Originally posted: October 4, 2016
This list is presented to give a quick look at the top players who emerged as waiver wire options based on recent developments. There are other players listed below who are viable, if not excellent options, but not exactly based on what has recently transpired.
- Bilal Powell (RB, NYJ)
- Terrance West (RB, Bal)
- Tyler Eifert (TE, Cin)
- Quincy Enunwa (WR, NYJ)
- Robert Woods (WR, Buf)
- Kenneth Dixon (RB, Bal)
- Zach Miller (TE, Chi)
- Wendell Smallwood (RB, Phi)
- Fozzy Whittaker (RB, Car)
- Sammie Coates (WR, Pit)
- Eddie Royal (WR, Chi)
- Jeremy Kerley (WR, SF)
- Jay Ajayi (RB, Mia)
- Hunter Henry (TE, SD)
- Cameron Brate (TE, TB)
The Best Options
Carson Wentz (Phi) – The rookie Wentz has been quite the revelation in the early part of his career. He kept up his unbelievable start in Week 3 by completing 23/31 passes for 301 yards and 2 TDs against the Steelers, as he’s yet to turn the ball over to start his career. He has command of the Eagle offense, with the freedom to make audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage, and at times Wentz has resembled Philip Rivers or Peyton Manning with how aggressively he was communicating with his offense at the line of scrimmage. Moreover, HC Doug Pederson has put him in empty sets and in the no-huddle, showing extreme faith in his young QB. Physically, Wentz is making all the throws and is throwing with both power and tough/anticipation. For now, Wentz clearly needs to be owned because of his high ceiling going forward. If you’re not impressed by what you’ve seen, you’re just hatin’. Wentz also has a nice slate out of their Week 4 bye (at Det, at Was, vs. Min, at Dal) and it ranks as top-10 from now through Week 12, and he’s getting Zach Ertz back this week. Updated: 10/4
Joe Flacco (Bal) – Flacco has knocked the rust off coming back from his season-ending ACL tear in 2015, and he’s got a solid group of receivers to toss it to right now. He completed 32/52 passes for 298 yards and 2 TDs in Week 4 against the Raiders, and he added a rushing TD for the second straight week, logging his best fantasy day of the season so far (25 points). Flacco desperately missed having a vertical threat in this offense in 2015 after Torrey Smith took off for San Francisco, and he now has two speedy options in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. He’s also rekindled his relationships with TE Dennis Pitta and Steve Smith. Flacco also looks more comfortable in Marc Trestman’s offense in his second season. He also has a nice set of games coming up (vs. Was, at NYG, at NYJ, bye), so he’s worth a look as he continues to regain his old form.
Dak Prescott (Dal) – The start to Prescott’s career has been better in NFL terms than his fantasy numbers say, as he’s struggled to find the end zone through the air, but he did finally toss a TD pass to Dez Bryant in Week 3. And excluding his NFL debut in Week 1, he’s actually lighting it up with 22.6 fantasy points a game and a 74% completion rate (he’s been over 70% three weeks in a row). He completed 23/32 passes for 245 yards and 2 TDs in Week 4 against the 49ers, even without Dez (knee). The rookie has played it a little safe at times, but he’s shown a ton of poise and is starting to take more downfield shots. There has been plenty to build off of after just four games for the rookie. Prescott does have some beatable matchups the next couple weeks (vs. Cin, at GB, bye, vs. Phi), so he could continue to hold solid value as a streaming option. He does, however, have a worrisome situation with Dez, which is clearly a concern, since Dez could miss another game or two. He could also lose his job around midseason when Tony Romo is ready to play. He’s not a lock to produce for fantasy, especially without Dez, but for now, he’s very legit for fantasy if you need a QB.
Ryan Tannehill (Mia) – Tannehill looked shaky at times in Week 3, but he again found a way to put up some big-time numbers for fantasy. He completed 25/39 passes for 319 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs against the Browns, throwing an ugly pick-six early in the game. Jarvis Landry is rock-solid out of the slot, but Tannehill really needs second-year WR DeVante Parker to stay healthy and make some plays for him on a consistent basis. If he has those two, he’s got a good chance to produce most weeks with volume, since they can’t run the ball (so #3 Kenny Stills should be a factor). Tannehill in Week 4 proved yet again that he can’t be trusted on national tv and/or against a top defense, but he has some good matchups coming up (vs. Ten, vs. Pit, vs. Buf, bye), so while he’s not the most consistent option out there, we still believe he has a chance to surprise for fantasy under Adam Gase. He was a top-7 guy after three weeks is our site default scoring system, so the durable Tannehill, with a solid schedule, has a chance to produce in what looks like a pass-first offense.
Brock Osweiler (Hou) – Osweiler has some really nice weapons in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, both of whom will help him to fantasy relevance most weeks. Osweiler did show in Week 3 against the Patriots that he’s shaky on the road against a good defense, but he has shown good chemistry with his top two WRs, especially with the rookie Fuller. He completed 25/37 passes for 254 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs against the Titans in Week 4, proving that he can produced against lesser defense. Osweiler does have some tougher matchups in his next four games (at Min, at Den), but he does also have some easy matchups (vs. Ind, vs. Det), and then the schedule gets very Osweiler-friendly: @Jac, @Oak, SD, @GB, @Ind, and Jac. Osweiler is a mediocre player who needs help and the schedule should offer plenty of relief the rest of the season.
Alex Smith (KC) – Smith is once again hanging around on most waivers wire as a streaming option in any given week. He’s been his usual up-and-down self, but he’s averaging 42 attempts a game so far, due in large part to a defense that simply isn’t as strong this year compared to last year. Smith wasn’t very sharp in Week 4, but he put up 282/2, thanks to 50 attempts, and he’s averaging now a solid 20 points a game through four games. They do have more weapons than usual with Chris Conley and Tyreek Hill, plus TE Travis Kelce and WR Jeremy Maclin heavily involved for a chance at fantasy success, and he also needs to run every week to boost his fantasy output. Smith isn’t a guy to use against a good defense, and he’s game-flow dependent, but he does have some very good matchups coming up after their Week 5 bye (@Oak, vs. NO, @Ind, vs. Jac).
Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ) – Fitz had a game for the ages in Week 3, and not in a good way. He tossed 6 INTs in their loss to the Chiefs, which is the most interceptions in a game since Ty Detmer threw 7 INTs back in 2001. He didn’t play a whole lot better in Week 4 against the Seahawks, completing 23/41 passes for 261 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INTs. Fitz has now thrown for 4 TDs compared 10 INTs through four games. If all three of their top WRs are healthy, Fitz has the chance to put up numbers, but that won’t be the case going forward with WR Eric Decker dealing with a torn rotator cuff that could keep him out for a while. Fitz schedule will begin to lighten up (@Pit, @ Ari, vs. Bal, at Cle), at least, and he’s always capable of throwing for a couple TDs each week playing with Brandon Marshall, but he’s really tough to trust right now.
The Next Best Things
Marcus Mariota (Ten) – Mariota’s second season isn’t off to a pretty start, playing with a limited set of receivers in the slowest offense in football. He completed 13/29 passes (44.8%) for 202 yards and 1 INT in Week 4 against the Texans, adding 4/20 rushing. He may be dropped, but he does have a beautiful slate of games coming up (@Mia, vs. Cle, vs. Ind, vs. Jac), which helps. He hasn’t shown anything to make us think that he can take advantage of the positive matchups, but he’s worth a look on the low end.
Brian Hoyer (Chi) – The Bears are a bit of a mess, but they played better Week 4 and will likely have to throw the ball plenty, since they have a shaky defense. We’re not sure if Hoyer will take this job over, but it’s possible because the team is about ready to turn the page on Jay Cutler. Hoyer has played well the last two weeks playing for Cutler, completing 28/36 passes for 302 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in Week 4 against the Lions. With Kevin White showing some signs of life and TE Zach Miller balling, the Bears may surprise throwing the ball with these good matchups (at Ind, vs. Jac, at GB, vs. Min). The Bears are also in no rush to bring back Cutler off his sprained throwing thumb, and they may just pull the plug on Cutler, but it would be nice to White avoiding any time missed (ankle, MRI pending). Updated: 10/4
Sam Bradford (Min) – Bradford has been borderline brilliant, clicking amazingly with Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs, and even getting others like Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson involved. He’s still not much of a fantasy producer, but the production should increase for a guy who’s completing 70% of his passes and who should get more and more comfortable. He doesn’t need to be owned immediately with a tough slate of games coming up (vs. Hou, bye, at Phi, at Chi), but he’s in a decent spot overall with Norv Turner running the offense and with Diggs. Updated: 10/4
Trevor Siemian (Den) – It looked like Siemian would hold off first-round pick Paxton Lynch for the foreseeable future, with an undefeated start, but he injured his shoulder in Week 4 against the Buccaneers. He is a young QB just starting his career, and HC Gary Kubiak is going to keep game plans simple with Siemian in charge. Still, he has one of the NFL’s most dangerous sets of weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and Siemian has shown that if defenses are going to dare him to beat them, he can beat them. The Broncos offensive line has done a surprisingly good job of keeping him clean, too. Now we just need to see the extent of his shoulder injury, but Siemian is expected to be ‘ready to go’ ahead of his team’s Week 5 game against the Atlanta Falcons, according to head coach Gary Kubiak, who also noted his quarterback doesn’t need to take the bulk of practice reps in order to be ready to play.
Paxton Lynch (Den) – Bronco starting QB Trevor Siemian has progressively improved the last three weeks as the starter, having his breakout game against the Bengals in Week 3. Siemian is young himself and has the chance to improve, but he doesn’t exactly have the pedigree that Lynch does. Lynch has a much higher ceiling and he gives the Broncos a higher ceiling as well, and now the first-round pick could be forced to play after Siemian went out with a shoulder injury. Lynch completed 14/24 passes for 170 yards and 1 TD in relief against the Bucs in Week 4. Siemian’s shoulder injury isn’t a major concern, but this talented rookie did a nice job ice cold off the bench, offering a glimpse of his potential this year.
Colin Kaepernick (SF) – This is a bad team and he’s not a good QB, but it’s only a matter of time until he’s the starter here, and he will at least bring some potential with his legs. In deep or 2-QB leagues, he’s a guy to pick up now because he’s going to get starts here very soon. Blaine Gabbert played poorly yet again in Week 4, so while the 49ers would probably prefer Kap stays on the bench, they may have no choice but to give him a shot soon.
The Obvious Choices
Bilal Powell (NYJ) – The Jets are currently rolling with just two active RBs on gameday after they waived Khiry Robinson just before the start of the season, and they had been seriously riding Matt Forte. However, that’s flipped the last two weeks, with Powell posting 4/26 rushing and 6/54 receiving on 9 targets against the Seahawks in Week 4. After playing only 23% and 25% of the snaps the first two weeks, Powell’s snaps have been on the rise the last two weeks, from 41% to 52% in Week 4. Powell should see more touches each week going forward, and he’d be a fantasy difference-maker if Forte missed time. And Forte needed a cart to go get X-rays after their game in Week 4, so Powell could be headed to a much bigger role very soon.
Terrance West (Bal) – The Ravens finally benched the ineffective Justin Forsett in Week 4, giving West the chance to be the workhorse back in this backfield. And he kicked this stagnant Ravens running game into gear, finishing with 21/113/1 rushing against the Raiders. West is clearly ahead of Buck Allen and Forsett at this point, and we’ll see how they split up the workload once Kenneth Dixon gets back which will likely happen in Week Five. West should at least get the goal-line work going forward, and he’s earned more snaps as the lead back for the time being with his Week 4 performance. He was actually in on only 44% of the snaps in Week 4, and while HC John Harbaugh said the team will still have a hot-hand approach with their carries, West’s role should be solid for the near future, as Forsett was cut and Dixon is just now coming back. Updated: 10/4
The Next Best Things
Kenneth Dixon (Bal) – Terrance West finally gave the Ravens some life in the running game in Week 4, as they benched the ineffective Justin Forsett. The rookie Dixon is closing in on a return from his knee injury, likely this week, and he could immediately become the change-of-pace and passing back behind West. He was one our favorite backs in this year’s draft class, and in the preseason he did show that his lack of ideal size may not prevent him from pushing the pile and breaking tackles in the NFL, as he runs hard and bigger than his size. Otherwise, he’s got great lateral agility and excellent receiving ability, so he could carve out a larger role. Pick him up now for depth because it’s probably only a matter of time until he’s a hot WW commodity, especially with West’s shaky history of being a consistent player. HC John Harbaugh said the team will still have a hot-hand approach with their carries, and Dixon will be in that mix soon with Forsett cut. Buck Allen did play in Week 4, but he does appear to be the odd man out. Updated: 10/4
Wendell Smallwood (Phi) – Smallwood had a really tough preseason, missing a chunk of time with a quad strain before suffering a concussion in the third preseason game. All the missed time cost him a chance at winning the handcuff job out of training camp, but he exploded in Week 3 against the Steelers with the team essentially resting Ryan Mathews. With the Eagles slaughtering the Steelers, Smallwood posted 17/79/1 rushing as he scored on a 1-yard plunge and played ahead of Kenjon Barner (37% of the snaps vs. only 10% for Barner). Starting RB Mathews usually has a tough time staying healthy for too long and was really banged up heading into Week 3 (as pointed out in Hansen’s Hints Sunday morning), so Smallwood has a real chance to be impactful. The presence of Barner is a concern, and Mathews is obviously well in the mix when healthy, but we’d look to Smallwood as an upside acquisition even though this is clearly going to be an RBBC.
Fozzy Whittaker (Car) – Starter Jonathan Stewart has a terrible track record of staying healthy, and he left Week 2 with a hamstring after dealing with an ankle injury all week. Cameron Artis-Payne became the lead back with Stewart out in Week 3, with Fozzy working as the change-of-pace back and passing back. The Panthers can’t get their running game going right now, so Whittaker has been active out of the backfield with 9/86 receiving in Week 4 against the Falcons (58% of the snaps). This backfield is going to be a pain with Stewart expected to miss a few more weeks, but Whittaker will likely get 10-12 touches behind CAP with some carries and most of the RB catches. Fozzy, unlike CAP, isn’t exactly game flow dependent, although he’s clearly better off when they are playing from behind, as they were in Week 4. But based on how shaky their defense has been thus far, Fozzy could be in solid shape and active in the passing game.
Dwayne Washington (Det) – Washington vaulted ahead of Zach Zenner for the #3 RB job on game days, and he should have a bigger role as early-down back with Ameer Abdullah (foot) on IR. However, that’s only if he’s healthy as he was injured in the second quarter of Week 4 and never returned after posting 2/6 rushing and 1/8 receiving. Washington (foot/ankle) suffered two sprains in Sunday’s loss at Chicago. Although the Detroit Free Press reports the team hopes Washington doesn’t miss any games, It’s more concerning that it’s multiple lower body injuries. There’s a good chance RB Theo Riddick sees a bigger workload against Philadelphia, but when healthy keep in mind that Washington was expected to see a bigger workload starting in Week Four, as Riddick struggled to get anything going as a runner on early downs in Week Three, but that obviously didn’t pan out because of his ankle injury.
James White (NE) – White needs an ideal situation to be very impactful, playing from behind or playing with Tom Brady. He hasn’t had those situations early in the year, but Brady will be back in Week 5. The Pats actually did play from behind in Week 4 against the Bills, and White did well with 5/50 receiving and 4/12 rushing playing 38% of the snaps. White has looked very good this year and it’s pretty clear they Patriots trust him considerably. He’ll likely have some solid PPR games with Brady before Dion Lewis is back around mid-season.
Darren Sproles (Phi) – If Sproles is sitting out on your waiver wire – he’s owned in just 39% of Yahoo leagues – he needs to be scooped up after his Week 4 bye. He went off against the Steelers in Week 3, posting 6/128/1 receiving with most of his production coming on an impressive 73-yard catch-and-run TD. With bye weeks starting to set in this week, Sproles is certainly a viable flex option in PPR formats, as HC Doug Pederson will generate a few touches for him every week.
Jay Ajayi (Mia) – This backfield has been a disaster, as expected. Arian Foster has been out (as expected), and we suppose he’ll be back soon – until he gets hurt again. If you’re looking for a guy to stash away, Ajayi at this point looks like the best option. That could change in a week or even a day, but he’s always has talent and he looked good in Week 4. He played only 31% of the snaps, but he had some nice runs and showed some life in the passing game. If Foster is out of the mix, we’d have to think Ajayi will get more and more opportunities.
Orleans Darkwa (NYG) – Darkwa got on the field with Rashad Jennings surprisingly out Week 3, playing 31% of the snaps, and he put up 10 carries for 53 yards with a TD. In Week 4, Darkwa got the vast majority of the work in the first half, carrying it 8 times compared to Paul Perkins’ 2 and Bobby Rainey’s 2, and Darkwa did a solid job against a great defense, scoring a TD. It’s an RBBC situation with Jennings when healthy the main guy and Perkins being a great upside stash, but Darkwa is worth holding onto for a little while for those in deeper leagues in case they move on from Jennings and/or he misses more time. Updated: 10/4
DeAndre Washington (Oak) – We liked what we saw out of Washington in the preseason, but while he has a role and we think he could eventually unseat Latavius Murray as the starter later in the year, Washington has some competition from Jalen Richard right now just for touches behind Murray. Washington finished with 5/30 rushing and 3/16 receiving in Week 4 against the Ravens, but he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that nearly cost them the victory. This backfield has turned into a three-headed attack. Murray is still the top early-down back for now, but the Raiders are clearly going to mix in Washington and Richard in on passing situations. It looks like Richard could be the “handcuff” for Murray, too, with Washington sticking in a changeup role. But if that’s the case, Washington has some value no matter who is “starting” here, so we like him more than Richard unless Murray is out of the mix.
Paul Perkins (NYG) – We really like him as a prospect, but we haven’t been talked him up much because he’s clearly buried on the depth chart. But with Shane Vereen out for the season, Perkins quickly climbed his way up to fantasy relevance. He played 23% of the snaps in Week 4, but he helped the club and showed off his great receiving potential on his long catch-and-run. We have no problem stashing him away as an upside guy, but we must point out that Perkins could still do very little or nothing at all in the coming weeks. Updated: 10/4
Cameron Artis-Payne (Car) – It sounds like starter Jonathan Stewart could miss a couple more games with a hamstring injury, which opens the door for CAP to be the lead back. He’s struggled the last two weeks with the Panthers falling behind early, as the game flow wasn’t in his favor. He finished with just 6/12 rushing against the Falcons in Week 4. Fozzy Whittaker is the change-of-pace and passing back and Mike Tolbert will also get some work. He’s game flow dependent for sure, so he’s hardly a good choice, but he’s at least their lead runner while Stewart is out, and if Cam Newton misses any time, that probably helps his chances of scoring.
Chris Thompson (Was) – Thompson, as expected, has emerged as the team’s passing-down back behind early-down back Matt Jones. He finished with 3/24 rushing and 2/16/1 receiving on 4 targets, scoring on a 5-yard pass. Thompson has legit value in PPR formats, as he should catch a handful of passes each week, but he’s not the lead back type if Jones would go down with an injury. He also ideally needs the Redskins to be playing from behind, as we’ve seen his snaps decrease the last two weeks with them winning (67%, 42%, 38%, and 32%).
Josh Ferguson (Ind) – It appears as if he’s playing over veteran Robert Turbin at least in passing situations. The rookie posted 7/33 receiving on 10 targets in Week 4 against the Jaguars, as Andrew Luck checked it down to him plenty with their O-line struggling. He’s a receiving specialist who made the team as an UDFA out of Illinois, and he might have a chance to catch 40+ balls in 2016, if you’re desperate at RB in a PPR. After seeing only 17% of the snaps in Week 1, he’s been at 37%, 24%, and 38%, so he’s been on the field.
C.J. Spiller (Sea) – The Seahawks signed Spiller before Week 4, and he immediately vaulted ahead of rookie C.J. Prosise as the change-of-pace and passing back. He finished with 2/12 rushing and 2/5/1 receiving on 3 targets, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Russell Wilson. Spiller for most isn’t worth adding at this point, but GM John Schneider did say Thomas Rawls (fibula) is expected to miss all of October, so Spiller is likely to see weekly touches to give Christine Michael breathers, since there’s something up with Prosise and his wrist (they may not trust he can hang onto the ball).
Matt Asiata (Min) – While Adrian Peterson is out, Asiata will likely handle 35% of the work, perhaps a little more if Jerick McKinnon isn’t healthy and effective. In fact, Asiata played exactly 35% of the snaps in Week 3. In Week 4, McKinnon looked much better, as his toe must not be bothering him, but Asiata still played 39% of the snaps, and he did score. Asiata is the goal line back, plus he can pass protect well and catch the ball. What he doesn’t have is the explosiveness to be a true difference-maker, but he’ll have a chance to get you 8-12 points any given week. Updated: 10/4
Jacquizz Rodgers (TB) – Rodgers played for HC Dirk Koetter in Atlanta, and with Doug Martin out with a hamstring injury, the veteran will see touches behind Charles Sims. Rodgers had only 6/25 rushing and 1/4 receiving in Week 4 against the Broncos. However, Sims (knee) was banged up pretty good against Denver in Week Four, and Koetter did tell reporters that they could the see team ease Sims’ workload with more Rodgers against the Panthers. RB Doug Martin (hamstring) is fully expected to return and be featured in Week Six. Updated: 10/4
Shaun Draughn (SF) – Carlos Hyde is the clear lead back in San Francisco, but Draughn will usually factor in each week with 6-8 touches. He posted just 2/5 rushing and 1/3 receiving in Week 4 against the Cowboys. He is pretty adept in the passing game, and the 49ers are likely to be trailing in a bunch of games this year. Hyde also hasn’t been the picture of health early in his career, so there’s a decent chance that Draughn is fantasy relevant at some point.
Zach Zenner (Det) – Zenner got beat out by Dwayne Washington for the #3 RB role out of training camp, but Ameer Abdullah (foot) is now on the IR and Dwayne Washington suffered an ankle injury in Week 4. If Washington misses a chunk of time with his ankle injury, Zenner could factor in as an early-down back and as the goal-line back with Theo Riddick. Washington (foot/ankle) suffered two sprains in Sunday’s loss at Chicago, but the Detroit Free Press reports the team hopes Washington doesn’t miss any games, but Washington is not lock to play with multiple lower body injuries. Updated: 10/4
Dexter McCluster (SD) – The Chargers desperately need someone who can be a changeup and receiving option, and McCluster was signed in the wake of RB Danny Woodhead suffering a season-ending torn right ACL in Week 2. McCluster finished with just 1/2 rushing and 2/9 receiving on 3 targets against the Saints in Week 4. McCluster has familiarity with OC Ken Whisenhunt from Tennessee and is a good fit as a RB/WR hybrid, but he won’t have as big a role as Woodhead, who had the full trust of QB Philip Rivers everywhere on the field. Still, Whisenhunt likes him a lot, and McCluster could have PPR potential very quickly.
James Starks (GB) – Starks is still the handcuff for Eddie Lacy at this point, and Starks would have major, major value if Lacy goes down at any point this year, and he might be worth rostering in deeper leagues just in case he continues to play a healthy number of the snaps.
Devontae Booker (Den) – Booker is going to be involved most weeks as the clear #2 RB behind C.J. Anderson. The rookie RB can’t keep fumbling, but he remains a very good handcuff option, as he’d be a must-start fantasy option if Anderson missed time.
Alfred Morris (Dal) – It looks like the Cowboys are planning on giving Morris regular carries each week, with a series or two to himself in place of Ezekiel Elliott, and some TD vulturing to boot. Morris won’t have much fantasy value unless Elliott misses time because of an injury, but if that’s the case than Morris is a top-15 back in all formats.
Mike Gillislee (Buf) – We really like Jonathan Williams, but the fact is he’s not going to be the guy if LeSean McCoy is out, since Gillislee is a veteran who has more experience. Gillislee is likely the guy for at least 2-3 weeks, and he’s looked good the last two weeks.
Tim Hightower (NO) – Hightower is currently the handcuff for Mark Ingram, as he’s the best option to handle early-down work among the Saint backups. We saw Hightower succeed as the top back in New Orleans last year after Mark Ingram went down late in the year.
Jalen Richard (Oak) – It looks like Richard could be the “handcuff” for Latavius Murray, with DeAndre Washington sticking in a changeup role. Richard has been getting weekly touches in this three-headed backfield attack.
Rob Kelley (Was) – We don’t think much of his game, but if Matt Jones is out, then Kelley is the next man up with Chris Thompson likely handling more work.
Benny Cunningham (LA) – He may not be a sexy choice, but if Todd Gurley goes down, Cunningham is a lock for 15+ touches each week with Malcolm Brown also in the mix. Cunningham did get banged up in Week 4, and we’ll update his status here if needed.
The Obvious Choices/For Smaller Leagues
Steve Smith (Bal) – Smith won’t be on any other WW after this week, so it’s last call on him. He has improved each week coming off his Achilles tear, and he had his best game yet in Week 4 against the Raiders. He finished with 8/111/1 receiving on a team-best 11 targets, and he now has 9+ targets in three of his first four games. Smith is 37 years old and coming off a major leg injury, so it’s not surprising that it took a little time for him to get all the way back. QB Joe Flacco clearly still trusts Smith, and Senior is running as a starter with Mike Wallace, so he’s in the conversation each week as a WR3 in PPR formats going forward. Over the last two years plus, Smith has been a huge fantasy difference-maker when healthy.
Quincy Enunwa (NYJ) – Enunwa has been involved in this passing game since the season opener, as they’ve been using him as a big slot receiver. He could have a huge role for the rest of the year too, with WR Eric Decker dealing with a torn rotator cuff. Decker could miss some time with the injury, and he would play through pain when he eventually does get back on the field. In his first game without Decker, Enunwa posted 6/60 receiving on 7 targets against the Seahawks in Week 4. Enunwa a is big-bodied (6’2”, 225 pounds) slot receiver with below-average athleticism and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is clearly most comfortable throwing inside the numbers to his big WRs. Enunwa has even lined up on the outside and made some big plays. He’s clearly going to be on the field a lot in Chan Gailey’s offense, as they don’t use the TE and like to go empty backfield, and he’s encouragingly caught 72% of his targets so far this year.
Michael Thomas (NO) – Thomas is the #3 WR in New Orleans, which means he’ll get a handful of opportunities each week. He finished with 4/44/1 receiving on a team-high 9 targets, scoring on a goal-line target. Stud WRs Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead are clearly ahead of him in the pecking order, but Snead isn’t healthy and Cooks has been a major disappointment lately. Of course, QB Drew Brees doesn’t discriminate when it comes to distributing his targets, and Thomas has done a great job of building some trust with his veteran QB. It looks like they’ll need him plenty still with Snead still not healthy and Coby Fleener not exactly a lock to produce most weeks.
Adam Humphries (TB) – Humphries emerged as the slot WR in training camp, and he’s now overtaken Vincent Jackson as the #2 target for Jameis Winston. Humphries has brought some stability to the middle of the field with Buccaneers searching for a TE to step up – they did just cut Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Humphries finished with 9/100 receiving on 12 targets in Week 3 against the Rams, but one of the best CBs in the NFL Chris Harris shut him down out of the slot in Week 4 (1/4 on 4 targets), as expected. Mike Evans is clearly the top target in this offense, but there’s room for Humphries to carve out a role and be PPR relevant, especially with V-Jax seemingly taking a step back the last year. Humphries isn’t going to be much of a threat down near the red zone, but it looks like he’s going to catch a handful of passes every week.
Sammie Coates (Pit) – Coates has been a bit of a one-trick pony, but it’s a good trick (tracking the deep ball), and he’s now caught at least one 40-yard pass every week so far. It’s still a little bit of a committee situation, but Coates has been hovering around 50% of the snaps, and he’s over 50% on the season. He had his best game of the season in Week 4, catching 6 of 8 targets for 79 yards, and his actually an amazing 72% for a guy averaging a whopping 21.7 yards a catch. That catch rate is a good sign going forward, especially if they are down a guy at WR, as they were in Week 4 with Eli Rogers out. At the very least, it’s clear that Big Ben is going to take deep shots to Coates every week.
Robert Woods (Buf) – He has been pretty quiet early in the year, but his role has grown significantly now that the Bills placed Sammy Watkins (foot) in the IR. For the second straight week, Woods had 6+ catches, as he went for 7/89 receiving on 10 targets against the Patriots in Week 4. Woods isn’t the easiest guy to trust because he’ll disappear from time to time playing with the erratic Tyrod Taylor, but he has PPR value with Watkins set to miss at least through Week 12. At this point, he Woods disappears it would have to mean the whole passing offense has disappeared, since they don’t have much. Woods is in a contract year and was listed in our “Mr. Relevant” article because we thought he could get a cheap 60 catches with upside due to Watkins’ lingering foot problem, and Woods is now on pace for 72 catches despite his quiet start. Also, for what it’s worth, Taylor likes the new approach to passing that new OC Anthony Lynn is bringing to the table, and it sure worked in Week 4. Updated: 10/4
Cole Beasley (Dal) – Beasley has been quite active with Dak Prescott dinking and dunking passes in the early going. We do worry about his ability to hold up, but he’s going to be active, especially with Dez Bryant dealing with his injury. Beasley was relatively quiet in Week 4 against the 49ers, going for 3/66 receiving on 4 targets. For as long as Prescott is in the lineup, it looks like Beasley will have some juice for PPR formats out of the slot, especially with Dez possibly missing multiple weeks with his knee injury.
The Next Best Things
Eddie Royal (Chi) – Royal is quietly hanging around in Chicago, and he’ll have a role in this offense with second-year WR Kevin White still struggling to get up to speed and injured in Week 4. He caught all 7 of his passes for 111 yards and a TD in Week 4 against the Lions. Royal has been surprisingly good red-zone receiver in the past – he had 15 TDs with the Chargers in 2013-14 – and he’s also good for 3-5 catches each week while he’s healthy, even with the capable Brian Hoyer, who’s been playing better than the injured Jay Cutler. Teams are looking to take Alshon Jeffery out, and Royal has been a revelation, so this could continue (until, of course, he gets hurt).
Chris Hogan (NE) – We have given Hogan a lot of love going back to March when he first signed here. He had no chance at success with third-round QB Jacoby Brissett starting the last two weeks, as he had just 1/3 receiving in two games with the rookie QB. But he looks like a key receiver here, and his value will only go up if Julian Edelman succumbs to injury yet again, and/or if Rob Gronkowski misses more time. Also, Tom Brady will be back starting this week, which should be a game-changer for Hogan. The guy gets open, and Brady will find him. He’s really their best option down the field and out the outside, so we’re fully expecting some big plays in the future. Updated: 10/4
Victor Cruz (NYG) – Cruz made his long-awaited return to the field after missing the Giants’ last 26 games because of a ruptured patellar tendon in 2014 and a calf injury in 2015. He’s been used plenty early in the year, including in Week 3 when he caught all 3 of his targets for 70 yards against the Redskins. It doesn’t look like Cruz has missed nearly two years of action, as he seemingly picked up right where he left off before his injury in 2014. The big challenge now is for Cruz to stay healthy and on the field going forward, but he should see plenty of playing time playing alongside rookie Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham.
Jamison Crowder (Was) – The jitterbug slot WR isn’t going anywhere, as he’s been very involved with Kirk Cousins in the early part of the season. He did have a down game in Week 4 against the Browns, with just 2/21 receiving on 3 targets. He’s competing for the ball with several good players, but he’s a nifty option out of the slot, and he will likely stay fairly busy most weeks, so he’s going to be viable in PPR formats most weeks. Cousins threw it only 27 times in Week 4, which was the biggest issue for Crowder this past weekend.
Nelson Agholor (Phi) – Agholor, a 2015 first-round pick, has a had a frustrating start to his career, but he’s run as the #2 WR behind Jordan Matthews. Agholor obviously has a talented pedigree and is just 23 years, but we need to see him consistently perform before we totally back him, as he’s battled drops and mental miscues early in his career. Agholor had just 3/21 receiving on 3 targets against the Steelers in Week 3, and he’ll have to hold off Dorial Green-Beckham for playing time, but at least Wentz will be more willing to get Agholor going downfield and Agholor is off to a very solid start overall. DGB could ruin a potential coming out party, but it’s not like DGB is a lock to continue to ascend.
Kenny Britt (LA) – Britt is the top target on the outside in this limited Rams passing game, and while Brian Quick has made noise lately, Britt’s still the most reliable option, and he’s caught at least 4 passes in all their games and he’s been 10+ points in PPR in 3 of his 4 games. He’s off to a solid start this season, and he caught all 4 of his targets for 82 yards in Week 4 against the Cardinals. Britt isn’t exactly a consistent option as primarily a big-play threat, and it doesn’t help that he’s playing in a limited passing offense, but he can be used in a pinch and will likely go off a couple times this season.
Going as Deep as Possible
Jeremy Kerley (SF) – Just picked up before the start of the season, Kerley has quickly emerged as one of the top targets for QB Blaine Gabbert, and he clearly has a chance to deliver for those who need to dig deep at WR. He was quite active in Week 4 against the Cowboys, posting 6/88/1 receiving on 9 targets, scoring on a 33-yard pass. They do have some competition for snaps and targets with Quinton Patton, but Kerley could hang on to this slot role and have solid PPR value. He’s catching only 56% of his targets, which is terrible for a slot receiver, but he’s had at least 6 targets every week.
Kenny Stills (Mia) – Stills is talented and young at just 24 years old, but he’s been an enigma since arriving in Miami last season. He’s playing plenty each week because they primarily run 3-WR sets, and he posted 5/76 receiving on 8 targets against the Browns in Week 3, and he caught his only target in Week 4 for a 70+ yard TD. DeVante Parker will likely be more involved than him most weeks now that the second-year WR is healthy again, but Stills is obviously well in the mix since they’ll play a ton of 3-WR sets, and Parker is an injury risk. If they wind up being a pass-happy offense as we think they are, that’s good news for Stills.
Davante Adams (GB) – Adams is still making mistakes and dropping passes, but he’s also the clear WR3, and he’s scored in two of their three games. With Randall Cobb underwhelming, Adams has a chance and is at worst in the mix in the red zone with better matchups than Jordy Nelson.
Terrance Williams (Dal) – Williams is finally showing some signs of life, and now Dez Bryant could miss multiple weeks with his knee injury. Williams finished with 4/44/1 receiving on 6 targets against the 49ers in Week 4, scoring on a 20-yard strike from Dak Prescott. T-Will isn’t the ideal fit with Prescott dink-and-dunk style, but the rookie is getting a little more aggressive throwing it downfield, so Williams is back to being viable in non-PPR formats. He really should be higher on this list, but we still don’t trust him fully, especially with the intriguing Brice Butler actually seeing more targets in Week 4 (9 vs. 6).
Anquan Boldin (Det) – QB Matthew Stafford has a number of different weapons at his disposal, so Boldin isn’t going to put up huge numbers. Still, he could be a solid PPR option in deeper formats as the #3 WR here. He finished with 6/31 receiving on 8 targets against the Bears in Week 4, and he already has 2 TDs this season. Boldin is strictly a chain-mover at this stage in his career, but at least he should be good for a couple catches each week, and he can score at any time. Eric Ebron continues to have injury concerns and Golden Tate was benched in Week 4, so things are looking up for Boldin.
Pierre Garcon (Was) – Garcon isn’t a vital part of this passing game any longer, as he’s battling Jamison Crowder for targets behind DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed. He finished with 4/39 receiving on 5 targets against the Brown in Week 4. Crowder has become the preferred check-down target for Kirk Cousins, but Garcon still has some value in deep PPR formats.
Breshad Perriman (Bal) – Perriman is finally playing after missing his entire rookie season with a torn PCL. He’s rotated in behind starters Mike Wallace and Steve Smith, and he posted 3/24 receiving on 5 targets against the Raiders in Week 4. Perriman is still obviously a major work in progress, and it’s not a great sign that rookie deep threat Chris Moore has been a factor. But at least he’s finally healthy and contributing for this Ravens offense. He’s also a nice fit with the big-armed Joe Flacco, who wants to get the ball more vertical this season to Wallace and Perriman. He probably won’t get much volume in the coming weeks, but he could emerge later in the season as a serious force if he rounds into form. Our Greg Cosell loved him coming out in 2015 and we see a little Julio Jones in him.
Ted Ginn (Car) – Ginn is seeing weekly deep balls and carries in this offense still, even with Kelvin Benjamin back in the lineup this season. Ginn had just 2/17 receiving on 5 targets in Week 4 against the Falcons. Ginn could go off any given week, so he’s worth a reach play in non-PPR formats, but he’s not going to be very consistent. Benjamin has disappeared some the last two weeks, which can’t be bad news for Ginn.
Tyler Boyd (Cin) – The rookie Boyd made waves with his performance in the preseason, but he’s been quiet in two of his first three games. He finished with 3/18 receiving on 4 targets against the Broncos in Week 3, but against the Broncos they went with a lot of 2-TE sets, which was not the case the first two weeks (the Von Miller effect). He’s still behind Brandon LaFell in 2-WR sets, but he’s clearly has more upside than the shaky LaFell. Boyd could take awhile to become a legit fantasy option, but there are certainly opportunities for targets in this offense.
Brandon LaFell (Cin) – LaFell was one of the most inefficient WRs in football in 2015, but he’s been a little better in 2016. He finished with 2/34 receiving on 3 targets against the Broncos in Week 3, getting most of his production on a 27-yard catch in garbage time. The Bengals have plenty of targets available outside of A.J. Green, especially while TE Tyler Eifert is on the shelf for at least the first month of the season, but we need to see LaFell string together a couple good performances before we’re willing to invest in him. At least he has been playing ahead of rookie WR Tyler Boyd in 2-WR sets.
Chris Conley (KC) – Conley has emerged as the #2 WR across from Jeremy Maclin, but that doesn’t mean he holds a ton of fantasy value in this conservative passing game. He posted 3/44 receiving on 5 targets in Week 3 against the Jets. He’s not a great match with QB Alex Smith, as he’s more of a vertical type and Smith of course doesn’t like to cut it lose too much. Conley (93% of the snaps in Week 4) is starting to emerge some in his second year, but he’s more of a guy to keep an eye at this point.
Markus Wheaton (Pit) – Wheaton finally returned to the field in Week 3 off his shoulder injury, but he was a complete mess in his first game back, finishing with just 1/2 receiving on 5 targets. However, slot WR Eli Rogers suffered a toe injury and never returned, so Wheaton could be forced back into the slot, and he did score in Week 4. There are a lot of question marks with Wheaton, but he’s got talent and he’s in a great offense, so he certainly has a chance to be impactful. Rogers being out of the mix could be key, so we’ll see.
Brice Butler (Dal) – We’ve always liked his talent because he’s 6’4 and he can run, but he’s been unable to carve out a large role in Oakland or in Dallas. He might be worth a speculative add in deep league, though, since Dez Bryant is no lock to playing in the near future and since Terrance Williams has disappointed a lot lately. Butler did have 9 targets and 5/41/1, and he almost scored a second TD in the game Week 4. Without Dez(knee) in Week 4, Butler was on the field for 82% of Dallas’ offensive snaps and drew 29% of Dak Prescott’s passing targets. Updated: 10/4
Marqise Lee (Jac) – Lee is healthy for now, and he’s making some noise as the #3 WR this season. You might forget that he’s a former second-round pick in 2014 – he actually went ahead of Allen Robinson in the second round that year – but numerous hamstring injuries have slowed his career. If Lee can actually stay healthy for a stretch, there’s no reason he can’t make some contributions in this passing game with Blake Bortles. Lee posted 4/28 receiving on 6 targets against the Colts in Week 4. It looks like he’s emerging a bit, but we’ll see if hamstrings cooperate.
The Obvious Choices/For Smaller Leagues
Tyler Eifert (Cin) – He returned to practice before Week 3, so he’s getting closer to returning to action. They clearly need him in the middle of the field on the receiver-poor Bengals. HC Marvin Lewis did say last week that they’ll ease Eifert into the lineup once he gets back, so he’s unlikely to play a full complement of snaps in his first game back, but if he’s on the WW in your league this week he should not be by next week. Eifert felt like he was close to a go in Week Three, he missed Week 4 on a short week, yet a Week 5 return seems likely.
Hunter Henry (SD) – Starting TE Antonio Gates couldn’t go the last two weeks, and the talented rookie Henry showed very well for himself, and frankly he looks like an upgrade over the future Hall of Famer. He had another big performance in Week 4 against the Saints, posting 4/61/1 receiving and scoring on a 20-yard pass. Henry was our favorite rookie TE coming into the season, and Gates looks even more sluggish than he has in recent years. Even when Gates gets back, Henry should see plenty of run going forward if the Chargers stick with more 2-TE sets with Keenan Allen out for the year. We compared the rookie to Greg Olsen this spring because of his size and ability, and Rivers won’t be afraid to throw it to his him with his weapons dwindling. He played 97% of the snaps in Week 4, so he was on the field a ton.
Zach Miller (Chi) – Miller had only 7/47 heading into Week 3, but he’s turned it on the last two weeks. Miller was all over the place in Week 3, logging 8/78/2 receiving, and he went for 3/31/1 in Week 4 against the Lions. He’s a serious injury risk, but he has the talent to be a major difference-maker, so he should be picked up for depth on the chance he gets rolling and produces each week here.
Cameron Brate (TB) – The Buccaneers finally cut ties with troubled TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, opening up a big role for Brate going forward. As the starter, Brate posted 5/67 receiving on 8 targets against the Broncos in Week 4, and that was on the heels of a 2-TD game in Week 3. Our guy Greg Cosell liked what he’s seen from the athletic Brate on film the last two years, and he’s suddenly in the streaming conversation, especially since Vincent Jackson’s role in this passing game has dwindled.
The Next Best Things
Clive Walford (Oak) – The Raiders don’t exactly have a third option yet in their passing game behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and Walford is certainly in a position to succeed here with an improving quarterback in Derek Carr. Walford did little in Week 4 against the Ravens, posting just 2/23 receiving on 4 targets but at least he saw a target at the goal line. He is a young receiver who is still improving, and he’d be in a better position to succeed if he could stay on the field the majority of the time ahead Lee Smith and Mychal Rivera.
Charles Clay (Buf) – Once-a-Month Chuck finished with 5/47 receiving on 7 targets against the Patriots, this after OC Anthony Lynn said earlier in the week that they need to get Clay more involved. QB Tyrod Taylor might not have a choice but to keep Clay active with Sammy Watkins (foot) landing on the IR. He’ll likely disappoint you if you use him, but he does have a chance to be active going forward.
Vance McDonald (SF) – McDonald has been quiet early in the year after being active at the end of last season and in the preseason with Blaine Gabbert. He then suffered a hip injury in Week 3, and he sat out in Week 4. The 49ers figure to be trailing in plenty of games this year, so he should be more active playing with Gabbert going forward, especially with the lack of weapons in this 49er passing game, and he did some work in practice last week, so he should be back in Week 5.
Jesse James (Pit) – James has taken over the Heath Miller role in this offense as the big target in the middle of the field for Ben Roethlisberger. He hauled in just 2/10 receiving on 4 targets in Week 3 against the Eagles, and Big Ben did miss a wide open James for a huge gain. He should remain a factor down by the end zone because of his size (6’7”, 261 pounds). He even got a TD vulture from him by backup TE Xavier Grimble in Week 2. For as long as Ladarius Green is out of the lineup, which could be all season, James is a streaming option who will likely need to score to come through for fantasy.
Jacob Tamme (Atl) – Ultimately, Tamme is an ancillary player in a pretty good offense, one that looks like it’s starting to figure things out. That makes him viable off the Waiver Wire, but as an every-week start, he’s bound to disappoint. He did score a TD in Week 4 against the Panthers, finishing with 2/3/1 receiving on 3 targets. There are too many mouths to feed here, and in Tamme’s general area of the field, where he succeeds the most, the Falcons can get more explosive plays out of their running backs. That will keep him pretty inconsistent.
Ryan Griffin (Hou) – Fellow TE C.J. Fiedorowicz out-snapped Griffin in Week 4 (73% to 50%), but he also sprained his knee, so he could miss some time. If so, that should help Griffin, who is arguably more athletic with more upside than CJF. Griffin is actually third on the team with 19 targets, and they are actually throwing to the TE in 2016, so he has a chance on the low end. Griffin had a decent 5 targets and 3 receptions for 54 yards in Week 4.
Jack Doyle (Ind) – It sure looks like Doyle isn’t going anywhere at this point, as he’s been a reliable target for QB Andrew Luck in the early going. He had just a 6-yard catch on his lone targets against the Jaguars in Week 4. The Colts could use more 2-TE sets going forward with Donte Moncrief out of the lineup and because of their O-line struggles, so Doyle is suddenly on the streaming radar with so many bad TE options out there right now. He’s worth listing here for sure, but the reason we won’t likely push him hard is because he and Dwayne Allen could hurt each other most weeks.
Lance Kendricks (LA) – Kendricks is an unreliable fantasy option, but he has been active at times in this sporadic passing game led by Case Keenum. Kendricks had a team-high 7 targets in Week 4 against the Cardinals, finishing with 5/52 receiving. He’s actually been a TD vulture in the red zone in the past, but he needs to start scoring TDs to have fantasy value.
Dustin Hopkins (Was) – He was very solid down the stretch in 2015, and he was 3-for-3 on FGs in each of his first two games before going 5-for-5 in Week 3. He kicked only 1 FG in Week 4, but the guy’s 12-for-12 on FG attempts on the season, and the offense is improving.
Mike Nugent (Cin) – The veteran’s never been a great fantasy option, but that’s changed in 2016, as he has 12 FGs already after going 5-for-5 in Week 3. He now has two 3-FG and one 5-FG games this season, so he’s someone to consider if you’re looking for some PK juice.
Caleb Sturgis (Phi) – Everything is going right in Philly right now, which includes their defense and of course their rookie QB. Sturgis has quietly benefitted, kicking 2, 3, and 2 FGs in their three games with a very strong 10 points a game thus far. He’s worth a look if you need production.
Josh Brown (NYG) – Brown was re-instated for Week 2, and he proceeded to kick 3 FGs for the Giants after serving his 1-game suspension in Week 1. He then kicked 2 FGs in Week 3, so he’s been decent. The Giant defense is clearly improved, and their offense is looking more than fine with Victor Cruz proving he can help the offense, so Brown is worth picking up. He was quietly 30-of-32 in FG attempts in 2015, so he can produce.
Adam Vinatieri (Ind) – He’s not going off, but he’s kicked 2 FGs in all four of their games and he’s been good for a steady 9, 8, 8, and 9 points so far, so he’s worth a look on the low end.
Nick Novak (Hou) – You’ll probably want to sit him against a top defense, as we saw vs. NE in Week, but their schedule is littered with good matchups other than a couple. He’s been good other than Week 3, kicking 3, 4, and 2 FGs in his other three games.
Josh Lambo (SD) – He’s not easy to trust, but our PK algorithm has liked him this year, and he’s been good for 9, 8, 10, and 10 points in our site default scoring system with 2, 1, 3, and 2 FGs.
Source: Fantasy Guru
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