I know, I know. The season and your league haven’t even started yet, so how can there be “waiver wire wonders” to talk about?
Technically there are not, yet. I stress the word “yet,” however, because there will be many players not drafted in your league this year. They will be on the waiver wires immediately and sport tremendous upside that you should keep your eye on.
Some people may call these deep, deep sleepers, but, to me, a sleeper is somebody who is drafted real late and gives great value by playing above their draft number. I’m talking about the undrafted.
This year will be no different; players poised to have great years will be available after draft day. So in two installments (AFC and NFC), we will discuss those players that you should keep your eye on once the season starts. You never know, this just may be their time to step up, and hopefully you will be there to snatch them off the wire.
Using a 12-team points-per-reception league (15 round draft – one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one flex, one tight end) as a model, we will look at a player from each team in the AFC today.
Baltimore Ravens – WR Jacoby Jones –
According to current average draft position, Jones is coming off the board as the 101st receiver putting him well into the range of the undrafted in most leagues. He was never quite able to turn the corner in Houston, and in Baltimore things started slow but finished great last year as he made an incredible playoff run.
Jones is big and tall; he finished the year on fire and will be working across from Torrey Smith. Couple that with the loss of Anquan Boldin and a quarterback (Joe Flacco) out to prove himself worthy of his new contract and you have the potential for a valuable waiver wire pickup.
Cincinnati Bengals – WR Mohamed Sanu –
The Bengals’ lineup looks to be improved all the way around. With opposing defenses concentrating on A.J. Green, Sanu should see plenty of targets come his way. He had taken over as the WR2 last year just before a stress fracture in his foot sidelined him.
It is reported that he is back to 100 percent, and, at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he is going to make a great second target for Andy Dalton this season.
Cleveland Browns – QB Brandon Weeden –
First of all let’s be honest, there are plenty of better quarterbacks out there to start in your lineup. If you are looking for a single week injury or bye week fill-in, Weeden should be available, and, depending on the matchup, able to help you.
He is only in his second year (though he will turn 30 in October) and has a great arm. He also has promising young wide receivers in Josh Gordon and Greg Little and wily veteran Davone Bess in the slot. He has the potential to help your team this season, but be wary of his schedule as he plays in arguably the toughest division currently in the NFL.
Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Markus Wheaton –
I typically don’t want to mention rookies in this article because they will get plenty of their own articles, but sometime there are some worth mentioning. Wheaton is one of them.
As a native Oregonian and “Beaver Believer” myself, I’ve watched Wheaton for years in Corvallis where he amassed better than 200 catches and almost 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also competed in track and boasts a 4.40 40-speed (or faster) and runs his routes well.
Don’t be surprised if Ben Roethlisberger finds a way to make this young talent relevant this season.
Houston Texans – WR Keshawn Martin
– Martin showed great promise entering the 2012 season though he did not make much of that opportunity.
He still has the same talent and promise that he did back then. He has a team that is looking to throw the ball a little more, or at the very least use their workhorse a little less, and is not being noticed by anybody at all. He will be available whenever you want him, and with Matt Schaub coming into camp in as good a shape as he’s ever been (according to his strength and conditioning coach), the receiving corps of the Texans is looking to see an increase in workload.
If Martin can stake down the No. 3 wide receiver position (it should be noted, however, that this is not a sure thing), he just may prove to be a surprise to many this season.
Indianapolis Colts – RB Vick Ballard –
I feel a little weird putting Ballard on this list as I have a hard time believing that he will be undrafted in most leagues. If you look at current average draft position, though, this is the case.
So, if you happen to be in a league where he is undrafted, you will want to keep your eyes on him. Don’t get me wrong, Ballard is not a game changer. He is a competent workhorse back who is good sized and runs with power. He will put up consistent numbers with the occasional high number on the games that he scores.
The key is Ahmad Bradshaw. The Colts signed Bradshaw in June. He will be the starting running back, but, as those of you that have suffered with Bradshaw in your lineups know, he has chronic foot problems and is very capable of missing multiple games.
In this case, Ballard will fill in very nicely, and, depending on your need, and his matchup, could prove very valuable in your lineup.
Jacksonville Jaguars – WR – Justin Blackmon –
Blackmon (like Ballard) will be on the cusp. He will be drafted in many leagues, but, due to his four-game suspension for substance abuse, current average draft position shows him being available in a majority of leagues after the draft.
Be warned; it is very possible that he will mess up even more and miss more games. He is a proven knucklehead. But, should he come back and play the rest of the season, he will help out many fantasy teams.
Last year he finished the last half of the season with 41 receptions and 640 yards with four touchdowns. It does not take a character from The Big Bang Theory to figure out that those translate to great numbers and fantasy scores.
If you happen to be in a league where no one is willing to take the four-game hit to keep him on their roster, you need to find space on your roster once the season starts and grab him long before he comes back.
Tennessee Titans – WR Nate Washington –
Washington led the Titans in receiving yards (746) last year and is going undrafted this year.
Now, he probably will not lead the team in yards this year and he has a fast rookie (Justin Hunter) breathing down his neck. If you have played fantasy football before you know that you will most likely have a wide receiver on your team that either gets a season-ending injury or just does not produce at all. In this case, Washington will be available to pick up in most leagues. You could do a lot worse, as he will be a factor in the Titans’ passing game and will produce consistent fantasy numbers.