Fantasy waiver wire targets for Week 1 of 2021 season

Working the waiver wire is an important part of fantasy football, but it can often be overlooked heading into Week 1. Fantasy managers will draft their teams and then think that lineup is fine to roll with in the first week. And for the most part, it is. But, you can still find value on the wire even before the first games kickoff.

After cuts and injuries from preseason, there are sure to be some players who have gained value since your draft. The earlier you held your draft, the more value that is likely sitting out there on the waiver wire.

Upside QBs: If you missed out on the elite Top-6 QBs then one approach I have been taking is to grab a starter and then grab an upside QB to stash on the bench. Some options that are still readily available are Tua Tagovailoa (53% rostered), Justin Fields (51% rostered), Trey Lance (34% rostered), Jameis Winston (32% rostered) and Sam Darnold (3% rostered).

Gerald Everett, 47% Rostered

Everett has the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level but has been buried behind Tyler Higbee on the Rams depth chart. Now he is in Seattle as their starting tight end with Russell Wilson slinging him the ball. That is important, as Wilson threw 27 percent of his red zone passes last year, and 25 percent in his career, to tight ends. That gives Everett the opportunity to rack up TDs, which basically puts him in the TE1 discussion.

Marquez Callaway, 38% Rostered

Callaway went from completely off the fantasy radar to being a receiver with upside to target in the early double-digit rounds after a monstrous preseason. In his first preseason game he was targeted four times, catching three of them for 61 yards. But, the real excitement came the next week in Jameis Winston’s start, where he was targeted five times, catching all five for 104 yards and two scores. He showed that he can be a legit deep threat, which is a perfect pairing with Winston’s downfield capabilities. With Michael Thomas out for at least the first five games, Callaway has a great chance to step up as the Saints’ top wide receiver to open the season and can still be had in the majority of leagues.

Zach Ertz, 33% Rostered

All summer long fantasy players waited for Ertz to be dealt. But it just never happened. Despite the fact that Ertz is still with the Eagles, he has been overlooked in fantasy throughout the summer, leaving him rostered in just a third of NFL.com leagues. But, Ertz is still worthy of adding and throwing on your bench, to see if he still has anything left in the tank. Last season was a lost year for Ertz, but he was a Top-6 fantasy tight end in the four prior seasons and is still just 30-years-old. Plus, he has actually had more targets than Dallas Goedert in preseason (albeit three to one), which was also the trend at practice throughout the summer, according to Eagles beat reporters. Ertz could be done and if so, you can cut him. But he could easily outlive everyone’s expectations, and with tight end being so tough after the top options, it’s worth taking an upside flier at the position.

Tevin Coleman, 22% Rostered

The Jets have made it no secret that Tevin Coleman is their starter, at least heading into the season. Not only did he start the only preseason game he played, but in Week 3 the Jets had their game delayed due to poor weather and decided to sit their starters. The running back they chose to sit? Coleman, while Michael Carter and Ty Johnson played that game. Not only that, but Coleman has a history with this coaching staff as Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur worked with Coleman both on the Falcons and 49ers under Kyle Shanahan. The familiarity within the system and the fact that he is the projected lead back, is enough to pick him up and keep him as a flex option early on.

Jakobi Meyers, 10% Rostered

Meyers was another big preseason winner. In total, he had nine targets, catching five for 73 yards and a touchdown. The one caveat is that eight of those nine targets came from Cam Newton, who clearly viewed Meyers as his favorite target. Still, Meyers showed the capability to get open and, if he is doing so in the season, accuracy specialist Mac Jones will find him. He will compete for Nelson Agholor as the top target in the Patriots offense. He is worth taking a flier on.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, 10% Rostered

St. Brown has been one of my favorite sleepers throughout draft season and now he is one of my favorite waiver wire targets. St. Brown fell to the fourth round of the NFL Draft, but still landed in a great spot in Detroit. The Lions have one of the weaker receiver groups in the NFL with Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus as his competition for targets. St. Brown has operated out of the slot this preseason and has a chance to play the “big slot receiver” role for Goff, similarly to Cooper Kupp’s role on the Rams.

Bryan Edwards, 3% Rostered/Henry Ruggs III, 22% rostered

The Raiders cut veteran John Brown a week before the season starts, which shows that they feel satisfied with the receivers they have on the roster. The main two being Edwards and Ruggs, who both were held out of the preseason. There have been reports that Gruden wants to get Ruggs the ball more, and after taking him as the first receiver off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, he has incentive to do so. But Edwards is an outside receiver who can be a possession receiver and chain-mover. Ruggs is the higher upside play, given his deep field abilities, but Edwards has the chance to be more consistent on a weekly basis. Both will compete for targets behind Waller.

Ty'Son Williams, 6% Rostered

The Ravens lost J.K. Dobbins a week before the season, which is a crushing blow to their backfield. That means Gus Edwards has been elevated to starter, but the Ravens will be in need of a second back. They have always involved a second running back. Last season when Mark Ingram missed time, they even split carries and targets between Dobbins and Edwards. The “Gus Bus” will be the main back here, but Williams has a chance to carve out a role on the Ravens, the team that runs by far the most in the league on a yearly basis. The Ravens did put in a waiver claim for Royce Freeman, indicating they can still opt to sign a veteran back, but until they do, Williams should be grabbed off of waivers solely for the opportunity he should receive.

Terrace Marshall Jr., 4% Rostered

Terrace Marshall Jr. was drafted 59th overall (second round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is a big bodied receiver (6’3”) who is a contested catch beast. Last year in college, he caught 82 percent of his contested targets. He also led the Panthers with 12 preseason targets, catching nine of them for 181 yards and a TD. Yeah, he can play in the league! He will start out behind DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, but last year the Panthers had three fantasy relevant receivers. Marshall has a great chance to lead this team in receiving touchdowns and his value will shoot up if either of the top two receivers miss time.

Parris Campbell, 1% Rostered

Campbell is an explosive slot receiver built similarly in the mold of a Tyler Lockett. Not saying he is on Lockett’s level, but he is a similar style of player. The issue for Campbell has been his durability. Due to injuries, he has not been able to stay on the field for his first two NFL seasons. But, the Colts are still excited for what Campbell can bring to their offense, and with T.Y. Hilton starting the season on the IR, there will be more opportunities up for grabs with the Colts. Michael Pittman Jr. will likely operate as their number one, but Campbell can definitely emerge as their second target, especially given the extra opportunity early on.

Nico Collins, 0.3% Rostered

Look, I get it, the Texans are not an offense that you want to invest in for fantasy. But, someone has to catch the ball there, right? The Texans cut Darren Fells, who is a known red-zone presence, while there have been reports that they are open to trading veterans such as Brandin Cooks. Collins is a big receiver (6’4, 215 lbs.) who can specialize as a red/end zone target. He also has some downfield abilities and was consistently playing with the starters this preseason. He could quickly become their top target if some veterans are dealt. He has a great chance of leading this team in touchdowns. He can be had for nothing and be stashed on benches.

Kicker Note: This may sound simple, but make sure you have a kicker on your team that is going to be playing Week 1! There are kickers like Wil Lutz, who are sidelined by injures and then other projected starters such as Mike Badgley and Nick Folk who were cut last week.

Defenses to Stream Week 1: If you missed out on the top defenses such as the Rams, 49ers, Steelers, Ravens, Buccaneers, Dolphins you should look to go the streaming route. Week 1 is actually not a great streaming week since many of the top defenses are facing the teams we would stream against, but there are still options. The top streaming options for Week 1 are: Denver Broncos (@ NYG), Seattle Seahawks (@ IND), Minnesota Vikings (@ CIN – Joe Burrow’s first game since tearing his ACL), Jacksonville Jaguars (@ HOU).

Deeper League Options: Cole Kmet, Donovan Peoples-Jones, K.J. Hamler, Kenneth Gainwell, Carlos Hyde, Tony Jones Jr., Quez Watkins , Juwan Johnson.

Follow Michael F. Florio on Twitter and Instagram, @MichaelFFlorio.

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