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4 Waiver Wire Winners for 2014

wilson

The war isn’t entirely won on draft night. Keeping an eye on players as they move around their respective depth charts this time of the year is critical. Not every player that will help hoist your fantasy championship trophy in January has a clear path to playing time today or even Week 1. Just a year ago, Zac Stacy, Keenan Allen, Nick Foles, and Donald Brown were buried on their clubs, but all had a league-tilting effect when acquired off waivers. Here are four guys who don’t even have a current ADP that registers in 12-team leagues at Fantasy Football Calculator that you shouldn’t forget about making an impact in 2014 at some juncture.

Marquess Wilson

The Phenom Index All-Star is definitely no secret around these parts, but buzz has cooled on Wilson since initial reports of his weight gain because he doesn’t even have an ADP in 14-team leagues. People are selecting Lance Moore over him right now. Even at MyFantasyLeague, he’s WR74 in drafts since June 1.

Even as the third receiver, Wilson is in tough spot for initial targets because Marc Trestman teams have historically always had a shallow spread of target distribution. The only time a third wide receiver was relevant for fantasy purposes was Jerry Porter in Oakland when there was absolutely no tight end presence in the offense. 2013 was no different as four Chicago players accounted for 86 percent of the total targets.

chi

Let’s say you select either Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery near the turn of a fantasy draft over the next month. I’m not one for handcuffing players, but this is a rare exception where it’s imperative that you add Wilson later on for the following reasons.

  1. He insures the WR1 you selected.
  2. He becomes a fringe WR1/2 play on the other Bears’ WR you didn’t select if that receiver is injured.
  3. He becomes a WR3 if Martellus Bennett is injured.

There aren’t many players who are technically a handcuff to three different players that would inherit such a large piece of a high end offense. Marshall is 30 years old and hasn’t missed a game over the past three seasons after missing at least one in the three previous seasons. He, Jeffery, and Bennett are players with big frames who play at high risk positions. At a point in the draft when every running back and receiver has a low hit rate to succeed, he’s a solid bench add.

Gavin Escobar

Escobar is a true waiver wire option, but one that is attached to a player being severely over-drafted in Jason Witten. Not only is Witten 32 years old, well past the age of declination at his position, he’s also coming off a season in which he disguised a lot of that declination. He saw the fewest percent of team targets since 2006, converted the fewest amount of those targets into receptions since he was a rookie, but posted his highest touchdown rate. There’s fantasy gravity at work for the future and a usable backup is already on the roster if Witten should go down during the season.

witten

Escobar is a weight adjusted agility standout that ranks right between Dwayne Allen and Kyle Rudolph in terms of the TE Phenom Index, two players that most of the community likes. Davis Mattek makes a strong argument for James Hanna over Escobar and he has a solid case. I’ll side with Escobar since he was actually used vertically and Scott Linehan has used players like him in the past such as Tony Scheffler and Randy McMichael.

PlayerRoutesTgtRt/TgtTgt %RecRt/RecYdsTD
Gavin Escobar120158.012.5%913.31342
James Hanna97156.515.5%128.1730

Devin Street

Davis Mattek wants you to know that Terrance Williams is a screaming bargain. Shawn Siegele doesn’t see him as a true breakout candidate. Regardless of which side you take, it’s extremely hard to endorse owning Williams anywhere this season if his final ADP is even remotely close to his current landing area.

twill

Williams isn’t a player I was high on coming out of Baylor and I still consider him a one trick pony in the NFL. I’m also concerned with him for a few reasons other than just inflated market value. One is that secondary WRs under Linehan have typically underwhelmed because his emphasis is getting the ball to the glutton of elite receivers he’s inherited at every stop and to his backs out of the backfield. He hasn’t had an all-pro gallery of players who have filled that role other than Isaac Bruce and Marty Booker, but only twice has the second option reached six scores in a season in his offense.

Second is that even after that midseason hot streak in which Williams scored in five of six games, his playing time immediately was diminished for a player that the organization cut bait with at the beginning of the offseason. Lastly, is that Dallas just drafted a very similar player to Williams in Street, which really isn’t a shining endorsement for Williams.

PlayerRY AgeHtWt40YDVertBroadEXPAgilityArmHand
Street23.8751984.523712416110.933.389.25
Williams23.9742084.4832.5119151.511.331.288.68

Not only does Street possess a larger catch radius, but his peripherals actually point to him being a better candidate to provide splash plays, the crux of Wiliams’ game. Even their college production was similar despite both playing in completely  different systems.

streetwilliams

Jonathan Bales covers the Cowboys and he’s not too fond of the selection of Street, and the team also added Chris Boyd and L’Damian Washington to compete for roster spots at receiver as well, so there’s a check against him.  There is a positive that the Cowboys claim to have had a third-round grade on Street (the same round in which they selected Williams) and were ecstatic to land him at pick 174. That’s likely nothing to go nuts about because if they felt that he was a necessity, they could’ve jumped up at any point to grab him. Williams has issues with drops, which may or may not have to do with his hand size, and already has had more negative reports early in training camp than positive ones. This may be more of a knock on paying the ADP cost of Williams, but I do believe there’s a non-zero chance that Street could play snaps over him at some point during the season. Of course, endorsing back-to-back Cowboys also comes with its fair share of risk.

Benny Cunningham

Cunningham has gotten a little sleeper love already on the site as a prospect and for his immediate future. With the Rams selection of Tre Mason in the third round this spring, he’s all but fallen off of the radar for leagues. If the undervalued Zac Stacy were to go down at some point this season, there still stands a good reason to believe that Cunningham would be the immediate replacement with Mason staying in a neutral role for the duration of 2014.

First, there were already people in the NFL who believed that Mason was more of a product of the system that Gus Malzahn ran at Auburn instead of raw ability. That doesn’t mean much since the Rams may (well, obviously) feel differently and Jeff Fisher has already hinted at Mason being a bit of a luxury pick as well as possibly a change of pace back in 2014.

Cunningham is tough to get a true bead on, but does have a year in the system working for him. He averaged a gaudy 5.6 yards per carry, which is still a solid 4.5 YPC after removing the 56-yard scamper he had against the Colts. That average is hard to judge because he had 43 percent of his carries already ahead two or more scores and was used primarily when game scripts were extremely favorable. He did step up for Stacy in Week 11 and posted a 13 carry, 109-yard effort, but even that was against Chicago, a team that was historically poor versus the run.

The Rams have tipped their hand with how they want to approach things offensively this season and have the fifth-highest amount of capital tied into their starting offensive line. The combination of Brian Schottenheimer and Fisher’s tendencies in conjunction with the St. Louis defense also paints a rosy picture for this ground game as fertile ground for fantasy points. If Stacy were to go down, savvy owners could make a play for Cunningham while Mason’s stock could be overvalued.

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