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Fantasy football: Players to snag off the waiver wire before Week 2

Stay ahead of your competition by stashing these free agents now.
Melvin Gordon's holdout has vaulted Chargers running back Justin Jackson into fantasy relevance. [CHARLIE RIEDEL | Associated Press]
Published Sep. 8

Take one last look at your fantasy football roster.

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Now, know this: It will never be the same again.

Soon, many of those players won’t be there. In fact, by the end of the season, about half of them won’t be.

You’ll trade them. You’ll drop them. You’ll add them. And you’ll drop them again.

Right this moment, you like your guys. But that’ll change.

Over the next couple of days, you’re going to pore over the waiver wire and plot your next transactions.

Here’s a tip: Do it now. Beat the crowd.

Why wait until today’s games begin? By then, it will be too late. Rosters will lock. You’ll have to navigate the waiver claim process just like everyone else in your league. (You know, they’re reading the same “free agent finds” articles you’re reading …)

If you have a player on your bench that you’re considering dropping after this week, you might as well rip off the Band-Aid. Minutes before kickoff, scan the waiver wire. Find players you think could be hot pickups later in the week. Is there a player you think has the potential for an increased role, either because of an injury to the starter or because of an attractive matchup? Add him.

Here are a few ideas. These are players who are owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN or Yahoo leagues.

Quarterbacks

Sam Darnold, Jets (Week 2 opponent: vs. Browns): Speculating on potential here. Darnold was much better at home (7.8 yards per pass, 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions, 89.3 passer rating) last season than on the road (6.1 yards per pass, five touchdowns to eight interceptions, 65.9 rating). Adam Gase is his coach now, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Chargers): With a new coordinator and a bevy of pass catchers — Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson and Kerryon Johnson — the Lions have the makings of an explosive offense.

Running backs

Justin Jackson, Chargers (at Lions): With Melvin Gordon continuing his holdout, Austin Ekeler is the Chargers’ starter, but Jackson, a seventh-round draft pick last year, will get some touches, too. He averaged 5.2 yards on 65 touches last season.

Kalen Ballage, Dolphins (vs. Patriots): Ballage is listed behind Kenyan Drake on the Dolphins’ depth chart, but the duo split time with the first-team offense throughout training camp. Ballage underwhelmed during the preseason, however, gaining 40 yards on 18 carries, and 16 of those yards came on one run.

Jaylen Samuels, Steelers (vs. Seahawks): No Le’Veon Bell? No problem. No James Conner? No problem. The Steelers keep running and keep running efficiently, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. When Conner missed three games in December, Samuels rushed for 223 yards on 42 carries (5.3 yards per carry).

Darwin Thompson, Chiefs (at Raiders): Thompson was in line to back up Damien Williams but fell to third on the depth chart when the Chiefs signed LeSean McCoy. McCoy, 31, has been declining for a while now, so keep Thompson on your watch list.

Justice Hill, Ravens (vs. Cardinals): The fourth-round draft pick is the fastest back in a run-heavy offense, and he can catch passes, too.

Wide receivers

Mohamed Sanu, Falcons (vs. Eagles): Very quietly, Sanu gained a career-high 838 yards last season. With the emergence of Calvin Ridley, he’s likely to see a diminished role, but he’s worth a look if you’re lacking depth at receiver or expecting you’ll need a fill-in.

John Brown, Bills (at Giants): In Brown, the Bills have the vertical threat they lacked last season, but he’s a lottery ticket. One week, he’ll catch three passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. The next, he’ll catch four passes for 58 yards. It’s worth tracking how often Josh Allen targets him early on.

Albert Wilson, Dolphins (vs. Patriots): After the Dolphins’ trade of Kenny Stills, Wilson becomes their top receiver. Miami’s quarterback situation (Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter and Josh Rosen is the backup) limits his upside.

Tight ends

Jack Doyle, Colts (at Titans): Because of a hip injury and lacerated kidney, Doyle played in only six games last season, but in those games he averaged 40.8 receiving yards. In 2017, when Jacoby Brissett played in place of an injured Andrew Luck, Doyle saw more than 100 targets and caught a team-high 80 passes.

T.J. Hockenson, Lions (vs. Chargers): Lions tight ends last season saw 12.1 percent of the team’s targets, an NFL low. Enter first-round draft pick Hockenson, who caught 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns at Iowa in 2018. As always, though, keep your expectations for rookie tight ends in check.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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