Offensive Deep League Gems — Week 3
Now that we’re three weeks into the NFL season, the typical yearly ascendance of players from afterthought to starter has become. The value of the fantasy football waiver wire rises accordingly and now’s the time to snag a few good players who can boost your team’s production and get you wins.
For deeper leagues, this “rise of the afterthoughts” is a huge boon. Many of the players suddenly emerging on the fantasy radar aren’t even ones who were worth rostering in 14-, 16- or 18-team leagues, which levels the playing field for those looking to improve their bench or find a new starter. Still, it can be hard wading through all the names and trying to judge whose two weeks of production was a fluke or a sign of even better things to come.
That’s where we come in. Here are some of the best waiver wire additions for Week 3 of the fantasy football season, especially tailored for you GMs who are in deeper leagues.
Donnie Avery, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (Yahoo! 5% owned; ESPN 1.7% owned)
Chiefs receiver Donnie Avery is clearly the No. 2 in town behind Dwayne Bowe, having 108 snaps over two weeks, compared to just 77 for Dexter McCluster. Avery’s biggest asset is his speed and any time he touches the ball, there’s the potential he could run it for a big gain or a score.
At four catches on nine targets for 49 yards and a single touchdown, Avery’s full potential in his new Chiefs offense with Alex Smith under center has yet to be realized. He also relies on the deep ball, something Smith doesn’t throw very often—so far, he’s attempted only three passes of 20-plus yards, while 12 other quarterbacks are already in the double-digits. Still, it’s hard to not recommend a clear No. 2 wideout for any team, when we’re talking about deep league fantasy football waiver prospects.
At 12.3 yards per reception on average and 19 yards per reception in Week 2, Smith certainly has a weapon in Avery and his opportunities will be there on a weekly basis. Remember, it takes only one play to net you 10 fantasy points and Avery has that skill nearly every time he touches the football. Through two games, he’s had 11.1 fantasy points in standard leagues and 15.1 in one-point PPR leagues. Expect his targets to increase the more comfortable Smith becomes.
A note about Avery: He’s essentially the poor-man’s Eddie Royal, the breakout Chargers receiver who has scored five touchdowns in just two games, thanks to Danario Alexander’s season-ending knee injury and Malcom Floyd’s Week 2 kneck injury leaving him one of Philip Rivers’ only options. Royal has 41.4 points in standard leagues and 51.4 points in PPR leagues thus far this season and he’s one of the hottest waiver wire names of the week.
Royal, however, is already owned in 18.4 percent of ESPN leagues and 24 percent of Yahoo! leagues as of Tuesday—which likely means that he’s rostered up in most, if not all, deeper leagues. If he is on the wire in your league, by all means make a claim, but take note that Royal’s production isn’t likely sustainable. Royal never had a multiple-touchdown game before this season and Floyd will return to take some targets away. From a whole-season viewpoint, Avery actually has the higher long-term upside. No one is threatening his spot on the depth chart.
Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons (Yahoo! 1% owned; ESPN .4% owned)
With Falcons starting running back Steven Jackson on the shelf for at least two to four weeks with a thigh injury, his two backups, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, will see the carries shift their way. In shallower leagues, Rodgers might still be on the waiver wire. However, with Rodgers rostered up in 23 percent of Yahoo! leagues and in a shocking 81.7 percent of ESPN leagues, chances are those of you in deeper leagues will have to turn to Snelling.
Snelling has had just two carries for 19 yards so far this season, one of them for a touchdown. But he’s also caught six passes for 58 yards, so those of you in deep PPR leagues will find added value in Snelling. The catches helped bring his two-week PPR total to 19.7 points, while the rushing touchdown brought his two-week standard-scoring total to 13.7 points. Snelling also has a greater chance of being Atlanta’s goal-line back while Jackson is gone, giving him value over the more flashy, speedy Rodgers.
Snelling is a good add for those Jackson owners who need to find a replacement in a hurry or for owners of other running backs who are being frustrating (like David Wilson, for example). Rodgers might be on more rosters right now, but Snelling looks primed to make a better fantasy impact. For once, you GMs in deep leagues might have an edge over your 10-team counterparts.
Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets (Yahoo! 4% owned; ESPN 1.9% owned)
For depth purposes, New York Jets receiver Stephen Hill is a good option for deep league GMs. He’s quarterback Geno Smith’s most-targeted wideout through two weeks, with 14, and has caught 10 passes in that span for 125 yards. Yes, he had a costly fumble against the New England Patriots last week, but he’s rarely off the field, playing 142 of a possible 151 offensive snaps and his 12.5 yards per reception are wholly acceptable for deep league owners looking to boost their bench.
As Smith gets more and more comfortable as the Jets’ starter, his receivers will reap the benefits. Despite coming off of a Lisfranc surgery last year, Santonio Holmes is by far the receiver to attract the most defensive attention, which should put Hill in favorable, single-coverage situations that he can exploit with his physical abilities.
Hill is the Jets’ top fantasy scorer at wide receiver, doubling Holmes in points in both standard (12.0) and PPR (22.o) leagues. He’ll be an asset to the Jets as the season wears on, especially considering his status as a deep threat and Smith’s great arm strength—Hill is already at an aDOT of 13.4 yards and that should only go up. Expect Hill’s targets and receptions to be on the incline, which makes him a savvy bench addition this week and a potential starter by midseason.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Yahoo! 5% owned; ESPN .4% owned)
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie receiver Markus Wheaton has played only 12 snaps in two games and has no targets. So why is he a good waiver wire pickup for deeper league GMs? Because the Steelers will soon be turning to Wheaton to stretch the field in order to save their anemic offense from completely collapsing.
Presently, the Steelers are fielding receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as their deep threats and using Jerricho Cotchery in the slot to mimic tight end Heath Miller’s role while Miller continues to work his way back from his 2012 knee injury. Cotchery, a Week 2 deep league gem for that reason, could soon be supplanted in snap-count to Wheaton after Pittsburgh’s dismal performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 proved they need to make some changes in order to improve both their passing and running games.
Sanders is actually the receiver better suited to the slot in Pittsburgh, something that may happen even before Miller’s return depending on when that is. Head coach Mike Tomlin has already said that Wheaton will get increased involvement, and snagging him off the waiver wire now cuts off the chances of having to fight for him when his stock truly heats up.
Wheaton was drafted in the third round this year as an option to replace Mike Wallace, who moved on to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Wheaton has comparable size and speed as Wallace but comes into the NFL with better route-running skills, which makes him worthy of more playing time despite the propensity of first-year receivers to make a slow start. It’s only a matter of time before Wheaton becomes fantasy-relevant to all teams in all formats. Grab him now, put him on your bench and be patient—he’s a playmaker just waiting for a chance.