance has been up and down this season, and his fate was seemingly sealed after his dreadful effort against the Browns last Thursday. After throwing three interceptions and registering negative fantasy points, Dalton was jettisoned by many owners, especially those who no longer needed to worry about bye weeks at the quarterback position.
This came after two solid outings. In general Dalton has not done much to stand out this season, but he has only two dreadful outings. This week Dalton bounced back in a good way throwing for 220 yards and three touchdowns in a big victory in New Orleans. Dalton may not be the difference maker at quarterback some thought he could be, but overall he could be a solid contributor the rest of the way if you need help at quarterback.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns, 23.7% ESPN Ownership
The fact that Crowell’s ownership numbers are this low was shocking to me, but at the same time, it did make sense. After all, Crowell only had 297 rushing yards coming into this week’s game against the Texans. For me, it is not just Crowell’s performance that would potentially make him my top add for week, but Mike Pettine’s coaching decision.
After a second quarter fumble, I immediately thought the rookie would be banished for the rest of the game, but that was not the case. Pettine stuck with Crowell and he gained 61 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 30 yards. It now looks like Crowell is the guy to own in Cleveland’s backfield.
Branden Oliver, RB, San Diego Chargers, 49.3% ESPN Ownership
With the return of Ryan Mathews this week, Oliver was not an option I was thinking about for this article. In fact, Mathews looked pretty good gaining 70 yards on 16 carries. Relegated to a complementary role, Oliver did get 13 carries, but he wasn’t able to do much with them, gaining just 36 yards. Oliver also didn’t do anything in the passing game catching just one pass for three yards.
In fact, this is Oliver’s third straight poor performance (91 total rushing yards), so is picking him up really that good of an idea? His inclusion here is twofold. The first reason, is that Oliver is a name to highlight. The main reason why he was dropped, is the return of Mathews and San Diego’s bye week in Week 10. Secondly, Mathews apparently came out of the locker room limping and his knee wrapped. This is a situation that bears watching. Regardless though, Oliver will still get touches.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants, 35% ESPN Ownership
The Giants offensive situation is a mess. Eli Manning threw five interceptions and things did not look good. But Randle still found a way to make an impact.
Randle caught seven passes for 112 yards as Manning did not stop looking down the field. When he was not throwing to the 49ers, he did a good job finding Randle. For the season Randle only has two touchdown catches, but after the first week, there hasn’t been a game where he has caught less than four passes. And this week, Randle looked like a different receiver as he showed both confidence and athleticism.
Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, 28.3% ESPN Ownership
When going through waiver wire pickups, the players often forgot are the ones who were on bye the week previous. In this case, Shorts is the perfect example of someone who should be on your radar.
Sidelined earlier in the season with injury, Shorts had one of his best games of the season last week prior to the bye. Shorts caught five passes for 119 yards, and he will likely come back even stronger after a week of rest. Shorts now has had an additional week to work with Blake Bortles and someone will need to pick up the slack to replace Allen Robinson.