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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
Once-proud 49ers DST rendered toothless
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Beset by injuries and suspension, the 49ers DST failed to force a turnover in the 28-20 loss to the Bears and their turnover-prone quarterback, Jay Cutler. The unit allowed Cutler to complete 13 of 14 passes in the second half and throw for four touchdowns overall.

While San Francisco allowed only 216 total yards, the defense rarely pressured Cutler. The 49ers hit him three times all game and recorded just one sack, by defensive lineman Justin Smith. The secondary was helpless to stop wideout Brandon Marshall, who caught three touchdowns.

The 49ers DST heads to Arizona in Week 3.


49ers get offensive contributions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) The 49ers got contributions from a variety of players in their Week 2 loss to the Bears. Wideout Steve Johnson caught two of four targets for 26 yards, tight end Vance McDonald had a 9-yard reception and fullback Bruce Miller carried once for no gain.

Receiver Bruce Ellington was targeted once without a catch.


Derek Carrier shows up with 41 receiving yards
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) With Vernon Davis going down with an ankle injury and Vance McDonald dealing with a knee injury, 49ers tight end Derek Carrier saw increased playing time in the Week 2 loss to the Bears. He caught three of four targets for 41 yards, including a 22-yarder.

Carrier visits the Cardinals in Week 3.


Anquan Boldin does little with six targets
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin caught two of six targets for 34 yards in the Week 2 loss to the Bears. With Michael Crabtree fully healthy, Boldin has taken a back seat in San Francisco's passing game.

Boldin visits the Cardinals in Week 3.


Michael Crabtree dominates 49ers' passing game
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Michael Crabtree was 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick's clear No. 1 target in the Week 2 loss vs. the Bears. Crabtree drew a game-high nine targets, three more than any other San Fran wideout, and caught seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Crabtree found himself wide open for a 3-yard score in the first quarter and made other big plays, like converting 4th-and-6 with a 9-yard reception on his team's final drive. But on 4th-and-9 at the Bears' 17 with 1:17 left, Crabtree juggled and dropped a pass in the end zone.

He'll visit Arizona in Week 3.


Carlos Hyde does nothing Week 2
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) 49ers running back Carlos Hyde had a dismal Week 2 game against the Bears. Hyde ran four times for zero yards and caught a 5-yard pass on two targets.

It was a step back for the talented rookie, who'll visit Arizona in Week 3.


Frank Gore averages 4.8 yards per carry
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore ran 13 times for 63 yards (4.8 ypc) against the Bears, including an 8-yard touchdown on a counter in which he lunged for the end zone. Gore probably should have gotten the ball more in a game San Fran led by 17 points.

Gore, who has 72 career touchdowns, caught both his targets for 12 yards. He'll visit the Cardinals in Week 3.


Bears DST comes up big
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) Overlooked after a poor Week 1 performance, the Bears DST came up big Sunday night at San Francisco. Chicago forced four turnovers by Colin Kaepernick, with rookie corner Kyle Fuller making two fourth-quarter interceptions.

Defensive end Jared Allen forced a fumble, safety Danny McCray recovering. Safety Chris Conte made his second interception of the season before leaving with a shoulder injury. Defensive end Willie Young led a strong pass rush with four sacks.

Riding a lot of momentum, the rejuvenated Bears DST visits the Jets on Monday Night Football in Week 3.

Phil Dawson hits two short field goals
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson converted 27- and 24-yard field goals in the Week 2 loss vs. the Bears. Dawson added two PATs for an eight-point night. He'll visit Arizona in Week 3.

Robbie Gould has quiet night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Bears kicker Robbie Gould did not get to try a field goal Sunday night at San Francisco, but he converted all four of his PATs. Gould visits the Jets on Monday Night Football in Week 3.

 
 
 
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