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Waiver Wire Watch: Players to Pick Up Week 1

Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett

Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC

Breon Allen, RB, East Carolina

As of Monday, Allen was confirmed as the new starting running back for the Pirates. He fought off a host of candidates, including highly touted freshman Marquez Grayson who has long been a staff favorite, and will replace Vintavious Cooper as the team's top rushing threat. Cooper totaled 1,193 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground and 44 receptions for 412 yards last season. Allen averaged five yards on his 62 carries a season ago, and assuming he can maintain the top spot in the team's backfield; he is a lock for a 1,000-yard season.

Pete DiNovo, QB, UCF

DiNovo will get the first crack at replacing Blake Bortles, who was a first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. UCF coach George O'Leary said DiNovo is ahead of where Bortles was at this stage in his career. Whether that's simply coach speak to inspire a freshman quarterback as he prepares to take on Penn State in Dublin, Ireland, remains to be seen, but DiNovo has the pieces around him to succeed. Receivers Breshad Perriman and Rannell Hall both topped 800 yards a season ago, while newly anointed starting running back William Stanback showed flashes as a freshman last year. DiNovo is like many other quarterbacks in this column in that he's unproven, but the Golden Knights have expectations of a successful season, and DiNovo will need to do his share.

ATLANTIC COAST

Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Kaaya claimed the keys to Miami's offense, which is loaded with skill-position talent. He has an awfully daunting task in making his first career collegiate start on the road in prime time Monday night at Louisville, but the coaching staff and Kaaya's teammates have raved about his composure this summer. Mistakes can be expected, but last season freshmen Christian Hackenberg, Jared Goff, Davis Webb, John O'Korn and P.J. Walker were successful. If that's the baseline for a rookie signal caller, Kaaya could flirt with similar production just by managing the Canes offense.

Manasseh Garner, TE, Pittsburgh

Garner closed 2013 as the Panthers' third-leading receiver behind Devin Street and Tyler Boyd, catching 33 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Garner did so while playing tight end, and when Street missed time late in the season, Garner turned in three consecutive games with at least 60 yards receiving and four catches. He remains tight end eligible in most leagues but will be split out wide opposite Boyd in most formations. He appears poised to produce low-end wide receiver numbers at the tight end position, making him a valuable fantasy commodity.

BIG 12

Keith Ford, RB, Oklahoma

Early in the season, it can be beneficial to gamble on a few players who can pay off big if their roles become clearly defined. Ford seems to fit that bill as he entered preseason with the expectation of a starting job only to head into Week 1 as a co-starter with Alex Ross. The Sooners have a track record of producing multiple successful backs, and Ford and Ross will run behind a massive offensive line. With Joe Mixon out of the picture due to suspension, and the receiving corps having just Sterling Sheppard as a proven target, Ford could provide solid production even while splitting carries.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

White and teammate Mario Alford arrived in Morgantown last season as heralded junior-college products. Both seemed to struggle to adjust to life in the Big 12 while also finding inconsistent quarterback play. White still managed to catch 35 passes for 507 yards and a team-high five touchdowns, and all indications out of practice have been encouraging regarding the 6-foot-3 receiver. Clint Trickett may still not provide the steady passing White needs, but as a flier, White sure seems worth a gamble, and even more so if you expect his first game to down while facing the Alabama Crimson Tide defense. White looks like a great stash for the softer Big 12 schedule.

BIG TEN

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

This seems pretty simple. Barrett now has the reigns to Urban Meyer's spread offense that churns out fantasy stars under center following the season-ending shoulder injury to Braxton Miller. Barrett is a former four-star recruit out of Texas who has decent size at 6-1, 225. While it's anyone's guess how he will fair once the lights turn on Week 1, the dual-threat redshirt freshman is in position to produce.

DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State

Arnett appears poised to add a dimension to the lineup that it hasn't had lately. The former Tennessee Volunteer offers quarterback Connor Cook a deep threat and brings a playmaking ability to the receiving corps that was sorely lacking a year ago. Arnett may not be amongst the Big Ten's top receivers statistically at year's end, he figures to show plenty of flashes throughout the year, and some owners may need a reminder he is eligible after sitting out last season.

CONFERENCE USA

Jordan Howard, RB, UAB

Howard seems to be forgotten about on the national level. After rushing for 881 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, he is slated to take over the team's top running back slot following the departure of Darrin Reaves. Howard goes 6-1, 228, offering a frame that can handle 20-plus carries weekly.

Vincent Lowe, WR, Old Dominion

With a preseason waiver column, a lot of the choices are purely speculative. Nothing could be more true when it comes to Lowe. The 5-7 freshman opened eyes in August and comes with speed to burn. He's earned a starting role in an offense that returns quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who threw for 4,022 yards and 33 touchdowns last year, and also lost two of its top three receivers.

INDEPENDENTS

Adam Hine, RB, BYU

Hine looks like a terrific one-week option if your draft didn't go to your liking at running back. Starter Jamaal Williams is suspended for the season opener against Connecticut, and Hine appears to be the biggest beneficiary.

MID-AMERICAN

Ozzie Mann, QB, Ball State

Mann represents another case of an heir apparent, as he will replace Keith Wenning at quarterback. Mann threw all of nine passes last season while watching Wenning attempt 498 passes for 4,148 yards and 35 touchdowns. Mann won't come close to matching those totals, but coach Pete Lembo will have his signal caller ready to go. Ball State opens the season with Colgate and gets Indiana State in Week 3 before entering the MAC schedule. Save for a Week 2 matchup at Iowa, Mann should thrive in the Ball State offense.

Phillip Ely, QB, Toledo

Ely lands here largely because fellow conference member Northern Illinois refuses to name its replacement for quarterback Jordan Lynch. Ely qualifies for the "big fish, small pond" waiver selection, as the former Alabama quarterback has been tabbed as the starter for the Rockets. He'll replace Terrence Owens, who was a bit more of a dual-threat. Ely has a trusted receiving option in Alonzo Russell and will continue to benefit from a MAC heavy schedule, making him worth a stash for the right matchup later in the year.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Dee Hart, RB, Colorado State

Speaking of "big fish, small pond," enter Hart, who also left Alabama and is now a Colorado State Ram, playing with new coach Jim McElwain, who was a coordinator at Alabama when Hart enrolled in Tuscaloosa. Hart has worked with the second unit this summer and also suffered a minor injury during last weekend's scrimmage, so he could start the season slowly. But once he proves healthy, there's little reason for Hart to not emerge as the primary replacement to Kapri Bibbs.

Crusoe Gongbay, RB, New Mexico

Gongbay entered spring practice as the heavy favorite to replace the graduated Kasey Carrier before being arrested and charged with rape, and subsequently suspended. Gongbay was recently reinstated, and while his initial role remains uncertain, coach Bob Davey said he would not hold the allegations against Gongbay. In 2013, Gongbay averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored six times as Carrier's backup. Carrier leaves 1,122 yards up for grabs, and even if it takes Gongbay a few weeks to secure the feature role, his insertion into the starting lineup appears to be a worthy gamble.

PAC-12

Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

In the interest of full disclosure, Solomon made this list before being named the starter for the season opener late Monday night. Solomon took most of thee first-team reps, and the sense is the staff wanted him to take the job and run. Solomon has the ability to do that, literally, as he offers playmaking ability with his arm and feet. Coach Rich Rodriguez said Jesse Scroggins and/or other quarterbacks could play in the season opener, but in a system that is fantasy friendly, and an opening schedule that sets up nicely with games against defenseless UNLV, UTSA, Nevada and California, Solomon could be a budding star.

Kelsey Young, RB, Stanford

Young was named the team's starting running back Monday night and will attempt to follow Tyler Gaffney as Stanford's next 1,000-yard back. He'll continue to face weekly competition, namely from Barry Sanders Jr., but even if Young shares carries, his value figures to remain high as he comes with wide receiver eligibility. It's the kind of position versatility that can make fantasy commissioners go crazy but can also make fantasy owners ecstatic when they sneak an extra starting running back into a different lineup slot.

SEC

Jordan Cunningham, WR, Vanderbilt

Cunningham's talent and natural ability paired with his recruiting profile make him the perfect replacement for Jordan Matthews, who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Matthews caught a ridiculous 112 passes for 1,477 yards ago, while second wide receiver Jonathan Krause also departed Nashville. Cunningham is a former four-star recruit who drew offers from many major programs and can match up with the best of the SEC. While quarterback Patton Robinette does not inspire a lot of confidence, his ability to lock in on Cunningham for continuous 9-to-16 yard gains will have Cunningham producing volume receptions and yards.

Terrence Magee, RB, LSU

Magee seems to have been completely forgotten about amidst the hype of freshman Leonard Fournette. Magee managed finish second on the team in rushing a season ago, totaling 626 yards and eight touchdowns on just 86 carries. With LSU breaking in new wide receivers and at least sharing snaps between Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris, the Tigers can be expected to pound the ball early and often. Magee isn't flashy, but he'll get his share of opportunities even if Fournette is as good as advertised.

SUN BELT

Fredi Knighten, QB, Arkansas State

The Sun Belt as a conference has a knack for turning run-first quarterbacks into true dual-threat fantasy monsters thanks largely due to a lack of talented defenses. Knighten falls into this category, as he ran for 344 yards and five scores while throwing for 213 yards in limited duty a season ago. Now the full-time starter in new coach Blake Anderson's high-tempo attack, Knighten feels like a breakout candidate. He has reliable talent surrounding him in running back Michael Gordon and receiver J.D. McKissick, and a season opener against Montana State should help get his confidence up before facing Tennessee and Miami in the following weeks.

Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette

To close out this week's list is a simple reminder that McGuire is a game-changing talent, and his status as a backup to starter Alonzo Harris is largely irrelevant. The team has hinted that McGuire could see some time as a running quarterback in addition to working out of the backfield, a clear indicator it plans to get McGuire the ball more than the 135 touches he had last season. He scored 11 times in that limited work while averaging 9.29 yards on those touches.