Fantasy Football is back! While your home team gears up, you’re stocking up on carbonated beverages, pizza and wings, and excuses to avoid church for the next 17 Sundays. But more importantly, your fantasy league draft is in the books and your Week 1 matchup is creeping up. If the final few practices cause a key piece of your team to pull a hamstring or break a pinky toe, Dumpster Dives is here for you. Or if you just aren’t feeling that last round flier pick you made, we’re here for you in that case as well.
Every week I scour the bottom of the waiver wire and look for upside players with ownership around or below 10 percent. For those of you in deeper leagues or dynasty leagues with deep benches, the Dumpster Dives will be more actionable than your typical Waiver Wire column.
Luke Willson, TE (Detroit Lions) owned 0.7%
Luke Willson was a quiet offseason acquisition for the Lions. Similar to the way Delanie Walker was trapped behind Vernon Davis for the first half of his career, Willson used to play second fiddle to Jimmy Graham in Seattle.
When targeted, however, he was one of Russell Wilson’s more productive receiving weapons. His adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) trails only only Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.1
Now in Detroit, Willson inherits a wealth of opportunity. Both of the top tight ends from 2017 have moved on, with Eric Ebron now in Indianapolis and Darren Fells a Cleveland Brown. Between the two, 102 targets are up for grabs.
Since Matthew Stafford has been paired with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, 14.7 percent of the passing targets have gone to the top TE. I have Stafford projected for 597 pass attempts on the season, and that would mean 88 targets in store for Willson. That volume would have been good enough for No. 8 among TEs a year ago, behind Graham and just ahead of Jason Witten.
The Lions kept four TEs on their roster, but Willson’s preseason knee injury doesn’t appear serious. It all boils down to a possible career year, and I have him projected for 57 receptions, 723 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
Austin Ekeler, RB (Los Angeles Chargers) owned 11%
Week 1 and I’ve already made an ownership exception. But Eric Moody’s No. 49th RB is being disrespected by the casual fantasy community.
Melvin Gordon is the obvious reason Ekeler falls into the waiver wire dumpster. A clear workhorse in 2017, Gordon touched the ball 342 times, fourth most of any running back in the league. That kind of workload will not last. With Philip Rivers’ Superbowl window closing, Gordon is going to be needed down the stretch, and Ekeler has earned more time in a complementary role.
In his rookie year, he caught 77 percent of his targets for 10.3 yards per reception. Combined with his 260 yards on the ground, Ekeler averaged an impressive 7.3 yards per touch. Plus, he scored five touchdowns on only 47 carries and 27 receptions.
He’s looked even better in the preseason. Against the New Orleans, Ekeler stepped into the lead role and racked up 63 total yards on nine touches2 with the first team offense.
With pass-catching backs like Giovani Bernard and Theo Riddick owned in over 50 percent of leagues, Ekeler is drastically under-owned. His floor is similar to either of those other RBs, while he vaults into the immediate RB2 conversation if Gordon were to miss any time.
Dede Westbrook, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars) owned 9.1%
With Allen Hurns’ departure and the unfortunate loss of Marqise Lee to injury, Jacksonville suddenly finds themselves looking to make up 50 percent of their targets from last year. Fellow sophomore Keelan Cole has taken a lead role and that has folks forgetting about the Jags fourth-round pick a year ago.
Due to injury, Westbrook started the 2017 season late, not getting into the action full time until Week 11. But from that point on, Westbrook commanded 22 percent of the target share in Jacksonville. During that same time frame, Cole and Lee also garnered 21 percent and 22 percent respectively.3
Westbrook’s speed and skill set really opened up the passing game for Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense. Bortles averaged an additional 4.1 fantasy points and 36.5 passing yards when Westbrook played.
Despite facing competition from Donte Moncrief and impressive rookie D.J. Chark, Westbrook has the most to gain from the Lee injury. Pick him up in all leagues before the rest of your competition catches on.