Each week, I'm tasked with picking the top 10 waiver wire targets (this week it was 11, given the lateness of Dez Bryant's injury) for fantasy football fans. That article is a more cursory glance at the waiver wire, helping the countless fantasy players on NFL.com in more casual leagues figure out who is worth adding to their roster.
However, for those of you degenerates ... err I mean "die-hards," in more intense leagues, my weekly "Deep Dive" column is the one for you. As the season progresses, this is where I'll highlight the players you want to be a week early on, as opposed to trying to get in on the waiver wire bidding war post-breakout. Using a combination of film study and statistical analysis, I was able to suggest rostering players like Latavius Murray, Jonathan Stewart, Boom Herron, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Charles Johnson weeks before they became hot waiver wire options last season. I'll hope to rack up a similar track record again, but I can't promise anything. Fantasy is far from a guaranteed game, as we all know too well. I did recommend Chad Henne once last year, and for that I sincerely apologize.
Any way, enough blathering. On to the "Deep Dive" waiver wire targets for Week 2!
The Cardinals received good news in that Andre Ellington should miss limited time with a "mild" PCL sprain suffered on Sunday against the Saints. That was bad news for David Johnson truthers and fantasy fans who wanted to see the speedy rookie involved more often in the Cardinals offense. For deeper PPR leagues, Johnson could be worth a pick up and flex start against the Bears in Week 2. Chris Johnson figures to get the start, but Johnson should see plenty of work -- especially in passing situations -- with Ellington likely healing on the sidelines.
We wondered all offseason who would assume the Shane Vereen role for the Patriots now that he's in New York. The answer, was Dion Lewis. Lewis looked great both on the ground and through the air during the NFL Kickoff game. He will lose some touches on the ground to LeGarrette Blount, who will return from a one-game suspension, but Lewis looks to be locked in as the pass-catching back. He has great value in PPR leagues, but could be a flex option in standard formats, too. Get him before it's too late.
I had already made up my mind that Williams would be a Deep Dive candidate this week prior to him busting out his impressive 26-yard touchdown run on Sunday. He's the clear-cut No. 2 rushing option in a ground-n-pound attack that's led by an aging running back in LeSean McCoy who has already suffered multiple injuries this offseason (toe, hamstring). Look, I know McCoy isn't THAT old, but Williams just screams upside. I'd stash him all over the place if possible, because if McCoy goes down Williams will see a ton of touches.
We wanted clarity from the Dallas backfield on Sunday night, and were offered some. Joseph Randle is the lead back, getting 27 snaps and 19 touches (16 rushes, three receptions), while Dunbar will be the change-of-pace, passing-down back. His 33 snaps were the most of a Dallas RB (McFadden had 10), which was due in part to the Cowboys being in hurry-up at times. Still, Dunbar certainly made a case for more playing time, as he caught all eight of his targets for 80 yards, looking great in space. He's worth a flier add in PPR leagues especially.
Filling in for the injured Tre Mason and Todd Gurley, Cunningham acquitted himself well against the Seattle defense, racking up 122 total yards, doing most of his damage through the air (four catches, 77 yards). If Mason still can't go (Gurley will not be), then Cunningham again merits flex consideration (moreso in PPR formats). He'll travel to face Washington, who has been stingy against rushers in recent years, but Cunningham's ability out of the backfield helps make up for deficiencies between the tackles.
The Baltimore backfield still belongs to Justin Forsett, but it appears Allen could start to carve out a larger share. Allen only saw 13 snaps on Sunday against the Broncos, but touched the ball 10 times on those plays, gaining 34 total yards. It was tough sledding all day for these two, as Forsett only notched 56 total yards on 18 touches (3.1 ypt average). With Lorenzo Taliaferro still recovering from a knee injury, Allen could have some value in deeper leagues in the coming weeks, but is worth a stash for now if you have space.
There are a couple of factors behind Hillman warranting a waiver wire claim this week. One, presumed lead back C.J. Anderson suffered a rolled ankle and toe injury on Sunday, which the team has since deemed "fine." Two, Hillman out-rushed Anderson as well, albeit not by much. Toe injuries for running backs are worrisome as they can linger, meaning this could flare up again and cause Anderson to potentially miss more time. Hillman has been hyped up by his coaching staff this offseason as well, and his potential in Gary Kubiak's offense means he's worth a stash on your bench. He could even have low-end flex value on Thursday night against the Chiefs.
Garcon arguably should have made it onto the first waiver piece I wrote, profiling the top 11 options to target on waivers, but forgive me if I couldn't advocate the top pass-catcher for Kirk Cousins, who seemed committed to throwing interceptions on Sunday. Garcon could see a healthy amount of target volume with DeSean Jackson likely out three to four weeks, but I just don't feel great about his chances in that offense against the Rams (next week). If you're hurting for a wide receiver or need an option in PPR, then definitely scoop up Garcon. I'd just be leery about over-paying for him with a high waiver claim or a big portion of a FAAB budget as we head into Week 2.
While Brandin Cooks is still the top wide receiver option in this passing attack, it appears Coleman could be the No. 2 option ahead of Marques Colston. He had more offensive snaps than Colston (58 to 46), and while they received the same amount of targets (seven) Coleman did more with his, notching 41 yards and a touchdown. He's a big, athletic receiver in an offense with a Hall of Fame quarterback. He's definitely worth a flier as a WR5 for your fantasy squad in case a breakout is on the horizon.
There was talk at the end of training camp about how Matthews had usurped the third wide receiver role from Kenny Stills, and Sunday proved that to be true. Matthews' six targets were second most of the Miami wideouts after Landry (12), and third-most on the team (Jordan Cameron, seven), while his 45 offensive snaps were more than Greg Jennings (39) and Stills (23). At this rate, and if he keeps performing (four catches, 34 yards, one touchdown in Week 1), he'll take over that No. 2 role from Jennings as well -- at least while DeVante Parker works his way back from injury. For now, Matthews represents a great scoop and stash value in deeper leagues, and he should be available in almost all formats.
This could blow up in my face on Monday Night Football, but with Devin Hester and Justin Hardy inactive for the Falcons' Week 1 game, it appears Hankerson could be in line for the second or third receiver role with the team. Roddy White has returned from an elbow injury, but is 33 years old and no spring chicken. Hankerson had a great offseason of practices, earning praise from the team. Week 1 could be his coming out party, and if not, he's worth a flier off the waivers so you can be the only member of your league with an invite to said party if and when it happens.
Miller is admittedly not as deep as most of this list, but he garnered 11 targets in the Pittsburgh offense with Martavis Bryant on the sideline on Thursday night, catching eight of them for 84 yards. His upside will be more limited than other options, but if you're after a safe, consistent, but relatively low tight end production, Miller is your guy.
The whispers of Ebron breaking out and having a rapport with Matthew Stafford this offseason came to life on Sunday. He played on just 64 percent of the team's snaps, but received five targets, good for 18 percent of the team's total. Ebron was an athletic freak coming out of college who just needed time to develop. If his development is reaching completion early in 2015, be sure to get on board as his stat line of 4/53/1 could just be the beginning.
Even though the snap count didn't favor Rodgers too greatly over Andrew Quarless (Rodgers - 37, Quarless 24), it is clear the Cal product is the focus in the passing attack and deserves consideration in deeper leagues. While he doesn't figure to boast many Travis Kelce-like games, Rodgers should be a threat in the red zone for the Packers, and in games when the Packers offense runs more plays (as they intend to), he could see even more targets. Keep an eye on him or stash him on your bench if you have the space.
Another offseason favorite of our NFL Fantasy team, Taylor paid off in a big way on Sunday. He managed 195 passing yards, 1 TD, and 41 rushing yards against the solid Colts defense. If you're hurting at quarterback or streaming the position, Taylor has a nice matchup against the Patriots next week. Although they handled the Steelers on the scoreboard, they allowed a TON of yardage. Taylor is worth an add and stash in most leagues, as his running ability gives him a safe week-to-week floor.
Filling in for the injured Josh McCown, Manziel made a splash on his 51-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin, but later committed three turnovers, shooting the added value his legs provided on the ground. Still, Manziel looked like a much improved player from the one we saw a season ago. McCown could miss more time in the league's concussion protocol, and the team is planning on Manziel being the starter in Week 2. With a whole week to prepare for the Titans defense, Manziel could be considered in deeper or 2QB leagues. As long as he doesn't just hand the ball to the Titans DBs as Jameis Winston did in Week 1, he represents a nice value at home. He'll be worth consideration in DFS, too, as a huge value QB play (akin to Tyrod Taylor this past week).