Fantasy football matchups are hard enough but deep leagues can be massively perplexing. With so many unknowns and variables, you can often get stuck starting a player who barely gets any game time. Luckily, I’ve combed through some of the more overlooked rookies and veterans to find the biggest waiver wire bargains. Let’s take a look at the top deep league running back and receiver pickups heading into week one.
Christine Michael (owned 25% in Yahoo! leagues): Few rookies turned heads as much as the second-rounder out of Texas A&M this preseason. Despite playing behind both Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, Michael is quickly threatening to leapfrog Turbin in the depth chart after putting up 40 rushes for 201 yards and a touchdown, along with three catches for 47 yards, in three preseason games. At 5-feet-10-inches and 220 pounds, Michael runs a 4.43 40-yard dash and can be a solid receiving option out of the backfield as well.
Robert Woods (9%): Although he didn’t get many looks during the preseason, the second-rounder out of USC figures to be the number two option in Buffalo after catching eight passes for 75 yards over three preseason games. A former track star, Woods was a consensus All-American in 2011 and ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine but slipped out of the top 5 and into the second round of the draft after Marqise Lee overtook him as the number one receiver at USC last year. Don’t overlook the top 5 talent.
Mike Tolbert (9%): Yes, Tolbert is a fullback but with Jonathan Stewart out, he’s all the Panthers have behind DeAngelo Williams. Tolbert is expected to play after missing the entire preseason and should have a significant role. Although he doesn’t run much, he is one of the best short yardage options at the line, collecting 26 touchdowns over the last three seasons – seven for the Panthers last season, eight for the Chargers in 2011, and 11 touchdowns for the Bolts in 2010.
Knile Davis (6%): Although his preseason totals of 24 carries for 59 yards don’t scream buy, he added nine catches for 57 yards and will be the number two option behind Jamaal Charles in Kansas City. Last season was the first time Charles had run more than 230 times (285) and that was only because Peyton Hillis was a banged up bust. Davis should get plenty of opportunities with Charles perfectly capable of producing a huge season with 230 carries.
Quinton Patton (9%): Although the 49ers’ receiver picture is cloudy with Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore all seemingly above Patton right now, the fourth-rounder out of Louisiana Tech is climbing. He only played in the last two games of the preseason but still managed six catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He runs a 4.48 40-yard dash and put up 104 receptions, 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last year in college. With no one in the 49ers depth chart to keep him down, there’s nothing stopping him from rising to the number two receiver – quickly.
Jeremy Kerley (8%): After collecting 56 receptions for 827 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, Kerley could well be the Jets’ top target once again. Overlooked because of the Jets’ quarterback mess, Kerley caught 28 passes for 439 yards as a starter for an impressive 15.7 yard average. With Santonio Holmes recovering from a foot injury and Stephen Hill a question mark, Kerley should be the Jets top pass collector in week one.
Santonio Holmes (11%): Holmes appears to be ready to go for the first week of the season after missing the entire preseason and most of last year. In the four games he did play, he caught 20 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. That’s 80 receptions, 1,088 yards, and four touchdowns when extrapolated over a full season, even with Mark Sanchez at the helm. Although he had a disappointing season in 2011, catching just 51 of 102 targets for 654 yards, he still managed eight touchdowns. His 746 yard and six touchdown effort the year before isn’t as disappointing as it looks. Those numbers were over 12 games and would be close to 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns over a 16 game season.
Kenny Stills (11%): While the Saints re-signed Robert Meachem, Stills remains a good pick for at least the first week or two, likely more. Stills was arguably the Saints’ best receiver through the preseason, catching nine passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Although just a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma, Stills runs an impressive 4.38 40-yard dash and has quickly risen up the Saints depth chart to number three.