Fantasy Football: Working the Waiver Wire – Buy the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and buy him now

Last week, upon finishing my waiver wire piece here on Fake Pigskin, I realized that while I was suggesting pickups, I wasn’t giving you an idea of the investment each pickup deserved.  Identifying a sleeper on the wire is useless if a fantasy owner doesn’t know how much to invest: sure this guy’s intriguing, but should you drop Dwayne Bowe for him, or spend a sizeable chunk of your FAAB (free agent acquisition bidding) budget on his potential?  I’m remedying that this week; in addition to my sage-like wisdom on these targets, I’m also going to suggest an appropriate waiver investment for each.  This should not only make my inarguably brilliant evaluations even better and more productive, but also give you an idea of what he should be worth to you as an owner.

If you’re new or unfamiliar with using FAAB dollars, let me give you a short primer: it’s a cap of “money” each owner is given throughout the season to spend in bidding on free agents.  Each week, the highest bidder receives the player for his/her bid.  Very simple stuff, but since it’s such a new concept, let me explain what I mean when I suggest you bid X% on a free agent.  Please note, of course, that this is merely a guideline; exceptional players and exceptional situations always become exceptions.

30%+ of your FAAB cap - This is what you spend when Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, or some other ultra-productive, every-down RB or WR with a talented backup goes down for an extended period.  When this occurs, you invest heavily in that backup, as this could be a league-winning move.  If Knile Davis is available in your league (which he isn’t, I’m sure), this is what you’ll spend to get him.  (You will rarely see a QB with this suggestion, as backup QBs are typically caretakers, though big-time running talents like Tim Tebow have demanded this in the past.)

20-29% - This is an exceptionally steep price, typically reserved for extremely talented players who wake up one Monday or Tuesday with a long-term, every-down opportunity.  For example: if Antonio Gates goes down, this is what you spend on Ladarius Green.

15-19% - This is what you’ll spend on very talented players with at least a solid chance at major playing time.  Also, if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, this is the range you’ll typically want to spend on guys with ho-hum outlooks this year but early-round value for 2015.  Think Jerick McKinnon in an AP-free world: he’d be in a very dicey situation at the moment, but could rise to the top at any moment, and all signs point to his being a highly coveted player in the third-to-fifth rounds next season.

10-14% - This should be your cost for players that will be coveted throughout your league due to good opportunities, but possess questionable talent and/or situations that should give you pause.  A moderately talented backup expected to carry the load for the next two or three weeks should fit here, if that’s what your roster needs demand.  This is where I placed Brian Quick after his semi-breakout in Week One; if my team needed wideout depth, I bid within this range.

5-9% - Bid this on desperation one-week fill-ins whom you KNOW will pay dividends this week, but have a murky outlook beyond that.  (You probably won’t get these guys; there are too many fantasy owners who focus on this week and this week alone who will outbid you. Decide if you think he’s worth a bump in cost, and if he’s not, just move on.)

Please note that, when it comes to spending waiver wire resources, be it with waiver priority or FAAB dollars, I’m extremely aggressive and suggest you be the same.  For years, I hoarded my waiver resources like mashed potatoes in the Zombie Apocalypse, waiting and waiting for the day an elite starter went down and I could win his services without real competition from the rest of my league.  But I’ve noticed in recent years that this strategy rarely pans out; nowadays, we all know who the handcuffs and top sleepers are, and most of them are already rostered if/when that magical day comes.  Besides, there are so many fantasy owners who follow this aggressive strategy that you can rest assured the opportunities WILL come back around.

So, my days of missing out on quality pickups are over; I now spend early and often, and I strongly recommend you do the same.  As a result, you’ll notice my suggested investments will probably be significantly higher than those of many other fantasy experts.  Take that for whatever it means to you, but let me again stress that it is the aggressive owner who lands his guys, not the timid one.  Don’t get caught hoarding your waiver position; spend aggressively, as long as you’re targeting the right guys.  In other words, MY guys.

Enjoy, and as always, you’re welcome.

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City

Kelce is a special talent who should absolutely be owned in your league, so I’m not going into detail on this.  Already a high-upside TE2, Kelce is the only mismatch option in the Kansas City passing game, and not even notorious TE mismanager Andy Reid can deny that.  The 6-80 lines could be right around the corner.  If you and your leaguemates have somehow overlooked him – and you probably have, as he’s just 37% owned in Yahoo leagues – rectify that today with a solid 18-20% of your FAAB dollars, provided you don’t have to cut loose a potential starter at another position.  At this point, I’d probably roster him over Ladarius Green in a shallow league, but that’s a whole different article.

RB Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota

By now you’ve read a thousand generalities on the Vikings’ AP-free backfield, and you have a general idea of what to expect from its components.  You know that Matt Asiata is a plodding special-teams type who brings nothing to the table in terms of dynamism – he “boasts” career marks of 3.6 YPC and 5.7 YPR.  Even with competent quarterbacking, the team is going nowhere in the run game with Asiata “commanding” the backfield lead; he doesn’t threaten a defense in any way whatsoever.  You also know that McKinnon is an athletic freak, but do you realize the extent of that?  The former option QB posted arguably the best combine among 2013 RBs, and Rotoworld’s Zach Whitman claims McKinnon owns a Calvin Johnson-esque SPARQ score of 147.5.

Asiata’s veteran experience is not to be discounted, but if the Vikings want to have any success, or at least buoy their shoddy QB play, the explosive rookie is their only hope.  Peterson has been reinstated by the team and is expected to play next week, and the NFL may be unable to suspend him until his legal issue is sorted out, so McKinnon is not a must-add in redraft leagues.  But should be shut down an extended period this season, McKinnon’s touches should climb gradually into at least a timeshare with Asiata.  At that point, he could do some very special things, and Peterson won’t be back with the team in 2015.  Targeting McKinnon now gives you the added benefit of a superb-looking keeper talent.  If you’re a gambling man, as you should be in this game, spend as high as 10-12% of your FAAB dollars.

RB Donald Brown, San Diego

Hot-and-cold starter Ryan Mathews is down with a sprained MCL, typically a month-long injury.  While many fantasy owners will launch Danny Woodhead into the must-start stratosphere, note that it will most certainly be Brown receiving the majority of Bolt carries during Mathews’ absence.  The former first-round bust cranked out some productive RB3 time late in his Indianapolis stay, and the Chargers seem to like him – Mathews himself spoke this preseason of a three-headed committee of sorts.  But don’t go wild: Charger RBs are seeing 23 rushes per game thus far, but managing a pathetic 2.8 YPC behind a shoddy line.  Also, be advised that the next three weeks offer fairly tough sledding for the Charger run game (@BUF, JAC, NYJ, @OAK), so the upside for Brown and Woodhead is capped.  But a starting NFL RB is always in demand, let alone a moderately gifted one like Brown, so offer about 10% of your FAAB allocation.

WR Davante Adams, Green Bay

Quite possibly my favorite 2014 NFL Draft prospect, the time may have come for Adams.  A brief history: as a do-it-all wideout in Fresno State’s high-octane offense, Adams averaged a 117-1,521-19 line over his final two college seasons.  Concerns about inflated numbers were put to rest – certainly in the mind of Packer GM Ted Thompson, who knows a thing or two about offensive talent evaluation – by outstanding film.  Adams is an Anquan Boldin type who uses a sturdy 6’1, 212 frame and remarkable jump ball skills to win matchups outside and in the slot.  And his opportunity may have just arrived.  The underwhelming Jarrett Boykin had an atrocious Week Two, and Adams saw his first significant action, turning seven targets into a 5-50 line.  Down the road, I see Adams as an 80-1050-9 type should he ever seize a starting job (and he will; I’ll discuss that later this week).

Now, Adams is not a dominant NFL wideout in the Julio Jones mold; his acceleration is good, not great, and he made his share of rookie mistakes in the preseason.  And even if he fully overtakes Boykin for the #3 job, his production will be far too dicey to trust as YOUR WR3.  But Adams offers monumental upside as an upper-tier possession/red zone stud, and James Jones proved that the Packer offense CAN support three fantasy-viable wideouts.  Don’t go wild in redraft formats, where he deserves an 8-10% FAAB bid.  But there is serious potential here, and dynasty owners should be tracking his every move.

TE Niles Paul, Washington

You’ve never heard of Paul, a WR at Nebraska who returned kicks and caught just 14 passes through his first 44 NFL games.  Now a TEINO (tight end in name only) in the Tim Wright mold, Paul has filled in beautifully for injury magnet Jordan Reed, to tune of a 15-12-185-1 line through the first two weeks.  His profile is an easy one to discount, but it speaks well of his outlook that both Washington QBs have targeted him heavily.  I don’t like the team’s offensive outlook going forward – Robert Griffin III is regressing and Kirk Cousins is a mediocre QB option at best – so I’m not going crazy on Paul considering the wealth of cheap TE potential on fantasy waiver wires.  But if I’m looking for TE depth and a good-looking bye/injury fill-in, I’m bidding about 8-10% of my FAAB cash on Paul.

RB Alfred Blue, Houston

Arian Foster is humming along nicely in Houston, but his injury history being what it is, his handcuff is definitely fantasy-relevant.  Therefore, shrewd fantasy owners have been tracking the #2 battle between Blue and Jonathan Grimes since training camp.  Blue, taken in the sixth round from LSU, appears to have seized the role; in Sunday’s blowout win over Oakland, he spelled Foster throughout the game and out-touched Grimes 11-3.  Blue is a plodder without much upside, but a Foster injury, which seems inevitable, would make him worthy of a roster spot and flex consideration.  Pay 5-7% of your budget to stash him if you have the room; again, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Blue and/or Grimes will come into relevance at some point.

WR Allen Robinson, Jacksonville

A member of the Jaguars’ potentially awesome 2014 rookie class, Robinson was a universally-loved draft prospect whose film I didn’t like.  I see an inconsistent receiver who lacks vertical juice and has shaky hands.  But he does have some physical gifts, even if speed isn’t one of them; he flashes athleticism and ball skills and has the look of a quality rotational wideout if he puts it all together.  The time may be nigh in Jacksonville, where Cecil Shorts is a perpetual question mark due to hamstring issues and Allen Hurns left the Washington game on crutches.  On Sunday, Robinson saw solid usage even with Hurns on the field – he saw several short targets and three deep balls, catching one for 54 yards.  Under the strong assumption that Hurns will miss time and Shorts will remain out or limited, Robinson is an intriguing waiver flier, but don’t offer more than 5-7% of your allocation – this passing game is painful to watch.

RB Damien Williams, Miami

It’s easy to be talked into a player by RotoViz, and they have me on Williams, a well-built, athletic, versatile rookie from Oklahoma.  And with Knowshon Moreno out 4-8 weeks, I’m excited about Williams even in redraft leagues; he’s quite possibly the most talented back in the Miami stable.  Moreno is a limited, blocking-dependent runner with a troubling injury history, and Lamar Miller is an inconsistent finesse back who has yet to seize a very seize-able starting job.  Williams saw his first real action this week, taking five change-of-pace carries behind Miller once Moreno left the game.  He’ll battle with newly re-signed Daniel Thomas to serve as the Fins’ #2 while Moreno is out, and of the two, only Williams has the talent to produce in the rotation should the top two options flounder down the stretch.  Williams is a speculative pickup; I wouldn’t pay more than about 5% of your FAAB dollars in a redraft league, as he’ll likely need a Miller injury to produce even flex numbers.  But be sure to keep him on your long-term radar.

WR Jermaine Kearse, Seattle

Kearse found his way onto every one of my best-ball rosters and a handful of my weeklies, and this week served as my justification.  Against San Diego, he hauled in four of his five targets for a team-high 61 yards.  In last season’s NFC Championship and Super Bowl, Kearse posted a 6-109-2 line; Russell Wilson loves his big-play ability much more so than that of journeyman #5 type Ricardo Lockette.  Behind Percy Harvin, Kearse is Seattle’s most dynamic wideout, and certainly their best downfield receiver; he has some 5-90-1 lines in his 2014 outlook.  And he shouldn’t cost much; he was rarely drafted in fantasy leagues and will be overshadowed on the waiver wire this week.  He’s a situational target for sure, but one with the potential to work into a serious weekly role, as limited starter Doug Baldwin has stumbled out of the gates with a 6-49 line on just 11 targets.  You won’t have competition for Kearse’s services, so bid 4-5% of your budget if you’re interested.

WR Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

Here is an exceptionally confusing prospect.  Sanu was an excellent possession guy at Rutgers, posting a 115-1,206-7 line in 2011 that rivaled the production of predecessor Kenny Britt.  But he was despised by draftniks due to his poor 4.62 Combine 40, and as a pro, he’s lost numerous playing opportunities to superior talent Marvin Jones.  Sanu has produced just 70 catches and a pitiful 10.4 YPR across 27 NFL games, which strongly suggests his long scoring catch this week was a fluke; on his best day, he’s a gadget guy (former QB) and underneath target with no real upside.  With Jones and A.J. Green likely out in the short term, Sanu is locked into a temporary starting role, but don’t get excited: not all NFL starters belong on your roster.  The fact that the Bengals face three typically-studly pass defenses should prompt you to leave Sanu on the wire and let another owner pay for his one long catch.  I’m not even bidding on him this week, and I’m certainly not dropping anyone worthwhile for him.

PANIC ON THE STREETS OF LONDON

TE Ladarius Green, San Diego – Sheesh.  Again, you’ll hear more from me later in the week.  But don’t drop the guy yet.

RB Bishop Sankey, Tennessee – You drafted him fairly high, so please don’t let Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster dictate your roster evaluations, especially on a guy with Sankey’s talent and upside.  No one in Tennessee’s backfield can approach his physical gifts, and his college production strongly suggests he’ll emerge as their top option.  He just has to; this is a guy who compares favorably (see: bigger, faster, stronger, quicker) to LeSean McCoy as an athlete and was a dynamic workhorse in school.  Once he’s trusted a bit more in pass protection and Greene/McCluster further prove themselves as backup talents, you’ll see a real workload from Sankey – and I’d bet anything it’s a productive one along RB2 lines.

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