Fantasy Football: Top 10 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 2
The following countdown touts the top 10 waiver-wire pickups heading into Week 2 of the NFL season.
Obviously, free-agent quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb and Christian Ponder are the likeliest candidates for most points from Sunday to Sunday.
But I would place an equal or higher priority on landing possible dynamos at receiver and running back...ahead of a quarterback who may only draw one start all season (a star QB's bye week).
For a full listing of the top 30 free agents, click here.
10: QB Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Stats: 66 Yards Passing, 1 TD
Skinny: This would be a risky acquisition for fantasy owners in 12-team leagues, since no one would have the room (or urgency) to roster Arizona's two quarterbacks (Kevin Kolb/John Skelton) at the same time.
But there are some perks in chasing Kolb:
1. Given Skelton's ankle injury, Kolb has an indefinite window to handle every snap for Arizona...without wondering if the next mistake will lead to an impromptu benching from head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
2. Kolb has the physical tools to remain the Cardinals' long-term starter at quarterback. And quite frankly, he might only need two or three rock-solid efforts to pull off the feat.
3. Kolb understands that "winning" and "targeting Larry Fitzgerald" often go hand in hand.
9: RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
2012 Stats: 13 Yards, 1 TD
Skinny: Of the top 10 assets in this countdown, Knowshon Moreno can easily be had for the cheapest price in blind-bidding waivers.
Yes, he looked smooth in scoring a touchdown against the Steelers on Sunday. But by all accounts, Moreno is still the Broncos' third-string back, behind Willis McGahee and explosive rookie Ronnie Hillman (when healthy).
He's also fighting a perception that he's not beloved by the current Denver coaching staff or top executive John Elway, since Moreno was a high draft pick from the previous administration.
At age 25, Moreno is just hitting the prime of his NFL career, assuming he can avoid another major injury. And from a pure talent standpoint, if forced to choose amongst McGahee, Hillman and Moreno for the season...I would probably favor Knowshon's high ceiling.
Expect him to be a difference-maker at some point of the fantasy season.
8: RB Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills
2012 Stats: 3 Total Yards
Skinny: Five days ago, Tashard Choice would have only been on the fantasy radar of those in 16-team leagues.
But given the knee injury to tailback Fred Jackson (out four to six weeks), Choice suddenly finds himself as the main backup to the NFL's hottest performer, tailback C.J. Spiller (194 total yards, one TD in Week 1).
Choice's lofty ranking isn't necessarily tied to the belief that he's one injury or illness away from becoming Buffalo's anchor back.
It also comes on the realistic hope that he'll log substantial touches in Week 2, forming a running partnership with Spiller.
7: QB Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
2012 Stats: 266 Yards Passing, 3 TD
Skinny: I was genuinely shocked that others were genuinely shocked over Mark Sanchez's excellent outing against the Bills.
After all, the man accounted for 32 touchdowns last season (six rushing) without the assistance of a vibrant receiving corps (minus the always-underrated Santonio Holmes)...or an extremely average backup quarterback pushing him for starters' reps this summer.
Obviously, Sanchez cannot replicate last year's 26 interceptions and expect Jets fans to blindly remain in his corner. But his Week 1 output was also not a huge departure from what Sanchez could plausibly produce over the long haul.
Just like any young, talented quarterback, Sanchez needs weapons. And having Shonn Greene (94 total yards, one TD), tight end Dustin Keller, the aforementioned Holmes and rookie wunderkind Stephen Hill (two touchdowns against Buffalo) would constitute a promising nucleus.
6: WR Donald Jones, Buffalo Bills
2012 Stats: 5 Catches, 41 Yards, 1 TD
Skinny: There are two ways to look at Donald Jones' Week 1 output:
The fantasy pessimist would say that Jones collected his touchdown against the Jets during garbage time, long after New York had sprinted to a 41-7 lead over Buffalo. They might even reference Stevie Johnson's sore groin leading up to the season opener.
On the flip side, the fantasy optimist would point to that game serving as Jones' first step to a sizable breakout, not unlike Sidney Rice with the Vikings back in 2009.
Jones is a versatile and cat-quick wideout who can flourish on the outside or when deftly handling the slot-receiver role between the 20s. And over time, I have come to appreciate his burgeoning relationships with Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson.
But for Year 3, Donald Jones won't be a reliable source of fantasy goodness unless he can consistently stay on the field. It's part of the job that comes with being a formidable No. 2 asset.
5: WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
2012 Stats: 3 Catches, 65 Yards, 1 TD
Skinny: Here's something you won't hear about any other Panthers playmaker: Brandon LaFell may prefer Jimmy Clausen as Carolina's quarterback over Cam Newton.
Ludicrous notions aside, LaFell actually had eight outings of six-plus targets in 2010—when Newton was still dominating college kids at Auburn.
Last year, LaFell reached that targets threshold only twice in 16 games.
All this begs the questions: Is there any substance to LaFell generating fewer targets and fewer catches last season? Or should we put more stock into his upward progress in receiving yards and touchdowns...along with the empirical fact that Newton (4,757 total yards, 35 TD in 2011) is a better quarterback than Clausen?
With LaFell's impressive size and speed, I'm willing to roll the dice on the latter occurrences.
4: TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
2012 Stats: 6 Catches, 82 Yards
Skinny: Indy rookie Coby Fleener collected 10 targets in his NFL debut, fueling the notion that he'll be a regular starter in 12-team leagues soon enough.
And why wouldn't that be the case? Fleener draws physical comparisons to Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski and his Colts will likely have to pass their way out of deficits this season—at least early in the campaign.
It also helps that Fleener has a built-in rapport with QB Andrew Luck, his longtime teammate at Stanford.
Bottom line: It won't be long before Fleener develops into a high-end receiving prospect. And it might not be long before owners consider him over the likes of Jared Cook, Jermaine Gresham, Owen Daniels and Greg Olsen.
3: RB Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Stats: 54 Total Yards
Skinny: Wow, that didn't take long.
Off one mediocre performance against the Broncos, Isaac Redman (27 total yards) has already fallen out of favor with fickle fantasy owners—the same GMs who touted Redman as an August steal, primed for 900 total yards and maybe eight touchdowns in Rashard Mendenhall's absence.
Well, Mendenhall is making good progress from a torn ACL (eight months ago), and Jonathan Dwyer (just 11 touches in Week 1) suddenly has the look of the Next Best Thing in the Pittsburgh backfield.
After all, the Steelers have a long, proud tradition of running the ball effectively...and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley loves to pound the ball early and often. One of the three tailbacks has to succeed in this environment, right?
So, why wouldn't Dwyer be a coveted asset on the waiver wire?
Unless Redman simply had a bad game.
2: WR Stephen Hill, New York Jets
2012 Stats: 5 Catches, 89 Yards, 2 TD
Skinny: On Sunday, rookie receiver Stephen Hill wasted little time in announcing his NFL arrival with authority, beating the Bills defenders down the field—or across it—for a pair of scores.
For someone of Hill's supreme but raw physical gifts, this outing may have accelerated his development curve in fantasy circles.
Of equal relevance, it may have heightened Hill's level of seasonal expectations with a notoriously patient fanbase (sic) in the New York/New Jersey area.
Is Hill a stronger fantasy play than Santonio Holmes (four catches, eight targets, 68 yards vs. Buffalo), Jets tailback Shonn Greene (94 rushing yards, one TD) or tight end Dustin Keller? At this point, probably not.
But the lightning-fast Hill is certainly a high-upside lottery ticket for fantasy owners. Why not get in on the ground floor?
1: WR Kevin Ogletree, Dallas Cowboys
2012 Stats: 8 Catches, 114 Yards, 2 TD
Skinny: For starters, let's congratulate Ogletree on his monster outing against the Giants defense, which included a game-high 11 targets (tied with New York's Victor Cruz).
Not only was Ogletree the best receiver on the field last week, he was also the most versatile performer—executing big catches on slant routes, stop-and-go's and classic hitch-and-go fly patterns down the right side.
All this begs the question: How do fantasy owners know if Ogletree's Week 1 breakout won't be the high-water mark of his season or career?
My rationale: While no one can predict the future, we can certainly draw inferences from the past.
As the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver last year, Laurent Robinson (now with the Jaguars) posted career highs in catches (54), receiving yards (858) and touchdowns (11).
And given Ogletree's domination of the Giants' nickel defenders in Week 1, it's reasonable to say the WR3 slot for Dallas holds tremendous fantasy value...at least when Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are distracting opposing defenses at the same time.