This is a week to give the waiver wire an extra-close look. With bye weeks forcing owners to make some challenging roster decisions, there may be a few more capable performers available than you might expect. Frankly, I'm surprised to be mentioning a few of the players below, but indeed, they were all available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues as of Monday night.
The suggestions below are a function of matchups, expected opportunities and other factors:
Raiders QB Carson Palmer (owned in 45 percent of leagues) — While he doesn't have an ideal matchup in Week Six at Atlanta, he's definitely worth a claim for owners looking down the road this season.
Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (40 percent) — Less fantasy upside than Palmer, but he would likely be an upgrade for some fantasy owners at the backup QB spot.
Titans QB Jake Locker (28 percent) — Showed considerable promise in a monster Week Three performance vs. Detroit before suffering an injured shoulder the following week. He won't play Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, but then again, you wouldn't be necessarily rushing him into the lineup anyways. Pick him up and hope he builds on his potential.
Vikings QB Christian Ponder (28 percent) — He's very much a viable spot start in Week Six at Washington. The Redskins are allowing 328.6 passing yards per game.
Browns QB Brandon Weeden (seven percent) — Faces a Cincinnati defense he shredded for 322 yards and two TDs in Week Two on Sunday. Producing too much (292.5 passing yards per game in the last four weeks) to be on this many waiver wires.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (one percent) — Has rushed for 89 yards and two TDs in the last two weeks, and Alex Smith has a finger injury. If you're in a huge league and like to gamble, why not?
Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers (48 percent) — Yes, Michael Turner has played fairly well, but Rodgers should be picked up if he's available. His upside in a very good offense can't be overlooked.
Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis (41 percent) — With the Chiefs heavily emphasizing the run in Week Five, Hillis could have some value when he returns from an ankle injury.
Patriots RB Brandon Bolden (38 percent) — The Patriots are on pace for more than 600 rushes. Seriously, they are. And seriously, Bolden, if available, should be claimed.
Rams RB Daryl Richardson (13 percent) — He's shown enough promise in relief of starter Steven Jackson to be stashed on the back end of fantasy depth charts.
Lions RB Joique Bell (11 percent) — He's a wise addition for owners relying on Mikel Leshoure. Bell, who had a combined 16 touches in Weeks Three and Four, has essentially passed Kevin Smith on the depth chart.
Packers RBs Alex Green (seven percent) and James Starks (10 percent) — With Cedric Benson's foot injury threatening to keep him out at least eight weeks, according to an ESPN report, Green and Starks will get more work. Green, who broke a 41-yard run in the Week Five loss at Indianapolis, is the preferable addition for fantasy owners. Starks can also be stashed in bigger leagues, too. However, neither has a favorable matchup Sunday night against a tough Houston defense. Both are longer-term investments.
Cardinals RBs LaRod Stephens-Howling (three percent), William Powell (three percent) and Alfonso Smith (0 percent) — Ryan Williams' season-ending shoulder injury casts much uncertainty on the Cardinals' backfield. Stephens-Howling, a special-teams ace, is the most experienced option. However, Stephens-Howling is dealing with a hip injury. What's more, in his most extensive action of the season in Week Three, seven of his eight carries went for negative yardage. Powell, who had one rush for seven yards and three catches for 20 yards in Week Five, is also in the mix for carries. The 6-1, 208-pound Smith is also a little interesting simply because he's the biggest back of the three. That said, it's hard to have much confidence in any of the Cardinals' backs at the moment.
Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (48 percent) — He's returned to practice, a wonderful sign after sustaining a concussion in the Week Three win vs. Pittsburgh.
Chargers WR Robert Meachem (43 percent) — He's a hit-and-miss, home-run-hitting option for owners willing to take the risk that he won't produce much some weeks. He's been targeted just 19 times in five games. That said, he did haul in a pair of TDs in four targets on Sunday.
Titans WR Kendall Wright (34 percent) — In the last three games, he's caught 20 passes for 153 yards and a TD. The catch total alone will appeal to PPR owners. Moreoever, he's been targeted 30 times in that span.
Rams WRs Brandon Gibson (12 percent) and Chris Givens (one percent) — With Danny Amendola out with a clavicle injury, Gibson and Givens might be worth adding in bigger leagues. Givens, who had a long TD catch in Week Five, might have a little more upside, but he has just four catches in 15 targets.
Saints WR Devery Henderson (six percent) — The Saints have their bye in Week Six, but Henderson wouldn't be an unreasonable claim for WR-needy owners with a little extra space considering that WR Lance Moore (hamstring) and TE Jimmy Graham (ankle) are banged-up. Henderson saw a season-high 10 targets with Moore out in Week Five, catching 8-123-1.
Colts TE Coby Fleener (24 percent) — Fleener was targeted nine times in Week Five, tied for second-most on the club with rookie WR T.Y. Hilton. (Reggie Wayne, for the record, was targeted 20 times on Sunday — and with excellent reason, of course.) Fleener, who caught five passes for 41 yards on Sunday, could be a little underrated right now, what with teams figuring to do whatever it takes to try and take away Wayne.
Jets TE Dustin Keller (21 percent) — It looks like he could be back for the Week Six game vs. Indianapolis. Considering the state of the Jets’ WR corps, Keller could get plenty of passes thrown his way. He’s both a good bye-week and long-term addition.
Broncos TE Joel Dreessen (seven percent) — Has caught a TD pass in three consecutive games. However, he's been targeted just 12 times in that span, compared to 27 passes thrown Jacob Tamme's way.
Dallas Cowboys (22 percent) — Dallas has the pass rush to potentially present some issues for Baltimore in Week Six and the overall talent to be an every-week starting defense when in top form.
St. Louis Rams (18 percent ) — They can create some mayhem on defense and special teams.
Miami Dolphins (10 percent ) — A solid, solid bye-week starting option against St. Louis on Sunday.
Vikings PK Blair Walsh (40 percent ) — Ranks third in the NFL in scoring (48 points) and has connected on 12-of-13 field goals, including all three attempts from 50 yards and out.
Browns PK Phil Dawson (13 percent ) — Has yet to miss a field goal this season (10-of-10). Also, he's hit all four tries from 50-plus yards. In the last two seasons, he's 11-of-12 from 50 yards and beyond.