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The early weeks of the football season is an important time for fantasy team owners. Often players that are barely on the mind of fantasy owners during the draft end up carrying a team into the playoffs.
Last year, Sidney Rice was one of the more productive receivers in the game, but largely went undrafted and was available for anyone to grab in the first few weeks. Receivers are usually the most volatile position as they rely on the offense around them and chemistry with the quarterback more than other positions, so it often takes a few weeks before the sleepers begin to emerge as reliable fantasy plays. Whereas running backs are more straight-forward and reliant on injuries and depth charts, such as Brandon Jackson last week. The coaches generally know how the carries are going to be divided up prior to the game, but the quarterback does not know who he is going to throw to on any given play.
One stat that is particularly useful for determining the amount of opportunities a receiver is getting is the amount of times he is targeted by his quarterback. If this number is high, it is a pretty good indication that the quarterback trusts him and he is on the field for many snaps. Luck and outside factors can often play into exactly how many of those targets become receptions. However, it is always necessary to look deeper because it could be the case that the offense is bad so the quarterback is simply making foolish throws in a receivers direction, or the more obvious problem of dropped passes. Several dropped passes may make a quarterback quickly look elsewhere, as we saw this week with Pierre Garcon and Devin Aromashodu both of whom dropped multiple passes last week and had limited targets this week.
So without further ado, the first edition of weekly waiver pickups.
Here are some players that are generally available in most leagues who are worth a look depending on your roster construction. The percent that each player is are owned in standard ESPN leagues is included.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos (2 percent owned)
Last week’s hot pickup from Denver, Brandon Lloyd, appears to have been supplanted with the return of the Broncos’ first overall pick in this year’s draft, Demaryius Thomas. The rookie appeared to have chemistry with Kyle Orton figured out in just his first NFL game after sitting out week 1 with injury. The receiver had a team-high 9 targets, catching 8 of those passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. With the team’s other top receivers, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney, hardly superstars, there appears to be plenty of room in this offense for Thomas to carve out a sizable role for himself. And we know from his time in New England that Broncos’ head coach Josh McDaniels isn’t afraid to let his quarterback throw the ball around.
Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons (4 percent)
For anyone who owns Michael Turner, if you do not already have Snelling, now would be the time to grab him, and quickly. Turner has yet to prove that he can stay on the field consistently in his career, and Snelling has proven to be a more than capable replacement in his absence. He had 186 total yards and 3 scores last week while basically only being the featured back for half the game. Turner does not appear likely to miss significant time with this most recent injury, but Snelling is still a key handcuff.
Kevin Walter, WR, Texans (11 percent)
Walter has been inconsistent and a headache for his owners at times in his career. However, after catching all 11 passes thrown his way this week for 144 yards and a touchdown, he appears to have solidified his role as the second wide receiver in the very successful Houston passing offense. He has the potential to be a Wes Welker-type receiver in the offense and could be particularly useful in points per reception (PPR) leagues.
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders (31 percent)
Murphy is a very talented second-year receiver in a bad offense. However, he was targeted 10 times in week 2 and caught 6 of those balls for 91 yards and a score. The most significant development in this situation was Bruce Gradkowski replacing Jason Campbell as the Radiers’ signal caller midway through the game. Gradkowski and Murphy spent much time together in practice last year on the second-team offense and appeared to have instant chemistry when he entered the game. Its always tricky using a receiver on a team with suspect quarterback-play, but Murphy stock is quickly rising.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (5 percent)
Freeman was a top-10 quarterback each of the first two weeks while still recovering form a thumb injury. The second-year player is playing in an offense that has yet to prove it can sustain strong play against better opponents, but Freeman appears to be growing into the starting role.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (1.2 percent)
Another second-year player who had a solid rookie season and had a big week 2 with 7 receptions for 108 yards. He has potential with both Matthew Stafford or Shaun Hill at quarterback as the safety valve in the passing offense.
Each week I will select one defense that is available in most leagues and has a favorable match-up.
Redskins D (10.1 percent owned) at Rams
While the Redskins’ defense has not been great, they have been very solid. A match-up against the St. Louis offense and rookie Sam Bradford this week should provide potential owners with significant returns.
Tags: Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Pettigrew, Bruce Gradkowski, Demaryius Thomas, Deon Butler, Eddie Royal, Fantasy Football, Jabar Gaffney, Jason Snelling, Jimmy Clausen, John Kuhn, Josh Cribbs, Josh Freeman, Kevin Walter, Louis Murphy, Michael Turner, Mike Thomas, Mike Tolbert, NFL, Washington Redskins