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Week 1 Quarterbacks - Waiver Wire Pickups and Adds

Welcome back football; it’s been far too long. With one game already in the books, it’s time to look ahead to Sunday’s action at some quarterbacks on the waiver wire that can be used as streamers or long-term plays.

Waivers aren’t as crucial in week one compared to other weeks since players are relatively healthy and no one is on bye week, but for owners waiting on Jameis Winston or Carson Wentz, or owners staring down a bad matchup for their quarterback, it may be worth considering a pick up prior to Sunday.

In standard one quarterback leagues the waiver wire is usually pretty rich with talent at the position, unless the league is full of owners that like to hold backup quarterbacks. In two-quarterback leagues, nearly every starter is rostered and the waiver wire tends to be quite barren for quality arms. That’s why a pair of quarterbacks owned in fewer than 5% of leagues has been included, so even owners in deep leagues have someone to consider. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of September 7.

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Week 1 Waiver Wire Quarterbacks

 Alex Smith, WAS @ Arizona - 63% owned

Smith doesn’t get the respect he deserves in fantasy circles. Often maligned for an overly cautious playstyle, Smith shed his reputation as a check down passer last season by posting the best-adjusted yards per attempt, passer rating, and interception rate in the NFL. He was the fourth best fantasy quarterback last season. While injuries to big producers like Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson certainly inflated his final rank, Smith was good enough to be an every-week starter last season. Yet he is only 63% owned in Yahoo leagues and not even in top-12 consideration. It’s as if the perception of Alex Smith has blinded fantasy owners to his recent performances. He is especially good in leagues with heavy penalties for interceptions, since he so scarcely throws picks.

The Cardinals secondary isn’t swiss cheese, but it is no longer a defense to fear for quarterbacks. Last season Arizona gave up the tenth most fantasy points and touchdown passes to quarterbacks. They lost Tyrann Mathieu to free agency and Patrick Peterson took a noticeable step back last from his former superstar level of production. Combine that with a 34-year-old Antoine Bethea at free safety and you’ve got an exploitable secondary. Follow this week up with matchups against Indianapolis and Green Bay, two of the weakest secondaries in the league, and Smith is an attractive short-term add with the potential to be starting caliber all season.

Andy Dalton, CIN @ Indianapolis Colts - 29% owned

Dalton has one of the most favorable matchups this week, going up against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts surrendered the fifth most passing yards and were tied for most passing yards per attempt allowed last season. They also lost their best defensive back, Vontae Davis, to the Buffalo Bills this off-season. Between Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson the Colts may have the worst cornerback duo in the league. A.J. Green should have no problem taking advantage of whomever he is lined up against.

Dalton had a down season compared to his usual standards, posting a three-year low in quarterback rating, completion percentage, and interceptions. At age 30, it’s far too early to expect a drop-off in skill from Dalton, and his 86.6 passer rating was only two points lower than his career average. He’s also got a healthy Tyler Eifert and John Ross playing a bigger role, so he won’t have to solely rely on Green like last season. As a streamer, he’s a fine one week option, and he’s got a date with the Baltimore Ravens minus Jimmy Smith week two as well.

Blake Bortles, JAX @ New York Giants - 33% Owned

The Giants allowed the second most passing yards last season and the most passing touchdowns in the NFL. Their secondary was absolutely shredded by opposing quarterbacks, and they allowed the most fantasy points (based on standard scoring) to quarterbacks in 2017. This matchup may not be as favorable this season because the Giants have Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple healthy at cornerback in this game, but it’s still a matchup that can be streamed against.

For all the (sometimes deserved) criticism that Bortles receives, he did post the best QBR and interception rate of his career last season. He’s not a quarterback that anyone should plan on riding all season, but four of the first five weeks of the season are cupcake pass defenses. After taking on the Giants Bortles gets the Patriots, Titans, Jets, and Chiefs. Only the Titans were not a bottom-seven defense against quarterbacks last season, and playing in the AFC South means Bortles will get to face Houston and Indianapolis twice as well. As a matchup play, fantasy owners could do worse than streaming Blake Bortles.

Ryan Fitzpatrick TAM @ New Orleans Saints - 1% owned

With Jameis Winston suspended Ryan Fitzpatrick has stumbled his way into a starting quarterback gig once again, if only temporarily. No one would ever mistake Fitzpatrick for Aaron Rodgers, but from a fantasy perspective, he’s in a good spot Sunday in New Orleans. Thanks to good drafting the Saints secondary isn’t quite the laughing stock it once was, but the loss of safety Kenny Vaccaro this offseason hurts. This game also has a hefty 49.5 O/U, the second highest total after HOU @ NE which is at 50.5. The Saints are a 9.5 point favorite in this one, but that still gives the Buccaneers an expected total of around 20 points. If the game goes as expected Tampa Bay will be playing catch up big time in the second half. In terms of pure volume, Fitzpatrick should provide decent production and for the type of league where an owner would need to use Fitzpatrick, moderate production is helpful.

Between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and DeSean Jackson Fitzpatrick has arguably the best receiving corps that he’s ever had. Even a D-III quarterback would know to throw it up to Mike Evans every chance he gets. Burners like Godwin and Jackson can get over secondaries for risky deep passes, and unlike Alex Smith Fitzpatrick has proven that he’s unafraid of throwing interceptions. Long term there isn’t much here with Fitzpatrick. His next two guaranteed starts come against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, two defenses that shouldn’t be targeted with a quarterback of Fitzpatrick’s caliber. Despite reports that the Bucs are noncommittal to Jameis Winston, it’s hard to believe they would spurn the potential future of the franchise for a 35-year-old journeyman.

Lamar Jackson BAL vs. Buffalo Bills - 3% owned

Jackson isn’t to be used this week, he’s not even starting for the Ravens. He is someone that should be stashed in two-quarterback leagues or deeper leagues where most or all starting quarterbacks are rostered. Out of all the rookie quarterbacks, Jackson is the most interesting from an immediate fantasy perspective. The clock is ticking on Joe Flacco, and since the Ravens have eyes on a playoff spot they may be more aggressive in a change at quarterback if things go south quickly. Flacco has undergone a rapid decline over the past three years, and only has one good season out of his last five. In 2014 he posted a 27:12 TD:INT ratio and a 91.0 passer rating. Every other season his passer rating was below 84.0 and he had a miserable 71:62 TD:INT ratio. His weakening arm strength is apparent as well; Flacco had a meager 5.3 adjusted yards per attempt last season, only beating out the noodle-armed Brett Hundley and Deshone Kizer among qualified quarterbacks. Baltimore can $29 million in cap space if they cut Flacco next offseason, and replacing him with Jackson earlier may make the decision easier for the front office and soften the blow for the fan base.

What makes Jackson so interesting is his prolific rushing ability as a quarterback. Jackson is a little weak-armed himself, but his agility makes up for that deficiency. Paired with a dynamic running back like Alex Collins and a solid run-blocking line lead by Marshall Yanda Jackson will be in a position to succeed if and when he gets the opportunity to start. Compared to other rookies like Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, who would have to deal with the Jets and Bills offensive weapons, there is at least some exciting complimentary pieces on the Ravens. Jackson isn’t worth stashing in standard leagues, but he is the long-term stash to carry at the position in deeper leagues.


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