Standard ESPN League Finds
Toby Gerhart, RB, Minnesota Vikings (owned in 1.0 percent of ESPN leagues): Adrian Peterson sprained his right foot Sunday; if you've seen the replay, you saw AP in all kinds of pain, and you saw him carted off the sideline. At this point, it's unclear whether Peterson will be ready for Week 15 versus the Philadelphia Eagles, though he did receive good news that his injury isn't of the Lisfranc variety, so we'll see. If Peterson is out, will Gerhart be able to go? The Vikings reported that Gerhart suffered a hamstring injury late Sunday, presumably on his improbable 41-yard TD since it was his final tote of the day, and I went back and looked at the tape and indeed on their final possession, Matt Asiata (0.1 percent) and Rhett Ellison (0.1 percent) were in the backfield. I have to assume Gerhart would've been in there if he could've been. But Sunday is a long time away, and Gerhart is a natural add if you're a Peterson owner. Asiata is a special teams player with three career regular-season carries and Ellison is a tight end. Remember, two seasons ago Gerhart started five games in place of an injured AP, and in three of them ran for 90-plus yards.
Jordan Todman, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (1.1 percent): When last we saw Maurice Jones-Drew, he was leading his Jags to a Thursday night win with 123 total yards, but on his final carry he came up clutching his right hamstring and didn't return. While MJD has promised to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, the Jags are hedging their bets, signing Delone Carter (0.1 percent) and putting Justin Forsett on IR. That leaves Todman as the presumptive starter if MJD doesn't go against the Buffalo Bills. He was strong in the preseason, though he also had leave last Thursday's game because of a cramp, but not before catching a 21-yard TD. Denard Robinson (0.5 percent) also could be involved if MJD needs replacing, though his forays into RB-hood haven't looked all that promising yet. None of these options are scintillating, but here at the beginning of the week, if I had to pick one guy as an emergency flex I think it'd be Todman.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins (5.2 percent): Just a few days ago, we were all speculating about Lamar Miller finally getting his chance to be a full-time back. Then Sunday came, and Thomas was pronounced "active." What the what? Apparently his ankle sprain wasn't as bad as reported, and then Miller took a huge hit from Ryan Clark and was concussed. And so suddenly, it was Thomas who was the feature back, and this disappointing former second-round pick was legitimately good the rest of the way. Six of his next 10 runs went for 6 yards or more (and that doesn't include a 4-yard TD), including a 55-yard scamper that changed the complexion of the game. Thomas' 105 total rushing yards were his most since going for 107 in his NFL debut in 2011, and while he's nobody's idea of a breakaway back and has suffered through his own concussions and the sort of on-field vision problems that seemed insurmountable, he is 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds. Plus if Miller is out Sunday -- which is not a sure thing by any means, as the Dolphins are reportedly encouraged by Miller's early tests -- Thomas would get to face a soft New England Patriots run defense.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens (1.4 percent): Pitta caught a 1-yard TD in his return from injured reserve Sunday, but more significantly he was able to play 36 out of 85 total snaps for the Ravens Sunday. While Ed Dickson (0.7 percent) was busy dropping a pass and looking relatively lost, Pitta picked up where he left off with Joe Flacco, and the hope is that he showed enough to warrant even more work Monday night versus the Detroit Lions. If you lost Rob Gronkowski after Sunday's horrible knee injury, Pitta would be my pick as a replacement, if only because among the middle class of frustrating TEs, he's coming off a 2012 season in which he established himself as a low-level every-week fantasy starter.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Denver Broncos (1.1 percent): Wes Welker almost certainly isn't going to play Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers after suffering his second concussion in the past four games Sunday, meaning Tamme will line up in the slot a bunch for Peyton Manning. That's never a bad formula. In fact, if you're a Gronk owner who has a gut feeling that Tamme will find himself a passel of targets against the Chargers, I can't argue the point. He had six targets versus the Tennessee Titans Sunday (one was erased by a defensive penalty), all of which came after Welker's injury. It's always a bit scary to plug a guy like Tamme -- who has 13 catches for 124 yards all season -- into your fantasy lineup in the playoffs, but this does seem like a formula where Tamme should get some usage.
New Orleans Saints defense (43.7 percent): Last week's selection of the Raiders D/ST ended my streak of good streaming picks. Sorry about that. If it's any consolation, I took my own advice, and yuck. Anyway, if you're still alive and looking for another streamer, this week doesn't have as many on-paper good-looking options. I'll choose the Saints as my top selection, because Kellen Clemens was bad Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. (By the way, just check and make sure that the Cards D/ST is owned in your league; somehow, they're available in 44.3 percent of ESPN leagues.) If you need a lighter-owned defense, I'll take the Buffalo Bills (24.5 percent); I don't view the Jaguars as an elite matchup for opposing D/STs any longer, but they haven't put a major licking on too many defenses lately, either.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Josh McCown, QB, Bears (19.0 percent); Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots (36.8 percent); Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (25.9 percent); Rod Streater, WR, Raiders (6.8 percent); Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (19.8 percent); Garrett Graham, TE, Texans (33.4 percent); John Carlson, TE, Vikings (0.9 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (16.4 percent).
Deeper League Finds
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings (5.0 percent): If you think Josh Gordon is nasty after the catch, get a load of Patterson. A 4.42 runner at 6-2 and 216 pounds, this kid is a handful in the open field and showed it again Sunday with a 79-yard catch-and-run with less than a minute to play, which should've clinched the game for the Vikes. Patterson this year is where Gordon was last year: He's brimming with ability but doesn't have many of the game's finer points down, which explains why over the past month he's played between 40 and 50 offensive snaps per game (which is about a two-thirds workload). We can only hope Patterson becomes the hands catcher Gordon has evolved into, plus Patterson has the challenge of other wideouts such as Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson stealing looks, whereas often it feels as though Gordon is the only game in town. In a standard league, you should probably use Patterson only as a high-upside, scary-downside option if you're an underdog in your playoffs. But he's a comer.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins (14.1 percent): I've been reluctant to add Tannehill to these lists all year because while he has been solid, he hasn't proved he's got the upside to really help you. In his first 11 games of 2013, he scored between 9 and 16 fantasy points, averaging 13.4 per game. Considering the league-average fantasy QB nets you 15.5 fantasy points, blurg. But over his past two games, Tannehill has notched 21 and 23, throwing five TD passes in the process. He still is frustratingly inaccurate on the deep ball, but it was pretty cool to see him keep it on a true zone-read Sunday versus the Steelers and run for 48 yards. The Pats aren't a bad matchup for him in Week 15, though again, I'd really only consider him in deeper leagues.
Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts (0.1 percent): Rogers and LaVon Brazill (0.1 percent) scored two TDs apiece as the Colts flailed around trying to come back on the Cincinnati Bengals, a nice fact that we shouldn't allow to distract us. More important, Darrius Heyward-Bey was marginalized in the Indy game plan, which is justice plain and simple. DHB caught two passes for 23 yards Sunday, but yet again dropped a fairly easy ball on a third down in the first quarter as his team trailed only 7-0. Rogers was a part of the game plan immediately, as Andrew Luck fired a deep shot his way on the Colts' first possession, and in the end he wound up with six grabs for 107 yards. Realize this about Rogers: Nobody has ever doubted his physical talent. He's 6-3 and 206 pounds, and runs a 4.52 40, was teammates with Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter at the University of Tennessee, and posted a 1,000-yard receiving season in 2011. But he was kicked out of school because of multiple alleged substance-abuse violations, and he didn't show well in Bills training camp as an undrafted rookie this summer. The worry is that behavioral problems will continue to stunt this kid's growth. But if he puts it all together, he could be a stud.
Marcel Reece, RB, Oakland Raiders (2.8 percent): One of these days, wouldn't you think the Raiders would look at their mishmash of annoying runners and decide to give Reece an actual real-life shot to be their featured halfback? Once again Sunday, they started the game with Reece playing fullback, and a combination of Taiwan Jones (remember him?) and Jamize Olawale at halfback. It wasn't until late in the first quarter, already down 10-0, that Reece and Olawale flip-flopped, and Reece turned into the halfback. And Reece did his thing: 21 touches for 161 yards against a rugged New York Jets run defense, including a 63-yard TD run in the third quarter. What's interesting about that scamper is by the time he got up to top speed, the 240-pound Reece was faster than anyone in the Jets secondary. His problem is that it takes him lots of time to get to top speed. Anyway, Rashad Jennings has reportedly been cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol, so it sounds as if he'll go Week 15 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. But if Reece ever does get a start at tailback, I'd be interested.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (16.9 percent): Eddie Lacy has been so good. Either he or Keenan Allen is probably the Fantasy Rookie of the Year. But Lacy missed time Sunday with a sprained ankle, and admitted after the game that he didn't feel like himself in the second half. Considering he was able to return to the game, I'm guessing Lacy goes next week against the Dallas Cowboys. But if he doesn't, Starks would find himself in an enviable position, running against a poor defense with little competition for carries. Remember, Johnathan Franklin is on IR.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Titans (4.7 percent); Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals (13.1 percent); LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots (6.8 percent); Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns (14.4 percent); Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers (19.0 percent); Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (36.4 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (5.6 percent); Justin Hunter, WR, Titans (0.6 percent); Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (14.1 percent); Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers (3.9 percent); Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks (17.9 percent); Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers (19.5 percent); Kenny Stills, WR, Saints (20.1 percent); Ace Sanders, WR, Jaguars (0.5 percent); Timothy Wright, TE, Buccaneers (1.9 percent); Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers (3.7 percent).