Week-Ahead Stash Candidates for Week 1
Fantasy football is all about being a step ahead of your competition, and this weekly column aims to help you achieve just that.
The following offers suggestions for players to pick up now (who are currently under 50% rostered) so that that you won’t need to use a high waiver claim or spend a significant amount of free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) on them later.
Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets
ESPN Roster Percentage: 42.5%
Chris Herndon's 2018 rookie campaign was historically great, as he became just the 10th rookie tight end to clear 500 yards since 2000. Unfortunately, he played only 18 snaps last season after missing four games due to suspension and another 11 due to injury, but there’s reason to believe Herndon will return to form in his third NFL season.
According to Rotoworld, the New York Jets rank first in missing air yards (2,076) and fourth in missing targets (186) from last season, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for Herndon in this offense. Considering that New York has the seventh-lowest projected win total this season (per FanDuel Sportsbook), the Jets figure to be trailing often this season, which means more opportunities for Herndon.
Tight end Ryan Griffin did sign a contract extension this summer, but word around camp is that Herndon is due for a big year. Head coach Adam Gase told New York Daily News, “[Herndon] is our starting tight end... It’s rare to have a guy with the ability to be as effective as a pass catcher and a guy that’s explosive when he gets the ball in his hands, and still be an on-the-line tight end that can block in the run game and also pass protect.”
Jets receiver Jamison Crowder added that Herndon is the “X-factor” of the offense. Beat reporter Connor Hughes noted, “To say the Jets can’t wait to get Chris Herndon back in their lineup is a vast understatement.”
The Jets are set to face the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, which did rank top-three in targets, receptions and fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season, but Herndon should still see plenty of work right out of the gate if what we’ve heard all offseason is true.
Chris Thompson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
ESPN Roster Percentage: 41.3%
Following the release of running back Leonard Fournette, the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield is as ambiguous as it can get. Ryquell Armstead was the apparent backup to Fournette for much of the offseason, but he’s been on and off the reserve/COVID-19 list, and now all of a sudden undrafted rookie James Robinson is the projected starter, according to Jacksonville’s first official depth chart.
Somehow, free agent signee Chris Thompson has been under the radar all summer, including since Fournette’s release. He ranks 11th in targets, receptions and receiving yards among all running backs in the last five seasons. In 2017, Thompson ranked top-10 in each of the three previous categories in Weeks 1-10 before suffering an injury in Week 11. After a down-year in 2018, Thompson ranked top-five in those same categories through five weeks until head coach (and current Jaguars offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden was fired.
Thompson rejoined Gruden in Jacksonville this offseason and will now be playing with Gardner Minshew. According to PFF, Minshew ranked third among 35 qualifying quarterbacks in checkdown rate last season while Fournette led the league in checkdown receptions.
Assuming good health, Thompson has a very viable path to 50-plus receptions this season. Get Chris Thompson on your rosters now before his Week 1 role showcases him as the Jacksonville running back to own in 2020.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
ESPN Roster Percentage: 26.4%
San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel is eligible to play in Week 1 after he was recently activated from the Non-Football Injury list, but his status is still up in the air after his Jones fracture injury earlier this offseason. Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk has been dealing with an injury of his own, as he’s missed several practices with a hamstring injury, but looks set to play the most snaps among Niners wide receivers to begin the season. That should make him the immediate number two target for Jimmy Garoppolo out of the gate behind only George Kittle.
Aiyuk was handpicked by head coach Kyle Shanahan in the 2020 draft. "He can play the X, he can play the Z, he can play the F," Shanahan said of Aiyuk. "He's got the speed to get on top. He's got the quickness to play in the slot. He's got the toughness to go over in the middle. And the guy is just completely committed to being as good as God ever intended him to be."
Aiyuk led his draft class with 9.9 yards after the catch per reception in college (per PFF), making him a great fit in Shanahan’s high-YAC offense with Samuel and Kittle. After a reportedly fantastic camp, Aiyuk has the ability to contribute right away, especially with Samuel still on the mend. It’s better to add him to your roster now before he plays the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, which ranked bottom-10 in targets, receptions, receiving yards and fantasy points allowed to receivers in 2019.
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
ESPN Roster Percentage: 16.1%
The whole world knows that rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is about to get the opportunity of a lifetime in Kansas City, but while he’s expected to receive the majority of Chiefs running backs snaps, we don’t know exactly how many that’ll be. It’s entirely possible for Edwards-Helaire to be a top fantasy running back but play less than 70% of snaps, which leaves plenty of opportunity for Darrel Williams.
Williams got a lot of run with the first-team offense in training camp as he beat out DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson for the backup role. Williams could see more work than just being a direct handcuff to Edwards-Helaire, though, as he’s thought of as the best pass-backing back on the roster and his extra 15 pounds on Edwards-Helaire could set him up for some goal line work.
The most likely scenario for this offense is that Edwards-Helaire receives a borderline-elite workload and doesn’t look back. But in the chance that Kansas City limits his snaps (like it did with Kareem Hunt in his rookie season, who played on 65% of offensive snaps in 2017), there could be a notable role for Williams. The Chief’s dominant offense should be at the top of the league in scoring, which means plenty of fantasy opportunities, which means add Williams now in case he has a bigger-than-expected role in Week 1.