The waiver wire is back for another year, because we all know that while a draft can set you up for a great year, weekly vigilance in looking for the next big thing, or more likely, just looking for great matchups over a short stretch, can squeeze every point out of a season and make a difference.
The No. 1 target this week should be Josh Gordon, because if nothing else, the NFL is a soap opera and nothing is every set in stone. The news reports today have Gordon possibly being reinstated after an agreement between the NFL and NFLPA, and if there’s a hint of Gordon coming back, well, you don’t find guys who can get 1,500 yards receiving and sell a car just every day.
Gordon is owned in about 60 percent of CBS Sports leagues, so there is a decent chance someone else is still stashing him waiting for news, so we’ll dig a little deeper. Because there are as many types of leagues as types of pasta, and players are available in some and not others, I try to list types of pickups.
I divide them in to three groups. Those available in shallow leagues (on a roster in less than 2/3 of leagues, but more than half), those available in average leagues (rostered in less than half, but more than 25% of leagues), and those available in deeper leagues (owned in 25% or less).
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I don’t know that any quarterback came out and shook up the world (a la Kurt Warner in 1999, Drew Brees in 2004, or Griffin in 2012), but several young quarterbacks at least showed enough to be viable options with the right matchup.
The No. 1 matchup-based target this week should be Jake Locker, going against the Dallas defense.
Your deeper desperation matchup play? Ryan Fitzpatrick getting to go against the Oakland Raiders, who let Geno Smith complete 80% of passes this week.
As for longer term, E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith looked competent with favorable matchups, and could be bye week stashes for later in the year.
Justin Forsett emerged as an option in Baltimore in Week 1, getting more carries and being more productive than Bernard Pierce. Apparently there is some news out of Baltimore this week and a Forsett/Pierce platoon is likely. Forsett is a veteran, and has been a career backup. Still, the opportunity is there. This is a flex matchup type play, but Baltimore will play Cleveland and Pittsburgh twice, including on Thursday night. (Both of those teams struggled against the run on Sunday).
A couple of other injury situations worth monitoring: Green Bay with Eddie Lacy’s concussion, Jacksonville, where Toby Gerhart will be on the injury report and Cleveland, where Ben Tate left the last game, and Terrance West (owned in most leagues) and Isaiah Crowell (available in most) both got more touches.
If Lacy is ruled out, James Starks is a start, and while I haven’t set the weekly lineup projections, likely a top 20 play. The Jacksonville situation is murky: Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman both got three touches in the first week. My guess is Robinson as the play though neither would be more than a deep flex start if Gerhart can’t go.
Shallow Leagues: Chris Ivory is the best available option here, though he will not get 100 yards on 10 touches every week. If he can get 33-40% of the RB touches for the Jets, though, he will be a startable player with the right matchup. Shonn Greene had the most touches in a Tennessee troika with Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey, but Greene, a non-factor in PPR, getting half or a little less of the total touches is not an inspiring long term option.
Average Leagues: Starks if available given the potential to start if Lacy is out. Ahmad Bradshaw outplayed Trent Richardson, and got almost as many touches. If this is a true split committee situation, Bradshaw will be a weekly flex option in PPR. The Colts will have better matchups and be playing with the lead, giving the backs better scoring chances as well.
Deep Leagues: Forsett is the target here since he could be a flex play based on matchup this season with the opportunity in Baltimore. Crowell could be a sneaky play if Tate is out. If you miss out on those guys, I would target Roy Helu, who can be an option in PPR and got enough touches in week 1, and would also throw a bone at Benny Cunningham in St. Louis. Cunningham got 9 touches to Stacy’s 12 in week 1 and it could be an opportunity to monitor.
Allen Hurns will get much of the attention after scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter of his first game. I’m lukewarm there, as he was pressed into action with Cecil Shorts’ injury, and we have seen plenty of week 1 wonders. Fellow rookie Marqise Lee finished with more targets and receptions but did not make the big plays in the first game.
I would target Andrew Hawkins. Maybe Gordon is back, sapping his value, but Hawkins was the most targeted and productive player in Cleveland, and the opportunity is there if today’s news turns out to be more second hand smoke.
If Alshon Jeffery is ruled out this week, Santonio Holmes becomes a starting option for Chicago against San Francisco.
Shallow Leagues: Markus Wheaton showed well in week 1 as the second option in Pittsburgh, taking over for Emmanuel Sanders. Keep an eye on Cecil Shorts’ situation, not worth adding until he’s going to be active this week.
Average Leagues: I like Greg Jennings this year, but he will have better matchups. Rod Streater looks like the best option in Oakland, which is damning with faint praise.
Deep Leagues: Mohamed Sanu is the matchup play this week going against an Atlanta defense that gave up a lot of yards to the Saints. Brian Quick was the most targeted receiver for the Rams in week 1 and had 99 yards receiving. With Kenny Britt posting a goose egg, Quick looks like the receiver to own.
Don’t freak out at tight end. Some of the guys who will have good years may have gotten off to slow starts, and matchups can play a big role (we are still feeling out what all those matchups are.
Shallow Leagues: Delanie Walker, against Dallas, is the matchup play of the week after Vernon Davis scored twice.
Average Leagues: Travis Kelce didn’t take the league by storm, but posted a solid 3 catches and 45 yards on 5 targets during an otherwise woeful offensive day in Kansas City. He will be a play as the season goes on and jump on now.
I have been pimping Dwayne Allen for two years, and that was derailed by his injury last year. He looked like the much better option at tight end for Indianapolis, even though Coby Fleener got a couple more targets. Allen turned one down the sideline for a touchdown and will only increase his looks as the season goes on. He’ll be a fantasy starter in a few weeks.
Deep Leagues: Larry Donnell of the Giants appears to have emerged from a muddled situation as the top target and is playable going forward. Jared Cook goes against Tampa, who had difficulty with Greg Olsen in week 1 (and the tight end will need to be a key feature going against Lovie Smith’s defense.
MY TOP PICKS
- Josh Gordon, WR
- Justin Forsett, RB
- James Starks, RB
- Markus Wheaton, WR
- Delanie Walker, TE
- Mohamed Sanu, WR
- Travis Kelce, TE
- Andrew Hawkins, WR
- Brian Quick, WR
- Dwayne Allen, TE