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Targeting weekly waiver picks is a completely subjective business,
but this column hopes to point out some obvious and not-so-obvious
selections to help your team from week to week while you strive
to collect fantasy wins, reach your league playoffs and win the
elusive title that your friends say is out of your grasp. While
I’m a big proponent of making trades to bolster your roster,
the waiver wire can be an almost limitless resource when it comes
to discovering fantasy value in strange places. Each week, I’ll
highlight some of the popular (and not-so-popular) players who can
help your squad and may still be available in your league.
I’ll provide you with some options for leagues that offer
a Week 1 waiver wire or open the free agent pool post-draft. With
the injury to Jerick McKinnon, roster finalization, and a clearer
picture emerging in some position battles, many owners who drafted
before this news are looking to make some tweaks at the season’s
Smith, WAS – Smith jumps off the board as the most viable,
efficient QB in the free agent mix, and owned in the highest percentage
of leagues among this group (65-75 percent). He’s also coming
off a 4042-26-5 season for the Chiefs. The only thing keeping
him from 100 percent ownership is the move to Washington, a franchise
heading in the opposite direction of Kansas City. While the weapons
are not as dynamic, look for Smith to immediately form a bond
with Jamison Crowder, involve the promising Paul Richardson and
target Jordan Reed while the beleaguered TE is still healthy.
Andy Dalton, CIN – Dalton’s completion percentage
fell below 60 percent in 2017 (first time since his rookie season),
so it’s not surprising he’s owned in just 15-20 percent
of fantasy leagues heading into Week 1. But, he led the NFL with
a 130.9 passer rating during the preseason, and the Bengals QB
is reportedly excited about the 'aggressive' offense that OC Bill
Lazor has installed. The squad is healthy and Dalton has looked
sharp over the last month.
Prescott, DAL – With a bevy of new and untested weapons in
the offensive mix, Prescott is a riskier roster selection than
the previous two quarterbacks, but his upside is just as high.
The 2017 season showed a more tentative, flat QB than we saw during
his breakout rookie season, but perhaps the omission of Dez Bryant
and the cloud hanging over Ezekiel Elliott will help usher in
a new mental approach for Dak, who’s currently owned in about
half of fantasy leagues.
Case Keenum, DEN – The change of scenery hurts Keenum’s
statistical prospects but should improve the offense tremendously.
He’s a little unpredictable, but he’s capable of leading
the Broncos on scoring drives and has his confidence in the offense
should only improve. A true sleeper, Keenum could easily end up
among the top 15 or 20 QBs if he stays healthy, making an excellent
Carr, OAK – We haven’t seen much of Carr this preseason and
the Raider are a team in disarray. Carr’s outlook is similar to
Prescott’s; he’s got some upside but a dangerously low floor (even
if his is a tad higher than Dak’s). Jordy Nelson could replace
Michael Crabtree as his “security blanket”, and Amari Cooper has
changed his body to better absorb the punishment of playing 16
Replacing Jerick McKinnon: The 49ers are
looking to Matt Breida and Alfred Morris to fill the void.
Breida / Alfred
Morris, SF – Breida made the initial column of 2017 as well,
as an undrafted rookie threatening Carlos Hyde’s touches. Now
Hyde is off to Cleveland, the presumptive 2018 starter (McKinnon)
has a torn ACL, and Breida will get his shot to carry more of
the load in San Francisco where Alfred Morris projects as the
early-down ball carrier. Breida is the better target for PPR leagues
while Morris is more appealing in Non-PPR formats.
Adrian Peterson, Rob Kelley & Samaje Perine, WAS – Peterson
(75-80 percent owned) and Kelley (5 percent) are both ahead of
Perine on the depth chart. Derrick Guice (a steal in the second
round of the NFL draft), tore his ACL in early August, vaulting
this bunch into relevance. Passing down back and PPR darling Chris
Thompson is nearly universally owned since Guice was slated to
handle a lot of pass protection. It’s hard to imagine a
clear picture emerging after a game or two, but this appears to
be a bona fide committee with changing roles the entire season.
Murray, MIN – Dalvin Cook resumes the starting role he lost
due to injury last season, and Murray (40-50 percent owned) once
again looms as a fumble-prone goal line back who could vulture
some TDs. He had a slew of big games in 2017 as the Vikings lead
back but would need another injury to Cook to vault past his RB4/5
Clement, PHI – Clement (20-30 percent owned) is a dynamic
back who brings production when he gets touches, and there’s a
clearer path to them in 2018. He had zero fumbles in 74 attempts
last season and will have a larger role with LeGarrette Blount
Theo Riddick, DET – I’ll make this simple. Riddick
needs to be owned in 12-team PPR leagues, but not in standard
scoring. He’s never going to have an early down role due
to his size but projects to catch 50-60 passes.
Lockett, SEA – Lockett (50-60 percent owned) just doesn’t
get the target volume needed to crack the Top 25 in WR projections,
but he does have some big games once in a while. With Richardson
off to the Redskins, maybe Lockett will get more of those looks
from Russell Wilson.
John Brown, BAL – Brown’s medical diagnosis (sickle
cell trait) and injury history have prevented him from being drafted
in some leagues, but he’s poised for success in 2018 and
had a strong preseason working with Flacco. He’s reportedly
healthy after getting over the ailments that plagued him in 2017,
and believes the bigger issue relating to his health was a cyst
on his spine, which caused pain and fatigue in his legs over the
past couple seasons. He’s available in about 70-75 percent
of leagues and could have a monster 2018 campaign.
Keelan Cole & Dede Westbrook, JAC – Cole’s (50-55
percent) ownership dwarfs that of Westbrook (7-10 percent) since
Cole is expected to have the bigger role, but it’s hard
to say how the targets will shake out in this run-heavy offense
with the Allens (Hurns and Robinson) off to other teams.
Ryan Grant, IND – Grant signed with the Colts after a four-year
stint in Washington, where he wowed coaches with his utility but
didn’t get much love from pundits. A fifth-round pick back
in 2015, Grant totaled 68 targets in his first three seasons before
busting out with 45-573-4 on 65 targets last season. He’s
only 10-15 percent owned despite a solid work ethic and earning
a starting role.
Anthony Miller, CHI – The rookie WR out of Memphis is earning
rave reviews and looks to be the starting slot receiver in Chicago
in what portends to be a pass-heavy offense. He’s 25-35
percent owned and may have the biggest role among rookie receivers.
Clay, BUF – The Bills offense is a mess, and that means Charles
Clay (50-60 percent owned) could see a huge target volume early
on this season. Without many trusted targets, the inexperienced
QBs (Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman) will need s safety valve
like Clay, who had at least 50 catches in four straight seasons
before dropping to 49 last year.
TEs O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, TB – Brate signed the
big deal and is the more popular target, but Howard is probably
the guy who’ll be on the field more. Howard is a more explosive
player who could emerge as a viable option in 2018.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI – RSJ had some off-field issues
this summer but looks forward to an expanded role in 2018 after
a couple big games last season in weeks 11 and 12. Owned in just
5-10 percent of leagues, he’s a sleeper with upside and
a low floor, so he only makes sense in deeper formats to start
Bryant, FA – If he signs with a team and carves out any kind
of role, his talent should make him fantasy viable within weeks.
I’ve drafted him in a couple leagues with my last pick as a late-round
flier, so I’m not expecting much.