Now that drafts are concluded and the season is upon us, plenty of fantasy managers are looking forward to the future to get the leg up on their league. Plenty of talent was left off of draft boards for various reasons, and it is vital to the success of a season to conduct the due diligence of the players left on the waiver wire. Every league is different, so some players may be on a team already, but it is still worthwhile to check in to see whose still a free agent. There are some key players will available in the majority of leagues out there, and these are just a few people will want to keep an eye out for during the first weekend of NFL action.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Rostered in 28% of ESPN Leagues
Miles Sanders remains the de-facto number 1 back for the Eagles, but there isn’t much of a reason to be confident in his ability to remain the RB1. Missing 6 games in 2021 doesn’t make a player “injury prone” but he is heading into week 1 with concerns about his hamstring. With questions surrounding his health, it’s important to keep an eye out for the second-year back waiting in the wings. Kenneth Gainwell is a prime candidate for an early waiver wire add after week 1, and this may be the best time to grab him.
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The key with this eagles backfield is noting who receives the situational work. Last year Gainwell led the backfield in targets with 50, with Sanders trailing behind seeing 34 targets. Gainwell also found the endzone 5 times opposed to Sanders’ whopping zero times. Week 1 will give a much clearer picture of this Philadelphia backfield. If Sanders can’t go, Gainwell could be the recipient of the majority of RB work.
That said, don’t sleep on Boston Scott as the main red zone threat. He’s only owned in about 3% of leagues, and could easily step in and serve as an emergency flex if either back ahead of him miss time.
Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears
Rostered in 24% of ESPN Leagues
The Chicago Bears are a weird team to look at for fantasy football. In real football, the team isn’t particularly great. However that doesn’t translate into fantasy value and the Chicago offense just might have several important players for fantasy football. David Montgomery might be first in line for running back opportunities, but it is back-up Khalil Herbert that players will want to focus on early on in the season. Last year Herbert didn’t play much when Montgomery was healthy. However when he did get his chance, the Bears gave him a boat load of chances to generate fantasy value.
He’s an electric runner that didn’t get more than 5 carries when Montgomery was around in 2021. However with a new coaching staff and a lack of receiving weapons for Chicago, Herbert could see his role mutate into something much more involved. Players are grabbing him in drafts as an insurance policy behind Montgomery, but keep an eye out for his usage in this opening weekend. If Herbert finds some more time on the field, he could easily become a valuable fantasy asset.
KJ Hamler, WR, Denver Broncos
Rostered in 4.5% of ESPN Leagues
In this high-powered Denver offense, fantasy players should be looking to get their hands on any part of the action. For many, Cortland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are the top options at the wide receiver position and for good reason. Jeudy is primed for a comeback campaign and Sutton has been great even with perennial back-up quarterbacks at the helm. But there’s one more player that could surprise fans in week 1. Get to know the name of KJ Hamler.
Hamler is an outside threat with blazing-fast speed. Unfortunately he never got the chance to showcase his skills last season as he tore his ACL in the third week of the season. Now back in the action, Hamler sits behind Sutton and Juedy after an injury to Tim Patrick. The main pull of grabbing Hamler is the potential for him to serve as that “Tyler Lockett” role player that Russell Wilson loved to have the past few seasons. He’s the type of player that really only needs one big play to be fantasy relevant. If Denver does let Russ throw the ball more, Hamler could be in line for plenty of deep shots and big fantasy performances.
AJ Green, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Rostered in 9% of ESPN Leagues
Now this is a name that many fantasy football managers should remember. Once a sure-fire top-10 receiver, AJ Green has found himself battling to break the top 40. He had a disappointing final season with the Cincinnati Bengals and signed with the Cardinals in 2021. The new location seemed to do him some good however as he started off the year strong, hauling in 15 receptions for 248 yard and two touchdowns through four games. Not bad for the third wideout in a talented Arizona offense.
To kick off 2022, AJ Green serves as one of the top options behind newcomer Marquise Brown. DeAndre Hopkins is going to miss the first 6 weeks of the season, which opens the door for AJ Green to receive more opportunity in the first portion of the season. Green may have had some awkward moments last year where he missed out on some extra fantasy points, but the team trusts him and he has the experience to be a solid wideout even at the age of 34.
Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans
Rostered in 2% of ESPN Leagues
The Houston Texans may not be the most dominant team in the league, but they do have some solid options for fantasy, including second year tight end Brevin Jordan. The young TE went a bit under the radar last year with other names like Kyle Pitts and Pat Friermuth taking over the spotlight at the tight end position. Jordan is in a position to make a splash this year in fantasy as the number 1 TE on a team that will most likely be down in the majority of their games.
In his small amount of play in 2021, Jordan found the endzone three times with just 20 receptions. The offense as a whole should take a step forward with Davis Mills entering his second year with the team. Mills in general wasn’t too terrible for fantasy wideouts last year, and if he does improve off of his 2021 season, Jordan could be one of the big winners coming out of that offense. The tight end landscape is once again pretty bare aside from the usual studs at the top of the rankings, and taking a shot on a young talent like Jordan could be something that sets a team apart as the season rolls on.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Rostered in 15% of ESPN Leagues
No this isn’t some cheeky, sarcastic suggestion. Daniel Jones is one of the most volatile quarterbacks in the league, but it hasn’t really been his fault. Yes the interceptions have been his fault, and some questionable decision making is always something that leaves fans scratching their head. The coaching has been atrocious since his entry into the NFL, and Jones battled through both his own injuries and the injuries of his weapons. But all that aside, Daniel Jones has a shocking amount of upside for fantasy this year.
Throughout his short career with the Giants, Jones has been one of the sneakiest athletic QB’s to enter the league. Jones can run and he isn’t afraid to tuck it and go when the pass protection breaks down. And yes, he did trip over himself after a 70-yard scamper, but it’s tough to control all that athleticism sometimes.
The real optimism around Jones comes from the new head coach Brian Daboll. The former Buffalo offensive coordinator enters the Giants Head coaching position after helping Josh Allen reach historic numbers. With Saquon Barkely back and healthy, alongside promising weapons in Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson, Daniel Jones just might be primed for a breakout week 1 performance.
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