Labor Day weekend is always an interesting time for us as Fantasy analysts.
The preseason is over but plenty of drafts are still happening, including our own personal leagues. But we also have to turn the page and be ready for Week 1.
For owners still drafting, you are continuing to pore over the preseason rankings and all our draft prep coverage. But if you already drafted, especially early in the preseason process, you want to make moves on the waiver wire to have your lineup ready for Week 1.
I usually write a buy-low candidates column at this time every year when I break down the final Average Draft Position data and give you late-round sleepers. We covered a lot of those guys in my Sleepers 3.0 column over two weeks ago, when we mentioned players like Spencer Ware , Christine Michael , Tajae Sharpe , Will Fuller , Jared Cook and many more before their value started to get out of hand (more on them later).
We’ll still give you some of those guys to target, but the idea now was to marry that with a Week 1 waiver wire column. If you drafted early in August, you could be looking for a quarterback to replace Tony Romo (back) or a tight end to replace Ladarius Green (headaches/ankle), among others.
It’s never too early to make moves if the right player is available — or find that late-round sleeper on Draft Day.
|CMP %: 66.3||YDS: 4,591||TD: 21||INT: 16|
I don’t want to have Ryan as my starting Fantasy quarterback, but if I planned to use Romo as a Tom Brady replacement during his four-game suspension and need someone for Week 1, Ryan is a good late-round flier with his ADP in Round 11. He plays Tampa Bay at home to open the season, and he’s been fantastic against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Atlanta over the past three years with an average of 27.7 Fantasy points in a standard league over that span. His worst game was 26 Fantasy points last year, so he’s worth trusting in the season opener.
|CMP %: 61.8||YDS: 1,967||TD: 10||INT: 6|
Like Ryan, I don’t want Osweiler as my starter for the season. But like Ryan, if I need a quarterback for Week 1 then I might take a shot on Osweiler. He’s played well in the preseason and seems to have an instant rapport with Fuller. We’ve yet to see much of a connection with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins , but you know that’s coming. And what better way to put on a display than in Week 1 of your home opener against a weak secondary for the Chicago Bears , who could be missing their top three corners ( Tracy Porter , Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan ) due to injury. Osweiler has plenty of sleeper appeal in Week 1 at home.
|CMP %: 68.7||YDS: 1,694||TD: 4||INT: 6||RUSH YDS: 176||RUSH TD: 1|
I’d be more optimistic about Griffin if Josh Gordon (suspension) was active for this game, but we won’t see him until Week 5. It’s a shame because the Cleveland Browns have a great four-game schedule to open the season against Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and Washington (that game will be fun). For Week 1, I would consider using Griffin against the Philadelphia Eagles , and hopefully he can continue to connect with Gary Barnidge and Terrelle Pryor , as well as rookie Corey Coleman . It’s a favorable matchup — he’s averaged 24 Fantasy points in a standard league against Philadelphia in five-career meetings. It’s worth trusting him in two-quarterback leagues, and if he can avoid an injury and play well until Gordon gets back, he could be a tremendous value pick on Draft Day.
|ATT: 72||YDS: 403||TD: 6||YPC: 5.6||REC: 6||REC YDS: 5|
This one has become obvious in recent days with the report that Jamaal Charles (ACL) might be limited in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers and has been playing behind Ware in practice. We still expect Charles to have a prominent role with the Kansas City Chiefs this year, but at 29 and coming off his second ACL tear in five years, there is reason to think Andy Reid deviates from his track record of leaning on one guy and using more of a committee approach. Ware played well for the Chiefs down the stretch last season when Charles was out, and he’s worth owning in all leagues. His ADP will skyrocket this weekend from Round 12 to likely Round 8. And if he’s on waivers find a way to get him on your team. His matchup in Week 1 is golden if Charles doesn’t play.
|ATT: 70||YDS: 313||TD: 1||YPC: 4.5||REC: 47||REC YDS: 388||REC TD: 2|
Powell is a popular selection for the Fantasy owner who doesn’t believe in Matt Forte this season, and there are a lot of people in that camp, including me. Forte has hit all the benchmarks you want to avoid with age (30), service time (eight years) and workload (over 2,000 career carries and 2,500 total touches). Powell can do everything Forte does, he’s just not as dominant. But if Forte were to miss any time then Powell could be a quality Fantasy option and a potential starter. He’s worth drafting with a late-round pick or stashing on your roster just to see what develops with his role in tandem with Forte early in the year.
|ATT: 202||YDS: 751||TD: 1||YPC: 3.7||REC: 10||REC YDS: 55|
The last thing any of us want to see happen is prized rookie Ezekiel Elliott go down with an injury. Fantasy owners are investing heavily in him with his role in Dallas. But what happens if he does get hurt and has an extended absence, especially after dealing with a hamstring injury in training camp? We could see Morris and potentially Darren McFadden share touches, but Morris looks locked in as the No. 2 running back after McFadden hurt his elbow this offseason. We saw last season how the Dallas Cowboys offensive line helped McFadden revitalize his career. The same could happen to Morris and he’s worth a late-round flier or adding off waivers as a stash candidate.
|ATT: 233||YDS: 1,492||TD: 14||YPC: 6.4||REC: 41||REC YDS: 385||REC TD: 2|
Washington has earned the No. 2 running back job in Oakland behind Latavius Murray with a strong preseason, and he could see playing time right away in tandem with Murray. The Oakland Raiders should have a dominant offensive line, and Washington will have the chance to show off his dynamic skills, even in limited touches. But should Murray get hurt and Washington become the starter, then the upside is immense. He’s a lottery ticket worth drafting in all leagues, and I would try to stash him wherever possible, especially as a handcuff to Murray.
|ATT: 52||YDS: 271||TD: 2||YPC: 5.2||REC: 21||REC YDS: 173||REC TD: 1|
I don’t play the lottery in real life, but I sure do invest in lottery tickets in Fantasy. And McKinnon is No. 1 on that list because Adrian Peterson has hit all those same benchmarks as Forte in terms of age (31), service time (eight seasons) and workload (2,000 career carries and 2,500 total yards). We all know Peterson is superhuman on the field, but running backs break down at this point in their career, which is a concern. And McKinnon would likely be a must-start guy if given the starting role. It hurts that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) is out for the season, but the starting running back for Minnesota will be dynamic. And I wouldn’t be surprised if McKinnon made a few starts this year, which is why he’s on almost all of my rosters no matter the format.
Other handcuffs to stash in deeper leagues …
- Chris Johnson , Arizona Cardinals : ADP – Round 13; Ownership – 47 percent
- Tim Hightower , New Orleans Saints : ADP – Round 13; Ownership – 39 percent
- Benny Cunningham , Los Angeles Rams : ADP – Round 14; Ownership – 12 percent
- Shaun Draughn , San Francisco 49ers : No ADP on CBS Sports; Ownership – 17 percent
- Rob Kelley , Washington Redskins : No ADP on CBS Sports, Ownership – 0 percent
- Tyler Ervin , Houston Texans : No ADP on CBS Sports, Ownership – 0 percent
|REC: 111||YDS: 1,319||TD: 5||YPC: 11.9|
My colleague Dave Richard is certainly the president of the Sharpe fan club, but he’s far from alone in liking him, as I wrote about him in my sleepers column. And Dave might not even have liked him first. I actually drafted Sharpe in a league in early July because it was clear he had the chance to help the Tennessee Titans and their limited receiving corps. And after Dorial Green-Beckham was shipped off to Philadelphia and Kendall Wright (hamstring) has struggled to stay healthy, Sharpe has proven to be better than free agent addition Rishard Matthews . He appears to have a solid rapport with Marcus Mariota , and he could be a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver in PPR leagues. He’s still behind Delanie Walker as the No. 1 target, and the Titans want to run the ball as much as possible, which could make touchdowns hard to come by. But Sharpe is definitely going to be involved, and he should be owned in all leagues heading into Week 1.
|REC: 62||YDS: 1,248||TD: 14||YPC: 20.3|
As we said with Osweiler, the opportunity is there for Fuller to get off to a good start in Week 1 against the Bears and their banged-up secondary. But Fuller could also have sustained value if you have the right approach with him. He’s a big-play receiver that is unlikely to make a lot of catches on a given week. But he also has the chance to give you multiple touchdowns on a given week as well. He’s done a nice job this preseason with eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and Osweiler is already giving him plenty of praise. Just remember he’s a distant No. 2 option behind Hopkins, and the Texans are going to lean heavily on the run. But Hopkins could easily lead all rookie receivers in touchdowns, and he’s a solid No. 5 receiver to keep on your bench to start the year.
|TAR: 59||REC: 36||YDS: 450||TD: 2|
You’re going to have to be patient with Hogan for several reasons if you believe in him helping your Fantasy team this year. For starters, he won’t have Brady to open the season, and we don’t expect Jimmy Garoppolo to support a secondary target like Hogan on a high level. Hogan also will have to establish himself in a hierarchy of targets that includes Rob Gronkowski , Julian Edelman , Martellus Bennett and James White , and it won’t be easy for him to be a focal point. But Brady is good about leaning on reliable players, and I expect that to be the case with Hogan. I have no problem speculating on someone in a good passing attack that should be on the field a lot. Hogan could be one of the better surprises this season.
|TAR: 63||REC: 27||YDS: 440||TD: 3|
I was all in on the DeVante Parker breakout season this year, and that might still happen. But if you’ve been paying attention to the Miami Dolphins this preseason you’ve seen that Stills is starting opposite Jarvis Landry , and he’s playing in the spot where coach Adam Gase has gotten some tremendous production from receivers over the years as a position coach and offensive coordinator. It’s easy to point to Demaryius Thomas , Eric Decker , Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall and say Gase has done well with receivers when those guys were exceptional talents. But once upon a time, Gase took a guy off the scrap heap as the receivers coach in Denver with Brandon Lloyd in 2010 and made him the No. 1 Fantasy receiver. That’s unlikely to happen with Stills, but if he can hold off Parker as the starer then a big year could be coming. And there’s a misconception that Stills is solely a deep threat, which hurts him playing with Ryan Tannehill . Stills was all over the field this preseason, and he had 82 catches for 959 yards (11.7 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns during his final year at Oklahoma in 2012. He’s someone I’m buying wherever he’s available.
|REC: 45||YDS: 525||TD: 3||YPC: 11.7|
Every owner in a PPR league should try and get Rogers on your roster because he could see a hefty amount of targets as the slot receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers . Remember when Sammie Coates was a thing? Rogers won the No. 3 receiver job behind Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton , and with Green out there could be plenty of targets in the middle of the field. We doubt he’ll be a big red-zone threat (tight end Jesse James is a sleeper in that regard), but he’s already earned Ben Roethlisberger ‘s trust. I’ve drafted Rogers in a couple of leagues already, and I’m hoping he can be a reliable reserve receiver with the chance to be useful during the bye weeks in PPR leagues.
|TAR: 75||REC: 39||YDS: 481||TD: 0|
Can Cook take advantage of this opportunity playing with Aaron Rodgers ? That’s the hope. He’s been given a featured role before with the Rams and Titans, but he’s never had a quarterback like this. And Rodgers helped Richard Rodgers finish as a Top 10 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues in 2015, so Cook could have the chance for a quality year. Once you get past about 10 tight ends in most rankings, Cook should come into play, and he has a great schedule to start the year (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Detroit and the New York Giants ) if you’re into streaming tight ends, including Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars .
|TAR: 50||REC: 28||YDS: 329||TD: 3|
This is another tight end with a good streaming situation since Walford is playing the Saints in Week 1. He could also be useful for the first three games of the season since Oakland plays New Orleans, Atlanta and Tennessee, and all three teams struggled with tight ends last year and could have a tough time again. Walford is in a good situation with the Raiders, who could use a third option in the passing game behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree , and he has the chance to be a sleeper all year. If you miss on a quality starting option then start your year with Walford and see what develops.
|TAR: 46||REC: 30||YDS: 326||TD: 3|
McDonald benefits with Blaine Gabbert starting for the 49ers because there aren’t going to be a lot of passes down the field. And McDonald could be the best short-area target for Gabbert now that Bruce Ellington (hamstring) is out for the season. Last year, when Gabbert took over at quarterback for the 49ers, McDonald had at least five targets in three of his final six outings and scored double digits in Fantasy points three times over that span. San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of talent in its receiving corps, but McDonald is a good sleeper to target with a late-round pick.