Predicting Week 1 is always a tough feat. Despite all the data we have from the previous season, none of it can accurately predict how these new-look teams will perform. That’s why most of these waiver suggestions are players who carry more long-term potential rather than Week 1 startability, if that’s even a real word. Still, I get that injuries happen. So if you do need a player to slot into your lineup, here are 12 players who may suit you for Week 1 and beyond. All ownership rates derive from FantasyPros.
Tyrod Taylor (vs. JAX)
Available in 97% of leagues
If you’re picking up a quarterback this early in the season, good luck. Then again, perhaps your starter has a concerning matchup, like Justin Herbert at Washington. Look no further than Taylor, who can sneak into the top-15 quarterbacks by the season’s end. I touched on Taylor’s fantasy upside earlier this offseason and this matchup definitely sweetens the pot a little. I don’t expect too much improvement from a Jaguars defense that was highly susceptible to quarterbacks in fantasy last season. Jacksonville gave up 23.1 points per game to quarterbacks, the third-highest rate in the league. Expect this game to be run by both offenses.
Sam Darnold (vs. NYJ)
Available in 93% of leagues
Look, I get it. You have some reservations about a passer who’s never finished higher than QB27. But this isn’t the Sam Darnold held captive by the cold, hard grasp of Adam Gase. This is the Sam Darnold 2.0, featuring good weapons and, well, not Gase. Any quarterback would jump at the chance of playing with Christian McCaffrey. Darnold gets McCaffrey and two proven receivers in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Not to mention, the Jets’ defense isn’t exactly the scariest unit out there. While they did make some improvements—like bringing in a defensive-minded head coach—Darnold is an under-the-radar candidate to throw multiple touchdowns. He’s not a terrible season-long bet, either.
Zach Wilson (@ CAR)
Available in 82.5% of leagues
Speaking of season-long bets, Wilson could be perfectly set up to be a hot fantasy option. Rushing upside? Check. High volume of passes? Check. Good weapons? Okay, maybe he’s not in the perfect situation. But Wilson’s situation is similar to Taylor’s, though Wilson arguably has the higher ceiling. While Carolina’s defense has some playmakers, Wilson would be more of a bench stash than anything.
Tevin Coleman (@ CAR)
Available in 80.5% of leagues
This will be the last Jets player, I promise. I’ll preface this by saying I don’t love New York’s running back situation. It looks to be doomed for a committee approach and the offensive line isn’t where you want it to be yet. However, between Coleman, Ty Johnson, and Michael Carter, Coleman seems to have the upper hand. Considering he’s the most experienced back on the roster, I wouldn’t mind spending a roster spot on him. The best-case scenario is Coleman leads the backfield with at least 10 touches and, say, five targets. The worst-case scenario is you drop Coleman a week later.
Wayne Gallman (vs. PHI)
Available in 96% of leagues
Gallman became the hottest waiver pickup of the month when he joined the Falcons a few days ago. Naturally, people gravitated toward his seemingly clear path to a starting job if Mike Davis doesn’t pan out. After all, we still don’t really know what to expect from Davis in Atlanta. If Gallman manages to win the starting job, he could see 15-plus touches and five-plus targets a game. It may not be the greatest situation, but you take what you can with bench running backs.
Damien Williams (@ LAR)
Available in 94.5% of leagues
David Montgomery did a good job as Chicago’s three-down back last season after Tarik Cohen tore his ACL in Week 3. Despite Montgomery’s success, the Bears signed Williams in the offseason—a move that looks even better after Cohen was placed on the PUP/Reserve list, thus keeping him out the first six weeks. Williams can carve out a nice role as Cohen’s replacement, especially in PPR formats. If you’re truly desperate for a running back, consider Williams in what should be a pass-happy matchup against the Rams.
Sammy Watkins (@ LV)
Available in 91% of leagues
I’m calling it now: Watkins will be the hottest waiver pick-up after Week 1. It’s just in his DNA. He scored 21.5 points in his 2020 season-opener and 46.8 points in his 2019 season-opener. In all seriousness, Watkins couldn’t be in a better spot for a first-game breakout. Rashod Bateman is out three weeks, leaving Watkins as Lamar Jackson’s WR2 against the Raiders. Needless to say, this Raiders secondary has done little to prove they can be a good unit this season—unless Tre’Von Moehrig and Casey Hayward transform the unit into the Legion of Boom. Even then, Watkins may get Trayvon Mullen on the opposite side. I like Watkins’ first-game chances.
Albert Wilson (@ NE)
Available in 99% of leagues
Any Dolphins beat reporter will tell you that Wilson was a star in training camp. The 29-year-old looked six years younger after he opted out of last season due to COVID-19. The chemistry between Wilson and Tua Tagovailoa was hard to miss—so much so that you shouldn’t be surprised if he is Miami’s WR1 by the season’s end. Yes, I’m also surprised I wrote that sentence. With Will Fuller suspended for Week 1, Wilson could see enough targets to put himself back on the fantasy map. Albeit, this New England secondary isn’t the greatest matchup for wide receivers. I’d prefer Watkins or Collins if you truly need a starter for Week 1.
Cole Kmet (CHI at LAR)
Available in 73.5% of leagues
I said this about Kmet back in July:
“It wasn’t really until the end of the season when Kmet started to find his groove. While he only topped 10 points just twice all season, his snaps and target share increased significantly over the final five weeks. Not only was he more involved in the Bears’ offense than Jimmy Graham, but Kmet saw the eight-most targets among all tight ends in that span.”
Nothing’s changed since then. I don’t know if I’d start Kmet, but I’d definitely add him as a backup with starter upside.
Gerald Everett (@ IND)
Available in 65% of leagues
I’m sorry I’m reusing another one of my quotes, but what I said about Everett in July still holds true now:
“What makes Everett such an intriguing pick is his potential role in the Seahawks’ offense. If Seattle reverts to the pass-happy offense we saw in the first half of last season—the same one that bolstered Russell Wilson into the leading MVP candidate—then targets should be fast and furious.”
Seattle hasn’t been the most proactive in targeting their tight ends over the last few seasons, though Everett’s upside eclipses most available tight ends.