Any fantasy player knows that the draft is only the first battle in the war that is the fantasy football season. The next step is using the free agent pool to your advantage. To help you get a head start on the options available on the wire, here’s a Watch List of guys to keep an eye early in the year and throughout the season.
This article goes hand in hand with our fantasy football tips to win the waiver wire.
Geno Smith - NYJ:
We saw the Good, the Bad and the extremely Ugly from Geno Smith last season. There were times where he looked like he should never have been drafted by a CFL team, and there were times when he looked every bit the QB he was hyped up to be during his last year at West Virginia. That said, there were more positives to Geno’s rookie year than most are willing to admit.
Over his last 4 games in 2013, he totaled 7 touchdowns (3 on the ground), 2 picks, and ZERO fumbles as well as rushing for a minimum of 44 yards in each game. In standard leagues, Geno averaged more than 21 points in those last four games, giving him easy QB1 value. Add that to his shiny new toys in WR Eric Decker, CJ2K (screen passes for days) and TE Jace Amaro, there is no reason not to have him as a dual-threat QB2 with the upside for so much more. There will be less space on the bandwagon after he torches the Raiders in Week 1.
Jake Locker - TEN:
Another dual threat QB, Locker’s biggest issue has always been his health. Locker only played 6 full games last year and didn’t make it out of the first half in his 7th. But when he was on the field, he showed a lot of the promise that made him the 10th overall pick in 2011. In 4 of those 6 games, he had at least 2 total touchdowns and ran the ball three or more times in 5 of the 6 (he still had two in Week 2).
Under Ken Whisenhunt, Locker will be given every opportunity to succeed in his contract year. Look for him to emphasize accuracy to up his passing totals as well as run the ball for some free points each game. His stock is low right now, but he has the pedigree to put up at least a few QB1 weeks.
Other Options to Watch
Blake Bortles (JAX) – If he gets to start this year, he will be very, very good.
Teddy Bridgewater (MIN) – More of a “when” than “if” he starts this year.
Derek Carr (OAK) – Matt Schaub will not, and should not, start the whole year
Lance Dunbar - DAL:
This is all about Scott Linehan being the Offensive Coordinator in Dallas. I am not ready to compare the Murray/Dunbar combination to that of Reggie Bush/Joique Bell, but Linehan loves using more than one back. Murray will undoubtedly see a much larger portion of the workload than either Bush or Bell did last year, but he will still use Dunbar enough for him to have flex/bye week value. Linehan himself has said he sees similarities between Dunbar and Bush throughout the offseason. You can do worse than grabbing a RB who is all but guaranteed to touch the ball every game, especially in PPR leagues as he should see most of his yardage come from the pass.
Benny Cunningham – STL:
With QB Sam Bradford out for the year, the Rams will look to pound the football on the ground, and do it a lot. Recently, word out of St. Louis is that Cunningham, not Stacy, has been the best back in St. Louis this offseason. Stacy owners don’t fret. He’s not in danger of losing his starting gig…yet. There will be more than enough touches on the ground for both Stacy and Cunningham to be effective this year if they both stay healthy all season.
Other Options to Watch
Jonathon Grimes/Alfred Blue (HOU) – Foster handcuff, not much upside
Jerick McKinnon (MIN) – Peterson handcuff, massive upside
Robert Turbin (SEA) – Turbin will get the first chance should Lynch go down
Latavius Murray (OAK) – MJD and DMC will not stay healthy all year. If they’re both hurt at the same time, Murray is the guy
Kenjon Barner – (PHI) Knows the Chip Kelly offense and should have more upside than Polk as McCoy’s handcuff
John Brown – ARI:
Bruce Arians must have stolen some of WR T.Y. Hilton’s genes when he was in Indy because Brown is Hilton’s clone. Their combined measurables and drills times were nearly identical, with Brown’s being slightly better or equal across the board. They were drafted in almost the same exact spot in their respective draft with Brown being the 91st overall selection in 2014 and T.Y. going 92nd overall in 2012.
With Arians as the interim head coach in Indy, Hilton went for 50 catches (on 90 targets) for 861 yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie season while playing just 57% of the offensive snaps. Arians has recently come out and said that he plans on getting Brown up to 60% of the offensive snaps after he was announced to be the WR3 on the depth chart. Provided Brown stays healthy, he’s a good bet to equal or better the gaudy line Hilton put up in his rookie year.
Cody Latimer – DEN:
Latimer, the 2nd round pick out of Indiana, was drafted to be the heir apparent to Eric Decker in the prolific Denver offense. They have relatively similar measurables and athletic ability and are both ideally suited to a WR2 role. With Decker gone, Latimer won’t immediately step in as his direct replacement, but he will make an impact somehow this season.
Welker’s concussion issues are proving to be an issue earlier than the Broncos would have hoped. If Welker is forced to miss time, Sanders could be moved into the slot and WR Andre Caldwell could be the first man up to play on the outside. It’s Caldwell, who's not all that impressive. Latimer should be able to jump Caldwell on the depth chart early in the year and be the guy on the outside should Welker (or anyone else) go down. A little cherry on top, the Broncos are expected to include Latimer in some red zone packages regardless of who is healthy. With Peyton throwing the football, that already makes Latimer worthy of a flier, with much higher upside should any of their wideouts go down with injury.
Other Options to Watch
Charles Johnson (CLE) – Should make the roster with the Gordon suspension. Talent is still raw, but has the highest ceiling of the wide receivers on the Browns roster
Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) – If he ever gets his hamstring to 100%, could be a good fit if Eli figures out the McAdoo offense
Rod Streater/Andre Holmes (OAK) – As long as Schaub is the starter, he will lean on one of these two
Robert Woods (BUF) – EJ loves him
Mohamed Sanu (CIN) – Low upside, but he’ll get an opportunity while Marvin Jones is on the shelf
Lance Moore (PIT) – Upside in PPR leagues if Wheaton/Bryant don’t pan out as hoped
Marlon Brown (BAL) – Had more touchdowns than Torrey Smith last year
Andre Roberts (WAS) – RG3 needs a security blanket. More valuable if Reed has concussion issues
Paul Richardson (SEA) – Could emerge as the best receiving option in Seattle because Harvin will miss time like he always does
Devin Hester (ATL) – Just watch the highlight from his TD in Week 3 of the preseason. That wont be the last time you see that this year
Tim Wright – NE:
He finished as the 13th overall TE last season in an offense that is far inferior to the one he finds himself in now. Belichick has been looking for someone to fill the Aaron Hernandez role (TE who cant block but can catch) since last season. Wright fills that description and could find himself in a bigger role if Gronk isn’t 100%
Dwayne Allen – IND:
Between Allen and Fleener, Allen is a much better receiver and has much higher upside. Before he injured his hip and missed the rest of the season, Allen scored a touchdown on his only catch in 2013. In 2012, Allen had nearly double the receiving yardage that Fleener had and was the preferred TE target of Andrew Luck. He doesn’t have TE1 potential unless Fleener goes down, but he will have good value as a TE2/bye week filler and is a better bet to put up points than Fleener.
Other Options to Watch
Mercedes Lewis – Strong finish last year. Was a top-10 TE not too long ago
Jace Amaro – If Cumberland misses time, he will be the starter and used appropriately. Will have drop issues, but hes a monster if he gets the ball in his hands
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – Will have more opportunity to succeed without Tim Wright in the way
Mychal Rivera – Schaub/Carr security blanket