Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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The Danario Scenario

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


How were we to know early last week that undrafted rookie Danario Alexander would leapfrog Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard, and Laurent Robinson to fill Mark Clayton's cleats as the Rams' top fantasy receiver? He had spent the first five weeks on the practice squad, battling atrophy in the muscles surrounding his surgically repaired knee.

By late last week, however, a few hints emerged as to Alexander's potential. The NCAA's 2009 leader in receiving yards was handed a four-year contract and a $35,000 signing bonus when he was signed off the practice squad on Tuesday. That's unheard of for an undrafted practice squad player.

Alexander ended up seeing a "good amount of work" with the first-team offense in practice last week, and he revealed that he was "in the game plan" for the Chargers. Cornerback Ronald Bartell suggested Saturday that Alexander would even be featured: "He's getting an opportunity. Let's just see how he does."

The results? Alexander blew up for four receptions, 72 yards, and a touchdown by halftime as the Rams jumped out to a surprising lead over the heavily favored Chargers. Sam Bradford spent the second half handing off to Steven Jackson and bleeding the clock.

If the Rams hadn't been playing with a commanding lead, Alexander would have been a lead-pipe lock for 100+ yards as Bradford's new favorite. It's a useful reminder about the game momentum factor in chasing waiver wire wonders, as we pointed out last week with Danny Amendola's fluky Week 5 target numbers. Deion Branch, the top pick on many waiver lists this week, was sitting on two catches before the Pats' fourth-quarter comeback. If not for overtime, his statline would have read 7-63, 1 TD as opposed to 9-98, 1 TD. Not too shabby, but also not nearly as eye catching.

So what makes Alexander so intriguing as the top choice this week? Before recurring knee injuries popped up in 2006-07, he was ahead of Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart at Mizzou. He bounced all the way back with an NCAA best 113/1,781/14 line in 2009, only to be forced under the knife again in February. If not for that most recent surgery, Alexander would have been an early round pick.

Ready for the hyperbole? Alexander checks in at 6'5" and 215 pounds with a vertical leap that has been recorded at anywhere from 41.5" to a preposterous 46.5" for a player of his size. At the Senior Bowl last January, one scout anointed him a "Calvin Johnson clone." Despite going undrafted, Alexander impressed at his July pro-day, posting a 4.46 forty and a short shuttle time of 4.12. For comparison's sake, a much smaller Jahvid Best posted a 4.17 in the short shuttle. Alexander's measurables are remarkable, bordering on freakish, and he has the college production to match.

If he can stay healthy, Alexander is the best bet to stick as Bradford's go-to target in the Rams' suddenly relevant passing game. He's a major injury risk and there will be bouts of inconsistency with the rookie-to-rookie connection, but fantasy leaguers can't pass on his upside the rest of the way.

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players available at each position as we head into Week 7. Full writeups of each player are below.

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Wide Receivers
1. Danario Alexander
2. Patrick Crayton
3. Deion Branch
4. Jacoby Jones - Week 7 Bye
5. Mike Williams (SEA)
6. Robert Meachem
7. Jason Avant
8. Mike Thomas
9. Davone Bess
10. Devin Aromashodu

Running Backs
1. Danny Woodhead
2. Chris Ivory
3. Donald Brown - Week 7 Bye
4. Earnest Graham
5. LeGarrette Blount
6. Deji Karim
7. James Starks
8. Derrick Ward

Quarterbacks
1. Matthew Stafford - Week 7 Bye
2. Matt Cassel
3. Josh Freeman
4. Matt Hasselbeck
5. Colt McCoy
6. Max Hall
7. Kyle Boller

Tight Ends
1. Owen Daniels - Week 7 Bye
2. Ben Watson
3. Fred Davis
4. Todd Heap
5. Jermaine Gresham

Defense/Special Teams
1. Seahawks
2. Redskins
3. Chiefs
4. 49ers

Wide Receivers

Danario Alexander, Rams - Danny Amendola remains the best bet to lead the Rams in receptions going forward, but Alexander's playmaking ability and red-zone presence give him a considerable edge in standard scoring leagues. Shadow corner Aqib Talib has been far from shutdown quality this season, and the Bucs allow the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers. Expect the Bradford-to-Alexander connection to produce WR3 numbers again this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues

Patrick Crayton, Chargers - The Bolts are expected to be without Malcom Floyd (hamstring) this week against the Pats, and Antonio Gates (toe/foot) may be a long-shot as well. That would leave Crayton as Philip Rivers' top target in the passing game. In which case, Crayton would be a must-start WR2/3 and a good bet to repeat his 6-117 line from Week 6.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Deion Branch, Patriots - Expect Branch to start opposite Wes Welker going forward, but keep in mind that the Pats are essentially using a committee approach depending on matchup and situation. Branch's Week 6 numbers were boosted by the comeback attempt and overtime. He has just six 100-yard games in his regular-season career, and he's never scored more than five TDs in a season. While Branch is a fine pickup in PPR leagues, he's not going to be worthy of WR3 consideration the rest of the way in standard scoring formats.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Jacoby Jones, Texans - Jones would be much higher on this list of the Texans weren't heading into their bye week. The Texans offense is a sleeping giant in the second half now that Jones, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels are all healthy. Matt Schaub will have to pass like crazy to make up for a historically bad secondary, and Jones has the potential to breakout if he can stay ahead of Kevin Walter (0 targets in Week 6).

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues

Mike Williams, Seahawks - The Deion Branch trade paid off immediately for both teams. Williams was the primary beneficiary for the Seahawks, hauling in 10 of 15 targets for 123 yards against the Bears. It's just his second time over 50 yards this season, though, and he's an unimpressive 61st in receiver fantasy scoring. Williams is worth picking up as the Seahawks' No. 1 receiver, but there are more talented options available this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Robert Meachem, Saints - His role is growing by the week while Devery Henderson's continues to shrink. Meachem has topped four receptions and 70 yards with a touchdown in each of the past two weeks. The Saints' spread-the-wealth mentality at receiver can be maddening, but Meachem's upside is worth carrying as a WR 4/5.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Jason Avant, Eagles - With DeSean Jackson (concussion) already ruled out this week, Avant will start opposite Jeremy Maclin at Tennessee. He's strictly a possession receiver as opposed to playmaker, though, which makes him a much better target in PPR leagues. A half-dozen receptions and 50+ yards is a reasonable expectation for Week 7.

Recommendation: Should be owned in PPR leagues

Mike Thomas, Jaguars - He just keeps outplaying an unreliable Mike Sims-Walker. Eight of Thomas' nine targets came with Trent Edwards under center, so give him a boost if David Garrard (concussion) can't go this week at Kansas City. Thomas has yet to find the end zone this season, but he's 31st in fantasy scoring over the past three weeks.

Recommendation: Should be owned in PPR leagues

Davone Bess, Dolphins - Bess is 19th in total WR fantasy points the past three weeks, which is even more impressive when you consider the Dolphins had their bye in that stretch. He's averaged 6.7 catches and 72 yards over his past three games, good enough to land a contract extension from the Dolphins as the highest-paid slot receiver in the league. As Miami's clear second option in the passing game, he's a rock-solid WR3 in PPR circles.

Recommendation: Should be owned in PPR leagues

Devin Aromashodu, Bears - Look who's earned his way back into the Bears' receiver rotation. With Devin Hester's snaps reduced to concentrate on return duties, Aromashodu came out of the doghouse for five targets against the Seahawks. He has a much higher fantasy upside than Earl Bennett, which makes him the receiver to stash behind Johnny Knox in Chicago.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a roster stash

Long-Term Fliers: Craig Davis, Deon Butler, Nate Burleson, Anthony Armstrong, Jordy Nelson, Riley Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders

Davis is worth a look if hamstring injuries keep Legedu Naannee and Malcom Floyd out this week. ... Butler can't get over the 50-yard mark in Seattle, but he's clearly ahead of Golden Tate for now. ... Burleson has scored in two straight as the Lions enter their bye week. ... Armstrong's role continues to grow. ... Cooper will be the Eagles' third receiver with DeSean Jackson out.

Cut Bait: Devin Hester, Kevin Walter

Hold Off Michael Jenkins, Earl Bennett

continue story »
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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