Week-Ahead Stash Candidates for Week 1
Wrong! Now is the time to start thinking about the next step to fantasy success: gaining a weekly edge against your opponents. Maybe you drafted Andrew Luck or Lamar Miller, maybe you need a potential fill-in for Melvin Gordon, or maybe you're looking for some under-the-radar players to watch. Regardless of the scenario you're in, you've come to the right place!
Fantasy football is all about being a step ahead of your competition and this weekly column aims to help you achieve that in a couple of ways.
First, I will identify players that could ultimately provide some value for your teams before they become hot waiver-wire adds. This will save you from spending an exorbitant amount of your free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) or using a high waiver priority on these players, ultimately allowing to save each of these for when you most need it.
Second, I'll dig through the data and player trends to illustrate why these players will be worth taking up a spot on your roster. I'm going to try to find the diamonds in the rough that inevitably emerge each and every year so that you don't have to sweat over whether or not you claimed them on waivers -- because you will already own them!
Starting after Week 2, I'll also include evaluations of the players that I identified as stash candidates to see how well they did in the week you were saving them for. My goal each week is to provide you with starting- and flex-caliber players at each of their respective positions. That means I'm looking for top-12 quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses, and top-36 running backs and wide receivers. If I've done that, then I've done my job.
With that, let's get to it!
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
ESPN Ownership: 20%
For many, Josh Allen was a late-round flier in drafts as they shot for the upside he displayed in the final six games of the 2018 season. As a reminder, Allen finished that six-week stretch as the overall QB1 in large part due to the 476 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns he recorded. His lackluster passing ability in those games didn't inspire anyone, but Buffalo now has a plethora of new weapons for Allen to use.
Receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley and tight end Tyler Kroft all joined the Bills through free agency this past offseason. Allen's strong arm is commonly known as one of his best assets outside of his rushing ability, and the presence of Brown will give him the chance to highlight his deep-passing ability. Last year, seven of Allen's 10 passing touchdowns came on throws of at least 20 yards.
Contrarily, Allen didn't really have a great slot option last year as he only targeted receivers that lined up in the slot 8.3 times per game. The addition of Beasley should improve Allen's short- and intermediate-area passing as Beasley garnered a 110.3 passer rating when targeted. Signs are pointing up for Allen, and you should expect that to continue.
Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens
ESPN Ownership: 4%
A couple weeks ago I wrote about how Gus Edwards was one of my favorite draft-day sleepers at running back. His early-season schedule certainly plays in his favor, even if he is sharing the workload with Mark Ingram. With the positive game scripts that Baltimore should expect to see the first couple weeks of the season, it wouldn't shock me to see the Ravens rest Ingram when the game is in hand and use Edwards to run the clock down.
It's often seen as a good thing when teams rest certain players during the preseason as it indicates that the team wants to protect them from injury. Edwards saw only 25 snaps in the two games he played during the preseason. The Ravens presumably liked what they saw last year and want him as insurance in case Ingram goes down.
Despite a limited receiving ceiling, Edwards offers elite efficiency, indicating he could make the most of a limited workload. Among running backs with at least 50 carries, Edwards finished second in Rushing Net Expected Points per carry (0.17). Similarly, Edwards had a 46.23 percent Rushing Success Rate -- the percentage of his carries that increased Baltimore's expected point total -- finishing third among that same group of running backs.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
ESPN Ownership: 30%
I don't understand how Justin Jackson's ownership is still this low. Since Melvin Gordon's holdout is expected to last through a good chunk of the regular season, Jackson could provide ample value as a potential flex option for the first half of the year.
Based on last year's performances and this year's preseason usage, Austin Ekeler will see the majority of the work as the lead back, but Jackson will have plenty of opportunities. In the three games that Gordon missed last year, Jackson averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 31 carries along with 11.5 yards per reception on 6 receptions. Additionally, Jackson went from getting virtually no work (an average of two snaps per game) when Gordon was playing to averaging 24 snaps per game when he was out -- a significant jump in usage.
The Chargers play a couple of average run defenses in the first couple weeks, but could see some favorable game scripts against the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions. Pay close attention to the splits in LA's backfield in Week 1 and word on Gordon's holdout, as Jackson may end up being a fantasy football difference-maker in the first half of the season.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers
ESPN Ownership: 5%
Currently listed as the second wide receiver on the depth chart, Marquise Goodwin was the forgotten man among San Francisco 49ers receivers this offseason. With Dante Pettis seemingly struggling to earn a starting role and rookie Jalen Hurd's Week 1 status in doubt, Goodwin could pounce back in as the top option behind George Kittle.
Not to mention, the 49ers have one of the easiest early-season schedules as their first two games are against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals, who ranked 7th and 13th, respectively, in wide receiver points against last year. This certainly will give Goodwin an opportunity to get off to a hot start.
While Goodwin faltered a bit towards the end of last year with a mish-mosh of quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo is now back as the starting quarterback for San Francisco. In the seven games he has played with Garoppolo, Goodwin has averaged a solid 6.9 targets, 4.6 receptions, and 59.1 yards per game. While typically known for his big-play explosiveness, those numbers provide a respectable floor, especially in any sort of point-per-reception league.
Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders
ESPN Ownership: 18%
One of the darlings of this season's Hard Knocks, Darren Waller finds himself as the starting tight end for the Oakland Raiders with little competition behind him to take work away. Besides that, the fantasy football community is buzzing about a player in the offense who produced the number five tight end just a year ago. Obviously, the situation is drastically different with the offseason additions of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, but Waller figures to see a lot of work nonetheless.
He's another target who could get off to hot start as the Raiders play two of the worst teams in allowing points to the tight end position: the Denver Broncos (6th-most points allowed) and Kansas City Chiefs (most points allowed).
The redeeming quality for a player who spent all of 2018 suspended is his athleticism combined with his stature. Standing tall at 6' 6" and weighing 255, one would expect his athletic abilities to suffer. On the contrary, Waller posted a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine a couple years ago and displays elite workout metrics in speed score, burst score, and catch radius for someone his size.