Each week, this article will take a look at some of the top waiver claims available in most leagues. We will go position by position, using the following rating system, with each player ranked against others at their position:
4 Stars: Must add player: likely to be a season long difference maker
3 Stars: Strong add: this player is likely to have value all season as a spot play
2 Stars: Short term add: this player could be a good short-term starting option
1 Star: Spot starter: matchups make this player a good spot start candidate
0 Stars: Don’t bother: this player is not worth adding
All players featured here are owned in less than 50% of Y! and ESPN leagues.
Most weeks I will not be able to include recommendations from the Monday Night games in the main column. I usually get to work by 7 AM EST, so I essentially have to choose between updating this column and sleep. Sleep will win out most Mondays, but be sure to check the comment section Tuesday evening for any additional recommendations.
QUARTERBACK – Quite a few QBs looked sharp during week 1, so you should have plenty of options to choose from if you are in need of Manning insurance.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: ★★★★
Mariota is not a must add for everybody, but if you are concerned about your QB position, then this is your man. We need to keep in mind that his debut came against possibly the worst team in the NFL, but he shredded the Bucs with remarkable efficiency. In standard leagues, Mariota posted the 3rd highest score among all week 1 QBs (not counting Monday Night) despite throwing just 16 passes and not really using his legs. He is likely to have plenty of success against Cleveland next week also. Mariota looks like a high-end QB2 with low-end QB 1 upside for the rest of the season.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: ★★★
The Bengal offense looked great, even though it was against the Raiders. With a huge halftime lead they were not overly aggressive in the second half, but Dalton still posted 269 yards and 2 TDs. With Eifert poised for a breakout and Marvin Jones back in action, Dalton is a high-end QB2 in a potentially high scoring offense.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills: ★★★
Taylor was on my watch list this week, and his debut was quite impressive. His running ability is always going to keep him in the QB2 conversation as long as he is starting, but his role as a game manager also limits his upside. I would not have the stones to play him this week against the Patriots, but I think he is a solid QB2 for those looking to add a signal caller.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: ★
Do not chase points and start Alex Smith this Thursday against Denver. That would be a very bad idea against a dominant looking Bronco defense. If you are looking ahead to find a bye week replacement for week 5 (Tannehill and Newton), then Smith could be your man. The Chiefs have a tasty looking home date against the Bears in week 5.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Bucs: ★
Winston was absolutely abysmal against a relatively weak defense. He is going to pile up turnovers in bunches, but once Mike Evans returns, he will get his share of TDs. Efficiency stats will probably not look very good at the end of the season, but he may end up out producing this week’s waiver darlings like Mariota and Taylor simply because he will get more volume.
RUNNING BACK – There are a handful of quality pickups this week, but perhaps none worth emptying the piggy bank for.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: ★★★
Bruce Arians has said that he does not think it is fair to thrust a rookie into a major role until they have earned it, and that Chris Johnson is the man while Ellington is sidelined. That being said, David took his only touch to the house for a 55 yard TD while Chris plodded to 37 yards on 10 carries. David Johnson may not be the back to start today, but he will earn a major role before too long.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots: ★★★
Lewis appears to be the man to fill the Shane Vereen role in the Patriots backfield. While he will certainly have his share of ups and downs, Lewis looks like the back to start in week 2 against the stingy Bills D. Owners beware, however, if Lewis puts another football on the ground he might find himself in Belichick’s doghouse.
Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: ★★
Chris Johnson is currently the lead dog in the Cardinals backfield since Ellington has gone down with a PCL injury. The latest reports have Ellington missing just 1-3 weeks and the other Johnson will be breathing down his neck, but if you need a short-term RB, Chris looks like a great start this week against the Bears. I would not suggest being too aggressive with your FAAB money here though.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos: ★★★
Hillman seemed to outplay C.J. Anderson yesterday, and Anderson will appear on the week 2 injury report with a toe issue. While the Broncos say Anderson’s toe is fine, Hillman needs to be owned in all leagues. He might not need an Anderson injury to be fantasy relevant after totaling 12 carries in week 1.
Karlos Williams, Buffalo Bills: ★★
Williams had a great game in week 1 and actually outscored LeSean McCoy despite only totaling 6 carries. While he is not overtaking McCoy on the depth chart anytime soon, Williams certainly flashed plenty of upside if Shady were to ever get hurt.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins: ★
Jones disappointed in week 1 because Alf had a great game and Jones was not used in third down situations. Jones is still the back of the future in Washington, but it may take longer than I originally thought. I would not drop him just yet, but we need to monitor his workload over the next couple weeks.
Buck Allen, Baltimore Ravens: ★
Allen totaled 10 touches in week 1. His offense never was able to consistently move the football against a great looking Bronco front 7, but given Allen’s usage, he looks like a must add for Forsett owners.
WIDE RECEIVER – There are quite a few quality WR pick ups around the league. These four players are the best of the bunch.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts: ★★★★
Moncrief is my top overall waiver wire add this week. T.Y. Hilton is currently dealing with a minor knee issue that may force him to miss a week or two, but even with a healthy WR core, Moncrief looks like the clear favorite for WR3 duties. Since Andre Johnson struggled mightily to get open this week, Moncrief could quickly turn into a WR2 with WR1 upside if Hilton were to miss time. Moncrief saw 11 targets this week, just imagine what he might be able to do with that against a lesser defense.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers: ★★★
Jones has clearly established himself as the third WR in Green Bay. Given Aaron Rodgers’ comfort level with Jones, he is a no brainer add for anybody seeking WR help. Be careful though, do not break the bank here. Jones is an excellent red zone weapon, but his fantasy production will likely be TD dependent. In week 1, he happened to catch 2 TDs on 4 targets. That level of efficiency cannot be expected every week.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: ★★★
If your league counts return yards, then Lockett is the premier waiver claim this week. If your league does not give points for return TDs, then Lockett’s value gets reduced tremendously. In most leagues, he brings a large enough role in the offense to go along with his return TD upside to warrant flex consideration. This guy knows how to find the endzone, and he will do so many more times this year.
Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints: ★★★
Coleman was featured in all 3 WR sets and saw 7 targets come his way. He is a great red zone asset because of his size, and he already caught a TD pass on Sunday. It remains to be seen if Coleman will have this big a role during weeks where the Saints are not playing from behind, but he needs to be owned in the meantime.
TIGHT END – There were plenty of tight ends making noise around the league in week 1. Although most owners likely have a quality option already, here are a couple of players to consider if you are in need.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions: ★★★
Ebron appears to be healthy and could be on the verge of a significant breakout. He was a featured part of the Lions offense on Sunday, seeing 5 targets and converting them for 53 yards and a TD on 4 catches. The Lions are expecting a sophomore breakout from Ebron this year and he has the ability to be a low-end TE 1.
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers: ★★
Green has significant value until Gates returns in week 5, then he will likely turn into a pumpkin. Green could make the ideal Gronk bye week replacement.
Darren Fells, Arizona Cardinals: 0 Stars
Fells had a big game with 82 yards and a TD, but this performance had more to do with the Saints’ defensive game play than it did Fells’ talent level. He does not warrant fantasy consideration at this time.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS – Quality DST plays are often more about matchups than the actual quality of the unit. Here are a couple of units to consider grabbing.
Denver Broncos: ★★★★
The Broncos looked absolutely ferocious against the Ravens on Sunday. They were able to completely stuff the run and almost never gave Flacco a clean pocket to throw from. Aqib Talib’s pick 6 was just icing on the cake for a dominant performance. I am expecting big things from this unit in 2015.
Tennessee Titans: ★
The Titans fared quite well in week 1 against an overmatched Jameis Winston. Who do they get in week 2? Possibly the only QB in the league more prone to turning the ball over: Johnny Football. While the Titans are not going to be more than a defensive streamer play, they make for a great spot start this week if McCown is out. After totaling 4 sacks and a pick 6 in week 1, more good times are ahead.
New Orleans Saints: ★
The Saints are a bottom tier defense, but they get to face Jameis and the Bucs this week. Given his tendency to hold the ball too long and make poor decisions, the Saints are near the top of the week 2 streamer list.
KICKER – Kicker pick ups are primarily about game flow. You want a kicker for a team who is likely to play with a 2nd half lead. Trailing teams often turn down field goal attempts in the second half. At no time should you spend more than a couple FAAB dollars on a kicker, even a 4 star pickup.
Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos: ★★★★
McManus looks like the real deal, knocking in 2 50+ yarders in the first half. The mix of high altitude, great defense and not as potent offense could make McManus the ideal kicker pick up. The Broncos could end up kicking a lot of field goals in close games this season.
Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona Cardinals: ★★
Arizona’s offense looked good in week 1 and they face the Bears next. Catanzaro could develop into more than a 1 week option if Palmer stays healthy and the offense continues to click.
Zach Hocker, New Orleans Saints: ★
The rookie kicker has a dream matchup at home in the dome against the Bucs. The Saints will score, the only question is whether the Bucs will be able to hold them to FG attempts.
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