We offer a quick look back on the 2012 season by presenting a team of players that were not selected on draft day but enjoyed a high level of fantasy success. The list includes players that emerged at various points during the season and performed at a high enough level to be fantasy starters. Some of the most proficient players on this list emerged after the midway point of the season, proof that checking the waiver wire is crucial during the entire fantasy campaign.
This will be the final installment of this year's "Waiver Wire" series, it has been my pleasure to put pen to paper, or more appropriately, finger to keyboard. Thank you for reading all season!
Russell Wilson, Seattle
While fellow rookies Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck got most of the headlines, Wilson has performed at a level just under those two players all season. His elevation to being the starter for the Seahawks was not solidified until just before the opening game of the regular season, which kept most fantasy owners away on draft day. His battle with Matt Flynn went down to the wire. Though he did outplay Flynn, it was Flynn's injury late in the preseason that created a chance for Wilson to get onto the field. After a slow start, Wilson's success got on solid ground during a Week 8 matchup against the Detroit Lions where he threw for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That game kicked off a stretch where he averaged more than 200 yards and two touchdowns per game. Those that were lucky enough to start him in Week 15 also enjoyed three touchdown scores on the ground. Through 16 weeks, Wilson is one of the Top 15 fantasy quarterbacks and will surely be heard from again as a solid fantasy player in 2014.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco
After getting some scattered spot duty in relief of an injured Alex Smith, coach Jim Harbaugh made a bold move midseason, elevating Kaepernick to starter over a healthy Smith. This was quite a statement, given that Kaepernick struggled in the preseason to nail down the position of QB2 on the 49ers depth chart. Kaepernick got the start against the Chicago Bears on Monday night in Week 11 and he did not disappoint, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. His running ability was an added bonus; on weeks when he was not passing for 200-plus yards he was running for 50-plus yards and scoring on the ground. His best game was at New England during Week 15 where he threw for four touchdowns. San Francisco is already talking about moving Smith, so it looks like Kaepernick has earned himself a starting job in the NFL, where his running ability is a dangerous weapon enjoyed by all fantasy owners.
Alfred Morris, Washington
What a season for the rookie selected in the sixth round, one of the biggest rookie surprises in 2012. He is on the verge of breaking the Redskins' single-season rushing record if he can rush for 104 yards in the season finale, and is the No. 8 fantasy scorer at the running back position. Morris was battling Roy Helu and Evan Royster in the preseason, and all fantasy owners know that coach Mike Shanahan will ride a running back one week, then drop him for a different player the following week. Shanahan put him in there in Week 1, and Morris did not disappoint, rushing 28 times for 98 yards and two scores. The yardage continued to pile up all season, as he was the workhorse for Washington, staying healthy and productive for the entire season, winning over Shanahan as well as winning games for many fantasy owners that were able to grab him early in the season.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver
When Willis McGahee left the Broncos' Week 11 game with a knee injury, there were a trio of backs that were vying for his carries. Despite being a healthy scratch most of the season, Moreno got the nod over Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and was he ever solid, totaling 111 yards in total offense. That was enough to get him another start against Tampa Bay, and he didn't disappoint, putting up more than 80 yards in total offense. His numbers got even better from there, 100-plus yards on the ground plus a touchdown in each of Weeks 14 and 15, the crucial fantasy playoffs. Those that were able to pluck him off the waiver wire late in the season were able to start him with confidence.
Felix Jones, Dallas
When DeMarco Murray went down in Week 6, this opened the door for Jones to get onto the field and excel. Although Jones never ran for more than 100 yards in a game, he enjoyed a seven-game stretch that saw him average just better than 70 yards in total offense while scoring five times. The return of Murray buried Jones late in the season, but, as a midseason waiver wire wonder, Jones did well for the fantasy owners that were able to grab him and use him in the middle of the season.
Bryce Brown, Philadelphia
If ever there was a performance that provided a playoff push, it was Brown's two-game stretch in Weeks 12 and 13. Filling in for an injured LeSean McCoy, Brown lit up the Carolina Panthers for 178 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. As if that wasn't enough, the following week against the Dallas Cowboys he ran for 169 yards and another two scores. He was the third-highest fantasy scorer in Week 12, and the top scorer in Week 13, incredible numbers for someone plucked off the waiver wire. Alas, that was all for Brown, not quite a one-hit wonder, but a two-hit wonder. Tampa Bay and Cincinnati were able to slow him down the following weeks, and the return of McCoy pushed Brown back to the bench and made us wonder if Weeks 12 and 13 ever happened. Those that had the unfortunate pleasure of playing against Brown in those two weeks know that his prolific scoring in those two weeks indeed did happen.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay
The Packers entered the season with so many options that Cobb was as low as No. 5 on the fantasy radar. With the likes of Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and even Donald Driver ahead on Aaron Rodgers' list, there was little expectation on draft day that Cobb would have a fantasy impact. An opening day splash where he caught nine passes for 77 yards got his name out there, and when Jennings struggled with his health, Cobb was the player that stepped up in the Green Bay offense. Beginning in Week 4, he put together a seven-game stretch where he averaged six catches, 70 yards and a touchdown per game. During the key fantasy playoff Weeks of 14 and 15, he had back-to-back 100-yard efforts with a total of 13 catches. He had an impact all season, and with a week to go, he is one of the Top 15 players at his position. Look for him to no longer be a secret and be a much sought after entity on draft day next year.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville
The Jaguars suffered through a lost season, one of the few bright spots being the emergence of Shorts as a productive player. Following their bye week, Shorts proved to be the go-to player in the Jacksonville offense. In those nine games, Shorts averaged better than five catches per game and 86 yards, while scoring a total of five touchdowns. This put him just outside the Top 20 fantasy players at wide receiver for the entire season. Unfortunately, another concussion in Week 16 ended his season, but hopefully he can recover in the offseason to once again be a fantasy force in 2013.
Danario Alexander, San Diego
As a midseason pickup for the Chargers, Alexander burst onto the fantasy scene by making the most of his opportunity. Once he got his feet wet with 61 yards in his second game in Week 9, he exploded for 134 yards and a touchdown in Week 10. He kept things going with a 96-yard effort and two touchdowns in Week 11 and continued producing for the rest of the season. Aside from disappearing in Week 15, he totaled 36 catches for 624 yards and six touchdowns in only nine games of playing time.
James Jones, Green Bay
We go back to Green Bay for another undrafted wide receiver who, along with Randall Cobb, not much was expected at the beginning of the season. Injuries to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson created the opportunity that was needed, and Jones excelled when called upon. For the first nine games of the season, it wasn't Jones' average of 50 yards per game that drew attention, it was his eight touchdowns over that stretch. After a lull in the middle of the season, he picked it up during the fantasy playoffs, dropping three touchdowns on the Detroit Lions in Week 15 and going for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in week 16. With a week to go, he is the No. 17 ranked fantasy wide receiver. Look for him to be highly ranked on draft day in 2013.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore
Heading into the draft, 2012 was the year of the stud tight end, with the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham and others projected as high draft day selections. From the depths of the undrafted, the Ravens found a solid option for Joe Flacco. Pitta opened up the season hot, totaling 18 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens' first three games. He cooled off for a long stretch, then again emerged as a fantasy option late in the season, averaging four catches for over 50 yards and a touchdown per game over the last seven games. With a game to go, he is the No. 8 fantasy tight end, a pretty good ranking for a player not selected on draft day.
Martellus Bennett, New York Giants
The Giants were also able to find gold at tight end, especially early in the season. Bennett scored a touchdown in each of the first three games, averaging five catches and 60 yards per game over that stretch. He cooled from there, but proved to be a consistent performer, rarely catching less than three passes while averaging 40 yards per game. With a game to go, he is the No. 12 ranked fantasy tight end.
Justin Tucker, Baltimore
Fantasy owners generally shy...