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Waiver Wired: Week 1

by Raymond Summerlin
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Welcome to the first edition of Waiver Wired for the 2015 season. As has always been the case, this column will be your guide to the best players available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Some of those players will be plug-and-play options who could help this week while others will be stashes who may become useful in the future.

 

Each profiled player will come with a recommendation of what size league they should be owned in. This does not mean they cannot be owned in shallower leagues, but they are not must-adds in the smaller formats. Also, a watch list will follow each position group. These are players who could be added if a roster spot were available, but they are not yet must own players. Now that the explanation is out of the way, let’s move on to Week 1.

 

A flurry of activity during and shortly after final cuts created a more interesting initial waiver wire than fantasy players are usually treated. Despite the added players, the philosophy of the wire this early in the season remains the same. With the drafted starters hopefully healthy and locked into lineups, high-upside options who have a reasonable shot at playing time should be prioritized over lower-upside options with defined roles when determining the bottom of the roster.

 

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Quarterbacks
1. Jay Cutler
2. Tyrod Taylor
3. Andy Dalton
4. Alex Smith

Running backs
1. Duke Johnson
2. Matt Jones
3. Danny Woodhead
4. Christine Michael
5. Andre Williams
6. Chris Johnson

Wide receivers
1. Brian Quick
2. Dorial Green-Beckham
3. Rueben Randle
4. Kamar Aiken
5. Marvin Jones
6. Danny Amendola
7. James Jones

Tight ends
1. Ladarius Green
2. Eric Ebron
3. Coby Fleener

Defense/Special Teams
1. Jets
2. Broncos
3. Vikings 

Kickers
1. Josh Scobee
2. Brandon McManus
3. Josh Brown
4. Josh Lambo

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QUARTERBACKS

1. Jay Cutler, Bears – Owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues

Jay Cutler’s ADP was one of the most peculiar storylines this summer, and Cutler being owned in fewer leagues than Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick is just an extension of his odd fall from grace. Despite struggling in real life last season, Cutler was just as effective on a per-game basis as all the quarterbacks in the low-end QB1 streaming range. He finished with more points per game than Flacco and Kaepernick, he put up the same per-game totals as Philip Rivers and finished just .2 per-game points behind Eli Manning. The injury to Alshon Jeffery is concerning, but Cutler still has weapons on the outside. More importantly, OC Adam Gase may not be a step down from Marc Trestman. Under Gase, Peyton Manning bettered his career averages in touchdown percentage, interception percentage, completion percentage and adjusted yards per attempt every season. Cutler was fine last year, and he could be better this season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

 

2. Tyrod Taylor, Bills – Owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues
The group filled with the most joy when Rex Ryan announced Tyrod Taylor as the Bills’ starting quarterback was unquestionably fantasy players. Dual-threat quarterbacks are beloved in fantasy leagues because of simple math. In a game where 10 rushing yards equals the same number of points as 25 passing yards and two rushing touchdowns are worth three passing, it makes sense quarterbacks who score fantasy points with their legs would be sought after, and Taylor showed in the preseason he could do just that. The problem is running quarterbacks also need to be able to throw, and that part of Taylor’s game is still unproven. He is worth a look in deeper formats and perhaps a start Week 1 for streamers, but expectations should be tempered.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

3. Andy Dalton, Bengals – Owned in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues
Andy Dalton did not have many weapons to throw to last season. A.J. Green played in just 12 games and was no 100 percent in others, Tyler Eifert played eight snaps total and Marvin Jones missed the entire season. Those absences left Dalton with Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham as his top targets for a lot of the season, so it is not that surprising Dalton saw his per-game average fall 4.6 points from the year before. Dalton was inconsistent two years ago, but he put up several QB1 performances. He could have a similar year this season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

4. Alex Smith, Chiefs – Owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues
Alex Smith was the butt of many jokes this offseason after not throwing a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver last year, but the reality is the wide receivers he had to target were not worthy of the looks. That changed when the Chiefs brought in Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is a legitimate No. 1 receiver who has already shown his worth this preseason. Smith scored almost 17 fantasy points a game two years ago, and he could get back to that level with Maclin as a target this season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

Watch List: Blake Bortles had a quality preseason, but he has several difficult matchups in the first seven weeks. If he can play well against the likes of Miami and New England, he could find himself in the streaming class. … Like Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota brings the rushing ability fantasy owners love. If the Titans offense offers enough scoring opportunities, he will be worth a look. … Jameis Winston has much better weapons than Mariota, but he is also much more likely to have a three-interception game. … Derek Carr has better weapons this year, but he has to prove he is more than a check-down quarterback. … Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets’ offense has more upside than most realize. He has been a low-end QB2 the last two seasons.

 

 

 

RUNNING BACKS

1. Duke Johnson, Browns – Owned in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues
A preseason of injury has tempered expectations for Duke Johnson, but the trade of Terrance West once again highlights how big a role Johnson is expected to play in the offense when healthy. Like West, Isaiah Crowell is maddeningly inconsistent and has drawn the ire of coach Mike Pettine multiple times. Crowell should open the season as the starter, but he is a non-factor in the passing game and likely a fumble or two away from the doghouse. Cleveland should also bring in a veteran back, but that back is a free agent in early September for a reason. Johnson has an excellent chance to finish the season with the most touches in the Browns’ backfield. If he cannot get healthy, he was free. It is a no lose situation.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

2. Matt Jones, Redskins – Owned in 19 percent of Yahoo leagues
Matt Jones has had the biggest rise up my redraft board. The climb is partly to do with Jones’ spectacular performance this preseason. Jones has gained 139 yards on 20 carries (7.0 YPC) and consistently ripped off big gains against even good competition. Alfred Morris, on the other hand, has gained 56 yards on 18 carries (3.1 YPC), which brings me to the second reason Jones has been rocketing up my board. Morris will be a free agent next offseason and was selected by a previous front office and coaching staff. If the new organization does not plan to bring him back next year and Jones is outperforming him on the field, there is little reason to keep Morris on top of the depth chart. There are already rumors the backfield will be something of a committee to open the season, and it is a real possibility Jones becomes the chair early in the year.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

3. Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Owned in 48 percent of Yahoo leagues
Fellow passing specialists Reggie Bush and Roy Helu are worth adding in PPR leagues, but Danny Woodhead has the touchdown upside to carry value even in standard formats. When healthy in 2013, Woodhead saw 43 red-zone opportunities and scored five touchdowns inside the 10-yard line. In the same season, Ryan Mathews had 39 red-zone opportunities and also scored five touchdowns from inside the 10. Melvin Gordon is not the established back Mathews was in 2013, and he has struggled this preseason. Woodhead’s one touchdown this preseason was on an eight-yard run. Woodhead is not guaranteed eight touchdowns again, but it is not outside the realm of possibilities.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

 

4. Christine Michael, Cowboys – Owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues
Christine Michael will be perhaps the hottest name on the wire Week 1, but it is important to remember that everything about his “upside” is theoretical. Despite being more physically gifted than Robert Turbin, Michael was never able to climb him on the Seahawks’ depth chart because of inconsistency and his inability to, as his position coach in Seattle said, “get it.” The light may flip on now that he has been traded, but that is not a given. It is also not a given he will get any meaningful snaps with the Cowboys. Michael is unlikely to be active Week 1, and the Cowboys are not going to thrust him into the starting lineup if they cannot trust him. It is more likely Michael gets under 50 carries this year than it is he gets over 200. He is worth a speculative add in deep leagues or for a team with open roster spots, but that is all.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

5. Andre Williams, Giants – Owned in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues
Andre Williams was bad last season, but his preseason usage suggests he has a real chance to become the lead back in New York at some point this season. Williams evenly rotated series with Rashad Jennings while the first-team offense was on the field this preseason, and he has actually out-touched Jennings by one during the exhibition games. It is possible the Giants were just saving Jennings for the real games, but there has been enough noise about Williams potentially taking Jennings’ job this offseason to at least add him in deep leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

6. Chris Johnson, Cardinals – Owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues
I am an Andre Ellington supporter, but it is hard to argue the Cardinals’ actions this offseason suggests they are not as convinced as I in the third-year back. They spent a third-round pick on combine star David Johnson and then invested a decent chunk of guaranteed money in Chris Johnson in August. Johnson the rookie played well in the preseason, but he will likely begin the season buried on the depth chart. Johnson the old also looked good in the final preseason game, and he should put pressure on Ellington for carries early in the season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

Watch List: Speaking of Arizona, I project Chris Johnson as the No. 2 behind Andre Ellington, but if it is David Johnson he will be worth adding as well. … Reggie Bush and Roy Helu are passing specialists on teams with unproven lead backs who could be trailing often this season. They are must owns in PPR leagues. … DeAngelo Williams is not a must own anywhere, but he could be a low-end RB3/FLEX while Le'Veon Bell serves his suspension. … Karlos Williams and/or Bryce Brown could be in line for a big workload Week 1 if LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is unable to play. … It is unlikely any Tennessee back becomes a weekly contributor this season, but Bishop Sankey or Terrance West would be interesting if either grabs hold of the starting job. … Dion Lewis looks to be the third-down back in New England, though guessing the Patriots’ running back depth chart is always a crapshoot. … Ronnie Hillman is not a threat to C.J. Anderson’s workload right now, but that could change if CJA struggles. … Doug Martin is clearly the lead back in Tampa Bay, but Charles Sims could have a big role if the Bucs play from behind often this season. … T.J. Yeldon looks like the clear lead in Jacksonville, but ESPN Jags reporter Mike DiRocco has consistently disagreed with that assessment. He expects Denard Robinson to be more involved. … Ahmad Bradshaw is suspended Week 1, but his broken leg is reportedly fully healed. He could find a home next week.

 

 

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Brian Quick, Rams – Owned in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues
The introduction’s edict of upside over role was tested by the case of Brian Quick. Even if Todd Gurley can come back fully healthy early in the season, the Rams’ offense and particularly their passing game project to be a disaster this season. The offense line is perhaps the worst in the league, and new quarterback Nick Foles struggles under pressure, as we saw this preseason. The situation last season was not much better, however, and Quick still managed to post four top-30 PPR weeks in seven games including a top-five finish in Week 5. He is clearly the No. 1 passing option on the team, and despite the putrid nature of the offense, that gives him more upside than the No. 2s and 3s which follow.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

2. Dorial Green-Beckham, Titans – Owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Titans ridiculously have five running backs and five tight ends on their initial roster while only keeping four wide receivers, but their roster mismanagement could work to fantasy owners’ gain. After an impressive preseason, rookie Dorial Green-Beckham is essentially guaranteed a role in the offense. Called a “beast” by teammate Jason McCourty, DGB has the opportunity to establish himself in the offense and never let go. If Marcus Mariota can at least be average early, that could mean big things for Green-Beckham in fantasy.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

3. Reuben Randle, Giants – Owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues
Reuben Randle was the picture of inefficiency last season. Randle finished with the 22nd-most targets in the league last year but finished as the PPR WR30. He caught just 56 percent of his targets and averaged .88 fantasy points per opportunity. A lot of that inefficiency came down to a lack of touchdowns. Randle converted just three of his 21 red zone opportunities and did not score a touchdown of more than seven yards. That is the bad news. The good news is Victor Cruz looks poised to miss the start of the season with a calf injury, and Randle is unlikely to be as ineffective near the end zone again this year. Odell Beckham will be the focal point of the passing offense, but Randle still saw eight red-zone looks in the nine games Beckham dominated last year. Those scoring opportunities give him nice upside.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

4. Kamar Aiken, Ravens – Owned in 2 percent of Yahoo leagues
With Breshad Perriman out until perhaps October with a sprained knee, Kamar Aiken is poised to open the season as the No. 2 receiver in Baltimore. Torrey Smith rode that role to 92 targets and 11 touchdowns last season, and that was with a competent pass-catching tight end on the roster. Aiken showed some touchdown prowess himself last season, turning three of his seven red-zone targets into touchdowns. A raw prospect who missed all of camp, Perriman is not guaranteed a starting spot even when he gets back from injury, and Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro are not exactly world beaters. Aiken could hold onto the starting job all season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

 

5. Marvin Jones, Bengals – Owned in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues
It is concerning Marvin Jones did not start a single preseason game and caught exactly one pass from Andy Dalton, but Jones’ proven upside is enough to take the plunge in most leagues. Jones did not play a single snap in 2014, but two years ago he exploded onto the fantasy scene with 10 touchdowns. Four of those scores came in a single game, but Jones saw almost six targets a game over the final 11 of 2013 and scored a touchdown in six of those contests. Mohamed Sanu does not have the upside of Jones, and both Tyler Eifert’s health and talent are unproven. Jones could conceivably be the No. 2 receiving option in Cincinnati. That is worth an add in most leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

 

6. Danny Amendola, Patriots – Owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues
I spent most of last season making fun of Danny Amendola, and it was for good reason. Despite being owned in many leagues, Amendola played less than 50 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps last season and saw more than three targets just once the first 15 weeks of the year. Amendola saw 18 targets total over the final two weeks of the season, however, and garnered 12 percent of the Patriots' targets in the playoffs. With Brandon LaFell on the PUP with a foot injury, Amendola could see his target share creep much closer to 20 percent. That makes him roster-able in all PPR leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

 

7. James Jones, Packers – Owned in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues
James Jones will be a much higher priority for others, but it is important to consider how good both he and the role he may or may not be walking into actually is. Jones averaged just 9.1 yards per reception and 2.3 yards after the catch last season, and he spent most of the summer as a free agent before failing to earn a spot on the Giants’ roster. He was left out in the free agent pool for a reason, and it is possible Jones is not an NFL-caliber wide receiver anymore. He also is not guaranteed a big role in the offense. Even if he takes all of Davante Adams’ 66 targets from last season – which is not a given – he is unlikely to match the WR74 finish Adams posted in 2014. Jones’ history in Green Bay and with Aaron Rodgers makes him worth an add, but there are higher upside players available.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

Watch List: Brandon Coleman did not show enough in the preseason to be a must own anywhere, but if camp reports about his role in the offense are correct, that could change by this time next week. … Davante Parker and Kenny Stills should cannibalize each other enough so that neither one becomes a reliable fantasy option this season, but it is worth keeping an eye on if one can distance himself from the other. … Both Ty Montgomery’s and Jeff Janis’ already questionable fantasy values took a big hit with the signing of James Jones, but Jones looked done last year in Oakland. There is still hope. … Leonard Hankerson would be the No. 2 receiver in Atlanta if Roddy White is unable to play. … Clearly the No. 2 in Jacksonville, Allen Hurns could become a viable fantasy asset if the Jags’ offense can improve. … Phillip Dorsett does not have a defined role today, but he would be a must add if something happened to T.Y. Hilton. … As ridiculous as it sounds, one of Corey Brown or Ted Ginn should have a decent size offensive role in Carolina. … Michael Crabtree showed flashes in the preseason and has the No. 2 job on lock.

 

 

 

TIGHT ENDS

1. Ladarius Green, Chargers – Owned in 22 percent of Yahoo leagues
Despite a quiet preseason where he caught just two passes for 27 yards, Ladarius Green enters the season with as much upside as any tight end owned in less than 50 percent of leagues. Antonio Gates and his six targets a game are suspended for the first four games of the season, which opens up a prime offensive opportunity for the athletically-gifted Green, especially in the red zone. Philip Rivers connected with Gates on 12 of his 31 touchdowns last season, and Gates has caught almost 30 percent of Rivers’ red-zone touchdowns over the last three seasons. At 6’6, Green certainly has the body type to excel in the red zone, and it is worth stashing him to see if he can turn his potential into fantasy points early in the season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues.

 

2. Eric Ebron, Lions – Owned in 9 percent of Yahoo leagues
Eric Ebron does not carry the immediate starting upside of Green, but he could finish the season as a much better fantasy option. After posting a meager 248 yards and one touchdown on 25 receptions as a rookie, Ebron enters 2015 as perhaps the third option in the Lions’ passing attack behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. That option might not carry a ton of upside – Johnson and Tate combined to handle 45 percent of Detroit’s targets last season – but Ebron could find his way to 90 targets this season with both Johnson and Tate healthy. If one of them goes down, he could be an even more enticing option.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

3. Coby Fleener, Colts – Owned in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues
Coby Fleener scored eight touchdowns in 2014 on his way to finishing as the 10th best fantasy tight end. That kind of production would usually lead to a player at least being drafted the next season, but Fleener fell out of the majority of drafts because his relatively up and down performance from a year ago could get even worse this season. The Colts replaced Reggie Wayne with Andre Johnson, added Phillip Dorsett in the draft and landed Frank Gore in free agency. With Dwayne Allen also back healthy, there are certainly going to be fewer chances for Fleener, especially in scoring positions. That said, he is still a primary pass catcher on one of the best offenses in the league. He is worth a stash in deeper leagues while his role becomes more defined.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues.

 

Watch List: Charles Clay had a long touchdown in the third preseason game, but he will see limited targets in a low-volume passing offense. He is not worth rostering, but that could change if he has a bigger role than expected in the offense. … With Julius Thomas sidelined at least the first three weeks of the season, Marcedes Lewis, and Clay Harbor are interesting names to watch. Jacksonville is expected to continue using two tight end sets even with Thomas on the bench. … A forgotten name following the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson was Richard Rodgers. He already should have a role in the red zone, and if he starts to see five targets a game he would be worth a look. … The next in the long line of Aaron Hernandez replacements is Scott Chandler. With seemingly every receiver hurt, Chandler might be the first to actually make a fantasy impact. … Washington paid a fifth-round pick to land Derek Carrier, who is the backup to injury-prone starter Jordan Reed. … The Saints are not going to use a tight end to replace Jimmy Graham, but Ben Watson or Josh Hill could be fantasy assets none the less if one runs away with the job. … Maxx Williams will begin the year beneath Crockett Gillmore on the depth chart, but he may not finish there.

 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

1. New York Jets – Owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Jets’ defensive personnel unquestionably got better over the offseason. They added the best cornerback in the league, three excellent complementary pieces in the secondary and the best defensive line talent in the draft. Losing Sheldon Richardson to suspension for the first four games hurts, but Leonard Williams is more than capable of holding down the fort during Richardson’s suspension while Lorenzo Mauldin should be able to replace the snaps lost when Jason Babin was let go at final cuts. The Cardinals always overachieved on defense while Todd Bowles was running the show, and the Jets arguably have more talent. This could be one of the top DSTs in the league all season, and they are a must start at home against the Browns and Josh McCown Week 1.

 

2. Denver Broncos – Owned in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues
Lost in the narrative surrounding the Broncos’ offensive struggles this preseason was the play of Denver’s defensive unit. The team allowed the third-fewest yards in the league in the exhibition season while forcing a league-high six fumbles and sacking the quarterback a league-high 20 times, which was six more than the next best team. Preseason stats are generally meaningless, but the forced fumble and sack numbers point to how much more aggressive the Broncos will be with DC Wade Phillips calling the shots. Pressure leads to turnovers which lead to defensive touchdowns. Denver could have quite a few of all three this season.

 

3. Minnesota Vikings – Owned in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues
The Vikings are my dark horse top-five DST pick this season. Mike Zimmer was one of the top defensive coordinators in the league before taking the head coaching job in Minnesota, the Vikings quietly have one of the more talented and athletic front sevens in the league, and Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Xavier Rhodes are the core of a very good secondary. The 49ers’ offense looked about as bad as an offense can in their third preseason game against the Broncos, and their offensive line is in absolute shambles. The Vikings should dismantle them in Week 1.

 

KICKERS
1. Josh Scobee, Steelers – Owned in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues
Josh Scobee’s fantasy situation improved dramatically when he was traded from the Jaguars to the Steelers on the last day of August. The 30th best fantasy kicker despite playing all 16 games last season, Scobee is moving from last year’s worst offense to one of last year’s best. Shaun Suisham had the 7th best fantasy season among kickers as the Steelers’ starter last season, and Scobee has a good shot to match that finish this year. 

 

2. Brandon McManus, Broncos – Owned in 15 percent of Yahoo leagues
Brandon McManus officially won the Broncos’ kicking competition when Denver released Connor Barth two weeks ago. McManus was not a particularly exciting fantasy kicker last season, attempting just 13 field goals in his 11 games as Denver’s primary kicker, but Barth attempted 16 kicks over the final five games of last year in a Broncos’ offense which could resemble what fans will see in Denver this season. Coach Gary Kubiak’s offenses have averaged 35 attempts over the last five years. It would not be surprising if McManus reached that level this season.

 

3. Josh Brown, Giants – Owned in 13 percent of Yahoo leagues
Josh Brown is dealing with a leg injury, but considering he is the only kicker the Giants kept on the 53-man roster, he is a safe bet to play Week 1. That should be good news for his fantasy owners. Brown finished as just the 16th best kicker overall last season, but he was the second best leg over the final five games of the season. The Giants’ offense should be able to match its late-season form this year, making Brown a potentially elite option. He is also a good DFS option Week 1 in what should be a shootout with Dallas.

 

4. Josh Lambo, Chargers – Owned in 2 percent of Yahoo leagues
Josh Lambo beat out veteran Nick Novak, who has converted 89 percent of his attempts over the last three seasons. A big-legged prospect out of Texas A&M care of the MLS, Lambo falls into a decent fantasy situation. Novak attempted a middling 26 field goals in 2014, but he had 37 attempts and 42 extra point conversions in 2013. Both numbers ranked in the top five. A healthier season could see the Chargers’ offense return to its 2013 level, making Lambo a nice low-priced pickup for those who avoided kickers in their draft. 

Raymond Summerlin
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.