Winning your fantasy football league is more about smart roster management than good drafting. Good fantasy players are constantly looking for value and injury replacements and stashing them on their rosters. Andrew Jordan looks at five potentially league-winning players you should be targeting on the waiver wire to store on your rosters in the upcoming weeks.
Working the waiver wire is about more than finding a spot starter or bye week fill in. Fantasy championships often include glory stories involving a player sitting out there in the cold, dark abyss that is the free agent pool, only to be plucked by some diligent owner who shifts the balance of power in their league. If you think that is hyperbole, find owners who picked up Michael Vick and LeGarrette Blount back in 2010, ask them about it, and prepare to be transported back to the time of Kanye’s My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Beach House’s Teen Dream. These early returns are the first players who have low ownership percentages, but could work their way into starting lineups at some point this season.
All ownership percentages are from ESPN.com Fantasy Leagues on 9/29
Jamison Crowder – WR Washington – 26.6% Owned
Yes, we’re only 3 weeks into the season, but it is crazy to think that fantasy football’s 27th WR in PPR scoring (30th in standard) is only owned in just over a quarter of leagues. Crowder is technically third on the depth chart in Washington but his usage speaks to him being one of Kirk Cousins’s favorite weapons. Crowder is tied with Jordy Nelson for the league lead in redzone targets with eight inside the 20, and half of those coming inside the 10. He has 25 targets through three weeks, nearly a third of the looks he saw all last year. According to NFL.com’s Matt Harmon, last year Crowder did his best work against zone coverage, and it’s clear that was not a fluke. His usage offers owners a rather high floor with the added bonus of being utilized enough in the redzone to post some eye-popping weeks. Crowder is the most consistent fantasy WR play in Washington and is a must own in all leagues, regardless of size or scoring format.
From one 25-target slot WR to another, Adam Humphries is in a position to start making bigger contributions to the Buccaneers receiving corps, due to recent moves the team has made. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was waived on September 23 following a DUI arrest. That leaves the Buccaneers with two primary middle of the field options, tight end Cameron Brate, and Humphries. Humphries, a former Clemson WR is making the most of his opportunity, posting his first career 100-yard game after securing nine of 12 targets against the Rams. Humphries gave Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner fits all throughout their game last Sunday. Several times, Humphries was able to deal with the jam at the line, box out Joyner, and give QB Jameis Winston a clear target to hit. He is also able to find the soft spot in the zone, helping convert a 3rd & 20 in the fourth quarter on a drive that ended with a score and brought the Buccaneers within five. Humphries ran a short out route, and with the ball in the air heading to him, began repositioning his body to turn upfield immediately after making the catch. The team needed 20 yards for the first and Humphries’ catch and run gave them 29 and continued their hopes of winning. This kind of skill and effort should start earning him more looks consistently in the coming weeks. With single-digit ownership right now, deeper PPR league players should look to stash Humphries now rather than use a waiver claim in two weeks.
Wendell Smallwood – RB Eagles – 4.8% Owned
Dynasty players are already familiar with the name Wendell Smallwood, but redraft leagues should get to know the University of West Virginia product. Buried in the excitement of Jordan Howard’s opportunity now with the Bears is the fact that Smallwood received 17 carries in Week 3. Showing impressive burst that has been lacking from the Eagles backfield so far, he turned those carries into 79 yards and a rushing TD. Smallwood has yet to be involved in the passing game, but with the Eagles on a bye this week, the coaching staff should be looking for more ways to get him the ball. Before picking him up, here are a few things to watch with Smallwood’s usage. Fourteen of Smallwood’s carries came with the Eagles up 17 points or more. Part of this is because the Eagles got up on the Steelers quickly, even with Ryan Mathews nursing an ankle injury. The numbers game becomes less fun when you see that 10 of those carries came in the fourth quarter with the Eagles up 34-3. Outside of deep 16-team leagues Smallwood is not an add for me yet, but becomes someone to put on your watch list. The arrow is starting to point upwards, but not enough to drop an already established asset on your roster.
Paul Perkins – RB – Giants 2.2% Owned
Shane Vereen is now on injured reserve with a torn triceps, presenting an intriguing opportunity within the Giants backfield. With Rashad Jennings dealing with a nagging thumb injury, Orleans Darkwa (16.2% Owned) is an early down back who could be a value add for a few weeks. However, the pass catching role for the Giants RBs remains up in the air. RB / KR Bobby Rainey has been an asset in the receiving game previously in his career, but he struggled with ball security last year with the Buccaneers, fumbling eight times in 56 opportunities. Perkins is not facing the steepest of hills to climb in order to get himself some playing time. An unnamed NFC general manager referred to Perkins as a, “poor man’s Jamaal Charles” during the pre-draft process, so it’s safe to say we’re dealing with an intriguing skill set. The only issue with Perkins from an acquisition standpoint is knowing when to add him. If Rashad Jenning cannot suit up in Week 4, Perkins should see some work, maybe the breakout begins that night. However, the Giants play on Monday night, and Jennings will likely carry the Questionable tag all week, making Perkins a speculative stash until we see how the Giants use their running backs now.
Malcolm Mitchell – WR – Patriots 1.1% Owned
At first glance, four catches for 75 yards across three games doesn’t exactly shout, “guy you should keep your eyes on,” but how about we set the scene? Tom Brady is certainly making the most out of his suspension. While Tom works on his tan, I imagine Bill Belichick is already studying the Browns defense, scheming for Brady to set the single game passing touchdown record. Sure, there is a chance that is a bit of an exaggeration, but just about everyone is expecting a big return in Week 5. Tom Brady is the rising tide that lifts all boats, and no boat could see a bigger lift than Malcolm Mitchell. NFL fans have probably just stopped having nightmares that include the gruesome looking elbow injury Mitchell suffered in the preseason but he missed nearly no practice time and was active for Week 1. Mitchell was only on the field for 26% of snaps in Week 3, but all bets will be off when Brady returns. If Mitchell can establish a connection with Brady early on he will be more than happy to hit him as defenses throw extra men at Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The ceiling for Mitchell could be something in the realm of a weekly WR3 with the occasional WR2 output. He’ll remain unowned for another week, but savvy owners in deep leagues would be wise to add him to the back end of their bench before Brady returns.
Weekly Fantasy Feels
This last space here is going to focus on something special. Writing about a particular player in the abstract is fine, but getting a look at things from a fantasy player that actually owns that player is entirely different. Dealing with players who are injured, underperforming, starter / bench tweeners, and everything in between is best explained by people actually going through the gamut of emotions that come with personally dealing with these players. The best way to do this is to go through ITP’s very own 16-team redraft league with PPR scoring, standard starting lineups, and 10 bench spots. With such large rosters the waiver wire is remarkably bare, so go grab reactions from some of the best football analysts out there.
This week we look at Donte Moncrief, and track down Brandon Thorn, ITPs offensive line play maven and author of the Under the Microscope series. Brandon lost not only Moncrief, but Corey Coleman as well, leaving his WR corps particularly depleted. Good drafting left Brandon with three quality running backs in David Johnson, C.J. Anderson, and Giovani Bernard. After fielding offers and countless hours spent working the phones, Brandon dealt Anderson and Dontrelle Inman to Breaking the Plane co-host and Sack Lunch author Jon Ledyard for Jordy Nelson and Cameron Artis-Payne. I caught up with Brandon to see how he is feeling about the trade.
Does getting a temporary starting RB plus a legitimate WR1 help ease your mind for the 4-6 week span Moncrief will be out? Or does dealing what looks like a stud RB keep you up at night no matter what?
Thorn: I ultimately have peace about the trade. I did a lot of back and forth with it and decided that once everyone is healthy (assuming that happens) it means that I will have a stronger all-around team. Gio will be my #2 RB & Payne/Morris after that which is concerning, but not as concerning as having 2 of these 3 (Amendola / Humphries / Braxton Miller as my starters for 4-6 weeks. When Moncrief / Coleman return, having an elite RB (Johnson), an elite WR (Nelson), Moncrief as my #2, and Coleman as my Flex was too much of an improvement to pass up.