The purpose of this article is to draw some extra attention to some very deep players who are interesting for one reason or another, positive or negative. While some young players are viable Waiver Wire pickups, this article focuses more on those players who aren’t yet worth owning in redraft leagues, who might be worth a roster stash now or in the near future in a dynasty league.
Paxton Lynch (Den) – Bronco starting QB Trevor Siemian did a serviceable job to get the Week 1 victory, but his performance wasn’t spectacular and it was overstated by many in the media. He threw two bad INTs, and he had an easy TD pass to Virgil Green swatted down at the line of scrimmage. Granted, it was Siemian’s first NFL start, so he has the chance to improve, but he doesn’t exactly have the pedigree that Lynch does. If Siemian manages the team to victories, he’ll continue to lead this team, but if his turnovers start to bite them, HC Gary Kubiak will turn to the first-round pick. Lynch has a much higher ceiling and he gives the Broncos a higher ceiling as well, and it’s probably only a matter of time before Siemian turns back into a pumpkin.
Trevone Boykin (Sea) – QB Russell Wilson played through an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1, and he sure didn’t have the same mobility that we’re used to seeing. HC Pete Carroll said this week that the injury isn’t very serious, but he will be limited in practice before Week 2. The former TCU Horned Frog Boykin is behind Wilson on the depth chart and would play in a pinch if Wilson aggravates the injury. He had a strong preseason and training camp, and he has a lot of attributes that Wilson possessed coming into the league with a strong arm and quick feet.
Cody Kessler (Cle) – The Robert Griffin III Era in Cleveland is over after just one game, and if this jersey was still around, we’re guessing that it would need to be updated pretty soon with Kessler’s name. Josh McCown will take over as the starting QB beginning in Week 2, but I’d bet a week’s pay that he doesn’t make it through the next 15 games unscathed. The Browns made one of the most bizarre picks in the draft by selecting Kessler in the third round – #93 overall – as he showed below-average arm strength and he looked like a marginal prospect at best. HC Hue Jackson targeted Kessler in the draft because of his “pinpoint accuracy,” and Kessler would have a chance for fantasy success playing with an explosive set of receivers led by Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman.
Jared Goff (LA) – HBO’s “Hard Knocks” didn’t do Goff any favors, as it revealed that the #1 overall pick is in over his head and a long way from getting on the field and contributing. He’s actually the first QB taken #1 overall who didn’t start in Week 1 since the great JaMarcus Russell, which isn’t great company to be with. The Rams also plan on making Goff a healthy scratch early in the year, as second-year QB Sean Mannion has beaten him out for the backup job. Goff will turn just 22 in October, so he’s incredibly young coming into the league. It’s probably for the best if they give him some extra time to adjust to the league, but we’d still guess that he’ll see the field late in the year if the Rams are out of contention.
Lance Dunbar (Dal) – It was good to see Dunbar back on the field in Week 1 after he tore his ACL and patellar tendon last season after a promising start to his 2015. He caught just a 16-yard pass on 2 targets, but he showed some elusiveness on the play making some defenders miss. He actually saw a generous 21.8% of the snaps against the Giants, so there’s some hope for going forward in PPR formats after he averaged 5+ catches in his four games last season. We also saw rookie QB Dak Prescott check it down quite a bit to his TE Jason Witten and WR Cole Beasley, and some of those passes could turn into looks for Dunbar.
Josh Ferguson (Ind) – Ferguson didn’t have the smoothest first training camp, and he looked like a serious candidate to be cut, but the Colts stuck with the UDFA out of Illinois to see what they got. He actually played a surprisingly high 17.1% of the snaps in his debut, catching both of his targets for 26 yards. Ferguson could eventually carve out a passing-back role after catching 168 passes in college, and he apparently ironed out some of his pass protection issues to get on the field. Frank Gore is obviously slowing down at age 33, and Ferguson certainly has more fantasy potential than Robert Turbin at this point.
Andre Ellington (Ari) – I usually don’t feature too many 27-year-old players in this article, but Ellington is an interesting player to monitor because of his explosive skillset and his circumstances. He’s stuck behind David Johnson and Chris Johnson on the Cardinals depth chart, but he did see 14.8% of the snaps in Week 1. Ellington is intriguing for Dynasty formats because he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s not out of the question he could get a decent contract and be a fantasy factor elsewhere next season.
Kenyan Drake (Mia) – The Dolphins are an absolute mess at RB behind Arian Foster at this point, and Foster is obviously a ticking time bomb with his injury history. RB Jay Ajayi got left in Miami after he showed his displeasure at losing the starting RB job to Foster, and Ajayi looked terrible all preseason. Damien Williams and Isaiah Pead are also here, but I think the Dolphins will start to work Drake in more as the season goes along. He didn’t get a touch in Week 1 on just 2 snaps, but he did miss most of the preseason with a hamstring injury, so he has some catching up to do. He could do some damage in the passing game eventually, especially once Foster misses time with an injury.
Wendell Smallwood (Phi) – Smallwood had a really tough preseason, missing a chunk of time with a quad strain before suffering a concussion in the third preseason game. All the missed time cost him a chance at winning the handcuff job out of training camp, but he could eventually work his way up the depth chart and push Kenjon Barner for playing time. He was active for Week 1, gaining a yard on his only catch and returning a kick for 23 yards. Starting RB Ryan Mathews usually has a tough time staying healthy for too long, so Smallwood could get a chance for significant carries at some point.
D.J. Foster (NE) – The Patriots made Foster inactive in Week 1, which was good news for nervous James White owners, as he looks the primary backup to White while Dion Lewis is on the mend. Foster flashed onto the scene in the final preseason game with Tom Brady, posting 9/110 receiving on 10 targets and he added 9/22 rushing – although he did lose a fumble in the game. Foster is an intriguing talent, who split his time between WR and RB while at Arizona State, and he could make a fantasy impact if he ever ascended to the top passing-back role in this offense.
Cameron Artis-Payne (Car) – The Panthers made CAP a healthy scratch in Week 1, opting for Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert in the lineup, so he’s down the depth chart for now likely because of special teams. However, we’d expect Artis-Payne to lead the committee if Jonathan Stewart ever went down with an injury. The Panthers gave CAP the chance to show he can handle a heavy workload in the final preseason game, and the handcuff to Stewart ended up running 18 times and 77 yards and added 2/18 receiving on 3 targets. Artis-Payne would certainly have a chance to put up some numbers as the top back in this potent Panther rushing game.
Braxton Miller (Hou) – First-round rookie WR Will Fuller has stolen all the headlines in Houston, but they have another intriguing rookie WR in Miller. He’s a former college QB at Ohio State who transitioned to WR in his final collegiate season, but his move to a new position has gone incredibly smooth. Miller beat out Cecil Shorts for the starting spot out of the slot in 3-WR sets for the Texans. Miller did little in his debut, with just a 6-yard catch on 3 targets, but he did play on 69.3% of the snaps. He clearly has a role in the offense, and while it may be tough to pry away targets from studs DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller, Miller is a playmaker in his own right and he could be lighting up the Red Zone Channel very soon.
Malcolm Mitchell (NE) – Mitchell drew positive reviews during the preseason, which is hard to do for rookie WRs trying to get on the same page with veteran QB Tom Brady. The Patriots have had an absolutely terrible track record of drafting WRs in the early rounds over the last decade, but there’s cautious optimism in New England that Mitchell could break the drought. He made a big play in the Patriots win on a 28-yard catch, and he finished with 2/33 receiving on 5 targets while playing 54.9% of the snaps. Mitchell suffered a gruesome elbow injury in the preseason, but he’s recovered quickly and is definitely on the radar if he can give Tom Brady some much needed size on the outside.
Leonte Carroo (Mia) – Carroo got the start in 3-WR sets for the Dolphins with DeVante Parker nursing a hamstring injury. He played on 84.9% of the snaps but did little in a brutal matchup against the Seahawks, catching both of his targets for 14 yards. Carroo would obviously slide back to the bench after Parker eventually returns to the lineup, but Parker has proven to have durability issues since college. Also, WR Kenny Stills is a total enigma as the other top WR next to Jarvis Landry, so it’s not out of the question that Carroo eventually starts to play over Stills.
Seth Roberts (Oak) – The Raiders love Roberts, a second-year slot WR out of West Alabama, as he played on 82.2% of the snaps in Week 1. He ended up scoring on a red-zone target against the Saints after scoring 5 TDs as a rookie, and he ended up with 2/19/1 receiving on 4 targets. Obviously, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are going to see heavy targets each week, but Roberts will battle Clive Walford for the #3 receiver role here with an ever-improving Derek Carr at the helm. Roberts is decent-sized target, so he could be an annoying vulture for Cooper and Crabtree owners.
Adam Humphries (TB) – Humphries emerged as the slot WR in training camp, and he’s brought some stability to the middle of the field with Buccaneers searching for a TE to step up between Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cameron Brate. Humphries played on 76.6% of the snaps in Week 1, and he hauled in 3 of his 5 targets for 34 yards. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are clearly the top targets in this offense, but there’s room for Humpries to carve out a role and be PPR relevant, especially with V-Jax seemingly taking a step back the last year.
Tyreek Hill (KC) – Speaking to our John Hansen this summer on the radio, TE Travis Kelce told John that his fantasy sleeper from the Chiefs this year was the rookie Hill. I’d say that’s a deep sleeper. Hill delivered in his limited playing time (14% of the snaps) in his first career game, scoring on a 9-yard catch from Alex Smith, much to the chagrin of all those Kelce owners. The Chiefs seem to have about a dozen of these gadget-type WRs on their roster, but Hill might be at the top of the list now, and HC Andy Reid could try to get him more involved going forward.
Hunter Henry (SD) – Henry was our favorite rookie TE coming into the season, but he landed in a tough spot to play right away with Antonio Gates in front of him. However, Gates wasn’t involved at all in Week 1 with Philip Rivers, despite Keenan Allen going down. Henry actually played on 41.1% of the snaps in his pro debut, catching his lone target for 7 yards, and he could see even more run going forward if the Chargers go to more 2-TE sets with Allen out for the year. I compared him to Greg Olsen in our “Rookie Report” because of his size and ability, and Rivers won’t be afraid to throw it to his TEs with his weapons dwindling.
Tyler Higbee (LA) – The Rams offense looked absolutely atrocious in Week 1, and the rookie TE had no chance to do anything with Case Keenum struggling mightily. Higbee did see 4 targets but had just a 2-yard catch in pro debut against the 49ers, while playing on 34% of the snaps. Higbee played primarily in just 2-TE sets with Lance Kendricks playing on 95%, but the Rams eventually need to get more playmakers on the field and Higbee is certainly more talented than Kendricks. Higbee is unlikely to ever go off in this limited offense, but he’s a player to watch for Dynasty formats if Jared Goff ever starts to show some promise.
Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah (Cin) – Starting TE Tyler Eifert is still out after his off-season ankle surgery, and he could miss through at least September. Tyler Kroft is the best option to fill in for Eifert, but he missed the entire preseason with a sprained knee, opening up the spot for another second-year TE Uzomah. The Bengals dressed Kroft and played him on just 12.3% of the snaps in Week 1, while the healthier Uzomah saw 91.2% of the snaps. Uzomah actually finished with 2/59 receiving on 5 targets, with most of his production coming on a 54-yard catch and run down the seam in traffic. We’ll still like Kroft as the better fantasy prospect, and we’ll see if they split up the playing time any differently this week.
Maxx Williams (Bal) – Williams missed a huge chunk of training camp because of a knee issue, which hurt his chances of opening the year as a starter after Ben Watson went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. Dennis Pitta actually opened the year as the starter after missing the last two seasons because of hip injuries. We’re very skeptical about Pitta being able to stay healthy for long this season, and Williams could work his way into a bigger role if he can edge out Crockett Gillmore for playing time. Williams is an intriguing prospect, but we worry that he’s not a good enough blocker to work in-line and that he’s not a good enough athlete to win in the passing game as a move TE.
Austin Hooper (Atl) – Hooper had a limited role in the Falcons offense in Week 1, with Jacob Tamme unsurprisingly leading the way at the position. Hooper had just 1 target and played on 13.8% of the snaps in his professional debut, while Tamme had 6 catches. However, Tamme had just 51 yards for an 8.5 YPC average, and at some point the Falcons need to get a more explosive TE in the fold to help out Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the passing game. Once Hooper gets some more experience under his belt, the Falcons would be wise to get him on the field more than Tamme.