The best waiver advice to give to owners contemplating moves prior to Week 1 is remain calm. Buyer’s remorse is common among fantasy owners after the emotional high of draft day wanes and is replaced with cold, hard analysis. However, it is critical to avoid knee-jerk responses to perceived roster flaws or drafting errors. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, fantasy owners should identify roster strengths that might facilitate trades designed at addressing those perceived weaknesses in three to four weeks. Acting too soon plays into the hands of bottom-feeding competitors, who are all too happy to prey upon a nervous fantasy owner’s lack of staying power.
Our “remain calm” philosophy dictates that fantasy owners generally should not cut a player prior to Week 3 or Week 4 simply because the owner is unhappy with his pick or believes he made a mistake. Particularly in deep leagues or among experienced competitors, the players remaining on the waiver wire generally are there for a reason early in the season—they lack value. Certainly, an owner may stumble upon the occasional gem; however, it is more typical that undrafted, overlooked fantasy stars emerge in Weeks 4-7 as injuries impact starters and real-game experience highlights unseen skills among rookies and other inexperienced players.
Exceptions to this advice exist of course; hence this early season waiver-wire article. Obviously, the timing of an individual league’s draft in relation to the pre-season schedule may play a pivotal role in determining the viability of early (even pre-Week 1) waiver moves. Likewise, injuries, last-minute position battles, and surprise final cuts may necessitate an early waiver move. Finally, depending upon individual league rules, owners may not have filled out a valid roster (e.g., by not selecting even one kicker) during their draft and now need to act to field a valid squad. For all such owners, as well as those merely curious, bored, or simply chomping at the bit for the season to begin, please find below this week’s hot waiver moves:
K: Neil Rackers, HOUSTON. Rackers won a kicking duel with incumbent Kris Brown, whom the Texans have placed on injured reserve. This battle was settled only recently (though Rackers had been leading), raising the possibility that Rackers went unclaimed in drafts due to this uncertainty. If you need a kicker, grab him. Rackers has power and will kick for one of the league’s more explosive offenses. He should finish the year among the top 10 fantasy kickers in scoring in all formats.
RB: Peyton Hillis and RB James Davis, CLEVELAND. Montario Hardesty tore his knee and is out for the season. Accordingly, some backup to Jerome Harrison is in line for increased touches, with Hillis seemingly the likely candidate. Hardesty owners should grab Hillis if he remains available, while Harrison owners unsuccessful in handcuffing Hardesty initially might consider adding Hillis as insurance.
RB: Keiland Williams, WASHINGTON. Williams survived final cut-down day in Washington. Willie Parker and Ryan Torain did not. This means Williams is in the mix for touches in Mike “fantasy doom” Shanahan’s perennial RBBC madness. Williams is unproven and has two veterans ahead of him on the depth chart in Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson. However, neither Portis nor Johnson is a picture of youth or health. Shanahan more than almost any other coach has a history of turning unheralded running backs into productive fantasy players, even on occasion high RB2s or low RB1s. Shanahan himself has been quoted as saying he believes running back is among the positions in the NFL for which teams need not spend a high draft choice; talent, he claims, may be found in the middle of the draft or even among undrafted players. Given this philosophy, Shanahan’s ego will not stand in the way of Williams seeing the field. If anything, Williams is more likely to be given an opportunity. Jumping on Williams now could prove worthless as he essentially may ride the bench all season if Portis and Johnson remain healthy. However, Julius Jones (see below) owners could do worse than taking a flier on Williams.
RB: Isaac Redman, PITTSBURGH. Meet the newest vulture in fantasy, Issac Redman. The Steelers have christened Redman as their short-yardage running back. This is bad news for Rashard Mendenhall owners as the former Illini great looks likely to miss out on some goal-line love, but the news may be a boon for fantasy owners, particularly in TD-only leagues, desperate for some additional scoring potential on their rosters.
QB: Max Hall, ARIZONA. Hall, an undrafted rookie out of BYU, will back up shaky starter Derek Anderson to start the season. Hall is not relevant in all but the deepest of redraft leagues at this time. However, he may be worth a flier in dynasty leagues as Anderson’s volatile, journeyman career suggests his time in Arizona may be brief. I would not be surprised if Hall sees the field sometime this year; Ken Wisenhunt christened Hall as the QB darling of the Cardinals’ camp. Assuming Hall tastes real-game action, fantasy owners will have an opportunity better to assess his 2011 redraft and ongoing dynasty values.
QB: Sage Rosenfels, N.Y. GIANTS; Matt Leinart, HOUSTON. Rosenfels moves from the Vikings No. 3 to the Giants No. 2 and thus increases marginally in value. Leinart moves from Ken Wisenhut’s dog house in Arizona to become Matt Schaub’s backup in Houston’s high-powered offense. Neither Rosenfels nor Leinart projects to have significant fantasy value merely as a result of these moves; however, Eli Manning and Matt Schaub owners operating in non-team quarterback leagues should take note of their starters’ new understudies.
RB: Andre Brown, DENVER. Yes, Denver, not the New York Giants. The Giants cut Brown, who has shown flashes of talent but also a brittle side. He battled an Achilles injury early this year and most recently developed turf toe. Denver claimed Brown off waivers after the Giants cut him. The Giants obviously think they know something, and it is unclear at the time of this writing what Denver’s plans for Brown may be. However, because of injuries and the arguable chaos that is the Denver backfield, Brown is a player that merits watching, but he should not be added in any formats at this time.
WR: Deon Butler, Mike Williams, SEATTLE. Seattle cut T.J. Houshmandzadeh as Pete Carroll puts his stamp on the Seahawks franchise. Housh’s departure means more balls will be available for Seattle’s remaining receivers, assuming Seattle’s offensive line keeps Matt Hasselbeck alive long enough to throw to them. Despite the presence of Deion Branch, the shifty Deon Butler and old Carroll favorite Mike Williams (former first-round pick out of USC) appear more likely to benefit from Houshmandzadeh’s absence. Again, these players only have value in the deepest of leagues; however, somebody has to be Seattle’s top wide receiver. Fantasy owners willing to roll the dice might pick up a WR4/5 out of the mix.
WR: Patrick Crayton, SAN DIEGO. Dallas traded Crayton to San Diego, apparently as the Charges anticipated moving Vincent Jackson via the rumored trade that subsequently fell through. Crayton’s role in the San Diego offense remains unclear at this time. He appears well down in the receiving pecking order at this time; however, he may have upside as the season progresses and is worth watching.
WR: Mark Clayton, ST. LOUIS. The Baltimore Ravens cut Clayton, who at least temporarily may have found new life with the Rams. St. Louis claimed Clayton, and he now joins a depleted receiver corps. The absence of established competition may give Clayton an opportunity, so fantasy owners should monitor this situation. Clayton may have landed in the right place at the right time.
K: Billy Cundiff, BALTIMORE. Cundiff beat out Shayne Graham to be the Baltimore kicker. While Baltimore’s offense will move the ball and create a host of opportunities for their kicker, I am not nearly as high on Cundiff as a kicker-slot-waiver-fill-in as I am Neil Rackers (see above). Houston is a far more potent offense, with many more dome/favorable weather games than Baltimore. Moreover, Cundiff simply is bad. After watching him miss kick after kick after kick during his stint with the Cowboys a few years ago, it is difficult for me to recommend him to fantasy owners. However, he bears watching and may be worth a pickup later in the season if he gets on a hot streak.
RB, Montario Hardesty, CLEVELAND. Hardesty has torn his ACL and will miss the season. Accordingly, fantasy owners in redraft leagues should move on. Dynasty league owners can hold out hope if they like, but Hardesty has never taken a snap in a regular season NFL game and now must come back from significant injury.
RB: Julius Jones, SEATTLE. Apparently Jones’ nine lives have not quite run out. Late this week, the Seahawks cut Jones only to re-sign him Monday for less money. Jones slides into the third slot in Seattle’s backfield, where he will remain barring injury to Justin Forsett or Leon Washington. Jones’ upside is minuscule as third fiddle in what remains a murky RBBC. Fantasy owners who drafted Julius should begin looking elsewhere, as he appears unlikely to add value this year.
Scott Rozmus is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Goose.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!