Fantasy football Week 1 waiver wire darlings: 5 players to target feat. Commanders' Sam Howell 

Baltimore Ravens v Washington Commanders
Fantasy football Week 1 waiver wire darlings: 5 players to target feat. Sam Howell

One of the keys to being a highly successful fantasy football manager is getting ahead of the mad rush, which is the waivers process.

Whatever form of waivers your league uses - be it waiver priority or FAAB (free-agent acquisition budget) - managers can benefit greatly from stashing high-upside players at the end of their bench before lineups lock for the week.

Top waiver wire pickups in fantasy football week 1

Below are five players who are on the waiver wire of many leagues who stand a good - if not great - chance of emerging as next week's top waiver-wire pickup. Let's take a look:

1) QB Sam Howell, Commanders (vs Arizona)

Baltimore Ravens vs Washington Commanders
Baltimore Ravens vs Washington Commanders

Howell's only career NFL action came in Week 18 against the Dallas Cowboys last season, where he attempted only 19 passes for a team that was already eliminated from the playoffs.

However, he was still able to flash some of the same dual-threat abilities that fantasy managers seek from their quarterbacks nowadays, rushing for 35 yards and a touchdown.

While there's still a very good chance Howell will remain something of a game manager for at least the first half of this season, he will also have the luxury of throwing to Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

His first assignment will be facing a Cardinals' defense that lost at least four of the best players on that side of the ball in the offseason (J.J. Watt, Zach Allen, Byron Murphy and Isaiah Simmons).

2) RB Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles (@ New England)

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles

One of the greatest mysteries entering this season is how things in the Philadelphia backfield will shake out.

The Eagles traded for D'Andre Swift and added Rashaad Penny in free agency, but Gainwell stands at least a modest chance of being relevant in fantasy at various points throughout the season.

Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia recently suggested that Gainwell will have "a greatly increased role from last year". That role led to a meager 53 carries and 23 catches during the regular season but increased to 33 carries and seven catches in three playoff contests.

If his postseason usage was any indication of what the Eagles have planned for him in 2023, he could be a viable flex option. That's before we account for the likelihood that Swift or Penny succumb to injuries yet again.

3] RB Rico Dowdle, Cowboys (@ NY Giants)

There is a very good chance Tony Pollard will lead the Dallas backfield in touches by a wide margin. There's also a distinct possibility the Cowboys do not want him to handle much more work than he had in 2022 (232 touches).

Like Pollard, it would be a mistake to assume Dowdle is about to step into the same role that saw Ezekiel Elliott amass 248 touches (and 12 touchdowns) a season ago just because he's the biggest running back on the roster.

Nevertheless, Dallas running backs handled 462 carries in 2022 and supposedly want to run the ball more often.

Whether or not Dowdle performs well statistically against the Giants is less important than how many snaps he sees or how often he touches the ball.

If he comes anywhere close to Elliott's 2022 workload in this contest (roughly 15 carries per game), he will be on the flex radar as early as Week 2 and only one injury to Pollard away from being a regular fantasy starter.

4) WR Josh Palmer, Chargers (vs Miami)

Los Angeles Rams vs Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Rams vs Los Angeles Chargers

Palmer flew under the radar in most fantasy leagues because Los Angeles drafted Quentin Johnston in the first round this spring.

So Palmer's time as the team's third receiver may not last very long. However, he's ahead of Johnston on the depth chart for now, which makes him a sneaky play this weekend against the Dolphins in a game that could be a shootout.

It's easy to forget that Palmer is coming off a 72-catch season that was largely a product of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missing a combined 11 games due to injury. Howerver, a receiver still has to have some level of talent to produce at that level - regardless of his team's injury situation.

The absence of Jalen Ramsey (knee) from Miami's secondary means Palmer should see a lot of either journeyman Eli Apple or Kader Kohou in coverage - matchups he should be able to win.

5) TE Jake Ferguson, Cowboys (@ NY Giants)

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys

The 2023 season figures to be the latest challenge on whether Dallas just finds great tight end fits for its offense or if Dak Prescott relies on the position so heavily that they cannot help but be great for fantasy purposes.

In five of Prescott's seven NFL seasons, a Cowboys tight end has finished inside the top 12 at his position in PPR leagues.

Ferguson may not have the clearest path to becoming the next Jason Witten or Dalton Schultz as he competes for targets with CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup. That trio of receivers may also be the reason he sees 100-plus targets, though.

Against a Wink Martindale-led New York defense that's unafraid to bring the heat (league-high 39.7 percent blitz rate in 2022), there should be ample opportunity for Ferguson to serve as Prescott's safety valve in the opener.

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Edited by Doug Orth
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