Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: 6 waiver-wire targets before Week 1

2RM4P7N Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) hands off to running back Raheem Mostert (31) during the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

• Seahawks QB Geno Smith should be rostered in 100% of leagues: Coming off a season as the overall QB5 and with a great start to the season, Smith is the guy to roster for fantasy managers looking to stream the position. 

Raheem Mostert gets a promotion: The Miami Dolphins were unable to execute a trade for Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor, and the rest of the team’s running backs are managing injuries. Mostert just went from potentially undrafted in short bench leagues to a priority.

• Fantasy draft approaching? Use PFF’s AI-powered fantasy mock draft simulator to fine-tune your draft strategy and dominate your 2023 fantasy football league.

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The 2023 NFL season kicks off this Thursday as the Detroit Lions travel to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in what’s projected as one of the highest-scoring affairs of Week 1. That means waivers are set to run for the very first time this year for most fantasy leagues, and even though you may have just drafted, they’re still worth a look!

Here are six players to double-check for on waivers (or consider drafting later on in your fantasy drafts, if you haven’t drafted yet), ahead of Week 1 fantasy football.

QB Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Upcoming schedule: vs. Rams, at Lions, vs. Panthers, at Giants

To be totally honest, this one felt like cheating a bit, as Smith has a high rosters rate in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues (81.2%). However, after finding Smith on the waiver wire in two (!) of my own home leagues, I decided this one needs a special shout-out. Smith finished as the overall QB5 in 2022, with a career-high 4,282 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. What gave him the biggest edge in fantasy was his ability to gain yards on scrambles, padding that career year as a passer with an extra 366 rushing yards and a score on the ground.

Smith had no business going undrafted in any leagues based on his 2022 production and the talent around him anyway, but a close look at his schedule to start the season makes him all the more appealing. He’ll open the year against the Rams, whose defense is riddled with rookies and vets with minimal experience, followed by the Lions and Panthers, both of whom ranked top-12 in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks in 2022. Don’t be surprised if he still finds himself inside the top-five fantasy producers through the first four weeks of the season.

RB Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins

Upcoming schedule: at Chargers, at Patriots, vs. Broncos, at Bills

Dolphins RB Raheem Mostert has a tough schedule to start the season outside of Week 1’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, facing two top-10 rushing defenses from the 2022 season over the first four weeks. However, with Jeff Wilson Jr. placed on IR and teammate Devon Achane still not cleared for contact following a shoulder injury, he could be in for a significant workload to start the season.

Having functioned as the team’s lead back in 2022, Mostert tallied just under 1,100 scrimmage yards, averaging 4.92 yards per carry and an 80.7 PFF rushing grade that ranked top-20 among backs. His 3.52 yards after contact per attempt and 21% missed forced tackle rate ranked among the league’s best and should be in for plenty of volume to start the season.

 Rostered in 73% of Yahoo! leagues, 72.4% of ESPN leagues

RB Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts

Upcoming schedule: vs. Jaguars, at Texans, at Ravens, vs. Rams

After leaving star RB Jonathan Taylor on the PUP list ahead of the season, the Colts will officially be without him until at least Week 5… if he’s even still on the team at that point. The team has come out to say they’ll ride with the “hot hand” approach, but based on the emphasis they’ve placed on his absence recovering from a broken arm, there’s a non-zero chance they could return to Zack Moss, acquired from the Buffalo Bills just ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. Last year, Moss took over the Indy backfield from the moment Taylor initially left the field in Week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings and performed exceedingly well with the opportunity

Over those four games as a starter, Moss averaged 17.3 attempts per game for 4.84 yards per attempt, ranking top-10 in yards after contact (239) and bottom-10 in stuff rate (9.7%). His 31% missed forced tackle rate and nine explosive runs in that span both ranked top-five among running backs, finishing as the RB20 in that span. Expect a continued emphasis on the run as rookie QB Anthony Richardson gets his bearings as a passer early on in 2023, with Richardson’s athleticism and prowess as a rusher to open up more lanes. Moss has the potential to return from injury in Week 1, but if not, we can almost certainly project him on the field for Week 2, making him a nice stash given the uncertainties of Taylor’s future in Indy.

Rostered in 8% of Yahoo! Leagues, 6.8% of ESPN leagues

WR Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers

Upcoming schedule: at Falcons, vs. Saints, at Seahawks, vs. Vikings

Thielen is entering his age-33 season, but don’t let that stop you from buying into his value as a potential volume hog for fantasy in 2023. Thielen will play his first season with a team other than the Vikings this year, having stood out as rookie QB Bryce Young’s favorite target early on through training camp. 

Thielen is coming off the second-lowest PFF receiving grade of his career, as he saw a decrease in yards per route run and yards per reception in each of the last three seasons. However, having earned Young's trust, his volume makes him an easy candidate to outperform his ADP of WR53. The PFF strength-of-schedule tool believes the Panthers have the third easiest schedule for wide receivers in fantasy this season, starting the year with two matchups against teams ranking in the top-10 for fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers… including a Week 4 revenge game against his former team.

Rostered in 56% of Yahoo! leagues, 69.6% of ESPN leagues

WR Nico Collins, Houston Texans

Upcoming schedule: at Ravens, vs. Colts, at Jaguars, vs. Texans

With several questions remaining about how this Texans pass attack will take shape, there could be some value in drafting the projected top target, who’s been named a focal point of rookie C.J. Stroud throughout the offseason program and training camp. In the preseason, Collins was far and away the team’s best receiver, leading the team with six total targets from Stroud, totaling four receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown with Stroud under center. He led the Texans wide receivers with 0.21 EPA per dropback and 3.2 average yards of separation according to NextGen Stats, 

Collins will look to carry that preseason success over into the regular season, with a tough matchup in Week 1 against the Ravens, followed by two matchups that could get the ball rolling with this passing attack against the Colts and Jaguars in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.

Rostered in 55% of Yahoo! Leagues, 58.2% of ESPN leagues

TE Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

Upcoming schedule: at Seahawks, vs. 49ers, at Bengals, at Colts

Rams star WR Cooper Kupp has been managing a hamstring injury over the past month, but there’s growing concern following a reaggravation that this might not be your average muscle strain, according to HC Sean McVay. In the case of his absence, quarterback Matthew Stafford will lean on a receiving corps led by WRs Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, and undersized TuTu Atwell – none of whom exceeded 35 receiving yards per game last season.

Since Stafford was traded to the Rams in 2021, Higbee ranks second with 147 targets from the quarterback, only behind Kupp. Higbee finished as the overall TE9 in 2022 and enters this season with a load of opportunity in terms of potential target share, especially considering the Rams’ inexperience and lack of depth on defense likely providing the game script that will put the offense in a position to play catchup against stronger opposing offensive units.

Rostered in 78% of Yahoo! leagues, 82.2% of ESPN leagues


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