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Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season is complete and the coaching staffs and the players aren’t the only ones taking a closer look at the initial results. Fantasy football general managers everywhere are undoubtedly scratching their heads over some of the things that transpired while also looking to their league’s waiver wire for answers.
Athlon Sports is here to help. The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Bradford took a step forward last season when he threw for 3,702 yards and posted a respectable 21:13 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Rams brought in even more weapons for their fourth-year quarterback during the offseason, and if the early results are any indication, it could be a big year for the No.1 overall pick of the 2010 draft. Bradford had 299 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over Arizona. He connected with seven different receivers, as new weapons tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tavon Austin led the way with a combined 13 catches for 182 yards and two scores. It’s just one game, but certainly a promising start for someone still available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler’s numbers weren’t extraordinary (242 yds., 2 TDs, INT), but perhaps the most important thing is he wasn’t sacked once by a Bengals defense that finished second in the NFL in that category last season. If the offensive line continues to afford Cutler that kind of protection, expect his numbers to go up, especially with tight end Martellus Bennett (3 rec., 49 yds., TD) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (5-42-0) around to help Brandon Marshall (8-104-1) and Matt Forte (91 total yards, TD) carry the load.
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Make no mistake, the Raiders probably won’t win many games this season, but if Pryor can continue to put up 300 yards of total offense on a weekly basis, he will maintain fantasy relevancy. Yes, Pryor threw two picks against Indianapolis, but it’s his dual-threat ability that’s appealing, especially the 112 yards rushing he had against the Colts on just 13 carries. If you are going to take a chance on Pryor this week would be as good as any with Jacksonville on tap.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
Reggie Bush (191 total yards, TD) stole the show, but it was Bell who scored two touchdowns on the ground and also had five catches for 67 yards. Bush is the clear-cut No. 1 option, but he also got a little banged up on Sunday and in the Lions’ pass-happy offense (43 pass attempts by Matthew Stafford vs. the Vikings), there’s room for a guy like Bell. Don’t forget last season that Bell caught 52 passes and averaged five yards per carry. If anything, Bell is worthy of handcuff consideration for Bush owners.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller is the lead back, but it was the veteran Jackson who was more effective against New England on Sunday. Jackson out-rushed Spiller (67 yards to 41) and also did more damage in the passing game (4 rec., 41 yds. compared to Spiller’s 5, 14). Spiller is certainly more explosive and carries more upside, but if the Bills run the ball 34 times per game like they did against the Patriots and also give their running backs double-digit targets, then the opportunities should be there for both Spiller and Jackson to produce for fantasy owners.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball is the first-round pick, but until he gains the coaching staff’s (and Peyton Manning’s) trust when it comes to blocking assignments, his workload figures to be limited. Case in point on Thursday night when it was Moreno and not Ball or Ronnie Hillman who led the Broncos with nine carries. Moreno gained a total of 28 yards on those carries, but he also had three receptions for 37 yards. Thursday night showed just how explosive this Broncos offense can be, so if Moreno’s the back who continues to get the most carries, he figures to be the one with the most fantasy potential too.
Da’Rel Scott, New York Giants
Poor David Wilson. Another season opener, more fumbles and another seat on the bench. It took Wilson a while to escape Tom Coughlin’s doghouse last season, and although Andre Brown’s injury helps his case, it looks like the second-year running back could already be on a short leash this season too. Enter Scott, who was tabbed Wilson’s backup following Brown’s injury. Scott had just 23 yards rushing against Dallas on Sunday night, but he added five catches for 51 yards, while Wilson had just 19 yards rushing on seven carries. If Wilson stays in Coughlin’s bad graces, someone has to take the handoffs from Eli Manning, and for now that someone appears to be Scott.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Percy Harvin’s injury opened the door for another Seahawk wide receiver to step through, and Baldwin took full advantage of the opportunity on Sunday. Russell Wilson posted his first career 300-yard passing game, as Baldwin led the way with seven catches for 91 yards. Baldwin also led the team with eight targets, while starters Golden Tate and Sidney Rice combined for six receptions on 10 total targets. Wilson probably won’t throw for 300 yards every game, especially with San Francisco next up on the schedule, but Baldwin is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Jacoby Jones is out four to six weeks with a knee injury, presenting Brown with a golden opportunity. The undrafted rookie from Georgia impressed during the preseason and carried that over to his first NFL game. Following Jones’ freak injury, Brown caught four of the six passes Joe Flacco threw his way for 65 yards and a touchdown. If Brown can continue his good work, he could find himself lined up opposite Torrey Smith as the Ravens’ other starting wide receiver.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Danny Amendola did his part (10 rec., 104 yds., nine of those going for first downs), but it was Edelman and not hotshot rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (4 rec., 42 yds.) or tight end Zach Sudfeld (1 target, 0 rec.) who came up big for Tom Brady against the Bills. Edelman caught two touchdown passes and had seven total catches in helping the Patriots escape Buffalo with a win. Brady obviously trusts Amendola, but for now it appears Edelman is second on the list.
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Lost in the interest of Mike Wallace joining the Dolphins as a free agent, was the re-signing of Hartline, who enjoyed a breakout 2012 season with 74 receptions for 1,083 yards. The only knock on Hartline was he had just one touchdown catch all of last season, a total he has already tied after just one game. Hartline led the Dolphins in targets (15), catches (nine) and receiving yards (114) in Miami’s win in Cleveland on Sunday, while Wallace had just one grab for 15 yards. If Ryan Tannehill is to take that next step as a quarterback in Year 2 he needs both Wallace and Hartline to produce, and there’s no question which wideout is getting the job done right now.
Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings
Greg Jennings was signed as a free agent to try and replace Percy Harvin’s production, but the former Packer managed just three catches for 33 yards in his Vikings’ debut on Sunday. Meanwhile it was Simpson who was Christian Ponder’s favorite and most productive target, catching seven passes for 140 yards. The jury is still out on whether or not Ponder can be a consistent, productive passer in the NFL. If he does get there, it will be with plenty of help from Simpson.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
If not for Peyton Manning’s record-tying seven touchdown passes against Baltimore, Thomas probably would have been the story of the first game of the 2013 NFL regular season. The third-year pro out of Portland State had a coming out party against the Ravens, catching five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. His athleticism and upside were on full display on primetime TV, and as long as he takes care of his other duties when he’s on the field, the sky is seemingly the limit for the latest former collegiate hoops player who found new life on the gridiron.
Kellen Winslow, New York Jets
Winslow led the Jets with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in Geno Smith’s NFL debut against Tampa Bay. The Jets’ rookie quarterback will need all the help he can get from veterans like Winslow, who may finally be healthy enough and in the right opportunity to contribute to a fantasy team again. It’s definitely a bit of a risk to take your chances on Winslow, given Smith’s rookie status, the Jets’ offensive issues, and other factors, but the potential reward could pay off handsomely in the end.
The Cowboys had six takeaways against the Giants in their Sunday night win, obviously a very positive opening statement for Monte Kiffin’s defense. For one game at least, the Dallas defenders seemed very comfortable in Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme, especially defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. Even though the Cowboys gave up 31 points to the Giants, consider that all of last season they produced a total of 16 takeaways. If anything, Kiffin’s attacking, aggressive system should provide the opportunity for plenty more as the season goes along.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.