Whether your fantasy team is decimated by injuries or you’re looking to lock down that elusive playoff berth, the waiver wire can make or break your fantasy season. In years past, players have risen out of the abyss to settle all of your fantasy worries.

This year was no different. The following is a list of players that came out of nowhere to carry fantasy teams down the road to Title Town. For players to make this list, they needed to be widely undrafted and they needed to have a high ranking at their respective positions. These players also performed at a high level during important times of the fantasy season (the weeks before and during the fantasy playoffs).

These Waiver Wire All Stars went from zero to fantasy football hero and put all doubters to shame in 2012.

1. Alfred Morris (RB, Washington Redskins)

Alfred Morris went unnoticed in a lot of drafts this year. Nightmares of last year’s Roy Helu/Ryan Torain headache made drafters hesitate to invest in any Shanahan-led running back. It was uncertain what Morris’ workload would be with the possibility that he would split carries with 2nd year RB Evan Royster.

Even when he saw a full workload against the Saints in week 1, there was lingering doubt that this would continue to be the case. However, Morris (and Shanahan) proved a lot of people, myself included, wrong.

Morris established himself as a solid RB2 in the first half of the season, before handsomely rewarding his faithful owners with consistent RB1 numbers after the Redskins’ week 10 bye. He absolutely dominated defenses during the most important stretch of the fantasy football season; weeks 11 through 17. The Butler averaged a hefty (24.5, 116.7, 1.14) line during that span.

Morris ended the season tied with Arian Foster for the most games with 20+ carries. He handled a full workload without hesitation, mowing down would be tacklers in stride.

Morris finished the season as the 5th best fantasy running back, only two points behind Marshawn Lynch (4th best fantasy back). It’s incredibly rare to see a widely undrafted player finish in the top five at any position and The Butler will certainly be taken early in the first rounds of 2013 drafts.

2. Russell Wilson (QB, Seattle Seahawks)

Russell Wilson started the 2012 season with little recognition. Shadowed by the flashy performances of Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, and other rookies, his production went virtually unnoticed through the first weeks of the season.

After Wilson’s week 11 bye, the Seahawks lost to Miami and saw their playoff hopes starting to disappear. In week 13, however, Wilson played an excellent game against Chicago and showed how valuable he could be as a real life and fantasy quarterback. Wilson and the Seahawks got hot after their week 13 matchup and won their final five regular season games.

Russell Wilson came into form at a great time for owners trying to recover from Matthew-Stafford disappointments and Eli-Manning headaches. Wilson averaged 215 yards through the air and 1.83 passing TDs, while adding an average of 50 yards rushing per game, becoming a consistent QB1 during that span. Wilson also had one game with 4 touchdown passes and another with three rushing scores. Wilson came up big when many owners needed him most.

Russell finished the 2012 season as the 11th best fantasy QB. I look for Russell to have a great year in 2013 and I also see him slipping into later rounds. He is a great target for those who are willing to draft their quarterback late. 

3. James Jones (WR, Green Bay Packers)

Sharing the WR position with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and AJ Green, James Jones is not a player that sticks out as a star.

However, in 2012, James Jones led all receivers in touchdowns with 14, six of them coming in three consecutive, 2-touchdown, games. James Jones, while widely undrafted, put together a solid season, finishing 16th at his position.

He not only helped fantasy owners weather the early weeks of the season, but also put together great games in the fantasy playoffs. In week 15, he scored three touchdowns to go along with 50 yards receiving.

For those who grabbed him off of waivers, he was a must-start at WR2 for most of the season. Jones established himself as a fantastic redzone option and looks to see his increased role continue into next season. With a large part of Green Bay’s receiving core expected to leave the team in 2013, James Jones looks to be the number two option behind Jordy Nelson.

He’ll be on the radar for many fantasy owners, and will be a fantastic bargain, anytime after the 4th round. That is, if he is still available.

4. Danario Alexander (WR, San Diego Chargers)

Danario who? Many owners, myself included (maybe just me), had no idea who Danario Alexander was and how good of a receiver he could be.

He finished the 2012 season 37th at his position, but he was the 9th best receiver over the last ten weeks of the season (the games he actually played). After his first start, in week 8, DX put up at least 50 yards or a touchdown in all but two games.

He quickly became the deep threat option that Philip Rivers was missing after Vincent Jackson went to Tampa Bay. He was a consistent fantasy receiver in a dismal offense, although many will remember Danario’s fantasy season for the goose egg he dropped in week 15.

DX is a rare breed of receiver that is nearly impossible to cover, consistently beating corners and out playing safeties. He’s 6’4” and can out jump almost anyone.  His combination of physical strength and talent make him a great receiver and a respectable fantasy option in 2013.

You might be able to grab him late in drafts, but there is risk with Danario, due to the inconsistent play of Philip Rivers. However, DX did all he could, this season, to prove that he will produce regardless.

5. Cecil Shorts (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars)

At the open of the 2012 season, Justin Blackmon was the talk of Jacksonville.

Well, that didn’t last very long as Cecil Shorts wasted no time in proving that he was the number one option for the Jaguars. His knack for highlight catches and making defenders look like fools helped launch him to the top of the waiver wire.

Despite Jacksonville’s subpar quarterback play, Shorts performed at a high level, posting four games with over 100 yards and scoring seven times. Shorts, as the others on this list, came up huge for owners during a pivotal time in the season. He posted 4 straight games with a touchdown from week 10 to week 13. Over those games, his lowest yardage total was 77. He missed week 14 with a concussion, but came back in week 15 to post a nice 101-yard game for owners who were pushing through the fantasy playoffs.

Shorts finished 21st in fantasy receivers, ahead of Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, and Austin Miles. As a widely undrafted player, Shorts was one of the best waiver wire pickups of the year. I’d watch for Shorts in your 2013 drafts. He’s well worth a 5th/6th round pick and a roster spot in 2013.

Honorable Mentions

Knowshon Moreno (RB, Denver Broncos)

When Knowshon Moreno took over the starting gig for Denver in week 12, there was a lot of debate about how Moreno would perform with first string carries. Moreno did well with the full workload, posting respectable numbers for owners that were dealing with Willis McGahee’s season ending knee injury.

Moreno finished the season as the 34th best fantasy back, but was the 8th best back over his starting weeks (12 – 17). His production peaked during the first two weeks of many owners’ fantasy playoffs when he posted over 100 yards and a touchdown in both games.

Outside of those two weeks, Moreno’s numbers relied heavily on a high volume of carries (which you can never argue with, production is production) and it was the exceptional play of other waiver options that kept Moreno off of the list.

Bryce Brown (RB, Philadelphia Eagles)

Bryce Brown was possibly the most talked about/debated waiver wire add of the 2012 season. This was due to his amazing showing in weeks 12 and 13 in which he posted over 150 yards and two touchdowns in each of those games.

However, after those two weeks, his production was dismal. He left many owners high and dry, posting no more than 50 yards in each of his final four games. He did a lot to help owners during the two weeks leading up to the fantasy playoffs, but was also the reason many owners lost their first round matchups. If his production continued through the final weeks of the season, Brown would have surely made this list.