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Welcome to this first installment of the Waiver Wire weekly series for the 2017 fantasy football season. This is where the magic happens.

We provide information on players that are owned in roughly 40% of leagues or less, so that you can make an educated decision about who to add to your squad.

Let’s look around the league at many names who are worth mentioning as Week 1 approaches. Be sure to also check out our weekly rankings and analysis columns, with in-depth analysis for all options heading into Week 1.

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Quarterbacks - Waiver Wire Options

Jay Cutler (QB, MIA) - 32% owned

Whether this is reflective in our collective confidence in Miami as a whole, this marks the second season in a row where their starting QB is the first name owned in less than 50 percent of leagues. Available in two-thirds of leagues, Smokin’ Jay is ready to show Alshon Jeffery that his new friends are even cooler than Alshon’s. Of course, this presupposes that Cutler gives a hoot, which flies in the face of his reputation.

Anyway, Cutler is going to be handed a team that has a premier running back (knock on wood) in Jay Ajayi, a big-play receiver poised to take the leap in DeVante Parker and a reliable pair of hands in Jarvis Landry. Kenny Stills is no joke either, and if Julius Thomas can stay healthy then all the better. A Week 1 matchup against Tampa Bay would have been good enough to see what kind of approach he’s taking out there. But he's facing the Chargers, Jets and Saints between Weeks 2-4, and I like those odds.

Blake Bortles (QB, JAC) - 18% owned

I know, the guy looks broken. He finished 2016 with a fizzle after facing the Broncos, Vikings and Texans defenses in consecutive weeks -- though he had stunk long before then too. But here’s the thing, we don’t need a guy to be that great and win games in real life to be useful to fantasy. Sure, he can’t be so bad that he loses his job, but Jacksonville appears ready to give him one last season to figure himself out.

You may also be aware that Bortles finished as a top-10 QB in ’16, with his scrambling ability (58 rushes for 359 yards and three TDs) helping offset the 23-to-16 TD-to-INT ratio. If Leonard Fournette can actually make something out of the running game then it’s entirely possible that Bortles turns Allen Robinson back into a hero, Allen Hurns back into a serviceable flex option and perhaps even Dede Westbrook becomes a waiver-wire play down the road. It doesn’t have to be pretty, garbage time is just fine. Don’t turn your nose up at the opportunity for his slinging the ball relentlessly.

*Sam Bradford is also 18 percent owned and has the second-easiest schedule according to FantasyPros, which makes him a decent pickup despite his lower ceiling for a Week 1 matchup against the high-octane Saints offense.

*DeShone Kizer is a wild card, but the 11-percent owned rookie could find himself knee-deep in a shootout with Pittsburgh in Week 1 (though the game is in Cleveland), and at the very least he’ll face Indianapolis in Week 3 and the Jets in Week 5.


Running Backs - Waiver Wire Options

Charcandrick West (RB, KC) - 13% owned

I’ve had quite a bit of the Kareem Hunt KoolAid, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to cover my butt with West. Even though the 26-year-old isn’t a world-beater, the Chiefs run an offense that flows through its running backs, whether that’s on the ground or with Alex Smith checkdowns. What West lacks in excitability he makes up for with being a veteran, which Andy Reid tends to respect and could make him a solid flex option should the rookie fail to make an impression early.

James Conner (RB, PIT) - 10% owned

While Conner is no DeAngelo Williams, there’s still a lot to be said for the backup to Le’Veon Bell heading into the 2017 season. First of all, Bell is no bastion of health in a vacuum. Second of all, we’re not in a vacuum because Bell brought on some condition concerns thanks to his holdout. This isn’t really about doubting Bell’s abilities to be one of the best players in the game, but there’s enough going on where Mike Tomlin has said he doesn’t know how much work they’re going to give their premier RB. While this doesn’t make Conner a startable asset in Week 1, it may give him enough of a chance to show fantasy owners what he could do if Bell goes down. Get ahead of the curve.

Wendell Smallwood (RB, PHI) - 9% owned

Even though Darren Sproles remains the most reliable back in the Philadelphia RB stable, Smallwood’s meager ownership share compared to LeGarrette Blount’s 85 percent is a bit odd. While it seems logical that Blount would be the go-to guy after being a beast in New England, he hasn’t done enough to force Doug Pederson to name a lead back and even saw rumors fly of the Eagles looking to upgrade at the position just a week ago. Neither Smallwood nor Blount will be a reliable option when sharing reps, but the 23-year-old West Virginia product could take the short-yardage job.

Alfred Morris (RB, DAL) - 5% owned

Another handcuff to be aware of, Morris would be in line to roll behind Dallas’ stout offensive line should anything happen to Darren McFadden while Ezekiel Elliott serves his (currently-upheld) six-game suspension. McFadden is far from the poster child for durability, so don’t let Morris go too far from your sight.

Matt Breida (RB, SF) - 4% owned

He’s the only warm body behind Carlos Hyde, quickly going from undrafted free agent to No. 2 RB in what’s to be an up-tempo offense this season. RotoBaller stud and good friend Max Petrie called Breida a top-25 PPR RB in our bold predictions piece and while absolutely nobody needs to follow that to a T, the embers are here for a fire.


Wide Receivers - Waiver Wire Options

Devin Funchess (WR, CAR) - 17% owned

Aside from giving fantasy owners the ability to use “Honey Funchess of Oats” as their team name, the 23-year-old stands to start for the Panthers as their No. 2 wideout across from Kelvin Benjamin. One could easily state that he’s perhaps the fourth option for a team that also has Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey as pass-catchers, but still -- this is a nice jump in opportunity for the third-year receiver. Of course, Cam Newton’s arm is going to need to be okay.

Kendall Wright (WR, CHI) - 12% owned

Wright is one of those low-owned players that stands a great chance of being scooped up in 0.5 and full PPR formats. He converted three third downs on Chicago’s opening drive in the all-important third preseason game and is going to be the starting slot wide receiver this season. With Cameron Meredith out, the Bears unlikely to steamroll anyone and Mike Glennon likely needing a safety blanket or three, Wright could find himself drowning in double-digit targets early and often in 2017.

Paul Richardson (WR, SEA) - 5% owned

Depth charts aren’t everything, but Richardson is currently the No. 2 WR on Seattle’s depth chart in front of Tyler Lockett and could be in line for a big Week 1 against the Packers. The Seahawks are underdogs on the road in a game that’s sporting an over-under line of 50-plus points, which tends to favor the passing game. The Seahawks aren’t known for providing a consistent WR2 for fantasy owners behind Doug Baldwin, but Richardson has shown himself to be a very talented wideout with great hands…he just needs to stay healthy.

Brandon Coleman (WR, NO) - 1% owned

With Willie Snead unavailable to open the season, Coleman looks to be the beneficiary here to step into the Saints’ three-wide sets. The 6’6” receiver hasn’t really stood out thus far entering his fourth season, but he should be of use for owners in deeper leagues as New Orleans takes on Minnesota, New England and Carolina in the first three weeks. Just because they now have Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram to tote the rock doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly let go of their pass-happy ways. Drew Brees can make three receivers valuable, especially if Coby Fleener continues to do Coby Fleener things.


Tight Ends - Waiver Wire Options

Outside of the rookies O.J. Howard (36%) and Evan Engram (20%), tight end thins out rather quickly. C.J. Fiedorowicz is owned in 41 percent of leagues so he just misses the cut. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re totally out in the cold entering the 2017 season.

Jared Cook (TE, OAK) - 20% owned

As far as dart throws go, getting an athletic guy like Cook in an offense like Oakland’s is pretty good. While his potential always seems to outweigh the result, this is an offense that’s never really had a formidable talent line up at TE (no offense to Mychal Rivera or Clive Walford, but come on). Those seeking consistency will likely rip out their hair, but he could end up making some big plays for a team that recorded the sixth most yards per game (373.3) and the seventh most points (416) last year. Derek Carr might just find that he likes throwing it over the middle to the 6’5” guy.

Vance McDonald (TE, PIT) - 6% owned

Pittsburgh decided it wasn’t very impressed with Jesse James’ inability to do much more than catch and thud into a tackler, so they went and got McDonald. Even if that wasn’t what went through their minds, it’s what went through mine. The Steelers are notorious for moving the chains through the air -- their 4,202 passing yards were tied for fifth most in the NFL last season -- but James only averaged 8.67 yards per reception with 119 total yards after the catch (39 catches) compared to McDonald’s 16.29 average and 210 YAC on just 24 receptions. The man can make plays.


More Week 1 Lineup Prep