While players in leagues with 8-12 teams and standard size rosters have the luxury of picking up big time talent off the waiver wire with ease, players in leagues with 14+ teams or deep rosters have to scout a bit harder to find worthwhile talent on the waiver wire.
In this weekly column, we’ll look at players who are still available in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues (at publication), meaning they are likely still available in many deeper leagues.
Geno Smith – NYJ (Owned in 9 percent of Yahoo leagues): It’s easy to get down on Geno’s rookie struggles but the kid has improved leaps and bounds since his rough start. In the final three weeks of last season, Smith faced three of the best secondaries in the league and led his team from a 5-8 record to an 8-8 record down the stretch. Facing Carolina, Cleveland, and Miami, Smith completed 57 percent of his passes for 571 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception while running for another 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Those rushing yards are key to Geno’s fantasy relevance. Though the Jets have added Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, and rookie tight end Jace Amaro to his arsenal, and he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 268 yards and a touchdown along with a rushing touchdown this preseason, he can easily add 4-5 points per game with just his feet.
In the final four weeks of the season, the Jets changed their strategy and Smith ran 31 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the last quarter of the year after running just 40-some odd times in the first 12 games. Smith has looked confident when allowed to make plays happen and while he doesn’t rush for big plays he does scramble for a lot of short gains and short touchdowns.
I’d be willing to bet that Geno eclipses his six rushing touchdowns from 2013 by a decent margin.
XN’s C.D. Carter has his own in-depth breakdown of what we can expect from Smith this season.
Shaun Hill – STL (3 percent): A quarterback with 16 pass attempts over the last three seasons is never sexy but most guys that fit into that category don’t get an immediate crack at a starting job. Hill is a risk but he’s an incredibly cheap risk with significant rewards. In his 432 pass attempts on the Lions, he completed over 62 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His career stats are better than Sam Bradford’s and while I would wait and see in standard leagues I’m pouncing on Hill in deep and 2-QB leagues.
XN’s Sal Stefanile took a deep look at Shaun Hill earlier this summer.
Running Back Pickups:
Ahmad Bradshaw – IND (25 percent): At this point every running back worth picking up has already been picked up in deep leagues. Luckily, the running back position is one that lends itself to a ton of turnover, whether due to injury, poor play, or better play from a back-up.
Since we don’t have any injury replacements to snatch up just yet, the best we can hope for is a running back handcuffed to a player likely to struggle or get hurt.
Trent Richardson hasn’t proven to be injury prone but he has proven that he is unreliable. If he can turn it around this season, Bradshaw will have been a cheap risk. If he does what he usually does, Ahmad Bradshaw could well be the Donald Brown of 2014.
Last season, while Richardson averaged a miserable 2.9 yards per carry, Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Bradshaw missed much of last season but did average 4.5 yards per carry for 186 yards and two touchdowns in three games for Indy and has posted a YPC under 4.5 just once in his career in an injury-riddled 2011 campaign.
If we look back at lousy Trent Richardson, that’s fairly close to the 3.6 yards per carry TRich posted in his rookie season (although Richardson did add 51 receptions) only to disappoint horrifically in his sophomore campaign.
Many are already saying Benny Cunningham is going to push Stacy for time but I’m saying there’s a significant chance that Stacy, a fifth-round pick who was not even on the opening roster last season, has a good chance of disappointing.
Meanwhile, when Cunningham was given the chance, he ran 47 times for 261 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and caught six passes for 59 yards. In the preseason, he ran the ball 15 times for 80 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Wide Receiver Pickups:
Cody Latimer – DEN (11 percent): With Wes Welker suspended for the first four games of the season, Latimer suddenly has the value many (wrongly) thought he already had anyway. Barring an explosive breakout, Latimer only has deeper league value for just the first four weeks of the season. Regardless, it looks like Latimer is poised to be the third receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders which, in a record-setting Broncos offense, isn’t a bad place to be.
In the preseason, Latimer only caught five passes but posted a strong 116 yards and a touchdown.
Mohamed Sanu – CIN (6 percent): As long as Marvin Jones is out, Sanu has deep league value as the only receiver behind A.J. Green. He also looked solid this preseason, catching seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. In the first four weeks of last season, before Jones’ semi-breakout, Sanu averaged six targets per game.
Tight End Pickups:
Travis Kelce – KC (24 percent): Many people aren’t familiar with Kelce because, despite high expectations, he missed his entire rookie season after a knee surgery. This preseason, however, he has recorded more receiving yards than any other tight end with 111 of them coming after the catch. He scored two touchdowns, including a 69-yard reception against Cincy, and looks very fast for a tight end, much less one coming off of knee surgery. I’d look at Kelce in standard leagues, not just deep ones.
XN’s C.D. Carter took a deep look at Kelce’s potential earlier this offseason.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TB (3 percent): Brandon Myers is currently listed as the No. 1 tight end on the Bucs depth chart but having watched Myers embarrass himself into irrelevance in New York last year, that shouldn’t last long.
Seferian-Jenkins, meanwhile, is a 2nd round pick that’s 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, and runs a 4.56 40-yard dash. He has caught four passes for 54 yards in the preseason while Myers has caught just one of his three targets for 10 yards. With Tim Wright off to New England and the Bucs expected to use a lot of two tight end sets to make up for their front blocking, look for ASJ to be a very strong deep-league play.