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Waiver Wire: No shortage of upgrades

Senior Fantasy Writer
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We finally have an opportunity to chase running backs on the waiver wire. Injuries have opened the door to make unknown players like Andre Brown and Daryl Richardson viable heading into Week 2.

When Fred Jackson (knee) and Matt Forte (ankle) went down with injuries, most Fantasy owners were stuck. Backups C.J. Spiller and Michael Bush were owned in the majority of leagues, and the only enticing running back to add after Week 1 was Alfred Morris of the Redskins.

But in Week 2 we saw Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and Steven Jackson (groin) suffer injuries, which could open the door for Brown and Richardson to make an impact in Week 3. Pierre Thomas also showed he could still be a factor for the Saints.

Other guys we'll address here include Alex Smith's hot start, why Danny Amendola continues to be underrated and Martellus Bennett turning into one of Eli Manning's best weapons.

Editor's note: Must add is for players worth adding in all leagues. Maybe add is for players worth adding in 14-team leagues or larger. Desperation add is for players worth adding only if you're, well, desperate. The ownership percentage listed is how many leagues that player was owned in the previous week for CBSSports.com.

Quarterbacks

Must add: Alex Smith, 49ers (72 percent)
Maybe add: Andy Dalton, Bengals (69 percent), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (62 percent), Sam Bradford, Rams (44 percent), Matt Cassel, Chiefs (30 percent)
Desperation add: Christian Ponder, Vikings (21 percent), Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (13 percent), Brandon Weeden, Browns (11 percent), Chad Henne, Jaguars (1 percent)
The breakdown: We said it last week about Smith and we'll say it again. He may never turn into a Fantasy stud, but he is playing well, especially in connecting with standout tight end Vernon Davis (three touchdowns in two games). Smith now has consecutive weeks with 21 Fantasy points, and he has more combined points than Aaron Rodgers (38), Tom Brady (38) and Matthew Stafford (28). He also doesn't hurt you with a franchise-record streak of 216 passes without an interception. Put him on your team if he's still out there ... Dalton rebounded from a poor Week 1 at Baltimore with 28 Fantasy points against the Browns. He gets a banged up Redskins defense in Week 3, which just allowed Bradford to get 29 Fantasy points. ... Cassel (40) is another quarterback with more combined Fantasy points than Rodgers, Brady and Stafford. He faces the Saints this week, and New Orleans was lit up the past two games by Robert Griffin III (28 Fantasy points) and Cam Newton (27). ... Another quarterback off to a good start (who also has more combined Fantasy points than Rodgers, Brady and Stafford) is Fitzpatrick (42). He faces the Browns, who just struggled against Dalton. ... Weeden, Tannehill and Ponder all had at least 18 Fantasy points in Week 2, but we need to see more before adding them. ... Even if Blaine Gabbert (hamstring) is out in Week 3 don't worry about Henne.

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Running backs

Must add: Pierre Thomas, Saints (62 percent), Daryl Richardson, Rams (3 percent), Andre Brown, Giants (0 percent)
Maybe add: Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (63 percent), Mike Goodson, Raiders (19 percent), Bernard Scott, Bengals (15 percent), Lamar Miller, Dolphins (5 percent)
Desperation add: Shaun Draughn, Chiefs (3 percent), Tashard Choice, Bills (3 percent), Jackie Battle, Chargers (0 percent), Armando Allen, Bears (0 percent), Kahlil Bell, Bears (0 percent)
The breakdown: The running backs to add this week are in this order: Brown, Richardson and Thomas. Brown has the most value for Week 3 because the Giants play Carolina on Thursday night, and Bradshaw might not be ready to return is such a short amount of time after getting hurt Sunday. Brown is clearly No. 2 on the depth chart ahead of David Wilson, and Brown did well in Week 2 against the Bucs with 16 Fantasy points. The Panthers have already allowed double digits in Fantasy points to four running backs this season in Doug Martin, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Thomas. ... Richardson could replace an injured Jackson -- if in fact Jackson was hurt and not benched against the Redskins -- at Chicago in Week 3. Richardson had nine Fantasy points against Washington, and the Bears have allowed double digits in Fantasy points to opposing running backs each week in Donald Brown and Cedric Benson. Richardson has clearly passed Isaiah Pead on the depth chart behind Jackson. ... Thomas only had nine carries against Carolina, but he finished with 110 rushing yards and four catches for 33 yards. He's worth stashing if he's still available even though he will continue to share touches with Sproles and Ingram. ... Dwyer was a must add last week, and he could still play a viable role for the Steelers heading into a favorable matchup in Week 3 at Oakland. But Isaac Redman isn't going away, and Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is getting closer to playing. ... Goodson, not Taiwan Jones, is looking like the handcuff for Darren McFadden again. He had a 64-yard touchdown catch at Miami and is worth stashing if you own McFadden. ... Miller took advantage of Daniel Thomas (concussion) being out, and he could emerge as the No. 2 running back for the Dolphins behind Reggie Bush. ... In deeper leagues I'm still stashing Scott, who has missed the first two games with a hand injury, to see what role he plays in tandem with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. ... Battle (18 Fantasy points) was great against the Titans in Week 2, but Ryan Mathews (shoulder) should return in Week 3 against Atlanta. Battle is only worth adding if you want to handcuff Mathews. ... Draughn again played well in garbage time for the Chiefs but remains behind Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, and Choice, Bell and Allen are just insurance policies for Spiller and Bush.

Wide receivers

Must add: Danny Amendola, Rams (72 percent), Mike Williams, Buccaneers (64 percent), Greg Little, Browns (60 percent), Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (22 percent)
Maybe add: Kendall Wright, Titans (55 percent), Jerome Simpson, Vikings (26 percent), Leonard Hankerson, Redskins (9 percent), Brandon Gibson, Rams (4 percent), Brian Hartline, Dolphins (3 percent), Donnie Avery, Colts (2 percent)
Desperation add: Andre Roberts, Cardinals (8 percent), Brandon Tate, Bengals (0 percent), Julian Edelman, Patriots (0 percent)
The breakdown: Fantasy owners apparently weren't sold on Amendola's Week 1 performance at Detroit when he had five catches for 70 yards on nine targets. For those of you who waited it might be too late. In Week 2 against the Redskins he had 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets, which were second to only Victor Cruz for this scoring period. Amendola is clearly the No. 1 receiver for the Rams, and he should continue to play at a high level all year as long as he stays healthy. ... Williams is on his way to double digits in touchdowns for the second time in three years after scoring in each of the first two games. He only has five catches and eight targets over that span, but his track record makes him worth adding. ... Little's ownership dropped from 82 percent in Week 1 to 60 percent in Week 2 after he was held without a catch against the Eagles. That was a mistake. Little had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals and still remains a breakout candidate. ... Hawkins looked like a possession receiver in Week 1 with eight catches for 86 yards on nine targets against the Ravens. He showed his big-play ability in Week 2 against the Browns with two catches for 56 yards and a touchdown on three targets. He can definitely serve as a No. 4 Fantasy receiver. ... Hartline could emerge as Miami's No. 1 receiver after he had nine catches for 111 yards on 12 targets, but the Dolphins passing game is still inconsistent. ... Wright and Hankerson each had their first NFL touchdowns, but they remain part of a crowded receiving corps for their respective teams. ... Gibson and Roberts each have two touchdowns through two games for their respective teams, but I still want to see more. Gibson has the higher value of the two with the better quarterback. ... Edelman could see a bump in value with Aaron Hernandez (ankle) now out for at least two weeks. ... Simpson has one more game for his suspension, but he could emerge as a quality reserve for Fantasy owners and an eventual bye-week replacement. ... Avery looks like a solid option for Andrew Luck.

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Tight ends

Must add: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (61 percent), Martellus Bennett, Giants (45 percent), Dennis Pitta, Ravens (37 percent)
Maybe add: Heath Miller, Steelers (38 percent), Scott Chandler, Bills (15 percent), Brandon Myers, Raiders (1 percent)
Desperation add: Kellen Davis, Bears (4 percent), Anthony Fasano, Dolphins (4 percent), Dante Rosario, Chargers (0 percent), Anthony McCoy, Seahawks (0 percent)
The breakdown: Through two weeks, the Top 5 tight ends in standard leagues have three obvious names (Davis, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski) and two surprises in Bennett and Rosario. We're not buying into Rosario unless Antonio Gates (ribs) is out for an extended period of time. But we are backing Bennett. He now has nine catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns in two games on 16 targets, and he will fill the No. 3 receiver role behind Hakeem Nicks and Cruz. He's a No. 1 Fantasy tight end going forward. ... Rudolph also is a No. 1 Fantasy tight end with eight catches for 102 yards and one touchdown on 12 targets through two games. ... Here's what Pitta has done in his past five games, including the playoffs: 26 catches, 270 yards and three touchdowns. He has 13 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown this season on a whopping 24 targets, which leads all tight ends. If you want to know if he can remain relevant, the answer is yes. ... Miller and Chandler can be great replacement options if you lost Hernandez. Both have two touchdowns through two games. And you have to like what Myers has done for the Raiders with 11 catches for 151 yards through two games, and he has yet to drop a pass. ... Fasano, Davis and McCoy are just fliers because they will be inconsistent most of the year.

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Player News
Gavin Escobar a threat to Jason Witten?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:13 am ET) Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who entered the day with just four catches all season, wasn't highly targeted Week 7 against the Giants, but he made the three targets he did get count, scoring two touchdowns, including one on an impressive 26-yard grab between two defenders in the third quarter.

In all, he had three catches for 65 yards -- numbers that would be easier to overlook if not for the two touchdowns and the fact that fellow tight end Jason Witten, to this point a mainstay in Fantasy, had only two catches for 27 yards. And it's not like he and quarterback Tony Romo were just failing to connect. Witten was targeted only twice the whole game.

Witten's production hasn't been up to his usual standards this season -- in seven games, he's averaging 3.3 catches for 38.0 yards -- but just based on their history together, you figured Romo would have a need for him sooner or later. Now with the emergence of Escobar, it's no longer so clear.

Escobar himself isn't worth adding except in deep leagues of 16 teams or more that don't have enough tight ends to go around. In those formats, he's the new Timothy Wright. But in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, Witten may be on the outs. He deserves a couple more weeks given his history, but keep an eye out for the next big thing at the position.


Larry Donnell here to stay?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 am ET) After catching just one pass in his previous two games combined, Giants tight end Larry Donnell got back on track Week 7 at Dallas, catching seven passes for a season-high 90 yards.

Considering it was the Giants' first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, Donnell was expected to play a bigger role in the passing game, but a resurgence of this magnitude should remind us all how he came to be owned in 83 percent of Fantasy leagues in the first place. Over the first four weeks, he averaged 6.3 catches for 59 yards, scoring four touchdowns.

One potential pitfall for Donnell is that he lost two fumbles in Week 7, giving him three fumbles lost for the season, but with so few tight ends capable of his kind of production in a given week, the Giants would have to suggest his playing time is in jeopardy for me to pass on Donnell in Fantasy.

His production fell when rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham entered the mix in Week 4. Now that Cruz is out of the mix, Donnell's production figures to rise again.


Odell Beckham shows he's worth adding
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:42 am ET) Only three games into his career, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham has emerged as one of quarterback Eli Manning's favorite red-zone targets, which is especially good news with another one of his favorite red-zone targets, Victor Cruz, lost for the season with a knee injury.

Beckham didn't have a lot of chances Week 7 at Dallas, but he made the most of the ones he got, scoring on catches of 9 and 5 yards. In all, he had four catches for 34 yards. His six targets were third-most on the team, behind wide receiver Rueben Randle's nine and tight end Larry Donnell's seven.

The six targets were a season high for Beckham. He has yet to catch more than four passes for more than 44 yards, but because he keeps getting looks in the end zone, he's worth adding in Fantasy even if it's just to stash him on your bench until you're ready to put your trust in him.


An encouraging performance for Eli Manning
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:34 am ET) Playing his first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who's out for the season with a torn patella tendon, Giants quarterback Eli Manning still managed to bounce back from arguably his worst game of the season with one of his best Week 7 at Dallas, completing 21 of 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his fifth game in six with multiple touchdown passes and his second with at least three. And he did it against a defense that had generally kept quarterbacks out of the end zone, recording nearly as many interceptions (seven) as it had allowed touchdown passes (eight) prior to Week 7.

Though two of his touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who wasn't even available to him the first four weeks, Manning did a nice job of spreading the ball around. None of the touchdowns went to his two leading receivers, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle.

Judging by this performance, Manning knows how to make use of the weapons the Giants have and doesn't need Cruz to remain successful in Fantasy. His bad games can be really bad, but his good games have been frequent enough for you to give him another shot when he returns from a bye Week 9 against Indianapolis.


Andre Holmes comes back down to earth
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 am ET) Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, who blew up for 121 yards and two touchdowns Week 6 against San Diego, took a long time to get going Week 7 against Arizona, catching his first pass about midway through the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, he finished with just three catches for 34 yards. 

It's not like he was invisible before then. He nearly had a great catch on a long pass along the sidelines in the second quarter, but it was ruled incomplete. He did have only two targets apart from his three receptions, though.

Clearly, it was a disappointing showing, but it's not like quarterback Derek Carr forgot about him. Only James Jones and Darren McFadden had more targets, tying for the team lead with eight. Holmes spent much of the game covered by Patrick Peterson, who remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Holmes still has incredible play-making ability and will have better days.

But this performance shows why you can't trust him on an every-week basis yet. His matchup Week 8 against Cleveland is another tricky one because of cornerback Joe Haden, who has struggled at times this season but limited the Jaguars' Cecil Shorts to three catches for 12 yards in Week 7. You might want to leave Holmes on your bench for this one.


49ers' Phil Dawson makes 1-of-2 field-goal attempts in Week 7
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) 49ers knicker Phil Dawson made only one of his two field-goal attempts in Week 7, adding two extra points in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos.

Dawson couldn't deliver from 51 yards out in the first quarter, pushing the attempt wide left, but was true from 22 yards out in the second quarter. He's 13 of 16 on field-goal attempts this season but had been 10-for-10 in his previous three games coming into Week 7. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers TE Vernon Davis catches two passes in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caught just two of his five targets for 21 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Davis was coming off an ugly Week 6 performance in which he dropped two passes, and he didn't fare much better in the team's blowout loss against the Broncos. He has 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns heading into the team's Week 8 bye. The 49ers will face the Rams after the week off.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree held to 27 yards in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught four of his seven targets for just 27 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

While the 49ers averaged 11.1 yards per reception as a team Sunday, top options Crabtree (6.8 YPC) and Anquan Boldin (7.1 YPC) could find no room to work, leading to disappointing performances despite the offense dialing up 46 passes in the loss. Crabtree hasn't topped 50 yards in any of his last four games, and he owns 32 receptions, 322 yards and three touchdowns in seven games this year. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


Anquan Boldin catches seven passes in 49ers' Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught seven of his 10 targets for 50 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Boldin had at least one bad drop in the game and was unable to find much room to work downfield. He came into the week average 12.4 yards per reception but managed just 7.1 YPC against the Broncos. Boldin has collected 39 receptions for 447 yards and one touchdown in seven games. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers WR Steve Johnson scores touchdown in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Steve Johnson caught five passes for a team-high 79 yards and one touchdown in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Johnson hauled in a four-yard score in the back of the end zone with only 11 seconds left in the first half to send the 49ers into halftime with a 21-10 deficit. The Broncos took over from there, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter. Johnson has reached the end zone in three of his last four games, and he's up to 25 receptions, 315 yards and three scores on the season. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


 
 
 
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