RotoWire Partners

Working the Wire: Kevin Payne Looks at the Best of the Undrafted

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

Welcome back to another season of looking for gems on the waiver wire. I'll discuss players for both shallow and deep leagues, so keep in mind that not every player will pertain to every owner. Some players discussed might make you think I'm wearing the "Captain Obvious" hat, but I'll do my best to give my take and add some new information. Since many have already drafted, chances are those leagues will run waivers at least once before the season kicks off.

RUNNING BACK

Isaac Redman, PIT -
Le'Veon Bell has received a lot of buzz this preseason, but the fact is he hasn't been able to stay healthy. After dealing with a stiff knee last week, he left Monday night's game with a foot injury. With injuries starting to mount, it's time to take a look at Redman, who is technically listed as the co-starter on the depth chart. Redman, a downhill runner, flashed his potential Week 9 last season against the Giants with 26 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown. Don't be surprised if Redman and not Bell is the starter against the Titans come Week 1.

Stepfan Taylor, ARI -
Taylor's final line from the Cardinals preseason game against the Packers - 20 carries for 64 yards - isn't overly impressive, though a few carries were short-yardage situations he converted. Starter Rashard Mendenhall is not an elite running back, averaging less than 4.0 YPC the last three season with the Steelers. Mendenhall and Ryan Williams have been banged up while Taylor has been 100 percent all of camp. Taylor should find some touches to start the season and could be an injury away from the starting job.

WIDE RECEIVER

Kenbrell Thompkins, NE -
While many have touted Aaron Dobson this preseason (including yours truly), Thompkins could end up the stating wide receiver opposite Danny Amendola to start the season. Tom Brady has sung the praises of the rookie out of Cincinnati who started his collegiate career in Southern California at Palomar Community College before transferring to nearby El Camino Community College. Thompkins comes with a checkered past as by age 19 he had been arrested seven times. However, after serving a 28-day jail sentence in 2008, Thompkins has been squeaky clean. While at the University of Cincinnati he credited becoming a father to his maturing and now appears completely focused on football. The cousin of Antonio Brown, Thompkins was invited to the Combine but didn't overly impress compared to the other wide receivers, which is why he went undrafted. But his assests include crisp route-running and a solid set of hands, things that wouldn't necessarily show at the Combine. The Patriots' options at wide receiver aren't deep, so even if Dobson beats him out for the starting job, Thompkins could see a lot of snaps and could eventually take over a significant role in the passing game.

Jon Baldwin, SF -
I've always been fascinated with Baldwin given his size (6-foot-4, 230) and athleticism. He never got on the right track after getting to Kansas City, injuring his wrist in a fight with Thomas Jones to start his career. Since then he hasn't had the greatest quarterback play and probably needed a change of scenery. He walks into a great situation in San Francisco, which needed another big target with the injury to Michael Crabtree. It's kind of late to expect Baldwin to hit the ground running, so it might take a few weeks to get acclimated to a new offense and Colin Kaepernick. Don't be surprised as the season if he gets onto the fantasy radar a few weeks into the season.

Markus Wheaton, PIT -
If you play college fantasy football, I'm sure you were rewarded if you had Wheaton on your team last season after he finished with 91 catches for 1,244 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. The former Beaver ran track at Oregon State and clocked a 4.40 40 at the Combine. With the departure of Mike Wallace, the Steelers needed another wide receiver and used their third-round pick to grab him. Wheaton has drawn nothing but praise during camp, with safety Ryan Clark even saying that Wheaton does everything better than Wallace, outside of pure speed. Wheaton hasn't been given a starting job over Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders but at the least will be used whenever Pittsburgh goes to a three-receiver set. Consider adding him if you're in a deep league with an open bench spot.

TIGHT END

Zach Sudfeld, NE -
While dining at P.F. Chang's (don't ask) Saturday night, I was repeatedly interrupted by my brother-in-law who was drafting his team. When he got to his third to last pick in a 12-team league with six bench spots, I told him to take Sudfeld without hesitation. His response was "who?" Chances are by now you've heard of Sudfeld, who appears on the verge of locking down the starting tight-end position for the Patriots. With a quarterback like Tom Brady, it's not hard to imagine Sudfeld making an immediate impact. Aaron Hernandez won't be playing anytime soon and there's still a chance Rob Gronkowski ends up on the PUP list and doesn't play the first six games. Even when Gronk returns, the Patriots will still use plenty of two-tight ends sets. I thought I grabbed the right player as insurance for the RotoWire Vegas league in Jake Ballard but according to Tom Brady, I was wrong. Sudfeld is an undrafted free agent out of Nevada where he was on the Tommy Callahan plan spending six years in Reno. He redshirted his freshman season and was granted a sixth year of eligibility after breaking his leg in 2011. Last year was the only season he made an impact for the Wolfpack, finishing with 45 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. At 6-7, he makes for a huge red-zone target and has already hauled in a two-point conversion from Tom Brady and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett. Now is the time to add him to your bench as a No. 2 tight end.

DEFENSE

Indianapolis Colts -
Chances are this wasn't a team drafted in most standard leagues, given it hasn't been anything special in quite some time. If you drafted a borderline starting defense or are planning on streaming, look at the Colts for Week 1. They open the season at home against what likely will be one of the weaker teams in the league, the Oakland Raiders. Matt Flynn will be making his debut, and there have been reports out of camp that he isn't exactly lighting things up. My favorite quote from the preseason has probably been Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, who said about the offensive line, "Anthony Munoz is not out there." The Colts spent a good amount of money on the defense during the offseason (LaRon Landry $24 million, Erik Walden $16 million, Greg Toler $15 million), which means the defense could be improved. I wouldn't count on them week in and week out but they have a great home matchup for Week 1.