Opening night is almost here, and it is never too early to get a look at the “Waiver Wire Wonders.” The end of the preseason and the trimming of rosters down to 53 players has clarified some situations at running back and wide receiver, so we’ve got several players at those positions worth a look. A couple of tight ends also get a mention as we kick the season off with the year’s first installment of the wonders. Many leagues out there have open free agency before the first regular season game, so check your league rules to see if you can dump that one mistake that you made on draft day.
As a brief reminder, we split up the column into four categories. The “Smokin’ Hot” list is a grouping of the top players of the week. These are players that can have both an immediate and long-term fantasy impact. The “Solid Pickups” are players that 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 that are starting to make some noise. A shuffling of an NFL team’s depth chart might get them a mention in this listing, especially at running back. Finally, the “Deep and/or Dynasty Only” players are just that, only for those in leagues with deep rosters or for those in dynasty leagues. The players listed here are weeks, if not an entire season away from making a fantasy impact. As always, thanks for reading, on to this week’s wonders!
TE Julius Thomas, Denver
Thomas worked with the first team all preseason, performing very well. With the Broncos’ projected starter Joel Dreessen still rehabbing his knee, Thomas has the potential to take the starting role and hold onto it all season. A good short-term grab here with potential for long-term gold. As one of the top free agent adds this week according to our friends at fleaflicker.com, Thomas will not be available for long.
WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England
A spectacular preseason dropped Thompkins onto many fantasy sleeper lists, but for those that drafted before the third preseason game, he may have gone undrafted. He is locked in as the starter opposite Danny Amendola, and he was the No. 1 target of Tom Brady during the preseason. The return of Rob Gronkowski will only create more space for Thompkins. Grab him and start him in week one and enjoy the ride. He’s well ahead of Aaron Dobson and all the other wide receivers on the New England roster so look for him to hold the starting role all season.
RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver
Don’t look now, but reports are surfacing that the Broncos are going to mix things up with the three pack that they have at running back. Ronnie Hillman is listed as the starter, Montee Ball the backup … but do not be surprised to see Moreno in the mix just as much as those two players. Hillman and Ball got most of the fantasy attention on draft day, but Moreno is worth owning and stashing on your roster until we see how this situation plays itself out. He will not be worth starting the first week of the season, but Denver has been known to elevate guys from deep on their depth chart into the starting lineup.
WR Riley Cooper, Philadelphia
The Eagles passing game was very quiet this preseason, but at some point, they will have to put the ball into the air. Cooper has won the starting spot opposite DeSean Jackson, so there will be opportunities for him to catch the ball. His height makes him a prime red zone target as well. He’s worth a look for those in need at the position.
WR Quinton Patton, San Francisco
A strong preseason put Patton on the fantasy map and his skill set will have him jumping ahead of starter Marlon Moore sooner rather than later. With Anquan Boldin taking the night off, Patton put his stamp on the final preseason game early by going 43 yards and scoring on a wide receiver screen. The 49ers will find a way to get Patton on the field and involved. Grab him before he starts making headlines.
RB Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh
The Steelers released preseason starter Jonathan Dwyer, paving the way for Redman to get the Week 1 start in place of the injured Le’Veon Bell. A starting running back is always worth a grab off the waiver wire, but with Bell aiming for a Week 2 debut, Redman is a very short-term solution as far as being in a starting fantasy lineup. When Bell returns, Redman’s value will be as the immediate backup, which is worth quite a bit in Pittsburgh.
On the Radar
RB Joique Bell, Detroit
As the backup to starter Reggie Bush, Bell is worth owning in all formats. Mikel Leshoure has been getting most of the attention from fantasy owners, but it is Bell that is worth owning as Bush’s backup.
TE Ed Dickson, Baltimore
There are conflicting reports on his availability for Week 1, which kept him from being selected in most leagues. Those owners that drafted a single tight end should look in Dickson’s direction as their backup. He will be the starter for the Ravens when healthy and can be expected to catch 3-4 passes per game.
RB Felix Jones, Pittsburgh
Jones makes his way onto the list this week as the Steelers are likely to have him as their third down back for the first week of the season. Le’Veon Bell is talking about returning in Week 2, but the release of Jonathan Dwyer puts Jones as No. 3 on the Pittsburgh depth chart so he’s worth a look for those in need at the running back position. He’s one of the top adds of the week according to our friends at fleaflicker.com, so grab him while you can.
Deep and/or Dynasty Only
WR Kenny Stills, New Orleans
The Saints always have a lot of options for Drew Brees to choose from, with the likes of Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham hungry for touches. Behind them, Stills has locked up the third wide receiver position. He’s worth a look in deep leagues as New Orleans is a team with the potential to put up 300-plus passing yards in every game.
RB Benny Cunningham, St. Louis
With most of the preseason attention going to Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy, Cunningham worked hard and made the 53-man roster. Richardson is penciled in as the starter, but after that it’s anyone’s guess, so Cunningham is worth a flier in deep leagues.