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Waiver Wire: The best of the best

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Michael Vick has already said he would pick himself for the MVP award. We wonder if he would also vote for himself as the best player added off the waiver wire.

The answer is probably yes. And he would be right.

Vick could win the NFL MVP award -- he's also the best player in all Fantasy leagues this year -- but we're not here to talk about that. We're here to honor Vick as the best player added off the waiver wire in 2010.

Every Tuesday on CBSSports.com we tried to help Fantasy owners with Playing the Waiver Wire, which highlighted players to add, avoid and scout. The basis for finding players to mention was their ownership percentage in Fantasy leagues.

Vick, who was not drafted in the majority of leagues, has easily been the best free agent this year. He went from Kevin Kolb's backup in Week 1 to competing with Tom Brady for the No. 1 overall scorer in standard formats. Vick's ownership jumped from 7 percent in Week 1 to 81 percent in Week 2 when Kolb was first injured against Green Bay.

Heading into Tuesday's game against Minnesota in Week 16, Vick has 2,755 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. He's also run 92 times for 613 yards and eight touchdowns with one fumble. And he's done all this while missing three games with a rib injury.

Vick has the potential to be the No. 1 quarterback drafted in 2011, and Fantasy owners should consider him a top keeper. He has been the catalyst for many Fantasy playoff runs and championship games (myself included), and he could be again next year.

He's been a great story with his release from prison to returning as an NFL star. And Fantasy owners who added him at the beginning of the season were definitely rewarded with an award-winning performance.

Now, you might not consider Vick the best free agent added this year, and we'll look at some more additions below. So feel free to send an e-mail to dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com with the waiver wire moves you made this year and put "Awards" in the subject line. Let us know when you picked up that player and what impact they made on your team.

Here are the best free agent pickups we suggested this year in Playing the Waiver Wire. We listed them in order based on their Fantasy production for the season.

Quarterbacks ...

Michael Vick, Philadelphia
We said to add him heading into: Week 2
Comment: Vick was an easy addition for Fantasy owners who lost Kolb in Week 1, but no one expected him to become a starter in the majority of leagues. The last time he was a starting quarterback was 2006, but this has been his best season in the NFL. Many Fantasy owners relied on him as a starter all the way through the playoffs -- he was started in 96 percent of leagues in Week 16 -- and his value should remain high heading into 2011.

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Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
We said to add him heading into: Week 2
Comment: We liked Freeman's potential last year as a rookie, but he played better than expected as a sophomore with limited turnovers and the ability to make plays on the run. The Bucs gave Freeman a new weapon in rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, and he leaned on him to have an outstanding season. Freeman was more of a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback during the year, but his stats made him good enough to start many weeks. That should be the case in 2011.

Kyle Orton, Denver
We said to add him heading into: Week 2
Comment: A poor finish and the emergence of Tim Tebow at the end of the season put a damper on Orton's year, but he was a solid Fantasy option for many owners. In fact, coming into Week 16, Orton was still a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. He might not be a starter again in 2011, but Orton had plenty of big games early on, which was a surprise since Denver lost Brandon Marshall in the offseason.

Running Backs ...

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland
We said to add him heading into: Week 2
Comment: The Browns were expected to rely on Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty this season, but Hardesty never made it to Week 1 due to injury. Harrison then struggled to start the year, and Hillis took advantage to become a star. He challenged for the No. 1 Fantasy running back spot all season before faltering at the end, but he became a starting option in the majority of leagues and should enter 2011 as a high draft pick in most formats.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England
We said to add him heading into: Week 3
Comment: When the Patriots traded Laurence Maroney to Denver it opened the door for Green-Ellis to emerge as a starting Fantasy option. He didn't falter as he became a great source of touchdowns and the No. 1 running back in New England. As long as the Patriots don't make any additions to their backfield in 2011, plan on drafting Green-Ellis with a mid-round pick as a potential starting option.

Mike Tolbert, San Diego
We said to add him heading into: Week 3
Comment: The expectation in San Diego was rookie Ryan Mathews would emerge as the replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson. But Mathews battled injuries all year, which allowed Tolbert to go from fullback to solid Fantasy option. Mathews should enter 2011 as the starter, but Fantasy owners should spend a late-round pick on Tolbert in case Mathews falters again. The Chargers showed this year they are not afraid to use him as a starting option, even over Mathews.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: The Bucs were looking for a starting running back when Cadillac Williams struggled, and Blount provided an answer. Many Fantasy owners didn't rely on him until later in the season, but he showed he can be a starting option -- especially in matchups at home -- and enters 2011 as a potential No. 2 Fantasy running back in standard formats. The Bucs have a lot of young talent on offense, and Blount should be the centerpiece of the backfield.

Danny Woodhead, New England
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: The Patriots themselves went to the waiver wire for Woodhead when he was released by the Jets, and he turned out to be a valuable commodity once Kevin Faulk was lost with a knee injury. Woodhead proved to be the perfect complement to Green-Ellis as a good receiver out of the backfield and a change-of-pace rusher. As we said with Green-Ellis, if the Patriots don't make any changes to their backfield, Woodhead is worth a late-round pick.

Ryan Torain, Washington
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: Torain has been one of our favorite running backs since Mike Shanahan drafted him in Denver. When Shanahan brought him to Washington, we knew it was only a matter of time before he would play a role for the Redskins. He dealt with hamstring injuries throughout the year, but he was a quality starting option when healthy. He should enter 2011 as a starter, and Fantasy owners should consider him a No. 2 Fantasy running back.

Wide Receivers ...

Brandon Lloyd, Denver
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: We were reluctant to tell Fantasy owners to add Lloyd because he's never been a consistent contributor. But this season he took advantage of Marshall being gone and playing in an explosive offense. He was not only a quality replacement for Marshall but he could finish the season as the No. 1 wide receiver in standard Fantasy leagues. Lloyd has the chance to be a bust in 2011, but he should still be drafted as a No. 2 option in case he does this again.

Steve Johnson, Buffalo
We said to add him heading into: Week 5
Comment: Chan Gailey turned around the offense in Buffalo despite trading Marshawn Lynch, not getting anything from rookie C.J. Spiller and going with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Johnson became the No. 1 wide receiver ahead of Lee Evans, and he played well despite a case of the drops. We can see him as a solid No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver in 2011 after playing as a No. 2 option this season.

Mario Manningham, N.Y. Giants
We said to add him heading into: Week 3
Comment: Manningham took a backseat to Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith to start the season, but he closed the year like a star once Nicks and Smith dealt with injuries. He will remain third on the pecking order when everyone is healthy in 2011, but the Giants passing game has developed enough to where Manningham is worth drafting with a late-round pick. And if Smith doesn't return next year then Manningham should be considered a starting option.

Deion Branch, New England
We said to add him heading into: Week 6
Comment: We had Branch as an avoid in Week 2 when he scored in the first game for the Seahawks. We didn't have any faith in him in Seattle. But the Patriots rescued Branch from offensive purgatory when they traded for him to replace Randy Moss. He didn't put up Moss-like stats from 2007, but he wasn't far behind and showed his rapport with Tom Brady remained from their first stint together. He should be considered at least a No. 3 Fantasy option in 2011.

Lance Moore, New Orleans
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: Moore took advantage of Reggie Bush missing most of the season with a broken leg to be a viable target for Drew Brees. He had a breakout game in Week 3 against Atlanta and remained a surprising source of touchdowns all season. Moore was the second-best receiver for the Saints behind Marques Colston, and he has proven to be a good slot receiver. We don't expect this type of production in 2011, but he's still worth drafting with a late-round pick.

Davone Bess, Miami
We said to add him heading into: Week 4
Comment: Bess was a star for owners in leagues where receptions count, but he also played well in standard formats. He took advantage of Marshall seeing extra coverage to become a go-to threat for Chad Henne, and he was a breakout wide receiver in his third season. The Dolphins will likely have a new quarterback in 2011, but Bess will remain one of the top possession receivers in the NFL. He's worth drafting as a No. 3 option depending on the format.

Tight Ends ...

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
We said to add him heading into: Week 2
Comment: Lewis finally had a productive season. He had three games with multiple touchdowns and was a tremendous red-zone threat for David Garrard. We figured out early on that Lewis took advantage of good matchups, but Fantasy owners still used him as a starter in the majority of leagues, especially with plenty of injuries at tight end during the year. He will be a No. 2 tight end again in 2011, but he still has potential as a starter in deeper formats.

Aaron Hernandez, New England
We said to add him heading into: Week 3
Comment: We're going to include Rob Gronkowski here since we said to add him in Week 2. The two rookie tight ends are joined together since they both played well and alternated production each week from Week 9 on. They were potential starters in the majority of leagues and should remain in that capacity in 2011. Hernandez has more big-play ability, but Gronkowski is the better red-zone threat. Both should be drafted as low-end starters next year.

Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis
We said to add him heading into: Week 8
Comment: Once Dallas Clark went down with a wrist injury it was clear that the Colts would rely on Tamme as the starter. And that led to instant Fantasy production. He wasn't as consistent as Clark, but he did prove to be a quality replacement for Fantasy owners. Clark should return in 2011, making Tamme a low-end Fantasy option, but if he does get the chance to start again Fantasy owners should be confident in using him like they did this season.

As for the Week 17 waiver wire ...

Quarterbacks ...

Add 'Em

Shaun Hill, Detroit
Owned: 27 percent of leagues
Week 16: Completed 14 of 26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and also had one carry for 10 yards at Miami.
Analysis: Hill returned last week against the Dolphins after being out three games with a broken finger and finished with 21 Fantasy points. It was his fifth game with at least 20-plus Fantasy points this season in just eight full games. He has a favorable matchup in Week 17 against Minnesota, and as long as Calvin Johnson (ankle) is healthy he should have another quality performance. If you miss on Hill, two other quarterbacks to consider this week are Kerry Collins (27 percent) and Tim Tebow (23 percent). Collins has a favorable matchup at Indianapolis, and he had 27 Fantasy points against the Colts in Week 14. He also has seven touchdowns in his past three games. And Tebow was a star last week against Houston with 26 Fantasy points and now has 50 points in two career starts. He's worth using again this week against San Diego.

Running Backs ...

Add 'Em

Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville
Owned: 39 percent of leagues
Week 16: Had 15 carries for 32 yards and four catches for 29 yards against Washington.
Analysis: Jennings started for the injured Maurice Jones-Drew against the Redskins and struggled. But if Jones-Drew is out again this week at Houston then Jennings has the chance to be productive in another start in what should be a good matchup. Correll Buckhalter (11 percent) scored two touchdowns with 92 total yards against the Texans and could be useful again if Knowshon Moreno (ribs) remains out this week against the Chargers. Marion Barber (45 percent) and John Kuhn (7 percent) are worth adding in deeper leagues based on their performances in Week 15. And Jason Snelling (41 percent) could also be useful in deeper formats against Carolina this week if the Falcons decide to rest Michael Turner.

Wide Receivers ...

Add 'Em

Mike Thomas, Jacksonville
Owned: 51 percent of leagues
Week 16: Caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Washington.
Analysis: Mike Sims-Walker is dealing with an ankle injury, and Thomas took advantage against the Redskins with his best game since Week 11. The last time he faced Houston, his Week 17 opponent, was Week 10 when he had eight catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. Some other wide receivers to consider in Week 17 include Blair White (44 percent), Jacoby Jones (19 percent) and Jerome Simpson (14 percent). All three played well in Week 16 and are doing a good job as injury replacements. White is the slot receiver for the Colts with Austin Collie (concussion) out for the year, and he scored a touchdown at Oakland. Jones is the new No. 1 receiver in Houston with Andre Johnson (ankle) possibly out for the season finale after missing Week 16, and he had 115 yards receiving at Denver. And Simpson had two touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 16 with Terrell Owens (knee) and Chad Ochocino (ankle) out.

Tight Ends ...

Add 'Em

Owen Daniels, Houston
Owned: 57 percent of leagues
Week 16: Caught eight passes for 73 yards and a touchdown at Denver.
Analysis: Like Jones, Daniels played well with Johnson out for the Texans against the Broncos. He has looked good the past three games, but the Broncos game was his best of the season. And he has another favorable matchup against the Jaguars this week. Some other tight ends to consider this week based on matchups include Brent Celek (56 percent), Heath Miller (45 percent) and Jared Cook (1 percent). But Daniels should be considered a must-start Fantasy option in all formats in Week 17, and he finally can help owners following a disappointing season due to injuries.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
49ers shopping LaMichael James
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:06 pm ET) The 49ers are looking to trade running back LaMichael James in advance of next month's NFL Draft, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, James is aware of the trade rumors, apparently for a while now, since he tweeted Wednesday "when old news becomes new news" following the report.

James, a second-round pick in 2012, finds himself behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on the depth chart at running back this season. James served as the team's primary returner last year, but he wants a bigger role since he carried the ball just 12 times in 2013.


Joe Reitz stays with the Colts
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:11 pm ET) Offensive lineman Joe Reitz signed his restricted free agent tender offer on Thursday, giving him another year with the Colts. He started three games last season. 

Chris Johnson says arthritis reports 'not accurate'
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:10 pm ET) On a conference call with New York media, new Jets running back Chris Johnson said the report that he had arthritis in his knee was "not accurate," adding that he was "pretty sure I wouldn't have passed the physical" if he did have it. 

Earlier Thursday ESPN reported the Jets had "some concerns" about his knee

Johnson is expected to serve as part of a one-two punch at running back with Chris Ivory for the Jets. 


Vikings sign Kurt Coleman
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:31 am ET) The Vikings signed safety Kurt Coleman on Thursday. He spent the past four seasons with the Eagles and has seven career interceptions.

Coleman will try to make the final roster in Minnesota as a reserve defensive back and play on special teams.


Dwayne Bowe pleads guilty to amended charges
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:54 am ET) Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe pleaded guilty to amended charges relating to his Nov. 10 arrest for marijuana possession, the Kansas City Star reports. He paid $610 in fines and didn't get probation. It remains to be seen if he'll be subject to the NFL's substance abuse program. 

Report: Giants should consider dealing Ryan Nassib
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) Now that the Giants have signed Josh Freeman to a contract, does it mean that second-year quarterback Ryan Nassib will be off the roster soon? 

The Newark Star-Ledger believes the Giants should assess Nassib's value going into the draft considering the lack of great quarterback talent available. A team looking for a quarterback-of-the-future could make an offer. 

Nassib had 19 pass attempts during the preseason last August and wasn't active for a single regular-season game. 


Robert Griffin III looking like old self
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) A couple of members of the Redskins organization have started raving about how good quarterback Robert Griffin III looks this offseason, reports the Washington Post.

Receiver Santana Moss said via an ESPN podcast that Griffin "looks more comfortable because he don't have to worry about that brace. I think the brace was the big discomfort last year. You know, he’s a young guy with those fiery legs that want to do so much, and that brace probably gave him a little pinch in the behind because he couldn't do the things that he was normally accustomed to doing. You can already see, when we're out there in conditioning and stuff, he's running around, looking like the old Robert Griffin."

And former tight end Chris Cooley, currently one of the team's radio broadcasters, said "he's another person right now. I was like, 'you're running unbelievably well.' It was silly to watch. ... When you watch him run, you're like, 'You're a freak. You're seriously a freak.'"


Report: Jets have concerns over Chris Johnson's knees
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:33 am ET) Less than 24 hours after signing Chris Johnson to a two-year deal that might be worth as much as $9 million, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Jets have some concerns over the condition of his knee. Johnson apparently has some arthritis in it stemming from his torn meniscus in 2013 (which he played through). 

Johnson hasn't missed a game in five straight seasons. He's expected to form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory in the Jets' backfield this year. 


Brian Cushing says he's 100 percent
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:27 am ET) Posting a picture of himself with his son from a beach, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said via Twitter that he's been cleared for football. Cushing missed the last nine games of last season with a knee injury. 

"Quick Trip to Pensacola with my lead blocker, better believe I'm 100% #beachday #cleared #fivesixback," he wrote. 


Could Peyton Manning throw less in 2014?
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:23 am ET) Peyton Manning might be asked to throw less so "the offense can be more," ESPN speculated on Thursday. Manning threw 659 passes last season, completing 450 of them (68.3 pct.) for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The yardage and touchdowns are NFL records. 

The thought process behind Manning being asked to throw less is that it would accentuate the run game and give the offense (read: Manning) more of an opportunity to build confidence in the running backs, namely Montee Ball.

No one on the Broncos has come out and suggested Manning will throw less. He still passed 583 times in 2012, seventh-most that year. Expect Manning to still throw plenty in 2014.


 
 
 
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