2014 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Spotting Greatness

 

Every year there are those unicorns, those loch ness, those mythical beings, those waiver wire pick-ups that turn into fantasy football gold. Last year, that was Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, Zac Stacy and Nick Foles among others. But what was it about these players that caused them to go from zero to hero, and how did perceptive players pick them up before the average joe-schmo?

 

How to be a Waiver Wire Warrior

Players get hurt, they fail to live up to expectations, and some exceed expectations. Some fit better into a new scheme than predicted, but success in fantasy football is about playing the right players at the right times on a weekly basis.

Therefore, championship teams are not born, they are made. They are crafted with players that perform week after week. To stay competitive, you need to ensure your team is composed of performers. If they can’t cut it, cut them. Having a player that is consistently putting up four points a game is not going to do your overall season any favors. Replace these guys with high upside players that you’re excited about. Do your research. Do you have a player who gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling in your gut?  Pull the trigger and draft him.

 

The Needle in the Haystack: Finding Your Go-To-Guy

The three things Thomas and Foles had in common were: opportunity, expectation, and ability. With Thomas, it was an injury opening that paved the way to his success. Couple that with the fact that he was in an offensive system that targeted TE’s in the endzone (12 TD’s last season) and his impressive training camp, and he was poised for success. With Foles, an injury from Mike Vick was also an opportunity. While Foles didn’t have as an impressive preseason or training camp, he had high expectations. Chip Kelly was known for his high octane, and aggressive offensive strategies, and a dependable, gun slinging quarterback was integral to that success. Enter Foles; he came out and made the best of a good situation, and with that he walked into the starting QB position, and into our hearts.

So what is it exactly that you need to look for in a great waiver wire pick up? The opportunity for touches, (obviously players on the sidelines will do nothing for your point production), an expectation for production and the ability to outperform expectations.

 

Fantasy Football Players to Target in 2014

Running Backs

Running backs picked up off the waiver wire that work out, will provide your team with weekly consistency. There are plenty of running backs that may get you four-six points every now and then, but one that can get you nine-10 pretty consistently? Oh yea, that’s a guy you want to hold on to. Last season, that was Zac Stacy, who finished as a top 20 RB.

That was last year, however, so who should you target this season if you feel you need an upgrade? Peyton Hillis, and Ronnie Hillman. Hillis has the proved he has met expectation in the past, and does have ability. According to Pro Football FocusRashad Jennings told Bleacher Report that new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, is expected to use his running backs in a variety of ways. This makes sense to anyone who watched Eli Manning‘s performance last season, as focusing more on the running game can help for any of Manning’s shortcomings. And when it comes to ability, some people have forgotten about Hillis’ 2010-2011 season that landed him on the cover of Madden. He has fallen off the radar due to his trouble with sickness and injury, but ironically, his claim to fame year came at the heels of an injury. If such an opportunity is repeated, look to claim Hillis, and quickly.

Hillman is coming from the same program that produced high quality numbers from the likes of Knowshon Moreno, a top- five running back in 2013. With Montee Ball coming off an appendectomy surgery, Hillman has the opportunity to prove his worth. Off season talk, and his winning the backup spot to Ball, speaks highly of Hillman overcoming his fumbling issues that plagued him last season. His ability is apparent, and his speed is undeniable. Can Hillman steal a few of the 16 rushing touchdowns The Denver Broncos totaled last season? Absolutely. Look for him to get a few early opportunities. If he can turn these into yards and not fumbles, he has future upside.

 

Wide Receivers

The consensus normally suggests that there is much more depth at the wide receiver position for fantasy football players than the running back position. Does this mean you should forget pass catchers when it comes to the waiver wire? No way! Receivers are great for bye week fill ins and favorable match ups. Want some wide receivers to look out for? Rod Streater, and Jerricho Cotchery.

Streater will see a big boom in totals due to Derek Carr winning the starting quarterback job. But that’s not all he has to offer: With James Jones and Denarius Moore favored by most fantasy players, Streater will fly under the radar in your league. Last season, his 60 catches, 888 yards and four touchdowns are nothing to sneeze at. He also exhibits great timing and impressive route running. As one of the most talented receivers on a changing offence, expect Streater to “get it” early, and turn this opportunity into points for your team.

Let’s talk about Cotchery’s ability. He is the only receiver to score 10 touchdowns last season and go undrafted this season. Let me repeat, 10 touchdowns. Why, besides the obvious, is this so important? Cotchery has scored on over 50% of his red zone receptions, and was an obvious end zone target for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Want to talk about opportunity? Due to injury concerns, Cam Newton is not expected to be the red zone threat that he was last year. Newton has also greatly improved in the red zone, and last season he completed 28 of 54 passes for 17 scores. On team that had limited receiver production in the end zone, expect Cotchery to be the go-to-guy for the Carolina Panthers.

 

*Honorable Mentions: Cody Latimer, a great receiver up the seams who will see an instant upgrade in looks thanks to the suspension of Wes Welker.*

 

Tight Ends

The emergence of not one but two exceptional tight ends from the waiver wire, gives you an idea about how volatile the tight end position is. To find a deal, continue to look for a tight end who is outperforming expectations. Two to keep an eye on are Travis Kelce, and Tim Wright.

Kelce’s impressive yards after the catch combined with his speed makes his big-play ability undeniable. Additionally, tight ends receive plenty of attention in Andy Reid‘s offense, and Reid even specialized as a tight end coach in Green Bay. Kelce even has his own touchdown dance, the “Nae Nae”, so that’s got to be a good sign right? Expect Anthony Fasano to serve as an early place holder, but with a little opportunity, Kelce can provide instant impact in the fantasy football world.

Wright, who is coming off of only two practices, had a great game against the Giants in the last week of preseason. His comfort and smarts did not fail to impress, often drawing comparisons to Aaron Hernandez. His production last season of 54 catches, 571 yards and five touchdowns, is impressive when you realize he came from the worst passing offense in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots have implemented a two tight end attack in the past with great success, and with the offensive weapon they have in Wright, there is no reason we won’t see more of that in the 2014 season. Rob Gronkowski’s injury woes make Wright an even more desirable waiver wire pick up.

 

*Honorable Mention: Garrett Graham. Gaining a better quarterback and working with O’Brien who has a great history for molding tight ends, has done nothing but improve Graham’s 2014 outlook.*

 

Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks are a little more stable, but 2013 showed us that there is still value to be had. Two I am flag planting? Derek Carr and Geno Smith.

Carr has been trending on Twitter, Facebook, Sports Center, you name it since he was named as the Oakland Raiders’ starter. Carr threw three touchdown passes and lead the raiders to the end zone on all four drives in the final game of the season versus Seattle, and this vaulted him into the starting position over former Houston Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub. In college, Carr threw for a 72% completion rate when not under duress, so it’s easy to infer that with the continued success of the offensive line, Carr with see great completion numbers. The addition of Maurice Jones-Drew to Darren McFadden will serve to open up the run game, while also taking pressure off of Carr in the pocket.

Signal caller Geno Smith quietly had five games of 20 or more points last season, and that’s dealing with a lackluster receiving corp along with a weak running game. The addition of Erik Decker (*Hint Hint: another undervalued receiver) is particularly intriguing as he’s coming from a 87 reception, 1,288 yard, 11 touchdown season. Can Smith reproduce those numbers? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean Decker is worthless! The addition of Chris Johnson at running back will take some pressure off the run game and off of Smith. Bold Prediction time: Geno Smith will finish as a top 10 quarterback.

 

No one knows the future, and as we speak there are probably hundreds of articles being published about this same topic. My best advice to you is do your research and go with your gut. Find players that make you excited, players you feel good about picking up. These are players that make me, personally, excited. The reason we play is for love of the game. Love of football, and love of the sport of fantasy. And you know what they say, “Love is a Battlefield”. Go out there and claim your guys!

 

Happy hunting from the Draft Day Dame

 

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