Fantasy Football: Week 3 Waiver Wire Report

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I’ve begun to put together weekly waiver wire reports for fantasy football. You can see last week’s rankings here and for the most part they didn’t turn out to be awful. Hopefully that gives you enough confidence going forward to trust this process. Ownership numbers come from Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues, and the number in brackets next to ownership are the total snaps that player has taken for their offense. I only looked at players who were owned in 30% of leagues or less, except with the first running back because I can bend the rules however I want.

The rankings represent the priority at that position I’d give a player in determining who to grab off of the waiver wire.

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Running Backs

1. Chris Thompson, RB WAS – 31% Ownership [59]

No waiver-wire running back is getting more touches than Chris Thompson, and he has the benefit of potentially stealing a kick return touchdown. It’s unlikely that he’ll repeat his rushing performance (77 yards on three rushes) but he’s primed for random explosions in yardage that way. The reason he’s appealing is that he gets targets – 12 over the last two games and consistent appearances on passing downs.

2. James White, RB NWE – 26% Ownership [73]

James White is the closest thing to consistent the Patriots have when it comes to running backs, and he has been on the field the most often by a healthy margin. He didn’t get many rushes this last week, but made up for it with eight receptions. That’s not bad. Even with Mike Gillislee poaching his touchdowns, he’s valuable and currently leads all New England players in yards from scrimmage. We know he can score touchdowns anyway, so he should catch up in points in short time.

3. Giovani Bernard, RB CIN – 22% Ownership [62]

Giovani Bernard seemed like he was on the outs in Cincinnati, but he’s gotten been awarded nine touches in both games, and seems to be the only running back that can produce with the poor Bengals offensive line. There’s a decent chance his snaps will increase – especially as Joe Mixon struggles in pass protection – as the season wears on.

4. Shane Vereen, RB NYG – 22% Ownership [48]

It seems odd that a running back with no carries in Week One would be a useful waiver addition, but with nine touches in two consecutive games, as well as more than 50 yards in both games, Vereen seems to be the most reliable back in the Giants backfield — he’s getting more snaps than the other backs, including the nominal starter — who he’s outproducing.

5. Chris Ivory, RB JAX – 3% Ownership [52]

The Jaguars really like running the ball. That makes sense given their quarterback situation, but may not be easy for them to do in the coming weeks as games will get less competitive and they’ll have to pass to keep up. Nevertheless, Ivory manages to get a good number of touches, with 19 in the past two weeks over 52 snaps — a good deal more than most waiver-wire running backs.

6. Rex Burkhead, RB NWE – 21% Ownership [18]

Burkhead has touched the ball on 66% of his snaps, which sounds great but might be an indication that his early production is more of a red herring – he’s only had 18 snaps. He’s not getting many reps in the New England offense, and is clearly a fourth or fifth option as a ballcarrier. Given how fickle the Patriots are with their mid-tier skill players, and his current injury, Burkhead is a difficult add.

7. Mike Tolbert, RB BUF – 7% Ownership [36]

It’s tough to trust touchdown vultures, but Tolbert is a classic one. While he’s only had two rushes in Buffalo’s short-yardage attempts, Buffalo has only had five total short-yardage rushing attempts (and one was Tyrod Taylor). At the very least, there’s some chance he’s splitting those goal line rushes with Lesean McCoy and that could mean the odd touchdown here and there.

8. Jalen Richard, RB OAK – 4% Ownership [31]

Richard is a classically volatile running back and exploded with a 52-yard run that obfuscates his 2.8 yards-per-carry average in otherwise favorable rushing situations. What’s more interesting is his 39-yard catch that could point to more usage in the passing game. That said, Oakland is rich with targets and Richard has only earned three. For now, it’s a fluke and you may be more reliant on the odd punt return in the future than any repeats of his performance against the worst team in the league.

9. Marlon Mack, RB IND – 16% Ownership [28]

Predictably, Marlon Mack’s snaps went down as the Colts played a slightly more competitive game this week. Not only did his snaps ramp down, his season rushing yards took a step backwards as well, with negative three rushing yards added to his tally. The Colts are geared for a few more low-scoring games in the next couple of weeks, which could be tantalizing enough for them to play their other two running backs instead of the fourth-round rookie.

 


Wide Receivers

1. Rashard Higgins, WR CLE – 5% Ownership [55]

It’s more than a little unusual that the Browns moved a player from the practice squad to starter, but they backed up that odd declaration with a full commitment to playing Rashard Higgins more than any other player. Not only did he outsnap Kenny Britt, he was subject to 11 targets and grabbed seven of them for 95 yards. Not only that, the Browns apparently believe in his rushing capability as they gave him a carry for four yards, bringing his yards from scrimmage to a smooth 99. The Browns are going to throw a lot, and their running game isn’t good enough for them to reconsider.

2. Mohamed Sanu, WR ATL – 17% Ownership [96]

Mohamed Sanu has exactly as many snaps as Julio Jones and one more target. He has demonstrated a higher floor than any other player on the waiver wire and he’s playing for an aggressive, high-flying offense that has mostly scored on the ground but is willing to let players make plays in the air. Sanu is due for upward regression in a big way.

3. Jermaine Kearse, WR NYJ – 8% Ownership [104]

This is pretty simple. The Jets are poor and will be (and have been) forced to throw a lot. Jermaine Kearse leads the team in targets while also being the best option in the red zone for jump balls. He converts a good number of his targets and turns a decent chunk of his targets into big plays. He’s second only to Matt Forte (by four yards) in yards from scrimmage in the offense.

4. J.J. Nelson, WR ARI – 22% Ownership [80]

Nelson is an explosive playmaker in an offense that doesn’t really explode much anymore. Still, he leads the team in yardage even with his biggest play taken away. While not a primary option (Larry Fitzgerald out-targets him), he’s clearly a design feature of the Cardinals offense and therefore should be set to grab the odd touchdown or giant game here or there. Given the dearth of targets in Arizona and the recent injury to David Johnson, Nelson has a decent floor as well.

5. Allen Hurns, WR JAX – 27% Ownership [110]

Losing Allen Robinson led to Marqise Lee dominating the Jaguars’ market share. But it also opened up opportunities for some other receivers, including Allen Hurns. This week Hurns turned it into consistent yardage and a touchdown. Lee is still probably the receiver to own (ownership: 35%) but Hurns isn’t a bad consolation prize at the bottom of your bench, especially because his floor might be higher.

6. Kenny Stills, WR CHI – 26% Ownership [60]

Jay Cutler uses Kenny Stills and you should, too. I want to rank him higher than this, but despite his touchdown, he still only received five targets in his only outing. Compare that to the high-target values of the players above him, and it’s hard to justify. If you feel stronger about Stills than the receivers above him on this list, that makes perfect sense.

7. Devin Funchess, WR CAR – 13% Ownership [102]

Funchess is a viable option for Cam Newton and becoming a much better receiver. While he’s not receiving the targets that Kelvin Benjamin and Christian McCaffrey do, he will be a good third receiving choice in light of Greg Olsen’s injury and has touchdown upside.

8. Deonte Thompson, WR CHI – 0% Ownership [80]

With several receivers gone, somebody had to step in to soak up targets. It might be tempting to think that Thompson, a player with 80 snaps and a touchdown last week, is that option, but he’s still behind both Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy in both snaps and targets. He has some kick return touchdown upside but it’s not worth serious consideration until he proves he can be more than a fluke.

9. Brandon Coleman, WR NO – 1% Ownership [106]

Coleman has produced in one game and is really only valuable as long as Willie Snead is suspended — which is only for one more game. In the intervening time, the Saints will be up against a pretty good defense in Carolina. Not only that, Coleman has been functionally the sixth receiver on the roster.

10. Bennie Fowler, WR DEN – 3% Ownership [61]

He moved down in targets and production while the offense moved up in production and passing attempts. It’s not known if he’s cleared to play next week, and there’s a decent chance someone will simply usurp his spot.

11. Paul Richardson, WR SEA – 13% Ownership [80]

He’s a big play threat who grabs targets in an offense that cannot be consistent. That’s better than a receiver who mostly moves the chains for an inconsistent offense because it speaks to fantastic upside — inconsistent offenses can often default to big plays. He’s not getting significantly outsnapped or out-targeted by Tyler Lockett and has thus far produced a little more.

12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR OAK – 2% Ownership [50]

Don’t count on rushing production from a receiver to keep your team afloat. Patterson does have some return capability, though.

13. Ryan Grant, WR WAS – 0% Ownership [68]

Ryan Grant’s production, which is built on a lone touchdown, doesn’t seem to be sustainable. He’s earned inconsistent targets and is third on the team’s receiving corps in snaps.

 


Tight End

1. Charles Clay, TE BUF – 24% Ownership [111]

Clay’s low targets from this last week are likely because LeSean McCoy grabbed an unusual number f them; he will return to a few functional targets here and there and provide low-end tight end play with touchdown upside. His snap count alone is reason for optimism.

2. Evan Engram, TE NYG – 25% Ownership [89]

Just because Engram is listed as number two on the depth chart doesn’t mean he’s functionally the first tight end receiving option. It seems like a crowded receiver corps with Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and so on, but the Giants have been leaning on what Engram can do for a bit. He remains a consistent threat to score.

3. Benjamin Watson, TE BAL – 1% Ownership [90]

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Ben Watson’s explosion in targets, but it is notable that the Ravens only passed once the week before and needed to throw the ball 34 times this last week. He probably won’t get that again, but he is a top target for Flacco right now.

4. Seth DeValve, TE CLE – 0% Ownership [62]

The question is whether to pick between Seth DeValve or David Njoku. It’s a difficult question as both sport a similar number of snaps over the past two games. DeValve out-targets Njoku, but Njoku seems more capable, with higher pre-draft buzz and a higher amount of draft capital to his name. The issue, of course, is that Njoku received his best target (a touchdown) with Kevin Hogan throwing, not DeShone Kizer. For now, I’m going with Seth DeValve because he’s been in on more passing downs and has a higher per-route efficiency, especially with Kizer on the field.

5. Gerald Everett, TE LAR – 0% Ownership [44]

Everett has been losing snaps to Tyler Higbee in a big way, but neither are seriously competing with each other for targets more than they are with Tavon Austin, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. As Austin’s role continues to diminish, there’s room for the next talented pass-catcher to step in. Everett is more talented than Higbee, and helped prove it this week with nearly 100 yards receiving.

6. Virgil Green, TE DEN – 0% Ownership [91]

Green is not getting enough targets to be worth a serious look, but he is outsnapping tight end Jeff Heuerman so he’s the slightly better of the two options. That said, Siemian is going to look to his other receiving options first regardless, so his place atop the tight end pile isn’t incredibly valuable.

7. David Njoku, TE CLE – 7% Ownership [63]

The question is whether to pick between Seth DeValve or David Njoku. It’s a difficult question as both sport a similar number of snaps over the past two games. DeValve out-targets Njoku, but Njoku seems more capable, with higher pre-draft buzz and a higher amount of draft capital to his name. The issue, of course, is that Njoku received his best target (a touchdown) with Kevin Hogan throwing, not DeShone Kizer. For now, I’m going with Seth DeValve because he’s been in on more passing downs and has a higher per-route efficiency, especially with Kizer on the field.

8. Jonnu Smith, TE MIA – 0% Ownership [60]

Let him score some more before he takes a spot on your roster; he’s sixth on the team in targets and the tight end ahead of him (Delanie Walker) is extremely talented.

 


Quarterback

1. Trevor Siemian, QB DEN – 15% Ownership [144]

Some unknown combination of talent, favorable field position, comfortable game scenarios, stellar supporting cast and luck has led to Siemian leading all quarterbacks in fantasy points right now. That’s not sustainable, but that’s not really what you’re asking from a waiver-wire addition. Add him even with the assumption that he’ll regress, because even a cratering Siemian seems to be worth rostering at this point.

2. Jay Cutler, QB MIA – 29% Ownership [67]

No bye week! Also, he didn’t look too bad against the Chargers and is the kind of quarterback who takes shots. Because most fantasy leagues don’t penalize turnovers that much, that’s great news — especially with players like Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker willing to haul those longshot passes in.

3. Jared Goff, QB LAR – 10% Ownership [109]

The nice thing about fantasy football is that talent sometimes doesn’t matter as much as opportunity does. The Rams will keep throwing the ball, albeit not as much as you might have imagined initially, and Goff owners will benefit. He hasn’t created many turnovers, but it won’t matter much in most leagues anyway when he begins to do so. A solid 250-yard threat or so, with the potential to throw a touchdown every game, Goff could be a fine backup.

4. DeShone Kizer, QB CLE – 10% Ownership [118]

The Browns will need to keep throwing and Kizer’s supporting cast is better than they get credit for, but his overall talent level still needs some polish. Despite his low scores so far, he should still have some upside as he learns to take chances in the air and on the ground. For the moment, however, he remains firmly behind some other young options at quarterback except specifically this next week against what might be the worst defense in the NFL.

5. Josh McCown, QB NYJ – 1% Ownership [112]

I can’t imagine that anyone is surprised that the emergence of Jermaine Kearse as a receiving threat for the Jets still hasn’t boosted McCown’s value. The Jets need to run more often and don’t do it, like they have under nearly every coach they’ve had. They have a very tough slate of defenses on their schedule and McCown isn’t talented enough to make it work.

 


Defense

1. Philadelphia DEF – 27% Ownership

They were a top-three defense last year and they get to play Eli Manning twice a year. Not only that, they can feast on some weak offensive lines throughout their schedule including the Chargers, Cardinals, Panthers, 49ers and Bears. They can create sacks and turnovers while preventing points. What more do you need?

 


Kicker

1. Ryan Succop, PK TEN – 21% Ownership

The Titans have had seven field goal attempts in the past two weeks and seem to consistently move the ball into field goal range. Even if they improve their red zone efficiency, this is a decent bet if your kicker’s offense hasn’t been performing.

2. Greg Zuerlein, PK LAR – 11% Ownership

The Rams love Zuerlein’s leg and have been consistently pushing deep field goal attempts for him, with more than five 50+ yard field goal attempts in three of his last five years and a boatload of 30+ and 40+ attempts. The Rams offense hasn’t ever been good enough to really be worth rostering Zuerlein (who has been just outside of a top-twelve fantasy kicker every year) but it’s improved just enough to hit the sweet spot for kickers.

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