After months of waiting, Week 1 of the NFL season is here, bringing with it fantasy football. While drafts have wrapped up, now is not the time to become lazy, as working the Week 1 waiver wire could lead to excellent value by taking advantage of some players who might have slipped through the draft. With the opening week of NFL looming, here are some of the top waiver wire claims to make for Week 1 of the fantasy football season.
Waiver wire pickups to target in Week 1 | Quarterback
Jameis Winston | New Orleans Saints @ ATL (30.5% rostered)
It’s never easy getting things right in Week 1. It’s nothing but speculation and research while hoping NFL teams and players do what you expect. No wonder we get things wrong so often. But for those looking for a high-end QB2 for your bench, Jameis Winston is still out there in roughly 70% of leagues and would be my top waiver wire claim at QB for Week 1.
Not only did Winston himself avoid the PUP list, but so did Michael Thomas. Additionally, Alvin Kamara is unlikely to be suspended in 2022, giving Winston a full complement of weapons that also includes Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave. Winston gets a cake-walk matchup in Week 1 against the Falcons, followed by games against the Packers, Texans, and Giants, keeping Winston firmly on the waiver wire radar for multiple weeks. I wouldn’t discount a top-10 performance out the gates for Winston.
Matt Ryan | Indianapolis Colts @ HOU (22.6% rostered)
For the first time in his 15-year career, Matt Ryan will run onto the field wearing a different uniform. While he was 30th in points per game at 13.1 last season, Ryan was also 11th in passing yards (3,968) despite not having Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley.
Things could not be more different in Indianapolis, where Ryan is on a bonafide contender. The Colts’ offensive line is a strength, Jonathan Taylor is the top RB in the league by the eyes of many, and they have one of the top breakouts in Michael Pittman Jr.
In all likelihood, we will be targeting whoever the Texans are playing for fantasy. While the additions of Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre do help the future of this secondary, Ryan and the Colts should have no issues with this matchup. Although he lacks rushing upside, Ryan is a reliable QB2 for weeks where you need a fill-in. You can do much worse on the waiver wire in Week 1 than Ryan.
Waiver wire pickups to target in Week 1 | Running back
Darrell Henderson | Los Angeles Rams vs BUF (40% rostered)
I have firmly been on the “Cam Akers is better than you think” train all offseason. Putting Darrell Henderson here is not me handing in my boarding ticket and getting off. It’s hedging my bets while listening to what the coaches have said.
“I look at it as we’ve got two starting backs. … They need to be on the field. I think it’s healthy for them to be able to supplement one another.” That’s straight from head coach Sean McVay.
In Weeks 1-12 last season, as the Rams’ lead back, Henderson was the RB14 averaging 16.9 touches and 82 total yards per game but was not overly efficient. He was nursing a soft-tissue injury during camp but appears good to go.
The RB1 has traditionally dominated the touches for McVay, but it appears Henderson is in line for a more significant workload than initially anticipated. He needs to be rostered in all formats and snagged off the waiver wire in Week 1.
Mike Davis | Baltimore Ravens @ NYJ (9.6% rostered)
Not every waiver wire claim needs to have long-term aspirations. Some are a one-and-done situation, such as here with Mike Davis. With Gus Edwards (ACL) still a ways to go in his recovery and J.K. Dobbins (ACL) highly questionable for Week 1, Davis could end up the Ravens’ No. 1 RB against a Jets’ defense that allowed a league-high 28 touchdowns to opposing running backs last season.
Is Davis flashy? No. But this is a scheme where running backs find success. Just look at last year, where the duo of Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray combined for 15 RB3 performances (top 36), eight RB2 outings (top 24), and four games as RB1s (top 12). That’s significant, especially when you add that teams weren’t worried about Lamar Jackson for six of those games.
Davis will be relevant in Week 1, but in Week 2, we could see Kenyan Drake (5.9%) enter the fray more once up to speed. When Dobbins is back, it’s his backfield, giving Davis fleeting fantasy relevance.
Khalil Herbert | Chicago Bears @ GB (21.9% rostered)
It’s certainly expected to be the David Mongtomery show in 2022. Over the last two seasons, Montgomery has averaged a jaw-dropping 21.1 opportunities and 20.3 touches per game. But there could be some competition with Khalil Herbert.
Last year, Herbert did show promise when called on while Montgomery was out. From Weeks 5-8, Herbert recorded 78 carries, 344 yards, and 22 opportunities a game. ESPN’s Dan Graziano recently implied Herbert could see an even larger role, and we are expecting.
“The new staff seems to like David Montgomery just fine, but there is some skepticism about whether his style fits the new offense as well as [Khalil] Herbert’s does.”
Herbert is worth picking up off the waiver wire now in Week 1 before we see any spike in usage. With games involving the Packers, Texans, Vikings, and Giants between Weeks 2 through 5, Herbert could quickly move his way up the rankings with some solid showings.
Mark Ingram II | New Orleans Saints @ ATL (18.5% rostered)
Fantasy football doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Draft/add good players in highly-productive roles at value. Pretty simple right? So we’re all on board to now add Mark Ingram off of the Week 1 waiver wire, right?
Even with Alvin Kamara back, Ingram still carries standalone value. In their four games together, Kamara dropped to 14.25 att/game, with Ingram seeing 13.7 opportunities a game, including 13 red-zone carries.
In the preseason, we saw once again how this split would work. Kamara is the clear RB1, but Ingram comes on the field in the red zone, especially goal-to-go or inside the 5. This was demonstrated perfectly against the Chargers, where Ingram rushed nine times for 34 yards but had two touchdowns.
Ingram needs to be rostered in 12-team or larger formats as he will have weeks with Flex play value.
Waiver wire pickups to target in Week 1 | Wide receiver
Marvin Jones Jr. | Jacksonville Jaguars @ WAS (43.2% rostered)
Death. Taxes. Marvin Jones Jr. being underrated for fantasy football. Some things are simply inevitable.
Jones was sneaky good last year. The WR34 of 2021 saw the fourth-most red-zone targets with 17. He also saw a ton of volume, recording 120 targets, catching 73 passes for 832 yards with four touchdowns. The only real downside was in Jones’ efficiency, averaging 9.9 points per game, which ranked him at 51.
Combined with the previous two years in Detroit as their No. 2 behind Kenny Golladay, Jones has put together a solid résumé. His per-game average would have him on pace for over 950 yards and eight touchdowns over a 17-game season. That’s not a fluke. The Jaguars’ offense does have more weapons, but there should also be more volume.
Only once in Doug Pederson’s five years in Philly did the Eagles finish outside the top 10 in pass attempts. Throw in negative game scripts, and all of a sudden, Jones becomes a rather attractive fantasy asset that can be snagged off the waiver wire in Week 1.
Nico Collins | Houston Texans vs. IND (18.8% rostered)
Outside of Brandin Cooks — and hopefully, Dameon Pierce — there are no safe fantasy options on the Texans. With that said, Nico Collins remains on the radar and should be a name to consider for Week 1 waiver wire additions.
That’s not to say he was impressive last year. Collins was the WR86 in PPR formats playing in 14 games, and he finished 97th in PPR/game scoring (6.0). But there is hope.
Collins closed the season with 30 targets in his final five games, catching 15 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. That seemed to have carried over into the 2022 season as Collins put together a solid summer and even hauled in a preseason TD against the Rams.
Houston is going to struggle, but with that comes negative game scripts, placing Collins in a prime spot to be the No. 2 target for Davis Mills. As the unquestioned WR2 following the loss of John Metchie III for the year, Collins is the cheapest path to 100 targets you can find.
At 6’4″ with blazing speed, Collins is worth a look as an under-the-radar player for fantasy football who could take a significant leap in 2022, making now the perfect time to grab him off the Week 1 waiver wire.
George Pickens | Pittsburgh Steelers @ CIN (54.1% rostered)
I’ve said since the Steelers drafted him that George Pickens is their No. 2 and would have him over Chase Claypool. Back then, I got weird looks. Now I get nods of approval from people thinking they’re slick.
Pickens is a top-tier receiver of this class based on talent alone. If he had not torn his ACL coming into the 2021 season, this wouldn’t even be a talking point.
At 6’3 1/4″ and 195 pounds, Pickens is 100% dawg mentality. He was arguably the winner of the preseason, with every day bringing a new highlight. Diontae Johnson is the safer fantasy option, but Pickens could end up leading this team in yardage by the end of the season. Right now, he’s viewed as the Steelers’ No. 3, but that needs to change.
Isaiah McKenzie | Buffalo Bills @ LAR (11.9% rostered)
I honestly thought Isaiah McKenzie would have been drafted in more leagues. After the team signed Jamison Crowder, McKenzie beat the veteran out for the starting slot role. That’s a big deal.
Josh Allen was second amongst quarterbacks in total targets to a slot-aligned WR in 2021 (163) and first in 2020 (170). In fact, at least 25% of Allen’s attempts went to a receiver in the slot in each of the past three years. Cole Beasley posted over 100 targets the last three years from the slot, but it was actually McKenzie who led all Bills wideouts in touchdowns from the slot in 2020 (five).
McKenzie’s received the “starter treatment” during the preseason. While I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggled a bit in Week 1 against the Rams, McKenzie could also find the end zone, as his matchup against Troy Hill is arguably the easiest amongst the Bills’ starting three receivers.
If McKenzie scores in Week 1 or just performs well against the defending Super Bowl champions, he could be the top waiver wire add in Week 1, making now the time to invest in the hyper-talented receiver before the breakout.
Waiver wire pickups to target in Week 1 | Tight end
Isaiah Likely | Baltimore Ravens @ NYJ (4.5% rostered)
I’m going to try to do this and not make a joke. Isaiah Likely has become the talk of the town as reports have begun to flood out of Baltimore that the Ravens could turn Likely into a top target in their offense, even as a potential No. 2 behind Rashod Bateman.
Although he’s a rookie TE, which normally can be ignored in fantasy, Likely is a converted wide receiver, and it showed in his playstyle at Coastal Carolina. Likely also had himself a day in the preseason, where he caught all eight of his targets for 100 yards and a touchdown in a preseason win over the Cardinals.
Outside of Bateman and Mark Andrews, the Ravens don’t have much to offer for Lamar Jackson. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are names to consider, but neither has the pedigree of a player who could step forward.
At least for right now, Likely is a name to consider in deeper formats and is worth a waiver wire claim. You might even say it’s likely he’s a breakout. Sorry, I almost made it without a bad pun.
Gerald Everett | Los Angeles Chargers vs. LV (11.5% rostered)
After four seasons with the Rams before a stop in Seattle, Gerald Everett stepped into the other locker room at SoFi, joining the Chargers in the offseason. Believe it or not but Everett is a very intriguing player for 2022.
Everett’s reception and yardage totals have increased every season he’s been in the league, and just last year, he posted career-highs in targets (63), receptions (48), yards (478), touchdowns (4), and catch rate (75%). Additionally, his 11 forced missed tackles were sixth-most among all tight ends.
Everett has generally been utilized as a short-range target (career 6.7 aDOT) and not much near the goal line (18 career end-zone targets), but that could change this season. In Seattle, Everett was on the field quite a bit, finishing with a 12% target share, 63% route participation, and 17% target rate per route run. It just didn’t show up when compared to the rest, as the Seahawks ranked dead last in attempts per game (29.1).
Los Angeles, in contrast, was third in passing (39.6 att/game), with tight ends representing 21% of the team target share. At age 34, Jared Cook posted a line of 48-564-4 last year for the Chargers, which should be considered Everett’s floor. Everett very well could be poised for a career season with the Chargers. One of the many TE2s with upside, he’s a name to consider on the Week 1 waiver wire.
David Njoku | Cleveland Browns @ CAR (44.7% rostered)
One of the best after-the-catch TEs in the NFL, David Njoku is a breakout candidate for 2022. The former first-round pick has shown flashes during his first five seasons in the league, but he’s yet to top 640 receiving yards in a single year.
With that said, his $14.187 million AAV makes him the fourth-highest-paid TE in the league. You don’t do that for a player you don’t plan on using.
If Deshaun Watson were playing all year, Njoku would have, in all likelihood, been drafted as a top-12 tight end. Njoku, despite the lack of volume, was efficient — ranking 11th in YPRR last season — and is on a team that is very weak at pass catcher, with Amari Cooper the only proven asset. Njoku could quickly turn into the No. 2 target for Jacoby Brissett, leading to 5+ targets a game. Njoku has the role and athleticism we look for in Week 1 waiver wire targets.
With less than a week until the 2022 NFL season kicks off, we’ve published updated fantasy football outlooks for 200 players. Search the table below or filter by position and team for detailed fantasy insight so you can win your fantasy football draft! Additionally, don’t forget about our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, which is packed with more information and proprietary research.