With the 2013 NFL season kicking off in just a few days, most fantasy football leagues have already held a draft. Owners are anxiously waiting to see how their sleepers perform and hoping to avoid the injury bug this year.
Unfortunately, high-risk players often fail to pan out and injuries are a natural part of the game, but smart owners already have multiple backup options in place.
If you want to make sure you are ready in case one of your prized picks is sidelined or just want to shake things up after a tough opening game, keep reading to find out some of the top available players on the waiver wire in most leagues.
Felix Jones, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers thought they had an answer at running back in Le’Veon Bell, but the rookie out of Michigan State is out with a Lisfranc injury for a number of weeks and will certainly miss the first few games of the season.
In order to solve that issue, Felix Jones was brought in from the Philadelphia Eagles via trade. The former first-round pick is now in the mix to win the starting job over Isaac Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling in the Steelers’ backfield.
Although head coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t revealed who will get the nod in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Jones performed the best of any back on the roster in the final preseason contests.
Redman may have the talent to push Jones, but he’s been dealing with a head injury for much of the preseason and hasn’t had the production to warrant a starting job.
Regardless of what happens, it would be wildly irresponsible to start any Steelers rusher in all but the deepest of leagues. Keep an eye on this situation and pounce if a starter—such as Jones—emerges as the clear choice in Pittsburgh with Bell out.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have yet to name a starting quarterback, as both Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor have had a wildly up-and-down preseason.
However, there is a better chance that Pryor ends up playing a bigger role for this team, as he has more upside and potential to become an elite signal-caller in the NFL.
The former Ohio State product dazzled in the third preseason game, completing 7-of-9 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, plus rushing four times for 37 yards and another score.
It was his awful showing in the final game that has Pryor’s status as the starter up in the air, as he went just 3-of-8 for 31 yards with an interception. It was ugly, but the 24-year-old did show off his athleticism and speed by rushing for 48 yards on three carries.
With Flynn sitting out with a sore arm, it seems that Pryor still deserves a chance—even if he didn’t make the most of it. Remember, Flynn was just 3-of-6 for 19 yards and two interceptions in that third preseason against the Chicago Bears.
Again, don’t make a decision and don’t start a Raiders quarterback in Week 1 unless you are in a 30-team league. Sit back, wait and make the waiver wire claim if Pryor ends up starting and succeeding against the Indianapolis Colts.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart usually has the honor of poaching touches and touchdowns from DeAngelo Williams, but he recently went on the PUP list due to a troublesome ankle.
While Williams now has a chance to shine—for at least six games—as a feature back, there is a distinct chance that Barner winds up getting a significant chunk of carries in the first third of the season.
Will Barner become a viable fantasy back?
The rookie out of Oregon is a dynamic playmaker with breakaway speed, but likely doesn’t have the build to withstand a week-to-week pounding in the NFL. However, as a change of pace back, there is no doubt that Barner can hit a few home runs in limited action.
Don’t be surprised if Barner sees significant work on third down and ends up making the most of his carries while Stewart is out of the picture.
If he ends up breaking out, there should be a permanent place for him in the backfield rotation. Keep an eye on the situation in Week 1 when Carolina takes on the Seattle Seahawks.