Fantasy championships are won with savvy free-agent pickups. It can be a third receiver who turns into a startable fantasy option because of increased targets, a young quarterback who exceeds expectations or even a talented backup running back in a position to pick up extra carries.
Last year, T.Y. Hilton, Collin Kaepernick and Bryce Brown fell into these categories and helped fantasy owners cash in. It could happen at any moment. The only thing guaranteed in fantasy football is that someone who went undrafted in your league will finagle a way to significantly impact fantasy standings. Each week, we'll take a look at players with potential to be that guy. Most waiver pickups are of the high risk/high reward variety, so we'll also use this weekly article to let you know which trendy pickups simply aren't worth it.
Many websites around the Internet are touting players such as Le'Veon Bell, Jordan Cameron and Jared Cook as hot free-agent additions. Since all three of these players should already be owned in your league... we're digging a little deeper.
• Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders: The young quarterback flashed glimpses of greatness of Sunday, rushing for 112 yards in addition to throwing for 217 yards. Pryor looked like a future star and many fantasy owners are salivating for a chance to grab him off the waiver wire. The thing about Pryor is, most of those owners will be disappointed in a few weeks. Pryor is included in this list because he plays at home against the Jaguars in Week 2. He's a great QB2 or a temporary replacement for a more reliable QB with a tough matchup, but do not expect Pryor to save your season. A typical fantasy league has 12 teams... I bet you can think of at least 15 quarterbacks that you'd rather have than Pryor going forward. Unless you plan to start him in Week 2, let a different owner blow his or her free-agent budget on the former Buckeye. Pryor is not this season's Collin Kaepernick. He's not even close.
• Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos: At least Denver's game was on Thursday, so maybe your waiver-wire competition forgot about Thomas' monster Week 1 performance. Thomas could easily finish the season as a Top 5 tight end after earning Peyton Manning's trust with two TDs in the opener. Thomas might not be consistent, sharing targets with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, but Thomas is officially in the mix. He should be atop the waiver priority list in most leagues.
• Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys: I planned to hype up Williams as a talented rookie who slipped through the sleeper cracks because of preseason concussion issues. Well, Williams will go from "forgotten rookie" to a must-add player in all leagues if Dez Bryant's foot injury turns out to be serious or some other ailment slows him this season. The rookie from Baylor only caught two balls, but Tony Romo threw it 49 times in Week 1. Bryant received eight of the 49 targets, but he was double-teamed all night and that total would normally be much higher. The bottom line is that Williams will get the ball, a lot if Bryant misses time. Bryant has a mild foot sprain and expects to play Week 2, but who really knows? The injury could linger. Either way, it's very optimistic to think Bryant and Miles Austin both play 16 games this season.
• Julian Edelman, New England Patriots: We already knew Danny Amendola was fragile. Tough as nails, but fragile. The thing we should have realized is that Tom Brady loves Edelman. After Brady lost Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, and with Gronk on the sideline, how did the fantasy community not declare Edelman the next big thing? Maybe it made too much sense. A reliable, sure-handed receiver who knows the Patriots offense and has earned the trust of Brady... what's not to like? The bizarre thing is that fantasy owners didn't see it coming. All that said, don't pencil in WR1 numbers on a regular basis. He'll have his ups and downs, but is just as capable of randomly having huge games as anyone on your waiver wire. Oh, and when Amendola inevitably misses time, you will want Edelman in your lineup.
• Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: Just a friendly reminder that he's only suspended for one more week. I expect big things upon his return. He shouldn't be available in any format.
• Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons: Douglas already played on 45-of-56 offensive snaps in Week 1. Roddy White apparently has a high ankle sprain, so who knows if he'll dress in Week 2. White actually said, "it will be maybe a few more weeks before I can go out there and be myself." Douglas has only missed one game in four years, has good hands, and will be wide open when opponents double-team Julio Jones and worry about Tony Gonzalez. Douglas has a good head on his shoulders, even interning at the NFL league office the summer following his rookie season to learn the business side of things. If White misses significant time, I fully expect Douglas to take advantage of his opportunity.
• Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints: I love this kid. I've given him props every time it's been socially acceptable since June. He's fast with good hands and has Drew Brees throwing to him. This could be the last week he's available in your league and it wouldn't shock me if he were the Saints' most sought-after WR heading into 2014 fantasy drafts.
• Any veteran running back the Giants sign: Brandon Jacobs, Joe McKnight and Willis McGahee will work out for the Giants on Tuesday. Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells worked out for the Giants last week, and that was before David Wilson lost his mojo. Whoever impresses should immediately step in and serve as Wilson's primary competition. Wilson has all the talent in the world, but he can't pass protect or hold onto the football. Tom Coughlin isn't ready to lean on Da'Rel Scott or Michael Cox.
I'd love to see McGahee signed, as he would offer the most fantasy appeal. Gahee averaged 4.37 YPC last season and is regarded as an above-average pass blocker. Assuming he's healthy, McGahee would be a nice fit. Jacobs and McKnight probably wouldn't make much of a fantasy impact, and I've never been a Wells fan. Anyone on this list is worth a flyer, though, as Wilson clearly loves to fumble.
MORE WEEK 2 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Fantasy football Week 2 player projections
STAFF: Week 2 Composite Player Rankings
GONOS: Week 2 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
BELLER: Best NFL survivor pool picks for Week 2
FLOOD: Waiver wire -- Julius Thomas, Julian Edelman worth a pickup
McQUADE: Risers and Sliders -- Terrelle Pryor, Geno Smith worth stashing
BELLER, FLOOD: Roundtable -- Are David Wilson's owners in trouble?
BELLER: Fantasy football Fast Forward -- The NFL is back with a wacky Week 1