It took all of about five minutes of game action for the waiver wire to re-enter the lives of fantasy owners. Allen Robinson went down with what turned out to be a torn ACL on Jacksonville’s first possession of the season, and the injuries didn’t stop there. David Johnson and Danny Woodhead left games with injuries, as well, creating opportunities for the players behind them on the depth chart.
It not just injuries sending fantasy owners running to the waiver wire. A trio if impressive performances by rookies in their first career games, one running back and two receivers, have the fantasy community buzzing, while 2016’s No. 1 overall pick enjoyed one of the best games of his young career. Here are the names you need to know when making your claims and bids on the waiver wire this week.
Buck Allen, RB, Ravens
Danny Woodhead’s career with the Ravens got off to a quick start when he caught three passes for 33 yards on the team’s first possession. Unfortunately, that quick start had an even quicker end, as Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on his final play of the drive. He limped off the field, and eventually rode a cart back to the locker room. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday, but the injury certainly appeared to be serious.
Allen steps into the breach and immediately takes over as the Ravens primary pass-catching back. He got just one target after Woodhead’s injury, but Terrance West isn’t a threat as a receiver, and the Ravens aren’t going to dramatically alter their offense with Woodhead on the shelf. No team threw to its backs more than the Ravens last year, and they appeared ready to make a run at that title for the second straight year on their first possession, with Woodhead the most targeted receiver. Allen isn’t quite the weapon Woodhead is, but clearly this is a lucrative opportunity. West is a total non-factor as a receiver, and the Ravens need a large presence from their running backs in the passing game by design.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Allen’s stock that he ran the ball 21 times against the Bengals, either. Game script led to all those rushes, but it’s clear the Ravens will have two backs significantly involved. With Woodhead out, Allen is primed for a big role.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears
Jordan Howard owners, you have reason to be concerned. While Howard is without doubt the leader of the Bears’ backfield, he might not have the backfield to himself the way he did last season.
The Bears coaching staff went out of its way all preseason to insist that Cohen, the rookie out of North Carolina A&T, would have a large role in the offense. They followed through on that on Sunday, and given the way Cohen performed, it’s safe to say he’ll be a huge part of the offense. Cohen had five carries for 66 yards, caught eight of his 12 targets for 47 yards, and scored a touchdown. He took one snap out of the wildcat formation, handing the ball to Howard who ran it into the end zone. Add it all up, and Cohen totaled 17.3 points in standard leagues and 25.3 points in PPR formats.
Cohen’s eight receptions and 12 targets led the Bears on Sunday, and both of those numbers should jump out at fantasy owners. As great as Howard was last season, he didn’t bring much to the table as a receiver. Cohen proved in the first game of his career that he can be a threat catching the ball, adding a much-needed dimension to the Bears offense. They’re already without Cameron Meredith, who was supposed to be their No. 1 receiver, and it appears Kevin White has suffered a season-ending injury for the third year in a row, this time a broken collarbone. The Bears aren’t going to suddenly turn Cohen into a wide receiver, but they’ll likely ask more of him in the passing game with both Meredith and White out. Cohen is a good bet to average 12 or more carries plus targets per game, and he can be a fantasy factor with that sort of role.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
Like Cohen, there was plenty of hype surrounding Golladay this summer. The rookie out of Northern Illinois flashed during the preseason, but the Lions weren’t forthcoming on what his role in the offense would be once the games counted. Their actions spoke loudly on Sunday.
Golladay had four catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were ready-made for the highlight reel. He had seven targets, tied with Theo Riddick for second on the team, trailing only Golden Tate’s 10 looks from Matthew Stafford. Any receiver in Detroit who can put his name right alongside Tate’s and Riddick’s in his first game with the team is clearly going to have a significant role. What’s more, Golladay brings a vertical threat the Lions have lacked since Calvin Johnson’s retirement. Don’t get that twisted. Golladay is not Johnson, but he opens up the offense in a way that wasn’t available to the Lions last season. That’s going to keep him heavily involved in the offense, and make him the sort of big-play artist that can swing fantasy matchups.
Kerwynn Williams/Andre Ellington, RBs, Cardinals
Williams and Ellington will handle most of the work out of Arizona’s backfield while David Johnson is out with a wrist injury. Between the two, Williams is the priority add. The Cardinals have tried the Ellington-as-lead-back experiment before, and it didn’t exactly pan out. His role likely won’t change much, although he should see an uptick in both carries and targets. Williams, however, should see the majority of the rushes in the Arizona offense. For now, that’s good enough to make him an intriguing waiver-wire add.
Be sure to temper your expectations, though. Neither of these plays is close to Johnson. Williams may be the team’s lead back for the time being, but that isn’t enough to guarantee him a starting spot in fantasy leagues. For now, both Williams and Ellington are depth players in nearly all fantasy formats. The only way you’re really considering starting either player before the bye-week portion of the schedule is if you’re thin at running back due to your draft strategy or injuries.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
Kupp was another rookie who showed up in his first career game, catching four of his six targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. He led the Rams in both receiving yards and targets (tied with Todd Gurley), with six looks representing a full 20% share of the team’s targets. Had the Colts been able to keep the game respectable, Kupp likely would have had even more chances to make plays in Week 1.
Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are both going to have their weeks where they lead the Rams receiving corps, but Kupp’s debut followed the script set out during the preseason. The hype train started rolling for him early in the summer, and it continued unabated until he was drafted in most deep fantasy leagues. He’s still out there in about three out of every four leagues on Yahoo, making him one of the best adds at the receiver position. Kupp is going to have a significant role in the Rams offense all season, and with Jared Goff looking the part of a No. 1 pick on Sunday, that might actually mean something this year.
Marqise Lee/Allen Hurns, WRs, Jaguars
Allen Robinson suffered a torn ACL in the Jaguars 29-7 win over the Texans, forcing Lee and Hurns into the spotlight. Just how bright that light will be remains to be seen. The Jaguars clearly intend to win by hiding Blake Bortles and counting on their potentially elite defense and Leonard Fournette to carry them. That plan worked perfectly in Week 1. The defense suffocated the Texans offense, Fournette ran the ball 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, and Bortles attempted just 21 passes. If they’re able to win like that consistently, neither Lee nor Hurns will be worthy of regular fantasy consideration.
Still, at this point both are worth claiming on the waiver wire. Just two years ago, Hurns had 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. Even though that season will almost certainly be an anomaly in his career, we’ve seen him put up big numbers with a significant role in the Jacksonville offense. Lee finally stayed healthy last year and set career highs with 63 receptions, 105 targets, 851 yards and three touchdowns. He was the 39th overall pick in the 2014 draft, an absolute monster at USC, and turns 26 years old at the end of November. There remains a whole lot of potential here.
Given Lee’s pedigree, he should be the priority between the two Jacksonville receivers. Neither is worth a ton of resources because of the way Jacksonville wants to play, but both could be valuable later in the season when byes and injuries take their toll.
Kendall Wright, WR, Bears
Speaking of injuries, the Bears lost Kevin White to a season-ending injury for the third straight season. This time, the receiver out of West Virginia broke his collarbone. That leaves Wright, Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson atop the team’s depth chart at wide receiver. It’s certainly possible none of them does enough to warrant fantasy consideration, but Wright is the best bet to be relevant in most formats.
Wright had the best season of his career in 2013 when Dowell Loggains, the Bears offensive coordinator, had the same position in Tennessee. Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards that season, racking up 140 targets along the way. With Cameron Meredith and White out for the season, Wright could enjoy the same sort of target share with Chicago this year. Tarik Cohen and Zach Miller will have meaty roles in the passing game, but the Bears will need to get something out of their receivers, and neither Bellamy nor Thompson moves the needle very much. Wright can once again be a PPR darling, and should get enough work to be a fringe starter in standard leagues, as well.
Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks
It was an ugly day for the Seahawks in Green Bay. The Packers held them out of the end zone, limited them to nine points and 225 total yards, and mostly made life miserable for Russell Wilson. There will be better days ahead, even though the offensive line is a major concern. When those days arrive, it seems Richardson will have a big role.
Richardson led the Seahawks with seven targets on Sunday. He caught four of them for 59 yards, including one deep strike that was good for 28. With Doug Baldwin doing his thing in the slot, Richardson is Wilson’s primary weapon outside the numbers. The Seahawks made clear just how much they trust Richardson when they shipped Jermaine Kearse to the Jets and cut Kasen Williams. It became even clearer Sunday when Tyler Lockett had just three targets to Richardson’s seven. He’s entrenched as the No. 2 receiver behind Baldwin, and a top-three target in the passing game.
On top of all that, Seattle’s could struggle to run the ball this season. Thomas Rawls was inactive because of a sprained ankle, but that doesn’t absolve the running game of its performance. Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise combined for 53 yards on 15 carries, with Carson doing most of that damage. If there’s one back to own in the Seattle backfield, other than Rawls, it’s Carson, but the larger takeaway is that this offense is going to be completely on Wilson’s back. That should mean plenty of opportunity for anyone with a large share of the passing game, Richardson included.
Jared Goff, QB, Rams
It was just one game against a Colts team that could be very bad, but it’s time to start getting at least a little excited about Goff. He looked great in the Rams 46–9 blowout victory, completing 21 of 29 pass attempts for 306 yards, 10.55 yards per attempt, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Goff did everything well on Sunday, his offensive line protected him, and he made good use of new weapons Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Things could get very interesting in Los Angeles this year.
At the very least, Goff is on the radar as a stream-worthy quarterback in traditional one-quarterback leagues. If Sunday was the beginning of a pattern, he could be even more than that. And in superflex and two-quarterback leagues, where he should already be 100% owned, he has the ability to develop into a reliable QB2.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans, and Jacoby Brissett, QB, Colts
Watson and Brissett are expected to take over as starters in Week 2 after depressing efforts from their respective offenses on Sunday. Neither should be on your radar in traditional leagues, though both are worth claiming in superflex and two-quarterback leagues, where every starting quarterback in the league has value. In traditional formats, both could eventually be worth streaming, but they have work to do before they can even be considered in that fashion.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
Agholor’s big game requires us to mention him, but don’t get too excited. Yes, he caught six of eight targets for 86 yards and a touchdown, but take away his best play, and the numbers don’t look quite so great.
Agholor caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz in the first quarter of Philadelphia’s eventual victory. While that jumps off the page, it came on a broken play where Wentz scrambled around, avoided a sack, and found Agholor who had gotten lost in the Washington secondary. He deserves credit for sticking with the play and getting himself open, but it’s not the bankable sort of play that would suggest a major role in the offense. It’s worth noting, too, that Alshon Jeffery isn’t going to be covered by Josh Norman in every game the Eagles play this season. Jeffery still had seven targets in his Eagles debut, and that number should shoot up when he’s opposite a corner who isn’t Norman.
The Eagles target share will still be dominated by Jeffery and Zach Ertz. Despite a big game, Agholor is no more than a depth receiver.
Charles Clay, TE, Bills
With Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews the top two receivers in Buffalo’s offense, Clay’s reliability is going to make him a favored weapon of Tyrod Taylor’s all season. That came through in the team’s 21–12 win over the Jets in Week 1.
Clay led the Bills with nine targets, hauling in four of them for 53 yards and a touchdown. Clay’s ceiling is limited by both the Bills offense and his own lack of game-breaking ability, but he likely won’t lack for opportunity in any game this season. For tight ends who are dependent on touchdowns for their fantasy value, getting guaranteed red-zone targets is more than half the battle. For now, Clay looks like Taylor’s go-to pass-catcher when the Bills approach the goal line. Clay had two end-zone targets in this game, including his one-yard touchdown reception, which came with an empty backfield.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Kamara led all Saints backs in snaps, carries and targets in the team’s Week 1 loss to the Vikings, so it’s clear he’s going to have a role in the offense this season. Throw no more than a token bid at him, though. Mark Ingram was the most effective back for the Saints (why they don’t just trust him as the starter, I will never know), especially through the air, where he caught five passes for 54 yards. The Vikings shut down Ingram, Kamara and Adrian Peterson as runners, limiting the trio to 53 yards on 19 carries. Kamara’s heavy involvement in the offense on Monday night was likely driven by game script more than anything else. He’s flickering on the waiver wire radar this week, but he’s of the least importance of all players listed.