So here we are. Christmas Eve to those who eat, sleep and drink fantasy football this time of year. The draft is in the rearview mirror. The lineup is set. Visions touchdown celebrations are dancing in our heads.
But for those who think the work is over … well, really it has just begun. Thanks a lot, Julius Thomas! Statistically, the first waiver wire rush after Week 1 action is the busiest of the year. It also provides the biggest difference-makers when it comes to guys who could make or break your season.
Thomas, for example, was buzzing quite loudly this time last year. Those who chose to listen and roster him before Week 1 were rewarded with a 5-for-110, 2 touchdown performance that ignited a superb fantasy football season.
Anquan Boldin. Joique Bell. Knowshon Moreno. So many others.
Many fantasy football pundits look to the preseason for the barometer of who will break out, who will get the most time in the starting lineup, etc. But the real first test is Week 1 when games finally count. Suddenly guys who were lurking in the background emerge in a statistical typhoon that sends fantasy owners flocking to the waiver wire … at that point you are at the mercy of your waiver priority.
Unless you act now.
Below are a few of my personal favorite grab-now options. You won’t want to start them – you already drafted the guys you plan to start in Week 1 anyway. But these guys are on the verge of truly emerging options. Perhaps it is a special opportunity. Maybe a great matchup. Regardless, you want to be holding these players when the dust settles early next week – if for nothing else than to bait your fantasy trap for a slick trade or two moving forward.
Travis Kelce, TE, KC. Let me make this clear … Kelce is NOT this year’s Julius Thomas. Those types of labels are just plain silly. Kelce is, however, this year’s potential breakout tight end who may still be available in your respective leagues.
Some say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Fantasy breakout, in terms of Kelce at least, is where pure ability meets opportunity. He’s 6-foot-5, 260 pounds of pass-catching awesome. Dwayne Bowe isn’t going to play, Kelce made a huge mark this preseason and is fully healthy for the first time in his short NFL career.
It also helps that Kelce is playing against a Tennessee defense that is unproven in being able to stop opposing tight ends.
Benny Cunningham, RB, STL. The buzz about Benny continues to reach fevered pitch after a very productive preseason and his starting the third preseason game – typically a dress rehearsal for the regular season – as the Rams’ top back.
That doesn’t mean Cunningham will be the starter this week vs. Minnesota. It does symbolize just how short a leash Stacy really has. Just like all the people who saw Julius Thomas’s Week 1 breakout performance and questioned just how sustainable that production could be – there are many who think the preseason Benny buzz is all smoke and no fire. That could be the case. However, if the Rams do give Cunningham a sizeable workload, he’ll be much harder to obtain early next week.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, CLE. No Josh Gordon means someone has to catch passes in Cleveland. Jordan Cameron will be the focal point of the passing attack, but also the focus of opposing defenses. Miles Austin is older and seemed inept even when healthy and a part of Romo’s much more prolific Dallas offense in stretches last year.
This leaves the undersized but quick Hawkins an opportunity to make some noise, especially in PPR formats.
Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ. Not a sexy pickup, but a guy that many people are overlooking after the Jets brought in the heralded Chris Johnson. Still, Ivory is expected to get the lions share of the between-the-tackles carries on an offense built to ground the ball early and often. Johnson is a finesse player and will get his in PPR formats, but don’t be surprised if Ivory outscores Johnson this year – starting in week one against a questionable Oakland defense.
Jake Locker, QB, TEN. The Chiefs’ defense isn’t exactly a pushover, but it also isn’t the same squad from last year. Locker, who always had tons of talent, finally has a recipe for success. Two very talented receivers (Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter) a running game that is suspect (Shonn Greene and that Sankey guy) and – the biggest plus – Ken Whisenhunt calling plays.
This will be Locker’s breakout season – I’d definitely take him over more heralded breakout options such as Ryan Tannehill.
Who are your guys to grab before this week’s games? I’d love to hear about them and why you think they are guys to target now.