It doesn’t mean an owner can sit back and relax.
No, the best of the best are out there right now perusing the waiver wire, looking for sly additions. Owners have a tendency to fall in love with their drafts and refuse to budge, and it makes sense after putting so much work into it.
But like it or not, certain players put on strong performances in the preseason and sit in situations sure to create fantasy production this season. Below, let’s take a look at some lesser-owned players owners should be on the hunt for right now.
Top Pickups from Preseason
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (21.0 ownership percentage)
It’s time to stop underestimating Andy Dalton as a viable fantasy weapon.
Granted, Dalton hasn’t looked amazing in exhibitions and exited the third with a bit of a neck issue that isn’t serious, but in preseason Week 1 against the New York Giants, he went a cool 3-of-3 for 31 yards and a score.
The lesson? When Dalton has weapons, he can act as an elite scorer. He posted top-five production at the position in 2013, then took a big dip last year.
But think about the why. For the entire season, Dalton was without Marvin Jones, the wideout who in 2013 had 712 yards and 10 scores. Tyler Eifert left the first game of the season, and he’s looking like the focal point of the offense. A.J. Green missed three full games and was never 100 percent.
Everyone is back and healthy around Dalton this year, though. There’s no reason Dalton shouldn’t even be listed on a 12-team average draft position (ADP) list. Last year was a down year and he still scored among the top 20. A return to top-five form isn’t out of the question.
Matt Jones, RB, Washington (16.4 ownership percentage)
Every year, there’s a preseason pickup at running back who can help carry a fantasy team for the length of a season. This year, it looks like it might be Washington back Matt Jones, a third-round pick out of Florida.
Jones has been borderline unstoppable this preseason, and it isn’t out of the question to think he might be pushing starter Alfred Morris, who coincidentally posted his lowest per-carry average of his career last year at 4.1, for some serious snaps.
One look at Jones, via Rotoworld.com’s Nick Mensio, says quite a lot:
His three preseason games do, too, although he sat out the team’s finale:
Right now, Jones is already a high-end RB4 depending on the matchup. It takes a single issue with Morris or change of heart by the coaching staff, though, to catapult him up to RB2.
It’s a high-upside gamble owners will want to take.
Stevie Johnson, WR, San Diego Chargers (22.9 ownership percentage)
Remember Stevie Johnson?
The former Buffalo Bills star, who wasted away with the San Francisco 49ers last year, now suits up for the San Diego Chargers. As his ownership percentage and ADP of 9.12 as the 44th receiver off the board show (and that might be due to name recognition more than anything), owners don’t seem too thrilled about his prospects this year.
They should be.
Johnson worked his way into the starting lineup in the all-important third preseason game and came away with a team-high six targets, catching four of them for 63 yards. It’s clear he already has a strong rapport with Philip Rivers, meaning he looks due for a major fantasy comeback.
There isn’t much on the depth chart to stop Johnson, either. Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen will see opportunities, sure, but otherwise Johnson should be free to soak up plenty of targets.
Keep in mind, too, as CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora pointed out, the situation with Antonio Gates: “People around here are thinking Stevie Johnson could do big things in this offense. The ex-Bills and Niners wideout is already simpatico with Rivers. And with Antonio Gates suspended for the first four weeks, Johnson will be an integral moving part who could line up in the slot, out wide, wherever.”
So yes, it’s time to take Johnson off the market. He might even have a role as a starter for an owner who drafted the position well.
Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans Saints (11.6 ownership percentage)
Brandon Coleman isn’t a household name, nor should he be yet considering his undrafted status in 2014.
But this is what the best owners do—they make moves before household-name status hits.
Such is the scenario with Coleman, who has quietly worked his way up the depth chart with the New Orleans Saints. He caught one pass for 27 yards in the team’s third preseason game, then followed with four for 82 in the finale.
Rotoworld.com’s Evan Silva provided context:
Now think about it like this. The team lost wideout Kenny Stills and tight end Jimmy Graham this offseason. For one thing, the coaching staff wouldn’t let those players go if it wasn’t confident in players such as Coleman stepping up. For another, that’s a whopping 209 targets from a season ago in need of a new home.
Coleman seems like he will see many of those, and also keep in mind the fading Marques Colston saw 99 of his own. To top it all off, Coleman has an important endorsement, per the Saints:
There should be a stampede to waiver wires right now. Thanks to Coleman’s play, situation and those around him, there’s no reason his ownership percentage shouldn’t take a massive upswing.
All ADP info courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator. All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as are points-against info and ownership stats as of September 5. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.
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