- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It’s tough to remember now, but once upon a time, current New Orleans Saints backup tight end Benjamin Watson was a real-life first-round pick by the New England Patriots. He generally underachieved statistically with Tom Brady up until the great 2010 draft that produced both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for the Pats, with Watson moving on. He was actually pretty decent for the 2010 Cleveland Browns, catching 68 passes for 763 yards and three touchdowns. And this Sunday afternoon, Watson has a legitimate chance to matter for forlorn owners dealing with bye-week issues, as stud starter Jimmy Graham might not be able to play through a foot injury. We know Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener and Martellus Bennett aren’t suiting up, since they’re on bye.
Watson caught three passes for 61 yards against the Patriots in Week 6, the game in which Graham was hurt, and while I originally believed the Week 7 bye week would surely heal Graham’s wounds, word from those that cover the Saints regularly certainly seems to indicate that he’s anything but healed. Watson is appealing as a sneaky pickup for this weekend because, let’s face it, Drew Brees is the quarterback, and while the Saints have cruised to a 5-1 record, they’re a mere 15th in total yards. It’s not like Brees would simply or easily look elsewhere for targets. In fact, Brees has targeted wide receivers on a league-low 36 percent of his passes. Watson isn’t Graham, by any means, but he’s capable.
Ask fantasy owners about individual Saints after Brees and Graham, and they’ll have stories for you. Darren Sproles has put up only one good game for standard league owners, though he’s still a PPR asset. Marques Colston doesn’t have any big games, and he’s scored one fantasy point in each of his past two games. The running game, with Pierre Thomas coming off a season-high 51 rushing yards against the Patriots, hasn’t impressed. The Saints host the Buffalo Bills, a team that has actually done quality work against opposing tight ends, but looking closer at who the Bills have played you won’t see many top tight ends. Plus, let’s not be naïve: Graham could miss more than one game. Watson is experienced and in a good situation if opportunity presents itself.
Tight end: Normally we focus on the big three fantasy positions as sneaky pickups, but let’s continue with tight ends this week! Andrew Quarless of the Green Bay Packers is now starting, with Jermichael Finley dealing with more important issues, and as with Watson, Quarless is interesting because of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense. ... Arizona’s Rob Housler ranks outside the top 40 tight ends in standard scoring, but he’s got skills. Not a bad idea to add him before he starts scoring. ... It’s long past the time to drop St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook, since he’s done little since Week 1. His tight end teammate Lance Kendricks, owned in 0.2 percent of leagues, scored touchdowns in Weeks 4, 5 and 6.
Quarterback: Brett Favre, anyone? Of course not. But it is possible the Rams’ leading passer this season is actually not on the current roster. Just keep an eye on who gets brought in for tryouts, as the current crew on hand isn't all that impressive. Tim Tebow time? ... Carson Palmer isn’t losing his job this week -- perhaps not any week -- but the Arizona Cardinals could give Drew Stanton a chance if the losing continues. ... I don’t think Peyton Manning is hurt badly. But if you disagree, add Brock Osweiler. Same weapons, ya know.
Running back: Everyone seems to be talking about the Carolina Panthers' Jonathan Stewart, but Kenjon Barner seems to be the bigger threat to DeAngelo Williams in the long term. ... We’ve talked more about the New York Giants running backs than seems warranted, but I reiterate here that there are several options worth stashing. Watch the Giants get back in the NFC East race, too. ... So much for intriguing rookie Cierre Wood mattering for the Houston Texans; the rookie behaved badly off the field and got cut. Deji Karim could return, and of course neither Arian Foster nor Ben Tate is 100 percent healthy. ... We all seem to agree that Daniel Thomas isn’t special, but if Lamar Miller doesn’t get going, perhaps rookie Mike Gillislee gets a shot. ... If Shane Vereen could play this week, I think he’d start. Available in your league? ... The C.J. Spiller saga in Buffalo isn’t getting better, and Tashard Choice could be in line for more run soon.
Wide receiver: I saw the Saints’ Lance Moore sitting on free agency in one of my leagues. That’s nice value, since he was surely worth drafting. ... The Indianapolis Colts are on bye. It’s really the last chance to add Darrius Heyward-Bey before others figure out that he’s replacing Reggie Wayne. ... Marvin Jones isn’t assured of playing this week (shoulder), but he’s the No. 2 wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, he’s in the top 40 of WR fantasy scoring and he’s available in 99 percent of standard leagues, for what that’s worth. ... Others owned in less than 1 percent of leagues I see mattering this season include Kris Durham of the Detroit Lions, Mario Manningham of the San Francisco 49ers, Kenny Stills of the Saints and LaVon Brazill of the Colts.
Best of luck the rest of Week 8 and beyond!
It’s tough to remember now, but once upon a time, current New Orleans Saints backup tight end Benjamin Watson was a real-life first-round pick by the New England Patriots.