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NFL Waiver Wire: Players to Draft Late

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

At this stage of the NFL season, it's important not to make radical changes to your player valuations. Except for significant injuries, there typically just isn't a reason to move players up or down your cheatsheet in mid August. That's why, as I write the second waiver article of the season, it's worth reminding you of those players I profiled last week: Matt Leinart, Tashard Choice, Lynell Hamilton, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jacoby Jones and Legedu Naanee. Other than Hamilton, whose ACL tear will sideline him for the season, I still like stashing these players on your bench as "upside" plays. That said, there are other players who are sitting on waivers in lots of leagues who have some appeal.

As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: Last week, I said I'd roster Choice over Lynch since, though both are third on the depth chart for their respective teams, but the Cowboys have one of the league's best offenses, and the Bills have one of the worst. Although I still feel that way, I'm persuaded by the argument that it's worth rostering Lynch in the hope he gets traded to a good team. At this point, I think the chances of a trade are low - probably around 25-30% - but I'd rather gamble on the hope that Lynch gets traded to a team like the Chargers (if Ryan Mathews doesn't pan out, for example) than draft a guy like Darren Sproles six rounds sooner. Yes, I realize Sproles plays on a great offense, which I typically love, but the Chargers have made it clear they will limit his touches regardless of anything else that may be happening on their roster. Lynch is available six rounds later than Sproles, but he has a higher ceiling, and ceiling is what you want on your bench.

No-Name Saints RBs: Lynell Hamilton is out for the year with a torn ACL, but that just creates another waiver opportunity. P.J. Hill? Chris Ivory? Honestly, I've never heard of these guys. ("Who Dat?"). But it doesn't matter - if one of them becomes the goal-line back, or, more importantly, the primary backup to Pierre Thomas, he has undeniable upside (for the same reasons I profiled Hamilton last week). Heck, on the Saints offense, I might roster Liss if he were named second-string tailback. [Ed. Note: good idea]

Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins: According to Mock Draft Central, Thomas is going undrafted in 13 percent of leagues, and that's 13 percent too many for my taste. Yes, Thomas has done nothing in his career so far, but there are two things about Thomas that scream "upside" and "underrated." First, Thomas is entering his third year in the league, often a magical year for wide receivers - especially early-round draft picks, as Thomas was in 2008. Second, Thomas should benefit by the Redskins quarterback play improving from a C- or D+ (courtesy of Jason Campbell) to a B or B- (courtesy of Donovan McNabb). If you doubt what could happen when a talented WR enters his third season and goes from a subpar QB to a good one, check out what Sidney Rice did in 2009, when he emerged from nowhere to post Pro Bowl stats as a third-year receiver with the help of Brett Favre at QB instead of Tarvaris Jackson.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Gonzalez is going undrafted in most leagues, and for good reason - he's a dog. His Week 1 injury last season certainly didn't seem like it should be a season-ending one, yet Gonzalez never made it back onto the field. Nonetheless, no matter what I may think of Gonzalez's toughness (or lack thereof), I can't escape the fact that he plays with Peyton Manning. Having number 18 on his team gives Gonzalez a chance, albeit a small one, of a season with 800-1,000 yards and 7-8 TDs. That may sound far-fetched at this point, since Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie may all be ahead of Gonzalez in the pecking order, but ask yourself this - if Reggie Wayne gets hurt, isn't it reasonable to think that Manning could turn Gonzalez into a weekly fantasy starter?

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets: Keller scored just two TDs last year, but that's misleading when you consider his three TDs in the playoffs. And it's the playoffs when Mark Sanchez seemed to excel, as he regularly found Keller open on play action passes. The Jets dominant run game should create more play-action opportunities for Keller in 2010, and Sanchez's growth should help Keller as well. Meanwhile, Visanthe Shiancoe is getting drafted six rounds sooner, yet we're not sure Brett Favre will be playing in 2010. Plus, I doubt Shiancoe duplicates his 11 TDs from 2009 (including 9 on 10 targets inside the 10, a ratio unlikely to be repeated).

David Buehler, K, Cowboys: I'd put Buehler's chances of getting waived before the season at around 50%, even though he's the only kicker currently on the Cowboys roster. So why would I claim Buehler, who's getting drafted in just five percent of leagues, over someone like Sebastian Janikowski, owned in around 70 percent? Simple - upside. After all, if Buehler gets cut, you can claim one of the plethora of decent kickers available on waivers and lose nothing. But if Buehler pans out, and keeps the job all season, he'll finish as a top-10 kicker, maybe even top five on a high-scoring Cowboys offense. Gamble on upside with your kicker (either on waivers or the final round of your draft), knowing you can easily replace him if the gamble doesn't pay off.