Week 1 fantasy football waiver wire targets

The fantasy football draft season is winding down and your league’s waiver wire is as ripe as it will be for the next five months.  With some undrafted talent dangling out there, let’s recall a handful of those early-season waiver wire studs who were often overlooked in drafts:

2013

Julius Thomas was only owned in 23 percent of FOXSports.com drafted leagues heading into Week 1 of the 2013 season.  As he has so many times before (see: Jacob Tamme), Peyton Manning made the relatively unknown a household name overnight by hooking up with JT five times on seven targets for 110 yards with two touchdowns.  Thomas’ ownership jumped to 88-percent by Week 2 – up 65 percent.

Joique Bell was owned in 11 percent of leagues of FOXSports.com drafted leagues heading into Week 1 of the 2013 season.  His performance against the Vikings had Reggie Bush owners on edge.  Bell only finished with 25 rushing yards, but two of those carries led to the endzone plus he racked up 67 yards on five receptions.  Those Week 1 stats pushed his ownership to nearly 70 percent in Week 2.

2012

Washington’s rookie running back, Alfred Morris, was owned in 7-percent of leagues heading into Week 1 of the 2012 season.  It didn’t take much – 12 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown – to propel ALF into fantasy football starting lineups.  His ownership jumped more than 70 percent before Week 2’s contest against the Packers when he eclipsed 100 rushing yards against the Packers.

2011

I hate to bring him up for obvious reasons, but Patriots’ tight end / wide receiver hybrid, Aaron Hernandez, was owned in less than 40 percent of leagues before Week 1 of the 2011 season.  Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 13 receptions for 189 yards with two touchdowns as the Pats’ featured the two tight end set for the rest of the season.

The fantasy football lesson remains.  Owners are always in search of the next diamond in the rough a.k.a. sleeper and each year the fantasy football stud they desire often lingers on the waiver wire before the season even begins.  Here are four nominees I think you should target before the season kicks off:

Quarterback

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Josh McCown (13 TD w/ 1 INT last season with the Bears last season) is available in 80 percent of leagues.  With Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the outside and red zone threat Austin Seferian-Jenkins on his way to becoming a strong tight end option later this season, McCown has talent surrounding him.  If Doug Martin can embrace and excel in the third-down pass-catching role, McCown could be thee QB2 steal in early September.

Running Back

The Bengals’ Jeremy Hill is available in 51 percent of leagues and I expect by Sunday that number to fall as Hill’s stock is climbing with the release of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  People are in like with Gio Bernard, but I don’t believe they are in love with him.  Hill torched the Colts in the Bengals’ final preseason game and you can take it all with a grain of salt because it was their final preseason game or you can extrapolate the devil’s details and admit that Hill is going to have a role within this Bengals offense.  My guess is that Bernard sees approximately 75 percent of the work out of the backfield, but Hill will become the dreaded vulture inside the red zone and around the goal line.  If all goes well in that area of the field, Bernard’s 75-percent workshare will take a hit.

Wide Receiver

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Justin Hunter is available in 69 percent of leagues.  All my chips are on the table when it comes to Hunter’s WR2/3 value.  Hunter led the team in receiving this preseason including a two-touchdown performance against the Saints.  The fact of the matter is, like Sammy Watkins with EJ Manuel, Hunter’s 2014 diamond-in-the-rough-meter is directly linked to Jake Locker’s development behind center and ability to stay healthy.  The label “game manager” has been attached to Locker a few times the last month, which isn’t great news for Hunter.  That won’t stop me from driving this bandwagon.  Hop on.

Tight End

Heath Miller is available in 47 percent of leagues.  Ben Roethlisberger and Miller have made sweet fantasy football love in the past.  Miller shredded his knee at the end of the 2012 season and shouldn’t be knocked for his 2013 fantasy stat line, which was let’s just say “meh” at best.  However, Big Ben has an issue inside the red zone and that would be a lack of tall targets.  Antonio Brown, Lance Moore and Markus Wheaton are all under 6-foot, while Martavis Bryant didn’t wow the team during the preseason.  Look for Miller and Big Ben to reignite that fantasy flame again this season and while Miller won’t post top five numbers, he will crack the top 12, which means he’s a starter in most leagues.

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