What fun would fantasy football be if we did not invest countless hours researching players every week?
Sure, draft day is great and filled with hope and excitement as the fantasy season has just begun, but it is the marathon of the season that you tend to remember. And nothing becomes more pivotal “in season” than making the right waiver-wire pickups.
But that takes time, and it means five less hours on Facebook a week and five more hours researching stats. That is why I created "Red Light, Green Light," in which I review the most talked about free agents on the waiver wire. These players usually have done extremely well in the prior week and are of serious interest to fantasy owners. I will show you who to pick and who to shy away from.
Just to clarify, my "Green Light" players are guys I think you should pick up for the long haul—if you already have not.
"Yellow Light" players have shown nice potential, but they still have red flags that limit me from going all-in on.
Lastly, "Red Light" players are guys who I think you should avoid and not be fooled by a fluky one-week performance.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Carolina Panthers
I have been high on LaFell since last season, and now that he has secured the No. 2 receiver role opposite Steve Smith, he should be owned in all leagues.
In Week 1, LaFell caught three passes for 65 yards and one touchdown, despite Cam Newton looking out of sync for most of the game. I project LaFell to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards this season and to push for five touchdowns.
I am buying.
Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Ogletree exploded in Week 1 with eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, securing twice as many targets as either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin. That sounds a lot like Laurent Robinson of a year ago.
While many sports analysts are already dismissing Ogletree’s stellar game, saying he won’t reach Robinson’s 11-touchdown performance in 2011, I say why not? Romo apparently loves throwing to anyone not named Bryant or Austin, as evidenced by last year.
I’m drinking the Kool-Aid here.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
The worry with Cobb prior to the start of the season was that he had not completely secured the slot role from Donald driver in the Packers' pass-heavy offense. Well, Driver only came into the game against the 49ers on Sunday for the final three plays, so that concern should be put to rest.
Rodgers targeted Cobb nine times in that game, and Cobb caught every pass. He’s a PPR owner’s dream; he is lining up in the backfield in multiple sets, and the Packers are finding every way they can to get the ball into his hands.
I would not worry too much that the Packers have too many mouths to feed, as the receiver with the least amount of targets (six) in Week 1 was James Jones, who ended up leading the team in receiving yards.
I am buying this Kool-Aid and drinking it.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta was Joe Flacco’s most targeted receiver by far in Week 1 versus the Bengals. In fact, he has been Flacco’s most targeted receiver in the Ravens past four games combined, dating back to last season.
Furthermore, Flacco has thrown 14 touchdowns in his past nine games, and five of those have gone to Pitta.
If you add him, please feel free to change your team name to Pitta World Peace.
Donald Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s second favorite target David Nelson is out for year with a torn ACL. Stevie Johnson continues to battle a groin injury. Donald Jones is Fitzpatrick’s most reliable receiver outside of those two, which makes him somewhat of an attractive target, particularly in PPR leagues.
But at the end of the day, he still has Fitzpatrick throwing to him, which limits his potential.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
I really liked what I saw from Hawkins against the Ravens. He looked quick and delivered a solid fantasy performance with eight catches for 86 yards.
I expect him to benefit from all the attention AJ Green receives. Dalton showed a tendency to dump passes off to Hawkins if Green was not open. But it was just one game. I would like to see some consistency in the weeks ahead.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had a great first game with three catches for 80 yards and one touchdown. Jeffery has good size and speed, and he should have a lot of opportunities in the Bears offense with all the attention going to Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall. But again, this is just one game from Jeffery.
Full disclosure: My in-laws are from Chicago and huge Bears fans, so take into account that bias.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener recorded six catches for 82 yards with former Stanford teammate Andrew Luck at the helm throwing darts to him. Luck is obviously very comfortable throwing to Fleener, but a lot of those catches came in garbage time. At the same time, with Luck’s potential, Fleener could have a solid year particularly in PPR leagues.
Keep in mind, however, that if Austin Collie returns from his concussion, he will likely eat into Fleener’s targets.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Morris looked the role of starting fantasy back in Week 1. But his coach is Mike Shanahan.
Need I say more?
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Gabbert had a respectable game against the Vikings, which shows the progress he has made since last year. However, let us not forget that Minnesota gave up the seventh most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns a year ago. Gabbert will have a much tougher test this week versus Houston (top 10 in both categories last year).
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Despite a great Week 1, Mark Sanchez is still Mark Sanchez. He has never been in the top 20 in quarterback rating, has never been higher than 28th in completion percentage and was top five in interceptions two of past three years. That’s simply awful.
Yes, he may be dating Eva Longoria, but only in her fantasy is Mark Sanchez a consistently good quarterback.
Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets
Hill had a great game out of the gate to start his pro career. He has the size and looks to be a great NFL receiver. But he still has one of the worst quarterbacks in the league throwing to him (see above).
Rookie wide receivers generally have a steep mountain to climb in their first year, but with Mark Sanchez at the helm, Hill is facing Mount Everest.
Follow Andrew McFadden on Twitter @andrewmcfadden.
And on Facebook at FantasyFootballersAnonymous.