Welcome to Claim to Fame. Every week, we provide recommendations on a handful of players that are available in most fantasy leagues*. We’ll list players you should consider pursuing in your league, and we’ll provide a letter grade that will give you an indication of how aggressively you should bid on that player. Here’s what each letter grade means:
A: Must-have player in all league types. Aggressively pursue.
B: Should be on rosters in most leagues.
C: Viable additions for leagues with deep rosters.
D: Speculative additions that might pay dividends weeks down the road.
F: Only worth adding as a handcuff if you have the starter.
(*Yes, we realize that availability varies greatly by league size, and you’ll find that publicly posted ownership percentages can also differ drastically between league management services. But we strive to only introduce players owned in 50% or fewer leagues).
Case Keenum, Texans
If you didn’t take our advice and add Keenum last week, you missed out on a chance to grab him (relatively) cheap. Keenum has posted back-to-back three-touchdown outings, and the Texans should continue to ride him as they evaluate for 2014. With Arian Foster (back) out and Ben Tate (ribs) still healing, the Texans offense will rely heavily on Keenum to move the ball. The results have been solid thus far, and Keenum faces the Raiders and Jaguars the next two Sundays.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Titans
Yes, we’re well aware of Fitzpatrick’s well-deserved reputation as a turnover machine, but many fantasy leagues don’t deduct points for picks/fumbles or deduct only a minor amount of points. The reason we’re adding Fitzpatrick here is simple math. If you add Jake Locker’s season points to date plus Fitzpatrick’s points to date, where would that rank among all quarterbacks in your league? We’ll wait while you figure it out. Waiting… waiting… see where we’re coming from? That combo has cobbled together enough points to be a top-15 (and in come cases, a top-10) quarterback. We don’t dare trust Fitzpatrick to rate that highly the rest of the way, but he is worth a look as a backup.
Keep an eye on: Josh McCown, Bears; E.J. Manuel, Bills; Mike Glennon, Buccaneers; Scott Tolzien, Packers
Andre Brown, Giants
We’re including Brown in this article for a third straight week just in case there are people out there still wondering if Andre is worth adding. We’re looking at you, ESPN Leagues (75% available). Brown’s price has skyrocketed after his 30-carry, 115-yard, one-touchdown outing, and this will be the last time he’s in this article.
Bernard Pierce, Ravens
The Ravens are averaging a pathetic 2.8 yards-per-carry as a team this season, and both Ray Rice (2.5) and Pierce (2.8) have been pathetic. In Rice’s case, he can at least blame a nagging hip injury. Head coach John Harbaugh said he will use a hot-hand approach to his backfield moving forward, and we have to wonder if the Ravens might shut down Rice early if they fall out of playoff contention. Pierce won’t be usable as part of a RBBC approach, but he would be very intriguing if Rice takes a permanent seat in mid-to-late December.
Brian Leonard & Bobby Rainey Buccaneers
Thanks to Rainey’s efforts on Monday night, the Bucs are now up to a whopping two rushing touchdowns on the season. Hooray! Fire the cannons! Leonard and Rainey stepped up in the MNF snoozer after Mike James fractured his ankle, and the Bucs are now down to this uninspiring tandem. It appears as though we’ll see a RBBC effort over the final seven games, with the hybrid Leonard seeing a lot of the between-the-tackle work and the speedier Rainey working as a change-of-pace. Both backs are worth adding in larger leagues simply because there is a chance for double-digit touches on weekly basis. That’s more than you can say about most fantasy free agents at this point in the season. We give Leonard a slight nod over Rainey.
Dennis Johnson, Texans
This is Johnson’s second straight week in this article, but we’re keeping his grade low – marking him as an end-of-bench guy with interesting upside. With Foster (back) on the sidelines and Tate (ribs) ailing, fantasy owners don’t need to squint too hard to envision a scenario where Johnson is suddenly seeing significant work. The undrafted rookie carries a thin resume, but if he ends up starting for the Texans at some point, he will at least be flex material.
Keep an eye on: Shonn Greene, Titans; Jonathan Stewart, Panthers; Donald Brown, Colts
Riley Cooper, Eagles
Depending on which fantasy league manager you’re looking at, Cooper is widely available (ESPN), widely unavailable (CBS), or closer to the middle (MFL). We don’t expect such a wide range after Cooper caught another two touchdowns in Week 10. He has posted 449 yards and six touchdowns in Nick Foles’ last four starts, and we’re buying the pair.
Santonio Holmes, Jets
Holmes’ name is bigger than his game at this point in his career, but it’s still worth noting when he is on the field (which is rare). He has appeared in only four games this season, but he is tentatively expected to return in Week 11. The Jets don’t have a No. 1 target, and Holmes flashed some upside way back in Week 3 (5/154/1). If you have a WR need and a bench spot to play with, Santonio is worth a roll of the dice.
Tavon Austin, Rams
Remember last week when we made a joke out of picking up Redskins running back Darrel Young? Yes, we know it wasn’t funny. Want to know what’s equally as not amusing? Picking up Austin week. There will be plenty of fantasy owners who chase Austin’s three-touchdown game. But they shouldn’t. He caught only two passes in Week 10. He played on just 15 offensive snaps. He hasn’t started a game since Week 3. Also: Kellen Clemens. Austin is exciting and talented, but we can’t endorse him until he is seeing more consistent action and playing alongside a better quarterback.
Keep an eye on: Mario Manningham, 49ers; Andre Roberts, Cardinals; Nate Burleson, Lions; Michael Crabtree, 49ers; Rishard Matthews, Dolphins
John Carlson, Vikings
Kyle Rudolph was sadly underused by the inept Vikings offense this season, but he still ranked among the top-15 fantasy tight ends before injuring his foot. Carlson stepped into Rudolph’s spot and caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in Week 10. Fantasy owners shouldn’t bank on that production on a weekly basis, but Carlson should see 5-7 targets each Sunday while Rudolph is out. That gives Carlson some value in deeper leagues.
Keep an eye on: Kellen Winslow, Jets; Delanie Walker, Titans; Rob Housler, Cardinals; Vance McDonald, 49ers; Levine Toilolo, Falcons