In hindsight, the turning point of our fantasy season is often a waiver wire move we made - or didn’t make. The first few weeks of waiver wire moves are the most important because they are most likely to land you a player that was being found out after collective neglect by the fantasy community, and you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of that player for a vast majority of the season. Obviously having good instincts about the factors that created a hot start and their likelihood of persistence is a big part of winning the waiver wire war, but having more bullets to fire can also enhance your chances. If you prioritize players who will have early reveals on where they fall in their range of outcomes in your last few bench players, you’ll give yourself a win-win situation where you either hit on a late pick or have a bullet to fire at the early season waiver wire shooting gallery. Alternatively in deeper leagues with thinner waiver wires, late picks that have a high ceiling with a longer wait for a reveal can be a better use of your last few bench spots. Thanks to Twitter follower @GrilledEggs for the suggestion of Early Bloomers/Late Bloomers for these players.
Robert Griffin III, CLE - Griffin has his confidence back and a huge deep ball target who can separate with ease. An early schedule of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and Washington could get him off of to a hot start. If he fails, it will likely be as spectacular and easy to move on from quickly, enabling waiver wire flexibility.
Joe Flacco, BAL - Flacco is coming back from his knee being torn up and two of his wide receivers are coming from serious injuries of their own, but you know he’s going to pass a lot to open against Buffalo and Cleveland. Jacksonville and Oakland up next could be improved defenses and avoids, but Flacco is a viable streamer leadoff hitter who is free in drafts.
Spencer Ware, KC - Ware would certainly share with Charcandrick West in any event, but it appears has created separation between him and West in the bread and butter and short yardage areas, not to mention showing more innate and applied football ability as a runner. He should be a solid RB2 if Charles goes down, and could get significant work to open the season while Charles is eased back in.
Darren Sproles, PHI - Sproles is going to be the dumpoff king in an offense that going to have trouble throwing downfield. He gets mixed in the red zone and should also play in no huddle and catch up. A slow start by the Eagles could equal a lot of Sproles. If he is really just part of a three-back rotation and only gets 5-6 touches early in the season, Sproles can be released without remorse.
James White, NE - White was an RB1 in PPR leagues when Dion Lewis was out last year, but that was also without Julian Edelman in the lineup. Jimmy Garoppolo is looking effective and the Patriots should use short high percentage passing to keep the young quarterback comfortable.
C.J. Spiller, NO - Fantasy gods help me, I’m back for more. Spiller is healthy for now and he opens with three straight games on turf and two indoors, where he is at his best. It will cathartic to release him yet again if he’s a dud vs. Oakland.
Terrelle Pryor, CLE - Pryor should be #1 on this list in your draft plans. He has gotten easy separation and Robert Griffin III throws rainbows with pots of gold at the bottom in the deep passing game. If it’s a mirage, pryor can be thrown back because Josh Gordon is coming. If it wasn’t Gordon will just make things harder on defenses that need to account for Pryor.
Jaron Brown/JJ Nelson, ARI - John Brown’s concussion has lingered long enough cast a shadow on his draft stock, and there’s no guarantee he’ll play in Week 1. Jaron Brown has had a great summer, but Nelson can make your week with one play and would also figure in. This offense is good enough that we need to track any wide receiver with a path to a significant role.
Tyrell Williams, SD - Williams has some short and long-term hold to his profile. He has been on the field with the first team enough to see him as the third receiver and could break out right away if he gets the opportunity. As a highly physically talented wideout in what should be a high volume pass offense, he could break out at any time. My second favorite stash after Pryor.
Anquan Boldin, DET - The Lions are going to run uptempo, which could supersize the passing pie. Boldin is the type of receiver that wins his quarterback’s trust and becomes a target magnet in short order. He could become a PPR mainstay and the Colts game to open will be a great indicator of his value.
Eli Rogers, PIT - Rogers has the inside track for the #3 job in a high volume, aggressive pass offense. He could be that second-most reliable target downfield that Ben Roethlisberger looks at if Antonio Brown isn’t open. He has the quickness and feel for coverage to steal from the defense at will with 5-7 yard receptions. If Roethlisberger is disciplined, Rogers could be living in the open parts of the defense created by Brown and eventually Le'Veon Bell out of the backfield.
Will Fuller V, HOU - Fuller has a full-time starting job on lockdown and Brock Osweiler appears to be very comfortable leading him down the field on sideline throws. DeAndre Hopkins, the running game, and even fellow rookie Braxton Miller in the slot will draw enough attention to leave Fuller in one-on-one matchups he can win. The offensive line needs to hold up and has two big injuries hanging over it already, but it's more than worth a gamble.
Chris Hogan, NE - Hogan has been the steady #2 receiver in this offense since he showed up this offseason. He might not be prominent every week with two strong receiving tight ends, but the loss of Dion Lewis only helps Hogan's case for targets. Brandon LaFell turned this role into fantasy relevance, although Hogan may require some patience if Jimmy Garoppolo has a rough start. He and Tom Brady hooked up on a beautiful long score during Brady's very limited time in the third preseason game.
Jared Cook, GB - Cook has been a fantasy tease for his whole career, but he has the best quarterback of his time in the NFL and there’s an opening for a #3 target in this pass offense. If sluggish Richard Rodgers flirted with fantasy relevance in this offense, we have to at least Cook at chance at Jacksonville to Minnesota to cement the TE2 spot we give if we are forced to take a pair of tight ends late and hope one hits.
Virgil Green, DEN - Green is athletic, a Matt Waldman favorite, and a training camp/preseason sensation. The Broncos passing game will be underwhelming in any event, but Gary Kubiak made something out of Owen Daniels, and Green has been featured early in the preseason. He’s a good desperation tight end pick.
Dion Lewis, NE - You have to have at least 20 roster spots, play in a deep league, or have an IR spot, but Lewis’s value is proven at the RB1 level last year. The Patriots offensive line woes are complicating things, but you can at least roster Lewis Week 1 and have him to release if the waiver wire gauntlet squeeze forces your hand. Unlike other waiver wire pickups, we know what we are getting if we get Lewis back for the second half of the season.
Jerick McKinnon, MIN - McKinnon is an explosive playmaker who is begging for more playing time. That could come as the team adopts more shotgun formation plays, or just to see what they have for the post Adrian Peterson era. If it comes via a Peterson injury, McKinnon could be a league winner.
Alfred Morris, DAL - In the Dallas offensive line we trust. Morris looks so comfortable behind them and his willingness to run through contact makes him a running back’s running back. No one should be surprised if he wins leagues in the event of a serious Ezekiel Elliott injury.
Christine Michael, SEA - Michael’s talent is coming to the surface now that it is tranquil and reflecting what he is capable of. “The Awakening” introduces Michael into the conversation of a potential flex play if he can force an RBBC and certainly a player with low RB1 upside if Thomas Rawls goes down again.
Devontae Booker, DEN - Booker is in CJ Anderson’s zip code when it comes to physical talent and football skills, and he is next up if Anderson fails once again to put together a whole season of feature back workload games. The Broncos are going to be run heavy and give Booker a chance to show his stuff in a limited fashion in any event.
Kenneth Dixon, BAL - Clearly the best all-around back on the Ravens roster, Dixon should be the closest player the Ravens have to an every down back once he's over his knee injury.
Andre Ellington, ARI - CJ Spiller part II. Fantasy gods help me. Once see the oft-injured, undersized back flash, it’s hard to forget that moment in the late rounds. Ellington, like Spiller, is healthy now, and he should get at least a few touches a game to remind Bruce Arians why he was once his RB1.
Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, WAS - Doctson is going to start slow because of his achilles issue that robbed him of an offseason and preseason, but he is also the kind of natural talent that can demand targets and playing time once his team gets a load of his ability. If a starting wide receiver goes down, Doctson could have massive growth potential. Crowder is a PPR special and could dominate the middle of the field if Jordan Reed goes down. He’s building from a good enough rookie season despite hitting the rookie wall that Crowder should have 70-75 catches, no problem.
Dorial Green-Beckham, PHI - Fantasy gods help the Eagles, they are already looking at Green-Beckham on the first team. This is a sign of how poor the other outside wide receivers are on one hand, but Green-Beckham is the kind of talent can pull a 2014 Kelvin Benjamin garbage time domination on a losing team.
Tajae Sharpe, TEN - I remain unconvinced that Tennessee will exceed expectations, but Sharpe has the opening chapter of the rookie breakout that can transcend situation. It’s not hard to see him bubbling to the top of a middling wide receiver group, and Sharpe already has great chemistry with Marcus Mariota.
Devin Funchess, CAR - Funchess has done nothing but build momentum this year, but he is still likely looking at a three-way wide receiver split with Ted Ginn Jr and Kelvin Benjamin, with Greg Olsen also getting his. Funchess might play his way into a bigger red zone and overtake Benjamin in prominence as the season goes on.