Rookies and 2nd Year Players Dominate Waiver Wire Pickups

Dominate The Waiver Wire

Over the last several years, the waiver wire has provided tremendous player opportunities that have carried bad teams to the playoffs, good teams to championships, and great teams to being unstoppable.  Below are a few of the key waiver wire additions over the last several years that made the biggest impact.  After analyzing the situation for each of these players, we go through who we believe will be the 2017 best waiver wire additions!

2016 – Jordan Howard – ADP 129.1 – Finished as the #10 RB. Played all 16 games, but only had 12 carries combined in the first 3 games. Majority of work load started in Week 4.

2015 – David Johnson – ADP 149.7 – Finished as the #8 RB. Played all 16 games, and while he saw work in each game, he didn’t have double digit carries until week 13. He put teams in to the Finals for week 16 championships, with a week 15 performance of 187 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns and 4 receptions for 42 yards.

2014 – Odell Beckham Jr. ADP 182.0 – Finished as the #6 WR, with only 12 games played. But in those 12 games, he finished the year with 9 straight games of at least 90 yards receiving and 5 of the 9 with at least 140 yards receiving.

2014 – C.J. Anderson– Undrafted- Finished as the #11 RB. Started getting the bulk of action the last 10 weeks of the season. 8 of 10 games he had over 100 total yards and a total of 10 touchdowns.

2013 – Alshon Jeffery – Undrafted -2013 – Finished as the #8th WR.  After an injury riddled rookie season in 2012 (SHOCKING!).  Alshon Jeffery took kicked into high gear, starting week 4 of 2013.  Over his final 13 games, he had 2 games of over 200 receiving yards, 10 of 13 weeks with at least 72 yards and 11 of those 13 weeks with at least 60 yards.

How to predict the next great waiver wire breakouts?

Howard, Johnson, and Beckham were in their rookie year as they broke out and stunned the league.  Anderson and Jeffery were coming off poor rookie years, only to break out in their 2nd year.

For starters, these players all were in their 1st two years of the NFL.  But what set them apart from other players in their first two years that didn’t have break out performances?

Opportunity and having a Tenured but not Elite Quarterback–

Each player was given the opportunity to break out and didn’t have much competition once they earned playing time.  For Running Backs, generally the opportunity means that the starting running back was either injured or performed poorly.  For wide receivers, their opportunity was established from the start as in they were 1st or 2nd on their depth chart. Each player had a Quarterback with at least 7 years of experience prior to their break out performance and above average production at the QB position.

It’s important that the quarterback not be elite.  Under normal circumstances you would want a QB to be elite for your WR production.  However, in this case, we are trying to predict players who are not on any radar, that will pop.  Just about all WR and most RB who have an elite QB are already being drafted higher than normal, based on the QB potential.  Also, if they are an elite QB; they probably have a clear number 1 WR which is helping them be elite.  Thus, the opportunity for a Top 10 year is diminished.

2016 – Jordan Howard – Howard was behind Langford on the depth chart.  Langford started his first 2 games with a YPC of 2.5 and 3.4.  Not impressive to say the least.

2015 – David Johnson – Johnson had been impressive in a limited role for most of the season.  He was making big plays whenever he touched the ball.  But he was behind Chris Johnson and Chris had been performing well.  Until 5 of his last 6 games, Chris had a YPC 3.6 or less and 3 of those 6 games he had less than 3.0 YPC.  All 6 of those games, Chris Johnson saw double digit carries as well.

2014 – Odell Beckham Jr. – Once he came off his injury.  Beckham immediately began to see opportunities on the field as a to WR for the New York Giants.  He played on 94.4% of the offensive snaps.

2014 – C.J. Anderson – In 2014, Montee Ball was one of the highest hyped players in fantasy.  Taken in the first 2 rounds of many fantasy drafts.  But, in the first 4 weeks of 2014, Ball had 55 carries for a 3.1 average.  3 of 4 games, he averaged 2.9 YPC or less.

2013 – Alshon Jeffery – Similar to Odell, Jeffery automatically was a starter in his 2nd year.  In total for the 2013 season, Jeffery played on 91.0% of the offensive snaps.

Tenured Quarterback but not Elite

What did Jeffery in 2013 and Beckham in 2014 have in common?  They each had veteran quarterbacks.  In 2014, Manning played all 16 games and had over 4,400 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.  In 2013, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined for over 4,400 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.  All 3 quarterbacks had at least 7 years of prior experience in the league.

Jordan Howard– Howard did not see the same consistency at the QB position as the others, combined his 3 quarterbacks produced; 4,115 yards and 18 touchdowns to 19 interceptions. The Bears had 3 quarterbacks each account between 25% and 41% of offensive snaps.  Cutler at 27%, Brian Hoyer at 31%, and Matt Barkley at 41%.

C.J. Anderson – Had Peyton Manning.  Manning obviously had extreme tenure at the position and passed for over 4,700 yards and 39 touchdowns.

David Johnson – Carson Palmer had a career year during Johnsons break out year.  Palmer passed for career highs in yards (4,671) and touchdowns (35).

Every one of these break out players had a tenured QB to play the season with, except for Jordan Howard, who had Matt Barkley for 7 games last season. So why was Howard able to have a break out year?  Well in part because he didn’t see a stacked box much of the time, only 26.3% on non red zone carries.  For comparison, LeGarrette Blount faced a stacked box 39% of his non red zone carries. Howards YPC during a stacked box was 3.36.  Out of the shotgun and pistol formations, Howard had YPC of 7.1 and 6.9.  Point being, Howard really took advantage of non-stacked boxes.

Players to break out in 2017

Based on the above criteria;

  • 1st or 2nd year in the league
  • clear potential for opportunity on depth chart
  • and having a tenured QB but not an elite QB.

Josh Doctson – Washington WR: Kirk Cousins has 5 years of experience under his belt.  Washington lost 2 of their top 3 WR in the off-season and their clear number 1, Terrelle Pryor, only has 1 full year of experience at the WR position.

Doctson is a classic case of a over hyped rookie coming in, only to not produce due to injury.  This year he is the forgotten man.  This situation reminds me of Alshon Jeffery.  Jefferey came in with some hype but injuries riddled his rookie campaign.  As with all the injury concern players, this prediction is risky because of Doctson’s injury concern.  He’s already dealing with a groin injury this pre-season.  Keep an eye out.

Kenny Golladay- Detroit WR: Matthew Stafford has 8 years of experience.  Stafford’s numbers have dipped since Calvin Johnson retired, and the lions tried to replace Johnson with Marvin Jones.  While Jones showed signs of being a great wide out, there were times he went quiet and that could open the door for Golladay.  Golden Tate is a great possession receiver and I see him as a phenomenal compliment to whoever emerges as the #1.

Chris Carson – Seattle RB: Seattle has 4 running backs on their roster that could emerge as the #1 running back.  Carson is the only rookie and thus has a slight disadvantage.  The other 3 have shown at times, flashes of brilliance.  We all know what Lacy did his first two years in the league.  Over 1400 total yards each season and 24 total touchdowns.  Rawls had spurts at the end of 2014 when Lynch was out with Injuries.  And Prosise made the most of his touches last year, prior to his Injury.  Could Carson be this year’s Jordan Howard?

All that to say, Carson has a lot to overcome.  However, Pete Carroll has proven that he will start the player he believes gives them the best chance to win.  Carroll wasn’t afraid to start Russell Wilson as a rookie, the same season the Seahawks paid big money to Matt Flynn.  Carson may be a long shot to break out but if given the opportunity, he has the chance based on our criteria to have a break out year.


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