6. Domenik Hixon, Giants
- A wide receiver handcuff? Yeah, that's right. Plaxico Burress
aggravated his hamstring injury early in Sunday's game at Arizona. The knucklehead No. 1 receiver ends up being a weekly question mark even when he's not injured, so Hixon is mandatory insurance regardless.
After blowing up in preseason action, Hixon has produced 183 yards in the two games he's started while Plax was out. Michael Strahan
's pick to become a superstar, Hixon fills a stat sheet like few backup receivers and would merit WR2 consideration in any game Plax misses down the stretch. Considering Plax's lackadaisical play and the Giants' possibility of clinching early, the New York backups make for ideal pickups. Dynasty leaguers should run – do not walk -- to the waiver wire to grab the 24-year-old.
7. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
- The hard-charging Choice resembles Marion Barber
as a runner much more closely than the explosive Felix Jones
did. With Jones out for the season, Choice becomes the clear-cut handcuff for Barber. Considering the Barbarian's smash-mouth style, his owners won't be sleeping soundly without his backup tucked safely away in the corner of the roster.
8. Darren Sproles, Chargers
- Despite being a waiver wire darling way back in Week 3, the modern day "Little Train" is owned in just over a third of all leagues. He doesn't have the upside of Michael Turner
the past few seasons, but Sproles is the best bet for yardage and big plays in San Diego's backfield should Tomlinson go down. Jacob Hester
may take over goal-line duties, but Sproles is the better option in most leagues.
9. Matt Leinart, Cardinals
- Kurt Warner
is many things but durable isn't one of them. With his lack of mobility and history of hand injuries, Warner is more of red light injury risk than most high-end quarterbacks. He also happens to be directing an explosive passing offense with the best set of receiving weapons in the NFL.
Should the leader in the MVP derby take an unfortunate hit, Leinart would be at the helm of a high-flying attack. He may not come close to matching Warner's efficiency, but Top-10 production would be in reach with Anquan Boldin
, Larry Fitzgerald
, and Steve Breaston
playing at a ridiculous level.
10. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
- Brandon Jacobs
is due back this week, and Derrick Ward
is the clear second option so what's with the Bradshaw love? Well, running backs with knee injuries are always at risk of aggravating, so Bradshaw would see his role increase if Jacobs misses time. The Giants also may feel the need to protect Jacobs and even Ward for the playoffs once they clinch, so Bradshaw could be in line for feature back duties come Week 16. Considering his track record to close out last season, Bradshaw could do wonders with 15-20 touches.
11. Jerome Harrison, Browns
- The Cleveland drumbeat for Harrison isn't as loud as it was for Brady Quinn
a month ago, but it did lead to a comedic profanity-laced email from GM Phil Savage
. Browns fans have noticed that Harrison offers much more playmaking ability than an aging Jamal Lewis
, and they're demanding a larger role immediately if not sooner for the change of pace back. Will the Browns finally acquiesce as they play out the string in late December?
12. Billy Miller, Saints
- Miller has been a lock for TE1 production whenever Jeremy Shockey
has missed time – or even if Shockey just pisses off his quarterback. Shockey owners should protect themselves with Miller and enjoy the superior production if the starter does miss further time with injuries or insubordination.
13. Brandon Jackson, Packers
- Even if he's not as strong of a runner as Ryan Grant
, Jackson offers more versatility with his receiving ability. Despite his duck-and-shout blocking style, Jackson remains Grant's clear-cut insurance policy.
14. Lorenzo Booker, Eagles
- With Correll Buckhalter
slated to miss at least two weeks with a sprained MCL in his knee, the burden of being Westbrook's handcuff falls on the slight shoulders of Booker. Unlike Buckhalter, the change of pace back would not be a great bet for RB2 production if Westbrook's knee and ankle injuries force him to sit out again. That RB3/flex upside may be worth keeping around for desperate Westbrook owners, but Booker is far from an ideal insurance policy.
15. Byron Leftwich, Steelers
- I weighed Billy Volek
and Derek Anderson
at this spot, but Leftwich has a better chance to be a Top-20 fantasy quarterback. Big Ben's shoulder has been more stable the past couple of weeks, but it would come as no surprise if he got crunched again behind that offensive line. As Leftwich has shown throughout his past and in limited action this season, he's a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. With Hines Ward
, Santonio Holmes
, Nate Washington
, Heath Miller
, and Mewelde Moore
, he has much better passing-game weapons than he ever enjoyed in Jacksonville. Roethlisberger owners would do well to grab Leftwich if the roster space is available.