UPNXT: Week 1 NFL Fantasy Football Sleepers and Best Waiver Wire Pickups

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UPNXT is a new weekly article series where the worlds of trading cards and fantasy sports collide. Our goal is to help you discover the sports superstars of tomorrow, today. Join us as we help you identify the best value opportunities on eBay, DraftKings, FanDuel, and in season-long fantasy leagues. Our aim is simple: Let’s make some money!

Let’s get this out of the way: 2020 has been one heck of a year. With everything that has happened, I’ve probably spent more time at home than ever before. As a result, not only have I bought and consumed way too many snacks, played way too many video games, but I’ve also gotten the chance to watch and re-watch my fair share of shows and movies.

Do you remember the classic 80’s movie Back to the Future Part II? The plot follows Marty McFly and his mad scientist friend, Doc Brown, as they traverse space and time inside of a DeLorean-turned-time machine. The duo travels into the future, and along their adventure, a bully named Biff steals a critical and valuable book. At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Okay, that’s nice, but what does this have to do with sports?”.

The book in question is a Gray’s Sports Almanac containing all the sports statistics from the years 1950 to 2000. By knowing the outcomes of 50 years’ worth of future sporting events, Biff places bets (and wins big), thus becoming ridiculously rich, powerful, and extremely corrupt.

So how does this help you? Great question! The reason I went down that movie rabbit hole (maybe wormhole is more appropriate) is because the goal of this weekly article is to make you ridiculously wealthy and powerful. Notice I didn’t say corrupt? Remember, POSITIVITY people! Much like the flux capacitor, I have no idea if any of this will work, but my hope is you’ll find yourself with a few more dollars in your pocket just by stopping by.

Here’s how this works: Once a week, we’re going to give you a few names to look out for in the world of sports. Think of these athletes as sleepers, value plays, under the radar talents, diamonds in the rough, up and comers, buy-low candidates, etc. You get the point. These will be athletes you might want to target in the trading card market or your fantasy sports leagues. We aim to be your Gray’s Sports Almanac of sorts by identifying tomorrow’s stars, today. Make sense?

With the NFL season set to get underway tomorrow in full, there's no better way to get the first installment of this article started than by “going deep” with America’s game: Football. In Week 1, we have a few promising names to go over that’ll hopefully help you make a couple of bucks over on eBay, DraftKings, FanDuel, or even in your season-long fantasy football leagues. 

So, without further ado, here is who is “UPNXT” in Week 1 of the NFL.

Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team

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With Washington releasing former second-round pick Derrius Guice and cutting future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson this offseason, the path to more touches for rookie Antonio Gibson opened in a big way. Blessed with a 6’2, 220 lb frame, and elite sub 4.40 speed, the former Memphis Tigers WR has the tools to do it all. 

I expect new head coach Ron Rivera to not only use him in the running game but also line him up at receiver this season where he can win in the slot and on downfield routes. Rivera has already stated that it will be a running back by committee approach, so even though JD McKissic is at the top of the depth chart, don’t be surprised if Gibson wrestles away most of the work sooner, rather than later.

DFS: (DraftKings: $4,000, FanDuel $4,600) He is minimum priced on DraftKings, and near minimum on FanDuel this week, and I don’t foresee us getting him this cheap again this season. With the Eagles as -5 ½ point favorites, Washington will have to throw the ball to keep up. Darius Slay will likely be matched up with Terry McLaurin for most of the game, so Dwayne Haskins may be forced to spread the ball around in this one. The only question mark is, how many touches will Gibson get sharing the backfield with the likes of McKissic and Barber? I’m banking on 10-15 touches, which is plenty of work for a guy with this kind of talent to pay off his modest price tag.

Fantasy Ownership: Gibson makes for a fine DFS play this week but is he still available in your season-long leagues? Surprisingly, Gibson’s ownership is sitting right around 85%, so if you find yourself in a fantasy league where he is available, run, don’t walk, to the waiver wire and pick him up immediately! I believe it’s only a matter of time before he takes the lead in this committee.

Card Market: If we look over on eBay right now, you can find a healthy supply of base, raw Antonio Gibson rookie cards starting at just a few dollars each. As you move into some of the raw, numbered, autograph, and patch cards, the prices are still relatively low on most of the current auctions. As mentioned in the DFS portion, I wouldn’t expect these prices to stay like this for long. I think he makes for a fine speculative addition to your card portfolio.

Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers

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The Green Bay Packers didn’t do Aaron Rodgers any favors in the offseason, failing to add any significant talent to their pass-catching core. In fact, they opted to draft what figures to be the next heir to the legendary cheese throne in rookie QB Jordan Love. What this means is, someone must step up, and step into, the number two WR role this season. A strong candidate to do so? Allen Lazard.

Lazard enters his third season with the Packers and has all the tools to be a favorite target of Mr. Rodgers’ this year. Standing at 6’5 and being a high effort player, Lazard should see a significant amount of the 115 vacated targets and 18 vacated red-zone targets this season.

DFS: (DraftKings: $4,900, FanDuel: $5,500) Thanks to a $600 price difference, I like Lazard more on DraftKings than I do on FanDuel this week. With two new cornerbacks starting in Minnesota this year, the Vikings’ secondary isn’t what it used to be. This game carries an implied total of 45 points, making it a game we can feel ok about rostering players from. I probably don’t want too much exposure to this game, but I view Lazard as a fine, lower owned GPP play in a plus matchup this week.

Fantasy Ownership: Lazard’s ownership is roughly 25% in fantasy football leagues, and he makes for an interesting waiver wire add to stash at the end of your bench. If you’re a Mike Evans or Kenny Golladay owner, and you’re in need of some added depth at WR, do consider picking up Lazard. Expect his ownership to skyrocket if he’s able to feast on an iffy Vikings’ secondary this weekend.

Card Market: Lazard’s rookie cards are dirt cheap right now, making him a strong buy-low candidate if he assumes a larger role in the offense as expected. With his base raw rookies starting as low as .99 cents, he could be a low-risk addition to your collection with plenty of ceiling. Likewise, there are a fair amount of numbered, autographed, and graded cards available, starting at $9.99 on eBay.

Scotty Miller, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Tom Brady turns a young, unknown, and undersized WR into a star. Who is this kid that Brady says is “another great, consistent, dependable, trustworthy player“? His name is Scotty Miller. While everyone fawns over Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, and more recently, Leonard Fournette, it’s been second-year WR Scotty Miller who Brady is showering with praise.

Miller has quietly been making play after play in training camp and developed a real rapport with “The GOAT.” Currently slotted as the third receiver on the depth chart, Miller has a chance to be a significant factor in this offense each week. Factor in the nagging hamstring issues that veteran Mike Evans has been dealing with since late last season and the sky’s the limit for Miller to become a household name in this offense.

DFS: (DraftKings: $4,000, FanDuel: $4,500) With Mike Evans listed as doubtful, Scotty Miller should be in line for an increased workload, even if he’s listed as the third WR on the depth chart. Flying under the radar, I’m interested in seeing if Scotty can “beam me up” to the top of the DFS GPP leaderboards this weekend. I love his price and upside if this game shoots out like I’m hoping it does.

Fantasy Ownership: Miller is roughly 3% owned in season-long leagues and is absolutely worth adding before he explodes this week. With no word on Mike Evans’ return yet, snatch up Scotty now before his ownership starts to rise.

Card Market: Check out eBay, and you might see his 2019 Donruss Gem Mint 10 rookie card going for an affordable $19.99 right now. There’s also plenty of higher-priced numbered autographed rookie cards for sale as well. Not a bad “catch” if you ask me!

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