Fantasy Football 2014: Rookies to Target off the Waiver Wire This Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets set to run a route in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

While other fantasy football owners are focusing all of their efforts on unearthing this year's rookie gems in their draft, you might be better off waiting it out and scouring the waiver wire.

Drafting rookies is always a bit tricky. You don't have any NFL evidence off which to base any conclusions aside from preseason games. You're taking a major leap of faith by drafting any player, but that's exponentially true with rookies.

Sometimes it can work out, in the case of Eddie Lacy last year; other times, not so much, such as Tavon Austin.

In order to somewhat mitigate your risk, you might be better off avoiding reaching for the top newcomers and instead giving it a few weeks and seeing which guys are actually playing well in the regular season. Zac Stacy and Terrance Williams went undrafted in most leagues but became somewhat steady fantasy producers by year's end.

The four players below aren't guaranteed to be top performers in 2014, but they should be sitting on the waiver wire after draft day and warrant some tracking once the regular season begins.

Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 15:  Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders in action against the Detroit Lions during their preseason game at Coliseum on August 15, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Would anybody be surprised if the Oakland Raiders bench Matt Schaub midway through the season and start Derek Carr? Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks that that could happen as soon as Week 5:

At this point in the season, Carr doesn't warrant much attention. During the regular season, he could be a nice addition to provide depth and a possible matchup disadvantage here or there.

Heck, Matt McGloin had three weeks last year where he looked like a viable QB1 in standard fantasy leagues. Why can't it happen for Carr?

Through Oakland's first two preseason games, he's had some moments that make you think he can be a better rookie QB than anybody last year. But with Carr, you know that there will be a learning curve.

Derek Carr 2014 Preseason Stats
vs. Vikings10/167401
vs. Lions9/1610910

The former Fresno State star shouldn't be valued ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, but if all of those guys are off the board and you're dying to get a rookie QB, you might want to look at Carr as an emergency signing.

Dri Archer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09:  Running back Dri Archer #13 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the New York Giants during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Dri Archer is almost the furthest you can possibly get from your typical Pittsburgh Steelers running back. And that may be his best asset. His speed and athleticism allow him to become a nice situational option for head coach Mike Tomlin.

As Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar pointed out, the Steelers are already utilizing Archer's receiving skills out of the backfield. In Pittsburgh's two preseason games, the Kent State product has four catches for 94 yards:'s Daniel Jeremiah highlighted Archer's ability to move quickly and challenge how defenders usually pursue the ball-carrier:

In standard leagues, Archer might not have much value at all in 2014. With Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in the Pittsburgh backfield, carries might be hard to come by. The rookie might be worth keeping on your radar in points-per-reception leagues, though.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

As long as Aaron Rodgers is under center for the Green Bay Packers, guys like Davante Adams will remain strong fantasy sleepers. How many owners had Jarrett Boykin becoming a fantasy target going into the 2013 season?

The Packers wouldn't have drafted Adams in the second round if they planned on leaving him on the bench in 2014. While not the most fleet of foot, the 21-year-old is physical in going up for the ball and adept at using his body to box out defenders.

Adams isn't the kind of wideout who, like say A.J. Green, Josh Gordon or Calvin Johnson, can elevate his quarterback, which makes it so perfect that he's playing with a QB as good as Rodgers, who can bring out the best in Adams:

If you're looking for a WR3 or flex option midway through the regular season, this rookie could fill the void.

Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets

Jace Amaro's not having the best preseason.

"Tight end Jace Amaro has dropped passes as if it were a job requirement," wrote Brian Costello of the New York Post.

That came after New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan asked his rookie to essentially become tougher over the middle of the field per Bart Hubbuch of the Post.

"Give him tapes of Mike Ditka or something and say, 'This is how we want you to play'" said Ryan. "Recognize you're a big guy. You need to be a bully out there. When that ball's thrown up, you've got to go catch it. I don't care where it is."

None of that is really encouraging.

After Eric Ebron, this year's rookie class is pretty much a crap shoot at tight end, though. If Amaro can make some improvements over the rest of the preseason, he should get enough targets to become a possible backup TE option late in the regular season.


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