The first week of the 2014 NFL regular season is in the books and already many fantasy football general managers are probably experiencing drafter’s remorse. While it’s way too early to give up on superstars or highly drafted players who didn’t produce in their season openers, that doesn’t mean that help or temporary relief can’t be found on your league’s waiver wire.
And in that respect Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Quarterback is a pretty deep position this season, so expect plenty of fluctuation with weekly scoring leaders. And while it’s likely Flacco won’t repeat his 62 pass attempts again this season, he did finish with 345 yards. He had just one touchdown to go with one interception, but the big takeaway is how much more comfortable Flacco looked in Gary Kubiak’s system as the game went on. This is definitely something to keep an eye on Thursday against Pittsburgh, as Flacco has enough weapons to emerge as a legitimate starting fantasy option.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Entering what is a make-or-break season for Locker as Tennessee’s starting quarterback, the sleeper buzz on him continued to build as the preseason progressed. One game into the Ken Whisenhunt era with the Titans and the early returns for both the head coach and the quarterback are promising. Not only did Tennessee beat Kansas City rather easily on the road, Locker was efficient (22 of 33 passing), productive (266 yards, 2 TDs) and mistake-free (no turnovers). It may still be too early to trust Locker on a weekly basis, but how he fares in his upcoming matchups against Dallas, Cincinnati and Indianapolis could sway this sentiment.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Would you believe that Palmer has more rushing yards (29) after Week 1 than Jamaal Charles or Doug Martin? While that comparison may be a bit extreme, there’s nothing wrong with the 304 yards through the air and two touchdowns Palmer tossed in the Cardinals’ Monday night win over San Diego. He did lose a fumble, but over his last eight games he has twice as many TD passes (14) as interceptions (7). The veteran has plenty of weapons at his disposal, an improved offensive line protecting him and Week 2 matchup against a Giants’ defense that gave up 341 yards passing to the Lions.
Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
With the Ravens reversing course and deciding to release Ray Rice, the question becomes who’s the new No. 1? The assumption entering this season was that Pierce was next in line. However, that was before journeyman Justin Forsett dominated Pierce in both yards (84 total vs. just 14 rushing) and touches (16 to 6) in the loss to Cincinnati. Forsett also provided the Ravens’ first points of the 2014 season on a 13-yard TD run in the third quarter. For his career, Forsett has averaged a respectable 4.9 yards per carry and if anything has made a strong statement that he should get the starting nod this week. Pierce is still younger and conceivably carries more upside than Forsett, and Rice’s release also could present an opportunity for fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro at some point. If I was handicapping this race, I would say Forsett is the short-term guy to target with Pierce eventually seizing control of the job.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
It’s just one game, but the fact the Saints ran the ball 28 times (versus 42 pass attempts) is a good sign, especially if you have one of their backs on your roster. Further, that Ingram got as many carries (13) as Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson combined is another positive development for those who still believe in the former Alabama All-American. If New Orleans stays committed to the run and Ingram continues to be effective around the goal line (2 three-yard TD runs), he may finally be worth not only rostering, but also starting in your lineup.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Yes the Jets signed former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson as a free agent. But the man once known as CJ2K is no longer a workhorse back, as evidenced by the 10 carries Ivory got against Oakland. And while Ivory did most of his damage on a 71-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, it was still 60 yards longer than Johnson picked up on any of his 13 carries. If Ivory can keep producing big plays this apparent timeshare situation could start to tilt more in his favor.
Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
Free-agent acquisition Ben Tate was off to a solid start in his Browns’ debut, but he injured his knee on a 25-yard run in the second quarter and didn’t return. From there rookies West and Crowell took over, combining for 132 yards on 21 carries (6.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. West, a third-round draft pick, got most of the work (100 yards on 16 carries) and figures to be first in line should Tate be sidelined, but don’t discount Crowell (2 TDs on just five carries) just yet. The Browns have a solid enough offensive line that whomever gets the ball could be fantasy relevant, depending on the number of touches.
Andrew Hakwins, Cleveland Browns
As long as Josh Gordon remains suspended, the Browns don’t have a No. 1 wide receiver. That doesn’t mean, however, that someone won’t emerge as Brian Hoyer’s (and eventually, Johnny Manziel) favorite target, which is where Hawkins comes in. The former Bengal wideout saw twice as many targets (10) as any other Brown pass-catcher on his way to recording eight grabs for 87 yards. He will need to score occasionally to merit serious starting consideration, but this is a QB-WR duo to keep an eye on, especially considering tight end Jordan Cameron apparently aggravated a shoulder injury in the loss to Pittsburgh.
Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
After the end of the first quarter against Philadelphia, Hurns had three catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. However, a closer look reveals that the undrafted rookie out of Miami went to on to catch just one pass for nine yards on six additional targets over the remaining three quarters. Hurns’ record-setting quarter also was a byproduct of Cecil Shorts being sidelined due to a hamstring injury. Once Shorts returns to the starting lineup, Hurns will presumably go back to his WR3 role. And even if Shorts misses more time, Lee is the young Jaguar receiver you want to invest in. The first of the Jags’ two second-round picks in May’s draft, Lee led the way with 10 targets, which he turned into six receptions for 62 yards. Hurns had better numbers in Week 1, but Lee’s role in the offense moving forward seems more secure.
Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
He may the senior Smith wide receiver on the Ravens, but don’t call him “old.” Not after the former Carolina Panther Pro Bowler exploded for 118 yards on seven catches against Cincinnati, highlighted by his 80-yard touchdown grab that briefly gave Baltimore a fourth-quarter lead. And while the general belief is that Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta will be Joe Flacco’s preferred targets moving forward, the fact that Steve Smith tied Pitta with 15 targets apiece may indicate Senior Smith’s best fantasy days aren’t behind him just yet.
Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
This is probably your last chance, if the opportunity hasn’t passed already, to add a potential breakout candidate to your receiving corps. Even though Antonio Brown (5-116-1) finished with better numbers, Wheaton’s six catches for 97 yards on seven targets should not be overlooked. No longer dealing with a hand injury that wrecked his rookie season, Wheaton’s deep-threat ability (16.2 ypr, including a 40-yarder) and Ben Roethlisberger’s big arm appear to be a fantasy match made in heaven. Invest now before it’s too late.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne wasn’t the only big weapon Andrew Luck welcomed back in Week 1. Allen, who injured his hip in 2013’s opener and proceeded to miss the entire season, made this triumphant return as well, catching four passes for 64 yards, including a nifty 41-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. Coby Fleener (8 targets, 3 catches, 21 yards) is the more popular tight end on this team, but Allen is widely believed to be the better receiver. Given the Colts’ frequent use of two-tight end sets, it’s not out of the question that Allen ends up with better numbers than Fleener.
The Texans may have lost No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney for more than a month due to a torn meniscus, but this defense still has enough playmakers to be a fantasy force. With J.J. Watt (sack, blocked extra point) leading the way, Houston held Washington to just six points, collected three sacks, recovered two fumbles and blocked two kicks, including a punt that resulted in a touchdown, in a dominating Week 1 performance that resulted in 25 fantasy points. And next up? A matchup against Oakland and rookie quarterback Derek Carr. It’s early, but Houston’s D looks like it will be a fantasy factor once again in 2014.
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.