Few things in fantasy football are more enjoyable than landing a waiver-wire gem. A savvy and timely transaction can prove to be a free infusion of prolific production and save a fantasy season.
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is likely the top waiver warrior on the offensive side of the ball this season. In a year with some frustrating offensive investments at the position, an acquisition such as Murray can be a major boon. Although we can assume that the waiver wire for offensive additions is picked pretty clean in most leagues this late into the season, of the ball it's more common to find emerging talents available late into the campaign on the defensive side. So if you are struggling to find production or durability at the linebacker position, a player such as Karlos Dansby, who has been lighting up box scores and ball carriers lately, could be quite an addition, as he's available for the click of a plus symbol in nearly 88 percent of ESPN leagues. Check out our bargain bin below for some additional waiver-wire wonders available in most leagues.
Front four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Get Carter: New England's Andre Carter had been quietly enjoying a solid first season with the Patriots before last week's explosion versus the Jets. With a bit more freedom to pursue the pocket the past several weeks, Carter has responded with an elite stretch of sack production, posting eight QB takedowns in his past four outings. With an inviting upcoming schedule that features a series of struggling quarterbacks on the docket, numbers reminiscent of his best days with the Redskins and 49ers could be on the way. Carter is available in more than 70 percent of ESPN leagues and makes for an ideal pickup at a lean and often fickle position.
Bay Area boom: Patrick Willis has been a coveted fantasy commodity since his first pro snap, and now he has some strong complementary talents on the stout San Francisco defense. Linebacker peer NaVorro Bowman comes from LB factory Penn State and is second in the NFL in tackles this season. Available in nearly half of ESPN leagues, Bowman makes for an ideal stretch-run addition. Across the bridge, we can find Oakland's Kamerion Wimbley, who, much like New England's Carter, exploded onto the fantasy scene recently with some potent pass-rushing work. Wimbley's available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues, so consider acquiring him in leagues that significantly reward sack production, especially for this weekend as he faces a Minnesota offense that has surrendered 25 sacks already this season.
Enjoying eligibility: Washington's Ryan Kerrigan lined up as an end at Purdue but projected best into the next level as a 3-4 outside 'backer. He has capably made the transition to the NFL and, in his role as an OLB for the Skins, is garnering growing buzz as the defensive rook of the year. You'll find that Kerrigan has defensive end eligibility in ESPN leagues, and you'd be wise to take advantage of this reality in the more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues in which he is available for free. Mathias Kiwanuka of the New York Giants rotated on the line at times last season, although he's been manning an outside 'backer role this year. Enjoy his defensive end eligibility this week against a struggling Philly front.
Bargain bin: Each week, we'll profile players owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN leagues, often seeking out those dramatically below this ownership threshold. Detroit's Cliff Avril has emerged as a star this season for the Lions, even if most fantasy owners and NFL fans haven't taken notice. He's leading the team in sacks and has forced three fumbles in his past three outings. Somehow, someway, Brian Cushing is eligible to make this list, which just shouldn't be the case after he gets past the bye and continues to lead the strong Houston front seven. Carlos Rogers has enjoyed a revival, or even an arrival, in San Francisco after disappointing as a first-round investment for the Redskins. Arizona's Daryl Washington is widely available and assuredly productive.
Week 11 rankings: Top 20 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle -- solo (0.5), Tackle -- assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3). Remember to check the latest injury news before setting your lineups.
Top 20 Linebackers
Top 20 Defensive Linemen
Top 20 Defensive Backs
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and the high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMacPhillies on Twitter.