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NFL Waiver Wire: Don't Overvalue Recent Performance

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.

Last week, I suggested Devin Thomas as a waiver wire claim, emphasizing his draft pedigree, age and the improved QB play Donovan McNabb is sure to bring. Meanwhile, at just about the same time, fellow writer Dalton Del Don downgraded Thomas in his Barometer, noting Thomas is third on the depth chart and may be in Mike Shanahan's doghouse. These apparently conflicting articles prompted one subscriber to ask, essentially, "Who should I believe?" My answer is simple - "Believe us both; we're both right."

Confused? Don't be. Remember - context is critically important in these articles. In Dalton's case, he was right to downgrade Thomas because he's still third on the depth chart, and if he's not going to start for the Redskins, his value is decreasing. In my case, I think I was right to suggest Thomas as a waiver claim because, despite where he is on the depth chart in mid-August (when the games don't matter), his draft pedigree, age and QB situation still create the potential for a huge, breakout year (circa Sidney Rice 2009). In a sense, whether I think Thomas will actually have that breakout season doesn't matter - the fact that it's possible for him (when it's not possible for most players on waivers) forces you to consider him for a bench spot.

If you follow this article throughout the season, you 'll see that I'm not afraid to profile players who Dalton, your league-mates and the entire fantasy industry may view as a "downgrade." For me, the question isn't how that player is performing now (particularly when we aren't dealing with bye weeks), but whether he has the potential to emerge as a weekly fantasy starter at some point in the season. As I said in my first article, you should be asking yourself, regardless of a player's value right now, "Can I envision a scenario where this player could emerge as a fantasy stud?"

For example, look at Miles Austin last season. I recall Liss saying he drafted Austin in multiple leagues, recognizing his upside, but dropped him a few weeks into the season as byes emerged. Undoubtedly, he was a downgrade when Liss dropped him, given the lack of playing time. But as he showed later in the year, the upside that caused him to be drafted in the first place (age, elite QB) hadn't changed, so he was still a good waiver claim, despite the downgrade and despite being dropped. Hindsight is 20/20, sure, but the point is that a player can be universally downgraded, and waived by most fantasy owners, and still be a good waiver claim. Keep that in mind as the season unfolds and if my suggested waiver claims seem to contradict what other writers are suggesting.

Before I profile this week's players, don't forget the players I've already profiled this preseason: Matt Leinart, Tashard Choice, P.J. Hill, Chris Ivory, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jacoby Jones, Legedu Naanee, Anthony Gonzalez, Devin Thomas, Dustin Keller, David Buehler. Nothing has changed about my view of these players.

As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

Anyone drafted in your league/auction: If a player was drafted in your league/auction, then unless you're in a league of misfits, that probably means he was valuable enough to be drafted. And while some things that happen in the preseason matter (injuries, depth chart changes), most of it is irrelevant and over-emphasized. Often, fantasy owners get impatient during the preseason and want to make roster changes just to feel like they're doing something. Invariably, this causes players to be cut who shouldn't be. Was Devin Thomas cut because he's still third on the depth chart? Was Fred Jackson cut because of his broken hand (which should be healed by Week 1)? Check waivers for players who were drafted - the earlier they were drafted, the bigger the mistake it would be to leave them on waivers.

Ladell Betts, RB, Saints: This is my third week of waiver wire articles and the third week I've profiled a Saints RB. No, I'm not a Saints fan - I just recognize the potential of whoever wins the backup tailback job, behind Pierre Thomas, whether it's Betts, P.J. Hill, or Chris Ivory. Given Thomas' frailty, and Sean Payton's penchant for turning scrub RBs into goal-line hogs, this is a situation I'm going to monitor all season. Make sure you do as well.

Danny Ware, RB, Giants: I'm not sure the Giants are an elite offense, but they're certainly very good, and they love to run inside the 10. Yes, Ware is behind Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw on the depth chart. But Brandon Jacobs was terrible last year, and given his running style and injury history, it's not a stretch to say he may never be the same as he once was. Essentially, Ware needs an injury to Jacobs or Bradshaw to become fantasy relevant. In today's NFL, that's a fair proposition.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: Coming off a 10-TD season in 2008, Moore was a mid-round draft selection heading into the 2009 fantasy season. Injuries ruined his year, and fantasy owners are punishing him for it - Moore is being drafted in just two percent of leagues on I realize Moore isn't very athletic, and he's currently fourth on the depth chart, but there's a lot of upside here. Robert Meachem was just activated off the PUP list, and he's practicing with a steel shank in his shoe. If Meachem were eliminated from the picture due to injury (not a stretch given his situation), that would leave Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Moore for a Saints team that loves to throw. As upside goes among guys unowned in virtually every league, Moore is as good as it gets. Where else are you going to get 10-TD potential on waivers?

Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings: Brett Favre is back, Sidney Rice is on the PUP list with a hip injury, and Percy Harvin is really struggling with migraines. Berrian fell out of favor last year, but it wasn't long ago that Berrian was signed to be the Vikings top WR.