Opening NFL weekend. An idea that was seemingly so far-fetched not too long ago, one that was not preceded by a single preseason game, by all accounts went off without a hitch. For many, this was a Sunday that brought about a little bit of normalcy where you could pull out a jersey from the closet, settle into the recliner (or “deep couch city!”) and kick it back with the clicker and enjoy football. Even without fans, the watching experience was very enjoyable.
For many, this opening weekend was not only the start to the season, but the start of a new era with a new quarterback. There are so many opening weekend thoughts kicking around, we will discuss them in a separate article and to keep this straight to the point and the “Waiver Wonders.”
As a brief reminder, we split up the column into four categories. The “Smokin’ Hot” listing is the grouping of the top players available this week. These are players who can have both an immediate and long term fantasy impact. The “Solid Pickups” are players who are on the cusp of moving into the top category. They might be only a week away from making headlines, so those of you buried at the bottom of the waiver wire can look here to get a jump on next week’s prime time players.
After that, the “On the Radar” types are those who are starting to make some noise. A shuffling of an NFL team’s depth chart might get them a mention in this story. These are speculative additions to consider before they blow up and become consistent fantasy contributors. Finally, the “Deep and/or Dynasty Only” players are just that, only for those in leagues with deep rosters or dynasty leagues. The players listed here are weeks, if not an entire season, away from making a fantasy impact. Long shots, but worth a shot nonetheless for those with a roster spot to spare at the bottom of the roster. Last note is that deadline to go to press is such that some weeks (like this week) it is not possible for me to include any developments from the Monday night game(s).
The draft is over, and Week 1 is just about in the books, but there is more work to be done my fantasy brethren. We have PLENTY to talk about this week, in all categories. Be careful as to which players to cut, as there are plenty of slow starters out there, but there were also plenty that were cut down by injury and already out for the season. As always, thanks for finding us and your patronage, without further ado …. read on as there is something for everyone. Onto this week’s wonders!
RB Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis
What was once a crowded situation with three backs vying for the ball has been whittled down to a two-man race. Indianapolis lost Marlon Mack for the season, allowing Indianapolis to split things between Hines and rookie Jonathan Taylor. Many have been touting the skills of the rookie, and rightly so. In fact, the coaching staff has already come out to say that Taylor will be the Week 2 starter. Even skilled rookies have much to learn, especially when it comes to pass protection. Hines was stellar in the opener against Jacksonville, at least in terms of fantasy production. He and Taylor split the carries, with neither getting much ground, but Hines was heavily involved in the passing game, hauling in eight passes, including one that went for a touchdown from Philip Rivers. Though Taylor will be the starter, Hines will be involved and will have the passing game to boost his fantasy production.
RB Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are one of many teams where the head coach waivers on the lead running back week to week, even series to series. Brown was the leading rusher against Dallas, carrying the ball 18 times for 79 yards and two scores. He was also involved in the passing game, hauling in three catches for 31 yards. The good news for Brown is that Cam Akers struggled and Darrell Henderson is well behind those two in respect to getting onto the field and seeing the ball. The bad news is the Rams want to keep Akers involved, so this is looking like a split situation going forward. Brown will have the edge in third down, boosting his value to those in points per reception (PPR) leagues. After a strong opening week, Brown is here to stay and is worth owning in all formats.
WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas
The rookie first-round pick did not disappoint in the opening game, putting in a solid performance in the loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Lamb snagged five catches for 59 yards, and we see the potential for those numbers to go up. The loss of tight end Blake Jarwin means more throws in the direction of Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Playing out of the slot, he looks to be a consistent performer who can be picked up this week and started right away ahead of Dallas’ encounter with Atlanta this week.
RB Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh
WR Sammy Watkins, Kansas City
Normally a line that includes seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown is enough to get into our top category, but Kansas City is so stacked with weapons that we are not sure Watkins can keep up this pace. With the likes of veterans Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, plus Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Mecole Hardman pushing him for playing time, Kansas City has many mouths to feed. He is certainly worth a pickup this week, and looks like he has the ingredients to be a consistent fantasy performer.
WR Russell Gage, Atlanta
Putting up another stat line that put this player to the cusp of our top category, Gage caught nine passes and went for 114 yards in Week 1 against Seattle. No touchdowns to speak of, but any time a player gets 12 passes thrown in his direction, that is enough to warrant serious fantasy consideration. Like Watkins, we are not sure this is the volume that can be expected on a weekly basis, but a trip to Dallas this week is a juicy spot to see what Gage can do. Those running a little light on the position can grab Gage and start him against Dallas.
K Joey Slye, Carolina
With so much uncertainty at the kicking position, it should not be a surprise that we have a kicker ranked so highly on this week’s list. At least two teams, and as many as four, will be employing a different kicker next week, so now is the time to scour the waivers and take a chance on the kicking position. Ideally, you would be grabbing a backup kicker, with the hopes that one emerges as one of the top fantasy producers. Even with the missed extra point, Slye is worth a look this week as he connected on all three of his three-point attempts, with two of them being from the 40-yard range. The Carolina offense looked good, so it is poised to be a scoring team, one that will create many opportunities for its kicker.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay
One of the reasons Green Bay felt it could let go of Randall Cobb was the steady growth and production from Valdes-Scantling. He had a few drops in the opening game against Minnesota, but despite that he finished with four catches for 96 yards and a score. And by the way, reports of the demise of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game were greatly exaggerated. Green Bay’s ageless wonder threw four touchdown passes and racked up 364 yards in the air on 44 pass attempts. The Green Bay passing game is worth getting involved in, and Valdes-Scantling is worth owning in all formats.
TE Greg Olsen, Seattle
Coming over from Carolina, the free agent signing proved his worth by catching four passes for 24 yards against Atlanta, with one of those going for a score. There are no signs that Seattle is going to use kid gloves on the old timer, so he is worth a look as a fantasy backup and spot starter. Seattle hosts New England this upcoming week, where Olsen has the potential to have a big week. Grab him now.