It’s Labor Day weekend, 2021. You’re staring down the final pick in your draft. All your positions are covered, and this final selection seems like a waste. So you decide to pick up your RB1’s handcuff or another QB, or TY Hilton because you recognize his name. After all, what else are you supposed to do?
I humbly submit that there’s a better way.
This season, I’m excited to be back on the waiver wire weekly series and break down each week’s action and give you, dear reader, the top options among available players in your league. I’m also here to tell you that you can start fishing in the free agent pond ahead of Week 1. I know, I know. Maybe you haven’t even drafted yet. Maybe you just finished your draft. But you can maximize your bench spots to add players ahead of time. There’s never more uncertainty than before Week 1; therefore, there’s never more opportunity to capitalize on hidden gems. So go after your last draft pick the same way you’d approach waivers.
The waiver wire has an element of luck to it, after all. Bench stashes don’t always work out, but you can’t hit the jackpot if you don’t play. It’s about the process. The goal for these adds pre-Week 1 is to look for players with a nice mix of opportunity and uncertainty in their roles. If they’re not involved in Week 1, drop ’em. But if a player surprises with a significant snap % or an unexpected amount of touches, then congratulations! You grabbed a player before they’re the new hotness.
The standard roster size in Sleeper (which is the platform I’ll be referencing this season) is QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, FLX, FLX, K, DEF, and 5 BN spots. I don’t stash the K or DEF position (for religious reasons), so they won’t be part of this list. 13 rounds of picks in a 12-team league is 156 players. So this list must be comprised of players with an ADP higher than pick 156.
Second, I’m picking players that are less than 50% rostered in fantasy platforms. That’s the threshold we’ll be using for waiver wire selections this season, so we’ll keep it consistent here.
Note: Your platform does matter, and the roster percentage can vary wildly from site to site. Roster percentages are from Sleeper and Yahoo.
Third, I’m ignoring tight ends and quarterbacks. I have zero interest in filling my bench with streaming options. Yes, someone is bound to have a big Week 1 (cough, David Njoku, cough cough, Gerald Everett), but they’re unlikely to be someone you’re going to hold onto and start consistently. And no, your other managers aren’t going to knock down your door for Tua Tagovailoa if he has a strong first game.
Fourth, I’m looking to maximize my roster flexibility. If you are in a league with one or more IR roster spots, take advantage of your BINGO free space and add an extra player to your bench.
Lastly, no handcuffs. I get it, an injury to a top running back has a massive fantasy impact, but it’s ultimately a guessing game. How many weeks did Samaje Perine sit on a bench while managers waited for Joe Mixon to go down? Was Chuba Hubbard your league winner in place of Christian McCaffrey? Not exactly. Ultimately, these players are more likely to clog your roster than clear the path to victory, and there are very few automatic plug-and-play backups.
5 Players To Add
Rondale Moore is on a high-powered Cardinals offense that has started strongly each of the last two seasons, so I love him as a priority add before a game is played. That being said, his range of outcomes is all over the place. Moore is undersized, inconsistent, and on a team with a ton of turnover at the skill positions. Plus, he’s in a race against time to play Week 1. That’s a lot of uncertainty, but there’s even more to like. Moore was targeted on 24% of his routes run as a rookie, and his speed and versatility could make him an early favorite target for Kyler Murray. DeAndre Hopkins (suspended) is out for the first six games. Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk are in Florida, vacating 27% of last season’s targets. I expect new signing Marquise Brown to soak up some of that, but Moore should see plenty of targets as the team’s primary slot receiver. Moore’s expected gadget-play use in the backfield is just icing on the cake. If he can get cleared for Week 1, we might get some insight into how Moore is going to be deployed in the offense.
Joshua Palmer finished off his rookie campaign with 28 targets and three touchdowns over the final five games of the season. He has reportedly taken the WR3 position after sharing the role with Jalen Guyton in 2021. Plus, he’s on the Chargers. Justin Herbert could throw for 50 touchdowns this season, and no one would be surprised. As the third receiver, he may be harder to trust, but if Mike Williams or Keenan Allen were to miss any time, Palmer would immediately be a WR2 on my board. Palmer showed plenty of flashes as a rookie, and he’s poised for a breakout in his sophomore season. The only question is his opportunity. Stash him for the first week and see if you strike gold.
Jameson Williams makes this list because of the roster advantages this can give your team. Jameson Williams has game-breaking ability, but he’s unlikely to start the season on the Lions’ active roster. If you have IR spots, pick up Williams and put him in an IR spot while we wait for updates on the explosive rookie.
I’ll admit, Brian Robinson is a bit of a cheat, as his draft position and ownership percentage are in flux. After seemingly overtaking Antonio Gibson on the depth chart, Robinson’s amazing preseason rise came to a tragic, screeching halt. Most importantly, Robinson seems to be on the road to a full recovery. He’ll miss at least the first four weeks of the season, giving Antonio Gibson his chance for redemption, but I love keeping Robinson in mind at the end of your draft. There was a reason Ron Rivera seemed to prefer him. Plus, he’s IR-eligible, so it doesn’t hurt your squad depth to roster Robinson while he recovers.
You can probably tell I prefer to invest roster spots on young talent, but I’m going old school for my final pick. Once again, A.J. Green is being left for dead in drafts, but he’s reprising his role as the big red zone target and security blanket for Kyler Murray in Arizona. Zach Ertz (calf) isn’t a lock to play in Week 1, DeAndre Hopkins is suspended, and Marquise Brown should command a lot of attention. I’m not starting Green, but I’m curious enough to stick him on my roster and see if he has a role in the Cardinals’ offense.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)