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Working the Waiver Wire: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Reggie Bush stole the show on Sunday, piling up nearly 200 total yards including an electric 77-yard catch and run, but he wasn’t the only Detroit ball carrier to leap onto the fantasy radar. Last year’s third-down specialist Joique Bell put together an intriguing performance and warrants immediate attention in all leagues. He’s simply a must-own in PPR formats right now, but could hold solid value in standard formats as well. Many thought that the offseason addition of Bush would push Bell to a bench role with the larger Mikel Leshoure taking over the short-yardage duties. Well in Week 1, Leshoure was the one who found himself healthy scratch while Bell thrived as a compliment to Bush. He scored a pair of goal line touchdowns and also chipped in  67 yards in the passing while catching five of his six total targets.

A year ago, Bell caught 52 passes on 68 targets on a team that attempted more passes to it’s running backs than any other in the NFL. Beyond the fact that Reggie Bush is no stranger to the trainer’s room–though he has stayed healthy of late–Bell represents a strong flex play in any PPR league. Count on 5+ receptions week in and week out  for Bell and now that he has the goal line role as well, there is some real upside in his rest-of-season potential. Bell is currently just 36% owned in standard Yahoo leagues and his ownership is already skyrocketing in standard ESPN formats where he’s been added in 27% of leagues over the past seven days to bring his ownership to a robust 81.3%. He is certainly worth a waiver claim this weekend and if you are set at the tight end position, we wouldn’t hesitate for a second to spend the No. 1 waiver claim on Bell, even over Thursday evening breakout Julius Thomas.

Beyond Bell, there are a number of waiver wire players just waiting to hop aboard and help you fantasy team heading into Week 2. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the widely available players who have grabbed our attention.

Quarterback

EJ Manuel (BUF) 19% owned

Manuel threw for just 150 passing yards in his debut, but it was a gutty performance against an elite New England Patriots team. Manuel’s comfort level with the offense was clear as he tossed a pair of touchdown passes, one to fellow rookie Robert Woods and another to veteran Stevie Johnson. C.J. Spiller had a bit of an off day, but there is certainly plenty of talent to go around in Buffalo with Fred Jackson and C.J. giving the team one of the better 1-2 backfield punches in the league. Manuel is not and will not be the focal point of this offense, but he is in position to do just enough to matter for fantasy owners.

Ryan Tennehill (MIA) 17% owned

Tannehill didn’t really get new toy Mike Wallace involved in the passing offense–though he did hear about that following the game. What he did do, was lead the Dolphins to victory despite a pathetic performance from his backfield, throwing for 272 yards and a touchdown. He showed great rapport with both Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson and you have to figure that sooner than later, he’s going to connect with Wallace on a deep ball or two. Downfield passing will be Tennehill’s calling card this season and against weaker secondaries, he should be able to stuff the stat sheet. In Week 2, Tennehill has a date with another second-year passer in Andrew Luck and the Colts in a game that could easily develop into a shootout.

Terrelle Pryor (OAK) 12% owned

Oh, we’ve seen this before. The running QB turns into fantasy gold. Pryor’s ability to get points with his legs and do just enough with his arm makes him an interesting weekly play. We have little confidence that he’ll be a consistent start all season, and his matchup against Houston doesn’t necessarily look soft, but it’s hard to deny the value he is putting out there right now. In his two career starts, Pryor has put up 367 passing yards 161 rushing yards and 4 total touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing), good for about 48 fantasy points in your standard game. That’s production on the waiver wire you simply cannot ignore.

Running Back

Joique Bell (DET) 36% owned

See above

Da’Rel Scott (NYG) 3% owned

Another year, another Week 1 blunder for speedy Giants’ running back David Wilson. His second fumble in the opener landed him on the bench, but he may have avoided Tom Coughlin’s dog house purely out of necessity. Coughlin indicated in his press conference after he game that the team simply did not have many better options at the position and Wilson will likely keep his starting gig. Scott steps up as the primary backup with Andre Brown out until at least Week 10 and he looked decent Sunday night versus the Cowboys, gaining 23 yards on five carries while adding 51 yards on five catches in the passing. He stands to see time as the third down back, at the very least, moving forward with the ability to gain an even greater share of the playing time. His prospects to get the goal like role will likely depend on the veteran back that is brought in this week but Scott is, right now, a step away from a starting job in a solid NFL offense. Rookie Michael Cox has some nice talent but is nowhere near ready to contribute outside of special teams, so go grab Scott now. If you are a David Wilson owner, Scott belongs at the top of your free agent list.

Kendall Hunter (SF) 12% owned

Hunter ran well as Frank Gore’s primary backup and, if Gore were forced to miss time, Kendall looks to have the ability to be a major fantasy contributor behind an excellent San Francisco line. Gore has been surprisingly durable over the last several season despite carrying the “injury prone” tag through the early part of his career, but Hunter is a backup with talent and a should be owned on par with the Ben Tate’s and Bernard Pierce‘s of the world.

Leon Washington (NE)  0% owned

Shane Vereen‘s wrist injury opens the door for Washington to step in  as the pass-catching back in the Patriots high-powered offense. Washington has dynamic ability in the open field and should receive a healthy amount of targets. He’s a very interesting name in PPR formats and will likely fly under the radar during the first week waiver period.

Wide Receiver

Brian Hartline (MIA) 46% owned

Hartline has been an underrated PPR stud for some time and Week 1 of the 2013 season confirms that status. He saw a whopping 15 targets i the game, turning that into 9 cacthes for 114 yards and a touchdown. As Mike Wallace gets further integrated into the offense, expect Hartline to function as the main possession receiver, making him a weekly top-30 option in PPR formats.

Julian Edelman (NE) 25% owned

Edelman grabbed a pair of touchdown passes while outproducing hyped up rookie Kenbrell Thompkins in the opener. Prior to his injury last season, Edelman was carving out a significant role in the Pats offense and QB Tom Brady seems to have picked up right where he left off. Edelman has the trust of coach Bill Belechik and will continue to get looks now that he’s healthy. Word that Danny Amendola‘s groin injury may leave him out of Thursday’s matchup against the Jets clears the way for an even larger role for Edelman in the short term.

Marlon Brown (BAL) 5% owned

Subbing in for an injured Jacoby Jones, Brown grabbed a touchdown pass while racking up 65 yards on four receptions  in his debut outing. It’s tough to rely on rookie receivers and Brown looked pretty raw out there, but he also flashed the tools to succeed. In all honesty, it’s Joe Flacco‘s inconsistency on a week-to-week basis that keeps Brown from becoming a true breakout candidate, but he is a solid add in deeper leagues with a clear path to a starting role on an offense desperately seeking a second pass catcher.

Harry Douglass (ATL) 1% owned

Roddy White‘s ankle injury forced Douglas into a larger-than-expected role and the Falcons No. 3 stepped up admirably. He reeled in 4 passes for 93 yards and remains a high upside play with solid speed working opposite of Julio Jones in Atlanta’s high octane offense.

Tight End

Julius Thomas (DEN) 55% owned

Thomas flashed onto the scene during Peyton Manning‘s record performance last Thursday. Despite dropping his first target of the night, Manning went back to the well early and often, consistently finding Thomas in a coverage mismatches. When all was said and done, Thomas was one of three Denver pass catchers with a pair of touchdowns as he racked up five catches for 110 yards on seven targets.  While the record shattering pace of the Denver offense is sure to slow, Thomas is an immediate add in all leagues. Even if you already own a solid tight end, anyone who watched Peyton work with Dallas Clark back in his Indy days can see the upside of a trusted Manning tight end and Thomas deserves an add regardless.

Brent Celek (PHI) 20% owned

Chip Kelly’s frantic offense took the Redskins by surprise on Monday night and Brent Celek was one of the primary benefactors of the Eagles up tempo game-plan. Celek saw just three targets, but made the most of them, posting a pair of 28-yards receptions including one that resulted in a touchdown. The Eagles run the ball a ton, but they also lead the entire game on Monday, so it is difficult to completely by the breakdown of pass versus run plays. Regardless, if Michael Vick continues to find Celek (and, more importantly, look his way in the red zone), the tight end will hold value as a second tier tight end.

Defense/Special Teams

Panthers (CAR) 6% owned

Carolina’s front-seven is simply dominant and despite the Week 1 loss, the defense was able to bottle up one of the top rushing attacks in the league, holding Seattle to just 70 rushing yards on 26 carries (2.7 ypc). Next, they face a Buffalo team that’s main strength lies in its ground game. While we don’t expect C.J. Spiller to be as ineffective as he was in Week 1, we also won’t rate him as a top-5 back this week against the Panthers. Add in the fact that EJ Manuel is making just the second start of his career and Carolina makes a really attractive pick-up-and-play in Week 2. Obviously, their long-term outlook is a bit risky playing in a division with both New Orleans and Atlanta, but Carolina will make a fantastic matchup play for the balance of the season.

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