Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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Head Games

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Medical doctor and footballguys.com analyst Jene Bramel offers an in-depth look at concussions and fantasy football at his website Bramelsecondopinion.com. Is Austin Collie, sidelined for the final seven games of the 2010 season, more susceptible to concussions after getting knocked out again two and a half weeks ago?

Research citing an increased risk for those with a history of concussions has included athletes allowed to return before their symptoms were fully resolved. According to Bramel, some neurologists believe that a player held out until full resolution of symptoms are not at a higher risk than other players. “In short, a healed brain is a healed brain and not necessarily more susceptible to future injury just because there is a history of past injury,” explains Bramel.

Armed with that knowledge, we shouldn’t be blown away by the willingness of Colts coaches and doctors to clear Collie for the Week 1 matchup with the Bears despite a third concussion in 22 months. “Full go. Yep," coach Chuck Pagano said of Collie after Monday’s return. “(Looked) great. Fresh legs. Ran all over the place. Caught everything."

An every-down receiver in Bruce Arians’ aggressive offense, Collie was Andrew Luck’s favorite target in offseason practices and training camp. He had bypassed Reggie Wayne as a top-30 fantasy option in the Rotoworld Draft Guide before his mid-August concussion. Collie isn’t without risk, but it should be noted that he played all 16 games a year ago after the concussion issues of 2010.

At the cost of a roster spot, Collie should be owned in all leagues going forward. Keep in mind, it was just two years ago that Collie was leading all wide receivers in fantasy points before undergoing mid-season thumb surgery and dealing with the subsequent late-season concussions.

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This is the first Waiver Wired of the season, so let's review the rules:

Every Tuesday, I'll go over the best available pickups at every fantasy position except kicker. Every league setup is different, so I'll try to include players who may be available in shallow leagues, and lesser-known players that are worth trying in deep leagues. I give a recommendation for each player, such as "Should be owned in 12-team leagues." This doesn't mean you should own him, just that he's good enough to improve one of the rosters in your league. If I write, "Must be owned," or "Should be owned in all leagues," I'm recommending doing what you can to find a spot.

Most of my leagues have moved to sites which allow owners to place interesting free agents on a "watch list" for future consideration. As such, each week I will throw in a few long-term fliers that should be placed on watch lists for easy access when a quick decision is needed.

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players available at each position as we head into the season opener. Full write-ups of each player are below.

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Editor's Note: Join subscriber only chats, get weekly rankings before anyone else, plus exclusive weekly projections, stat tools, dynasty ranks, columns, and much more including the Rotoworld Oracle in our Season Pass. Also last-minute drafters can still get the latest projection updates in Rotoworld's draft guide.

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Quarterbacks
Jake Locker
Russell Wilson
Christian Ponder
Sam Bradford
Nick Foles

Running Backs
Ronnie Brown

Jonathan Dwyer

Kendall Hunter
Alfred Morris
Robert Turbin
Bernard Scott
Vick Ballard
Taiwan Jones

Wide Receivers
Austin Collie
Braylon Edwards
Rod Streater
Davone Bess
Randall Cobb
Jerome Simpson
Steve Smith (STL)
Alshon Jeffery
Jonathan Baldwin

Tight Ends
Kyle Rudolph
Martellus Bennett
Lance Kendricks
Dallas Clark
Scott Chandler

Defense/Special Teams
Seahawks
Broncos
Raiders
Vikings

Quarterbacks

Jake Locker, Titans - Owned in 48% of CBS leagues, 47% of Yahoo leagues.

Locker’s preseason performance was up-and-down to say the least, but it’s worth remembering that he was playing without the one passing-game weapon, Kenny Britt, who draws double teams. With the Week 2 return of Britt to go with impressive rookie Kendall Wright, steady veteran Nate Washington, improving tight end Jared Cook as well as Chris Johnson in the screen game, Locker has the arsenal to make fantasy noise in Chris Palmer’s Run ‘N Shoot variation. Don’t forget about his legs, either. Consistency will be elusive, but Locker has QB1 potential in a best-case scenario.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks - Owned in 45% of CBS leagues, 38% of Yahoo leagues.

Playing mostly against second- and third-stringers, Wilson won over the Seahawks coaching staff by marching the offense up and down the field to the tune of 8.5 yards per attempt with six total touchdowns. He’s proven to be NFL-ready with effective scrambling ability that offers high upside as a QB2 option. The questions are whether Wilson can offer consistent fantasy production against a first-team defense in a run-oriented offense with question marks at wide receiver and tight end. At the cost of a waiver pickup, it’s worth finding out.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Christian Ponder, Vikings - Owned in 22% of CBS leagues, 13% of Yahoo leagues.

This is an intriguing QB2 option, available for the price of a waiver pickup. Ponder showed a marked increase in accuracy (60.5 percent) and efficiency (8.71 YPA) in preseason action, enjoying the emergence of Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson as viable second and third options to Percy Harvin in the passing game. Often overlooked as an athlete, Ponder also has the running ability to pick up an extra 3-5 points per week. There’s high-end QB2 upside here beyond an improved offensive line.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Sam Bradford, Rams - Owned in 44% of CBS leagues, 24% of Yahoo leagues.

After developing bad habits due to poor pass protection in a lost season last year, Bradford looked fantastic in preseason Weeks 2 and 4. Sandwiched in between, however, Bradford once again looked tentative and shaky in the face of defensive pressure. Bradford certainly has the arm for fantasy success, but the Rams’ low-grade offensive line and subpar receiver corps will leave him with consistency issues throughout the season.

Recommendation: Should be owned in deeper leagues.

Nick Foles, Eagles - Owned in 6% of CBS leagues, 2% of Yahoo leagues.

Even if we can’t predict specific injuries with any degree of accuracy, it’s fair to posit that Michael Vick’s relatively carefree playing style leaves him more susceptible to missed games. Foles still has to prove he can handle heavy blitzes, but showed in extensive preseason action that he could move the offense consistently, especially in the red zone. If the poised rookie is called upon to start, the Eagles offensive weapons give him borderline QB1 appeal.

Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.

Watch List: Tim Tebow, Shaun Hill, Kyle Orton, Ryan Mallett, Colin Kaepernick

Tebow has been a QB1 option every time he has started. … Hill, Orton and Mallett join Foles as the backups with the best combination of offensive talent and fantasy potential. … Kaepernick’s dangerous rushing ability and questionable accuracy put him in the Tebow class of backups.

Hold Off: Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, John Skelton

Sanchez, Tannehill, Weeden and Skelton are under center in the league’s most inept offenses. … Gabbert has been managed well by Mike Mularkey in preseason action, but this remains a run-first offense. Gabbert is going to have to show he can do more than first-read quick passes before he gains fantasy appeal.

Cut Bait: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton

I can’t believe Smith is owned in two-third of fantasy leagues while upside options such as Locker and Wilson are barely owned in half. We know what Smith offers by now, and it’s worthless in fantasy circles. … Dalton hasn’t moved the Bengals since before last Thanksgiving. His tight end is coming back from a knee injury, the interior of his offensive line hasn’t blocked well all preseason and there’s no receiving weapon beyond A.J. Green. You can do better for a fantasy backup.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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