This column is geared toward "standard" 12-team leagues and based upon a $100 free-agent budget. Please, please adjust for your league based upon both the number of teams (I'm in a 24-team league, for example) and budget. This column is posted every Tuesday to, hopefully, accommodate the various waiver schedule. I'll update it in the comments section during the week; please keep in mind a lot can change from Tuesday to Sunday.
Let's start with some observations from the numerous drafts I've done so far.
• In last week's column, I said I wasn't ready to hand the torch to Michael Floyd quite yet and that I'd take Larry Fitzgerald over him. Not all of my colleagues agree with that assessment as you can read here. That said, Floyd is going way too late for my liking. I've seen him go fifth round and even later in some public leagues, and I'm not sure why. He had more than 1,000 receiving yards last season and his five touchdowns have nowhere to go but up. Speaking of the Cardinals, if you've talked yourself into Jay Cutler this season given that he has arguably the best tandem of wide receivers at his disposal in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, why aren't more people on Carson Palmer? Isn't he something of a Cutler-lite version with both Fitzgerald and Floyd? The division doesn't do him any favors, but if you're looking for a replacement quarterback when the bye weeks roll around, Palmer would be more than an adequate fill-in.
• I've been a strong voice in backing rookies this season, but it might be time to pump the brakes on a few. I'm not wavering off my love for Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill (especially now with BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone), Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins. However, it appears Terrance West, Andre Williams, Tre Mason and Bishop Sankey won't have any type of a prominent role to start the season. An injury could quickly change that, but for the time being they should be sitting on your bench. Also keep in mind that depth charts and touches mean different things. Guys like Dexter McCluster and Jacquizz Rodgers may play more and get more touches than Sankey or Devonta Freeman, but they possess a very different skill set. I think Sankey and Freeman will be waiting in the wings should Steven Jackson or Shonn Greene lose the job. Sankey and Freeman likely would be the main ball carriers on first and second downs with McCluster and Rodgers the third-down, change-of-pace running backs.
• Speaking of Brandin Cooks, his price seems to keep going up. If you really want, or wanted, him, you need, or needed, to use as high as a fifth-round pick to get him. He could still pay off at that price given that Marques Colston as a rookie (and only 14 games) had more than 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. If you miss on Cooks and are doing a PPR format, Tavon Austin is a nice consolation prize. It doesn't help that Sam Bradford is done for the season, though Shaun Hill should be a serviceable option. As a side rant, what has Brian Schottenheimer done to deserve a coaching position? The Rams weren't a juggernaut last season, and his days with the Jets were nothing special. Getting back to Austin - during the offseason Jeff Fisher said they needed to use Austin more, and I think Austin will be the best PPR option on the Rams.
Anything surprise you about your draft, good or bad? Let me know in the comments section. Now, onto this week's waiver pickups.
Derek Carr, OAK - The news on Matt Schaub doesn't sound too good. He was barely able to throw last Thursday and threw again Monday. This doesn't sound like a healthy quarterback, and the fact that he's dealing with an elbow injury that requires rest should be a huge red flag. As a result, Carr was named the Week 1 starter and has more upside than Schaub. While Carr doesn't have the greatest receiving corps, he does have the tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden to take some of the pressure off of him. I'm not endorsing him as starter in most standard formats, but in leagues that start two quarterbacks or are 18 teams or deeper, he should be owned. FAAB: $3-5
Shonn Greene, TEN - I usually tend to stay away from boring veterans who are the 3-4-yard plodder types. However, it appears Greene will open the season for the Titans as the primary ball carrier after Bishop Sankey has had problems adjusting to the pro game and hanging onto the football. Dexter McCluster will see his touches mostly on third down and hurry-up situations, but Greene should be the first- and second-down back. Greene is only two seasons removed from back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and is over the knee injury that cost him time earlier this spring. He's never been a big receiver, so bump up his value more in standard formats than PPR. Expect Sankey to take over at some point, but for now Greene will be the better fantasy producer. FAAB: $5-8
Benny Cunningham, STL - A lot of people believe that with the injury to Sam Bradford, the Rams will rely heavily on the running game this season. Cunningham has drawn rave reviews during the preseason, and many believe he's earned himself some touches to start the season and is ahead of Tre Mason for the backup job. Zac Stacy's 3.9 YPC last season was below average, and he dealt with a few injuries last season. It'll be interesting to see how much work Cunningham gets Sunday against the Vikings.
Tim Wright, NE - It'll be interesting to see at the season's end who won the trade between the Patriots and Buccaneers. I think this move for Wright is an upgrade, especially considering my opinion of Josh McCown. Wright isn't Zach Sudfeld or Jake Ballard (both of whom got a little sleeper buzz last preseason) and had a nice mini-breakout in Tampa Bay last season with 54 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski will be on a snap count to start the season, and Wright has always been a better receiver than a blocker. Most have Gronk penciled in for anywhere from 10-14 games and Wright should have relevance even when he's on the field. The best-case scenario is Gronk gets hurt or is limited early in the season, making Wright the top tight end in New England. My only concern with Wright is learning the playbook, something I think will take him more than a couple of weeks to do. FAAB: $4-6
New York Jets - If you're playing the streaming game this season with defenses, I think the Jets are the way to go Week 1. I know I just talked up Derek Carr, but he's still a rookie starting his first NFL game and should be good for at least a pick. The Jets used two of their first three picks in the draft on their secondary, and Rex Ryan has always been known for his defensive prowess. Throw in Oakland has to travel across the country, play an early game and I'll put the Jets at the top of the list for defensive waiver claims. FAAB: $3-5