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Waiver Wire: Looking for a playoff payoff?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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How important is finding the right free agents off the waiver wire? Just look at the Fantasy leaders from Week 14.

Nick Foles was a Top 5 quarterback. David Wilson, Montell Owens and Bilal Powell were Top 20 running backs. Brandon Gibson, Jason Avant and Alshon Jeffery were Top 20 receivers. And Clay Harbor, Anthony McCoy, Dennis Pitta, Joel Dreessen, Tony Scheffler and Zach Miller were Top 10 tight ends.

Of that group, Pitta is the most owned player at 50 percent on CBSSports.com. We'll address all those players below and tell you who can make a difference during the Fantasy playoffs and who remains waiver wire fodder.

The No. 1 priority this week is Wilson based on his performance in Week 14 against the Saints along with Ahmad Bradshaw dealing with a knee injury, albeit a minor one. If Bradshaw is out or limited then Wilson would be considered a must-start Fantasy option.

Also, if you're looking for free agent DST options this week, we like the Lions (36 percent ownership) at Arizona, the Vikings (43 percent) at St. Louis and the Rams (45 percent) vs. Minnesota.

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: Colin Kaepernick, 49ers (72 percent)
Maybe add: Russell Wilson, Seahawks (60 percent)
Desperation add: Chad Henne, Jaguars (26 percent), Nick Foles, Eagles (18 percent), Kirk Cousins, Redskins (1 percent)
The breakdown: At this point in the Fantasy playoffs, most owners have their quarterback situation settled in standard leagues, but owners in two-quarterback formats or someone who is without Robert Griffin III (knee) could still be playing the waiver wire. We still value Kaepernick as the best available option after he had 18 Fantasy points against the Dolphins in Week 14. He now has at least 18 Fantasy points in three of his four starts with a favorable matchup at New England in Week 15. ... Wilson only had 10 Fantasy points in Week 14 against the Cardinals despite the Seahawks surpassing the half-century mark. We expect Wilson to be better in Week 15 against the Bills in Toronto, but Buffalo has held each of the past four quarterbacks it has faced to 16 Fantasy points or less in each outing. Still, Wilson had 53 Fantasy points in his past two road games at Miami and Chicago and should play well. ... Foles was amazing in Week 14 at Tampa Bay with 381 passing yards and two touchdowns and 27 rushing yards and a touchdown, but his matchup against the Bengals will be tough. Cincinnati has held each of the past five quarterbacks it has faced to 14 Fantasy points or less, including Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo. ... Cousins would start for the Redskins if Griffin is out. There's plenty of potential for Cousins at Cleveland in Week 15, but he would be too risky to trust since the Browns have held five of the past six quarterbacks they have faced to 17 Fantasy points or less.

Running Backs

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Must add: David Wilson, Giants (43 percent), Montell Owens, Jaguars (19 percent), Bilal Powell, Jets (27 percent)
Maybe add: Alex Green, Packers (62 percent), Joique Bell, Lions (59 percent), Robert Turbin, Seahawks (18 percent), DuJuan Harris, Packers (0 percent)
Desperation add: LaMichael James, 49ers (4 percent), Lamar Miller, Dolphins (4 percent)
The breakdown: Bradshaw battled a knee problem in Week 14 against the Saints, which allowed Wilson to finally show off his immense talent. He had 13 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns and also added 227 yards on four kickoffs, setting an NFL record for all-purpose yards in a game. Bradshaw is expected to be fine in Week 15 at Atlanta, but Wilson should be owned in all formats in case Bradshaw, who has a lengthy injury history, gets hurt again. ... Owens was a pleasant surprise in Week 14 against the Jets with 14 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 11 yards. The Jaguars had only scored three rushing touchdowns on the season prior to that outing, but Owens scored on a 32-yard run. As long as Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Rashad Jennings (concussion) remain out you can count on Owens to get the majority of carries. He faces the Dolphins in Week 15, and Miami has allowed three rushing touchdowns in the past two games against New England and San Francisco. ... Powell remains the No. 2 running back for the Jets behind Shonn Greene, but he continues to be productive. He now has four touchdowns in his past four games after scoring in Week 14 at Jacksonville with three games with double digits in Fantasy points over that span. He faces the Titans in Week 15, and Tennessee has allowed 13 touchdowns to opposing running backs, including three in the past three weeks. In deeper leagues you can start Powell as a flex option. ... Green appears to be the featured back for the Packers with James Starks (knee) and Cedric Benson (foot) out, but he is going to share touches with Harris, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn. Green and Harris are the only ones worth mentioning because Green had 13 carries for 69 yards in Week 14 against the Lions, and Harris had seven carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. We'd recommend adding Green first just based on workload, but neither running back is going to help you much in the Fantasy playoffs. ... Bell, however, could be a flex option in deeper leagues. He had 12 carries for 49 yards and five catches for 47 yards at Green Bay and now has at least eight Fantasy points in his past three games and four of his past six. With Detroit hurting at receiver, Bell has eight receptions in his past two games, so owners in PPR leagues should take notice. ... Turbin is only listed here as the handcuff option for Marshawn Lynch. He showed in the blowout victory against the Cardinals that he could be a capable starting option if Lynch goes down after he had 20 carries for 108 yards. He will never see that workload again as long as Lynch is healthy, but please add Turbin now if you own Lynch to be safe. ... James and Miller should only be owned in dynasty leagues, but they might see more action going forward, especially James, so keep an eye on both to see how they do.

Wide Receivers

Must add: Kenny Britt, Titans (76 percent), Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (60 percent)
Maybe add: Chris Givens, Rams (53 percent), Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (29 percent), Brandon Gibson, Rams (21 percent), Alshon Jeffery, Bears (14 percent), Rod Streater, Raiders (2 percent)
Desperation add: Domenik Hixon, Giants (9 percent), Jason Avant, Eagles (2 percent), Joe Morgan, Saints (0 percent)
The breakdown: Britt showed he's back to being an elite-level receiver with his performance in Week 14 at the Colts. He had eight catches for 143 yards on nine targets. He does have a tough matchup in Week 15 against the Jets and Antonio Cromartie, but Britt should be considered at least a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in that matchup and might start for you in Week 16 at the Packers. He has 32 Fantasy points in his past three games. ... Heyward-Bey had five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 vs. Denver and has 12 targets in his past two games. He faces the Chiefs in Week 15 and scored against Kansas City in Week 8. He now has at least seven Fantasy points in his past three meetings against the Chiefs and Kansas City has allowed 17 touchdowns to opposing receivers this year. Look for Streater to also play well. He can be considered a No. 3 receiver in deeper leagues. He has 25 Fantasy points in his past two games with seven catches for 196 yards and a touchdown over that span on 11 targets. ... I'm not giving up on Givens, who had his first game with fewer than eight Fantasy points with Danny Amendola (foot) out in Week 14 at the Bills with three catches for 25 yards. He was outplayed by Gibson, who had six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Givens still had more targets (10) than Gibson (nine), and if Amendola is out in Week 15 against Minnesota we would still consider Givens a No. 3 Fantasy receiver. ... Jeffery scored in his return to action in Week 14 at Minnesota with three catches for 57 yards on six targets after sitting out the previous two games with a knee injury. The Bears need someone to help take pressure off Brandon Marshall, and Jeffery now has three touchdowns in seven games. ... Hawkins scored in Week 14 against Dallas with six catches for 44 yards on eight targets. He now has 16 targets in two games since Mohammed Sanu (foot) went down, and he has a tremendous matchup in Week 15 at Philadelphia. The Eagles have now allowed nine touchdowns to opposing receivers in their past five games.

Tight Ends

Must add: Martellus Bennett, Giants (77 percent), Dennis Pitta, Ravens (50 percent)
Maybe add: Dallas Clark, Buccaneers (38 percent), Tony Scheffler, Lions (3 percent)
Desperation add: Zach Miller, Seahawks (2 percent), Anthony McCoy, Seahawks (0 percent), Clay Harbor, Eagles (0 percent)
The breakdown: Pitta and Bennett might be difference makers for Fantasy owners this week, especially with the continued struggles of Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis, among others. Both scored in Week 14, with Bennett getting five catches for 32 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, and Pitta had five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown at Washington. Both have favorable matchups again in Week 15 as Pitta plays host to the Broncos, while Bennett plays at Atlanta. ... Clark struggled in Week 14 against the Eagles with only one catch for 19 yards, but he should rebound against the Saints, who have allowed five touchdowns to opposing tight ends in the past five games. ... Scheffler could be asked to produce more with Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) banged up, and we like what Scheffler has done with Ryan Broyles (knee) and Titus Young (knee) going down with at least five Fantasy points in his past three games. He faces a Cardinals defense in Week 15 that just allowed McCoy and Miller to combine for five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in Week 14.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Sammy Watkins risky in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) The Bills haven't had a bonafide No. 1 receiver since the days of Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but rookie Sammy Watkins has the talent to be their best wide receiver since the franchise's Super Bowl era. Sure, Eric Moulds, Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson were fine, but with the right quarterback, Watkins can be special.

Unfortunately, Watkins will be catching passes from second-year signal caller EJ Manuel. The team seems to have little confidence in Manuel being the answer at quarterback just one year after drafting him in the first round last year. Kyle Orton was pulled out of retirement and handed a pricy one-year deal, and one can easily picture the scenario where he's starting games for the team in November and December.

Will Manuel respond to the job-security threat with elevated play? His best shot is to feed his star rookie early and often. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has made a career off shutting down No. 1 receivers, but he's not the same player at 33 as he was at 25. While he was a plus in coverage as recently as 2012, Tillman struggled on the field between injuries last year. If Watkins had a top-16 quarterback delivering the ball, I'd like him for a big game in Week 1. As it is, Fantasy owners would be best holding off on starting Watkins until the quarterback situation plays itself out for better or for worse.


Fred Jackson may have trouble finding running room in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson will face a Bears team in Week 1 that did a terrible job at defending the run last season. However, his Week 1 success may not be as pre-ordained as that of running mate, C.J. Spiller.

Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.

Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.

It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.


C.J. Spiller could ride big plays to productive Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller has feasted on big plays ever since emerging as a Fantasy weapon. In 2012, he was third in the league in breakaway percentage, a statistic tracked by Pro Football Focus that determines how much of a player's rushing yardage total is accrued on plays of at least 15 yards. Spiller topped the league in the category last season. Clearly, if he can find a seam, he has the ability to wrea havoc on a defense.

Spiller will be squaring off with the Bears on Sunday. Last season, the Bears turned in by far the worst run defense performance in the league. They surrendered 2,583 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per rush, both marks placing them last in the league. They overhauled the defensive line in the offseason as a result, drafting two rotational defensive tackles and signing three defensive ends.

But if those players can't keep Spiller bottled up at the line all game, he's a threat to break a long touchdown or two. While the Bears run defense was obviously porous as a unit, the back seven was particularly offensive, ranking last in Football Outsiders' second-level yardage and open-field yardage statistics. The Bears didn't do much to upgrade those two levels of the defense either, meaning plenty of broken tackles and long gains are there for the taking if Spiller can find a little daylight. He's a trustworthy RB2 in Week 1 and a must-use in any Flex conversations.


EJ Manuel will look to conquer road woes Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel endured what could at best be described as an uneven rookie season last year. Going 4-6 as a starter, Manuel particularly struggled on the road, where he turned in poor performances against the Jets, Browns, Steelers and Buccaneers before turning in a quality performance against the Jaguars in Week 14, his last game of the season.

Manuel opens this season on the road as well, heading to Soldier Field to take on the Bears Sunday. He'll be facing a new-look Chicago defensive line, rebuilt after the Bears defense struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Whether that pass rush can be effective could be the key to Manuel's success; the quarterback averaged 6.9 yards per attempt when under no pressure last season, but just 5.0 yards per attempt when faced with pressure.

Is there a good reason to start Manuel in Week 1? Not really. Every Fantasy team should be looking at a healthy roster heading into the beginning of the season, and there are anywhere from 14 to 20 QBs worth using over Manuel no matter the matchup. But a good performance in an unfavorable environment against a potentially improved pass rush would go a long way towards making the second-year player Fantasy relevant in 2014.


Patriots claim Don Jones off waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Patriots have been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins and waived offensive lineman Chris Barker in a corresponding move.

The Patriots will likely be looking for some extra insight on their Week 1 opponent after bringing the former Dolphin into the fold. The move leaves the Patriots with six safeties on the roster.


Jets release Ellis Lankster, re-sign A.J. Edds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Jets released cornerback Ellis Lankster and re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Edds Monday.

Report: Chris Conte to start if medically cleared
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Bears safety Chris Conte will be the team's starting free safety in Sunday's season opener against the Bills, provided he's medically cleared to play, ESPN reports.

Conte has been locked in a position battle with rookie Brock Vereen, and despite suffering a concussion during the team's third preseason game, he's done enough to be named the starter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vereen overtake Conte in the starting lineup, with the latter grading out as a below-average starter, according to ProFootballFocus.com, who particularly struggles in run support.


Report: Raiders going with Derek Carr over Matt Schaub
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Raiders players have been told the team will start rookie Derek Carr over veteran Matt Schaub at quarterback, reports Fox Sports. Carr threw three touchdown passes in last Thursday's preseason finale while Schaub has battled elbow problems.

Oakland opens the season Sunday at the Jets.


Emmanuel Sanders a strong flex option Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Assuming Wes Welker returns from his concussion and plays Week 1, teammate Emmanuel Sanders still will be a strong flex option. Colts-Broncos is a guaranteed shootout -- the over/under is a whopping 55, highest on the board -- and Peyton Manning can support three productive Fantasy receivers with ease.

Plus, Manning has taken a liking to Sanders. When Sanders debuted in the third preseason game, the duo hooked up for 67- and 29-yard touchdowns in the first half.

"You just throw it as far as you can, and it's hard to outthrow that guy," Manning told the team's website.

Sanders finished with five catches for 128 yards on eight first-half targets, doing most of that before Welker got concussed. Sanders was not 100 percent for that game; he had just come back from a quad injury.

Now Sanders, who started building chemistry with Manning at informal Duke University workouts, "looks ready for the big stage," the website said.

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders said. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

Manning is going to help Sanders reach a level he has not hit before, starting Sunday night.

Redskins complete practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Redskins filled out their 10-man practice squad by signing safety Akeem Davis and linebacker Chaz Sutton, reports the Washington Post.

 
 
 
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