One of the most vital components to success in the world of fantasy football is diligence on the waiver wire.
That was never more evident in what was an unpredictable 2007 season.
Injuries and depth chart changes altered the value of several players who took advantage of their opportunities and became statistical beasts between the white lines. To prove how valuable a tool the waiver wire can be in that ultimate quest for a championship, we've highlighted 15 undervalued players that broke out and become fantasy superstars.
Since most fantasy seasons don't include the NFL's regular-season finales, some of these player statistics are from Weeks 1-16.
Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland: Anderson didn't have value in most fantasy football drafts, but he took over the top spot on the Browns' depth chart in Week 1 and went on to become a solid No. 1 fantasy quarterback. He threw for over 3,600 yards, recorded 31 total touchdowns and finished with more fantasy points than Drew Brees, who was a stud option at his position in most preseason rank lists. Anderson will have to contend with Brady Quinn, but he should still remain the main man in Cleveland for the 2008 season.
David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville: Garrard was still on the waiver wire at midseason in some leagues, but he was a starter for countless owners in the fantasy postseason. He threw for over 2,500 yards and recorded 19 total touchdowns despite the fact that he missed three starts due to injuries. Garrard would have thrown for 3,345 yards with 25 total scores in 16 complete starts based on his average. He'll be a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback for the 2008 season, so look for him to be off the board in the middle rounds.
Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona: Warner opened the season second on the depth chart behind Matt Leinart and started just 11 times, but he finished the season with close to 3,500 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. Those were his best totals since 2001. Warner, who led countless owners to a fantasy championship, finished with more points than Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler despite the fact that he started fewer contests. Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has already listed Leinart as the No. 1 quarterback for 2008, however, so Warner's fantasy value will be limited.
Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland: LaMont Jordan started the season like a house of fire, but it was Fargas who developed into the best back in silver and black. Despite the fact that he started just seven times, the Southern California product rushed for a career-best 1,009 yards and four touchdowns before an injured knee landed him on injured reserve. Fargas is a free agent for the 2008 season, so he could be on the move. Regardless, he has improved his fantasy football stock and will be a runner to watch in the offseason.
Earnest Graham, RB, Tampa Bay: Graham, who opened the season no more than third on the Buccaneers depth chart behind Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman, but came out of nowhere to produce 49 catches, 1,222 all-purpose yards and an incredible 10 touchdowns. That sort of production would warrant first-round consideration in seasonal formats, but the return of Williams from an injured knee has Graham's status a bit clouded. Unless Williams can't return in time for training camp, Graham could end up in a committee situation.
Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay: Rookie Brandon Jackson was considered a nice sleeper candidate headed into the season, but it was Grant, a former practice squader for the New York Giants, that came out of nowhere to become the Packers featured back. Grant caught 30 passes and rushed for 956 yards and eight touchdowns in only seven starts. He'll be the favorite to open the 2008 season as the No. 1 back in Title Town, so Grant could be worth as much as a second- or third-round selection in most drafts.
Bobby Engram, WR, Seattle: Injuries to Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett created a chance for Engram to see a more prominent role in the Seattle offense, and he took full advantage of his opportunities. The veteran out of Penn State recorded the first 1,000-yard season of his career, and his 90 catches made him even more valuable for fantasy owners that were rewarded points for catches. His value could fall a bit in 2008 drafts, but Engram will no doubt remain a viable middle- to late-round choice across the board.
Shaun McDonald, WR, Detroit: Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson dominated the talk in fantasy circles headed into the season, but it was McDonald that had the best numbers. He finished with team highs in receptions (79), receiving yards (943) and receiving touchdowns (6), but McDonald's success could be short lived. With Mike Martz out of the mix and a far less pass-laden offense certain to be installed under new coordinator Jim Colleto, McDonald might not be worth much more than a late-round flier in 2008 drafts.
Wes Welker, WR, New England: Welker was drafted in a lot of formats, but I added him off waivers in two leagues so he made the list. The smallish wideout from Texas Tech recorded 101 receptions for 1,053 yards and eight touchdowns for owners, and he was an absolute beast in leagues that reward points for catches. While there is some concern that Welker could end up like Brandon Stokley, who exploded for Indianapolis in 2004 but fell hard in 2005, Welker will be selected in the middle rounds as a high-end No. 2 wideout.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta: It was a forgettable season for the Falcons overall, but White was the one bright spot for a team that endured on and off the field problems. White recorded career bests across the board and finished with one fewer fantasy point than Steve Smith on NFL.com. Nobody knows which direction Atlanta will go with its next quarterback or head coach, but White will no doubt be a major part of the offense. Look for White to be selected in the middle rounds as a No. 2 fantasy wideout in next season's drafts.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco: Davis was inconsistent and unproductive before injuries cost him two weeks of action, so he was released in countless formats. Owners who had faith and added him once he became available were rewarded with six starts of 40-plus yards and four touchdowns the remainder of the season. Davis is still the best option in the San Francisco pass attack, and whoever the team adds as its new offensive coordinator is certain to use him in a prominent role. He'll be a borderline No. 1 fantasy tight end.
Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay: Whether its been Keith Jackson, Mark Chmura or Bubba Franks, the Packers have always liked to use their tight ends in the pass attack. As a result, it was not a surprise to see Lee emerge into a No. 1 fantasy tight end. He finished with career bests across the statistical board, and he'll remain an attractive option in 2008 drafts. The one event that would alter his value is if Brett Favre decided to retire, but it's evident that the quarterback still has the skills and abilities to succeed.
Tony Scheffler, TE, Denver: One of the more underrated tight ends in the league, Scheffler started slow but finished the season well once the Broncos lost some receivers due to injuries. He finished with career bests in receptions (49), yards (549) and touchdowns (5), and his rapport with Jay Cutler was well evident. Scheffler could see an even more important role in the pass attack next season should the team decide to deal Javon Walker. He'll be worth a late-round choice as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy tight end.
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay: Kickers might not be the most important position in fantasy football circles, but those little men with the large legs can help owners win a championship. That was the case with Crosby, who wasn't selected in most drafts but finished with the most points at his position on NFL.com. The rookie out of Colorado converted on 29-of-37 field-goal attempts and all of his extra points in the fantasy season, so he'll no doubt be ranked as one of the top kickers in fantasy football for 2008.
Nicholas Folk, K, Dallas: When the Cowboys released Martin Gramatica in favor of Folk, the rookie all of the sudden had some real value in fantasy circles. Folk came out of nowhere to finish second in points among kickers on NFL.com. He converted on 24 of 28 field-goal conversions, including a 53-yarder, and he made 53 extra points. The Dallas offense should remain one of the league's elite units in 2008, so Folk, like Crosby, will be considered a top-five fantasy kicker.