However, for those of you degenerates ... err I mean "die-hards," in more intense 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 get in on the waiver-wire bidding war post-breakout. Many of these players will hopefully graduate to the main waiver wire column, and if you're smart they'll already be on your roster. Of course, I can't promise anything. Fantasy is far from a guaranteed game, as we all know all too well, and we're reaching the point in the season where there aren't many stones left unturned. But who knows, maybe we'll find a few gems in the process.
The crop of legitimate waiver wire adds is getting seriously thin now, especially with six teams on their bye next week. Nevertheless, there are several names worth consideration below. On to the "Deep Dive" waiver wire targets for Week 9.
Ridley was finally active for the Jets on Sunday, but didn't see field against the Raiders. It's now been over 12 months since Ridley tore his ACL, and reports out of Florham Park are that he's running and cutting at full speed. He remains behind Chris Ivory for touches, but Ivory has never been the picture of health and struggled a bit in his last two games, totaling just 58 yards on 32 totes (1.8 ypc). Ridley has a tough path to fantasy relevance ahead of him, but he's a talented rusher who fits the mold of the Jets offensive philosophy, making him worth a stash in deeper leagues.
Even though his production slowed a bit recently, Riddick is still the RB16 in PPR formats thanks to his league-leading 42 receptions by a running back. Owners in standard leagues will want to look elsewhere for help, though, as he hasn't found the end zone since Week 5 and his yardage totals aren't enough to merit starting consideration without the added benefit of the PPR. In those formats, he's posted double digit fantasy points in five of his eight games. He heads into his bye next week, which gives PPR owners the perfect opportunity to stash him for cheap on waivers this week.
While I made Alfred Blue one of the top pickups last week, that wasn't based on his talent or football pedigree. He figured to be the primary recipient of touches in Houston with Arian Foster out, and that held true on Sunday when he saw 19 total touches. However, he wasn't exactly dynamic or efficient with all of those looks, notching just 72 total yards. This could open the door for a more explosive player like Polk to get worked in more heavily in the backfield rotation. Polk received the second-most touches among Houston backs, with eight rushes and two targets in the passing game (one catch, 4 yards). He's a stash candidate for now until the Houston offense finds a way to fill in the massive void left by Foster's absence.
If you know what's going to happen in the 49ers backfield now that Reggie Bush has torn his ACL, Carlos Hyde has a stress fracture in his foot, Mike Davis fractured his hand and Jarryd Hayne was cut, please let me know. Right now, it seems like the team will attempt to roll with Kendall Gaskins, an undrafted free agent from the 2013 draft class who bounced around the league before landing on the 49ers practice squad last year. On Sunday against a tough Rams front seven, he combined with with Davis for 10 yards on 15 carries. Yuck. Still, the 49ers sit at 2-6 and we don't yet know how much more work they'll put on Hyde (one of their most talented players) in a season where they're already all but out of contention for the post season. Gaskins could offer low-end usability based on potential volume alone, but don't expect him to be a season-saving pickup in fantasy. The team could re-sign Hayne, too, but if either back emerges as a true starter, they'll still be a matchup-based play at best.
Woods saw 13 targets come his way against the Jaguars in Week 7 before his bye, one shy of his career high (14 versus Cleveland in 2013). He caught nine of them for 84 yards and one touchdown as the Bills fell to the Jaguars. Woods hasn't been on the fantasy radar this year, as the Bills passing attack has vacillated between big games for various players - one week it's Percy Harvin, the next it's Sammy Watkins, then Chris Hogan (and so on). However, with Watkins and Harvin both battling injuries, Woods could emerge as the Bills' top passing option next week against the Dolphins. There's so much uncertainty heading into Week 9, though, as Tyrod Taylor should return under center for the Bills. He and Woods haven't created a ton of fantasy scoring so far this year. In the five games they've played together, Woods managed just 13 catches, 164 yards (12.6 ypc) and one touchdown. The one caveat is that was during the stretch where Harvin and Watkins were alternating big games. Woods is definitely worth adding though, as Taylor should improve the overall output of the offense. Woods could be a big beneficiary with so many other Bills playmakers battling injuries.
Heading into his bye last week, Crowder averaged six catches per game over his last five, giving him a relatively safe PPR floor. However, he only averaged 57 yards per game during that span as well/ Additionally, he has yet to score a touchdown, giving him a pretty low weekly ceiling. DeSean Jackson's impending return puts a damper on Crowder's potential, but the rookie got plenty of looks lately (eight targets per game over his last five), and could continue to do so if he's truly earned the trust of Kirk Cousins. Crowder is worth an add in deeper PPR leagues.
Former Deep Dive graduate Leonard Hankerson has struggled to stay healthy this year, which paved the way for rookie Justin Hardy to see his first NFL action on Sunday. The result wasn't anything to write home about (two catches for 21 yards on four targets), but it was nice to see Hardy out there getting some work. He made some plays in the preseason and could find a niche role in this offense that desperately needs another threat to emerge opposite Julio Jones. Hardy needs time to earn more of Matt Ryan's trust, and pick up some of the nuances of the game. For now he's a great stash candidate in case he becomes the spark the Atlanta offense needs and Hankerson remains on the trainer's table.
Harris was emerging as the Giants' No. 2 wideout until a leg injury slowed down his progress. That's why it was great to see him get in on the scoring bonanza on Sunday, hauling in three of his seven targets for 37 yards and two scores. Harris gets a decent matchup with the Buccaneers next week. Heading into Week 8, Tampa Bay allowed over 13 yards per reception to slot receivers. Harris is an intriguing add this week, and could be a nice spot start with so many teams on their bye.
Miller had all but vanished from the Pittsburgh offense in recent weeks, but burst back onto the scene once Ben Roethlisberger returned under center in Week 8. Miller finished with 10 catches and 105 yards. Now, I'm not suggesting you totally chase the points with Miller, as he's still, at best, third fiddle in this offense behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, but he does have one factor working in his favor next week: the Steelers play the Raiders. While it wasn't Jeff Cumberland last week, a tight end did still score against the Raiders (Kellen Davis), helping to keep the trend of tight ends owning the Raiders alive. All told, aside from Owen Daniels' goose egg in Week 5, the worst tight end finish against the Raiders was TE13 -- Kellen Davis. No other tight end to face them (excluding Daniels) has finished worse than the TE4 in their given week, which makes Miller an excellent streaming or spot start for Week 9.
Gillmore heads into his bye week, but could be in line for more work during the rest of the season with Steve Smith out for the year with a torn Achilles tendon. Gillmore found the end zone last week for the first time since Week 2, but only managed two catches and eight yards on his four targets. He's clearly earned the trust of Joe Flacco, and could become a bigger part of the offense given his size and speed. Stash him if you can this week and hope his production increases enough where he becomes an every-week starter down the stretch.