As usual, week one was a wild one in the NFL. With an assortment of injuries, benchings, healthy scratches, and surprising roles, the first few weeks of the season are generally the most important for waiver wire picks. Hopefully, your roster is intact enough that we don’t need to look too much at streaming options for next week yet, and can instead focus on securing long term value for your roster. Moving forward, players with immediate value for the next week will become more of a focus.
Let’s look at some of my favorites that can give you an edge on your competition, all rostered at less than 50% on Yahoo (your individual fantasy provider may vary.)
RB Tony Jones Jr, New Orleans Saints (25% rostered)
Jones really should’ve been picked up as soon as Latavius Murray was released. Fortunately for you, that hasn’t been the case in 75% of fantasy leagues. Even with starter Alvin Kamara active, Jones saw 11 rushes and a catch as the Saints number two back.
Since the days of Mark Ingram in New Orleans, the back who plays alongside Kamara has always been a valuable position. The Saints are hesitant to hand the ball off to Kamara too frequently (only one game of 20+ carries last season) preferring to save some of his workload for the passing game. Especially while Michael Thomas is out, which means Kamara carries a heavier receiving load, expect Jones to see double digit touches on a weekly basis.
Jones is a borderline flex play with Kamara in the lineup, but would become a top 20 RB if Kamara were to miss some time. He’s worth burning a top waiver priority or a large chunk of your FAAB budget.
Eli Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (8% rostered)
With Trey Sermon inactive and Raheem Mostert going down with an injury, Mitchell carried the rock 19 times for over 100 yards and a touchdown in week one. I expect some regression in terms of efficiency when the 49ers are playing anybody other than Detroit, but the Niners will be happy to run the ball as much as possible this season. Mitchell appears to be above Sermon on coach Kyle Shannahan’s depth chart.
I would wait as long as possible before making a claim on Mitchell, as Mostert being healthy limits his value tremendously. It’s always been hard to predict which 49ers running back will get the bulk of looks in a given game. Mitchell is worth the add if he’s one of two backs you have to worry about competing for touches, but if there’s three in play it becomes trickier.
Depending on how much news we have on Mostert before waiver pickups need to be in, I’d make Mitchell my backup plan in case I miss out on Jones. If it seems like Mostert will miss some time, make Mitchell a priority.
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (36% rostered)
As the primary backup for one of the top backs in the league, Mattison should be owned across the industry. Unless you play in a format with extremely shallow benches, go get Mattison and stash him in case of a Cook injury, whether you have Dalvin or not. While he’s not usable with Dalvin in the lineup, we know he’s worth a start when Dalvin misses.
You’re never going to be comfortable playing that WR6 you’ll be dropping to get Mattison, trust me.
Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals (27% rostered)
Moore saw five targets in week one, that he turned in to four catches and 68 yards. While he was out snapped and out targeted by the ghost of AJ Green, expect the rookie’s role to grow throughout the season while the veteran’s diminishes.
The Cardinals are designing plays to get the ball to Moore in space, with his biggest gain (29 yards) being on a screen pass. He’s also the teams primary punt returner, so if your league credits individual player’s (check your settings!) with punt return touchdowns, his ceiling is even higher.
Moore’s low aDot and big play ability give him a healthy floor and ceiling in what should be one of the league’s most fun offenses this year. He’s worth picking up in all formats, but particularly PPR leagues.
Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers (26% rostered)
Cook was 3rd on the Chargers with a healthy eight targets in week one. Scoring touchdowns has never been an issue for the ageless Cook, who’s playing in what I believe to be his 35th season in the league (citation needed.) When he posts a usable fantasy score without finding the end zone, it’s encouraging. Cook was the 14th highest scoring tight end in week one (excluding Monday night games) and the Chargers are going to throw for a lot more than one passing touchdown most weeks.
In week two, he faces a Cowboys defense that is both generally terrible, and exploitable by tight ends. They allowed Rob Gronkowski to secure eight catches for 90 yards and two scores in week one. If you have one of the top six or so tight ends, passing on Cook is fine, but he’s worth the pickup if it’s not a position of strength for your team.
Green Bay Packers Defense (22%)
The Packers defense looked terrible in week one, allowing the Saints to put up 38 points. Fortunately, they don’t play the Saints in week two, they play the Lions. The Lions offense turned it on late in week one, but they still allowed three sacks, and gave up an interception. The Packers aren’t my favorite defense to play in week two, but if you’re planning on streaming the position this season, they’re the best pickup that’s under 50% rostered.