Ahhh, football season. The smell of freshly cut grass, barbecue on the grill, 90-degree scorchers in vagrant parking lots and the existential dread that overcomes you when your top running back tears his ACL during a non-contact drill in practice.
Yep, it’s football season all right. But not to worry — each week I’ll break down top waiver-wire targets to help your fantasy team navigate injuries, suspensions, running-back committees and probably some relationship problems along the way.
Every week, I highlight players who are owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN fantasy leagues. I also recommend an auction price (in parentheses) for each player for leagues using a Free Agent Acquisition Budget system (which I highly recommend, by the way). All recommendations are made based on a $100 FAAB budget.
It’s Cuffing Season
In life there are a few absolute certainties: death, taxes and fantasy football injuries. In this section, I highlight players to target on waivers when top players inevitably get hurt or suspended.
Boston Scott, RB, New Orleans Saints ($12)
Scott is a rookie out of Louisiana Tech who may benefit from significant carries while Mark Ingram serves his four-game suspension. The Saints cut Jonathan Williams, and Shane Vereen will likely be placed on Injured Reserve with an injured finger. That leaves Scott as Alvin Kamara‘s lone viable backup. He impressed through the preseason and will also likely see time as the Saints’ kickoff returner.
Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis Colts ($15)
Wilkins hasn’t looked impressive this preseason, but with Marlon Mack nursing a nagging hamstring injury, Wilkins looks poised for RB1 work in Week 1. He might also offer season-long upside in the crowded Colts backfield. Mack dealt with injuries his rookie season as well, and rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled four times in preseason play. Considering the scarcity of starting running backs, Wilkins offers enough upside to warrant an early season waiver add.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers ($17)
Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t reported to the Steelers’ practice facility as of this writing. Bell’s holdout muddies the waters for fantasy football owners, but it also amplifies Conner’s upside for Week 1. He played well this preseason, demonstrating a three-down skill set and a 5-57-1 rushing line in Week 2. Bell owners should already be targeting Conner as a strong handcuff option, and he may also see RB1 work in Week 1 if Bell continues his holdout.
Matt Breida/Alfred Morris, RB, San Francisco 49ers ($21)
In case you hadn’t heard, the 49ers officially reported that Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL and is out for the season. In his place, we’ll likely see Breida and Morris split time, but my money is on Breida as the back to own in San Francisco. In the final five games of 2017, he earned a larger workload, rushing on average 10.4 times per game for 46.8 yards. If you drafted McKinnon and are in need of a replacement, I would advise bidding aggressively for Breida or Morris — around $20 or more.
Top Streaming Quarterback Options
Each week, I highlight top quarterback streaming options for Late Round QB-truthers. These quarterbacks are week-to-week options and are not necessarily viable long-term.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles ($5)
Eagles starter Carson Wentz has been ruled out for Week 1 against the Falcons. In fact, it was recently revealed that Wentz hasn’t even been cleared for contact drills while he recovers from a torn ACL and LCL. Foles averaged a 323.7-2-0.3 passing line in three games starting in relief of Wentz last post-season. He has the 13th-highest ceiling projection of all quarterbacks in Week 1 and could provide multi-week value if Wentz delays his return from injury.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Cleveland Browns ($4)
Despite Baker Mayfield‘s preseason hype, Taylor still has a lock on the starting quarterback job in Cleveland. Taylor has a nice matchup against the Steelers at home and could be chalky in DFS for Week 1 given his rushing upside. That same upside makes him a nice waiver-wire target in season-long leagues. He owns the 13th-highest median projection this week.
Fantasy Football Rankings
Hold On Loosely, But Don’t Let Go
The following players are worth consideration based on their current projected volume. Many of these players benefit from depth-chart uncertainty or injuries/suspensions to established starters.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals ($8)
Kirk is listed as the Cardinals’ No. 2 wide receiver on their official depth chart but is owned in only 13.4% of fantasy leagues. He has been a preseason standout, leading the Cardinals in receptions (8) and receiving touchdowns (2). That said, he did most of his work out of the slot — a position typically reserved for Larry Fitzgerald. Still, Kirk faces limited competition among a lackluster Cardinals receiving corps and could offer season-long fantasy upside.
Cole Beasley, WR, Dallas Cowboys ($4)
The Cowboys said goodbye to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten this offseason. In their place, Dallas drafted Michael Gallup out of Colorado State and signed Allen Hurns from the Jaguars. Importantly, however, neither Gallup nor Hurns projects as a slot receiver. That role is still owned by Beasley. Without Witten as a reliable short-yardage check-down option, Beasley could see an uptick in targets as a possession-style slot receiver this season.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, New England Patriots ($6)
Dorsett is listed as the Patriots’ No. 2 wide receiver on their official depth chart for Week 1. Chris Hogan and James White are more reliable receiving options, but Dorsett’s role in the offense offers upside for big gains downfield. He’s projected as the 49th-best fantasy wide receiver in Week 1 and could provide FLEX value while Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension to start the season.
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Buy and Hold
The following players deserve immediate roster consideration with season-long upside. How these players didn’t get drafted is beyond me.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets ($14)
Over the past three seasons, Powell has averaged 48.8 receptions per 16 games and has finished as RB34, RB16 and RB29 in PPR formats. Powell has played out of the slot in the past for the Jets and has also lined up there this preseason. With Elijah McGuire still injured, Powell’s fantasy upside makes him a season-long FLEX option. He owns the 26th-highest median projection among running backs for Week 1.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts ($6)
Jack Doyle has garnered most of the snaps with Andrew Luck this preseason, but you shouldn’t dismiss Ebron’s potential in Frank Reich’s offense. Since 2014, tight ends have averaged eight touchdowns per season under Reich. Even if Doyle earns most of the snaps at starting tight end, Ebron has the athleticism to split out as a receiver or to run routes from the slot. He boasts the 13th-highest median projection among tight ends for Week 1.
Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars ($17)
With Marqise Lee out for the year with a knee injury, Cole is the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver in Jacksonville. In the Jaguars’ final five regular-season games in 2017, Cole averaged a 4.6-97-0.6 receiving line. The Jaguars also said goodbye to Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson this offseason, which likely creates even more target share for Cole. His fantasy floor is as a FLEX receiver, but he could offer WR2 upside. He should be rostered in all leagues.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints ($10)
Smith had one of the top performances of any player this preseason, totaling a 15-189-1 receiving line in four games. His primary receiver competition, Cameron Meredith, was quiet for Weeks 1-3 but hauled in two receptions for 72 yards in the Saints’ final preseason game. Some uncertainty remains regarding Smith’s target share in the regular season, but his upside is still high. The last two Saints early round wide receiver selections were Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas, both of whom saw extended reps and top-24 production as rookies.
The Watch List
Every week, I highlight players who should be on your watch list — players to monitor who aren’t necessarily worth an add this week but who could develop into viable season-long options. Current ESPN ownership percentage for each player is in parentheses.
- Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears (29.9%)
- Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (11.7%)
- Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31.2%)
- Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (21.7%)
- DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (46.2%)
- James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (22.4%)
- Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens (6.9%)
- Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (48.4%)