Pickups to help escape the fantasy basement

Fight it.

Fight the urge to give up, surrender and call it quits.

Your carefully crafted fantasy lineup that you scouted and selected with your own bare hands is falling apart. You’re 0-5 or 1-4, sitting dead last in your division and the butt of all your fellow owners’ jokes on the league message board. It might be easier to wave the white flag and surrender, maybe pretend like you never really cared or tried.

Don’t do it.

Depending on the size and settings of your league, it’s still quite possible for owners in this predicament to turn it around and make the playoffs.

Here’s how:

The waiver wire must become your domain. Week in and week out, you’ll need to scour the pool of free agents and maximize the production you get out of them. Pickup columns like this one will help, but ultimately the decision is up to you.

As long as you sit in last place, you will likely have the first choice of free agents each week. Don’t neglect this opportunity. Every year, players who are not selected in most fantasy leagues surface to become fantasy stalwarts. Just last year, countless owners won their league because they had the good fortune to be in last place when Michael Vick became the starter in Philadelphia. While players of Vick’s caliber come along about as often as a good Nicolas Cage movie, it’s not uncommon to find solid every week starters in the middle of the season.

Another tip for working waiver wires: Don’t carry more the one kicker or defense on your roster. There’s just no point. You’ll miss out on chances to grab emerging talent with rosters spots tied up in excess at those positions. You may not feel like you need a fifth running back or wide receiver, but when Peyton Hillis goes down with an injury and you own Montario Hardesty, you have some tasty trade bait to offer Hillis’ owner.

Don’t hesitate to shake up your lineup through trades, either. You may not have any prime “sell high” candidates (especially if you’re 0-5), but you can still target players you think have underachieved and will soon bust out. Go ahead and pull the trigger on a deal you might be normally be afraid to do. It can’t get much worse no matter what you do.

Along those same lines, take risks. Where normally you might look to start safer yet boring players, look to shake it up a bit. Try catching lightning in a bottle one week with Victor Cruz. Think about benching your steady No. 2 running back in favor of a high-risk, high-reward replacement like Ryan Torain.

Finally, have faith. Fantasy football is a fluky game. Sneak into the playoffs with a 7-6, 6-7 or even 5-8 record and you never know what might happen. It’s far easier for a 6-7 team to upset a 12-1 juggernaut in fantasy than in reality.

The outlook may appear grim, but you would be doing yourself and your fellow fantasy owners a disservice by tanking the rest of the season.

Fortunately for you losers out there (I kid), you have a head start because you’ve already scheduled your checkup with the Doctor.

*Running backs*

*Jackie Battle, Chiefs (0.7 percent)*: The cream of an extremely weak running back crop this week. Battle received more carries and rushed for more yards than Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster combined. Battle finished with 119 yards on 19 carries. His strong effort impressed the Chiefs coaching staff and will likely earn him more touches going forward for a Kansas City attack that has started looking less and less like a high school offense.

*Delone Carter, Colts (2 percent)*: After starter Joseph Addai left the game with a hamstring injury, Carter received the bulk of the carries, rushing for 22 yards and a touchdown. If Addai cannot go next week, Carter will likely start, although he will share carries with Donald Brown.

*Earnest Graham, Bucs (4 percent)*: Graham’s value hinges on the health of regular Bucs starter LeGarrette Blount (I felt gangsta just typing that name), who injured his knee in the Bucs’ loss to San Francisco last week. Blount is listed as questionable. Should he be unable to play, Graham will fill in as the starter.

*Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (0.1 percent)*: It was Dwyer, not Isaac Redman, who filled the hole left by Rashard Mendenhall’s absence on Sunday. Redman rushed 15 times for 49 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to injury, while Dwyer picked up 107 yards on only 11 carries. Mendenhall, who was listed as an emergency running back last Sunday, will likely return for Week Six, however, limiting Dwyer’s already limited value.

*Wide receivers*

*Steve Breaston, Chiefs (4 percent)*: Listing two Chiefs in a pickups column is asking for trouble, but Breaston’s recent production can’t be ignored. After struggling mightily for two weeks, Breaston has caught 11 balls for 196 yards the last three weeks, culminating in a 50-yard, two-touchdown performance Sunday.

*Kevin Walter, Texans (2 percent)*: Most fantasy owners picked up Jacoby Jones last week following Andre Johnson’s hamstring injury in Week Four, but Walter was the main beneficiary of Johnson’s absence Sunday, catching five balls for 81 yards and a score. With Johnson out for at least one more week (and probably more), Walter could be a decent bye week fill-in.

*James Jones, Packers (52 percent)*: Jones has been relegated to work as Green Bay’s fourth receiver for much of the year with Jordy Nelson’s ascension and Jermichael Finley’s continued emergence. But Jones has posted double-digit fantasy points the last two weeks, including a 140-yard, one-score performance Sunday night in Atlanta. He’s a bit of a hit or miss pickup, however, more likely to score one or two points than 15.

_Daniel is a junior in Media. Contact him for fantasy/relationship advice at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @danielmillermc._