Keeping tabs on the week 1 waiver wire
The first week of the regular season is tricky business when it comes to waiver wire recommendations. With drafts having just concluded and the games still yet to be played, a waiver pickup at this point is little more than a dart. Hopefully, this week we'll help direct those darts to targets more likely to pay off. Also, we've inluded players for leagues of various depth.
Pierre Thomas, RB, NO – While all the hype this preseason surrounds Mark Ingram, Thomas appears to be a forgotten commodity. The "veteran" running back (he's only 26) is returning from a significant ankle injury, but he claims he's almost back to full health. Ingram's first-round draft status suggests the Saints consider him the top running back. However, it looks more like the Saints will use a three-man rotation in the backfield with Thomas and Ingram splitting carries while Darren Sproles assume the third-down/change-of-pace role vacated by Reggie Bush. The big difference in Thomas and Ingram at this point is expectations; Ingram is the hot commidty, Pierre is the forgotten man. At least initially, though, they'll get similar work.
Reggie Bush, RB, MIA – Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said recently that Bush will receive the most touches and carries in the backfield. This obviously is a boon for his fantasy value as the Dolphins seem to be second-guessing drafting Daniel Thomas. Reportedly Thomas has not adjusted to the NFL game as quickly as the team expected, making Bush the starter. Bush, who has even more value in PPR leagues, is a huge risk/reward candidate considering he's averaged only 11 games over the last four seasons. That said, he has the ability every time he gets the ball to take it the distance. As long as he stays healthy and receives the bulk of touches between him and Thomas, Bush makes for a good flex or No. 2 RB option.
Delone Carter, RB, IND – Carter is quickly making a case to leapfrog Donald Brown and back up the oft-injured Joseph Addai. Carter finished the preseason with 22 carries for 97 yards (4.4 YPC) and showed the ability to pick up yards in short-yardage situations. Carter is the stockiest of the three backs and could be used in goal-line situations. Carter typifies the player you want to stash on your bench with solid upside should an injury befall the starter.
Ben Tate, RB, HOU – Tate is another player who has a lot of upside and will likely be on your bench for Week 1. Before his season-ending injury as a rookie, he was set to take the starting running back job over Arian Foster, and possibly have the huge season that Foster ultimately enjoyed. This preseason he's technically being listed behind Derrick Ward on the depth chart, but it's obvious Tate has more upside of the two. Meanwhile, Foster's hamstring injury likely will be an ongoing issue. He's expected to start the season opener despite a "minor" tear in his left hamstring. It's only a matter of time before Tate officially takes over the No. 2 RB job in Houston. After that, Tate could find himself a lot of touches behind an outstanding offensive line should Foster's hamstring injury linger.
Mike Thomas, WR, JAC – Thomas enters the 2011 season as the No. 1 wide receiver in Jacksonville. With reports that Maurice Jones-Drew is completely healthy and with Mike Sims-Walker wearing a Rams uniform, Thomas has a good chance to surpass last year's 820 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Another sneaky aspect of Thomas' game is his running ability as he's had 12 carries in each of the last two seasons, rushing for 114 yards last year. He's a solid option as a No. 3 WR or a flex play in PPR leagues.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – If you asked me a couple of months ago what I thought about Britt, I would have been very candid and said I love his talent but I don't think he'll be around the first four weeks of the season. With the lockout, Britt dodged a big bullet by not being suspended by Roger Goddell for his offseason transgressions. As a result, Britt will likely be Matt Hasselbeck's top target for Tennessee this season. With less talent at quarterback last season, Britt still managed 775 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in only 12 games. If you prorate those numbers over a full 16-game slate, Britt would have a 1,033-yard, 12-touchdown campaign. With improved quarterback play and hopefully a step in the right direction as far as maturity and development go, Britt looks like he'll reward owners.
Jerome Harrison, RB, DET - Harrison proved in Cleveland a couple years ago that he could be an every-down back and a fantasy contributor. This season, he's in Detroit, backing up the oft-injured Jahvid Best. If Best goes down again, Harrison is in a great spot to earn playing time in a fantasy friendly situation. The Lions offense is seemingly on the verge of breaking out with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and rookie receiver Titus Young. Harrison will be a nice fit if the opportunity presents itself.
Johnny Knox, WR, CHI - Knox lost his starting gig when the Bears signed Roy Williams from Dallas. The two took different paths during training camp, though. Knox re-dedicated himself and impressed coaches and teammates with his effort and performance. Williams, on the other hand, was called out by his position coach for dogging it and being out of shape. Knox might be the No. 3 wide receiver to start the season, but it's hard to imagine the younger, faster and more explosive Knox not winning back the starting spot, sooner than later.
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