Fantasy Football Week 1 Waiver Wire: 18 Injured Players Worth Signing for Week 2

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst ISeptember 6, 2011

Fantasy Football Week 1 Waiver Wire: 18 Injured Players Worth Signing for Week 2

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    Fantasy football is upon us. By now, most of us have drafted at least one team. If you haven't, now is the time.

    Draft day is one the most important days of the year. You can make or break your team depending on your selections, but because games haven't even started, it's all just speculation. 

    What's really important comes in the weeks following each game. In order to improve your team, you have to watch the waiver wires, pick up free agents and make tough decisions regarding your roster.

    It's even harder when you're trying to speculate on players who are injured. Some players on the waiver wire will be out during Week One, but there's a chance they'll be back in Week Two and some are bound to make some noise. 

    Looking at the waiver wire before the first game is like looking at a pool filled with an unidentifiable liquid: there's no reason to take a dip in it if you don't know what you're getting into. 

    With that being said, I'm still going to try to swim.

    Here are 18 guys who are currently listened as probable (75 percent), questionable (50 percent) or doubtful (25 percent) for Week One who will be good waiver wire pickups. 

Donald Jones: Wide Receiver (Buffalo Bills)

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    Status For Week One: Probable

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 0.1

    Donald Jones had to feel good yesterday. Not only was the second-year wide receiver told that his health status was lifted to probable with a great chance to play in Week One, he was also told he was going to be the No. 2 wide receiver for the Bills. 

    After being virtually undrafted in all fantasy leagues, Jones has instantly become a decent waiver wire pick-up. 

    As a rookie, Jones finished the season with 18 receptions for 213 yards and one touchdown. Now that he's in the starting lineup, Jones will benefit greatly from playing as the No. 2 option.

    Last year's breakout WR Steve Johnson will once again be the No. 1 receiver for the Bills and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now that Johnson has shown what he's capable of doing, defenses will start to key in on him. This leaves room for Jones to shine.

    Granted, Fitzpatrick is still a work in process, so it may take a while for Jones to see a significant increase. 

    He will be an easy waiver wire pick-up, though, as he is only owned in 0.1 percent of every league. 

Demaryius Thomas: Wide Receiver (Denver Broncos)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 0.2 

    Demaryius Thomas was almost guaranteed to miss nearly half of the season, but he is way ahead of his rehab schedule and now has an outside shot of playing in the season opener.

    While this might happen, it's way more likely for Thomas to make his season debut in Week Two. 

    Thomas was the first wide receiver taken in 2010, but he never really performed up to his expectations. He finished the season with 22 receptions for 283 yards and two touchdowns.

    After struggling through his rookie season, Thomas tore an Achilles tendon while working out in February. 

    It will be interesting to see how Thomas plays once he comes back, because it will surely take a while to get readjusted to going full speed and stopping on a dime. 

    Once he does come back, though, Thomas has a great chance of stealing time from Eddie Royal and becoming the starting WR opposite of Brandon Lloyd.

    Keep an eye on his production. 

Louis Murphy: Wide Receiver (Oakland Raiders)

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    Status For Week One: Doubtful

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 0.2 

    Louis Murphy has been struggling with injuries for over a year. Last season, Murphy hurt his clavicle in October. After not giving it time to fully heal, Murphy was graciously awarded with a bruised lung. 

    Murphy must have thought his troubles were over in training camp, as he was set to be a starting receiver for the Raiders this season.  Then he suffered a hamstring injury that is going to keep him out of the season opener. 

    It's been a hard road for Murphy, but once he's fully healed, he's going to be the Raiders' best option at wide receiver. He has the size, the speed and the hands that will make him a great target for QB Jason Campbell.

    In 14 games last season, Murphy caught 41 balls for 609 yards and two touchdowns. Remember, this was while being injured. 

    If Murphy can come back from this hamstring injury at 100 percent, there's no way that he won't become the Raiders' No. 1 option at WR. That makes him an instant waiver wire pick-up. 

    Just monitor his status, and hopefully he'll be ready for Week Two. 

Jerricho Cotchery: Wide Receiver (Pittsburgh Steelers)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 1.1

    It's hard to believe that Jerricho Cotchery is only owned in 1.1 percent of all fantasy leagues, but I guess when you're currently the No. 5 wide receiver on a depth chart, you aren't going to get very many looks (both on the field and on fantasy draft day). 

    What's interesting with Cotchery is the fact that he's been such a solid wide receiver over the past five seasons. Now that he's in a system with a great QB who likes to spread the ball around, there's a good chance that Cotchery will become a great waiver wire pick-up.

    As of now, Cotchery has to outplay both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in order to get more playing time, but I have a feeling that his experience and great hands will eventually be an asset to the Steelers.

    Cotchery may not even play in Week One. Like Louis Murphy, Cotchery is nursing a hamstring injury. Even if he's "ready to go" in time for the season opener, he probably won't see much playing time.

    This makes him an interesting option for Week Two. By having another week to rest and heal, it gives him a chance to watch Sanders and Brown and see what kind of production they put up. 

    If either one of them has a lousy performance, it may give Cotchery a chance to step in and show what he's capable of doing. 

Josh Cribbs: Wide Receiver (Cleveland Browns)

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    Status For Week One: Probable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 1.3

    Josh Cribbs, Greg Little, Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi are the four receivers that are likely to see the most time for the Cleveland Browns this season. 

    Cribbs is definitely the most athletic and dynamic name on this list, and he should have plenty of opportunities this season to touch the ball.

    With the new kickoff rule in place, Cribbs will lose some of his fantasy merit since he is such a great return man. But with a promising young QB in Colt McCoy leading the offense, Cribbs will have an accurate passer slinging him the ball, which is great since he will be taking on more responsibility as a wide receiver.

    Even though Cribbs saw the most production he's ever had as a wide receiver last season, the numbers still weren't too great: 23 receptions for 292 yards and one touchdown. 

    Cribbs is a multi-dimensional threat, though. He'll still be a threat as a punt return man, at least, and he also is prone to run the ball a few times a game. 

    He may not be the most productive guy on the waiver wires, but he'll be the most exciting guy with gobs of potential. 

Arrelious Benn: Wide Receiver (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

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    Status For Week One: Probable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 2.9

    Arrelious Benn saw his first action Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins since tearing an ACL at the end of last season. 

    Benn had a disappointing rookie campaign, catching only 25 balls for 395 yards and two touchdowns. While many believed Benn to be the best and most promising wide receiver on the Buccaneers roster, fellow rookie WR Mike Williams stepped up and stole the spotlight. 

    Benn has been preparing for another shot to prove his worth, but because he's coming back from an injury, he will have to fight off Dezmon Briscoe for the No. 2 WR gig. 

    If he remains healthy, Benn should be able to win the job and become a starter. After many defenses will be keyed in on Williams, Benn may be subject to a lot of one-on-one coverage that he can take advantage of. 

    He has recently been bumped up from questionable to probable for Week One, and he'll likely play spot minutes to get back in regular season shape.

    If all goes well, Benn should see a bump in minutes and production come Week Two, and hopefully he'll be able to turn this season into what his rookie season was supposed to be. 

Kevin Boss: Tight End (Oakland Raiders)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 4.2

    Kevin Boss has never been an elite fantasy tight end. He doesn't produce huge seasons in terms of yardage like Antonio Gates, Jason Witten or Dallas Clark.

    What Boss does provide, however, is a lot of red zone targets that usually correlate into touchdowns. Last season, Boss was targeted eight times inside an opponent's 10-yard line and he converted three of them into touchdowns.

    Boss has played his entire four-year career in New York with the Giants, and he has been at least the fifth receiving option on every team he's been on as the Giants have had great receivers and running backs. In Oakland, though, Boss may be as high as the third option, and he should build a great relationship with Jason Campbell just as Chris Cooley did in Washington. 

    Last season, Boss had 35 receptions for 531 yards and five touchdowns. These aren't bad stats for a tight end, and his production is just going to go up in Oakland. 

    Boss is questionable for the season opener, but even if he has to miss in order to rest and heal, he should be ready for Week Two. This makes him a great waiver wire pick-up for somebody who realizes they're in need of touchdowns. 

Jermaine Gresham: Tight End (Cincinnati Bengals)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 5.4

    Here's another tight end who is listed as questionable for his season opener. The difference between Kevin Boss and Jermaine Gresham, though, is Gresham's athleticism and ability to catch the ball.

    On a depleted Bengals offense with a rookie starting quarterback, Gresham will need to stay healthy and become a No. 2 receiving option to rookie WR A.J. Green. 

    Last season, Gresham caught 52 balls for 471 yards and four touchdowns, but he was targeted 83 times. This shows that Cincinnati is willing to incorporate him, which is definitely the right move. 

    QB Andy Dalton will surely be rushed out of the pocket a lot this season, and this could make Gresham a favorite target of his. Dalton will need to throw quickly, and Gresham's huge frame will be a hard target to miss. 

    Gresham has a lot of potential as a receiving tight end in the NFL, he has just been put on a team with a bad situation at quarterback. Hopefully things will go his way this year, whether he starts his season in Week One or Week Two. 

Steve Smith: Wide Receiver (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 6.3

    Steve Smith likely won't be ready to show his new team what he can do come time for the season opener. In fact, he may not even be ready for Week Two, but when the time comes, Smith won't disappoint.

    The Eagles were able to snatch Smith off of the real waiver wires after the Giants decided they couldn't justify signing him to a deal after the injuries he suffered last season.

    Smith tore a pectoral muscle that caused him to miss four games, and then upon his return he tore knee cartilage that ended up requiring microfracture surgery. 

    His rehab has him scheduled to be ready for sometime between Week Four and Week Six, but if he starts showing signs of promise, the Eagles may want him on the field before that. 

    DeSean Jackson is the best deep threat in the NFL and Jeremy Maclin has proven he can be a great starter opposite of Jackson, but Maclin has gone through his own health issues this year and Jackson is susceptible to injury being a return man. 

    The Eagles still have Jason Avant and Riley Cooper—both appear to be promising wide receivers—but Smith would be a great addition to what seems to be an exciting Eagles' offense. 

    They'll want his reliable hands on the field, and you'll want him on your fantasy team, just like you did when he was a Giant. 

Benjamin Watson: Tight End (Cleveland Browns)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 7.9

    As Cleveland's starting tight end last season, Benjamin Watson had career highs in both catches and yards: 68 receptions for 763 yards. The problem was his lack of red zone targets (nine) and his touchdowns (three). 

    I already talked about why Josh Cribbs should have an improved role in Cleveland's offense, and there should be no difference with Watson. He was a favorite target for Cleveland's quarterbacks last season, and if he can stay healthy, he will be again this year.

    QB Colt McCoy should build a good relationship with Watson just like he did with Jermichael Finley at the University of Texas. 

    Watson's catches and yardage were already great for a tight end, so if he can bump up his touchdowns he will be set. There's a chance he could be a top-five fantasy tight end this season, and he's only owned in 7.9 percent of every league.

    Watson will likely be the first tight end to be taken off of waiver wires. 

Emmanuel Sanders: Wide Receiver (Pittsburgh Steelers)

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    Status For Week One: Probable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 10.2

    I know I talked about why Jerricho Cotchery will be a great addition to the Steelers receiving corps, but he does have to beat out Emmanuel Sanders for looks. 

    While Sanders is only entering his second season in the NFL, his potential is pretty outstanding. He is a bit undersized at 5'11", but he has 4.4 speed to make up for it. This makes him the perfect candidate to fill the slot receiver role in Pittsburgh. 

    With Mike Wallace making a case for himself last season to be the No. 1 option for the Steelers, defenses should start paying more attention to him. This will give more chances to Sanders and current No. 2 WR Hines Ward to make plays. 

    Ward is getting old, and even though he still has great hands, the question remains whether or not he'll be able to stay durable all year long. With Sanders' speed and athleticism, there may not be a better second option for QB Ben Roethlisberger

    So do I believe that Cotchery will have a good year in Pittsburgh? Yes. Will his year in Pittsburgh be better than Sanders'? Not likely.

    Both will be great waiver wire pick-ups, though. 

Marion Barber: Running Back (Chicago Bears)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 13.9

    Finally, a running back! Unfortunately, Marion "The Barbarian" Barber is the only running back featured on this list. 

    He is listed as questionable for Week One. Even if he misses the opener, he'll be ready for Week Two and should be a great waiver wire pick-up.

    Barber has always been the hard-nosed, short yardage fiend-type of running back that excels in fantasy football due to the amount of touchdowns he has the chance to get. He's been stealing touchdowns from the more electric Felix Jones in Dallas, and this year should be no different with Matt Forte.

    Forte is obviously the better choice for starting running back in Chicago, but Barber could be the answer to the Bears' short yardage and goal line problems. 

    If that's the case, then Forte should be in line for a disappointing fantasy season, while Barber could be in line for a surprisingly good one. 

    We'll be able to see what type of role he plays in the offense either in the season opener or in Week Two, but chances are that Barber will be a good pick-up for touchdowns. 

Brent Celek: Tight End (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    Status For Week One: Probable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 14.7

    Brent Celek had an underwhelming season after a breakout performance in 2009. He saw his receptions fall from 72 to 46, his yards drop from 971 to 511 and his touchdowns cut in half from eight to four. 

    There was a definite drop off in tight end targets when QB Michael Vick took the reigns of Philadelphia's offense, but an improved Vick means more precise passing and more spreading the ball around.

    Celek still had 80 targets last season; he just didn't have the same hands as the year before. This is likely due to a wrist injury that he seemed to battle week in and week out last season.

    Celek is currently listed as probable, and it will be interesting to see how he's used in the season opener. If his current injury proves to be minor and he ends up playing well, Celek could be in line for a serious lift in production this season.

    Vick has shown in the preseason that he has become a better pocket passer and he's actually looking to pass before using his legs. If that's the case, any receiver or tight end on Philadelphia's roster should have a better fantasy season. 

    Celek has a great possibility to return to the top of the fantasy tight end class. 

Todd Heap: Tight End (Arizona Cardinals)

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    Status For Week One: Probable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 15.2

    Todd Heap proved he could be an elite tight end (both in the NFL and the fantasy world) while he was in Baltimore. The only knock on Heap has been his history with injuries. 

    In his 10-year career, Heap has only played in all 16 games of the regular season six times. The Arizona Cardinals were quite aware of this when they signed him this offseason, though, and that's not going to stop them from using him in their passing game.

    Heap needs to form a good relationship with fellow newly acquired Kevin Kolb. With Steve Breaston gone to Kansas City, Heap will have to step up and be a No. 3 option in the Cardinals' passing game behind star WR Larry Fitzgerald and No. 2 WR Andre Roberts.  

    He definitely has the ability. Heap has caught over 50 passes five times in his career and over 70 passes two times. This year might catch people off guard. The current outlook on Heap, according to ESPN, is 521 yards receiving and five touchdowns. If he stays healthy, this is definitely going to be on the low side. 

    Look for Heap to return to form this year with a change of scenery. 

Nate Burleson: Wide Receiver (Detroit Lions)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 23.4

    Nate Burleson is in line to have a productive year for the Detroit Lions. Last season, Burleson caught 55 passes for 625 yards and six touchdowns.

    His six touchdowns were his highest total since the 2007 season, and with a healthy Matthew Stafford looking great in the preseason, Burleson has the chance to better that total this season.

    Burleson is a great No. 2 option behind star WR Calvin Johnson. While Johnson can be a deep threat (and really any other kind of threat), Burleson thrives in one-on-one coverage and beating people with route running. 

    There's a good chance Burleson will be playing out of the slot this season with rookie WR Titus Young pushing for playing time, but that might actually benefit him. 

    Burleson hasn't had a really great season since 2004, when he didn't miss a game and amassed over 1,000 yards receiving with nine touchdowns, but his luck is definitely looking up. 

    Since he isn't even owned in one fourth of every league, Burleson should be a great waiver wire pick-up. 

Chris Cooley: Tight End (Washington Redskins)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 31.8

    Chris Cooley has been struggling with a knee injury in the preseason, and it might be enough to keep him out of the Redskins' lineup in Week One. 

    If that's the case, Cooley should benefit from the extra rest time and should make his season debut in Week Two. Will he be worth picking up? Let's let the numbers decide.

    After coming off of an ankle injury last season, Cooley finished second among tight ends in targets received as well as receptions and third in receiving yards. The problem with Cooley with respect to the fantasy world has been his lack of touchdowns.

    In his first four seasons in the league, Cooley racked up 27 touchdowns. Since then (the last three years), Cooley has only managed to score six times. 

    He's getting the looks, they just aren't developing into scores. Cooley could easily be a top-five fantasy tight end every season if he could just get in the end zone a few more times. 

    Cooley will once again be the No. 2 receiving target for the Redskins this season behind veteran WR Santana Moss. 

    Here's to hoping that Rex Grossman doesn't mess it all up for him. 

Mike Sims-Walker: Wide Receiver (St. Louis Rams)

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    Status For Week One: Probable

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 65.2 

    Mike Sims-Walker may see the most improved production of any potential waiver wire candidate. 

    After an underwhelming season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the St. Louis Rams decided to give Sims-Walker a shot due to their lack of receiving depth. 

    Now in a new home with a much better quarterback, Sims-Walker could definitely prove to be the receiver we all thought he could be after his impressive sophomore campaign: 63 receptions, 869 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Sims-Walker has been battling a groin injury through the preseason, and has thus looked not as good as hoped, but he should enter the season opener as one of the two starting wide receivers for the Rams. 

    He has good size, speed and hands. He should be a favorite target of QB Sam Bradford in no time, and that should make him a more than great waiver wire pick-up.

    Bradford's accuracy can definitely make his receivers look good, and that's what we're all hoping for with Sims-Walker. 

Michael Crabtree: Wide Receiver (San Francisco 49ers)

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    Status For Week One: Questionable 

    Percent Owned (ESPN): 73.9

    Michael Crabtree...what can I say. Has there ever been a more promising, gifted, highly-touted wide receiver to come out of college and perform so poorly in the NFL? 

    You could blame the mess that the 49ers have dealt with at quarterback, but that doesn't make up for Crabtree only catching 54 percent of the passes thrown his way last season. 

    After missing some time in his rookie season due to injury, Crabtree was able to play in all 16 games for the 49ers last season. Unfortunately, he has been dealing with a foot injury during the preseason and was only allowed to practice for the first time six days ago.

    It's at least a good sign that he's been taken off the PUP list, but it's unlikely that Crabtree will play in the season opener. He may not even be ready for Week Two, but if he is, he'll have to earn his playing time.

    Newly acquired WR Braylon Edwards should be QB Alex Smith's No. 1 option this season. Crabtree will likely have to outplay Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. in order to see any significant playing time. 

    But everything is in front of Crabtree at this point, he just has to perform. He has all the physical gifts and attributes you could ask for in a wide receiver, he just hasn't put it all together since he arrived in the NFL. 

    Crabtree would most definitely benefit from being in an offense with a proven quarterback, but he has to make the most of this season with Smith if he ever wants to prove that he can be a star. 

    If Crabtree returns to the 49ers lineup in good form, then he should be able to outplay Morgan and Ginn, but he'll still be battling Edwards and tight end Vernon Davis for targets. 

    Crabtree has all the potential in the world, let's hope he realizes it this season.