I’ll be focused on at least one largely undrafted fantasy player on every team heading into Week 1 who can easily find their way atop waiver wire lists next week.
Arizona Cardinals — Michael Wilson, WR
The obvious question in Arizona is who’s playing quarterback and whether or not they will provide replacement-level play. Joshua Dobbs or Clayton Tune could get the nod under center, but it’s the receiver usage in two-wide sets I’ll have my eye on. As a big-bodied WR, Wilson profiles more closely to the missing archetype on the Cardinals roster. He could easily dominate snap share from the start and earn enough targets to make himself the hot add with a productive Week 1. Honorable mention: There’s a chance Rondale Moore loses the starting slot WR job to target hog Greg Dortch, who posted three different +9 reception games last year.
Atlanta Falcons — Tyler Allgeier, RB
What will Arthur Smith’s offense look like in Year 2 for the Dirty Birds? Assuming another run-heavy approach is on deck, we could be looking at an environment strong enough for two running backs to thrive. Allgeier had over 1,000 rushing yards at nearly five yards a clip as a rookie in this same scheme last season. He could carry standalone value, and could have massive contingency upside.
Baltimore Ravens — Gus Edwards; Justice Hill, RB
The entire world will be obsessing over the new aerial attack in Baltimore under Todd Monken — I get it. The thing is, those players are rostered already, so I’ll have my third eye fixed on which Ravens RB commands the lion’s share of pass-catching work. Health concerns for J.K. Dobbins are the norm, and being first to snag the RB attached to this Baltimore passing game could mean windfall profits.
Buffalo Bills — Deonte Harty, WR
The Bills’ wide receiver room is pretty well defined up top with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. But where is the ball going in this pass-heavy offense after that? There’s a ton of potential value in securing Buffalo’s third WR role in 11-personnel, even if he will be competing with rookie Dalton Kincaid. If preseason usage from the slot is any indication, Harty is clearly the frontrunner. Honorable mention: Trent Sherfield made the team and the coaching staff stated in no uncertain terms that he’s the direct backup to Diggs or Davis.
Carolina Panthers — Chuba Hubbard, RB
The Panthers only kept three RBs on the roster going into Week 1, so presumably Miles Sanders is healthy. That said, he’s already missed time this preseason and the Carolina starting RB gig is among the most vulnerable entering play. Hubbard, who once upon a time (in 2019) rushed for +2,000 yards with 21 total TDs at Oklahoma State, is the clear backup to Sanders. His pathway to the top of every generic Week 1 waiver article could be paved before halftime.
Chicago Bears — Roschon Johnson, RB
Cue the broken record. There’s uncertainty in the Chicago backfield and therefore profit potential. D’Onta Foreman jumped fourth-rounder Roschon Johnson on most projected depth charts, but I think it’s the UT rookie with the fantasy potential. High praise for Johnson’s blocking ability started during the draft process and has continued right through camp. First, the Bears have been vocal about increasing their pass rate. Then you mix in one part questionable defense and we could see more of Johnson than his current ADP might suggest.
Cincinnati Bengals — Chase Brown, RB
Samaje Perine outplayed starter Joe Mixon down the stretch last season and it’s entirely possible it will happen again with Brown. Cincinnati’s fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft could start eating away at carry share sooner rather than later. The Bengals have their eyes on the title and have already shown us they aren’t afraid to get away from Mixon, who’s an unrestricted free agent next year.
Cleveland Browns —Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR
While we’re all watching to see if Deshaun Watson will actually look good for the Browns, I’ll have a particular focus on the wide receiver room. Amari Cooper’s locked in as the X, but who will dominate routes run, Elijah Moore or Donovan Peoples-Jones? Cleveland traded a second-round pick to the Jets for Moore (plus a third-round pick), but Peoples-Jones better fits the outside WR archetype. In the case Moore is more of a gadget player who’s sacrificing snaps, it’s Peoples-Jones with the stronger case for your roster.
Dallas Cowboys — Jake Ferguson, TE
More often than I’d care to admit, I’ve come up empty and desperate in regard to tight ends. Enter Ferguson, the second-year TE out of Wisconsin. The former fourth-round pick worked firmly behind Dalton Schultz as a rookie and now the runway’s been cleared. Ferguson worked with the first unit this preseason and projects to dominate snap share at the position. Given Dallas’ projected point totals, the utilization alone translates into weekly viability in a weak positional field.
Denver Broncos — Greg Dulcich, TE
Snakebitten by injuries, the Broncos wide receiver room already resembles a mere shell of itself without a single game being played. Yet for all the overreactions to injuries and their resonating impact, Marvin Mims Jr. hasn’t moved up boards accordingly. The 63rd overall pick out of Oklahoma projects to hold down the starting spot in two-wide sets from the opening kickoff until Jerry Jeudy returns. Mims is almost certainly rostered and probably worth a trade offer, but who’s left? Denver surprised fantasy gamers everywhere when they cut every other wideout except undrafted second-year WR Brandon Johnson. Despite some bearishness surrounding his usage, I think it’s actually Dulcich who benefits here. If he serves primarily out of the slot, Dulcich could be topping waiver wire lists everywhere.
Detroit Lions — Josh Reynolds, WR
The Lions are expected to burn rubber this year playing offense on the fast track in Detroit, but where’s the ball going besides Amon-Ra St. Brown and tight end Sam LaPorta? My money’s on Reynolds to leapfrog dusty Marvin Jones Jr., with the hope we see a return to his early flashpoint in 2022. Don’t forget that before the injury, Reynolds was literally neck and neck with St. Brown in terms of receiving production, and it was Reynolds who took over the WR1 role, delivering a 7/81/1 line when Amon-Ra missed, Week 4 at Seattle.
Green Bay Packers — Jayden Reed, GB
Trying to find news on Packers WR Romeo Doubs felt like attempting to unearth state secrets. Green Bay’s been unusually tight-lipped for at least a week concerning a hamstring injury to the second-year wideout, though we at least know he’ll be a true game-time decision in Week 1. After getting the rug yanked out from under us by Mike McDaniel and the Jeff Wilson Jr. fiasco, I’m not taking any assumption of health for granted. Make the proactive move. Add rookie Jayden Reed.
Houston Texans — Robert Woods, WR
I’ve seen as many as five different Texans WRs get drafted in a single room, with each one going outside the top 160 overall. That’s all the evidence we need of uncertainty surrounding available opportunities. I’d follow the money if I had a deficiency at WR. Woods is getting paid nearly triple any other pass catcher on the team. After finishing 2023 healthy, we could see a return to the player who hung 90 receptions on 129 targets in 2020.
Indianapolis Colts — Zack Moss, RB
The recent news of RB Jonathan Taylor beginning the year on injured reserve opened the door wide to speculation. The dynasty crowd loves rookie pass-catching sensation Evan Hull over incumbents Moss and Deon Jackson, who finished as the fantasy RB1 against Jacksonville in Week 6 of 2022. Since the Colts won’t commit to Moss’ status for Sunday, lean toward Jackson as the spec play for this weekend. Then look for Moss to take over in Week 2. Keep in mind that RBs attached to running QBs get the lowest priority.
Jacksonville Jaguars — Tank Bigsby, RB
Either Bigsby is a thing and worth jumping on before it’s too late, or Travis Etienne absolutely smashes his ADP. I’d rather be a week early than a day late on a chance at the Jaguars’ touchdown equity, and perhaps standalone value as well.
Kansas City Chiefs — Everyone
With a knee injury leaving Travis Kelce’s Week 1 status in jeopardy, add any and all available Chiefs pass catchers. No one has a clue where all those vacated targets will go, but we know Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes won’t go down without a fight. Assuming Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, and even Marquez Valdes-Scantling are currently rostered, go get in those bids for Richie James, Justyn Ross, and tight end Noah Gray immediately. Reports on Kelce’s knee claim no structural damage was done, but we know how fast things can turn south.
Las Vegas Raiders — Hunter Renfrow, WR
After a crazy 2022, the Raiders decided to press reset and shake up the quarterback position. Sharps are worried about Davante Adams, and they probably should be. Jimmy Garoppolo has made his bones operating over the middle, so my Hail Mary speculation is Renfrow. How often does a player go undrafted at age 27 only one season removed from a 103/1,038/9 breakout?
Los Angeles Chargers — Joshua Kelley, RB
One of my bigger forecasting misses this draft season was expecting the Chargers to land a plodding back for short-yard situations. Los Angeles’ star RB Austin Ekeler spent the offseason vocally expressing the need for another runner to step up, and it may have finally happened. Kelley had a phenomenal preseason, breaking long runs and earning targets. He has a firm grasp on the backup RB role, which could have standalone value if the Bolts live up to the high-powered expectations.
Los Angeles Rams — Tutu Atwell, WR
With all-world WR Cooper Kupp projected to miss the beginning of the season, it’s anyone’s guess how that target void will be filled. Van Jefferson’s in line for a meaningful bump in utilization, but who’s going to earn snaps in two-wide sets? My guess, to start the season at least, is Atwell. The former second-round pick from Louisville can fill in wide or in the slot. He’s also the only receiver left on the roster who posted above-average target-per-route and fantasy point-per-route rates. I wouldn’t play them in Week 1 on my worst enemy’s roster, but if Kupp’s health continues trending in the wrong direction, you could be sitting on a full-time player.
Miami Dolphins — Julian Hill, TE
Undrafted rookie behemoth Julian Hill, from little-known Campbell College, parlayed a really impressive camp into a spot on Miami’s 53-man roster. The departure of Mike Gesicki via free agency left the Dolphins’ TE room without a dynamic playmaker, and though it’s a long shot, Hill could be the guy to fill that void. His only remaining competition for targets at the position is in-line blocker Durham Smythe, who earned just over one look per game last year. If Hill takes over the majority of the TE route-running duties, he’s a pop to finish as a TE1 any given Sunday based solely on Miami’s explosiveness.
Minnesota Vikings — Ty Chandler, RB
Playing behind one of the most polarizing fantasy running backs in the NFL will almost always provide some opportunity for profit. Whether or not you believe Alexander Mattison is built for RB1 duties, you have a reason to roster Chandler ahead of Week 1. Consider the expectations for the Minnesota offense — if Chandler’s not challenging for carry share right off the bat, he has to be considered to have one of the highest contingency values in the league.
New England Patriots — Mike Gesicki, TE
Signed in free agency this offseason, the former Dolphin hurt his shoulder before the hype train could leave the station. That said, Gesicki just shed his non-contact jersey during practice on Sunday. Given the state of the New England roster, he could easily contend for a target majority if he’s healthy. The Patriots also brought in an actual offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien who might know exactly how to use Gesicki.
New Orleans Saints — Rashid Shaheed, WR
One of the favorite sleepers this season, Shaheed recently started practicing again after missing a few weeks of camp due to a groin injury. His absence, in addition to positive reports on Michael Thomas, have banished Shaheed to most waiver wires. Correct that injustice. He’s got potential game-breaking abilities when given the opportunity, and playing behind an oft-injured 30-year-old WR should provide just that. I’m starting to doubt we see an extensive role in Week 1, but that hasn’t stopped me from adding Shaheed anywhere I have the roster space.
New York Giants — Everyone
It’s no secret the Giants outperformed expectations on several levels last year, but they also haven’t taken it for granted heading into the 2023 campaign. They completely renovated their pass-catching room this offseason. New team captain Darren Waller is the clubhouse favorite for team target leader, but after that it’s anybody’s guess. Big Blue also brought in Parris Campbell from the Colts to compete with Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins, who developed a really nice rapport with Daniel Jones down the stretch. My gut says Hodgins and Campbell start in two-WR formations with Slayton coming in to play wide when they move to 11-personnel. If I had to choose one, I’d chase the camp hype on Campbell.
New York Jets — Tyler Conklin, TE
Conklin, coming off back-to-back 87 target seasons, has been going outside the TE2 range despite showing potential as a pass-catching threat in a terrible offense. Conklin flashed early last year, posting +6 receptions in four of his first seven games, including two separate Top 3 weekly TE finishes. Oh, and that was with Joe Flacco and Zach Wilson under center. Conklin could easily finish the season as a back-end TE1 with Aaron Rodgers now in the mix, but no one seems to care (yet).
Philadelphia Eagles — Quez Watkins, WR
The obvious uncertainty and green elephant in the room is the pending snap share among Eagles RBs. The problem, for our purposes, is everyone’s already rostered. So if I want a slice of contingency value in Philly, I’m adding Watkins. He’s got experience within the system and spiked last year in Week 4 versus Washington. Both of the Eagles ace wideouts logged healthy seasons in 2022 and that’s not necessarily likely to repeat. If someone does miss time, Watkins is an easy headliner for waiver articles everywhere.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Allen Robinson, PIT
Sometimes a player’s fantasy season can be so utterly disappointing that it carries over into the next year, and I think that’s what we’re seeing with Robinson. I admit it. I was one of the many fish on the hook for a wasted fourth-round pick last year. But now he’s going undrafted. And reports out of Pittsburgh surrounding Kenny Pickett’s progress and his growing chemistry with Robinson are gaining momentum. If the Steelers turn out to be the big breakout offense this year, you’ll be glad you were a week early on A-Rob.
San Francisco 49ers — Tyrion Davis-Price, RB
Simply put, I want any piece of Kyle Shanahan’s running game I can get. Though Davis-Price is technically the fourth RB on the SF depth chart, both Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason have already dealt with injuries before the Week 1 kickoff. I don’t expect Tyrion Davis-Price to impact Week 1. However, the 49ers backfield has a well-documented injury history up and down, so there’s a strong probability it’s only a matter of time before his number gets called.
Seattle Seahawks — Noah Fant, TE
Everyone’s in love with the Seahawks’ wide receiver room, clearly buying into Geno Smith’s reclamation in Seattle. So why does Fant, a former first-round pick who earned +90 targets in two of three seasons, go undrafted? It’s not like there’s some surplus of tight end fantasy points all over the floor waiting to get scooped up. If you end up getting stuck with Travis Kelce sidelined for your upcoming Week 1 matchup, Fant has a chance to be a viable fantasy TE until the big guy’s back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sean Tucker, RB
Every draft season, at least one RB makes a 53-man roster out of nowhere and vaults into the late-round vernacular. Before about a week ago, I had never heard of Sean Tucker, an undrafted RB out of Syracuse. Tucker led all TB running backs in preseason attempts, rushing yards, routes, targets, and receptions on his way to securing the backup role behind Rachaad White. Strictly box score scouting, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Tucker’s +2,500 rushing yards, 56 receptions, and 27 touchdowns over his final two college seasons. If you’re fortifying your bench RBs, Tucker’s a fine pick — he’s one tent visit away from being a household name in fantasy circles.
Tennessee Titans — Tyjae Spears, RB
My first choice for Tennessee’s Week 2 waiver wire headliner was actually “not applicable,” but I didn’t want to be accused of mailing it in after all this hard work. The Titans are only attractive in fantasy because the team’s touch tree is so narrow, but my next man up is Spears. The rookie third-rounder out of Tulane impressed throughout camp and into preseason games. Spears particularly shined in the passing game, looking crisp and earning targets on more than 30% of his routes. Derrick Henry will shoulder the load until he can’t, and you want to be the one with Spears on your fantasy squad if and when that time comes.
Washington Commanders — Curtis Samuel, WR
Washington’s the newest flavor of the month after Sam Howell looked crisp in preseason duties, despite losing Terry McLaurin to a bad toe. McLaurin has returned to the field in a limited capacity. However, his status is in doubt, and while it is, Samuel should slide right into a prominent role. More of a plug-in flex play than anything else, Samuel finished as a WR1 each of the first two weeks last year, showing he can produce fantasy points when given the chance.
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)