Best Waiver Wire Pickups of 2017
Do me a favor… take a look back at your roster from draft day. How does it compare?
We all took our “core players” that we knew couldn’t miss… like Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski. Surely, if you used a high pick on one of those players, they’re probably starting in your first-round playoff matchup (aside from the WWE’s newest acquisition, Gronk.)
Then, there were those players that we thought were locks to thrive this season… a la David Johnson, Odell Beckham, Aaron Rodgers, and Jordy Nelson. However, sadly, by injury, or by lack of performance, they’ve found their way to our bench, or to the heap of free agents.
Then finally, we have our “dark horses.” These were players that weren’t consensus picks to perform, but you had a deep visceral feeling that they were bound for greatness. Many were high on the likes of Mike Gillislee, Kenny Britt, Willie Snead, and DeVante Parker. Well, no matter how strong your hunch was, it’s likely that the aforementioned are now sitting out there on the waiver wire, and you wouldn’t touch them with a 39 ½ foot pole.
The point here is that it’s very rare that you go from start to finish in the season with the same roster. An integral component of fantasy greatness is working the waiver wire.
You may have spotted an up-and-coming talent with abilities that are too strong to keep on the bench, and thrown in a claim accordingly. You might have seen your top player go down with an injury. Once you’d licked your wounds, you thought long and hard about where those targets might go, and then used a chunk of your FAAB to snag that player. But sometimes, opportunity intersects with talent, and you’re in the crosshairs. For, you’re sitting at #1 on waiver priority; a talented player had gotten his opportunity, seized it, and was a clear-cut top pickup. All you had to do was submit your claim, wait until Wednesday morning, and plug your shiny new toy into your lineup. Today, we’ll recap the 10 best waiver wire pickups of the 2017 fantasy football regular season. Odds are, if you’re playing in the playoffs this week, you’ve got one of the diamonds in the rough below.
Best of luck to you; may these gentlemen lead you to glory.
10. Vikings RBs
Dalvin Cook exploded onto the scene this year, averaging 15 FPPG for the Vikings offense. However, his season ended abruptly with a torn ACL in week 4 vs. Detroit, opening the door for someone to take over his vacated touches. His role was split between Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, both widely undrafted. Fantasy players rushed to the waiver wire to add one, if not both of these replacements. McKinnon enjoyed early success, exploding onto the scene in PPR leagues with games of 25+ points in 3 of his first 4 outings. Not too shabby. After the Vikings’ Week 9 bye, though, his output regressed to about 10 FPPG, and his touches per game dropped by about 5. Enter: Latavius Murray. After the Week 9 bye, Murray has averaged 18 touches per game, which led to a strong output of 15.6 FPPG over that span. Not too shabby either. In fact, if you platooned all 3 Vikings RBs this season, using Cook for Weeks 1-4, McKinnon for Weeks 5-8, and Murray for Weeks 9-13, you’d have yourself the #4 overall RB in fantasy leagues, behind only Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, and Alvin Kamara. SKOL!
9. Josh McCown
Quarterback | Jets
Yes. That Josh McCown. The same Josh McCown who started his first game in 2003, back when the Motorola Razr was the peak of mobile technology. Since then, it’s been a roller coaster for the 38 year old Jets QB. However, in this, his 15th season, McCown has enjoyed the most fantasy success. His performance has elevated him to the QB10, ahead of names like Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, and the reigning MVP, Matt Ryan. Let’s be honest. None of you drafted McCown back in August. Yet, now, he’s rosterable and thriving in almost every single league, and will start for many teams in their first-round playoff matchup. Take a step back now. Did you EVER think you’d be trotting out Josh McCown in your fantasy playoffs? Not in your wildest dreams, sir. Josh has averaged just under 20 FPPG this season, and peaked when owners needed him the most, averaging 24 FPPG in his last 6 games. McCown capped it all off with a banner game in Week 13, scoring 34.5 points against Kansas City. Here’s a fun fact, if you platooned Deshaun Watson and Josh McCown this season, playing Watson in Weeks 1-8, and McCown in Weeks 9-13, you’d have the #3 QB in all of fantasy football, behind only Russell Wilson, and Carson Wentz. Now, if that’s not a waiver wire success story, I don’t know what is.
8. Evan Engram
Tight End | Giants
In what has been a great year for rookies, an unheralded star was born in the basement of the NFC East—Evan Engram. Since Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury, Engram has been the lone bright point for the lowly Giants. While Engram was drafted in many deeper leagues, he was still available in many free agent pools as the season took the quarter-turn. Any stragglers were all-in on the rookie after his 6/62 outing against Tampa Bay in Week 4. Since then, in what has been a very down year for Tight Ends as a whole, Engram has carved out his value as the TE5 in standard leagues, trailing the likes of Travis Kelce, Gronk, Zach Ertz, and Jimmy Graham. The Giants’ TE has averaged 12 FPPG in PPR leagues, showing consistency and giving owners a trustworthy, week-in, week-out option in a very slew of Tight Ends. Again, not bad for a Week 3 pickup in many leagues. Engram has tons of potential, and will be quite useful for owners who have him in a keeper league format.
7. Deshaun Watson
Quarterback | Texans
Deshaun Watson’s torn ACL in practice between Weeks 8 and 9 might have broken your heart. With that said, leading up to his injury, Watson provided owners with some early season magic as well. With his performance, Watson singlehandedly (in many cases) elevated managers to the top of the standings in their respective leagues. After not starting Week 1, Watson got his chance to shine in Week 2, and ripped off a long touchdown run, leading to a 17.7 point performance. Many owners picked up Watson after this game, hoping that he could replicate his performance in Week 3 vs. the Patriots. The rookie from Clemson shined again, turning in a 22 point game. At that point, owners flocked to add the young star, and after his 35 point performance vs. the Titans in Week 4, the rest was history. After his 4 TD, 36 fantasy point outing in Week 8 vs. Seattle, Deshaun’s stock was at an all-time high. In the 6 games Watson started, he averaged an astounding 28.5 FPPG and ranked 1st among all NFL QB in fantasy points. Sadly, his torn ACL derailed what could have been a historic season. However, Watson carried many fantasy squads to winning records while he was at the helm—for that, we will never forget him.
6. Devin Funchess
Wide Receiver | Panthers
Devin Funchess finally began to show his promise as a receiver early on this season. With 10+ point performances in Weeks 2 and 3, Funchess was a popular add for players that had “missed” on one of their preseason sleepers, or lost a WR due to injury. However, once he exploded for 7/70/2 (26 pts in PPR leagues) vs. the Patriots in Week 4, Funchess was owned almost everywhere. He solidified his status on fantasy rosters with a 7/53/1 performance against the Lions the next week When Kelvin Benjamin was traded to the Bills in Week 9, it promoted Funchess to the top receiving option for Cam Newton, and he quickly took over the reins in the receiving corps. Since then, he’s averaged 18.4 FPPG in PPR leagues, and now finds himself at the WR18 position through 13 weeks. After a tough matchup with Xavier Rhodes in week 14, Funchess has two tasty matchups (vs. GB and vs. TB) to finish up his owners’ playoff pushes. If owners can weather Week 14, Funchess might just carry them to a league title.
5. Greg Zuerlein
Kicker | Rams
I know what you’re thinking. Is he really going to write about a kicker? Yes. Yes, I am. And, you know what? Legatron deserves the praise this year! Greg Zuerlein has put up 165 fantasy points this season, a whopping 33 points more than the next closest kicker. Do the math. On average, each time you trot out Greg the Leg in your lineup, you’re getting at least +3 more FPPG than your opponents. Now that’s an advantage. Think the games you’ve lost by less than 3 fantasy points this season. Do you have Zuerlein? No? There’s the difference. Kickers are so volatile that Zuerlein was probably picked up early on in your league. In Week 1, he picked up 17 fantasy points against Indianapolis, followed by 9 in Week 2, and 12 in Week 3. If you didn’t have him by then, you certainly couldn’t get him after Week 4 when he booted 7 field goals against the Cowboys. The emergence of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Sean McVay in Los Angeles have made Legatron the most valuable kicker there is. And frankly, he’s been one of the most valuable players in fantasy football overall— not bad for a kicker.
4. Robby Anderson
Wide Receiver | Jets
“The Jets are going to go 0-16… I don’t want anyone on their offense.” Let’s be real… we all had this thought at one point or another. Little did we know that Josh McCown would emerge as a serviceable every-week starter and that the Jets were destined for greater things, a 5-7 record, and an incredibly middle-of-the-pack draft pick (so much for tanking the season.) With McCown at the helm, Anderson has hit his stride, pacing at the WR14 position in PPR leagues. Moreover, it’s Anderson’s midseason surge that has made him particularly valuable. Before Week 7, Anderson had only broken 10 fpts one time in standard leagues. However, from Week 7 on, he’s eclipsed the 10 point mark in every week, and averaged 17.5 FPPG. His 6/104/1 performance in Week 10 made him the waiver wire’s hottest claim, and he did not disappoint owners who made the move to pick him up. Anderson has become an every-week starter, and is likely a fixture in many playoff lineups.
3. Jaguars Defense
LeSean McCoy. AJ Green. Julio Jones. Ezekiel Elliott. Rob Gronkowski. Leonard Fournette. Jameis Winston. What do they all have in common? They’ve all scored less standard league points than the Jaguars Defense.
That’s right, the Jaguars Defense’s 172 points would rank as the #10 flex player in standard leagues (27th in PPR leagues.) Things are finally clicking in Jacksonville, and fantasy owners who picked them up early have been reaping the benefits ever since. Maybe you believed in the preseason, and started them in Week 1 against Tom Savage and the Texans. Your confidence was rewarded with 29 fantasy points and likely, a victory. Maybe you didn’t believe until they were consistently putting up 10 FPPG well into their Week 8 bye. If you didn’t believe by then, you didn’t have a chance to get them. The Jags D has been averaging 14 FPPG throughout the season, and have proven to be a fantastic value over any other defense you could serve up. The Jaguars have outscored the next best Defense, the Ravens, by 24 points (2 FPPG). To put things in perspective, they have scored 67 and 91 more points, respectively, than the consensus top 2 defenses in preseason drafts, the Seahawks and the Broncos. The Jags are for real—and they’re young. Watch out… this defense is here to stay.
2. Carson Wentz
Quarterback | Eagles
Regarded as a QB2 in the preseason, it’s safe to say that the North Dakota State prospect has made his leap into the QB elite of the NFL. Sadly, the Wentz experience was cut short by his torn ACL, sustained yesterday against the Rams. Wentz hit his stride early, and has led the Eagles to a 10-2 start, good for First Place in the NFC East. Accordingly, if you didn’t have Wentz by the quarter pole of the season, you were likely out of luck. Wentz has scored 18 or more points in all but two of his games so far, making him a consistent and reliable option. He’s tossed 29 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions, has added 283 rushing yards to his stellar point total for the season, making him the #2 quarterback in all of fantasy football. Wentz’s midseason consistency was a huge contributor to many managers’ playoff charges, and he’s likely to continue his hot streak when the games matter most… he’s got dates with the Giants and Oakland in Weeks 15 and 16. It’s safe to say that if you were lucky enough to add both Wentz and Kamara, you might have a top seed and a very high projection for your first round matchup.
1. Alvin Kamara
Running Back | Saints
Widely undrafted, Kamara showed some promise early on, racking up respectable numbers in the “Darren Sproles” role with the Saints. He had his first big “pop” in Week 4, when he put up 25.6 PPR points in Miami. Kamara had reeled in all 10 of his targets, and taken them for 71 yards and a touchdown. Then, the Saints went into their bye, and made waves by trading Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals. While this move was good for both Peterson and the Saints, its main beneficiaries were Kamara and Mark Ingram, as it meant they had 7 more touches a game to share amongst themselves. After the bye, Kamara got his chance. His average touches per game (TPG) jumped from 9 TPG pre-bye to 14 TPG post-bye. Additionally, his touchdowns per game jumped from 0.5 pre-bye to 1.125 post-bye. Now, Kamara has settled in as the #3 PPR back for the 2017 season, only trailing Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. Albeit currently sidelined by a concussion sustained on Thursday Night Football, he’s the frontrunner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, leading the NFL in yards per carry (7.0) and is likely a first-round draft pick next season. Not bad for a Week 5 waiver wire snag.
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