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Deep dive: Fantasy handcuff season hits waiver wires

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Each week, I'm tasked with picking the top waiver-wire targets for fantasy. That article is a more cursory glance at the waiver wire, helping the countless fantasy players in more casual leagues on NFL.com figure out who is worth adding to their roster.

Every game, all season

However, for those of you in more intense or competitive leagues, this is the column for you. As the season progresses, this is where I'll highlight the players you want to be a week early on, as opposed to trying to win them in a waiver-wire bidding war after they've started to produce. Many of these players will hopefully graduate to the main waiver-wire column and already be on your roster. Of course, I can't promise anything. Fantasy is far from a guaranteed game, as we know all too well.

Anyway, let's see what else Week 10 has to offer on the waiver wire. As a reminder, the following teams have byes: Bills, Lions, Colts, Raiders.

Deep waiver targets for Week 10:



Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears - 1.7 percent owned
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals - 1.0 percent
Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys - 6.6 percent
Kenneth Farrow, RB, San Diego Chargers - 0.0 percent owned
Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 2.2 percent
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Minnesota Vikings - 1.9 percent owned
Terron Ward, RB, Atlanta Falcons - 0.2 percent owned
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Denver Broncos - 0.5 percent owned
Dontrelle Inman, WR, San Diego Chargers - 0.6 percent owned
Eli Rogers, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers - 0.6 percent owned
Albert Wilson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs - 0.1 percent owned
Roger Lewis, WR, New York Giants - 0.0 percent owned
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings - 1.4 percent owned
Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers - 15.4 percent owned
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins - 4.2 percent owned

Quarterbacks


Brian Hoyer had been playing Jay Cutler out of the starting job in Chicago, but as we learn every year, life comes at you fast in the NFL. Now, Cutler comes out of the bye into a tasty matchup with the Buccaneers after beating the Vikings in his return as the starter. The Bucs allow a completion percentage of 62 and 8.26 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks on the season, with an 18-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio as well. Cutler might be the top streamer of the week after managing 250-plus yards and a touchdown against Minnesota.

Running backs


As the calendar turns to November, that feeling you're getting isn't the holidays drawing near. No, friends, that feeling is the return of handcuff season. While handcuffing running backs on draft day is an ill-advised strategy, this is the time of year when stashing high-value backups can pay massive dividends down the stretch. Players like Tim Hightower and Spencer Ware were league-winners last season upon assuming big roles down the stretch. That's why those with bench space should look to add either Andre Ellington, Alfred Morris and Kenneth Farrow. These three back up the biggest workhorses in the league (David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Melvin Gordon, respectively) and could have immense fantasy value if the starters ahead of them miss any time.

It's still early, but both Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers missed practice on Monday, potentially setting up Peyton Barber for a big workload in Week 10. The rookie saw 15 touches in Week 9 and led the backfield by playing 46 percent of the snaps (vs. just 29 percent for Antone Smith). He'll have low-end flex value if he's the starter against the Bears. Hyde owners would be wise to hold onto him if possible. Ronnie Hillman played the fewest snaps of the Vikings trio of backs, but amassed the most yardage on his measly seven attempts. This backfield is a fantasy nightmare right now, but Hillman could be added in deeper leagues just in case. If a "hot hand" emerges behind this beleaguered offensive line, he could carry some fantasy value moving forward.

Terron Ward saw less run than expected on Thursday night with Devonta Freeman dealing with a hip injury. He played on just 32 percent of the snaps and took his eight carries for 30 yards. He's a deep flex play as long as Tevin Coleman is out, but his upside is minimal with Freeman playing at a phenomenally high level right now. Kapri Bibbs played just 16 percent of the snaps for the Broncos, but scored on an impressive 69-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. Per Mike Klis (one of the best beat reporters in the game), Bibbs' role is expected to grow immensely moving forward. Booker owners should be in full panic mode, while Bibbs just rocketed up the waiver priority board as a potentially prominent member of Denver's run-first offense.

Wide receivers


On the season, Dontrelle Inman actually leads all Chargers wide receivers in snaps played, with 90 percent. With Travis Benjamin battling a knee injury and playing just 9 percent of the snaps in Week 9, it appears Inman's role could be growing. He's a great player to add this week before a cushy matchup with the Dolphins secondary. Eli Rogers has missed three games in 2016, two with a turf toe injury and one due to disciplinary reasons, but in the five games he's played he's been second in wide receiver snaps four times. With Markus Wheaton a healthy scratch in Week 9 and Sammie Coates continuing to struggle with drops, perhaps Rogers is in line for a bigger role down the stretch.

While many were high on Tyreek Hill this week, when Jeremy Maclin left Sunday's game with an aggravated groin injury it was Fantasy Stronghold favorite Albert Wilson who stepped into a bigger role. Wilson played on more than 20 snaps for the first time since the team's Week 5 bye while seeing a team-high eight targets, which he turned into 42 yards and a touchdown. Wilson will only have fantasy relevance if Maclin misses time, which could happen per head coach Andy Reid. Rookie Roger Lewis caught his second touchdown of the year on Sunday, and could be seeing a lot more playing time with Victor Cruz suffering an ankle injury. The Giants run three-wide receiver sets on almost every offensive play, and if Cruz misses time Lewis will slide into those formations as a starter. He's a decent stash, though the Giants offense still doesn't inspire much confidence.

Cordarrelle Patterson is still a decent boom-or-bust flex play. He should have had a touchdown against the Lions but let it bounce off his hands. He'll face the second or third Washington corner in Week 10.

Tight ends


Ladarius Green is still working his way back to full healthy, but should hopefully return soon. When he does, he could be the missing piece of the Pittsburgh passing attack the team has been searching for all season. Vernon Davis hadn't seen his role diminish too much with the return of Jordan Reed. He'll be a low-end tight end streamer against a Minnesota defense that just made Eric Ebron look like Rob Gronkowski.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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