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Through The Wire - Week 1

By Antonio D'Arcangelis | 9/7/21 |

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 also provide a brief update on the players I covered the previous week.

Feedback is always welcome, appreciated and encouraged. I’ll get to as many e-mails as I can.

For Week 1, I’ll provide you with some options for leagues that offer a pre-Week 1 waiver wire or open the free agent pool post-draft, and try to identify some of the players who could have an immediate impact.

Tua Tagovailoa


Tua Tagovailoa, MIA Hes a year older and wiser, and has the reins to start off 2021. Owned in about 50% of ESPN leagues heading into Week 1, hes still got massive upside because of his accuracy, legs and improved supporting cast. If youre not sold, I get it but he should be on your radar as we get rolling this year; hes poised for a 2021 breakout and could end up a Top 15 QB when its all said and done.

Kirk Cousins, MIN Last year I pointed out that the year before I had listed Cousins in this exact spot, and that he went on to post the best RTG of his career (107.4) and 3603-26-6 in 2019. Well, he surpassed expectation once again in 2020, ranking 11th among fantasy QBs. Last season he was owned in about 22.5% of ESPN leagues, and that number has come up to 24% but its still not high enough given his track record.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, WAS Cousins and Fitzpatrick (20-25% owned) may have five years between them (theyre 33 and 38, respectively), but they are nearly deadlocked in terms of ownership, overall production, and relatively low fantasy expectations. Fitz might still have some magic left in those old bones, and the Football Team added a nice blend of veteran talent and upside to compliment WR1 Terry McLaurin and TE Logan Thomas.

Other QBs to consider: Jameis Winston (25-30%), Mac Jones (20-25%), Derek Carr (10-15%), Sam Darnold (5-10%), Teddy Bridgewater (5%)

Running Backs

Phillip Lindsay, HOU The days of folks gambling early on David Johnson are long gone, and now weve got a productive back (when-healthy) like Lindsay waiting in the wings to assume the workload. The truth is that Lindsay may already be the better all-around player and that could be reflected soon after Week 1. Stay ahead of the field and scoop him up before guys like Jamaal Williams (who probably needs a significant DAndre Swift injury to get impact touches) and perennial question mark Sony Michel, especially in PPR leagues.

J.D. McKissic, WAS McKissic is about 50% owned in ESPN leagues, and Im assuming the ones where hes not are non-PPR. We love Antonio Gibsons floor and upside in 2021, but McKissic should get work and may end up an important safety valve for Fitz and his magic dumpoffs. The dude had 80 receptions last season, and Ive seen single drives where he gains 15-20 yards through the air and scores 7 or 8 fantasy points. A must-own in PPR formats.

Tony Pollard, DAL If youre drafting Ezekiel Elliott, youd better be considering Pollard (40-50% owned). Sure an absolute monster year from Zeke would essentially diminish Pollards opportunities and production, but the consensus top ten pick carries with him a lot of baggage that can sometimes turn into bad mojo and half-hearted efforts. This Cowboys season is one Dak Prescott injury away from another complete disaster, and a Zeke injury or snafu away from Pollard time.

Tevin Coleman, NYJ Hes on my radar because hes coming out of a crowded backfield in San Francisco, and we really dont know what to expect from fourth round UNC product Michael Carter. The rookie lacks the size and speed to be an every-down back and possibly the chops to make a true impact in year one. If Carter fails to catch on, Coleman (20% owned) could be in line for heavy work right off the bat in 2021.

Kenneth Gainwell, PHI Gainwell is owned in only 3-5% of fantasy leagues heading into Week 1, and its been a while since hes played regular tackle football, as he opted out of his 2020 college season. But the Eagles nabbed him in the fifth round of the April draft and teams dont generally do that without plans to incorporate his unique receiving skill set into the offense. Sure, weve seen his main competition for touches (Boston Scott) fill that role (not that wonderfully) before, but Scott doesnt excite me nearly as much as Gainwell for very deep PPR leagues where his impact could be immediate.

Other RBs to consider: Ty'Son Williams (20%), Latavius Murray (20%), Rhamondre Stevenson (15-20%), Chuba Hubbard (10-15%), Wayne Gallman (5%)

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

Michael Pittman Jr., IND Dont @ me because Im listing him here at 65-70 percent ownership in ESPN leagues. Im just here to tell you that this guy should be owned in about 85-90 percent of leagues, even the non-PPR ones. Hes got an immeasurable ceiling, but even with the uncertainty of the QB situation, I cant imagine his superior pass-catching skills and athleticism wont help the Colts QB, whomever ends up taking the most snaps this season.

Darnell Mooney, CHI Another talented WR with looming question marks plaguing his teams signal callers and their 2021 projections, Mooney (55-60% owned) is a high-upside guy who makes for a sneaky risk-reward WR4 on your roster. Im doing my best to get him in most of my leagues as my fourth or fifth WR, and while his floor is a little low to consider him a must-add, I like his chances of outproducing his Big Board ADP (#135) this season.

Russell Gage, ATL Gage entered last season as a super-sneaky deep sleeper, and he ended up paying off for those who took the gamble, ranking 22nd (tied with Tyler Boyd) among WR in targets and finishing 37th in fantasy points (between Jarvis Landry and Michael Gallup) even with just four TDs. With Julio Jones off to Tennessee, Gage (30-35%) makes sense as a steady if not spectacular WR4 in PPR leagues, even in a new offense under a new Atlanta head coach.

TE Anthony Firkser, TEN Firkser (10-15% owned) stole a lot of production from Jonnu Smith during his time as a situational player and with Smith gone, he is poised for a breakout campaign after posting career-best marks in targets (52), receptions (39) and yardage (387) in 2020. Hes a solid backup fantasy TE and could warrant starting in 12 or 14-team leagues if he can step his game up this season.

WR Adam Humphries, WAS The veteran slot receiver should have the No.3 role to start off 2021, even if he has some competition for targets from younger playmakers like deep-threat Dyami Brown. But every old QB seems to have an old WR he likes, and Humphries (0-1%), while three years removed from his last 100-target season in 2018, could still have an impact in deeper PPR leagues if he and Fitzpatrick can gel.

Other WRs/TEs to consider: Jakobi Meyers (55-60%), Randall Cobb (30-35%), TE Cole Kmet (20-25%), Sterling Shepard (20%), Rondale Moore (20%), Bryan Edwards (10-15%), TE Blake Jarwin (10%), TE Pat Freiermuth (5%), Byron Pringle (1-5%)