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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The 2023 NFL season has kicked off and fantasy football is back in our lives. It’s glorious.

There’s a lot of value on the waiver wire at this time of the year. We don’t want to sell the farm or give up on a player after one week’s worth of evidence, but we have to act fast.

There are a number of ways players can emerge and situations change once the rubber hits the road during the regular season.

Injuries are one thing like Aaron Rodgers’ ruptured Achilles on Monday night. What that means for the New York Jets receivers and backfield with Zach Wilson now set to take over remains to be seen. J.K. Dobbins suffered the same injury as Rodgers and that will create opportunities for Gus Edwards and Justice Hill in the Baltimore Ravens backfield.

There’s also the emergence of talented stars who just never got a chance to show us what they could offer before. Hype had been building around Puka Nacua in the offseason and it looks like it wasn’t just noise as he filled in for Cooper Kupp as Matthew Stafford’s favorite target in what was one of the best NFL debuts in history.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the best fantasy football waiver wire pickups as we prepare for our NFL Week 2 matchup and beyond.

Waiver Wire Week 2 Pickups

Wide Receivers

Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 5.3%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 92.3%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 21.9

In one game, Matthew Stafford obliterated the idea that he’s struggling to connect with his younger teammates. Stafford came out on Sunday and connected just fine with the fifth-round rookie Nacua. He finished the game with 10 catches for 119 yards on 15 targets – tied with Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins for the most in the league.

Kupp is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and will miss at least another three weeks. There will be opportunities for that long and potentially longer just in case you were hesitant to jump on the Nacua train. Even when Kupp comes back, the two can co-exist. Kupp ran 139 of his 260 snaps from the slot last year. Nacua ran 96 of his 162 routes outside with BYU last season in college.

Nacua had an 80.0% burn rate, which was ninth among receivers with at least five targets in Week 1. He had 5.7 burn yards per route, which was second behind only the aforementioned Hill. Nacua still might not turn out to be all that, but based on what we saw on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, his addition (if you can get him) is a no-brainer.

Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 9.5%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 65.8%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 19.0

Among players with more than 30 targets last season, Shaheed had the highest burn yards per target rate at 16.29. He was a player we had a big red circle around as a potential breakout candidate coming into this season. The undrafted second-year wideout didn’t do much wrong on Sunday against the Titans to kill our hopes. He was open on 83.3% of his 25 routes.

If the Saints are going to continue to air it out like they did on Sunday, Shaheed is going to have significant fantasy value. Derek Carr was third in air yards (208) behind only Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins in Week 1 – 85 of those were in Shaheed’s direction.

His depth of target was third behind Jayden Reed and Tee Higgins in Week 1. Chris Olave and Michael Thomas will hog a lot of Carr’s attention, but Shaheed doesn’t need high volume as a burner. He finished with five catches for 89 yards on six targets as the Saints beat the Titans in a low-scoring game on Sunday.

Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 2.3%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 93.1%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 24.4

If Nacua’s name looks like a glitch among players like Justin Jefferson, Hill and DeAndre Hopkins with the most targets in Week 1, then Bourne looks equally out of place. Almost all of the underlying numbers are promising for Bourne. He ran 46 routes and was targeted 11 times, finishing the game with six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

The Patriots were crying out for someone to emerge as the top wide receiver to help Mac Jones take a step forward this season. Bourne was on the field for 73 of the Patriots’ offensive snaps (91%). Bill O’Brien is the new coordinator under Bill Belichick and Bourne looks like he could step up as one of this offense’s most important players. Jones threw the ball 54 times, which might not be sustainable but it’s a good sign for Bourne.

Also keep an eye on: Rams wideout Tutu Atwell, who also shined in the opener and might be a solid option if you can’t land Nacua.

Running Backs

Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 57.0%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 54.5%
  • Week 1 Run-Play Snap Percentage: 60.0%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 24.4

We knew Allgeier would have some fantasy value given Arthur Smith’s propensity to run the ball. The Falcons ran the ball more than any other team in the league last season (559 attempts) and finished seventh in rushing EVE. We just didn’t think it would be this significant of a load with highly touted rookie Bijan Robinson around. Allgeier, a 2022 fifth-round pick, ended up with more than 15 yards over expected on 15 carries for 75 yards.

Allgeier was inside the top 10 in both yards before and after contact too. Robinson lived up to the hype in his debut, but Allgeier once again proved he can provide value and it just might come at the expense of pass-catchers Drake London and Kyle Pitts.

Desmond Ridder threw the ball just 16 times and nine of those went to running backs (six for Robinson and three for Allgeier). Allgeier finished in the top 10 in fantasy points in four of the last five weeks last season. He finished Week 1 as RB4.

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 6.0%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 41.0%
  • Week 1 Run-Play Snap Percentage: 51.5%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 15.1

Kelley has obvious upside as an Austin Ekeler handcuff, but they used him a lot even with Ekeler healthy and available on Sunday. Much of the offseason talk around the Chargers and Justin Herbert was centered on Keenan Allen and Mike Williams’ health along with rookie wideout Quentin Johnson’s role. It was the running back position that raised eyebrows on Sunday.

Kelley was on the field for 39 snaps, which was just two fewer than Ekeler. And he touched the ball just four times fewer than Ekeler (20). Kelley finished fourth in yards before contact (3.68) among players with at least 10 carries in Week 1. He has talent and Brandon Staley is going to use him.

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 47.0%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 45.3%
  • Week 1 Run-Play Snap Percentage: 81.8%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 11.4

The great debate in Philly this offseason was what would happen in the backfield with the departure of Miles Sanders. Rashaad Penny was brought in along with D’Andre Swift to bolster the rushing attack. The former was a healthy inactive on Sunday and Swift confirmed some of our deepest concerns about what we saw from him as a Detroit Lion and the reason why Dan Campbell moved on from him after last year.

The Eagles coaching staff used its running backs with expected efficiency, and Gainwell looked like the No. 1 option. Sanders finished as an RB2 or higher in nine of 18 weeks last season and Gainwell could very well do the same this year.

He led the team in touches (18) and carries (14), with Jalen Hurts carrying it nine times. The other two backs (Swift and Boston Scott) only got one carry and one reception each while Gainwell had four catches for 20 yards.

Also keep an eye on: Lamar Jackson didn’t throw a touchdown during Baltimore’s victory over the Houston Texans. Instead, the previously mentioned Hill ran in two scores as both he and Edwards stepped in. John Harbaugh says the Ravens will look in-house to replace Dobbins and a swing on either Edwards or Hill could end up being fruitful even if the split between them isn’t clear… Kyren Williams is another option as the Rams look to figure out their own backfield. He got about 85% of the passing snaps, so he’ll get some carries and basically all of the RB receptions… Chicago Bears RB Roschon Johnson is worth a look after he finished with six receptions on seven targets along with a rushing touchdown during a loss to the NFC North rival Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Tight Ends

Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 12.0%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 65.9%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 15.1

The Panthers are in full rebuild mode this season and it is going to be a long road back to relevancy. They traded away DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey in the last year and are looking to build a team around the first-round draft pick Young.

Young needs a reliable target and Hurst is the tight end to fulfill the role of safety blanket. He finished the week behind just Hunter Henry in PPR leagues with 15.1 fantasy points. His depth of target (8.4) in Week 1 was only average for tight ends with more than four targets, but this is a volume play in PPR leagues.

Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers

  • Yahoo Roster Percentage: 13.8%
  • Week 1 Pass-Play Snap Percentage: 89.7%
  • Week 1 PPR Points: 8.0

The rookie tight end only finished as TE13 in PPR leagues with three receptions on four targets for 50 yards, but if Hurst is guaranteed volume then Musgrave is an option for the longer term and with a different skill set.

Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are banged up with Doubs playing just 50% of snaps in Week 1. Musgrave will have to fight for Jordan Love’s attention once everyone is healthy, but no tight end with four targets or more had a higher depth of target average than Musgrave (17.3).

The Packers’ Week 2 opponent is the Falcons, who gave up all those fantasy points to Hurst in Week 1.

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