By this time of year, most leagues have drafted, rosters are complete and the only guesswork left is the dreaded “Who do I start?” But sometimes the fantasy football gods have other plans for you. Between suspensions, roster cuts, position battles and injury, keeping your lineup clean can be difficult. Add to that a seemingly empty waiver wire post-draft and your week 1 lineup may be in shambles. But fear not! The Huddle is here to provide a handful of waiver wire gems that may save you from opening 0-1.
DJ Smith GBP LB – ILB 3-4
With Desmond Bishop being placed in Injured Reserve on Monday, DJ Smith is primed to step into a prominent role in the Packers’ defense. Already the dime back LB, Smith is going to take over for Bishop in the base defense and nickel package which will provide ample opportunity to put up numbers. He proved that he can produce in a similar situation last year, racking up 24 solos, 9 assists and an interception over three and a half games replacing Bishop near the end of last year. I’m not convinced that Smith is near the pass-rushing talent nor the disruptive force at the point of attack that Bishop is but he can post some solid tackles numbers for any fantasy squad. There is potential for Bishop to be exempted from the Injured Reserve list midway through the season under new rules regarding IR designated players but I am still willing to take 6 weeks of high-end LB production out of Smith. Even if you aren’t a Bishop owner, consider grabbing this guy if he’s available on your waiver wire. Up first is run-heavy San Francisco which should yield plenty of tackle opportunity in week 1.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2
Wesley Woodyard DEN LB – WLB 4-3
DJ Williams’ suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs was upheld in federal court on Monday meaning that Woodyard will be starting at weakside linebacker for the Broncos for at least the first six games of the year. That being said, don’t be surprised if DJ never makes another start in Denver. Williams is owed $5M this year and $6M next year, the last two years of a 6 year deal. Between PED suspensions and DUIs, Williams may prove to be too expensive and too distracting to keep around. Woodyard has made good on the opportunities provided to him, posting a career high 97 tackles last year. He stands a good chance to improve on those numbers. Expect Woodyard to be on the field for third down as well as base downs, MLB Joe Mays is not a quality coverage LB. Woodyard is liable to be rostered already but with this latest news, he gets a big bump. If he’s available, scoop him.
Roster Recommendation: Mid to Low-end LB2
Paris Lenon ARI LB – ILB 3-4
Some deep drafters or dynasty leaguers may scoff at Lenon’s spot on this list. After all, why would a guy who has posted four 90 tackle seasons out of the last five years be on the waiver wire? Fact is, in many leagues, Lenon isn’t getting drafted. Be it the discount due to age (Lenon is 34 years old) or the fact that Arizona brought in Stewart Bradley to take Lenon’s job only to fail two years running. The guy is going to get his steady 5-7 tackles a game and with what looks to be a run-heavy Seahawks team up first, the opportunity could be there to deliver a solid performance out of the gate. Lenon won’t win you games, but he might keep you from losing them.
Roster Recommendation: Mid to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Jerrell Freeman IND LB – Starting alongside Kavell Conner inside the Colts new 3-4 defense for injured starter Pat Angerer. The Colts haven’t been stopping the run very well in the preseason (have they ever in recent memory?) and they are sporting a lot of inexperience on the offensive side of the ball. I expect a lot of running plays to be run against the Colts which bodes well for fantasy points from Colts LBs.
Adam Hayward TBB LB – Starting MLB Mason Foster is questionable for week 1 with a hamstring issue and the coachspeak doesn’t sound good for the second year Mike. Hayward performed admirably in spot duty last year, posting 12 solos in a game and a half. Watch the injury report for this one.
Miles Burris OAK LB – With regular starter Aaron Curry on the PUP list with balky knees, 4th round rookie Miles Burris has a starting weakside LB job in Oakland. The former Aztec tackles well and knows how to rush the passer. The weakside linebacker in Oakland hasn’t been relevant in fantasy since the Thomas Howard days but quite frankly, it hasn’t seen any talent since then either.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Derrick Morgan TEN DE – DE 4-3
2010 first round pick Derrick Morgan seems to be fully recovered from the ACL tear that ended his rookie campaign. Although splitting snaps with former practice squadder Pannel Egboh currently, I fully expect Morgan to earn the extra snaps he will need on early downs to bump his value into the DL2 area. If Kamerion Wimbley keeps looking like the difference maker that the Titans need on the other end of the line, Morgan could flirt with 7 sacks and 40 tackles this year. Morgan is likely on a redraft waiver wire and could be had for cheap in dynasty.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Mid DL3
Paul Kruger BAL DE – DE/LOLB 3-4
If you league provider has Kruger at LB exclusively, stay away from him, you can do better. But at the ultra-scarce position of DE, Kruger has value. With both Jarret Johnson (UFA) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles injury) out of the picture, Kruger stands to inherit a significant workload. Johnson was able to log 55-70 tackles every year (~40 solos) at Kruger’s current spot in the lineup. If he can keep the DE tag, a conservative 50 tackle estimate along with 5 sacks puts him in the DL2 argument with DL1 upside. Kruger has second round pedigree but as a fourth year player with little production to his name, he is populating many waiver wires currently. Snatch him up and hope he can fill some of the big shoes left by Johnson and Suggs.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Mid DL3
Robert Quinn STL DE – DE 4-3
Robert Quinn looks to benefit from some youth and talent infused into the defensive tackle position. First round pick Michael Brockers is impressing many in camp and UFA acquisition Kendall Langford is stabilizing a previous sore spot in the Rams defense. Pressure up the middle should yield benefits to the ends and Robert Quinn has the most to gain. Ranked in the 30s amongst ends, Quinn could easily become a quality DE2 if he can capitalize on the opportunity that he has. In shallow keeper leagues or dynasties with impatient owners, this might be the last time you get a shot at Quinn for cheap. If he’s free on the wire, you could do worse for a backup DL.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Plays
Ray Edwards ATL DE – Edwards looked to have a poor year in Atlanta last year. Truth is that he was still getting in the backfield and rushing the passer, he just didn’t log a ton of sacks in doing so. Add in a knee injury that plagued him throughout the year, and you have a recipe for a down year. Edwards looks to be healthy this year and ready to contribute.
Matt Shaughnessy OAK DE – A bit of an afterthought in redrafts after a season ending shoulder injury last year, Matt Shaughnessy is a big piece of an Oakland Raider defensive line that looks to be one of the best in the NFL. Shaughnessy offers 50 tackle/7 sack upside at a fraction of the price.
Jared Odrick MIA DE – For those who need to dig deeper, Jared Odrick has the inside track to start at LDE for the Dolphins opposite Cameron Wake. He can get to the quarterback as evidenced by his 6 sacks year ago. He is worth a flier for desperate owners looking for some upside against a shaky right tackle situation in Houston.
Defensive Back Plays
Taylor Mays CIN S – SS 4-3
Former 49er and USC standout Taylor Mays looks to have grabbed hold of the strong safety position for the Bengals. Mays plays like a fourth linebacker from the safety position so I expect him to be playing in the box a fair amount. His tackle potential could be in the 90s with 60-65 solos. With no certainties in his job for this year and many frustrated dynasty owners cutting bait last year, Mays is likely available on many waiver wires. Look for Mays to get involved in run support against Ray Rice and the Ravens in week 1.
Roster Recommendation: Mid-DB2 to low-end DB3
Brandon Meriweather WAS S – SS 3-4
A draft afterthought this year after failing to survive the Patriots final cuts and enduring a dismal season in Chicago, Meriweather seems to have found a home in Washington. Over 230 total tackles were split amongst four safeties in Washington last year. If Meriweather can secure steady opportunity, don’t be surprised if he flirts with top 15 numbers. That being said, securing that opportunity may be a difficult scenario to realize. Former Viking, Bengal and 49er Madieu Williams seems set on free safety and Reed Doughty will no doubt get his chances. In addition, DeAngelo Hall has been playing some safety this offseason. Meriweather is a stash play here, pluck him from your wire and hang onto to him while the Washington defense shakes out.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to low-end DB3
Major Wright CHI S – SS 4-3
Injuries derailed an otherwise solid year for the former Gator. If not for 5 games lost due to injury, Wright could have contended for 90 tackles. In addition, with MLB Brian Urlacher battling balky knees (and father time), expect some tackle potential up the middle to be up for grabs. If Wright can stay healthy, he has big upside at a position that is historically a quality producer.
Roster recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Alteraun Verner TEN CB – CB2 4-3
Dynasty players know all about this guy. The rookie corner rule was in full effect in 2010 when this guy posted 100 tackles (85 solo). After disappearing in 2011, Verner looks to be back in the starting lineup this year with the departure of Cortland Finnegan to the Rams. In redraft, Verner likely wasn’t drafted but he has 200 point potential if he can hang onto a starting job. Verner against the Patriots is a dream matchup that could produce top-notch numbers for week 1 as well. Exploit this if Verner happens to be available on your wire.
Roster recommendation: Low-end DB1 to High-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Plays
Janoris Jenkins STL CB – It’s not rocket science to think about starting the rookie CB2 on a defense playing the pass-happy Lions but it’s an effective strategy if you are playing DB by committee. The rookie corner rule usually applies and if Jenkins is free on the wire, he could be a sneaky double digit play for week 1.
Rahim Moore DEN FS – Isaac Redman is all sorts of nicked up and Jonathan Dwyer may have showcased in the preseason but is far from proven. Does anyone else see Big Ben throwing 45 times? Second year man Rahim Moore is starter at free safety and could be a solid tackle heavy play in what has the makings of a game with lots of passing offense.