When you write a fantasy football piece once a week and shamelessly plug it on your own Facebook page and station's Twitter feed every week, you find that suddenly, you become an expert.
I joke about it in my bio at the end of these columns every week, but more and more just because they know you write about it, friends, family, coworkers, and people you don't know will ask for advice. It's the exact kind of ego-stroking that leads to fantasy hubris, which leads to starting players on a hunch, which leads to Montee Ball being in your starting lineup.
Don't have Montee Ball in your starting lineup.
But this week, it also led to an offer to take over a team whose owner had never bothered to set a lineup all year. Because playing in three fantasy leagues wasn't confusing enough, I took on the salvage project.
The experience is a bit like finding out you have a long-lost adopted dog.
You're not entirely sure what to call it. I mean, it already has a name, but a name you have no connection to or don't necessarily know the inside joke behind it. I'm renaming mine Chew Barka and hoping it doesn't get too confused.
You don't know what to expect from it. I was surprised to find the roster wasn't in that bad of shape. Christine Michael needs to go immediately, as does Ryan Broyles (the bad call that wouldn't die), but we also had a couple buy-low-and-hope-they-come-back-strong candidates in Josh Gordon and Le'Veon Bell on the bench. 'It may have eaten my shoe, but it also knows how to fetch beers!'
You can't be disappointed in it. You didn't draft these slackers and you haven't had a chance to replace them yet, just like you didn't raise the terrier now claiming you as an owner an can't be held responsible if it craps on the rug.
And of course, you learn to love it. I intend to take my RGIII-Victor Cruz-Ray Rice core and build a playoff team around it, mostly by taking my own waiver wire advice the rest of the year (Note to the rest of my new league: Please read this column on Thursdays). Yes, you didn't ask for Chew Barka, but it's got character.
It's seen some defeats, but that's going to make the victories that much sweeter.
(For our purposes, we'll be categorizing players each week as should be added, could be added, or if you're desperate. The number of players we take a look at will vary each week depending on injuries and their realistic usefulness in the weeks to come -- no adding players for the sake of meeting a minimum.)
Should be added
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
He likely won the starting job with 78 yards on 14 carries last week against the Jaguars after Daryl Richardson was less than impressive all year. Keep your expectations in check, as he's not going to do too much more than that most weeks, but a starting running back available at this point in the year is always a must-add. As an added bonus, he has a build for goalline work.
Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons
With Julio Jones suddenly and unexpectedly out for the year and Roddy White perpetually banged up, Douglas stands to benefit from a lot more looks from Matt Ryan. Jones had an incredible 60 targets from Ryan in five games and Tony Gonzalez has 46, behind them is Douglas with 27. He's certainly not going to become Julio Jones overnight, but he'll have much more opportunity moving forward and deserves a roster spot, despite the Falcons bye this week.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
While Cards coach Bruce Arians didn't say he sees Ellington as a starter, he said the rookie back was a 30-32 snap player, which is plenty of work to be considered for a Flex spot -- especially in bye weeks. Mendenhall will hang on for now as the Arizona starter, but Ellington is the better pass-catching option and has more burst than Mendenhall. If you're in a PPR league, Ellington is a solid play. If you're not, he's going to be a feast-or-famine option dependent on whether or not he can rip off a big run or pass each week.
Could be added
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
The rookie, a third-round pick by San Diego this year, has increased in targets and production three straight weeks. I wouldn't get too excited quite yet, as Philip River spread the ball around in a big way against Oakland (five players had eight or more targets apiece) and the Raiders have been in the bottom-third of the league this year against the pass (next week they draw the Colts, who are only allowing a tic above 200 passing YPG). However, Allen may continue to grow into his role and in his comfort with Rivers which gives him a higher ceiling than some of the other potential adds this week.
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Presumably, Williams' value is tied to the health of Miles Austin. But Austin's health has never been anywhere close to a sure thing (his hamstrings are apparently made of paper mache), and you'd think the Cowboys would be happy to get Williams more involved in the offense down the stretch considering the return-on-investment they're getting for Austin's fat contract. I wouldn't bank on dependable weekly production the rest of the year, but I could see it happening.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
If Michael Vick had moved into your starting spot, you may be looking for a replacement this week, and his real-world replacement is worthy of consideration. The Philly offense is going to throw it a lot, even if it's dump offs to McCoy. You lose the running threat of Vick, but the Tampa Bay defense isn't a nightmare matchup for QBs (RBs are another story) and the week after he gets the Dallas D (if he remains the starter). If Terrelle Pryor or Ryan Tannehill aren't available in your league, Foles may suffice.
If you're desperate
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Tennessee Titans
Kansas City has been great against the pass this year, with opponents averaging 198 yards per game through the air. On the receiving front in Tennessee, Kendall Wright remains the top get and Nate Washington still has value. The Titans offense wasn't exactly tearing it up before Locker went down, but Fitzpatrick throws a good long ball and targeted each Wright and Washington eight times.
Donnie Avery, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
I remain extremely reluctant to believe he's a better option than added a hurt player who might make a difference down the stretch, unless you have like five bye week players at once. He made the most of his targets again last week against Tennessee, but most weeks he's just a mediocre receiver you won't ever feel great about starting. Unless you have to have a fill-in starter, I'd rather have a good running back's backup on my bench just in case.
Kris Durham, WR, Detroit Lions
I'm officially pulling the plug on my Ryan Broyles experiment, which means you can trust he'll finally have a breakout game next week. But really, Durham got four times as many targets from Stafford last week than Broyles each of the last two weeks and I can't invent any reason to favor Broyles at this point. I wouldn't trust Durham as a fantasy starter until I see more, and ultimately, Stafford may just spread the ball around more to tight ends and running backs in Nate Burleson's absence. But if you want to pick up a Detroit receiving option, Durham has the edge at this point.
Marcel Reece, RB, Oakland Raiders
With Rashad Jennings' injury in the second half against the Chargers, Reece may be the starter-by-default this week in Oakland. The Raiders will face Kansas City, who has been susceptible to the ground game, and Reece is both a goalline threat and a decent pass catcher out of the backfield. However, there's a reason he will only have nine carries on the year heading into Sunday's game. If Jennings or Darren McFadden can go, they'll get the start, but Reece may turn into a decent Flex play if you're desperate for a RB this week.
Bonus: Keep an eye on
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
No, nothing's changed. He's still on IR and won't play until Nov. 18. But if you're looking for a likely starting RB down the stretch and the kind of guy who may make a championship-level difference in the fantasy playoffs (and feel really good about your team in the interim) it may be worth a look to see if he's available.
Josh Davis is a WFAA.com web editor, formerly covered the Texas Rangers for WFAA.com. and is kinda obsessed with fantasy sports. He has no professional expertise in fantasy sports, but finds it funny that anyone claims they do.