MELLENBRUCH: High expectations a risk for Week 8 waiver pickups

Week 7 produced arguably the most plentiful selection of waiver wire pickups of the season, especially at running back.

And I’m not particulary high on any of them.

If you had to go with one this weekend, St. Louis running back Tre Mason provides the best long-term solution. For a St. Louis backfield that has been terribly underwhelming this season, projected starter Zac Stacy went without a touch on just one offensive snap last Sunday, and second-year running back Benny Cunningham has done little to validate his case for the starting job. That leaves Mason, a rookie out of Auburn, with the most legitimate claim to Rams’ top job after racking up 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Seattle. Against a Kansas City defense that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, Mason will have his work cut out this weekend. He’s a good long-term option to have, but he’s on my bench this week.

So is Jacksonville running back Denard Robinson, fresh from a 22-carry, 127-yard performance against Cleveland. In a backfield that was supposed to feature newly signed Vikings backup Toby Gerhart, Robinson provides athleticism to a position that has been lacking for Jaguars. But keep in mind, Jacksonville running backs have produced just three 100-yard rushing performances since 2012, including Robinson’s output last week. The Jaguars host an underrated Miami run defense Sunday, a group that has conceded the seventh-fewest rushing yards in the league. Robinson may get a majority of Jacksonville’s work from the backfield, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll produce.

As for Buffalo, suddenly without its top two running-back options in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the job is up for grabs between career backup Anthony “Boobie” Dixon and newly acquired Bryce Brown. Dixon is reportedly expecting a lion’s share of the work this Sunday against the vaunted Jets run defense, but my money is on Brown to become the better fantasy option. Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley traded a fourth-round pick for Brown in the offseason because of Brown’s “star potential.” But that being said, Dixon’s contributions may hinder Brown’s ability to become a standout plug-n-play RB2. Like Mason, I like Brown’s chances of becoming more involved for the Bills. It just might not happen this Sunday in New York.

With that, here are a few sure-fire options for Week 8.

RB Arian Foster, Houston

So much for Foster being a fantasy bust. Those who gambled on Houston’s injury-prone back are reaping the dividends.

Foster is currently the league’s third-best fantasy running back in standard formats with 107.9 points through seven games. In the last three weeks, he’s totaled at least 23 touches each contest for a combined 428 yards and five touchdowns. He and the Texans travel to Tennessee this week, which bodes well for Foster. In four career tilts against the Titans, he’s scored every time, racking up 471 total yards and five touchdowns. Assuming he stays healthy, Foster will continue to see plenty of work for Houston, both in the run and pass games. He’s a top-three running back for me this week.

Yes, I’m still on the Jerick McKinnon train, and you should be, too.

Now established as Minnesota’s feature back, McKinnon accomplished something last Sunday that no other running back has this season: rush for over 100 yards against the Bills. That’s something Foster and Chicago running back Matt Forte can’t say. McKinnon tallied 103 yards on 19 carries last weekend against a Buffalo run defense that ranks first in the league, and it gets much easier for his this Sunday in Tampa Bay (28th against opposing fantasy backs). McKinnon is a must-start.

Bench New York Jets running back Chris Ivory.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami

It’s true. I tend to pick on Jacksonville’s defense, but it’s no secret the Jaguars will certainly have their hands full this weekend with Tannehill under center for the Dolphins.

In each of his last three games, Tannehill has thrown for at least 244 yards and two touchdowns, albeit against considerably weak pass defenses in Chicago, Green Bay and Oakland. The Jaguars rank 21st against fantasy quarterbacks this season and have allowed just one passing score since Week 5. Tannehill could have his hands full in Jacksonville at first, but with wide receiver Mike Wallace firing on all cylinders and running back Lamar Miller suddenly discovering the form fantasy owners were promised two years ago, I like Tannehill to throw for another couple touchdowns this Sunday. He’s inside my top 10.

Carson Palmer is also worth a shout this week as the Cardinals host Philadelphia. Inicluding last week’s shutout of the injury-depleted Giants, the Eagles have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, and Palmer has thrown for 250 yards and two touchdowns in both of his starts since returning from injury. Palmer is a top-15 fantasy play this week and a viable replacement for all you Colin Kaepernick owners out there.

Bench Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

WR Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

Last week provided the game Bills fans have been waiting for from their first-round pick. With 122 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings – including a game-winning score with one second on the clock (ouch) – Watkins seems to be enjoying himself with Kyle Orton under center. He’s a safe start this week against a Jets defense that has conceded a league-high 18 touchdown passes this season.

Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin is another option worth considering, but not without caution. Russell Wilson has been a fantasy dynamo this season with his running ability, but last week was just the third time he’s thrown for over 300 yards in his three-year career. That being said, with Percy Harvin now in New York, Balwin has energed as Seattle’s new No. 1, evidenced by his 18.3-point performance last week in St. Louis.

Any of Green Bay’s receivers are a safe bet against a horrid defense in New Orleans on Sunday night.

Bench Harvin, and Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith.

TE Greg Olsen, Carolina

Olsen has been a model of consistency at the tight end position this year, posting the league’s second-highest fantasy output with 79.3 points in standard formats. The Panthers welcome a struggling Seattle defense this week, a unit that is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

Philadephia’s Zach Ertz presents another viable option against Arizona’s porous pass defense. Owen Daniels is another as the Ravens travel to Cincinnati.

Bench St. Louis tight end Jared Cook and Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron. Keep an eye on Jimmy Graham’s status, too, as his status might not be fully clear until Sunday.

Joe Mellenbruch writes a fantasy football column every Thursday. Agree with his picks? Disagree? Share your thoughts with him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.