Roundtable Week 1

Our panel lists their personal post-training camp lovefests and concerns, bold predictions, and the impending waiver wire madness. 

Let's examine what we think of players with the preseason over and the season ahead.

Let's roll...

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Bold predictions

Matt Waldman: Give us one bold prediction that could dramatically alter the 2017 fantasy landscape. It can be a player, unit, a team, or a coach. 

Clayton Gray: Jamaal Williams will be the back to own in Green Bay. Ty Montgomery will get more receptions, but he's not built to handle a lot of touches every week. Williams is built for that. And he's far more suited to running between the tackles than Montgomery. The Packers will use Williams on early downs and will lean on him to close out wins.

Chad Parsons: The 49ers offense is an average or better, fully functional NFL offense. This is a stark change from 2016. Carlos Hyde is an RB1 and Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin are in the top-50 landscape (Garcon a sturdy WR2 and Goodwin a quality flex play or better).

Darin Tietgen: I'm not sure how bold this is since there are a lot of experts that are on this train, but I am all-in on Marcus Mariota as a fantasy stud.  In standard formats, he was the No. 1 fantasy scorer from Week 5-12 last season.  His schedule is quite favorable, despite having to face Houston twice.

The Titans also upgraded its receiver corps WR with Corey Davis and the underrated Eric DeckerDelanie Walker is vastly underrated, too, and we know they have two legit RB options who will keep the box rather stacked and passing lanes open.  The Titans will also use rookie Taywan Taylor at some point—he also looks like a nice little weapon.

Add Mariota's ability to extend plays with his legs and give you a few extra points per game with rushing yards, and the time is right for this guy to enter the fantasy elite.  I have no problem saying he'll be right up there with Brees and Brady in that "next tier" behind Rodgers.  

Daniel Simpkins: Eric Ebron is a player that many believe is finally going to break out this season. I’ve also wanted to believe in Ebron at times throughout his four-year career, but injuries, drops, and inconsistent play have hampered my ability to keep the dream alive. I can't go there with him this year. He missed three games last year and has never played a full slate of games over the past three campaigns.

He also led all tight ends in drops with seven. He’s struggled to find the end zone, something that is imperative if he is to ascend into the ranks of the elite tight ends. Another reason I don’t think that Ebron is worth the price of admission is that the Lions quietly did something with their fourth-round pick that may spell doom for Ebron from a fantasy perspective: they drafted Toledo’s, Michael Roberts.

Roberts is a pretty good run blocker and will attempt to help jump start Ameer Abdullah and the other runners in this offense. However, Roberts can also be a red zone machine. He caught a monstrous sixteen touchdowns last year in college. Watching him play, I see a guy with excellent body control and sure hands in the cramped confines of the end zone. Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter favors two-tight end sets and putting Roberts in near the goal line gives the offense a lot more versatility. My bold prediction is that rookie tight end Michael Roberts will catch more touchdowns than Eric Ebron this year.

Andy Hicks: There are squads that will crash and burn and end up looking for a new coach, there are other teams that will be better than what is perceived. I think the Jets are going to be better than most project them to be Sure it looks like a mess from the outside, but Todd Bowles is a good coach in a terrible position. They are not going to threaten the playoffs, but 6 or 7 wins is highly possible. 

Jeff Haseley: Someone emerges as the go-to running back in Philadelphia or they will have a bust season. I'm not sure that LeGarrette Blount is the answer, and Darren Sproles is lacking in size to make a significant impact as a rusher. The list of current candidates on the roster is small, which includes Wendell Smallwood and not much else. Donnell Pumphrey has a similar stature to Sproles and isn't someone who can handle a large role. Perhaps Philly looks elsewhere for the answer? A veteran in DeAngelo Williams or a trade for a younger, eager back could be in the cards. 

Waldman: I like Williams' talent as an all-around running back. I also believe in Hyde and have a bold prediction for him as a top-5 fantasy back this year. Mariota definitely has the offensive complements to deliver as a top fantasy passer—even in a run-heavy unit. 

Daniel, your Michael Roberts over Eric Ebron in the red zone is the kind of bold call I love to see that may feel like it's from the bleachers but is rooted in the logic of the offensive scheme. Andy's thoughts on the Jets is intriguing. I'm interested to see how it plays out. 

And Haseley's call for a back like Williams also "feels" possible. My call? Tarik Cohen of the Bears delivers no worse than PPR RB4 production this year for a Bears squad that cannot stop the run, has a young secondary, and will be playing from behind with out a solidified receiving corps. 

Time to backtrack to training camp for some thoughts on what we think we've learned about players heading into the opener. 

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Post-Training Camp Concerns

Waldman: List a QB, RB, WR, and TE that you're concerned about after what's transpired this August and what's your advice for fantasy owners who have these players?

Hicks: One of them has to be Andrew Luck. People drafted this guy high up until mid-August when the information got shakier by the day. He is definitely not playing Week 1 and then what? Jacoby Brissett was traded for and may be ready to play by Week 2. Even if he comes back early in the season, that shoulder is going to be tested heavily by opposing defenses. The Colts are going to struggle to protect him as well. 

Haseley:  Andrew Luck is the obvious pick here but we've covered him pretty well. I'll say, Tyrod Taylor. The Bills have come across as a team playing for the future rather than the present. The trades of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby to bring in Jordan Matthews reinforce this in my opinion. We already heard whispers from beat writers that Taylor was not looking up to par in training camp and preseason. He's a bad game away from being benched in favor of Nate Peterman. Throw his recent concussion on the list and he's a prime candidate for someone to take a step down this year, perhaps even out of the fantasy picture altogether. 

Simpkins: At quarterback, I’m taking Cam Newton at quarterback. I got a chance to go watch him at a joint practice with the Titans this summer. He had just started throwing again in limited fashion after experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder. His shoulder seemed to still be bothering him, as his passes lacked his trademark zip.

Accuracy was also a problem, so much so that he completely missed the receiver on some attempts. In the dress-rehearsal game, it was interesting that Newton only attempted two passes and did not really throw down the field when he did. Perhaps two more weeks of rest before game time will do wonders for that shoulder, but I’m concerned that he may not be healing as quickly as expected. My advice for fantasy owners who own Newton is to make sure you have a good backup quarterback on your roster. You may need to play that backup for a time if Newton comes out of the gate slowly.

Tietgen: I am rooting for Kirk Cousins, mainly because the Washington organization has done this guy no favors contract-wise and he just keeps chugging along.  However, they let his deep threat and his safety valve walk in the off-season and added a WR who's still learning the position; a guy that Cousins doesn't appear to have a great rapport with. 

Jordan Reed, his No. 1 pass-catching threat, is an injury waiting to happen and you have a recipe for a major drop-off.  Their defense may be a little better (it can't get much worse) so there may be less need for gunslinging.  They also upgraded at running back depth chart.  If you own Cousins in a dynasty format, obviously you want to hold him since he potentially could come west to San Francisco or land somewhere else.  Or, the team gets legit pass-catching options.  In redraft leagues, he will be a spot starter for me.  If another quarterback has a better matchup, I would have no problem benching Cousins.

Hindery: I agree with Darin. Throughout the offseason, most assumed Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson would easily replace DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Many even felt the duo would be an upgrade. However, the Washington first-team offense struggled in the preseason. Pryor and Cousins had trouble getting on the same page at times. Doctson missed most of August with a hamstring injury. Jordan Reed has injury concerns as well. At this point, Cousins owners who don’t already own a strong backup option need to be aggressive on the waiver wire should Cousins start slowly. 

Parsons: It is hard to be optimistic at this point whether Bortles maintains the starting role throughout the season The biggest concern is the effect on Allen Robinson and Bortles' inefficiencies limiting the goal line cracks for Leonard Fournette.

Waldman: Who is your running back of concern, Chad?

Parsons: There was (is?) big volume upside in Philadelphia, but Blount has looked a step slower than previous seasons and stuck in the mud on a majority of carries. Blount could be off fantasy rosters in general after Week 1 if the Eagles depth chart shifts another way.

Hindery: If you drafted Joe Mixon as one of your starting running backs, there is a reason for concern early in the season. The Bengals may use a committee approach early while slowly easing Mixon into more of a featured role. Mixon’s owners may want to look for some short-term options (Jacquiz Rodgers for example) to get through the early part of the season. The key, however, will be not panicking. By midseason, Mixon should emerge as a fantasy RB1. Don’t sell low if he gets off to a slow start.

Tietgen: I avoided Leonard Fournette in all of my dynasty drafts and have yet to ink him in a redraft.  I am a huge Fournette fan but think, of all the rookie runners, he has the best chance of hitting the proverbial "rookie wall".  He's a bigger back who could see a LOT of early action as the Jags look to stabilize their offense.  If Blake Bortles continues to struggle, Fournette may not see many open running lanes.  If you own Fournette in redraft formats, be ready to put him on the block if he has some big games in the middle of the season.  

Simpkins:  I’m pretty concerned about Ty Montgomery. Mike McCarthy can crow all he wants to that Montgomery’s development is over, but I don’t concur based on what I saw in the preseason. Sure, Montgomery is a great receiver out of the backfield, but can he carry the mail in pass protection and do work between the tackles? I have my doubts as I watch his body of work during the preseason. I feel Jamaal Williams already has a better intuitive understanding of how to play the position and is a better pass blocker, even as a rookie. I won’t be surprised if there is a shift to Williams at some point in the season. If you do have Montgomery on your roster, I feel you have to get Williams on your team as well.

Hicks: It usually is the rookie running backs that should fill this spot. They are all wonderful during the draft and early camp, but then the flaws start being exposed - particularly in pass protection. The name I am going with is one that has actually shot up draft boards following the injury to Spencer Ware, in Kareem Hunt. For his draft slot towards the latter part of fantasy drafting season, he was a high RB2. He is not going to see that, especially in the early part of the season. It wouldn't surprise me to see more of Charcandrick West and maybe even C.J. Spiller to take the pressure off a guy that was expected to be introduced gradually as the season wore on.

Haseley: Frank Gore. Not only is Gore in the last hour of his career clock, but the Colts are now starting to make moves at the running back position, most recently signing Matt Jones off waivers. Marlon Mack has also impressed in the preseason and could find his way onto the field more often, as a result. Adding Andrew Luck's uncertain health and this all points a negative spin on Gore being a fantasy relevant option, especially later in the season. 

Waldman: Give us a wide receiver whose training camp gave you cause for worry. 

Haseley: Robby Anderson. The Jets have brought in a few wide receivers in the 11th hour of the preseason. Jermain Kearse and Jeremy Kerley were recently acquired and both could wind up being among the Jets leaders in targets this year, despite both not playing a preseason game for the Jets this year. All of these moves spells uncertainty for Anderson, who looked to be the main receiving recipient for the team heading into the preseason, has lost a bit of his value luster with these moves. Now he's not a given to be a lock for weekly production.

Simpkins: I know John Brown scored twice in impressive fashion in a preseason contest, but it doesn’t change that he’s still been dealing with chronic soft-tissue injuries. His problems are complicated further by sickle cell trait, a disorder that muddies Brown’s ability to recover from injury. I love Brown’s talent, but I can no longer trust that he’ll stay healthy. I’ve moved on from Brown in dynasty and I’m not trusting him to deliver anything but heartache for me in redraft formats. 

Tietgen: I like Jackson, but where he's being drafted makes me a little nervous.  I would not want him as an every-week starter.  I think Jackson is a better "football player" than "fantasy option".  If anything, he is going to make Mike Evans, and to some degree, the Buc TEs, much better.  His ability to take the top off the defense (not sure where this phrase came from but I'll roll with it) is second-to-none, and Evans and the TEs will see a lot more space in the middle of the field as a result.  You will see a lot of 3-catch, 60-70 yard games out of Jackson.  I don't see a lot of volume for him and no consistency whatsoever.  If you have Jackson in a league, I recommend you make sure your WR1 and WR2 are steady and that the game figures to be a higher-scoring affair.  

Hindery: Pryor was likely drafted as an every week starting WR2 or WR3. He might not be as consistent as expected. Pryor could struggle against more talented cornerbacks, which would make him a starter only in favorable matchups. If you are counting on Pryor as an every week starter, it would be wise to add more depth at the position so you can mix and match in the starting lineup depending on matchups.  

Parsons: Tyreek Hill. The depth chart is wide open for Hill to justify his price tag. However, he has yet to show intermediate and deep route growth from his manufactured production of 2016. I am betting against Hill to emerge as a true lead receiver for the Chiefs.

Hicks: Like Chad, I'm landing on Tyreek Hill. It is one thing to sneak up on everyone and dazzle in numerous ways like he did in his rookie year, but from that to the WR1? As Chad said, how has he developed as a wide receiver? He didn't look that good in preseason and this reminds me of Cordarelle Patterson who did similar freakish things in his rookie season and then couldn't translate that into becoming a more traditional receiver. 

Waldman: Hill, Pryor, and Jackson (all players I like)...gotcha. Let's see what tight ends you guys hate that I probably love. Andy, lead it off. 

Hicks: Martellus Bennett is a guy that worries me for a number of reasons this year. He is on his 5th team in 7 years, has pushed past the 30 age barrier and moves to a side that rarely uses a Tight End in a fantasy productive way. 

Haseley:  Jesse James. The Steelers acquired Vance McDonald from San Francisco, which suggests Jesse James wasn't meeting the needs or expectations of the team. The Steelers traded a fourth round pick for McDonald, which means they have plans for him. I don't see that trade as a means to acquire a bench tight end. The door isn't shut on James, but his value definitely takes a drop as the season approaches.

Simpkins: I am neurotic about Jordan Reed. I’m glad the orthotic intended to stabilize a broken bone in his foot seems to be working. Yet I’ve owned Reed enough to know this won’t be the last health issue on an already lengthy list. I hope owners who own Reed also own a quality backup tight end because I am feeling one hundred percent certain you’ll be needing one.

Tietgen: Zach Ertz is the epitome of fools' gold at the position.  Ertz had 4 games last year with 10+ targets, which is nice in theory but he only had 4 TDs, 2 of which coming in Week 17 against the Cowboys.   And after the Eagles shipped off Jordan Matthews, Ertz looked like he may be in line for a huge uptick in targets.  Then, Nelson Agholor started looking like a legit slot option.  Let's not forget they also added red-zone threat, Alshon Jeffery and game breaker, Torrey Smith.  Drafting Ertz over the likes of Delanie Walker is just silliness.  If you have Ertz, you better hope Agholor is the actual fools' gold, or you may be searching for a juicier TE option.

Hindery: Doyle has had a quiet preseason and will have little value while Andrew Luck is sidelined early in the year. Doyle was considered the last of the TE1 options for most of the offseason. For many, he will have been drafted as a backup. But if you waited at tight end and came away with Doyle as a starter, you will need to be aggressive in looking to upgrade on the waiver wire. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is a nice option when he comes off of his two-game suspension. 

Parsons: I have projected a tight end in Baltimore to be a fantasy value this season, but Watson has seen minimal time on the field and Maxx Williams still has the pedigree (without health) to-date to earn shots as the starter in 2017. While I still own Watson in some leagues, I would not be surprised if he is a glaring cut post-Week 1.

 

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POST-TRAINING CAMP Love

Waldman: List a QB, RB, WR, and TE that you're higher on than you were before training camp and what's your advice for fantasy owners who have these players? Let's begin with quarterbacks. 

Hindery: There were legitimate concerns about Carson Wentz after his rookie season. He faded down the stretch and made some questionable decisions and throws. He looks to have made a real leap going into his second season. Wentz also has an improved cast of weapons with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith providing more of a deep threat. Wentz was probably drafted as a QB2. Depending on matchups and who your QB1 is, you might want to consider getting Wentz into your starting lineup. He might also give you a nice trade chip by midseason if he emerges as a strong fantasy passer. 

Tietgen:  Thank you, Hard Knocks.  Thank you for showing me the passion and dedication this young QB Jameis Winston has.  I thought the guy was kind of a knucklehead (the crab legs incident) but it turns out he most definitely has the "it" factor.  Adding DeSean Jackson will open things up for his best targets.  I absolutely love the schedule, and thanks to what I saw during training camp courtesy of HBO, I am much higher on Winston than I was earlier in the summer.  If you own Winston, plan on using him every week.  I don't see any week where you'd contemplate benching him.  Maybe if you can find another option for Week 3 at Minnesota.  That could be his roughest outing, but honestly, I'd be shocked if he didn't go for 225-240 yards and a couple scores there. 

Simpkins: Give me Russell Wilson. Not only did I see that he was completely recovered after struggling with an injury for much of last year; I also saw him making quality decisions with the football against the not-so-incompetent Chiefs defense in the week three preseason game. The offensive line still appears to be a weakness, making me think the running game will still struggle. The passing game and Wilson’s scrambling abilities will need to be alive and well to compensate. Paul Richardson Jr, Tyler Lockett, and Jimmy Graham all appear to be healthy, further boosting the ceiling of this passing offense. If you drafted a middle-of-the-pack passer and can upgrade to Wilson without taking a major downgrade at one of your starting spots, I suggest you do it. 

Parsons: I love the arm talent and mobility boost DeShone Kizer offers fantasy terms. The weapons are solid in Cleveland and Kizer earning the starting job for Week 1 provides a full season to mature on the job.

Hicks: Unlike Andrew Luck, we actually got to see Cam Newton in the preseason and if what happened there is an indication of what he'll do this year, we will be fine. Sure, we saw dump-offs, but when you draft Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel with your first two picks they fit that role perfectly. Add in a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin, and Greg Olsen in the red zone and this offense should run well and without Cam exposing himself to ludicrous hits.

Haseley: I agree with Andy. The beginning of camp left us with questions surrounding Newton's recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, but now it appears as if he'll be fine for Week 1. The Panthers gave him some offensive weapons in the offseason, particularly the draft. He is one year removed from leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record with receivers named Ted Ginn Jr and Philly Brown. The addition of Christian McCaffrey is going to be a big catalyst in Newton's attempt to return to prominence. The offense is expected to take a leap forward and Newton will be the main reason why. 

Waldman: Like Simpkins, I'm wary of Newton this year and it has concerned me that the Panthers most complete players in the passing game are a tight end and a running back. I can see him having a rebound season but I'm generally avoiding him at all costs. I hope you guys are right about it. Haseley, lead us off with running backs who deserve some post-training camp love. 

Haseley: The Bills offense may have lost some key pieces, but not the most important piece in LeSean McCoy. The news of Jonathan Williams being released means McCoy is going to be given plenty of carries and targets. His talent and experience plus the volume of carries and overall usage make him a prime candidate to finish in the Top 5 among fantasy running backs. 

Hicks: I'm landing on Jonathan Stewart. If and when Christian McCaffrey runs the ball more than 10 times a game, Stewart will still be the main runner on this side and with weapons on offense, will have more opportunity to ground opponents into the dust. Fully fit, and that has been an issue, he should push double-digit touchdowns. 

Simpkins: I'm much higher on McCaffrey than Hicks. I've been very encouraged by what Christian McCaffrey has shown this preseason, and believe he’ll be one of the few rookie runners to eclipse 1,000 all-purpose yards. If you have McCaffrey in dynasty, you’re sitting pretty for a long time to come. If you have him in re-draft, I think your opponents are going to be surprised how this guy that was drafted as a second running back can score like one who was drafted as a primary option.

Tietgen: They're saying it's "fake news", but come on, where there's smoke there's fire and it's no secret the Jets are tanking.  There were rumblings that the team was shopping Matt Forte or contemplating releasing him outright.  I can still see that happening.  Powell would be a legit No. 1 RB in PPR formats if that happens.  Even with Forte taking some looks, Powell will be a force in PPR leagues.  The guy had 58 catches on 75 targets last year and will easily duplicate those numbers.  I would contend he catches close to 70-75 balls, especially if they ditch Forte.  Powell owners can safely plug him in as an RB2, and in some cases, may have drafted him as their flex, which would be a huge boon.

Hindery: Prior to training camp, there was speculation about whether Hyde would fit in the new Kyle Shanahan offense. Some even suggested he might be traded. Instead, Hyde excelled and heads into the regular season with a stranglehold on the starting job. In Shanahan’s dangerous, run-heavy offense Hyde has a chance to put up RB1 fantasy numbers this season. If you drafted him, confidently start him even in a mediocre Week 1 matchup against Carolina. 

Parsons: The Rams are one of the offenses on the rebound this season. With an improved system and set of pass game weapons, Todd Gurley is poised to see greater opportunity for goal line scores and open running lanes.

Waldman: Tietgen, lead off with your wide receiver who is the object of your post-training camp affections.

Tietgen: Two schools of thought here:  One, Cooks has already shown us what he can do in a high-powered offense with Brees and the Saints.  Solid, but not a top-tier WR.  Or, you can say the Patriots led by Tom Brady is just a completely different animal.  Brady does more with less every year and you could say he hasn't had a talent like Cooks since Randy Moss was streaking down the field for the Pats.  Gone is Julian Edelman, which will be a negative for the offense mechanically-speaking, but it could tick up Cooks' targets.  Chris Hogan should slide into the slot with Philip Dorsett as the deep threat.  This offense is sick, folks.  With Edelman gone I can see Cooks really turning this up.  I think Cooks could outperform his old running mate Michael Thomas and outscore guys like Julio Jones and A.J. Green if Brady stays healthy.  If you own Cooks, start him with confidence.  Some will tell you to sell high but I would ride the wave all season.

Simpkins: Trevor Siemian winning the quarterback battle has really helped me to warm up to Emmanuel Sanders. You can see the rapport that these two have and the fact that Siemian doesn’t want to take risks with the football further points to Emmanuel Sanders being the guy to own at receiver there in Denver. If you own Sanders, you definitely have a solid number two option to compliment whoever you drafted to be your lead guy.

Hicks: Despite all the fat reports early in the off season, Kelvin Benjamin looked great in preseason. I had him higher than most staff before then and have him even higher now. 

Haseley: I get the feeling that there's going to be plenty of volume coming  Alshon Jeffery's way this season. The trade of Jordan Matthews to Buffalo solidifies this opinion. The next closest wide receiver in team targets may be Torrey Smith, who hasn't had a 100-target season since 2013. 

Parsons: While Kevin White will have every opportunity to make good on his draft position this season, the Cameron Meredith injury opens the door for Kendall Wright to be PPR viable. Wright seemed to collect every meaningful third down conversion for Chicago this preseason and he will be the Cole Beasley-type security blanket for Mike Glennon (and Mitch Trubisky) this season.

Hindery: DeVante Parker is poised for a third-season breakout. He has matured and is taking better care of his body. But even more importantly, he has a quarterback in Jay Cutler who believes in him and is willing to pepper him with deep targets even when he’s covered. Cutler called Parker a “faster Alshon Jeffery” and the duo quickly developed a rapport. Parker may have been drafted as your WR4, especially if you drafted early. You should consider getting him into your starting lineup even if it means benching someone you took a round or two earlier. 

Waldman: I'm with you on Parker, Hindery. Hasley, I can't get with a receiver who can't defeat press coverage on a consistent basis and has to be aligned three yards off the line of scrimmage to have a fighting chance. Even so, Benjamin should be "good enough" as a fantasy option, but I'll never believe in him as a WR1 until he improves his game at the line of scrimmage. Hindery, finish off this segment with your tight end who impressed you based on his training camp. 

Hindery: I was surprised how good Jimmy Graham looked in the preseason. He was moving like he did in his mid-20s with the Saints. Graham provides Russell Wilson with a huge red zone weapon and should get heavy usage down around the goal line. You probably drafted Graham as your starting tight end, so there’s not too much to do but get him in your lineup every week and enjoy the results. 

Simpkins: The fact that Graham might get “New Orleans numbers” according to Cecil Lammey is intriguing to me. I also saw a flash of the Saints version of Graham in the third preseason game when he went skyward for a 30-yard reception. If you own him, I would be getting some smack talk ready for those owners who took some of the more expensive options rounds before Graham.   

Hicks: Jared Cook has been considered a flaky prospect for years, but after several years of being a misfit in offenses that don't suit, he arrives at the perfect destination in Oakland. With excellent outside receivers, a strong offensive line, and a running back that strikes fear into defenders, Cook will have the room to utilize his freakish speed. 

Haseley: The only player coming close to Witten's tight end production was Rico Gathers, who was recently placed on IR. This move means Witten will continue to see a high number of targets and be a consistent option for Dak Prescott. Witten is in the sunset of his career, but his ability and presence in the offense aren't going anywhere anytime soon, at least it doesn't look that way for the 2017 season. 

Parsons: Jordan Reed has yet to play more than 14 games in an NFL season (missing at least four games in 3-of-4 seasons) and is already nursing a toe injury for 2017. Davis is one of the higher snap count tight ends in the NFL even when Reed is active. Davis has TE1 upside any week Reed misses.

Tietgen: With Andrew Luck shelved but off the PUP list, Scott Tolzien will be under center for the Colts.  Doyle had one of the best catch rates in the NFL. In fact, he was the highest of any non-RB in 2016 (78.7%).  That means he's ultra-reliable, and with the backup QB starting the season as the starter, you know they're going to dumb the offense down and rely on the sure hands of this underrated TE.  When Luck returns, don't worry, he will still be part of the offense.  Gone is Dwayne Allen and while Donte Moncrief will steal some looks, Doyle should be a reliable, albeit lower-level TE1.

Waldman: I've slept on Doyle this offseason, Tietgen. That's a call I like. Surprisingly, he may also be available on some waiver wires this month. Let's use that to transition to the subject of free agency.

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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? 

Tietgen: If anything, spend less money in Week 2 than other weeks.  There will be one-week wonders that folks overpay for.  Don't blow your entire budget the first week.  There will be those that give up on stars or almost-stars after a couple/few weeks that you will want to jump on come Week 4 or 5.

Adam Harstad: I definitely view this differently than Tietgen. In almost all of my leagues, I'm basically spending 100 percent of my budget on one big acquisition in the first few weeks and living on free adds the rest of the year.

Hicks: People can overreact to one or two weeks of results. You have to weigh each player against the whole picture. Last year, Will Fuller V looked like the second coming of Randy Moss after 2 weeks. As Adam mentioned, you will see a shooting star or two come out of nowhere early in the season, but there will be more fool's gold around. If an unexpected 20-carry a game running back presents himself, then, by all means, dive in, but a third- or fourth-string receiver who breaks it for a long touchdown run, maybe not so much. 

Parsons: I am one to be proactive with free and low-cost pickups preemptively than to spend most of my funds on a single pickup. Being realistic about the opportunity spectrum for Week 1 specifically optimizes the bench spots on a fantasy roster.

Simpkins: I bid more aggressively in Week 2, especially when I’ve seen something that I’m pretty sure is going to stick all season. Last year, it was picking up Tyrell Williams with a more aggressive bid than most were willing to make after Keenan Allen’s injury. That certainly paid off for me. There have been other moves I’ve made that have fallen flat, but I would much rather whiff because I was bold and took a chance than to miss out because I was too conservative to embrace the new reality. 

Waldman: I love the hubris that Harstad brings to his answer. And I call it "hubris" because it presumes that you've identified the "it" player who will alter the landscape within the first two weeks of the season. If the player you've identified is truly that obvious, then I understand the strong bid. However, if you aren't one player away from turning your season around, this strategy may not be the best one. I've certainly altered the fortunes of my squads with 3-5 cheaper waiver selections between October and November. It's a counterpoint to his viable theory that's worth considering. Know your team and act accordingly.

Harstad, can you give us a little more detail behind your super-aggressive stance?

Harstad: Three very important things to keep in mind.

  1. The most talented players break out quickly, not slowly. Because they're talented.
  2. The earlier you get someone, the more weeks you can use him.
  3. The quality difference between free acquisitions and mid-price acquisitions is pretty minimal, historically.

Policy prescription based on the above: if at any point you see a waiver prospect that you really like, and you're in a league with blind-bid waivers, do not be afraid to blow your entire budget to acquire him, (assuming your league allows you to make free moves later in the season if your budget is gone). If your league has a minimum transaction cost (say, minimum $1 bid with no first-come, first-serve free agency), then save $10-20 for minimum-cost adds later on in the year and spend the rest on a big splurge.

Hindery: I get what Harstad is saying, but it's always difficult to separate the one-week wonder from the player who can make a long-term impact on your team.

Simpkins: I agree, and I think it’s important to consider a variety of factors when evaluating whether a performance was for real or fool's gold. Some of the things that come to mind are: How talented is this player? Does he have the metrics to hang with the competition he’ll face going forward? Has this player shown me anything in college or preseason work? Are there conditions in this game (injury to key defenders, the way the defense chose to defend, field conditions, etc.) that account for this player’s performance?  Did the team getting off script in the game create this situation for this player? If so, is this team more likely or less likely to get off script again? Using these litmus tests can go a long way toward helping me determine whether I should let that player slide on the waiver wire or whether I should take it seriously and bid accordingly.

Waldman: Parsons, how do you determine who to add to your team? 

Parsons: With final roster spots I encourage owners to look very short-term in their 'what needs to happen for player X to be viable and above my waiver wire churn line?' approach. If a running back is No.3 on the depth chart and not an overt talent, they do not fit the criteria or a secondary receiver on a lower-level passing offense.

Waldman: That's a simple and often effective approach Parsons, but sometimes fantasy teams have enough holes early on that they can't be as simple about their criteria or they miss on players. Hindery, give us your tips for determining how you value free agent candidates. 

Hindery: Here are a few rules of thumb that I use to determine who is worthy of a strong bid:

  • Focus on usage instead of the result: If Antonio Gates catches two touchdowns on three targets and Evan Engram doesn’t score but has seven catches on 12 targets, it’s probably smart to target Engram over Gates. We want running backs who touch the ball a lot and pass catchers who see a lot of targets.
  • Err on the side of young players with true breakout potential: If Brandon LaFell puts up a 6-90-1 line in Week 1, I’m not too excited. We basically know what LaFell is based upon the previous 7 seasons. However, if Kenny Golladay puts up the same 6-90-1 line in Week 1, I’m much more excited.
  • Look for situations where there has been a material change since your draft: If Jeremy Hill plays 40 percent of the snaps Week 1 and has a good week, it isn’t a reason to rush out and bid on him. However, if Joe Mixon goes down with a season-ending injury, that’s a whole different ballgame and makes Hill an attractive target. We are mainly looking for events that change a player’s role on his team. 
  • Take into account game script to determine how repeatable a performance is:  If the Cowboys jump out to a 21-0 early lead over the Giants and Shane Vereen catches eight passes late in the game because the Giants are in a come-from-behind mode, that usage may have been game script dependent. If the Giants are in a close game against the Cowboys and Vereen has eight catches, then his usage is much more difficult to dismiss as a fluke.
  • Look for situations that were unsettled before Week 1 where we actually got some possible answers. Here are a couple situations I'm watching closely:
    • Bears receivers. With Cameron Meredith out for the season, we don't know who the go-to receiver for the Bears will be. If one player (Kendall Wright) has a big share of the targets, it could be a player worth targeting for receiving depth. 
    • Patriots running backs. While New England is notorious for changing their game plans and player usage from week-to-week, it is still a situation worth watching. If one running back (Rex Burkhead) gets all of the goal line touches and plays half the snaps, for example, I'd be willing to roll the dice to try to get a slice of what could be a huge pie in a high-scoring offense.


Hicks: Position wise, some quarterbacks are going to look better or worse than most expect. For instance, Jared Goff might actually look like a real NFL QB in a decent offense, against a Colts defense. If so he will be a popular waiver wire add. 

Any running backs who stand out in Week 1 and is on the waiver wire are going to be must-adds. Tight End is another position where a player can arrive out of nowhere, particularly a third or fourth-year guy who has been learning his craft behind a departed starter. 

Wide Receivers are a dime a dozen on the waiver wire and it is rare to get a gem on the waiver wire early in the year. Sometimes these guys are more apt to appear once there is a change in QB.  

You should never give up on a player after one week. Maybe they had an off game. Maybe they were ill. Or, maybe they were the focus of an effective defensive game plan. 

There are plenty of players who just missed being drafted that will be keenly watched this week, particularly in uncertain situations like the Bears receiving situations, the 49ers offense, and the Jets receivers.

Haseley: I think you definitely need to pay close attention to pre-Week 2 waivers and consider spending a decent chunk of your blind bidding on a player or players who made a definitive impact in Week 1. It's important to react to these players, but also not to overreact.  Read up on snap counts from Week 1 and be sure to read our pre-Week 2 waiver wire column and who made a difference when given the opportunity. 

Waldman: Great discussion. So who are some players you're keeping an eye on this weekend, who could be potential drop/adds in Week 2? 

Parson: Some players I like but can see cutting them if the depth chart goes against them in Week 1 are:

Some players I am watching closely (where I do not have space to roster heading into Week 1):

I'm seeking signs of usage that will get me to pull the trigger on them. 

Haseley: I have my eye on these teams and positions...

  • Chicago's WR1, WR2, and TE1: Will this be Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Tre McBride or someone else? There's value in the Bears receiving corps, including tight end. Will Adam Shaheen step up or will Zach Miller have anything left in the tank?
  • Buffalo's WR2: How will Zay Jones do in Week 1 as the team's second wide receiver behind Jordan Matthews? If Jones has a huge day, is it a result of Matthews chest injury? There's value here and Jones could be a big recipient. As could Matthews. This is definitely a key position to watch. 
  • Cleveland's WR1 & TE1: Will Corey Coleman jump in front of Kenny Britt? What is David Njoku going to do in his first week as a pro? Is Seth DeValve someone who can take a leap forward while Njoku learns the ropes? 
  • Denver's RB: Does De'Angelo Henderson have a chance to eat into C.J. Anderson's carries? What about Jamaal Charles
  • Indianapolis' RB: Will Frank Gore get the majority of carries or will Marlon Mack see significant opportunities?  Can Matt Jones make an impact? If he's active, he'll see some opportunities. What he does with it is what's intriguing. 
  • The Rams' WR2:  Who will step up as the WR2 behind Sammy Watkins?  Is Robert Woods someone we should gravitate to or will Cooper Kupp be the answer. 
  • Kansas City's RB: How much Kareem Hunt will we see or will Charcandrick West play a big role? Who will KC turn to in goal line situations? How will that player perform in those opportunities? 
  • New Orleans' WR2: How will performance and target shares be divided among Teg Ginn and Brandon Coleman?  Will someone else step up?  
  • New England's WR to replace Julian Edelman: Who will step up and be the speed factor as a short-ranged receiver for New England?  Will it be James White, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan?  Will Dion Lewis come back to his 2015 form? What about Rex Burkhead?  Lots to watch in this Week 1 game. Which back will be featured on first, second and third downs?  Who's the third and long back?  How much will Mike Gillislee handle the ball?  
  • Philadelphia's RB: Will LeGarrette Blount play a major role in Week 1 and how will he respond?  Is there any back worth owning in Philadelphia this year?  How much of an impact will Wendell Smallwood have? How will he perform?
  • Oakland's RB2:  Who will step up when Marshawn Lynch isn't carrying the ball?  What will snap counts look like between DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard
  • Seattle's WR2: Which wide receiver will step up as the Seahawks second wide receiver behind Doug Baldwin?  Can Paul Richardson Jr make an impact, especially now that Jermain Kearse is out of the picture?  

Simpkins: I’m looking at Evan Engram in a lot of leagues. Yes, he’s a rookie, but I think the moves the Giants have made and his performance in preseason should leave owners feeling pretty confident about his ability to spot-start for your team with the possibility of doing more if things break just right.

I’m also eyeing Travis Benjamin. Even in some of my deeper leagues, he’s out there on the wire right now. The Chargers offense seemed to really be rolling in preseason action. Benjamin is something of a forgotten man after playing ineffectively through a PCL injury last year. We could easily see him bounce back because the talent is still there. 
 
Tietgen: Here's my short list...

QBs: Brian Hoyer could be a great garbage-time QB.

RBs: Rex Burkhead is the best RB the Pats have.  Just wait and see.  Also, it'll be interesting to see which change-of-pace back (Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington) gets the most work for the Raiders.

WRs: Kendall Wright, Tavon Austin or Danny Amendola/Phillip Dorsett could really be nice PPR options.  

TEs: If OJ Howard out snaps Cameron Brate in Week 1, the writing will be on the wall.  I'm also watching the TE situation in PIT and SFO.
 
Hindery: Bears receivers make my list. With Cameron Meredith out for the season, we don't know who the go-to receiver for the Bears will be. If one player (Kendall Wright?) has a big share of the targets, it could be a player worth targeting for receiving depth. 

 

 


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