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In some leagues with early drafts, there is a waiver wire run before the season. In leagues without a preseason waiver wire run, these potential pickups might be overshadowed by Week 1 waiver wire wonders, so this list can also be a reminder of who to target after the obvious Week 2 pickups are snapped up for big dollars.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, WAS - Heeeee’s back. Peterson was as strong and stubborn as we remember in his preseason start for Washington, and his burst is still well above the NFL line. Washington’s running game was semi-productive with Rob Kelley and Matt Jones in 2016, and offensive line injuries derailed them in 2017. Peterson could be a solid RB2 and might be worth 50% or more of your waiver wire budget.
2. Keelan Cole, WR, JAX - Marqise Lee’s preseason leg injury increases Cole’s speculative value as the closest thing the Jaguars have to a #1. He was actually a fantasy WR1 for a stretch last year, has been running as a starter in two-wide sets, and by most accounts is as dedicated as ever to improving his game in year two of his career as an against the odds UDFA hit.
3. Anthony Miller, WR, CHI - Miller was part of a long list of second-day picks at wide receiver with anxious anticipation of their first camp, but also uncertain redraft value heading into camp. He put on a show and might hold down primary slot duties, which propelled Cooper Kupp to fantasy relevance in his rookie year.
4. Taywan Taylor, WR, TEN - Taylor’s outlook has dimmed a little with Rishard Matthews’ activation from the PUP list, but Taylor has still been getting valuable first-team reps as an outside receiver, and it’s questionable just how ready Matthews will be to contribute early in the season. Taylor could draw the weak spot of the Miami #2 corner in Week 1.
5. John Brown, WR, BAL - Brown has looked just as good as he did at his peak with Arizona and is riffing with Joe Flacco. He might have a recurrence of slow healing due to his sickle cell condition, which has sidetracked his career, but Brown will be productive and perhaps even startable in typical fantasy leagues for as long as he stays healthy. Brown could draw Vontae Davis Week 1 after Davis looked washed up against John Ross in the third preseason game.
6. John Ross, WR, CIN - Speaking of Ross, this summer he lived up to the speed and big play billing that made him the #9 overall pick last year. Week 1 brings the woeful Colts secondary. Andy Dalton looked really sharp in the third preseason game and should give Ross multiple opportunities to make an instant impact.
7. Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN - Sutton might be ready to start even if the Broncos have two strong veteran options to keep him relegated to the #3 for now. It’s possible that Sutton still closes the gap if the Broncos run a prevalence of three-wide sets, and a breakout would be in store if Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas miss time.
8. Jordan Wilkins, RB, IND - Marlon Mack is hurt, Nyheim Hines is fumbling, and Robert Turbin is suspended. Wilkins only has to outperform Christine Michael to take control of this backfield early in this season, although that might not be worth that much while Andrew Luck is getting back up to speed.
9. Jeremy Hill, RB, NE - Hill has been putting in special teams work and appears to have the inside track to the #4 running back job in New England. He could seize goal line and finishing work in the mold of LeGarrette Blount and has also slimmed back down to the weight he was at during his heyday in Cincinnati. The Patriots top two backs are also dealing with knee issues coming out of camp.
10. James Conner, RB, PIT - Conner is faster and quicker than he was last year and did an impression of a better pass-catching version of Jordan Howard at times in the preseason. If Le’Veon Bell gets after holding out again, Conner is ready to start.
11. Geronimo Allison, WR, GB - Going into camp, Allison was set to face a challenge from three draft picks for the #2 outside receiver spot in Green Bay - a potentially valuable spot if injuries take out Davante Adams or Randall Cobb. Allison was never really threatened and appears to be entrenched as that #2 outside receiver heading into the season opener against Chicago.
12. Alfred Morris, RB, SF - Morris still looked viable for Dallas last year, and Kyle Shanahan knows what he can do from their glorious time together in Washington. He might be a better fit for the 49ers running game than Jerick McKinnon or Matt Breida and they are both hurt. Don’t be surprised if he turns this into a three-headed RBBC and ends up leading the team in carries.
13. Christian Kirk, WR, ARI - The Cardinals #2 receiver spot seemed wide open entering camp, and there were even reports that Kirk wasn’t getting much run with the first team. That changed once the preseason was in full swing, and it appears Kirk should get every opportunity to be the second-most valuable fantasy wide receiver in Arizona. It remains to be seen whether that will generate fantasy relevance.
14. Michael Gallup, WR, DAL - The Cowboys don’t have a #1 receiver and their offensive line is a MASH unit. It’s entirely possible that no Dallas passcatcher has consistent, sustained value this year, but if anyone can do it, bet on the rookie. He has shown good chemistry with Dak Prescott and is refined beyond his years in the short and intermediate passing game.
15. TreQuan Smith, WR, NO - Smith has outplayed Cameron Meredith and is poised to be part of this Saints pass offense in his rookie debut against the Buccaneers. Ted Ginn Jr couldn’t turn an unopposed run as the #2 receiver into consistent fantasy relevance last year, but if the offense gets back to a pass-heavy lean, Smith could be worth the stash.
16. Dede Westbrook, WR, JAX - Westbrook is the second biggest beneficiary of Marqise Lee’s injury. He has had a great summer and is probably second in line for snaps and targets at wide receiver. We’re not sure what he’s capable of with a full offseason and camp after he missed the first half of the season injured last year.
18. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, NE - Patterson has earned a role in the Patriots offense, one that will be larger while Julian Edelman is out for the first four games. He has scary open-field running ability and the Patriots might be more willing to manufacture touches for him than Norv Turner and the Raiders were. He could remind everyone why he was a first-round pick.
19. Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI - Alshon Jeffery isn’t even a sure thing to come off of the PUP list. He’s not going to play a large role in Week 1. While the likelihood of Nick Foles starting might hold back the offense as a whole, if they get into the red zone, look for Goedert’s number to be called.
20. Phillip Dorsett, WR, NE - Like Patterson, the former first rounder has had a resurgence this summer, and he appears to be in line to get #2 wide receiver snaps while Julian Edelman is out. Dorsett has deep speed and the Week 1 matchup against the Texans could put him up against some vulnerable corners and safeties.
21. Eric Ebron, TE, IND - There was a lot of buzz about Ebron earlier in camp, but we didn’t get to see the connection between him and Andrew Luck until the third preseason game. Ebron has been a tease and failed to deliver before, but his price is basically free and the Colts lack of a running game and wide receiver depth could make Ebron the rare fantasy relevant #2 tight end.
22. Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC - Seventh-round pick Justin Jackson had a lot of fans, but he has been hurt most of the summer and never threatened Ekeler’s hold on the #2 role. Ekeler has also looked even better in his second summer after surprising as a UDFA last year and deserves a role that might generate standalone fantasy value while we sit on his Melvin Gordon handcuff injury upside.
23. Spencer Ware, RB, KC - Ware’s condition coming into camp was an unknown, but he didn’t even land on the PUP list. The Chiefs let Charcandrick West go in another vote of confidence in Ware’s health. He was as productive as Kareem Hunt was in 2017 before a 2016 mid-season concussion, so Ware has a lot of potential if Hunt goes down, and maybe even some while Hunt is healthy.
24. Wayne Gallman, RB, NYG - Gallman has distanced himself from Jonathan Stewart as the backup running back and the starter, Saquon Barkley, is going to be coming off of a layoff while recovering from a hamstring injury. Gallman is a solid receiver out of the backfield and would at least be a flex play if Barkley goes down, and he can be an injury upside handcuff in deeper leagues if Barkley stays healthy.
25. Chase Edmonds, RB, ARI - Edmonds ended any semblance of a competition to back up David Johnson before it started this summer. If Johnson goes down, Edmonds will be an everydown back, and he’s an outstanding passcatching back.
26. Rod Smith, RB, DAL - Smith continues to grow and should be the primary backup to Ezekiel Elliott in all facets of the game. Smith’s passcatching is astoundingly good for a big back, and he obviously has the mass to mix it up between the tackles. Bo Scarbrough is no threat to Smith's place on the depth chart.
27. Quincy Enunwa, WR, NYJ - The Jets offense might be no place to go looking for fantasy value this year, but if it is, Enunwa appears to be ready to resume the team’s plans for him to be their #1 receiver. He did miss part of camp and his chemistry (well the whole offense’s) with Sam Darnold is still a work in progress. Enunwa is worth a stash in deeper leagues to see if he is truly back to full speed and central in the Jets plans.
28. Donte Moncrief, WR, JAX - Moncrief will get more run with Lee out, although he hasn’t exactly made the Jaguars or observers excited with his performance this summer. Maybe he’ll show some of that considerable physical ability when the lights go on against the Giants.
29. Danny Amendola, WR, MIA - Going into camp, Amendola was expected to battle Albert Wilson for snaps in the slot and be a role player for the Dolphins. Coming out of camp, DeVante Parker was questionable for Week 1 and generally underwhelming in practices and games, Amendola was the clear #1 slot receiver, and the Dolphins were seeing Wilson as more of an outside receiver. Amendola might lead this team in targets and catches for as long as he stays healthy.
30. Bruce Ellington, WR, HOU - Keke Coutee’s arrival was delayed by a hamstring injury, so Ellington will be the Week 1 slot receiver for the Texans. He might draw rookie Duke Dawson against the Patriots in Week 1.
31. Mike Wallace, WR, PHI - Even if Alshon Jeffery is activated from the PUP list, he’s no sure thing to go Week 1, and he’s sure to not be his usual self yet if he does. Nick Foles will make playing your Eagles less enticing in Week 1 if Carson Wentz can’t go, but Wallace still has game and might build some momentum even with Foles taking snaps.
32. Brandon Marshall, WR, SEA - Heeeee’s back, part two. Marshall looked done for the Giants last year, but observers have been testifying about his return to form in Seattle, and he should make the team, if not get a key role in the red zone and on passing downs. If Doug Baldwin’s knee isn’t right, Marshall’s chances for relevance will go up.
33. Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN - Delanie Walker has been missing time with a toe injury. While it might be nothing, it could also limit him in Week 1 (check those practice reports). Smith has appeared ready for a larger role in his second year, and the Miami linebackers are green and ready to be exploited in their Week 1 matchup.
34. Tyler Higbee, TE, LAR - Gerald Everett’s summer was wiped out by a shoulder injury, which leaves Higbee as the presumptive starter at tight end to open the season against the Raiders, who generally have trouble defending the tight end.
35. Ryan Griffin, TE, HOU - The Texans had a messy picture at tight end going into camp, but Griffin has emerged as the starter. He put up 5-61-1 and 3-52 lines in a limited time with Deshaun Watson last year