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Fantasy football: 4 questions to precede a waiver claim

Devery Henderson

Devery Henderson Photo Credit: Getty Images

Remember when Legedu Naanee was great?

Unless you have the memory of a football-crazed elephant, you probably don't.

In the 2010 season opener, the then-Chargers wide receiver hauled in five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Shortly afterward, fantasy football websites insisted that you'd be crazy not to add Naanee to your roster.

He hasn't been back to the end zone since.

Naanee's story should serve as a reminder of why it's best to exercise caution before reaching for one of the flavors of the week on your league's waiver wire. The truth is there were plenty of Legedu Naanees last year – Carolina's David Gettis, San Diego's Seyi Ajirotutu and Washington's Keiland Williams, just to name a few. And you'd better believe there will be plenty more Legedu Naanees this season, too.

Don't get me wrong. You should always be on the lookout for the next emerging talent to upgrade your team. Just choose wisely. And be careful that, in the process, you don’t discard a good player who simply had a bad day or two at the office. (The Rams' Mike Sims-Walker was one of the most-dropped players after Week 1, then had 97 yards receiving Monday night.)

Here are some questions I often ask myself before deciding whether a player is deserving of my waiver claim:

Are there signs that his big game was a fluke?
Looking at a wide receiver's targets and a running back's touches can give you a better idea of how valuable he is to his team's offense. For example, New Orleans' Devery Henderson caught three passes for 103 yards Sunday against Chicago, but he was targeted only three times, a sign that he's unlikely to produce consistently.

Did injuries play a role?
Henderson, Oakland's Denarius Moore, Denver's Eric Decker and Tampa Bay's Preston Parker saw increased playing time in Week 2 while some of their teammates nursed injuries — and all four delivered with big games. Such breakout performances can earn players a greater offensive role going forward, but oftentimes, those players return to their bit parts.

What's the player's upside?
It's preferable to gamble on a younger, unproven player than on a perennially mediocre or declining veteran. For example, we don't know what to expect from second-year Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster now that Jamaal Charles is out for the season. But we know that Thomas Jones, at age 33, is over the hill and is a longshot to ever sniff 1,000 yards again.

What's his track record?
Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler is a popular waiver-wire pickup this week because he has caught three touchdowns in two weeks. But he was drafted in 2007 and has produced just 87 career receiving yards. Meanwhile, Redskins tight end Fred Davis, who has 191 yards and a TD so far this year, enjoyed a nice run toward the end of the 2009 season while filling in for the injured Chris Cooley. I'd much rather have Davis. 

***

START
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo (vs. New England): Fitzpatrick already has tossed seven TDs, and the Pats have allowed 381 yards per game through the air as their foes try to keep pace with Tom Brady.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami (at Cleveland): The rookie rushed for 107 yards in his NFL debut last week. The Browns are ranked 24th vs. the run.

Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago (vs. Green Bay): The Packers’ defense has given up back-to-back 400-yard passing games. With Roy Williams nursing a groin injury, Knox should be the Bears’ go-to wide receiver.


SIT
Eli Manning, QB, Giants (at Philadelphia): The Eagles’ three Pro Bowl cornerbacks will defend a Giants receiving corps that is riddled with injuries.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati (vs. San Francisco): Benson only excels against bad run defenses. The 49ers are yielding a league-low 2.5 yards per carry.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis (vs. Pittsburgh): Without Peyton Manning, the Colts’ offense is sputtering. The Steelers, meanwhile, are ranked fourth against the pass.


Ryan Chatelain (ryan.chatelain@am-ny.com) is amNY's fantasy football columnist.

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