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2017 All-Waiver Wire Wonder Team

What a strange journey it has been! The 2017 fantasy football season has long been put to rest, making now the perfect time to look back and reflect on the season that was. We hope that along the way this season we found some gems off the waiver wire that helped push you deep into the playoffs, and perhaps all the way to claiming your championship trophy.

Scoring was down in 2017, making the waiver wire a popular place to find the next hot player that could be counted on for a 2-3 week stretch of consistent points. Looking at starting lineup scoring, most 12 team redraft leagues saw a reduction on average of about 500 points over the course of the season. That’s not a huge gap, about 30 points per week, but that’s quite a swing when matched up head to head on a weekly basis.

Deeper leagues had an even bigger discrepancy in point scoring with 16 team leagues being down anywhere from 900 to as many as 4,000 points! Quarterback and the flex position had the biggest drop offs, as owners had to scramble to replace injured starters. With so many players already on a roster, the waiver wire was often thin, but not impossible.

Speaking in general terms about scoring, the quarterback position was where it was at in 2017. Continuing a trend that has spanned several seasons now, 12 of the Top 15 fantasy scorers were quarterbacks. The other three positions in the Top 15 were once again running backs, making this the second year in a row that no wide receiver has made it into the Top 15 (there were two wideouts in the Top 15 in 2015). Teams are throwing to the running backs more often and spreading the ball around, while defensively working to keep their opponents’ top wide receiver from breaking out and having a huge game.

The year 2017 was also the year of the rookie. In year’s past, it was a rarity to select a rookie on draft day and be able to count on that player to be a top performer. Especially at running back, that was not the case this year as four rookie runners finished the season in the Top 15 at their position. We also had rookies at quarterback, wide receiver and even tight end make a fantasy impact.

So we look back at the top waiver wire additions of 2017 and make some notes that we can carry forward into draft day 2018 — it’s never too early to start preparing for next year!

Quarterbacks

The quarterback position has traditionally been one where 2-3 undrafted players emerge to become top fantasy options. This year was no different. We saw several emerge early in the season, and we also saw many emerge around the midway point. Most became top options that could be used on a consistent basis.

Deshaun Watson, Houston

The adage that the rookie quarterback needs to spend some time as a backup quickly evaporated in Houston. Watson was a winner at Clemson, and after seeing Tom Savage in the first week of the season, the Texans quickly made the move to the rookie and he did not disappoint. Unfortunately, his season was cut short with a season ending injury in week eight, but those fantasy owners that grabbed him early on enjoyed six weeks of high end fantasy production that scaled over the course of an entire season would have made him the top overall individual fantasy scorer.

Alex Smith, Kansas City

Undrafted in most leagues, Smith opened the season against New England by throwing for 368 yards while tossing four touchdowns against zero interceptions. The Chiefs dealt the Patriots an opening night defeat, and Smith was on his way to being one of the top fantasy quarterbacks over the course of the entire season. He threw 18 touchdowns in the first nine games of the season, offset by only a single interception over those same games. He was consistently around 250 yards passing, and even as Kansas City began to lose games, Smith continued to be a top passer. He finished the season as one of the top five not only at his position, but across all positions.

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Though not a rookie, the second year player emerged as the high level player the Rams hoped he would be when they made him the top pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He was consistently around 250 yards passing early on, and after the week eight bye, he really stepped it up to have a strong fantasy impact. From week nine to 16, Goff threw 19 touchdown passes against only three interceptions. Four times during that stretch he went over 300 yards. If not for sitting out the final week of the regular season, the numbers over the season would be even better. As it was, he ended the season as one of the Top 15Top 15 fantasy quarterbacks, a true waiver wire wonder.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville

Another quarterback undrafted at fantasy drafts that took off around mid-season was Blake Bortles. A 300 yard performance against the Colts week 7 got things going, and he followed that game up with back to back 250 yard performances. Though the touchdown passes were not plentiful, it was his rushing yards that pushed him over the edge for the fantasy owner. A week 12 game had him get into the end zone twice, and after that week he averaged two touchdown throws per game. He was never a top fantasy performer, but he was consistent and he ended the season alongside Goff as one of the Top 15Top 15 fantasy quarterbacks.

Case Keenum, Minnesota

After losing Sam Bradford to injury early in the season, the Vikings reluctantly turned to Case Keenum as their starter. With Teddy Bridgewater already sidelined, Keenum had some struggles early, but he always did just enough to keep Minnesota from looking elsewhere for a quarterback. The Vikings quietly put together a string of wins, and as the season progressed, Keenum made the Vikings a top contender in the NFC. Like Bortles and Goff, his best games were in the second half of the season. Beginning in week eight and covering a two month stretch, Keenum averaged over 250 yards passing and over 2 touchdown throws per week. He was also a regular runner, often picking up 20-40 yards on the ground. He finished the season as a Top 15Top 15 fantasy quarterback, just behind the aforementioned Bortles and Goff.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco

After being traded from coast to coast at the trade deadline, San Francisco kept their 2018 prize on the bench so he could learn the offense. When C.J. Beathard went down with an injury, Garoppolo came in and as the only healthy option against the Bears in week 13, he started and brought the 49ers to their first victory. From there, all he did was win. San Francisco won out, football was exciting once again in the Bay Area, and oh yea, he put up some pretty good fantasy numbers. Over his five weeks as a starter, he averaged over 300 yards per game to go along with six touchdown throws and a rushing touchdown. For those that needed a quarterback late in the season, Garoppolo was a true waiver wire wonder.

About Doug Coutts

Doug has been with Fantasysharks.com since the very beginning. He is a Senior Fantasy Football Staff Writer and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer Association (FSWA). Way back when, there was the Dynasty Den, Just Thinking Out Loud, and the Weekly Wrap-up. Along the way were television appearances on the local cable affiliate, and various other contributions. His weekly "Waiver Wire Wonders" column appears on Tuesdays.