The second week of the NFL regular season is now nearly in the books with Monday night’s game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons still left on the slate. Heading to Week 3, fantasy football owners will try to decipher early season trends for players and figure out what is worth noting. It’s still too early to outright drop proven players for players with more limited track records, but with bye weeks starting in Week 4, bolstering roster depth is becoming more important each week.
As usual with each week’s waiver wire article, I will try to focus on players who have a good chance to make the most impact for fantasy owners long-term. With that, here are my “Waiver Wire Pickups” for Week 3.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Bradford went 26-for-35 for 310 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against the Washington Redskins on Sunday and now has four touchdown passes on the season as he looks to put his dismal 2011 campaign behind him. His upcoming schedule does not feature any obviously great matchups, starting with the Chicago Bears in Week 3 and continuing with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals over the following two weeks. But a Week 6 game against the Miami Dolphins looks promising and Bradford may be forced to throw the ball plenty against the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 and New England Patriots in Week 8. Bradford is not an every week fantasy starter right now and is unlikely to become one, but he is a very nice option for owners in search of a better QB2.
Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
Palmer threw for 373 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 and now has at least 297 passing yards in both games this season. With the Raiders’ running game struggling to get on track, he has also thrown the ball 94 times in that span. Things may not change a lot in that regard in Week 3 against the Pitttsburgh Steelers or Week 4 against the Denver Broncos prior to Oakland’s Week 5 bye, and Palmer may be throwing the ball plenty again in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons on the road. If you can deal with some likely inconsistency, any fantasy owner looking for a QB2 with upside should consider adding Palmer.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram had 16 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 as he led the Saints in carries and appears to be the top option in short yardage and goal line situations. That alone gives him plenty of potential given how prolific the Saints’ offense is, despite the risk for an occasional small workload (six carries for 15 yards in Week 1) with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles also in the mix for playing time and touches in the New Orleans backfield. That committee limits the fantasy upside of all involved, but Ingram looks healthy and should have some type of role no matter what. Even at this early stage of the season targeting running backs on the waiver wire comes down to availability and Ingram fits that bill as he is currently available in 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
Richardson had 15 carries for 83 yards and two receptions for 19 yards against the Washington Redskins on Sunday as he saw increased work with Steven Jackson sidelined by what has now been reported to be a groin injury and not a benching after receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during Sunday’s game. Jackson’s status for Week 3 and beyond is unclear right now, but Richardson has become his primary backup over fellow rookie Isaiah Pead and practically a must-own for those who want Jackson’s handcuff. Even those whose do not own Jackson can find some appeal here if Week 2′s workload for Richardson is any indication of what we can expect if he has to start a few games. Everything really depends on Jackson’s status, but Richardson should still be available in almost all leagues right now and is well worth a speculative addition for owners looking to bolster their running back depth.
Running Backs Watchlist: Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints; Shaun Draughn, Kansas City Chiefs; Andre Brown, New York Giants; Bilal Powell, New York Jets; Mike Goodson, Oakland Raiders; Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers; Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
LaFell had six receptions for 90 yards along with one carry for 25 yards against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 as he tied his single-game career high in catches. Steve Smith is still the top dog in the Panthers’ passing game, but LaFell is emerging as a complement to him and gets another favorable matchup against the New York Giants in Week 3. The Giants have allowed 25 receptions for 473 yards and five touchdowns to opposing wide receivers thus far this season, so the Carolina passing game should have some success on Thursday night and may have to to keep up with the Giants’ passing game. LaFell’s production is on the rise, and so is his ownership percentage in fantasy leagues, but he is still available in more than two-thirds of Yahoo! fantasy leagues at this point.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams
Amendola had 15 catches (on 16 targets) for 160 yards and a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in Week 2, giving him 20 catches through two games this season. He clearly has a significant role in the St. Louis passing game and should remain fairly productive as long as quarterback Sam Bradford is healthy. It’s obviously unrealistic to expect 16 targets every week, but with the Rams’ offensive line as banged up as it is right now quick throws will be the protocol and Amendola has a good chance to be the most targeted Rams’ receiver on a weekly basis. Some fantasy owners may overlook Amendola at this early stage after he missed much of 2011 with a triceps injury, but he is certain to be one of the top waiver wire additions in fantasy football this week regardless of league format and should absolutely be owned in all PPR leagues.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta had eight receptions (on 15 targets) for 65 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 and now has 13 catches (on 24 targets) for 138 yards and a touchdown so far this season. He has overtaken fellow tight end Ed Dickson, become a primary option in the Ravens’ passing game and seems to be a better fit than Dickson for the team’s new, more up-tempo offense. A favorable matchup is coming against the New England Patriots in Week 3, followed by a couple more favorable-looking situations against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 and Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 as well. Pitta is becoming a nice low-end TE1 and he is owned in less than 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
Chandler had two catches for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and now has a touchdown catch in both games this season. He had a similar early run last season with four touchdowns over the first three games and then only had two more scores (in the same game) over the rest of the season. Chandler is unlikely to post huge catch totals along the lines of the top fantasy tight ends, but he his size (6’7″) makes him an excellent red zone option and his role in that area of the field should not go away. Injuries to top tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Antonio Gates are likely to leave their fantasy owners searching for a suitable option and Chandler is well worth adding and should be available in most fantasy leagues right now.
Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders
Myers had six receptions for 86 yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, and now has 11 catches for 151 yards this season. It has been a couple years since Oakland had a tight end that was fantasy-relevant (Zach Miller), so he may be flying under the radar as a top target for Carson Palmer. Myers was bothered by a shoulder injury heading into Sunday’s game, but was ultimately active and with how productive he was the injury does not appear to be an issue. He may have to put together another strong game or two in order to convince fantasy owners he has staying power, but Myers is shaping up as a solid potential bye week fill-in down the road and is worth considering as a a waiver wire addition right now for those that have the roster space.
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Tucker went 3-for-3 on field goals for the second straight week on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and all three of his makes came from 48 yards or longer (including two from 50-plus). Overall on the season, five of his six field goal makes have come from 40-plus yards out, giving him nice fantasy value heading into a favorable Week 3 matchup against the New England Patriots. That is followed by a favorable stretch against the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys from Week 4-Week 6 when bye weeks start to come into play. Fantasy owners may want to consider simply replacing their current kicker with Tucker over the next few weeks ahead of Baltimore’s Week 8 bye, as he has as much upside potential as any available option right now.
Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals
Feely has had a solid start to the season, making all four of his field goal attempts as well as all four of his extra points through two games. His field goal makes against the New England Patriots in Week 2 came from 47 and 51 yards out, and he now has a stretch of favorable matchups starting with Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles and continuing right through Week 4-Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings respectively. Each of Arizona’s next five games also will be played indoors, with serves to benefit Feely greatly as weather–or, more specifically, wind–will not be a factor. The Arizona offense is not one of the more prolific in the league, but fantasy owners can expect Feely to maximize the opportunities he gets. Those who are in a potential pinch with an early bye week for their current kicker should consider Feely well worth adding in 12 and 14-team leagues.
Kicker Watchlist: Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts; Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh Steelers; Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
Team Defense/Special Teams
After a poor Week 1 performance against the New York Jets, the Bills’ defense performed much better in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs as they allowed 17 points (14 in the fourth quarter) while forcing three turnovers and sacking Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel five times. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin added a punt return touchdown in the game as well, creating even more positive momentum heading into a favorable matchup against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. The Buffalo defense had a lot of preseason hype in fantasy circles, due mostly to the offseason addition of pass rusher Mario Williams, but they have a chance to justify some of that hype over the next few weeks prior to their Week 8 bye outside of a challenging Week 4 matchup against the New England Patriots. If nothing else, the Buffalo defense is a worthy one-week play for Week 3 and they have a fair chance to stay at least worthy of a roster spot in subsequent weeks.
The Cardinal put together a solid defensive effort on Sunday against the New England Patriots, allowing 18 points and sacking quarterback Tom Brady four times. Another tough matchup is on the slate in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, but quarterback Michael Vick has thrown six interceptions in two games and should give the Arizona defense plenty of opportunities for sacks and turnovers even if they ultimately allow a lot of yardage and points. Things get easier starting with matchups coming against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 and continuing with the St. Louis Rams in Week 5 and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. In the midst of that is a tough matchup with Buffalo Bills in Week 6, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could give them ample interception chances in that game.
Team Defense Watchlist: San Diego Chargers; Cleveland Browns