This year’s waiver wire has been no fantasy land

The waiver wire is usually where fantasy owners use savvy moves to turn good teams into great ones. There’s almost always studs just waiting to be plucked off the free-agent market and inserted into your lineup on a weekly basis. Every year, without fail. Every year.

Except this year.

This blog is brought to you by a conversation Michael Fabiano and I had on the set of “NFL Fantasy Live” earlier this week. It seems as if every time a player breaks out with a huge performance this season, the next week their stats take a dive and you wonder why you picked them up in the first place. It’s incredible how often that’s happened in 2011.

So who can you trust? Not many, as it turns out.

Below is a list of the must-starts who have been waiver-wire pickups so far. The rest of them? All are hit and miss and matchup related, at best. Also, we can’t list players like Chris Ogbonnaya, Earl Bennett, etc., because they haven’t had a long enough sample to analyze yet. So let’s begin with the immortal words of Jack Napier.

HUBBA, HUBBA, HUBBA, WHO CAN YOU TRUST EVERY WEEK?

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos
DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys

Newton proved in Week 11 that his down performance the previous week was a blip. He’s not hitting the wall, and he’s continuing to score on the ground to make him a 20-plus PPG threat every single week. The same can (almost) be said for Tebow. A horrendous fantasy game turned into a decent one thanks to his final drive against the Jets. If you can score 16 fantasy points, you’re in the starting lineup every week. Murray is averaging 6.0 YPC and still hit double-digits in fantasy points this week against a really good Redskins defense. Cruz is simply a No. 1 WR no matter how you cut it up. He’s caught at least six passes in a game in six of the last seven weeks.

Antonio Brown is becoming the No. 1 WR in Pittsburgh, getting more targets than Mike Wallace over the last month. Robinson has been huge with a TD in each of the last four weeks. Even when Miles Austin comes back, Tony Romo has incredible chemistry with Robinson. Carson Palmer is close to being on this list but I need a little bit more sample size for him – so far he’s been great when he’s had great matchups.

HUBBA, HUBBA, HUBBA, I CAN SOMETIMES TRUST YOU

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans
Matt Moore, QB, Miami
Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City
Eric Decker, WR, Denver

Moore has become an intriguing option if your QB situation is in flux due, but would I play him against a very good defense? Probably not. Obviously, Hasselbeck’s injury situation and the looming presence of Jake Locker makes his situation a little unique. Can you play him for now if he’s healthy? Sure. But ask me again two weeks from now and it may be a different answer. Battle and Decker have been very good – at times. That’s how you have to proceed with them – if the matchups are favorable you can start them.

HUBBA, HUBBA, HUBBA, I CAN’T TRUST YOU AT ALL

Javon Ringer, RB, Titans
Delone Carter, RB, Colts
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens
Greg Little, WR, Browns
Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders
Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders
Michael Jenkins, WR, Vikings
Preston Parker, WR, Buccaneers

Chances are you picked up one of these players after a big week and expected similar production. And you haven’t gotten it (Personally, I’d like to thank Moore for the 1.4 fantasy points he got me last week in Minnesota). So while they’re not worth getting rid of just yet, none of the players in this category should be in your lineup until they prove they can be more consistent.

See Jason Smith on “NFL Fantasy Live,” airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the “NFL RedZone Channel,” and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and Midnight ET. He writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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