September 21, 2021

The Only Football

Get The Latest NFL News And More!

Win the Wire Week 5

15 min read
Win the Wire Week 5

Another week, another pair of major running back injuries, this time to Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb. All of the player turnover has made 2020 a busy season on the waiver wire, and things are likely to get even busier in future weeks. The pandemic has started to affect game schedules as teams enter their planned bye weeks starting in Week 5 with the Packers and Lions.

Rostered percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers


Ekeler has a direct role and skills replacement in Justin Jackson after suffering knee and hamstring injuries that will reportedly sideline him for the next four to six weeks. But I still believe Kelley is the safer fantasy choice, and he may have more upside as well. To the former point, Kelley out-snapped Jackson 57% to 40% in Jackson’s return from a quad injury. And that injury came after Jackson missed nearly all of the 2019 season. Meanwhile, Kelley has surpassed my expectations as a low-receiving ratio college player by seeing seven targets in the first four games. That puts him on a full-season pace for 28, just one fewer than Mark Ingram had last season. And Kelley could be a similar fantasy asset creeping into the RB2 conversation. His 5-foot-11, 219-pound frame gives him a 30.5 BMI that puts him in the bell-cow potential window that both Ekeler (28.0 BMI) and Jackson (27.9) fall short of.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 100%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings


Jefferson was a highlight machine in his breakout seven-catch, 175-yard Week 3 performance. Compared to that, his four-catch, 103-yard Week 4 was uninspiring. But I remain impressed with Jefferson’s skill level. He has a remarkable ability to maintain speed out of his sharp cuts, something he showed on a 26-yard reception last week.

Jefferson seems capable of picking up Stefon Diggs’ vacated 31 targets thrown 20-plus yards down the field from last season, a total that more than doubled Adam Thielen in second place on the team (15). Jefferson already has five such targets this year and has converted them into 150 yards and a touchdown. With Bisi Johnson declining from 63% and 78% snap shares in Weeks 1 and 2 to just 8% and 17% the last two weeks, Jefferson should maintain his newfound WR3 status.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 60%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins


Gaskin is seeing his roster percentages increase a bit more slowly than the other early-season waiver target from Florida, James Robinson. And that makes sense seeing how Gaskin has yet to score in four games this season. But Gaskin has otherwise come close to matching his foil with a 65% snap share in Week 4 and 13 total touches versus just six and three for teammates Matt Breida and Jordan Howard. A total of 1.54 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns suggests Gaskin may never score touchdowns in bunches, but his 14.2% target share is seventh at the position and can buoy him into RB2 status in PPR formats. Gaskin is the same size (5-foot-10 and 200 pounds) as Ekeler and is a worthy replacement in fantasy.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 21%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers


Kelley and an injury history make Jackson a bit less valuable of a fantasy option than Gaskin even if Jackson will directly replace Ekeler’s workload. And I already made my case that Kelley is safer and has a higher ceiling than Jackson, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook Jackson in your shallower formats. As a rookie, he broke a tackle on 30.8% of his 65 touches, a better rate than the man he will replace (26.9%) for the Chargers. Two years later, he has barely cracked 100 career touches, so it’s mostly still potential. But you shouldn’t be pessimistic of Jackson because of a poor 2020 debut with six carries for 9 yards. The Buccaneers’ top-five DVOA run defense (-34.8%) held Kelley to a similarly poor 0.8 yards per attempt.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 16%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers


Samuel had a soft debut to his 2020 season with just four total touches on a 34% snap share. That trailed Brandon Aiyuk (88%), Kendrick Bourne (68%), and Trent Taylor (51%), but it was still plenty to give me confidence that he can quickly rebound to his 2019 heights that landed him ninth at the position in PPR formats from Weeks 9 to 17. Samuel looked unafraid of contact on a 14-yard catch.

And moved well in converting those four touches into 45 total yards. The lack of box score pop may keep Samuel a relative bargain for one more week, but with his incredible fantasy potential, I wouldn’t mess around with a hugely discounted FAB offer.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 15%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers


I don’t expect Aiyuk to be as valuable as his sophomore teammate the rest of this season. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him average more in FAB this week after providing the highlight of the weekend on a 38-yard touchdown carry.

Otherwise, Aiyuk’s stats were unexciting. He had just two catches for 18 yards in the air. But I remain optimistic for his fantasy prospects, especially after Jimmy Garoppolo returns from his high-ankle sprain. After trailing him the previous two weeks, Aiyuk out-snapped Kendrick Bourne in Week 4 64 to 50. He should start on the outside with Samuel when the 49ers are at full strength.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 14%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots


The Patriots continued their musical chairs routine by placing Sony Michel on injured reserve with a quad injury before Monday night. That ensures that fantasy players will maintain their headaches for at least another month, but it does at least offer some short-term clarity. After coming off of injured reserve himself, Harris played the clear lead back for the team against the Chiefs. He took 17 of the team’s 35 rushing attempts on the night, and while he went untargeted, his 9.8% receiving ratio at Alabama suggests a greater potential as a receiver than Michel has shown thus far in his professional career.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 13%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets


Following a Week 4 return, Crowder has now bookended a hamstring injury with 100-yard games of 13 and 10 targets this season. That may seem circumstantial on a Jets team that can barely find enough healthy receivers to activate at this point, but it actually may continue even after players such as Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims return to the field. Since the start of 2019, Crowder has enjoyed a prolific 26.6% target share in his 15 games with Sam Darnold at quarterback. That would have landed him fourth at the position since the start of 2019 behind just Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas, and Allen Robinson.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys


I’m not sure how many more times Dak Prescott will have to throw 45 pass attempts for me to trust that the Cowboys will have this ridiculous a pass-heavy offense. But even a regression-concerned Football Outsiders writer like myself can recognize that Schultz belongs on fantasy teams alongside wide receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Schultz will likely see his touchdown rate fall as the Cowboy’s pass play totals fall. His 1.52 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns since Week 2 support his two actual scores, but they do not differentiate him from Cooper (1.40), Lamb (1.36), or Michael Gallup (1.53). But Schultz has a 15.0% target share in that time, a top-15 rate even independent of the team’s extreme volume of passes.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Adrian Peterson, RB, Detroit Lions


It was already clear that Peterson had taken the Lions’ No. 1 running back job by his now-54.5% carry share, top-15 in football and ahead of backs much more widely considered to be bell cows such as Chris Carson (52.%) and David Montgomery (52.5%). But then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made it easy on fantasy players and just announced that Peterson was the team’s lead back. With just four catches in as many games, Peterson likely won’t crash the RB2 party, even in standard formats. But he does suffer a slight touchdown shortfall with one score against 1.18 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns and should score more in future weeks. With limited options at the position, Peterson should at least be rostered as bye-week and injury insurance in every league.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 8%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos


Melvin Gordon has been an effective workhorse back with Lindsay sidelined in recent weeks with a turf toe injury, averaging 4.3 yards per carry behind a bottom-seven offensive line providing just 3.88 adjusted line yards. But so far this season, Gordon is having the same receiving problem that Lindsay did last year. After averaging between 7.0 and 10.2 yards per reception in each of his last four seasons, Gordon is at just 4.1 yards per catch this year. Lindsay’s 5.6-yard average last season looks excellent by comparison and makes me think that Lindsay could pick up the 50/50 workload split he enjoyed in the first half of Week 1 — when he had seven carries and a target to Gordon’s six carries and two targets — before he went down with his injury in the second half. With so few backs on the wire, even one on a 200-touch pace is worth a look.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

D’Ernest Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns


Kareem Hunt is more than capable of shouldering the full load of the Browns’ running back touches with Nick Chubb expected to miss several weeks with an MCL injury. As a bell-cow back for the Chiefs in 2017 and 2018, Hunt excelled as both a runner (15.6% and 79.4% DVOA) and a receiver (11.9% and 9.1% DVOA) across 453 carries and 98 targets. But at least on Sunday, the power back Johnson seemed to take over Chubb’s workload, carrying the ball 13 times for 95 yards. Johnson won’t face the Cowboys and their No. 15 DVOA run defense (-19.5%) every week. But Johnson may nevertheless be a deeper-league and daily option when the Browns face inferior opponents and may opt to ride him to kill clock in the second half over the receiving-capable Hunt and Dontrell Hilliard.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos


In case you missed the Broncos’ Thursday night game against the Jets — you definitely did, and who can blame you — Jeudy showed why he earned the second-best Playmaker Score in this year’s rookie receiving class when he absolutely stole a 48-yard touchdown from a well-positioned Pierre Desir.

Otherwise, Jeudy had a quiet night with just two catches in four targets. But now for the season, he has a 20.6% target share that is tied for 21st among all wide receivers. Brett Rypien couldn’t maintain a strong first half of passing through the entire Jets game, but he showed arm talent, and normal starter Drew Lock could return as soon as this weekend. Try to snag Jeudy in fantasy before that happens because a breakout performance could soon follow.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals


Simply by playing, A.J. Green looks healthier this year than he has for more than short stretches since 2017. But if I’m not colored by those injury-shortened seasons, the 32-year-old Green looks like he is moving gingerly and is struggling to separate from his defenders.

After seeing a 23.4% target share the first two weeks, Green has declined to just 14.3% since. And rookie Tee Higgins has been the major beneficiary, increasing from a 6.4% target share to 20.8% the last two weeks that is tied for 25th at the position. That specific benchmark could be difficult for Higgins to maintain with slot receiver Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon’s heavy usage in the passing game. But the team’s decision to bench a healthy John Ross the last two weeks opens the door for a flex-worth fantasy season for the rookie receiver.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 4%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints


With Michael Thomas potentially just one week away from rejoining the team and with a bye in Week 6, it’s possible that neither Smith nor Emmanuel Sanders will retain the fantasy value they teased in Week 4. But if you have a deeper bench, either could be worth a gamble with a home matchup against the Panthers and their No. 28 DVOA pass defense (23.4%) on the horizon in Week 7. Of the two, I prefer Smith. That may seem strange since he showed the typically unsustainable fantasy line of two catches and two touchdowns while Sanders led the team with nine targets but failed to score on Sunday. But Smith has played 88% and 100% of offensive snaps for the team the last two weeks with Thomas out while Sanders has played just 73% and 79% of them. I think that suggests Smith is the No. 2 receiver with the team at full strength.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 2%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, New Orleans Saints


Of course, a 70%-plus offensive snap share isn’t a bad thing on an offense as potentially potent as the Saints. Even intersecting with Thomas, Sanders has provided decent target totals of five, three, five, and nine in his first four weeks with the team. He’s worth a flier in case I’m misreading the team’s pecking order, and at the very least, Sanders should be playable when the Saints bring weaker opponents to the Superdome, where Drew Brees has averaged more than five more fantasy points per game than on the road since 2017.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 2%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Tim Patrick, WR, Denver Broncos


Jeudy provided the highlight catch and has a quarter-season of target volume to support his fantasy case, but Patrick teased his own fantasy potential with six catches, 113 yards, and a touchdown on a team-leading seven targets on Thursday night. He was unproductive in Weeks 1 and 2, but since Courtland Sutton went down, Patrick has increased his snap share to 84% and 76% the last two weeks. And while his two receiving touchdowns in that time aren’t supported by his 0.67 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns, Patrick is 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds. He should be an asset in the red zone.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Scotty Miller, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Apart from Mike Evans, who is a top-10 fantasy receiver every week he plays, Miller was the biggest beneficiary of Chris Godwin’s absence with five catches, 83 yards, and a touchdown on Sunday. But I’m skeptical he can continue to find that heavy volume. The most obvious reason for that pessimism is Godwin’s potential return this weekend. But also consider that Miller played just 53% of the team’s offensive snaps versus 74% for Justin Watson. Perhaps that third-banana snap share related to Miller’s own health since he was questionable to play with a hip injury. But he also peaked in the quarter season at a 69% snap share in Week 2 with Godwin out with a concussion, and O.J. Howard’s in-game Achilles injury — which will likely knock him out for the rest of the season — preceded share bumps for both No. 3 tight end Cameron Brate (21%) and rookie slot receiver Tyler Johnson (33%). Tom Brady’s five touchdowns to five difference receivers likely overstates the egalitarian nature of the Bucs offense, but I’m still not ready to trust a third pass-catcher beyond Evans and Godwin once he returns.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars


Minshew’s passing totals of 339 and 351 yards against the Titans and Bengals in his even weeks and just 173 and 275 yards against the Colts and Dolphins in his odd weeks would on their own bucket him as a streaming option to use in only his favorable matchups. The Colts certainly weren’t that in Week 1 — we now rate them as the No. 1 pass defense in DVOA (-39.8%). But Minshew’s opponents the next two weeks should be — the Texans are 19th (16.9%) and the Lions are 16th (12.6%) in pass defense DVOA. But I’m also bullish on Minshew’s chances to become more than matchup play. He has been exceptionally accurate this season, completing 6.0% more passes than expected according to Next Gen Stats, a top-five surplus among multiple-game starters. And even if he hasn’t been as prolific as he was as a rookie, he still contributes with his legs. He has rushed for 69 yards so far this season, a full-season pace for 276 that would have landed him ninth at the position last year in a dead heat with Daniel Jones (279) and Dak Prescott (277) at seventh and eighth.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders


Carr is following the same script this year that he has in recent seasons. He averaged 6.8 air yards per attempt in 2018, 6.6 in 2019, and 6.7 so far this season. But his results have improved rather dramatically. His completion rate is up from 69% in 2018 and 70% last year to 74% so far this season. And he’s on pace to lap his 19 and 20 passing touchdowns from the last two seasons with 32 this year — he has thrown eight touchdowns without any interceptions in the first four weeks. In the short term, he’s enjoying a boost from some incredible accuracy. He has completed 7.2% more passes than expected according to Next Gen Stats, the second-biggest surplus behind just Russell Wilson (8.5%). But long term, I expect a more explosive set of skill players (including Henry Ruggs and Josh Jacobs) catching more passes to boost Carr’s fantasy scoring after the catch.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers


Relying on his yards-after-catch-producing running backs, the rookie Herbert has taken a similar approach to Carr with a 7.2-yard aDOT and enjoyed similar success with a top-five surplus of 5.9% completion percentage over expectation. But I’ve been impressed by Herbert the most on his deep attempts. With normal deep-ball savant Mike Williams injured on Sunday, Herbert aired a pair of perfect deep shots to unheralded receivers Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton that became 53-yard and 72-yard touchdowns.

And the latter came in the face of heavy pressure from the Bucs’ No. 3 DVOA pass defense (-24.9%).

On the Football Outsiders Fantasy Podcast last week, our film analyst Derrik Klassen explained how the Chargers were making it easier on their rookie passer by adapting some of Herbert’s preferred empty-backfield formations from Oregon and using play-action. With that strategy limiting his potential for mistakes and with the arm talent to hit on some explosive plays, Herbert could defy the odds in joining Joe Burrow as fantasy producer in his rookie season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles


Jeffery couldn’t quite make it back in time for the Eagles’ Sunday night game against the 49ers on Sunday, but he has been practicing on a limited basis for the past week. Jeffery’s efficiencies have declined sharply in recent seasons as the veteran receiver crossed into his 30s. But the Eagles are so lacking in healthy receivers that Jeffery might become the team’s No. 1 receiver by default if he can make it back in Week 5. You won’t want to start Jeffery in fantasy that week against the Steelers’ No. 3 DVOA defense (-26.9%), but the team’s schedule gets much easier after with games against the Cowboys, Giants, and Seahawks in late October and November.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns (95%/96%)
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (94%/96%)
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (94%/91%)
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (92%/94%)
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (92%/93%)
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (92%/93%)
Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers (90%/87%)
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (89%/90%)
Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos (88%/89%)
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers (87%/85%)
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (85%/91%)
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (81%/80%)
Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets (79%/83%)
Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers (77%/86%)
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (73%/84%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (90%/91%)
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (60%/69%)
Devonta Freeman, RB, New York Giants (56%/68%)
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions (51%/28%)
Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers (48%/43%)
Austin Hooper, TE, Cleveland Browns (43%/53%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (42%/23%)
Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers (41%/40%)
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (41%/35%)
Jordan Howard, RB, Miami Dolphins (40%/43%)
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (39%/32%)
Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears (36%/21%)
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (33%/48%)
Matt Breida, RB, Miami Dolphins (32%/28%)
Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets (24%/26%)
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (23%/31%)
Breshad Perriman, WR, New York Jets (22%/8%)
Carlos Hyde, RB, Seattle Seahawks (20%/29%)
Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Football Team (20%/26%)
Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets (18%/20%)
Philip Rivers, QB, Indianapolis Colts (11%/21%)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *