Fantasy football rosters are largely set as the regular season approaches, but there’s always room to improve your team with the waiver wire. Even if you feel you drafted poorly, remember your Week 1 team is not your Week 17 team. The waiver wire is a great place to pick up viable fantasy options throughout the season. Here’s a look at the best players on the waiver wire ahead of Week 1, along with their availability in ESPN leagues.
Roster percentages are courtesy of ESPN.
1. Tyrell Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (33.5%)
Williams has struggled to stay healthy, missing 2020 with a torn labrum and currently questionable due to a groin injury. However, the receiver is likely to be the top option on a team probably playing from behind a lot. Jared Goff is a downgrade from Matthew Stafford, but the new quarterback can still deliver good throws when he has time. Williams is always a flex consideration if he’s healthy.
2. Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (40%)
Pollard is the receiving back for the Cowboys and will see the field in two-minute lineups and for obvious passing situations. He’s not going to overtake Ezekiel Elliott in carries, but Pollard does get enough touches to merit flex consideration. He had 129 total touches in 2020 and should see more in 2021.
3. Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (38.2%)
The Colts are going to need some time to figure things out offensively, but Campbell is the obvious candidate to supplant T.Y. Hilton as the No. 2 receiver in this offense. He hasn’t played much in the league, but there’s plenty of potential with Campbell. The Colts might not throw the ball as much as other teams, but there should be enough volume to make the former Buckeye a viable flex play.
4. Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (32.8%)
Gage had a career year in 2020 with 786 yards and four touchdowns. With Julio Jones gone and Calvin Ridley taking up attention as the No. 1 receiver, Gage stands to improve on last season’s numbers. If TE Kyle Pitts emerges as a receiving threat, Gage could see additional one-on-one opportunities. The receiver is in a pass-heavy offense for a team likely to be in close games or playing from behind. He’s a viable flex play and could even take up a receiver slot during bye weeks.
5. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (25.4%)
The Eagles tried to trade Ertz during the offseason, but ultimately weren’t able to get a deal done. Dallas Goedert is the top tight end in Philadelphia, but there’s no reason Ertz can’t get looks in two tight end sets. Don’t forget, this guy is a season removed from putting up 916 yards and six touchdowns on a porous Eagles team. Goedert may be the trendy fantasy pick for now, but Ertz deserves some consideration at the position until he proves he’s truly no longer part of the offense.
6. Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets (39.4%)
Moore should be a good flex option with Jamison Crowder’s status in doubt. However, the rookie did not get as much time to work with QB Zach Wilson during the preseason and could have some trouble getting up to game speed right away. Wilson appears to have a connection with Corey Davis, so Moore might not get as many looks early. Add in Denzel Mims’ emergence and it’s easy to see why there are other receiving options ahead of Moore for Week 1.
7. Malcolm Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins (20.9%)
Myles Gaskin appears to be the lead back in Miami, but head coach Brian Flores did say he was going with a committee approach and the preseason snaps reflected that. Brown is not going to have big plays, but he does offer some value as a goal-line option. The Dolphins are likely going to throw the ball more this season, so Brown could see the field enough as a blocking option to get dump-offs and screens.
8. Ty’Son Williams, RB, Baltimore Ravens (17.9%)
Williams is going to get touches on a run-heavy offense without top running back J.K. Dobbins. Gus Edwards is going to get the first crack at the lead role, but the Ravens are accustomed to getting all their running backs involved. Williams has the ability to break off some big runs and is worth a roster spot, especially if you have Edwards.
9. Jared Cook, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (21.3%)
If you don’t draft one of the top three tight ends, this position is usually going to be a weekly question mark for you. Cook is one of the most frustrating players in fantasy football because his production has not lived up to his talent level. However, the Chargers are going to throw the ball a lot and have a promising quarterback with Justin Herbert. Cook will get enough redzone looks to be a viable streaming option for fantasy owners who are struggling to get production from the tight end spot.
10. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers (19.7%)
Everyone is going to try looking for the this year’s Justin Jefferson, but there are other rookie receivers who will have value in fantasy football. Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Chase Claypool all had decent rookie campaigns, but were overshadowed by Jefferson. Similarly, Marshall Jr. won’t grab headlines but could be a steady flex play as the season moves on. He’s the third receiver in Carolina’s offense and really the fourth option if we include Christian McCaffrey, but he offers more versatility than Robby Anderson. Throw in Marshall Jr.’s speed and he’s worth monitoring this season.