With many leagues drafting in early or mid-August and plenty of player movement since then, many fantasy football leagues allow waiver wire pickups prior to week one of the regular season.
Since mid-August, the major NFL headlines have focused on Brett Favre’s announcement that he will play in 2010 (surprise, surprise), the ascension of Arian Foster to starting running back of the Texans, the shocking release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bucs decision to give up on Derrick Ward and a trade sprinkled in for good measure (Mark Clayton to the Rams).
Add it all up and there are plenty of intriguing options on the waiver wire in most leagues prior to week one.
RB Kareem Huggins, Tampa Bay – With Ward getting chopped, Huggins shot up fantasy football draft boards on the assumption he would take over as the team’s top backup behind Cadillac Williams.
Huggins is a small, shifty player with excellent speed but he may be best suited to third down duties.
It is debatable whether the Bucs would turn to Huggins or Earnest Graham in the event of a Williams’ injury. If Huggins won the nod over Graham, he would be a tempting option but the recent signing of LeGarrette Blount tempers my enthusiasm a wee bit.
Cadillac does have an extensive injury history, although he did play 16 games
Fantasy Outlook: Handcuff to Williams and worth owning in all leagues except small roster, redraft formats.
WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The rookie fourth round pick has won a spot in the starting line-up with an impressive preseason and only tight end Kellen Winslow figures to get more targets early in the season.
Williams has good size and speed and has already established himself as the Bucs top wide receiver.
The Bucs passing game was a mess in 2009 but quarterback Josh Freeman figures to be much improved in 2010. The Bucs are likely to be playing from behind often so Williams will be targeted plenty this year, provided he can hold off second round pick Arrelious Benn.
Fantasy Outlook: I’m sold, especially in dynasty leagues. Grab Williams in all formats but don’t draft him as a fantasy starter.
WR Mark Clayton, St. Louis – Just traded to the Rams, Clayton goes from being a complete non-factor in Baltimore to a potential number one wide receiver in St. Louis.
He possesses excellent speed but has been inconsistent, which can be partially attributed to his use almost exclusively as a deep threat.
Incumbent top wide receiver Laurent Robinson has missed plenty of time with injuries during his three years in the league and Danny Amendola is best suited to playing out of the slot.
Fantasy Outlook: Starting on the outside by week two or three with the potential to be Sam Bradford’s top target shortly thereafter. The Rams offense is ugly, but they figure to be behind early and often so Clayton should see plenty of targets in 2010. Grab him in larger leagues as a WR5.
WR Jacoby Jones, Houston Texans – Jones is a speedy player who has struggled at times with consistency and drops. However, with 12 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown in the first three preseason games, Jones has outplayed Kevin Walter and likely earned a spot in the starting lineup.
With the Texans expected to boast one of the league’s most explosive passing attacks in 2010, Jones is an attractive option and should be considered a potential breakout player.
Fantasy Outlook: Jones is worth owning in all formats. His stock will rise after week one, so grab him now if you can.
WR Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – That’s right – your eyes aren’t deceiving you. There are two Mike Williamses on the list and yes, the second one is the former Detroit Lions first-round bust.
Now that you’ve picked yourself up off the ground, consider this: the Seahawks cast of wide receivers features a rookie caught stealing donuts (Golden Tate), a 2009 third-round pick who did nothing as a rookie (Deon Butler), a fifth-year player with 16 career receptions (Ben Obamanu) and a veteran on his last legs who has averaged 41 receptions per year over the last three years (Deion Branch).
Plus, the Seahawks chopped T.J. Houshmandzadeh to create a spot in the starting lineup for Williams.
Williams was the Seahawks best receiver in the preseason and the Seahawks don’t figure to be very good, so expect the pass-run ratio to be weighted in Williams’ favor.
Fantasy Outlook: Hey, I’m not sold on him and you shouldn’t be either. However, at the moment, he ranks as the Seahawks top wide receiver so he figures to get plenty of opportunities unless he proves unable to take advantage of them. Grab him in larger leagues.
RB Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns – Rookie running back Montario Hardesty will miss the entire 2010 season with a torn ACL and the Browns dropped 2009 backup Chris Jennings. Hillis will compete with 2009 sixth-round round pick James Davis for carries behind Jerome Harrison.
Hillis received extensive playing time for the Broncos in 2008, gaining 480 total yards and six touchdowns in five games. With the selection of Hardesty in the second-round and the trade for Hillis, the Browns clearly are not sold on Harrison.
Fantasy Outlook: Hillis will be dressed on game-day due to his ability to play fullback, running back and contribute on special teams. Look for him to get short-yardage work and earn the backup spot over Davis.
Other Players to Consider
WR Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers – Back in early August, it appeared Vincent Jackson would come to his senses and get a deal done with the Chargers or the team would acquire a solid veteran to play alongside Malcom Floyd.
Josh Reed (since released) and Patrick Crayton were the only additions; so Naanee will start on opening day in one of the league’s most high-powered offenses. Nice upside on your bench.
QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – Excellent preseason and, continuing the theme, the Rams will need to throw it plenty in 2010. Might be a decent fantasy backup during his rookie season.
WR Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills – Bills cut 2008 second round pick James Hardy and Chad Jackson, leaving Johnson fighting for targets with Roscoe Parrish and two undrafted rookie free agents.
Plus, at tight end, Shawn Nelson is hurt and Derek Schoumann was released, leaving recently signed David Martin as the team’s best receiving option at the position. Johnson could be a surprise in 2010.
WR Jordan Shipley, Cincinnati Bengals – Bengals management and quarterback, Carson Palmer, have raved about Shipley’s play in the preseason. He has locked up the slot receiver role and could be a decent option in large leagues that use the flex position.
WR Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins shipped Greg Camarillo to the Vikings leaving Hartline fighting for Brandon Marshall’s leftovers with Davone Bess and a pair of undrafted rookie free agents. Will go overlooked in most redraft leagues but he shouldn’t.