The first week of the NFL season is always the craziest. You are restless waiting for football and quite reactionary once there are true results to digest. At the same time you have to be aggressive (although not too aggressive) when attacking the waiver wire. Letting your opponent acquire a player who can help you for the next 15 weeks is not acceptable, but you don’t want to jump the gun and drop someone you shouldn’t or spend frivolously on a less than worthy option.
Each week we will take you through your options on the waiver wire, and some weeks will be busier than others. As far as guidelines, we will be looking at players owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues as of Sunday night, and it is not meant to be an all inclusive list. Instead it is the first set of names that come to mind while preparing for the waiver run and watching the games each week.
Josh Allen – QB – Buffalo Bills
We are still a few weeks away from byes, and while there were a few quarterbacks that struggled to open the season it’s not time to overreact just yet. With that being said, if you are looking for help Allen deserves some attention. As he enters his second year with Buffalo he provides something a lot of other quarterbacks don’t, a floor thanks to his abilities as a rusher. Both Allen and the Buffalo offense in general got off to a slow start against the Jets, but they appeared to find their groove in the second half. ompleting 24 for 37 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, along with two interceptions, isn’t a recipe for fantasy success but you have to like the fact that he chipped in an additional 38 rushing yards while adding a rushing touchdown. With John Brown and Devin Singletary, Allen has additional firepower on offense which works in his favor.
Jacoby Brissett – QB – Indianapolis Colts
With Andrew Luck announcing his retirement deep into draft season, Brissett wasn’t a part of many owners’ draft boards. Unless you play in a league that starts multiple quarterbacks each week, you likely aren’t going to make a drastic move prior to the beginning of the season. In Marlon Mack it appears the Colts have the potential for a strong running game, the offensive line has improved and with Jack Doyle healthy once again, and the addition of Paris Campbell, Brissett has weapons to go along with TY Hilton and Eric Ebron. Brissett is another one of those running quarterbacks we tend to gravitate to, but he only ran three times for nine yards on Sunday. As far as the passing game went he was efficient, 21 of 21 for 190 yards and 2 TD, and likely won’t spend the entire season on the waiver wire.
Gardner Minshew – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars
Entering the season Nick Foles was barely a Top 20 quarterback, if that, so why would all of a sudden run out to grab his replacement? Minshew did have success in college, but a lot of it was system dependent and he didn’t exactly enter the league with a lot of buzz. Mostly in garbage time he did well against Kansas City, but he is best left for those in leagues that give you the ability, or require you, to start multiple quarterbacks.
Malcom Brown – RB – Los Angeles Rams
We knew that Todd Gurley likely wouldn’t have a full workload this week, although the end result wasn’t exactly disappointing, but that left some touches for another running back. Entering the season that was expected to be Darrell Henderson, but the rookie was essentially a non-factor rushing just once for zero yards. At least for the next few weeks we should plan on Gurley getting roughly the 15 touches he did on Sunday, and that will leave Brown with some fantasy value. Against Carolina he took advantage gaining 53 yards on 11 carries while also scoring two short yardage touchdowns. Aside from the production, this told us that Brown is the clear handcuff to Gurley.
Justin Jackson – RB – Los Angeles Chargers
There weren’t many, thankfully, major injuries or running backs that emerged out of nowhere this week, so our options are relatively limited as far as scouring the waiver wire goes. While, as of Sunday night, Justin Jackson has had a 20% uptick in ownership the Chargers running back is still owned in just 40.4% of ESPN leagues (and that took me by surprise). It wasn’t a secret that Melvin Gordon was going to be missing substantial time, now estimated to be six to eight weeks, and it was clear Jackson would have a role so there is no excuse for this. He didn’t exactly go nuts on Sunday, six carries for 57 yards and one catch on three targets for four yards, but he was impressive nonetheless. Austin Ekeler clearly deserves the attention, he had 18 touches (12 carries and six receptions), but there will be weeks when Jackson shines. Don’t pay full price for them.
Ronald Jones – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
To say that last season didn’t go according to plan for Jones would be an understatement, as his rookie year was a complete loss. The hope is that is he would build on those struggles for this season, and that appears to be the case. I was all set to write about Dare Ogunbowale this week, but he didn’t carry the ball while catching four passes (five targets) for 33 yards. Jones isn’t going to be much of a factor in the passing game, one reception for 18 yards, but at least for this week he was the leading ball carrierwith 13 carries, compared to eight for Peyton Barber. With an average of 5.8 yards per carry, 75 yards in total, Jones took advantage of his opportunity.
Gio Bernard – RB – Cincinnati Bengals
While Andy Dalton certainly looked in mid-season form, the Cincinnati running game left a lot to be desired. Part of the problem was Joe Mixon being forced to leave due to an ankle injury, his status is undetermined for next week, but even before he exited the production wasn’t exactly there (Mixon gained 10 yards on six carries while catching two passes for another seven yards). The offensive line didn’t do Mixon any favors, and our waiver target wasn’t much better. Bernard carried the ball seven times for 21 yards while catching two passes for 42 yards. It is clear that Bernard is going to be involved in Cincinnati’s offense, and his recent contract extension also reinforces their dedication to him. With Mixon struggling, while also being banged up, Bernard might be a solid preemptive add.
John Brown – WR – Buffalo Bills
This goes hand in hand with Allen, but Brown will likely generate more attention on the waiver wire this week. While Brown’s reputation is as that of a deep threat, his role with the Buffalo appears to be greater than that. Brown caught a 38 yard touchdown pass and he most certainly is going to be a downfield option, but more importantly he was a constant part of Buffalo’s game plan. Allen looked Brown’s way 10 times, and they connected on seven of those passes for 127 yards. That is enough for me to feel comfortable adding Brown to my roster this week, as even if he doesn’t connect with Allen for a deep pass he is going to be a consistent part of the offense.
Marquise Brown – WR – Baltimore Ravens
Now here we go. The first round pick is the ultimate boom or bust option, and while there is no denying his big play ability, whether that translates into consistent production is a different story. Let’s be clear, Brown is going to be claimed this week, as he should be, but don’t drop him a week or two later after he puts up a dud. At least for one week the full capabilities of Brown were on display, as Lamar Jackson tried to prove to his doubters that his passing abilities are up to par. They connected for two deep touchdown passes, 47 and 83 yards, as in total Brown caught four passes (on five targets) for 147 yards. While I don’t want to take away from Brown’s performance, the concern is that there could be weeks in which he catches two passes for 17 yards (his production excluding his touchdowns) and we just saw his best performance of the season.
Terry McLaurin – WR – Washington Redskins
Someone has to catch the ball in Washington, and with Jordan Reed seemingly unable to stay healthy it appears that McLaurin might be it. He was used as a deep threat catching a 69 yard touchdown pass, and in fact Case Keenum over threw him on another long ball which prevented him from even having a bigger day. what draws me to the third round draft choice is that with seven targets and five receptions for 125 yards, McLaurin appears to have a regular role in Washington’s passing offense and he won’t just be big play dependent.
John Ross – WR – Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday was a long way from three receptions and 52 yards. You would expect more from a former first round pick, but entering play on Sunday that was Ross’ career high. He is still young enough to find his footing in the NFL, and Ross took advantage of things with AJ Green sidelined to start the season. Ross was the “go to guy” for Andy Dalton as he caught seven passes for 158 yards while also scoring two touchdowns. The problem is that Ross was targeted 12 times, and there were some drops mixed in. From a talent standpoint his performance wasn’t completely surprising, but we have to see him do it on a consistent basis. With Green slated to miss a few more weeks it is worth finding out as the Bengals will likely be throwing the ball quite often this season.
DJ Chark – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars
Chark is in an interesting situation because he caught his touchdown pass from Nick Foles, but it’s possible he will have better chemistry coming out of training camp with Gardner Minshew (who is now the starter). Despite the hype last season Chark gained just 174 yards in total and after picking up 146 on four receptions this week he should eclipse that mark next week. While Chark is going to be on my radar, as anyone who eclipses the century mark in yards should be, I would take more of a wait and see outlook before making a sizable adjustment or dropping someone you might regret.
TJ Hockeson – TE – Detroit Lions
Rookie tight ends generally have a large learning curve nor are they major parts of the offensive game plan. At least for one week that doesn’t appear to apply to Hockenson, as he was a large part of Detroit’s offense on Sunday. With a lot of big name tight ends not exactly producing this week (Kyle Rudolph for one), and others (Jimmy Graham for example) proving to be more touchdown dependent, Hockenson can’t be overlooked. Matthew Stafford targeted his rookie tight end nine times, and they connected six times for 131 yards and touchdown. While he isn’t going to break the 100 yard mark each week, this was a performance that did appear to be repeatable.