Fabiano: Waivers can win championships

The regular season is almost upon us, as the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts do battle in what should be a tremendous Thursday night opener. Most fantasy football drafts are now completed, but owners must remember that the work doesn't end there. In fact, there's much more remaining in order to take home that coveted league title. The most important task is to follow trends and watch the waiver wire.

In fact, the immense importance of waivers cannot be stressed enough in fantasy football.

2007 NFL.com fantasy football content schedule

  • Monday: Monday morning quarterback, Rotowire's risers & fallers
  • Tuesday: Fabiano's experts column, Rotowire's value meter and depth chart tracker
  • Wednesday: Fantasy mailbag, NFL injury report analysis, Rotowire's IDP focus
  • Thursday: Lineup rankings, Start 'Em & Sit 'Em, Rotowire's fantasy matchups
  • Friday: NFL injury report analysis, Rotowire's game capsules
  • Saturday: Gil Brandt's fantasy matchups
  • Sunday: AM & PM inactives, Day-long fantasy blog, Sunday's best and worst performances

The names of the top players (based on fantasy points) changes from season to season, but one thing remains the same: There are players who start Week 1 on waivers but turn into valuable assets. Furthermore, that trend has increased in recent seasons. To prove the importance of waivers, we've taken a look back at the top fantasy performers of this decade and the waiver-wire studs that accompanied them.

2000

Daunte Culpepper, then of the Minnesota Vikings, threw for 3,937 yards, rushed for 470 yards and had 40 total touchdowns to tie San Francisco's Jeff Garcia for the most fantasy points with 382. The most productive running back was St. Louis stud Marshall Faulk, who totaled 368 points, while the duo of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss tied for the most points at the wide receiver position with 220.

Believe it or not, former Tampa Bay quarterback Shaun King was a solid waiver addition in 2000, as he threw for 2,769 yards, rushed for another 353 yards and scored 23 total touchdowns. He tied Brett Favre for points and even surpassed the likes of Kurt Warner and Drew Bledsoe. Mike Anderson, an unknown out of Utah, rushed for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie in Denver and became an absolute steal for owners. The same can be said of Lamar Smith, who rushed for a career-best 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns in Miami.

Fantasy owners who were diligent on waivers in 2000 could have also landed Kyle Brady and Dwayne Carswell. Brady, who recorded career bests in receptions (64) and yards (729), finished second among tight ends with 84 points. Carswell finished fourth behind Tony Gonzalez, Brady and Chad Lewis with 82.

2001

Kurt Warner led all players with 352 fantasy points on 4,830 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2001. Garcia finished second with 344 points due in large part to his solid 37 total touchdowns. The top runner was again Faulk, who posted 2,000-plus all-purpose yards and 21 total touchdowns for the Greatest Show on Turf. The top wideout was Marvin Harrison, who finished with a total of 235 points.

There were some solid waiver-wire adds in 2001, a list that includes Jay Fiedler, Antowain Smith and Stacey Mack. Fiedler finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at the quarterback position with 258 points -- he threw for close to 3,300 yards and posted 24 total touchdowns. Smith, who did little in his final season in Buffalo (2000), went to New England and rushed for career bests in yards (1,157) and touchdowns (12).

Mack came into prominence when Fred Taylor was injured and finished with over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns. Another waiver-wire jewel was Marty Booker, who broke out in his third NFL season with 1,071 yards, eight touchdowns and 148 points. Desmond Clark, who was a nice fantasy free agent last season, was also a nice addition in 2001 with 51 receptions, 566 yards and six touchdowns.

2002

Kansas City's Priest Holmes dominated fantasy football in 2002 with an incredible 366 points. Ricky Williams finished second with a career-best 1,853 yards, 17 total touchdowns and 300 points. Tied for third were Trent Green and Daunte Culpepper, who posted 298 points apiece. Marvin Harrison was again the No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy football with 228 points on 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The most significant waiver-wire find in most leagues in 2002 was Clinton Portis. A rookie at the time, Portis took over the featured role in the Denver backfield after a serious knee ailment kept Terrell Davis off the field. Portis compiled more than 1,900 all-purpose yards and 17 total touchdowns and helped countless owners win a fantasy championship. Former XFL standout Tommy Maddox also become a valuable quarterback with 2,836 yards and 20 touchdowns, and Moe Williams came out of nowhere to score 11 rushing touchdowns.

Wide receiver Jerry Porter didn't record monster yardage totals -- he finished with 688 yards on the season -- but his nine touchdowns made him fantasy relevant and a nice waiver addition. Owners were also able to find a No. 1 fantasy tight end in Billy Miller, who recorded 51 receptions for 613 yards and three touchdowns.

2003

This season saw the first monster numbers from LaDainian Tomlinson, who tied Holmes for the lead in fantasy points with 352. L.T. recorded a career-best 100 receptions and totaled more than 2,300 all-purpose yards. Ahman Green also had a huge season with 318 points, while Peyton Manning (314 points) and Culpepper (302 point) led all quarterbacks. Moss, whose status as an elite fantasy wideout has faded in recent seasons, led his position with 1,632 yards, 17 scores and 260 points.

The top free-agent gems from 2003 were Anquan Boldin and Domanick Davis. Boldin, a second-round pick out of Florida State, came out of nowhere to produce 101 receptions, 1,377 yards and eight scores as a rookie. Davis, who has since changed his last name to Williams, emerged as the featured back in Houston and recorded close to 1,400 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. T.J. Duckett also became a valuable asset with his 779 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in what was his second season in Atlanta.

Another nice waiver-wire player was New Orleans tight end Boo Williams, who finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position after a season with 41 receptions, 436 yards and five touchdowns. Of course Williams never came close to those numbers again in his career, but he was helpful for one season.

2004

Manning ran away with the fantasy crown in 2004, as he threw for 4,557 yards and an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes to finish with 448 fantasy points. Culpepper finished second overall with 430 points, but this would be the last season he made such a tremendous statistical impact. The top runner was Shaun Alexander, who totaled 20 total touchdowns and 290 points. Mushin Muhammad was the surprise No. 1 wideout , and it wasn't even close. The veteran recorded 1,405 yards, 16 touchdowns and 222 points -- 26 more than the second receiver, Joe Horn, who had 11 scores and 196 points.

There were quite a few waiver-wire finds this season, a list that includes players such as Derrick Blaylock, Nick Goings, Drew Bennett, Michael Clayton, Brandon Stokley and Eric Johnson. Blaylock took over in Kansas City and rushed for eight touchdowns after injuries decimated the backfield, while Goings became the featured back in Carolina and totaled more than 1,100 all-purpose yards and had seven total touchdowns.

Bennett, a former collegiate quarterback, had a career season with 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns. Then a rookie, Clayton produced huge numbers (80 receptions, 1,193 yards, eight touchdowns), but, of course, his numbers have taken an enormous turn for the worse in recent seasons. It was also a monster season for Stokley, who thrived in the slot for the Colts and compiled 1,077 yards, 10 scores and 154 points.

2005

Alexander was a fantasy monster in 2005, rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring what was an NFL record 28 touchdowns. His totals were good for 342 fantasy points. Carson Palmer was second with 3,836 yards, 32 touchdowns and 316 points. Tomlinson (312 points), Larry Johnson (310 points) and Tiki Barber (290 points) rounded out the top five. The top wide receiver, who also happens to be the current No. 1 on NFL.com's rank list, was Steve Smith. He was an unstoppable force for the Panthers -- he had 103 receptions, 1,563 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Those totals were good for an impressive 220 points.

One of the better waiver-wire sleepers of all time was Samkon Gado, who went from the Kansas City practice squad to the featured back in Green Bay. The relative unknown had a five-week stretch between November and December where he outscored Tomlinson. When the Steelers sustained injuries to their backfield duo of Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley, the undrafted Willie Parker came out of nowhere to produce 1,202 yards and five total touchdowns. Now he's a surefire first-round selection across the board.

Diligent owners were also able to land Mark Brunell, who went ballistic for a five-week stretch between September and October and become a solid fantasy starter in all formats. Joe Jurevicius, who scored a career-best 10 touchdowns, was also a nice find off waivers. Another gem was Neil Rackers, who went from afterthought to fantasy stud with 40 field goals, 20 extra points and an impressive 155 fantasy points.

2006

Who can forget Tomlinson's record performance in 2006? He had the best season in fantasy football history with over 2,300 all-purpose yards and an NFL-record 31 total touchdowns. He recorded 33 total scores for owners who also received points for his two touchdown passes. Manning was a distant second with 358 points -- 62 fewer than L.T. -- while Larry Johnson (318 points), Steven Jackson (316 points) and breakout stud quarterback Drew Brees (302 points) rounded out the top five.

Aside from Brees, who was available on waivers in some leagues, the top waiver-wire star was Maurice Jones-Drew. While he stands at a generous 5-foot-7, Jones-Drew played huge with close to 1,400 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns. Fellow rookies Vince Young and Marques Colston were also great fantasy free agents, as was Ladell Betts. The Iowa product rushed for 100-plus yards in five consecutive weeks, including a 155-yard performance against Atlanta and a 171-yard performance against Philadelphia.

Tony Romo is also a major part of a long list of waiver-wire gems from last season. He replaced an ineffective Bledsoe and posted monster numbers in what became a prolific Cowboys offense. Rex Grossman was inconsistent, but when he was hot he helped owners burn the opposition. Mike Furrey, Jerricho Cotchery and Desmond Clark are a few of the other free agents who made some noise in 2006.

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