Waiver Wired Debut!

Adam Levitan
September 3, 2013
Waiver Wired Debut!
Adam Levitan gets the waiver party started by highlighting 30 players possibly available in your league

More than any other fantasy sport, the football landscape is dominated by the waiver wire. The constant flow of injuries leads to holes in fantasy rosters and simultaneous real-life opportunities for players. And that’s what makes this column so crucial.

I’m taking the reins of Waiver Wired for the next 17 weeks, filling the Shaq-like shoes of Chris Wesseling. Everyone should tweet “thank yous” at him for helping all of us win over the last six seasons.

The goal here is to navigate the season by identifying players that can help us both now and down the line in all kinds of formats – anything from 10-team standard scoring to 16-team PPR (point per reception). Sometimes we’ll be forced to plug in an inferior talent who happens to find himself in a good situation. Other times we’ll be adding physical freaks without a role yet. When we can combine athletic ability and playing time, we’ll strike gold. Alfred Morris, Randall Cobb, Cecil Shorts, Knowshon Moreno, Colin Kaepernick and Danario Alexander were all 2012 waiver scoops that ended up wearing a lot of fantasy title rings.

As for Week 1, it’s a slow time on the wire. I’d much rather roster a talented guy with a questionable role than a short-term plug-n-play. There are no bye weeks and the injury reports are short. We can use this week to examine the usage on some of our Favorite Fliers.

On to the assets. Here is how I would rank the top players available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues at each position heading into Week 1. Notes and recommendations on each player will follow below.

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Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest in Week 1. It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Here's the link.

1. Terrelle Pryor
2. Brandon Weeden
3. Jake Locker
4. E.J. Manuel

Running backs
1. Isaiah Pead
2. Isaac Redman
3. Roy Helu
4. Joique Bell
5. Mike Tolbert
6. Knowshon Moreno
7. Stepfan Taylor
8. Michael Cox

Wide Receivers
1. Cordarrelle Patterson
2. Andre Roberts
3. Santonio Holmes
4. Kenny Stills
5. Quinton Patton
6. Nate Washington
7. Marlon Brown
8. Markus Wheaton

Tight Ends
1. Julius Thomas
2. Brent Celek
3. Coby Fleener
4. Heath Miller

Defense/Special Teams
1. Colts
2. Browns
3. Chiefs

1. Randy Bullock
2. Greg Zuerlein
3. Garrett Hartley

1. Terrelle Pryor, Raiders – Owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues
Remember when Tim Tebow was starting games for the Broncos in 2011? Of course you do, because he was a weekly top-12 fantasy quarterback. During that 11-game span, Tebow averaged 150.0 passing yards, 56.6 rushing yards, threw 11 touchdowns and ran for five more. We can draw some similarities in the game of Terrelle Pryor, a 6’6/233 monster with legit 4.4 speed and the agility of a running back. In Pryor’s lone NFL start (2012 Week 17 at San Diego), he went 13-of-28 for 150 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while adding nine carries for 49 yards with a touchdown – good for 22.9 fantasy points. Although the Raiders haven’t officially named their starter yet for Sunday’s game against the Colts, it's going to be Pryor instead of the noodle-armed Matt Flynn. Pryor is going to rack up garbage-time stats when the league’s worst team is in “comeback” mode. On 81 preseason snaps this year, he rushed 14 times for 131 yards and scored once. Expect 60 snaps a week for Pryor starting this week against the Colts.
Recommendation: Should be owned in standard 12-team leagues

2. Brandon Weeden, Browns – Owned in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues
I’ve been the president of the Browns bandwagon all offseason. Their front seven is nasty, they have a shutdown corner in Joe Haden, they have a top-eight offensive line and they have an elite running back. Their 6.5 win total in Las Vegas is laughable. All this will help Brandon Weeden, who is operating a Rob Chudzinski/Norv Turner vertical offense that is always quarterback-friendly. Weeden takes a hit without supremely talented No. 1 wideout Josh Gordon for two weeks (suspension), but he’ll be a fine plug-n-play as we move along. The second-year man went 30-of-50 (60.0 percent) for 334 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason. He’s made giant strides since last year’s ugly rookie campaign.
Recommendation: Should be owned as a QB2 in 14-team standard leagues

3. Jake Locker, Titans – Owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues
Now entering his third NFL season, it’s put up or shut up time for Locker. He’s always been very long on athleticism and arm strength, but woefully short on accuracy and pocket presence. Now armed with a vastly improved offensive line, a full camp as the starter and a healthy Kenny Britt, there’s room for a breakout. During four exhibition appearances (116 snaps), Locker completed a sterling 67.3 percent of his passes while averaging a reasonably healthy 10.2 yards per completion. If you don’t think he can run, check out this bootleg for a TD against the Saints in 2011.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-QB leagues

4. E.J. Manuel, Bills – Owned in 18 percent of Yahoo leagues
Manuel was gaining steam as a fantasy sleeper until he went on the shelf in mid-August with a knee injury. It turned out that he needed a mere cleanup of his meniscus, one of the most minor surgeries an athlete can undergo. Manuel has already returned to practice and is on track to start Sunday’s opener against the Patriots. Although he’s one of the rawer first-round rookies to come into the league, Manuel has upside because – like two men above him in this column – he can run. In just 62 preseason snaps, he went 26-of-33 for 199 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He added four rushes for 29 yards.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-QB leagues

Watch List: Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder

1. Isaiah Pead, Rams – Owned in 13 percent of Yahoo leagues
Daryl Richardson did not win the Rams’ starting running back job due to Isaiah Pead’s one-game suspension. Richardson earned it with superior play over the last two years. Still, that doesn’t mean he’ll put a stranglehold on the job all season long. Richardson fumbled three times last year, stands just 5’10/192 and sometimes leaves yards on the field. Pead, who brings a better pedigree and arguably better natural talent to the plate as a 2011 second-round pick, fits nicely in the Rams’ new spread offense. He’s a solid hold while we see how hard he can eventually push Richardson.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team leagues

2. Isaac Redman, Steelers – Owned in 44 percent of Yahoo leagues
If we were deep into the season, battling byes and injuries, then Isaac Redman would be leading this column. But right now, talent-deficient, short-term plug-n-play running backs are not a priority. Yes, Redman has a shot to produce RB3 value against the weak Titans front as the Steelers starter this week. But he’ll be splitting time with Felix Jones/LaRod Stephens-Howling and clear-cut starter Le’Veon Bell (foot) could be back as soon as Week 2 or 3. Redman had a chance to impress last year, but couldn’t separate from Jonathan Dwyer (who was cut Saturday) while averaging just 3.72 YPC and scoring two touchdowns on 110 carries. The Steelers travel to Cincy and their league-best front-four in Week 2.  
Recommendation: Should be considered a desperation Week 1 plug-and-play or roster stash

3. Roy Helu, Redskins – Owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues
As a short-term feature back in 2011, Helu rushed 151 times for 640 yards (4.23 YPC) with two touchdowns and added 49 receptions for 379 yards with another score. His 2012 season was railroaded by toe and Achilles’ issues, but the preseason tape shows he’s all the way back now. Helu is an ideal zone-blocking scheme runner, exploding off his plant leg with unique burst. He’ll start off as the third-down back giving him a little more standalone value than someone like Christine Michael, but the real value will come if Alfred Morris were to get injured. Helu would explode if given the chance to touch the ball 15-18 times a game.  
Recommendation: Should be stashed in 12-team leagues with added value in PPR

4. Joique Bell, Lions – Owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues
Owners that haven’t been paying attention think Mikel Leshoure is Reggie Bush’s backup. They’re wrong. Joique Bell seized control of that title early in the offseason and has not let go, giving him plenty of handcuff appeal. Bush hasn’t exactly been a picture of health in his career, missing 16 games between 2008 and 2010. Also, considering how well Bell fits as a pass-catcher in the Lions scheme (he caught 52 passes last season), there’s room for him to be a desperation PPR play at some point.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in 12-team leagues with added value in PPR

5. Mike Tolbert, Panthers – Owned in 9 percent of Yahoo leagues
Jonathan Stewart (ankles) will miss at least the first six games of the season and could very well be sidelined the whole year. That leaves FB/HB Mike Tolbert and scatback-like sixth-round rookie Kenjon Barner behind clear-cut starter DeAngelo Williams. Tolbert is the one with the NFL resume. Remember that while with the Chargers in 2010 and 2011, he rushed 303 times for 1,225 yards (4.04 YPC) and scored 19 rushing touchdowns. He also added 79 catches for 649 more yards. Williams is just a guy at this point in his career, meaning the Panthers won’t hesitate to give Tolbert 8-10 touches a game. He’s a capable ball-carrier.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues

6. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Owned in 41 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Broncos know what they have in Knowshon Moreno. He’s a reliable pass protector that’s coming off a knee procedure and gets what’s blocked in the run game (last year, that equated to 3.80 YPC). That’s why they are reaching for higher, using a second-round pick on Montee Ball and talking up Ronnie Hillman as a possible starter for months on end. The problem is that both Ball and Hillman have their warts, leaving Moreno lying in the weeds. If the youngsters keep making mistakes, Moreno could vault from third-down back status to starter quickly. He looked strong while running with the second-stringers in the preseason, picking up 56 yards on 11 carries and catching four balls for 41 yards.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in 12-team leagues

7. Stepfan Taylor, Cardinals – Owned in 3 percent of Yahoo leagues
We haven’t even hit Week 1 yet and Rashard Mendenhall’s knees are already acting up. If I had any confidence at all in one of his backups or the Cardinals’ ability to open running lanes, we’d have an ideal handcuff situation. The first problem is that first-round LG Jonathan Cooper (broken leg) is already out for the season, leaving Paul Fanaika as a starter. The next problem is that Ryan Williams’ knees still aren’t right, Andre Ellington flubbed his way to 2.59 YPC in the preseason and Alfonso Smith is a special teamer. Taylor, a grinding fifth-round rookie, at least has the potential to be a Vick Ballard type in Bruce Arians’ scheme. He posted a 39/145/1 line in the preseason.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in 14-team leagues

8. Michael Cox, Giants – Owned in 0 percent of Yahoo leagues
Thanks to Andre Brown’s latest injury, Michael Cox and Da’Rel Scott are in the on deck circle behind David Wilson for now. If the Giants don’t add a veteran back to the roster this week, we’ll know they have some level of confidence in Cox. He’s a 6’1/214 seventh-round rookie with some power that can complement Wilson’s explosiveness. Scott is more of an injury-prone speedster than NFL running back.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in 16-team leagues  

Watch List: Christine Michael, Kendall Hunter, Bobby Rainey, Andre Brown, Kenjon Barner, Da’Rel Scott, Felix Jones, Daniel Thomas

1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Owned in 34 percent of Yahoo leagues
In certain instances, there’s enough talent to stash a player that lacks a real role. We did it with Randall Cobb last year and we should do it with Cordarrelle Patterson this year. In terms of athletic ability, he might be the No. 1 rookie. The Vikings are going to use him as a backup receiver and kick returner to start, manufacturing him some touches from scrimmage on screens and reverses. But Patterson has shown enough comfort in the playbook and enough improvement in his route-running to suggest that he’ll pass Jerome Simpson for the starting X job sooner rather than later. That’s when the real party will start.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in all 12-team leagues

2. Andre Roberts, Cardinals – Owned in 21 percent of Yahoo leagues
T.Y. Hilton was Bruce Arians’ No. 3 wideout last year. He recorded a 50/861/7 line, good for a top-24 fantasy finish at wide receiver. Arians’ No. 3 wideout this year will be Andre Roberts, an underrated slot man that will play between Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Given the state of the Cardinals’ running backs and offensive line, expect them to be using a three-wide set very often this season. Roberts reminds a little of a poor man’s Antonio Brown, another one of Arians’ former No. 3 wideouts.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

3. Santonio Holmes, Jets – Owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues
If you didn’t follow the offseason saga surrounding Santonio Holmes’ Lisfranc rehab, consider yourself lucky. It was a drama-filled comedy filled with uncertainty and jabs with the Jets’ front office over how hard he’s really trying to get back. The latest twist is that Holmes is practicing and is expected to play Week 1. He’d step right in as the No. 1 receiver, but there are plenty of red flags here. He’s coming off a severe foot injury, has one of the league’s worst quarterback situations and hasn’t been productive as a member of the Jets anyway (52.2 yards per game). Still, Holmes is a top-tier talent and playmaker (15 touchdowns in his last 32 games).
Recommendation: Worth stashing in 12-team leagues

4. Kenny Stills, Saints – Owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Saints expected second-year man Joe Morgan to be their No. 3 wideout this year. That plan went in the toilet when Morgan ripped up his knee in an early-camp intrasquad scrimmage. Enter Kenny Stills, a slightly built (6’0/194) yet exceptionally fast (4.38) fifth-round rookie. Nick Toon is not a threat as he’s Marques Colston’s backup on the inside. In four preseason games, Still recorded nine catches for 170 yards (18.9 YPC) with two touchdowns. Given the state of the Saints’ leaky defense and Drew Brees’ status as an elite deep thrower, Stills should see significant targets despite being behind Jimmy Graham, Colston, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles on the receiving totem pole.
Recommendation: Worth owning in deeper 12-team leagues

5. Quinton Patton, 49ers – Owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues
Ever since Michael Crabtree’s Achilles’ tear, the No. 2 receiver spot in San Francisco has been wide open. A.J. Jenkins was so bad he got traded, Mario Manningham (knee) is on PUP, Kyle Williams (hamstring) missed the entire preseason and Vernon Davis remains a move tight end. During the preseason, Marlon Moore was the starting X receiver opposite Anquan Boldin. But he’s a former undrafted free agent journeyman, while Quinton Patton is a fourth-round rookie that the Niners appear high on. Patton finished the preseason with a 6/85/2 line despite playing just 46 snaps across two games. He won’t have a problem passing up Moore.
Recommendation: Worth stashing in deeper 12-team leagues.  

6. Nate Washington, Titans – Owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues
Despite trade rumors, young draft picks (Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter) and a 30-year-old body, Washington keeps worming his way into the starting lineup. He continued to run opposite Kenny Britt in all two-wide sets during the preseason, racking up a 10/131/1 line on just 77 snaps. Washington led the Titans with 746 yards and four touchdowns last year – it wouldn’t be a surprise if he puts up similar numbers in 2013.
Recommendation: Worth holding in deeper 12-team leagues

7. Marlon Brown, Ravens – Owned in 1 percent of Yahoo leagues
Much like the Niners, the Ravens are in search of someone to emerge at their No. 2 wideout spot. And Baltimore is even more desperate because they lost their pass-catching tight end, Dennis Pitta, to a hip injury. Return man Jacoby Jones is not a natural receiver and won’t be long for the job. Enter Marlon Brown, a rookie that went undrafted in April because he tore his ACL in November of last season. It should surprise no one if he earns a look at starting reps at some point very soon.
Recommendation: Worth a stash in 14-team leagues

8. Markus Wheaton, Steelers – Owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Steelers always seem to find steals at the wideout position in the middle rounds of the draft. They got Mike Wallace in the third round, Antonio Brown in the sixth and Emmanuel Sanders in the third. Third-round rookie Markus Wheaton has drawn comparisons to another former third-rounder, Hines Ward. He’s tough, can play all over the field and knows how to get open. He opened eyes with nine catches, 139 yards and a touchdown this preseason – but operated mostly with the backups. Wheaton has to pass Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery on the depth chart to get on the WR3/flex radar.
Recommendation: Worth a stash in 14-team leagues

Watch list: Patrick Edwards, Eddie Royal, Marlon Moore, Rod Streater, Jeremy Kerley, Riley Cooper, Julian Edelman

1. Julius Thomas, Broncos – Owned in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues
Julius Thomas – not Joel Dreessen or Jacob Tamme – currently sits atop the tight end depth chart of a Peyton Manning offense. That alone should get your blood flowing. Add in the fact that Thomas is a highly athletic 6’5/255 former college basketball player that drew some comparisons Jimmy Graham when he came out of Portland State, and the blood should be boiling. Thomas is no better than fourth in line for targets, but Manning likes him. Thomas recorded four catches in each of the three exhibition games he appeared in. For more on how he'll be used against the Ravens this week, check out Evan Silva's mind-blowing Matchups piece.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team leagues

2. Coby Fleener, Colts – Owned in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues
Coby Fleener had an awful August. He dealt with a concussion and minor knee sprain. When he was on the field, he dropped passes in traffic and lost a fumble. Still, Fleener has the athleticism to play the move tight end spot in Pep Hamilton’s double-tight base formation. He also has old college buddy Andrew Luck as his quarterback. Coach Chuck Pagano said he expects Fleener’s catches to double off his rookie campaign, when he had 26. That’s certainly doable.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

3. Brent Celek, Eagles – Owned in 17 percent of Yahoo leagues
When the Eagles drafted Zach Ertz and signed James Casey, some thought Celek would end up released. It never came close to that. Celek has been Chip Kelly’s primary tight end throughout the entire spring and summer, with Ertz and Casey only playing in special packages. In the third preseason game, Celek led the Eagles in targets with seven. The Philadelphia Daily News says it’s “clear” he’s going to be a “big part” of the passing game. Although Celek will be blocking plenty as an in-line tight end in a run-first offense, he can be a bye-week fill-in for us.
Recommendation: Should be owned in deeper 12-team leagues

4. Heath Miller, Steelers – Owned in 35 percent of Yahoo leagues
About nine months ago, Miller blew out the ACL, MCL and PCL in his knee. Somehow, he’s avoided the PUP list to start the season, which means the Steelers expect him to play sometime before Week 7. For now, it looks like Miller is targeting Week 4. Remember that in 15 games before going down last year, Miller set career-highs in catches (71), yards (816) and touchdowns (8). He was Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to guy, and he did it without much burst or athletic ability. Even if Miller is a step slow coming off the injury, he’ll still be moderately effective.
Recommendation: Worth a stash in 16-team leagues

Watch list: Dwayne Allen, Ed Dickson

1. Colts – Owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues
I discussed how Terrelle Pryor can be an effective fantasy option above. That does not mean that he’ll be an effective real-life quarterback. Behind a brutal offensive line that lost stalwart left tackle Jared Veldheer (triceps), the Raiders are going to struggle to score many points here. They’re playing on the road against a Colts team that added some firepower to their defense (Erik Walden, Ricky Jean-Francois, Bjoern Werner, LaRon Landry).

2. Browns – Owned in 12 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Browns are hosting a Dolphins team that comes in with high expectations following an offseason spending spree. We know that often blows up in NFL teams’ faces. The Browns’ wildly underrated front seven should eat up the Dolphins’ suspect offensive line and Joe Haden can handle Mike Wallace.

3. Chiefs – Owned in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues
We hate to go on the road when streaming a defense, but we get a shot at Blaine Gabbert nursing a thumb injury and playing without Justin Blackmon (suspension) here. The Chiefs are certainly talented enough – they had four Pro Bowlers on defense last year in Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston. Brandon Flowers was ProFootballFocus’ No. 7 corner.  

1. Randy Bullock, Texans – Owned in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues
Bullock won the 2011 Lou Groza award as the nation’s top kicker while at Texas A&M. He missed his entire rookie year with the Texans due to a groin tear, but is back and was 6-of-7 on field goals in the preseason. Shayne Graham tied for third in the league with 38 attempts while kicking for the Texans last year. The strong-legged Bullock will get opportunities, starting this week against the Chargers.

2. Greg Zuerlein, Rams – Owned in 29 percent of Yahoo leagues
Given all the buzz Zuerlein generated last year, I’m shocked his ownership numbers are so low. This guy made seven field goals of 50+ yards last year and went 7-of-7 from 40-49 yards. He’ll be kicking in a dome against the Cardinals Sunday.

3. Garrett Hartley, Saints – Owned in 18 percent of Yahoo leagues
When streaming kickers, we look for guys playing in domes for good offenses. Hartley fits the bill perfectly. His ceiling might not be as high because Drew Brees is so effective in the red zone, but he won’t faceplant. Hartley will be part of a shootout against the Falcons this week.