Wide Receivers: Working The Waiver Wire
How many times have you heard that you can only lose a draft in the early rounds, not win one? Well, you hear it with consistency because, for the most part, it is accurate. There are the exceptions (if you drafted Peyton Manning last year, you probably had a hard time not being competitive down the stretch), but for the most part, safety is the way to go in the early rounds.
It’d be great to draft your eight/nine starters in the first eight/nine rounds, but the odds of you hitting on each one of those picks is rare, making your ability to dig deep and find value late essential. But your research shouldn’t end there; this is something you need to do on a weekly basis in order to be successful. We will help you as the season goes on with constant waiver wire advice (full with a recommended percentage of your budget in which to bid), but why not get a head start on the competition?
I’ll be taking a look PFF’s staff rankings and identifying players that project as strong Plug’N’Play options for specific weeks. Here I dive into the underrated wide receivers that you can win with.
Hakeem Nicks (IND): The newest Colt has seen his production fall off a cliff over the last two seasons (109 catches for 1,588 yards and 3 scores after totaling 155 catches for 2,244 yards and 18 scores in the previous two seasons), but how much of that is on him and how much is on well below average quarterback play? We should get the answer this season as he joins a loaded offense with arguably the game’s most promising quarterback. Even if you’re not buying Nicks’ long-term production/health, he should be healthy enough to open the season to exploit a few favorable matchups. Denver has improved ten-fold on defense, but they are still going to be involved in their fair share of shootouts, and if last year’s game between these two teams is any indication, we could be in for an entertaining affair to kick off the season. The Eagles gave up more passing yards than any defense in the league last season (in part because of their pace of play) and the Jags surrendered nearly three passing scores for every interception. Nicks has been far from dominant, but the flashes of fantasy greatness that we’ve seen in the past have come in the early weeks as he is averaging 36.7 fantasy points (PPR scoring) over the first two weeks of the past four seasons.
Week 1 @ Denver Broncos
Week 2 vs Philadelphia Eagles
Week 3 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Markus Wheaton (PIT): This is no longer your father’s Steelers, as they are going to throw the ball with regularity (Ben Roethlisberger ranked ninth in attempts and sixth in completions in 2013). Le’Veon Bell is a nice talent, but Pittsburgh is willing to ride the right shoulder of their experienced quarterback, and with Emmanuel Sanders now calling Denver home, the second year burner (4.45 40-yard dash) is poised to assume a prominent role. The ability of Antonio Brown to move the chains and Bell to pound the rock as well as threaten defenses in the short passing game should open up space down the field for Wheaton, and we all know Roethlisberger is capable of buying time for his receivers. The three opponents for Pittsburgh from Weeks 4-6 all ranked well below average in pass coverage last season and lack depth in their secondaries. The Buccaneers no longer have the services of Darrelle Revis, the Jaguars didn’t add much to a defense that allowed better than four pass plays in excess of 20 yards per game last season, and the Browns don’t have much beyond Joe Haden. After a few weeks to adjust to the speed of the game and an increased role, Wheaton should be ready to provide significant value sooner rather than later.
Week 4 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 5 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 6 @ Cleveland Browns
Danny Amendola (NE): Assuming he is on the field for these games (his current ADP is well worth the major health risks), Amendola should provide the Patriots (and fantasy owners) with the type of strong PPR numbers they expected when they acquired him from St. Louis. Look past Tom Brady’s average numbers against the Jets last season (one game came on short rest and in the middle of severe weather while the other was just a poor effort) and you’ll notice that he consistently lit up a much stronger version of this Jets defense from 2010-2012 (he averaged 301 passing yards and threw five touchdowns per interception). After the Jets, New England hosts the Bears and Broncos, two of the more explosive offenses in all of football. New England will want to maintain possession in these games, and with defenses worrying more about Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen than Amendola, look for the crafty slot receiver to pile up the targets. Amendola is averaging 10 PPR fantasy points per game over his career, and in what should be a trio of high-scoring games, I like his chances of at least maintaining that pace in the middle of the 2014 season.
Week 7 vs New York Jets
Week 8 vs Chicago Bears
Week 9 vs Denver Broncos
Kelvin Benjamin (CAR): I’m down on the entire Panther offense from a fantasy point of view this season, but that doesn’t exclude their physically gifted rookie wideout from helping his owners in two very important weeks in the fantasy season. As you battle for playoff position, don’t be afraid of the super-sized first year pass-catcher, as he will have had some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL and should be ready to produce against questionable-at-best defenses. As previously stated, the Eagles gave up the most passing yards in the league last season, and with them having to focus on the athleticism of Cam Newton, it is difficult to imagine that Benjamin sees anything but loose single coverage for most of the afternoon. Philadelphia may have given up the most yardage through the air, but one could certainly argue that the Falcons were even more friendly to opposing fantasy options. They allowed quarterbacks to complete a videogame-esque 66.1 percent of their passes for 31 touchdowns and a mere 10 interceptions. With Benjamin possessing an NFL-ready body, look for him to challenge both of these defenses down the field as the Eagles (fourth most 20-plus yard pass plays allowed in 2013) and Falcons (NFL-high 17 40-plus yard pass plays allowed) are vulnerable to the huge play.
Week 10 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 11 vs Atlanta Falcons
Jordan Matthews (PHI): The Eagles are going to run plenty of plays, and with DeSean Jackson no longer in town and Jeremy Maclin coming off of a serious injury, it is entirely possible that this rookie gains experience in a hurry. Tennessee ranked as an above average defense in terms of passing yardage/touchdowns allowed, but with opponents completing better than 63 percent of their passes, the Eagles’ quick striking attack should have success. The Cowboys will once again be playing without Sean Lee, which means there should be plenty of room to roam in the secondary. Matthews’ size (6’3”) and speed (4.46 40-yard dash) make him a candidate to turn any short completion into a big time play. As the most productive receiver in the history of the SEC, look for Matthews to learn quickly from his early season experience and prove to be a nice filler in the later stages of his rookie campaign.
Week 12 vs Tennessee Titans
Week 13 @ Dallas Cowboys
Brian Hartline (MIA): He is always underrated and with a low floor, he is exactly the type of WR3 I am looking for if my team is solid elsewhere (and if you’re still playing meaningful fantasy games at this point, my guess is that your team is pretty solid). In two seasons with Ryan Tannehill calling the shots, Hartline has averaged seven targets per game in December (he is averaging five catches for 75 yards in December games against the Patriots over that stretch). I like the fact that he will be playing in the warm weather for two of these three games, and a fantasy Super Bowl matchup with what might well be the worst defense in the league is tempting. Again, look elsewhere if you want tremendous upside, but if you want a safe play that is unlikely to return a loss on investment, the Fins possession receiver, who has more yards over the last two seasons than DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Marques Colston, is a nice late season Plug’N’Play.
Week 14 vs Baltimore Ravens
Week 15 @ New England Patriots
Week 16 vs Minnesota Vikings