Let's examine what we think of players with the preseason over and the season ahead.
- Bold Predictions
- Post-Training Camp Concerns
- Post-Training Camp Love
- Advice For The Week 2 Waiver Wire Madness
Matt Waldman: Give us one bold prediction that could dramatically alter the 2018 fantasy landscape. It can be a player, unit, a team, or a coach.
Chad Parsons: The Bears are NOT the huge uptick NFL offense of 2018. The middle ground expectation is Chicago will mirror the 2017 Rams, rising from the ashes across the board with fantasy viability. It hinges on Mitchell Trubisky and the passing game which has its key pieces as Allen Robinson (free agent recovering from injury), Anthony Miller (rookie), Kevin White (small NFL small size due to injury), and Trey Burton (ancillary tight end in Philadelphia). Add those what-ifs to a presumed leap by Trubisky in Year 1 propelling the entire machine forward a few tiers in the NFL offensive hierarchy and there are plenty of variables to hesitate on anointing Chicago before Week 1.
Daniel Simpkins: I’m going to disagree with Chad and predict that the Bears will be much improved. While I don't think we’ll see a turnaround on the scale of the Rams, I do not think it’s unreasonable to believe we’ll see the major players (particularly Trubisky, Robinson, and Burton) be very fantasy relevant options. I am a big believer in coaching staffs that play to the strengths of their personnel and that is what the Bears have in Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich.
Trubisky will get to operate in an offense that mirrors what he was comfortable with in college, with spread concepts that will allow him to throw on the run and scramble for yards when defenses give him lanes. As a side note, if Adam Shaheen can get back quickly from his injury, we’ll also get to see some fun usage of 12 personnel (two-tight end sets) that will leave opposing defenses in real binds. If you want to read more about why I believe Trubisky and the Bears can have a great season, check out this piece I wrote back in June.
Jason Wood: The Chargers will run away with the AFC West because the other three teams are potential train wrecks. In Kansas City, the Chiefs are faced with a gunslinger first-year starter who will surely turn the ball over a ton (even if he's also a highlight reel). Combined with a defense that's fallen on hard times, this will lead to awful game scripts for Kansas City.
In Oakland, Jon Gruden is in Year 1 of a 10-year deal and has made head-scratching move after head-scratching move. Who takes over a franchise and actively turns it into the oldest roster in the NFL? Gruden, that's who. And in Denver, the search for the next quarterback continues because Case Keenum will turn back into the pumpkin he was before last year's miracle season in Minnesota.
Jeff Haseley: I am on board with Jason's call of the Chargers running away with the AFC West. It makes sense and it's a take that hasn't grown legs yet.
My pick is Larry Fitzgerald. My forecast is that his production will fall due to a new coaching regime in Arizona. Mike McCoy is the offensive coordinator, but the team is run by defensive-minded Steve Wilks. Fitzgerald received default targets when Bruce Arians called the shots.
Will the same ring true without his offensive play calling? I'm not so sure.
The best chance for Fitzgerald to thrive is if Sam Bradford remains under center and plays like he did in the first few games with Minnesota last season. Even if Bradford performs beyond expectation, I'm not confident that Fitzgerald can come close to his previous three seasons of 100+ receptions. I think 80 receptions for 940 yards and 6-8 touchdowns is more realistic. It's not bad, but not elite.
Andy Hicks: The leading rusher for Buffalo and San Francisco is not on the roster right now. Just like Alex Collins last year, there are runners on the waiver wire good enough to play and contribute immediately in the NFL. While Collins is the upside argument for any of these players, almost all are useful at some stage of the fantasy season.
I fully expect LeSean McCoy to be suspended at some stage this season when the NFL has their ducks in order and has enough circumstantial proof to put him on the commissioner's exempt list. Chris Ivory or Marcus Murphy likely will be given a shot, but pay attention to waiver moves made by Buffalo, or any player who joins a weak group.
The 49ers are another situation to monitor carefully. Jerick McKinnon is gone for the year and while for the early part of the year Alfred Morris should dominate the carries and Matt Breida will be the change of pace, third down back, I expect this to be short-term only and for San Francisco to take players off the waiver wire.
Mark Schofield: The presence of Trent Brown as the starting left tackle for the New England Patriots is going to take a toll on Rob Gronkowski's fantasy numbers this season. Brown has solidified himself as Tom Brady's blindside protector this preseason, partly due to the injury suffered by rookie first-round selection Isaiah Wynn. However, Brown has been susceptible to quicker pass rushers this pre-season, which might put more of an emphasis on the quick passing game in New England. That will have a trickle-down effect on the Patriots' offense, and those deeper crossers and seam routes that Brady has loved to throw to Gronkowski in the past might not be as big a part of New England's offense this year.
Waldman: Wow, Mark, that's the first time I've heard anyone mention Gronkowski for something personnel-related and it makes sense. Glad I'm on the Kelce bandwagon.
POST-TRAINING CAMP CONCERNS
Waldman: List a quarterback, running back, tight end, and receiver that you're concerned about after what's transpired this August and what's your advice for fantasy owners who have these players?
Hicks: My four include aging veterans at quarterback and tight end, a rookie runner, and a play-making receiver on a risky offense.
- Quarterback: The New Orleans Saints are ready to move on from Drew Brees. The trade for Teddy Bridgewater is a clear sign that the transition away from Brees that has been gaining momentum over the last few years, will reach a crucial apex at some stage this year. His cap number for 2019 drops from $45 million this year to $21 million next season. This allows the Saints to pull the plug once Brees hits 40. Now while Tom Brady seems to be a genetic anomaly, that age is a crucial roadblock for just about every other quarterback to ever play the game. He cannot be relied on to carry your fantasy team this year.
- Running Back: While all the rookie running backs mentioned lost value and had their ADP drop significantly, the one who didn't is Saquon Barkley. The same one who missed a significant portion of the preseason with an injury and has a questionable offensive line in front of him and a shaky quarterback in Eli Manning. To get a return on Barkley for drafters, he has to play to the level of an RB1 for the whole season. All the other rookies will have time to learn, develop and have a chance to be significant overachievers based on their draft slots. I do expect Barkley to be a star, but if he is going to struggle, it will be this year.
- Receiver: T.Y. Hilton has me concerned heading into the 2018 season. He has an ADP that is in top-12 fantasy receiver territory, while the only times he has reached these levels is when he has approached or exceeded 1400 receiving yards. Given the concern about the Colts line and Andrew Luck likely to be a significant risk, Hilton doesn't get enough touchdowns to make up for any loss of yards. At his size and the lack of other options, there is just not enough upside to consider Hilton as a good option.
- Tight End: Delanie Walker is a player I have been wary of for a little while now and while the Titans deciding to extend his contract has to be positive, he is reaching the end of his NFL journey. The change in coaching staff and drop in touchdowns will continue his statistical downside. This is before I even mention the young player breathing down his neck in Jonnu Smith. Walker himself has said that Smith will be a better player than himself and has talked him up all offseason.
- Quarterback: Dynasty owners should be fine holding on to the Buffalo Bills' rookie quarterback Josh Allen, but those in redraft leagues who were banking on the potential upside might want to move one sooner rather than later. While Allen's arm talent could serve as a potential trump card as he adjusts to life in the NFL, his reliance on his arm continues to put him into bad situations and causes him to miss some easy throws because he is still trying to sort out the use of touch and feel. He might get there eventually, but Allen is a long-term investment and not a short-term fix right now.
- Running Back: Protecting Brady is job one for the rest of the New England offense, and running backs play a pivotal role in the Patriots' offense in that effort. Michel's time away from the field this preseason with his knee injury has put him behind the rest of the New England running back room. The Patriots' offense relies on running backs heavily for pass protection, chipping defensive ends (see Brown, Trent) and picking up blitzes, and you can bet that guys like James White and Rex Burkhead will be trusted early on to handle the bulk of the work.
- Wide Receiver: It's hard to feel good about where Doug Baldwin is right now given what we are hearing out of Seattle. It's true that he could be sandbagging his current status and current Baldwin owners have to hope that is the case, but if you can, explore moving him for a fairly decent return now. Better to get what you can in return now, before having the worst fears confirmed and getting next to nothing in return. Call it the Belichick Method.
- Tight End: Andy nailed it with Walker so I have nothing more to add about him but consider him on my list.
- Quarterback: Josh Allen definitely has the arm to make plays downfield, but he also needs some refinement in his ability to adjust on the fly and make quick decisions, which could take some time. Luckily he has Nathan Peterman available to take away some of the pressure from Day 1. He's just not ready yet - and he may not be ready this year. Let's just hope he isn't forced into a starting job. We've seen quarterbacks struggle mightily because they started when they weren't fully ready. David Carr and Jimmy Clausen come to mind. If you're a redraft or 2QB league Allen owner, it may be time to look elsewhere for a replacement.
- Running Back: The preseason knee injury definitely hurt Sony Michel's stock, but I was not convinced that he would have an immediate role out of the gate, even if healthy. Michel had ball security issues in college and we know from past experiences that Bill Belichick and staff put an emphasis on those who can secure the ball. They also utilize those who know their "role" and do it well. This doesn't exactly sound like a system that infiltrates rookies into the mix. Tom Brady (and New England staff) run a tight ship. If a player gets chastised for running a 12-yard route that was drawn up for 13 yards, imagine the backlash on a player who misses a block, commits a penalty or worse - turns the ball over. There is definitely an opportunity for Michel to thrive and it could happen this year, but it's going to take some time. He's going to have to earn his opportunities and then repeat without fail. If he does that enough and establishes some positive consistencies, he'll be a relevant addition. Until then, stash and wait. If someone drops him in a redraft league, grab him, because he could be a league-winner if the season unfolds in his favor.
- Wide Receiver: Is Taywan Taylor the next Eddie Royal (rookie darling) or Tajae Shape (rookie flop)? Taylor looked great in the preseason, but now that Rishard Matthews is back (meniscus surgery) where does Taylor fit in with the Titans receiving corps? How will he be utilized? What will his target share be on a team that appears to be a run-dominated offense? These are all questions that are unanswered right now, but if you drank the Kool-Aid on Taylor, you probably want answers. My advice is to lay low for now and see how things transpire after Week 1 at Miami. Read up on the Footballguys snap counts after Week 1 and see where he stands among the other wide receivers. If his numbers are on pace with Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, you may want to keep him another week just to see how his numbers progress. If his snaps are low, you may want to consider dropping him for another waiver darling. Also, take a note of rush attempts. The game script could favor the ground game this week, which of course would mean fewer receiving targets and snaps across the board, especially three-receiver sets where Taylor would appear.
- Tight End: It's possible that George Kittle (shoulder) will not be ready to play Week 1 at Minnesota. His absence since the first preseason game has given Garrett Celek a chance to fill in, but I believe there won't be a changing of the guard. All indications suggest Kittle will be the team's primary tight end threat when healthy, so if you have Kittle on your roster, look for an alternate option this week and keep Kittle until he is healthy enough to return.
- Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo worries me after starting the preseason solidly in the Top 10. The 49ers offensive line is in flux, Jerick McKinnon is on injured reserve, Matt Breida is already banged up, and George Kittle missed most of the summer. As much as I like Marquise Goodwin, he's no pillar of health, either. I worry the 49ers offense won't take a huge step forward this year, yet we all paid prices on draft day as though it was a foregone conclusion. Hopefully, you also drafted another quarterback and aren't counting on Garoppolo in Week 1.
- Running Back: The rookie running backs have all had tough summers after unbridled enthusiasm post draft day. The two exceptions are Saquon Barkley and Royce Freeman — both Top 20 fantasy backs and deservedly so. But Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb, and Ronald Jones all disappointed in various ways in August. Of that group, Penny is the most intriguing because he's still much better than Chris Carson and should be the bell cow in Seattle within a month or two. The others all have a much greater risk of fantasy obsolescence.
- Wide Receiver: Doug Baldwin told reporters last week he was only 80-85 percent healthy and wouldn't be 100 percent for the entire season. NFL players generally over-estimate their conditioning, team chemistry, and roles in August, so when a veteran downplays his readiness, it's a massive red flag. I wouldn't draft Baldwin as a WR2 now yet most took him as a low-end WR1 or as one of the best WR2s available. If you already drafted him, you have to hope he's sandbagging his own outlook.
- Tight End: Evan Engram's fantasy upside was overrated entering training camp, by me and others. He was a drop-machine last year yet his athleticism wowed. We forgot his production came mainly with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard on the sidelines. Both are healthy, and now the team added Cody Latimer (who had a great summer as the No. 3) and Saquon Barkley. Engram could be a complementary player but was drafted as the best tight end if you happened to miss out on the big three (Gronkowski, Ertz, Kelce).
Parsons: I'm concerned about three players with marquee talent and a previously reliable role player.
- Quarterback: Andrew Luck. I was concerned about Luck before training camp as well, but seeing the offensive line and rushing game in action brings more concern. Also, Luck has the weakest wide receiver corps of his career. Like Josh Gordon, the assumption with Luck has been either he plays (and is a high-level producer) or he is out. Expected outcomes are a range and Luck’s is sliding down due to his surrounding environment.
- Running Back: Le'Veon Bell is a low-hanging fruit running back of concern. I was pessimistic about Bell this year regarding missing camp and tempting fate as I put it by reporting late with an expected monster workload two years in a row. He emerged over the final three months with high-level production in 2017, but this year feels different. It is early on the week of the game and Bell has not reported yet. This is a consensus top-4 redraft pick. James Conner looked more dynamic than as a rookie during the preseason and emanates a future lead role. Most Day 2 running backs of prototypical size get a shot as the lead back during their rookie contract. At a minimum, I view Bell as an elevated injury risk and a slow starter this year with downside from there. With a crowded top tier of running backs, I am passing on Bell every time in drafts.
- Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins is a player where I trust the talent, but not the situation. Patrick Mahomes II II is a new starter and we have already seen the high-variance play to thwart drives with poor decisions. Also, newer/younger quarterbacks tend to struggle in the red zone converting drives into touchdowns. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are not going away and Watkins needs to be the 1A to fulfill his upside as a WR1 in fantasy. That is a tall order for either Mahomes to be the point guard for the trio’s production or for Watkins to overshadow Hill to such a degree as he gets his on the fantasy front.
- Tight End: If I were an owner of Jack Doyle I would be very concerned about the price to expected production ratio this season. Eric Ebron is more likely to overtake Doyle as the Colts starter (in terms of fantasy output) than reside to a low-level ancillary role. The Colts have the opportunity to fuel two tight ends on the viability scale with a weak wide receiver corps, but Doyle is presumed to be a weekly starter for fantasy, which is a stretch.
- Quarterback: I’ll agree with Chad that Luck was the first quarterback that came to mind for me in terms of worries. The offensive line is improved with the addition of Quenton Nelson, but is it enough? Watching Luck take hard hits and blindside sacks multiple times over the course of the preseason makes me believe that there are still blocking issues that the addition of one first-round lineman didn’t solve. If Luck continues to get blasted like this, I have my doubts he’ll remain healthy over the course of 16 games. If you own Luck, I advise exploring a trade for someone in the same tier as Pat Mahomes II.
- Running Back: Fantasy general managers love the allurement of a rookie running back because he presents unknown upside. However, it’s important to not blindly throw a dart at rookies but to assess where they are in their development and draft them accordingly. To that end, you will be sorely disappointed if you draft Ronald Jones. While he may be a fine long-term option, I don’t think he’s going to improve enough this year to be a factor, even late in the year. I had the fortune of getting to watch him practice in person this summer. In 11-on-11 drills, he dropped passes multiple times, missed blocking assignments, and just simply looked lost. He’s just not ready to contribute. If you own Jones, try to find the Peyton Barber owner in your league and see if you can convince them they need a handcuff.
- Wide Receiver: I concur with Jason that Doug Baldwin’s injury is worrisome. He has dropped down my board significantly and someone else is more likely to draft him before I am willing to take him. To add to what Jason said, I’m even more leery with Pete Carroll making a point to go out of his way to say everything is fine and there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been burned by “Petey Sunshine’s” false optimism too many times to believe him when he says Baldwin won't be limited at all by his injury. If you own Baldwin, I would aggressively try to sell him for guys who are now going around the same range, such as Amari Cooper, Juju Smith-Schuster, or Brandin Cooks.
- Tight End: The more I hear the coaching staff talk about Dallas Goedert, the more I believe Zach Ertz is going to lose his touchdown upside. Goedert is perfectly built to be that red zone mismatch. The Eagles took Goedert high in the draft and obviously had the vision to add that kind of a wrinkle to the offense. The good news is that you can still get out of Ertz at the price you bought-in before the season reveals the truth. I like the idea of trading for Greg Olsen and another depth player at a position of need for your team.
POST-TRAINING CAMP LOVE
Waldman: List a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and a tight end that you're higher on than you were before training camp and what's your advice for fantasy owners who have these players?
Schofield: Provided you aren't in a league with a severe penalty for interceptions (such as the Scott Fish Bowl) Patrick Mahomes II II will put up numbers this season. We all know about the arm he has and the weapons at his disposal, but his ability to move around and manipulate the pocket is beyond what I expected to see. My best advice is to just enjoy the ride, it is going to be fun to watch.
Waldman: We're still giggling, Mark?
Schofield: But of course...
Waldman: I feel like a bank robber who got away with it but then again, we just got into the getaway car so there's a lot more in store.
Schofield: On the other hand, it's hard to be excited about where Jones is right now, seemingly buried on the Tampa Bay depth chart. I mean, I got him for $2 in a keeper auction league a few weeks ago and I'm having serious buyer's remorse at the moment. Now the talent is there and Dirk Koetter is correct that some of his struggles this preseason are not solely on his shoulders, but if you took a flier on him in a redraft league this year consider moving on sooner rather than later, which means Peyton Barber deserves your love.
Trying to guess how New England is going to utilize their offensive weapons is often a fool's errand, but there is something that is always important to watch: The TB12 Trust Level. Brady has seemed much more dialed in with Phillip Dorsett this season than he did at any time last year, and as a result, you can expect more production from Dorsett in the year ahead, especially during the first four games.
Haseley: I feel good about Andy Dalton. I know most rosters don't have Andy Dalton on them, but I would not be surprised to see him and the Bengals rebound on offense this season. The offensive line has improved with additions of Cordy Glenn via trade and Billy Price via the draft. Dalton has flashed good results in the preseason and he still has A.J. Green at his disposal. Joe Mixon's growth will be on display this year. I feel he'll be a key piece to the offense. It all points back to Dalton making plays, which I believe he will. He's not a bad pick up for bye weeks or a spot-start here and there if necessary. You could do worse than Dalton as your backup quarterback and I believe he'll prove that this season.
The Browns appear to be leaning towards Carlos Hyde as their primary running back, at least until he proves them otherwise. He thrived in the preseason and showed the staff that he can be the lead back for Cleveland. He'll need to perform above expectations to keep the job from Nick Chubb, but for now, he's an excellent RB3 option who can be started if necessary. He's a great option in Weeks 1-4 for those who drafted Mark Ingram II.
The Cowboys are looking for a receiver to stand out and be a target hog for Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing game and Michael Gallup is the guy. His presence in the preseason showed that he is deserving of 6-10 targets in games that require that type of offense. Dallas is a run-first team, but if the game script dictates it, they are capable of moving the ball and I believe Gallup will be a big part of the offense when the need arises. The only concern is not knowing which games will lead to that style of offense. He's an excellent stash player who could emerge as a flex option on your roster.
Alex Smith found success with Travis Kelce in Kansas City and now that Jordan Reed is healthy again, he should be a key option in the Washington passing game. Reed's size, hands, and toughness will come in handy for Smith, especially in the red zone for a team that has a shortage of tall receivers. As long as Reed is functioning at 100 percent he'll be a hot target for Washington and Smith's short-intermediate passing game. He has the top-five ability we all desire and could wind up being a draft-day steal for teams who took a chance on the previously dominant tight end, who is looking for a rebound.
Hicks: Matt Ryan is a player that looks to be back in his MVP groove and will surprise many heading into this season. He has delivered alternating hot and cold seasons for a while now and is clearly ready to be hot again. The addition of Calvin Ridley will give Ryan another great option in a team packed with offensive weapons. The change from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian didn't immediately take for Ryan, but he has shown in the past that once he becomes comfortable, he is so much more effective. He looks comfortable this preseason.
Kenyan Drake has been seen as a risky proposition after his short stint as a starter in 2017. He looked the part last year, but there were plenty of excuses about why he wasn’t going to build on that this year. Frank Gore has been very enthusiastic about his prospects and he was seen as his biggest threat. Somehow even the late fourth-round rookie Kalen Ballage was even seen as an issue. He clearly isn’t ready now and is more likely to be the usual fourth-round rookie running back than the rare exception who has a reasonable NFL career. Drake has been developed nicely from the raw prospect taken in the third round in 2016 and should be primed for a very successful year
D.J. Chark Jr is a fairly deep selection, in that he was likely seen as the 5th option in Jacksonville to start training camp, but not only did the Marqise Lee injury help, he has looked the clear number one of the future. The Jaguars have other options in place to hold him back until his game is together, but he has more upside than any of them. Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, and Dede Westbrook are likely to be good long-term contributors, but none have the talent that saw Chark selected in the second round this year.
Austin Hooper is developing fantastically and is being overlooked in favor of all the 30-plus tight ends dominating the fantasy rankings. Now in his third season, he doesn’t need much improvement to become a starting tight end in fantasy leagues and with a few more touchdowns goes even higher. Every year people clearly see that young tight ends take time to develop, but don’t look at one staring them right in the face who is likely to make that leap in fantasy circles.
Wood: Andrew Luck is a big riser because he's healthy. He was a top-five fantasy quarterback before the nearly two-year absence and the last month shook away any fears his shoulder was irreparable. If you drafted Luck, you probably got one of the steals at the position because he was routinely available after the top 8-to-10 quarterbacks' names were called.
Peyton Barber is the winner at running back. I initially (and mistakenly) labeled him as a non-factor and thought Ronald Jones would run away with the job. We all know the opposite happened. Jones was unimaginably bad in all facets of the game and clearly lost the coaches' trust. He may win it back but it won't happen in the next month or two. Meanwhile, Barber was the consummate professional and should be a three-down back.
John Brown is either about to break my heart again or is going to redeem himself for the prior seasons that went awry. His battle with sickle-cell anemia is well documented, and he's been a shadow of his former self in the last few years. But Brown has been a model citizen on- and off the field in Baltimore and looks like Joe Flacco's favorite target.
David Njoku always had talent but struggled as a rookie for a 0-16 Browns. He was more consistent, as a pass catcher and blocker, in the preseason and could be the team's top red-zone target.
Waldman: Really? I thought the Rex Ryan regime had to show Taylor a hit-clip of all the times he didn't see Charles Clay...
Schofield: Hmmm...even if they did, Taylor found Clay and Chris Gragg 63 times for 678 yards and 3 scores during his first year in Buffalo. In Year Two, Clay and Nick O'Leary earned 66 catches for 666 and 4 scores.
Waldman: I guess that's the difference between frequency and missed opportunities.
Schofield: Or Rex Ryan and his staff...
Waldman: No doubt.
Schofield: Anyhow, Baker Mayfield's first touchdown pass of his NFL career saw Njoku on the receiving end. Regardless of who the quarterback is on the field, Njoku should be on the end of a big number of throws. One other name I'll mention for deeper leagues or dynasty leagues: Jacob Hollister in New England. With the thin receiver group in Foxborough and the Julian Edelman suspension, you can anticipate New England using a lot of two tight end packages this season, and Hollister seems to be growing into that move tight end role that pairs so well with Gronkowski.
Simpkins: I am even more in love with Mahomes after watching him this preseason. The Tyreek Hill bomb...
Waldman: The Patomic Bomb?
Simpkins: Yeah. Is that what they're calling it?
Waldman: In Kansas City. I want a T-shirt graphic for it.
Simpkins: That play was nice, but it was more than that for me. It was watching his boldness and placement when throwing the ball. It was watching him read the defense intelligently and look off defensive backs before delivering a strike to his receiver down the field. Add in the surrounding talent of all his weapons and you'll conclude that he’s about to put the NFL on notice as being the next great up-and-coming quarterback.
Royce Freeman has been my running back crush since February of this year...
Waldman: I can attest. He's been emailing me since that time...
Simpkins: And that love has only grown as I’ve watched him play in the preseason. His pairing with the Broncos is a perfect marriage of scheme fit and talent. If you want to read about that marriage in more detail, check out this article I penned on the subject.
Watching Chris Godwin during the preseason convinced me that he needs to be on the field more. While I respect the talent of Mike Evans, the overall offense could be much more effective if Godwin got targeted more often. He isn’t bothered by having to make contested catches. The stories he tells with his routes deserve to be heard. Unfortunately, I am not sure the coaching staff shares my opinion.
This is one of the few situations where I am very high on the player, but believe he may not be utilized in a way that makes him a fantasy value. Perhaps the next coaching staff that gets a shot in Tampa will know how to put him to work.
Waldman: I think they are, Daniel. They declared Godwin the starter early in camp and his drumbeat of usage has been as strong as any emerging second-year player in football.
Simpkins: That's good to know, Matt and glad we agree. I also agree with Jason that David Njoku looks like he’s ready to take the next step. He also has the supporting cast around him will help make it possible. I can see Njoku thriving in the red zone and unlike DeShone Kizer last year, Tyrod Taylor knows how to place the ball in a spot where only Njoku has a chance to come down with it.
Parsons: I am buying into Case Keenum in Denver. The weapons are of high quality (Emmanuel Sanders looks back health-wise and Courtland Sutton is a valuable depth addition) and Denver was a lost offense last season primarily due to poor quarterback play. Royce Freeman also offers stability for the run game as a true foundational back.
Jamaal Williams is one of the running backs rising on my board. The Packers did not add to the position in the offseason and Ty Montgomery looks like a clear ancillary option. Add Aaron Jones giving Williams a two-game head start with Jones’ suspension to start the season and Williams can run (no pun intended) with the job from Week 1 onward.
Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola form my favorite stack at wide receiver. DeVante Parker has had another frustrating offseason where expectations were aligned with no Jarvis Landry and Parker entering Year 4. Stills has been that solid performer yet to see high-level targets. Also, Amendola can replicate a high percentage of what Jarvis Landry did from the slot. Both are affordable and answer the question "If DeVante Parker is not the answer in Miami, who is?"
Like Jeff, I have come around on Jordan Reed. He is healthy (finally) and has been a per-game monster when healthy during his career. Plus, Washington’s wide receiver group is filled with uncertainty as Josh Doctson hopes to develop and Paul Richardson Jr is a free agent addition. The lone incumbent is diminutive Jamison Crowder. I can see Reed peppered with targets as a featured element of the offense and crushing his preseason positional average draft position.
ADVICE FOR THE WEEK 2 WAIVER WIRE MADNESS
Matt Waldman: What advice do you have for fantasy owners about the upcoming waiver wire madness that will ensue after the weekend?
Wood: The first rule of thumb is understanding your league's nuances. I can't emphasize enough that 99 percent of the advice you get -- from us or other sites -- is generic. Your league has its own quirks. If you have deep rosters, and the waiver wire tends to be barren, you should consider bidding very aggressively in the first week or two since the chances of impact players emerging in subsequent weeks are slim. If you're in a more traditional league, the key is to only bid on a player that can honestly be a full-season difference maker.
Hicks: As Jason mentioned, it depends on your league and the reality of what happens in week one. If a young player that was a high draft pick, especially at wide receiver or tight end, but struggled until now breaks out, jump on them. If an unexpected running back sees more than 10 carries or 6 receptions, consider very carefully.
Schofield: What Andy just said is a good thing to remember. As for my advice, I always prefer a slow approach after Week 1. There will always be some over-reaction to the first week of results, but league winners know the difference between a true find and someone who had a good week against a team or a defense that is going to be at the bottom of the league.
Parsons: My general waiver wire philosophy and advice in the preseason is to already roster the players who could be blow-your-waiver-budget options after Week 1 if one tipping-point event occurs. Typically this means targeting all those clear primary backup running backs where an injury makes them an auto-start the following week and lauded waiver pickup. I shy away from wide receivers in general on the back-end of rosters as there are rarely options with such a pronounced up-tick and impact from an injury.
I am not one to spend most of my budget after Week 1 as a waiver wire strategist. I would rather spend the $1 here and there on preemptive bets to hit big than put most of my eggs into a single basket. The lone exception I would make for wide receivers is an ambiguous depth chart where the WR1 could emerge. One combination I am monitoring closely is the Jets and specifically Terrelle Pryor. If healthy (and he looked to be on track late in the preseason) he can emerge as the clear No.1 receiver. Another situation could be Dallas' passing game with options like Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, and their tight ends regularly on typical redraft waiver wires.
Haseley: Weeks 2-6 are the prime weeks for obtaining talent off the waiver wire. This is the time when opportunity finds talent and the talent rises to the top. I'm a bit skeptical about a one-week performer unless the snap counts and projections back up the interest.
We've seen Week 1 Wonders before. Some have panned out, but others have not. Don't jump the gun on someone and spend a lot of your waiver budget, unless you have strong proof of that player winning a role. Did he win the role or was he the recipient of a few lucky plays? Knowing that answer will guide you to a decision on whether or not to open your wallet for a waiver bid.
Generally, I shy away from veterans who have a strong first week unless they match the criteria that I stated above. I'm usually taking action on a younger player, not necessarily a rookie, who has taken a step forward in his second or third year.
Hicks: Week one can be a minefield to determine who is a fluke or who is likely to be a season-long producer. Stephen Hill had a great week one a few years ago and disappeared forever after that. Doing a lot from a few targets or getting an irregular amount of touchdowns compared to touches are prime targets for fool’s gold.
Wood: One of the mistakes is focusing on fantasy points scored versus role. If a receiver has two touchdowns but only had three targets and played 30 percent of the team's snaps, it's probably fool's gold. Whereas if that player shockingly played 80 percent of snaps and led the team in targets, he's an ultra-high priority.
Haseley: The game recaps that Footballguys offer, help describe how that player was used in the game. I'll be sure to browse through those recaps for sure, especially if there's a particular player that interests me who is available on the wire. Some example targets that I'll be looking for include Albert Wilson, David Moore, Chad Williams, Houston's tight end situation, and Carolina's second receiver behind Devin Funchess.
Waldman: Although somewhat of a generic piece of advice, I believe most leagues tend to value certain positions more than others in the free agent and trade market. I build my draft plans around those market values so the back-end of my roster gives me strength flexibility with post-draft transactions.
Hicks: Absolutely, Matt. Running back is the obvious answer as anyone on the waiver wire who has had more than 10 carries is a must-consider. Wide receivers are generally a dime a dozen on the waiver wire, but tight ends can be very useful due to the lack of quality options. Because this position can also take time to develop, rapid improvement or a change of offensive scheme show up early in the season.
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