Give me your tired players, your poor performers, your huddled masses yearning to breathe in free agency, the wretched refuse of your teeming roster. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door ... right before you close it behind them.
Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we’ll list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (18% owned)
Flacco rarely generates excitement among fantasy owners, but there are some things to like here. After much hand-wringing over the readiness of Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, both were healthy enough to play in Week 1, giving Flacco a deep group of wide receivers that also includes Mike Wallace (who hooked up with Flacco for a long TD on Sunday) and Kamar Aiken. Flacco has a favorable schedule in the weeks ahead, starting with the woebegone Browns in Week 2, followed by the Jaguars and Raiders. And with Marc Trestman coordinating the Baltimore offense, you can count on the Ravens being pass-heavy. It’s not worth breaking the bank for any of the passers in this week’s Waiver Warehouse, but Flacco is worth a modest bid if you need QB help.
(Talent: B | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans (28% owned)
After throwing for 231 yards and two TDs against Chicago in his debut as the Texans’ starter, Osweiler now gets to face the Colts and their injury-ravaged defensive backfield. WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are licking their chops. Osweiler makes a great streaming option for Week 2.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: B+ | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B)
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (32% owned)
Facing a brutal Week 1 test against the Seahawks in Seattle, Tannehill performed admirably, completing 16-of-29 passes for 186 yards and rushing five times for 17 yards and a touchdown. His numbers would have looked even better if Kenny Stills hadn’t butterfingered what should have been a 71-yard TD pass. The arrival of head coach Adam Gase, a noted QB whisperer, could coax out Tannehill’s latent potential.
(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (18% owned)
If the Bears’ Swiss-cheese-like offensive line doesn’t get Cutler hospitalized, he can be a serviceable streamer. He has a favorable home matchup against the Eagles this week and another against the Lions in Week 4. Worth a few bucks as a streaming option, nothing more.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: B+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (21% owned)
Yes, he’s more conservative than an old-guard Republican, but he’s underrated as a fantasy asset, particularly since he has a pair of top-drawer targets in WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce. Smith usually won’t provide eye-popping passing numbers (though he did throw for 363 yards and two TDs Sunday vs. the Chargers), but his rushing ability and turnover avoidance give him a stable floor.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B-)
With Robert Griffin III going on IR, Josh McCown takes over as the Browns’ starter, and neither of Cleveland’s next two opponents (Baltimore, Miami) boasts a strong pass defense ... Ryan Fitzpatrick faces a brutal schedule over the next three weeks but will become a more viable streaming option in October ... Nice start for Carson Wentz, and his early-season schedule is attractive, but there are going to be some inevitable rookie hiccups.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (42% owned)
Despite last season’s Devonta Freeman breakout, it appears the Falcons are serious about expanding Coleman’s role in the offense. Freeman had 36 snaps, 15 touches and 40 yards from scrimmage in Atlanta’s Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, while Coleman had 32 snaps, 13 touches and 110 yards from scrimmage. Coleman also played a surprisingly significant role in the Falcons’ passing game, catching 5-of-6 targets for 95 yards, including a 47-yard reception. If you have a hole at running back, Coleman is worth 15-20% of your waiver budget.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B+)
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (8% owned)
Buy him now, unwrap him later. Dixon tore his MCL in the preseason and didn’t suit up in Week 1, but he’s expected back soon, and it might not take him long to surge past mediocre veterans Justin Forsett and Terrence West on the depth chart. Dixon’s price is going to jump as soon as we get word that he’s been cleared to play, but if you buy now, you’ll likely get a discount. He’s well worth a lowball bid.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (34% owned)
Riddick looked terrific in Week 1, turning 12 touches into 108 yards from scrimmage and a pair of TDs, but keep in mind that he did all that damage against an injury-riddled Colts defense. Riddick’s 7-45-1 rushing line was a complete anomaly; he’s simply not a good rusher. But there’s no questioning Theo’s PPR bona fides. The dude is going to catch plenty of passes.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: x | OVERALL: B-)
Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys (23% owned)
Morris outperformed highly touted rookie Ezekiel Elliott on a per-carry basis Sunday against the Giants, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on seven attempts, while Zeke averaged only 2.5. Elliott has near-total job security, but Morris is a worthwhile handcuff whose value would soar if Zeke were to go down.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)
James White (47% owned)
White is almost a complete nonfactor in the New England running game, but as long as Dion Lewis remains out, White will play an important role as a pass catcher. He’s worth your while in PPR formats but doesn’t offer all that much to owners in standard leagues.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
Javorius “Buck” Allen, Baltimore Ravens (7% owned)
Allen was a healthy scratch in Week 1 even with Kenneth Dixon on the shelf due to a knee injury. That wouldn’t seem to bode well for Allen’s chances of playing a meaningful role. Still, the Baltimore backfield remains unsettled, and it’s unlikely that Justin Forsett and Terrence West will get a lot of leash from the Ravens’ coaching staff. Buck is a good pass catcher, and running backs in Marc Trestman’s offenses tend to catch a lot of passes.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C)
Dwayne Washington was used as Detroit’s goal-line back in Week 1, though that appears to be the entirety of his role for now ... Another PPR specialist, Shane Vereen has an appealing Week 2 matchup against the Saints. ... Washington’s coaching staff seems to like Rob Kelley, and RB1 Jones could easily play himself out of a featured role. ... Already the passing-down back on what figures to be a pass-happy team, Chris Thompson also has an outside chance to steal early-down carries from the uninspiring Matt Jones and Rob Kelley. ... An undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi, Jalen Richard turned his first NFL carry into a 75-yard touchdown Sunday in the Raiders’ thrilling 35-34 road win in New Orleans, deeming him worth monitoring.
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans (46% owned)
Sharpe caught seven passes for 76 yards Sunday on a team-high 11 targets in Week 1, and it’s now pretty clear that the rookie from the University of Massachusetts is the Titans’ No. 1 receiver. He had 111 catches for 1,319 yards at U-Mass last year, so Sharpe knows what it’s like to be an alpha receiver. Tennessee isn’t going to have a high-octane passing game, but it appears there will be enough work to keep Sharpe busy. Keenan Allen owners might want to consider placing a healthy bid on Sharpe (15% of budget or more) if he’s available.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: A-)
Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens (35% owned)
So maybe this Flacco-Wallace pairing is going to work out. There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for Wallace among fantasy owners this summer even though this dangerous deep threat was teaming up with Flacco, one of the best deep throwers in the league. In their first game together. Flacco and Wallace connected for a 66-yard touchdown, and Wallace finished with three catches for 91 yards. Baltimore has a lot of wide receivers, but Wallace has earned a starting spot. He’s worth a bid of close to 10% of your budget if you find yourself with a depleted WR stable.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B+)
Will Fuller, Houston Texans (49% owned)
The Texans got the entirety of the Will Fuller experience in Week 1, as the rookie caught five balls for 107 yards and a TD but also dropped a potential 83-yard TD pass. Fuller has blazing speed but suspect hands. As good as he’s been so far, the Texans can forgive the occasional drop—the kid is electric. The presence of DeAndre Hopkins is a mixed bag for Fuller. Opponents are apt to roll coverage toward the prolific Hopkins, creating opportunities for the rookie. But Hopkins is still likely to dominate targets, so Fuller will need to keep making big plays in order to cash in on a modest target share.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B+)
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons (45% owned)
Sanu was targeted eight times and had five catches for 80 yards and a TD in his Falcons debut. But check Sanu’s medical status before staking a claim on him, since he was reportedly “limping heavily” after Sunday’s game. With defenses paying heavy attention to Falcons star Julio Jones, Sanu should see single coverage all year. He lined up in the slot on more than half Atlanta’s offensive snaps on Sunday, and the more action he sees from the slot this year, the better his prospects. Sanu’s talent is modest, but his situation is enticing.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers (22% owned)
Coates had a disappointing preseason, which has lowered the price for an athletically gifted young receiver playing in a prolific offense. This might be just the right time to take advantage of all the hand-wringing about Coates’s place on the Pittsburgh depth chart.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens (47% owned)
Let’s be clear: The talent grade you see below is for the senior-citizen version of Steve Sr. This is, after all, a 37-year-old coming back from a torn Achilles. But Smith is still a starter, and he saw a team-high nine targets Sunday against the Bills. Unfortunately, those nine targets amounted to five catches for 19 yards. The end is nigh, but there’s still PPR value here.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Phillip Dorsett, Indianapolis Colts (39% owned)
The fleet-footed Dorsett might be ready to make a significant contribution to the Colts’ passing game after a quiet rookie year. He caught four passes for 94 yards Sunday against the Lions on six targets. Thing is, he probably won’t get a steady diet of targets as the Colts’ No. 3 receiver behind starters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C+)
Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns (16% owned)
Rookie ESPN analyst Charles Woodson predicted that Pryor would rack up 1,800 receiving yards this season, so, uh, this ranking might seem a little low. I understand the enthusiasm: Pryor is a physical marvel. But he’s also a one-trick pony right now, so while the big-play potential is appealing, the lows could be pretty low. Pryor makes a nice end-of-bench stash, but don’t drop more than a small handful of waiver-wire cash on him.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C+)
Jermaine Kearse is better than he gets credit for, except he doesn’t command a large target share in a conservative Seattle offense. ... Robert Woods is worth your while if Sammy Watkins' foot problems force him to miss time. ... Chris Hogan turned in a 3-60-1 line on four targets in his Patriots debut, but it’s so hard to tell how many targets he’ll see in any given week. ... Pierre Garcon is a solid veteran playing in a pass-first offense, but the Washington WR stable is crowded. ... Anquan Boldin is ancient but could still catch 60 balls and score a half-dozen TDs. ... Brandon LaFell played all but two of the Bengals’ offensive snaps in Week 1 and caught all four of his targets for 91 yards, but rookie Tyler Boyd might still be the better investment in Cincinnati. ... Patriots rookie Malcolm Mitchell looks like he might be a good one, but his role is still evolving. ... Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker soak up the vast majority of WR targets for the Jets, but Quincy Enunwa might be able to carve out a fantasy-relevant target share as sort of a third receiver/tight end hybrid. ... The Chargers’ Tyrell Williams becomes an intriguing prospect now that Keenan Allen is out for the season. ... Kenny Stills is starting in Miami for now, but DeVante Parker lurks. ... It’s great to see Victor Cruz making catches again, and if he can stay healthy, he might become fantasy-relevant again. ... Nelson Agholor had a TD catch in Week 1, and after his bitterly disappointing rookie year, he could be a post-hype sleeper.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (27% owned)
The Bills were light on viable pass catchers to begin with, and now, with the Sammy Watkins foot injury, Clay stands to get a substantial target share. If Watkins misses time, Clay becomes a low-end TE1.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (24% owned)
The San Francisco offense has the look of a train wreck, but it’s still going to be a high-volume train wreck under head coach Chip Kelly, and the Niners are short on credible pass catchers. There might be sneaky 70-catch potential here.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B-)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9% owned)
Seferian-Jenkins is one physically gifted dude, as demonstrated by his diving 30-yard TD catch on Sunday. But that was ASJ’s only target of the day, and he was third in TE snaps for the Buccaneers behind Luke Stocker and Cameron Brate. Seferian-Jenkins has serious upside, but he won’t reach his potential unless he can find his way out of Dirk Koetter’s doghouse.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers (20% owned)
Ben Roethlisberger often leans heavily on his tight end, and until Ladarius Green returns to action, James will start at TE for the Steelers. His talent is modest, but James could potentially fall backwards into seven or eight TDs.
(Talent: C- | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Virgil Green, Denver Broncos (27% owned)
Others are more excited about him than I am. I see a slow-developing, block-first tight end who plays in a limited passing game. Don’t bid more than the minimum.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Kyle Rudolph’s limitations are pretty obvious by now, but you could do worse for a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency tight end. I don’t know how long Dennis Pitta can manage to stay healthy, but he’s back in the starting lineup for the Ravens. Will Tye has intriguing potential, but he won’t be able to reach his fantasy potential until the Giants acknowledge that Larry Donnell is terrible. Would you believe that I actually drafted Jack Doyle in one of my leagues? But of course I wasn’t starting him when he had two Week 1 touchdowns.