When looking back at this season it was a little harder than I expected to find quarterbacks and running backs who were insanely great waiver wire finds. Of course wide receivers are usually the easiest position players to find waiver gems and we’ll see them in the next installment but running backs often have the biggest impact in fantasy and often get hurt which leads to waiver greatness. But this season quite a bit went as planned or at least fairly close to plans. The top 5 running backs were Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and Michael Turner. Of course that’s not how most of us predicted things would turn out but none of those guys sniffed the waiver wire. There were plenty of running backs who outplayed their ADP and our expectations like Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Fred Jackson, and Beanie Wells to name a few but they were also all owned. And even some of the guys I mention below were most likely owned, but thems the breaks. Of course it’s always nice to think back on that great pick up that led you to a championship and most likely some of these guys did that.
Cam Newton: Cameron is by far the waiver wire pick up of the century (of the week). After watching Jimmy Clausen “lead” the Panthers to the worst offense in the league with 258 total yards per game and 143 passing yards per game it was pretty amazing to see a rookie quarterback come in and average 239 yards passing (12th in the league) and lead that same Carolina team to 389.8 total yards per game (7th). He set plenty of rookie records and even some non-rookie records and not many even thought he would be worth owning in fantasy leagues this season. Of course if you take away his rushing touchdowns he loses a lot of value but the question is will he improve in the passing game and will his rushing touchdown numbers decrease? The answer is most likely yes and yes. You can’t count on touchdowns in fantasy but thankfully his weren’t fluky. He was the obvious goal line back and that is with two very good running backs on his team. He will still see carries near the goal line next season. His ability as a passer was great for a rookie and is only going to increase. I also like Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith seems to have 9 lives (get it, he’s a Panther). All signs are for Cam to even get better and as a top 5 fantasy quarterback this season that is saying a lot.
Tim Tebow: What can I say about Timothy Tebow? No really? Tell me!! We knew going in that he was a good fantasy quarterback and really that’s all we need to know. If he would have started every game he would have finished around 9th overall. That’s not first round material but he was one of the more consistent quarterbacks due to his rushing ability. Tebow is a bit of an enigma which means he could be the #1 QB next year or be backing up Blaine Gabbert. I lean toward somewhere in the middle which puts him in the third tier of QBs with upside to be a top 5 QB.
Marshawn Lynch: He may not have been a waiver add but there’s a shot that he was dropped in shallow leagues after a tough start to the season which coincided with the 49ers and Steelers shutting him down and then a game time scratch due to a back injury. Yeah, I’m reaching here but you have to admit his season was a crazy surprise finishing as the 6th overall running fantasy back after such a craptastic start. He scored a touchdown in 11 straight games and finished with 13 overall to go along with over 1200 rushing yards and 200 receiving. This was a contract year for Lynch and it showed. He ran with a fire that I’m thinking only money could light. He proved that he does have the ability which we really hadn’t seen since 2008. He’s also had only 322 carries between ’09 and ’10 and is still just 25 going on 26 next season. So I’m of two minds as to where to value him. He showed he can produce game in and game out even with no real passing game backing him up but he also did it in a contract year so we could see a bit of a let down with cash weighing down his pockets. He’s close to a first rounder with his production from last season but I’m most likely going to wait on him until the end of the 2nd or maybe beginning of the third even though I doubt he lasts that long due to his team and him not playing for a contract.
Michael Bush: Here’s another guy that was most likely owned but depending on your league there was a decent chance he was available on the wire after Darren McFadden went down. Of course you and I and Irene thought McFadden would return and reclaim his job but it never happened and Bush ended up starting 9 games and finishing as the 11th overall fantasy running back. He did have 3 touchdowns before Run DMC went down so not all of that production was in those 9 games. Overall though Bush was a fantasy workhorse and if you backed DMac up with him you possibly saved your season. His prospects will depend a lot on what happens this off season. If he goes to a team where he’ll be the every down back he is a second rounder. If he stays in Oakland he will be splitting time with McFadden hurting both of their values. I’m hoping for the first scenario.
C.J. Spiller: After barely seeing the field for the first 10 games Fred Jackson was injured and gave him a chance to shine. I personally didn’t think he had it in him. Reggie Bush (until this season) couldn’t do much besides return kicks and maybe a break a swing pass for a touchdown and I felt they were close in ability. I just didn’t think Spiller had enough productive carries and receptions in him per game. But for at least the last 6 games he proved me wrong. I’m sure he’s pretty smug about it. In his six starts he averaged 14.8 fantasy points in standard scoring which would have put him at #5, one point behind Arian Foster with 237 overall points. Of course the odds of him keeping that up an extra 10 games are tough. Fred Jackson will be 31 next season coming off a fractured fibula but he will be back. Gailey seems to like using one back but it will be hard to sit Spiller like he did this season but it will hurt his value.
DeMarco Murray: In Murray’s 6 starts he averaged 17 fantasy points which extrapolated out to 16 games would put him second overall. Of course just like Spiller, Murray will have trouble putting up numbers like that for 16 games but he did prove he has the ability. It looks likely that he will be the lead back next year with Jones as the complimentary back. Of course just like this season there is a decent chance you will see them switch back and forth due to an injury here and there. I’d want to own both but you’ll most likely have to pay too much to get the pair.