Overreacting is always a horrible thing to do, but it makes even less sense after a week that was, in a word, bizarre. Leading the loopy: only two running backs rushed for over 100 yards.
But waiver wire mining is a necessity for those who like to profit from fake footballing. There are deals to be had in the early going, with a quarterback who could continue his weekly Tebow impression widely available, as is a Patriots receiver who will get all the targets now with Danny Amendola out.
This year I’ll look at five waiver targets for each skill position every week, though I may sometimes fall short of that number if
I’m lazy the wire is particularly thin. Later on this week I’ll do a separate but similar post for team defenses, recommending the best streaming options. Sorry kickers, I know you’re people too.
1. Terrelle Pryor: I’ve dedicated many words to my developing Pryor man crush recently, from fawning over his Tebow impression this past Sunday, to declaring that like Tebow, he’ll challenge us to separate fantasy from reality, while being passable at best in the latter and great in the former. But here’s the most important number you need to know now as we look ahead to this week: 141.0. That’s the average rushing yards per game surrendered by the Jaguars last year. They were one of just three teams to allow more than 140 per week, and now they’ll revert to their default mode of flailing and falling against a quarterback who enjoys running far more than passing. With his 112 yards on 13 attempts (8.6 YPC), Pryor finished second in Week 1 rushing, a category he led prior to LeSean McCoy’s Redskins roasting last night.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 9.9%, Yahoo – 12%
2. Ryan Tannehill: Joe Haden completely shut down Mike Wallace, Tannehill’s new toy. Yet Tannehill’s yardage total of 272 was still higher than all but two of his outings in 2012, one of which was a viscous outlier (431). He did that even while receiving pretty much a blank in run support, with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas averaging 0.9 yards per carry. Both of those things (Wallace, and the run support) should improve at least moderately, and when that happens Tannehill could promptly make a jump towards one of those fun outlier weeks.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 8.0%, Yahoo – 17%
3. E.J. Manuel: There was little distance and field stretching from Manuel in his rookie debut against the Patriots, as he finished with an average of only 5.6 yards per pass attempt, and 150 yards overall. But he compensated for that with surprising care and efficiency, leading to his passer rating of 105.7. If you’re rolling with high ceiling waiver fodder, a quarterback who won’t hurt you is always inviting. The mistakes are forthcoming, because that’s what rookie quarterbacks do, but Manuel’s rushing ability will balance out any ball turfs or throws that land in the opponent’s hands.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 10.5% , Yahoo – 19%
4. Jay Cutler: I get it, guys. You’ve been severely burned by Jay Cutler, and now you wouldn’t pick up Smokin’ Jay if you saw him hitchhiking and dying of thirst on the side of a road in the searing heat of the desert. You’ve never hated anyone or anything more in your life. But I need you to close your eyes, and try really hard to abandon that mental fracture, because although some poor decisions will always be a part of the Cutler experience, this is a quarterback who’s in a new system which emphasizes high percentage throws and easy chunk yardage after the catch. There’s no way he should be unowned in nearly half of Yahoo leagues.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 74.5%, Yahoo – 52%
5. Josh Freeman: The Saints’ secondary has improved with the additions of Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro, and Freeman may still be in the middle of his spiral into oblivion after completing only 48.4 percent of his passes last week. But the core of a unit that Freeman torched for 420 yards and three touchdowns the last time he faced New Orleans at home remains.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 14.9%, Yahoo – 34%
1. Joique Bell: The two rushing touchdowns in Week 1 were an outlier. Bell scored just three times on the ground all season in 2012 over 82 carries, and now just six carries into 2013 he’s almost matched that total. But everything else is real. Bell was always going to be a quality PPR flex because of sheer volume, and how much Matthew Stafford is asked to chuck (727 times last year, leading the league). And there are plenty of touches to go around, as even with Reggie Bush recording 191 yards split almost evenly between rushing and receiving in his Lions debut, Bell still received 11 touches, which he turned into 92 yards. He has the burst to produce significant gains from moderate opportunities, and he showcased it with a 29-yard grab.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 81.3%, Yahoo – 37%
2. Pierre Thomas: We just recently completed an offseason of Mark Ingram hype. He then rewarded his tiny army of believers with 11 whole yards on nine carries. Really, that happened, and on the same number of Week 1 carries Thomas ran for 43 yards, while also flexing some PPR value with four receptions in another offense with enough targets that even you — yes you there, on your couch — may get a few looks on Sundays. Jump on Thomas now before he buries Ingram…again.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 8.1%, Yahoo – 41%
3. Fred Jackson: Oh, the pain train cometh. Just when C.J. Spiller owners thought they had escaped the shackles of a time share, Jackson just won’t die. Spiller will certainly remain on the high end of the Bills’ backfield workload, but in Week 1 against the Patriots Jackson reaffirmed that his hollow and creaky bones still have some semblance of life left. As Spiller struggled while fumbling and averaging only 2.4 yards per carry (a steep tumble down from his 6.0 in 2012), Jackson had 108 total yards on 17 touches, an average of 6.4 yards per touch. At worst, Jackson remains a fine PPR flex play in deep-ish leagues.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 97.0, Yahoo – 46%
4. Isaiah Pead: Like Bell and Jackson, Pead’s ownership is pretty scattered. But if you’re in a league with 14 teams or more and you have a low waiver priority, this is an easy play. Pead’s suspension is over, and he’ll likely now push Daryl Richardson for carries, creating a platoon and a situation where he hovers around 10 carries per game.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 98.6%, Yahoo – 12%
5. Brandon Bolden: I know, I’m starring into a puddle of Shane Vereen tears too. But we must move on together after the versatile running back was placed on the IR list today with a designation to return, meaning he’ll miss a minimum of eight weeks. Stevan Ridley ascends despite his opening-week fumble, but if Bolden is healthy (he missed the Bills game with a knee injury), he’ll climb quickly too. Remember that after being plucked from Bill Belichick’s home stable of running backs (don’t worry, he feeds them), Bolden sporadically had 137 yards at a pace of 8.7 YPC in Week 4 against the Bills last year.
Percentage owned: ESPN – o.3%, Yahoo – 0%
1. Julian Edelman: Oh, Danny Amendola is hurt? Hey look, a blue sky over there. Amendola has missed 33 percent of the games he could have appeared in through his four seasons plus one game, which is why he presented the rare time when handcuffing a wide receiver is wise. Amendola isn’t likely to play against the Jets Thursday on a short week, and his absence could extend into next week. With Vereen out, Rob Gronkowski still shelved, and Zach Sudfeld possibly sitting too, Edelman is in a prime position to produce fresh off the wire, especially after he was targeted by Tom Brady nine times in Week 1. Two of those targets ended with Edelman standing in the part of the field where points are scored.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 15.9%, Yahoo – 25%
2. Andre Roberts: The rejuvenation of Arizona’s passing game goes beyond competence at quarterback, although that’s quite nice. Bruce Arians thoroughly enjoys watching a sailing ball, which is why there was an imbalance in his offense despite a close loss to St. Louis (27-24). Carson Palmer attempted 40 passes to the combined 25 rushes by Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith, and the distribution of the new quarterback’s throws led to three receivers (Roberts, Michael Floyd, and Larry Fitzgerald) with at least 80 receiving yards. Roberts is the most widely available of the three, so go get ‘em.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 35.8%, Yahoo – 22%
3. Rod Streater: Terrelle Pryor doesn’t throw deep much, but when he does, he prefers the smooth taste of Rod Streater. The sophomore is widely available after easily leading the Raiders in receiving yards during their loss to the Colts (he had 73, while Denarius Moore finished with 43).
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2.2%, Yahoo – 7%
4. Brian Hartline: The Colts defense that gave up those yards to Streater and Pryor will now be faced with the apparently legendary combination of Hartline and Tannehill. Hartline was targeted 15 times during the Dolphins’ win over Cleveland, meaning he’s already logged a double-digit target game after having five last year. Ryan Tannehill is his friend.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 34.6%, Yahoo – 46%
5. Marlon Brown: After Anquan Boldin’s exit and Dennis Pitta’s hip injury that will keep him out until at least December, someone who isn’t named Torrey Smith still has to catch balls in Baltimore. That someone who has emerged from the mess beyond Smith is Brown, who averaged 16.3 yards per catch and totaled 65 yards during Baltimore’s opening week loss to Denver. What’s the most encouraging with Joe Flacco’s deep arm is he already has two catches for 20 yards or more.
Percentage Owned: ESPN – 0.4%, Yahoo – 5%
1. Julius Thomas: I don’t think we need to fear Thomas going all Kevin Ogletree on us, because that comparison is odd and dumb. Ogletree blew up in Week 1 last year, and then he disappeared because that’s what the third wide receiver on a depth chart does. Thomas is a lumbering hulk who scored twice and averaged 22 yards per grab in his first game. If he’s available in your league, put four claims in on him.
Percentage Owned: ESPN – 72.6, Yahoo – 55%
2. Brent Celek: There was still some slight question around which tight end would receive the most usage in Chip Kelly’s supposed three headed monstrosity that never surfaced. Celek was on the field for 66 of Philadelphia’s 80 offensive snaps last night, while Zach Ertz was far behind at 24.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 10.8 percent, Yahoo – 21%
3. Kellen Winslow: Eventually his knees will light on fire. But for now, someone has to catch passes for the Jets, and Winslow is rockin’ like it’s 2006. There was a clear connection between Winslow and his rookie quarterback Geno Smith, and it ended in eight targets with 79 yards and a touchdown. In one game and one week, Winslow has already exceeded his 2012 target total (two…them knees be hurtin’).
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2.7%, Yahoo: 6%
4. Dallas Clark: First Winslow and now Clark. It really must be 2006, a time when humans actually interacted with face-to-face communication. This is another case of passing game prominence by default, as Clark is the better pass catcher than Ed Dickson with Pitta out and Boldin gone. So when Flacco works the middle of the field when the Ravens are trailing, he’ll be aiming for Clark’s hands and ample body. That leaning manifested itself in the difference in snap counts, with Dickson on the field for 39 snaps this past Thursday, while Clark played 60 snaps.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 9.4%, Yahoo: 6%
5. Charles Clay: Dustin Keller is broken in multiple places, and his replacement had a fine start with five catches for 54 yards. We can quite reasonably assume that once Mike Wallace starts to look like Mike Wallace, Charles Clay will do the same, only he’ll look like Charles Clay. But you crazy tight end streamers with a low waiver priority should take a jab here because…well, just because.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 0.3%, Yahoo – 5.4%