Identifying Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups
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Identifying Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups

What's the common thread for the following players? Drew Brees, Nate Burleson, Michael Clayton, Willis McGahee, Kevin Jones, Jason Witten. If you said they all play in the NFL, welcome to America, make yourself at home. No, all the guys listed above were probably picked up in a majority of 2004 fantasy football leagues. (Five of the six were picked up in mine) Look at that list. That is a pretty good team in itself. This is how valuable the waiver wire is. Now, there are two variations of pickups: There are players who bust out of the gate quickly and everybody in your league will step over their own grandmother for their services. They all see him as the first big steal of the new season. Of course, by week 5, these fast starters seem to forget how to play football. Then, there are the few who actually go through the year with consistent production. So, how can you distinguish a good market pickup from a flavor of the week? Here are the aspects to consider...

1. Player's past history
Well, that is if the player has any history in the NFL. Let's say your star quarterback goes out with an injury. For a real life example, let's say that Donovan McNabb is the ailing signal caller. Koy Detmer is his back up. Now, unless you are in a really deep league, with all of your QBs injured and you have become so desperate that you'll get in a dress and sing a Celine Dion song in front of your league mates in hopes that one of them will feel sorry for you and give you a quarterback out of pity, just so you can field a complete lineup for that week, Koy may be your guy. But, if you aren't in such dire straits, use common sense. IT IS KOY DETMER! Here's guy who has completed barely half of the passes in his career. The man has more interceptions (11) than TDs (10) and a QB rating in the 60s. He's never produced before, so just because he has the opportunity to do so now, what makes you think he is going to change his colors? Next!

2. Opportunity
"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?" Ok, I never saw 8 Mile, but the line fits here. The chance to play is what keeps every bench warmer motivated. Look at Willis McGahee last season. He was an accomplished college runner and had high prospects for the NFL. Fully recovered from his knee explosion in 2002, all he needed was an injury to incumbent RB, Travis Henry. When he got his shot in week 4, he took full advantage of it. By week 6, he was Buffalo's starting back and single-handedly changing the Bills for the better. The opposite can be said about a player like Najeh Davenport of the Packers. He had an excellent week 12 against St. Louis, filling in for a hampered Ahman Green. He had 186 total yards and a touchdown. So why was he not a smart pickup? Because everyone knew that Davenport couldn't win the starting job, no matter what. Plus, Green was going to return the following week While getting Davenport as a handcuff to Green is fine, there is no other reason why anyone should have been buying him. The moral here is to make sure your pickup candidates get extended playing time for a real team before you put them on yours.

3. Surrounding parts
This rule cost me back in 2003 with Anquan Boldin and it still bugs me. I thought he was just another of those week 1 teasers. I mean, c'mon! It's the Arizona Cardinals!!! They have bad management, declining fans and an atmosphere in which no one wants to be play. You do more than laugh at them. You laugh, point and mock them until your ribs ache. I thought he was a fluke, so I passed on him. 1377 yards with 8 touchdowns later, the laughing stopped. Even more, when I reflect on the 2003 season, I have no doubt that one more quality receiver on my team would have won me that league. What Boldin did on that team, where he was basically the only bright spot, is amazing and extremely rare. Under USUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, make sure that if you are going to get that hot wide receiver, he has a good QB throwing to him. If you are going to pick up this new RB who just exploded on to the scene, make sure that team has a solid offensive line. And if you are going to take a chance on a QB pickup, make sure he has a combination of good weapons with a strong line in front of him. If a player doesn't have one of these attributes on his team, it shouldn't completely stop you from giving that guy a shot, but temper your expectations.

 

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