While my esteemed colleague Michael Fabiano will be serving up the top waiver-wire options in fantasy football each week, I am here for those who need to dive a little deeper. Depending on your league, you may have no shot at the guys on Fabiano's list. Whether it's because of savvy drafters, too many members (where my 16-team players at?) or you have a low priority on the waiver wire (because you rule at fantasy), sometimes the top options simply aren't available. With that in mind, here are some deeper waiver-wire options if you're scraping the bottom of the barrel, or miss out on the top options for the week.
It's also worth noting that several of these "deep" waiver pickups have graduated to Fabiano's top-10 in recent weeks, such as Lorenzo Taliaferro, Alfred Blue, Dwayne Allen and Brian Quick. This piece is here to try and help you get ahead of the competition, or find gems in deep leagues. Of course, for each of those successes, I recommend a Chad Henne-type (whose first half of Week 1 was good!), only to see him fall apart at the seems. Whoops. Hey, speaking of Henne falling apart ...
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (2.1 percent owned): The Bortles era in Jacksonville has begun. Bortles came in during garbage time of a 44-17 blowout on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He threw two touchdowns and amassed 223 passing yards in just one half of work. Bortles has a tough remaining schedule in terms of fantasy matchups, but he flashed some moxie in the second half, and could be frequently in a position where he scores a couple garbage touchdowns a week against soft coverage. Hey, garbage points count, too.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings (3.2 percent owned): Bridgewater got his chance to shine not simply because of ineffectiveness, but because Matt Cassel suffered multiple broken bones in his foot. Bridgewater wasn't able to find the end zone himself, but led a couple of scoring drives for the Vikings. Both Bridgewater and Bortles figure to struggle some as rookies as they adjust to the professional game, but their talent is undeniable. If you're in a deeper league and either of these guys are still on waivers, it's worth grabbing them early instead of trying to jump on the bandwagon later.
Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals (0.1 percent owned): After a truly uneven Week 2 performance, Stanton reponded with a much stronger effort on Sunday in a win over the San Francisco 49ers. He still missed a few throws, but also connected with rookie John Brown on a pair of touchdowns and most importantly didn't turn the ball over. I'll be the first to admit that I was not high on Stanton when he first started, and my skepticism continued this week as I benched Michael Floyd in most of my leagues. But, what I saw on Sunday was encouraging. The Cardinals have a bye in Week 4, and while the severity of Carson Palmer's injury is still a bit murky, there are some who believe the team should stick with Stanton even once Palmer returns. Now, that's the media and not the brass of the Cardinals organization, but if you're looking for a deep sleeper at quarterback, Stanton could potentially fit the bill as the season wears on thanks to the coaching of Bruce Arians and the plethora of talent around him.
Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers (0.2 percent owned): My, oh my, the backfield situation in San Diego has gone south in a hurry. They've lost their top two backs in the past two weeks, and Danny Woodhead is headed to the IR list with a broken fibula. This makes the team's offseason signing of Donald Brown look all the more savvy, but Brown was churning out fantasy points on Sunday about as quickly as Andy Dufresne was escaping from prison (37 touches, 8.9 fantasy points, .21 fantasy points per touch). This could signal the ascent of the ready and waitingBranden Oliver, an undrafted rookie in 2014. Oliver saw his first game action on Sunday, rushing three times for 11 yards. One of his runs was stuffed at the line, but he looked solid on his other two gains and was a preseason stud for the Bolts. Mathews figures to return in several weeks, but Oliver could end up seeing a decent number of touches if Brown can't turn his opportunities into more positive gains. Oliver is a total flier, but if you're in a deep league and are hurting for depth at running back he could turn in a few productive weeks as a flex.
Darrin Reaves, Carolina Panthers (0.8 percent owned): Speaking of backfields decimated by injuries, the Panthers once loaded running back corps has all but diminished and we're not even a third of the way through the season. Jonathan Stewart suffered a "severely" sprained knee on Sunday night, while Mike Tolbert left with a hairline fracture in his left leg. Head coach Ron Rivera is confident that DeAngelo Williams (hamstring) could return to action in Week 4, but if he doesn't suit up (or is limited) that could pave the way for undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves, who was signed from the practice squad over the weekend, to see a fair amount of work. Reaves won't likely be a savior for the Carolina backfield, as he'll need his linemen to actually open some holes, but if given a high volume of touches he could find some fantasy success in deeper leagues. Again, it's better to be a week early in these type of situations than a week late, but for now Reaves' value is still limited.
Joe McKnight, Kansas City Chiefs (0 percent owned): If the two above backs worry you too much or seem like too deep of a reach, you can always take a flier on McKnight, who was the third highest-scoring running back in Week 3 (prior to Monday night). McKnight was Alex Smith's favorite target in the passing attack, and the duo hooked up for a pair of touchdowns in a win over the Miami Dolphins. However, McKnight barely made the team this offseason and only saw this uptick in playing time thanks to Jamaal Charles' injury. Once Charles returns, McKnight will likely fade from any sort of significant role in the Chiefs offense. His value is minimal and very short-term, but he's there if you're desperate.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (3.7 percent owned): Call me a skeptic, but I'm not falling for this Eddie Royal ruse again. Don't forget he caught five touchdowns in the first two weeks of 2013, but then quickly crashed back down to the fantasy earth. I'd rather scoop up Floyd if I was hurting at wide receiver in deeper leagues (and I actually own him in my deepest league), as he received rave reviews coming out of camp and has put up two solid weeks so far this season. He was basically a ghost against the Seahawks, but I'll chalk that one up to the gameplan. Floyd's not going to win you any weeks, but if you need a solid rotational wide receiver he is a good choice.
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (0.2 percent owned): Robinson is becoming both healthier and more impactful on the field as the season progresses. After having one catch for zero yards in the season opener, he's hauled in 11 of his last 16 targets for 154, and has had more than seven fantasy points in each of the last two weeks. It wouldn't be surprising to start seeing Robinson eat into the snaps and targets of fellow rookie Allen Hurns as well, as Robinson is the more gifted (and higher-drafted) wideout. He's worth a flier as he could blossom into a soild WR3.
Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers (0.9 percent owned): Ever since Jermichael Finley was lost to another serious injury last season, the tight end position in Green Bay has been an absolute mess. The team drafted Richard Rodgers in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but so far it has been Quarless who has made the biggest impact. Rodgers might be better in the passing attack, but his lackluster blocking abilities could pave the way for Quarless to see more playing time and targets. Quarless is a low-end TE2 at best right now, but if he begins to earn the trust of Aaron Rodgers, he might become fantasy relevant. His toughly contested touchdown catch (which you can watch at the right) is definitely a step in the right direction.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (12.8 percent owned): This isn't exactly the deepest dive here as Kelce is a name that has been buzzing throughout the fantasy (and NFL) community for a few weeks now, but if for some reason he is still available in your league and you have the roster space, do yourself a favor and pick him up.