The 2012 NFL Season is just about to kick off, what better way to celebrate than with our first installment of the Waiver Wire Wonders!! This week, a special "pre-season" edition where we talk about players that did not get any love on draft day. Many leagues do offer a free agency period prior to the first regular season game, check your league rules and even if not, keep an eye on some of these players once the season begins.
As in year's past, this column will do its best to mention players that are available in most leagues. The players are ranked in four categories, with the Smokin' Hot category the most desirable, 'Solid Pickups' next, and so on down the list. Individual league rules and specific team needs are also a factor in determining which player(s) are best suited for addition to your team. Just as important as the player being added is the player to be released to make room. Be careful not to give up too early on a player, but in general, any time you can improve your roster, even the last player on your team, you do it.
Thanks to all those that have been faithful readers of the column, and a warm welcome to those seeing it for the first time. On to this week's Waiver Wire Wonders....
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh
With Rashard Mendenhall at least a month or two away and Isaac Redman nursing an ankle injury, the starting job by default to open the season falls to Dwyer. In the past, the Steelers have shown that they will have confidence in their starting back, look for Dwyer to get a significant amount of action to open up the season.
RB Evan Royster, Washington
Even prior to the release of the Redskins depth charts, which coming from a Mike Shanahan team we consider to be next to useless, Royster was going to end up making this list. In an uncertain backfield where Roy Helu hasn't set the world on fire, Tim Hightower was released, and Alfred Morris didn't play in the final pre-season game, we see Royster as getting the first opportunity to run with the starter's job in Washington.
WR Jerome Simpson, Minnesota
He'll be sitting out the first three games of the season, but come week four he will have an immediate impact as a starter for the Vikings. The speedster will be a welcome addition to the Minnesota passing attack, grab and stash him now.
WR Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
Most leagues are listing him as a wide out, and he has certainly performed like one this pre-season. The Chiefs will need to find a way to get this explosive player the ball so look for him to get close to 10 touches per game.
RB Robert Turbin, Seattle
We have our doubts that starter Marshawn Lynch can last the entire season. Leon Washington will be the third down back, with Turbin spelling Lynch when necessary.
WR Rod Streater, Oakland
The undrafted rookie has been a standout for the Raiders all pre-season. This is all about opportunity, and he has taken advantage of it. With Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore's playing status for week one in doubt, Streater is in line to be the week one starter. Even beyond week one, he is able to adapt to play any position, so it is not a stretch to see some regular playing time for him even when those two are healthy and on the field.
TE Kellen Davis, Chicago
In 2011 under Mike Martz, tight ends were an after thought in Chicago. Martz is no longer in Chicago, with another Mike (Tice) now in charge of the offense. Davis had opportunities to sign elsewhere in the off season but he chose to stay with the Bears. Expect a significant increase in his 2012 numbers.
On the Radar
TE Martellus Bennett New York Giants
He's very much under the radar, but as the starter for the Giants, we see him getting his hands on the ball 2-3 times per game. Last year's starter Jake Ballard had 8 games where he caught for more than 45 yards, look for Bennett to fill that role in 2012.
WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland
A late push in the pre-season has thrust Gordon into the starting lineup ahead of Mohammed Massaquoi. We'd normally be very excited about this kind of promotion, but the Browns passing game is an unproven commodity that we'd like to see put up some numbers before we give a strong recommendation.
WR James Jones, Green Bay
Though trade rumors continue to swirl, he ends up on this list because of his talent and the team he is currently on. The aerial attack of the Packers is well documented, with Aaron Rodgers poised to have another stellar season. Jones is behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson on the depth chart, but he will see a fair amount of the field in three wide out sets, even with him having to compete with Randall Cobb and Donald Driver for playing time.
RB Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco
The 49ers have been told anyone that willing to listen that they are going to limit Frank Gore's workload this season, with the majority of those spells going to Kendall Hunter. Jacobs is going to be in the mix (though not likely in week one as he recovers from injury), especially at the goal line where he's likely to get the majority of those scoring chances.
WR Braylon Edwards, Seattle
Despite reports that he's behind Golden Tate (or at least in a dead heat), it is Tate's recent knee injury that lands Edwards a spot on this list. Tate is listed as questionable for week one, so we expect Edwards to get the majority of the work as a starter to open the season. Given the opportunity, with a strong week one performance, Edwards has a chance to take the starting job and run with it.
RB Mike Goodson, Oakland
Though there has been more talk about Taiwan Jones being the backup to Darren McFadden, Goodson is more suited to that role. Jones is more of a change of pace/third down back. We are concerned about Goodson's health and his fumbling in the pre-season, but we're confident that he will end up being the long term backup to McFadden.
RB Alex Green, Green Bay
Green is likely a couple weeks away from being healthy, but he has a lock on the backup role to Cedric Benson. James Starks is becoming an after thought, and Green will have no trouble getting past Brandon Saine on the depth chart.
QB Brandon Weeden, Cleveland
The Browns ended any speculation early by announcing Weeden as the starter. His inclusion here on this list is by no means an indication that we see strong fantasy numbers, but we do see an opportunity for him to be a decent fantasy quarterback. The Browns are likely to be playing from behind, which by way of pass attempts, will put Weeden in the middle of the pack of fantasy players at his position.
QB John Skelton, Arizona
After enduring one of the closest battles for starting quarterback this off-season, Skelton emerged as the coach's choice. As the starter for the Cardinals, expect him to feed Larry Fitzgerald early and often.
Deep and/or Dynasty Only
TE Zach Miller, Seattle
Now that the Seahawks have released Kellen Winslow, that opens the door for Miller to be the full time tight end.
WR Dwayne Harris, Dallas
A strong end to the pre-season has earned Harris the role of third wide out. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will see the majority of action, but they will also get the more attention from defenses, opening the door for Harris to see the ball from time to time.
QB Matt Cassel, Kansas City
The Chiefs do not have a viable backup to Cassel (Brady Quinn), so he will have a very long leash this season. Despite a disappointing pre-season, Cassel has proven in the past that he can get the job done.
RB Chris Ivory, New Orleans
We're digging extremely deep here, going to the fourth back on the Saints depth chart. He has struggled this pre-season, and hasn't earned any time on the field for New Orleans, but we see him as a candidate to be traded to a team that has a need at the position.