There really is no singular word to describe it, believe me, I’ve searched for it. You wait 150 plus days not just for NFL football, but fantasy football to begin. That’s 150 days of coaching changes, free agency, and the NFL draft. Go deeper and that’s 150 days of wondering how people actually log on to Twitter to make the case that MJ was better than LeBron, that Nadal is better than Federer, and which baseball player deserves to be paid the GDP of a small country, but maybe those are particular to me…
The point is, it’s a long buildup. And there is no more crushing feeling than to wait all that time and come up on the short end of your Week 1 matchup. All that waiting to start 0-1 can really mess with your head and how you view your team that just right after your draft was poised to go 16-0. Those types of letdowns can have a weird mental effect on viewing your roster. That Flex option that was once good enough to start as a WR2 for most teams is all of a sudden bench fodder, if that.
So this is for you, the fantasy owner looking to completely, “Miami Dolphins” your team. It’s not the time for that. You need to evaluate your team in the calm light of Tuesday and figure out where you can move the margins with the assistance of players available on the waiver wire. A strong showing in Week 2 will have you viewing your team in a completely new light come this time next week.
Ownership percentages are from ESPN.com as of Monday night.
Marquise Brown (28.2% owned)
Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Marquise Brown is undoubtedly one of the top waiver wire adds after a historic debut with a 4/147/2 slash line. ESPN Stats and Info reported that he was the first player to have multiple 40-yard touchdowns in a career debut. Brown displayed exactly what the Ravens drafted him to do, use his speed and impressive footwork to take the top off of defenses. Every fantasy team needs players like that to go into flex spots when you are projected down in your matchup.
There is a word of caution in adding Brown, and it’s not at all a discouragement but rather a call to temper expectations. His insane efficiency is made even more unfathomable to duplicate given that he only saw 12 snaps and eight routes run on Sunday. The Ravens coaching staff now sees what he can do in a game so he’ll see the field more, but he won’t be lining up for 85% of snaps next week. He’ll need to stay on your bench, but owners that can invest in the long run shold be handsomely rewarded come midseason.
John Brown (35.3% owned)
Joe Flacco‘s revelation of a favorite receiver in 2018 has found continued relevance with the Buffalo Bills. The argument for adding John Brown begins and ends with a phrase that is music to every fantasy players’ ears: double-digit targets. Add on a 70% catch rate, 17.6 yards per reception and a touchdown, and you have the makings of someone who is not just a waiver wire add, but someone that puts themselves into flex consideration if the performance can be followed up well enough.
With a diverse usage down the sidelines and over the middle, Brown should be the most involved receiver no matter the gameplan or opponent. There just isn’t much depth of talent in Buffalo so Brown will be the player that defenses focus on. However, that same dearth of talent means he’ll see volume week in and week out. Quite possibly the top WR add, Brown should be filling out benches in 10 team leagues.
DJ Chark (11.8% owned)
Another downfield weapon who did a whole lot on 4 catches, NFL sophomore DJ Chark has shown some of the talents that were on limited display last year. What’s more is Chark didn’t see limited usage, playing 71% of offensive snaps for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chark’s two biggest plays demonstrate what he can bring to the offense. On the 35-yard TD, we see Chark get a good release at the line then stack the defensive back in the endzone to ensure that he’s the only one to make a play on the ball.
On his near 70-yard catch and run, Chark fights through the contact at the line and uses his straight-line speed to blow by the defender to get separation. Sure, if Chark had a little more wiggle he may have been able to break back into the open field but that feels like nitpicking. Like a few of the other players listed here, Chark will need to show me continued involvement, especially continued chemistry with his new QB in order to crack the starting lineup. Talent alone means he should be off the waiver wire and fill out a bench spot in 12-team and larger leagues.
John Ross (4.8% owned)
With all the hype surrounding Tyler Boyd with A.J. Green out due to injury, it was former first round pick John Ross that led the Cincinnati Bengals roster in targets after Week 1 with 12. The volume was definitely there in Week 1 and again, there is a benefit to having a deep threat on your bench to plug in when you need a hail mary, and one with the speed of Ross is hard to ignore. However, Ross scored his first touchdown off a flea-flicker, and trick plays aren’t a type of production that can be duplicated. Additionally, you don’t want to count on the end of half plays and that’s where Ross’ second score came from.
So two pseudo flukey plays removed from his production still leaves us with a respectable 5 catches for 70 yards. Ross got himself on the map with the fastest 40-time ever run at the combine, but he was a top receiving prospect before we had official numbers at our disposal. Further evidence is needed, but if Ross can kick the injury bug we may see a good old fashioned third-year breakout WR. He’s a definite add in 14 team leagues and worth a look in 12 teamers.
Mecole Hardman (17.4% owned)
There is no specific word about Tyreek Hill, but we know there will be missed time. Enter the rookie that the Kansas City Chiefs drafted to potentially replace Hill when he was facing a littany of legal troubles, Mecole Hardman. In dynasty leagues, my advice is to draft for talent, not opportunity, but in redraft leagues, opportunity is worth an add on its own. When Hill was gone it was Hardman running all of his routes.
There is no better indication of a coaching staff’s belief not only in its players but in its system that they don’t make changes to the gameplan when injuries happen. The situation is prime for Hardman to walk in and change some fantasy football fortunes, proactive owners will be rewarded for making space on their teams, which I suggest anyone in 10 team leagues do.
Giovani Bernard (32.3% owned)
Another injury-related add, Giovani Bernard has the talent to lead a team out of the backfield. With teammate Joe Mixon day-to-day on the mend with ankle issues, it is Bernard who could step up if only for a few weeks. Mixon owners should add their insurance policy now, and anyone that was counting on the likes of Tevin Coleman or Derrius Guice can look to Bernard to fill time depending on Mixon’s status.
A good receiver with underrated vision, Bernard’s value will be tied to Mixon’s health, but there was talk all offseason about involving him more as a receiver. Two catches for 42 yards doesn’t exactly speak to that coming true but with only a single week in the books, there is room for growth. Speculative adds off the waiver wire in 12 team leagues are encouraged while 10 teamers can probably let him sit out there unless you’re the Mixon owner.
Jamison Crowder (70.4% owned)
No receiver has ever had 14 receptions for fewer than 100 yards. No receiver except for New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder that is. Coming up one yard short may hurt for those in milestone-based scoring systems but nearly 24 PPR points is hard to be upset with. With TE Chris Herndon serving out a suspension, Crowder is the prime option over the middle for QB Sam Darnold.
The volume of targets won’t be quite so impressive each week, but Crowder was always poised for a bounceback year at least as far as fantasy football analysts were concerned. The offensive line in New York didn’t hold up well against the Bills and Darnold looked for Crowder nearly every time he was under duress. With an extra day to clean up the offense and prepare for the Browns, Crowder could once again find himself as the focal point of the passing game.
Ronald Jones (40.6% owned)
Although he had a slow start to the game, former USC RB Ronald Jones potentially established himself as the lead back in Tampa Bay. Ending the day with 13 carries for 75 yards and adding a single reception for 18, Jones looked like the back with the most burst, regaining some of the form he displayed in southern California. He could soon be a mainstay in fantasy football lineups.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers air attack didn’t quite look ready for primetime so it’s possible that leaning a bit more on the run game is in the cards for Bruce Arians. Jones will make that an easier decision if he can show the type of efficiency he had in the second half where he threw down four consecutive runs for 29 yards at one point. A divisional matchup against the Carolina Panthers may not be the best situation for a coming out party, but Jones belongs on benches, not the waiver wire heading into Thursday.
A.J. Brown (5.2% owned)
The Tennessee Titans put up an incredibly impressive debut against the Cleveland Browns. That is a sentence I typed earnestly and with a single hint of sarcasm. What’s more, is Ole Miss product A.J. Brown joined teammate D.K. Metcalf with stellar starts to their careers. Three receptions on four targets for 100 yards doesn’t quite seem like a repeatable stat line, but it should surely result in more looks for the rookie.
If Brown can continue to make explosive plays the playbook will continue to open up and more opportunities will abound. He doesn’t belong in starting fantasy football lineups, but there is potential to be added off the waiver wire in 14-team leagues. In addition, 12-team leagues that saw injuries could do worse than to add Brown and check on his week to week progression.
Terry McLaurin (7.3% owned)
On a big weekend for rookie WRs, none shone brighter than Washington Redskins’ Terry McLaurin. After playing 93% of offensive snaps in Week 1, McLaurin’s place in the offense is unquestioned. Washington was always going to be thin at WR and it looks like that worked out to an incredibly favorable outcome for the Ohio State product.
McLaurin beat coverage deep with his long speed, displayed on his 70-yard TD grab. He also showed off some contested catch skills, making plays down the sideline, working back to Case Keenum, who now definitely trusts the rookie. One last feather in McLaurin’s cap: according to Next Gen Stats, with a speed of 21.2 MPH, he clocked the fifth-fastest top speed in Week 1. His snap share warrants a look in 12-team leagues no matter your waiver wire situation and bench depth.
Malcolm Brown (6.5% owned)
One of the biggest questions of the offseason was whether or not Todd Gurley was healthy. Week 1 showed us that Gurley looks just fine, but his backup Malcolm Brown will share more of the load than we might think. His presence added an extra bit of physicality that played well in contrast to Gurley’s fluidity and finesse. We likely saw his strongest fantasy football game, but his usage around the goal line means he is a must-own for owners that have Gurley rostered.
For all the credit the Los Angeles Rams receive for their passing game strengths, few teams are as committed to running the football. Should Brown continue to remain involved on a week-to-week basis he could be a starter in 12 and 14 team leagues. As of now, he belongs on benches with teams that preferably have Gurley plugged in as the starter.
Chris Thompson (18.9% owned)
Two years ago, Washington RB Chris Thompson was posting an out of this world efficiency before injuries ultimately ended his season early. While we are just one week in to the new season, Thompson has not lost a step. Soft hands, plus route running out of the backfield, and a knack for finding the soft spot underneath the zone saw Thompson haul in 7 receptions for 68 yards in addition to chipping in another 10 on the ground.
No RB in Washington does what Thompson does, much less with the prowess he does it with. Of anyone on this list, Thompson is the RB with standalone fantasy football value. Nothing anyone does will unseat him from his current receiving work duties. We saw Jalen Richard have great success last year in what was a strict passing down role. Thompson figures to see a similar type of usage and could become a weekly starter if so. He does not belong on the waiver wire in any league.
Raheem Mostert (0.1% owned)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the San Francisco 49ers have injury issues at the RB position. With Tevin Coleman already ruled out for Week 2, it is little known backup Raheem Mostert that will step up and fill the number two role to Matt Breida. Mostert is a speed compliment and should carve out a decent workload for himself.
Any 12-team leagues should see the owners of Breida and Coleman looking to add Mostert off the waiver wire. Nine carries for 40 yards and one reception for no gain isn’t quite the auspicious start to his 2019 campaign, but there is no better correlation to RB fantasy football success than snaps played. With the uncertainty around Coleman’s injury, along with Breida’s propensity to take big hits, means Mostert could find his way on to the field more and more.
T.J. Hockenson (30.0% owned)
One game does not make a Hall of Fame resume, but the top TE from this year’s NFL Draft, T.J. Hockenson, looked incredibly impressive in his debut. His physicality as a blocker means he won’t be subbed out in favor of a more seasoned NFL option, which keeps him as a threat every time he runs a route. A 6/131/1 slash line on 9 targets is about as good of a debut as fantasy football owners can ask for.
Hockenson was a tremendous athlete that put it all on display on his way to the most yards by a TE in his debut. His 9 targets led the Detroit Lions in Week 1, and everything we saw tells us that number shouldn’t be going down any time soon. What’s more is that with receivers like Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay that can win deep ball one-on-one situations, defenses won’t be able to put extra eyes on Hockenson. Your fantasy league-mates however, will have their eyes on him. With how the TE position has been over the last few years, he should not be available on the waiver wire.
Jimmy Graham (47.6% owned)
The Green Bay Packers have long been one of the most confusing offenses for fantasy football owners. One of the game’s best QBs was stuck with a coaching staff that held back nearly the entire supporting cast. Jimmy Graham may be past his prime but a new-look offense under new head coach Matt LaFleur can finally mean good things for more than just Aaron Rodgers‘ primary receiving target. After finishing last year as fantasy’s 12th highest scoring TE, Graham could be in store for much more after only notching 2 TDs in 2018.
A showing against the Chicago Bears wasn’t exactly an offensive showcase, but Graham was the lone bright spot catching 3 passes for 30 yards and the lone touchdown. Not quite the top option that he used to be, Graham’s role on this offense combined with the fickle nature of the TE position in fantasy football means he’ll see due consideration in 10-team leagues.
Ted Ginn Jr. (15.3% owned)
Identifying Drew Brees‘ number two WR has been difficult as of late, but before his injury last year clouded things, Ted Ginn Jr. was exclusively filling that role. Only active for five games in 2018, Ginn saw 6+ targets from Brees in all but the game he was injured in. The downfield speedster is facing more competition from Tre’Quan Smith than he was last year, but if he can regain his form there is a chance for sole ascendence into the number two spot for the New Orleans Saints.
Opening the season at home against the now Jadeveon Clowney-less Houston Texans on Monday night, Ginn saw targets early and often, even collecting two targets on the crucial last-minute drive Brees orchestrated to put the Saints in field goal position to win it. The chemistry is indeed there, and Ginn deserves to be off the waiver wire in 10-team leagues with more than flex appeal some weeks.
Andrew Jordan is an editor and writer for the Pro Football Network covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter @The_ATJ.