- With a heavy dose of byes this week, plenty of fantasy football owners will be looking for replacements. If your QB is resting, Carson Wentz may be the best option.
Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we’ll list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.
We’re getting our first heavy dose of byes this week, with the Saints, Seahawks, Jaguars and Chiefs all idle in Week 5. A certain rocket-armed rookie may be of interest to Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Blake Bortles owners. And speaking of rookies, a rather intriguing one who’s still available in a lot of leagues will finally make his debut in Baltimore. For more on these and other top waiver-wire options, read on ...
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (35% owned)
The boy wonder is completing 64.7% of his passes, is averaging 7.54 yards per attempt and has a 5–0 TD-INT ratio. Wentz has good mobility, and boy, does this kid have an arm. There’s bound to be rookie turbulence, but you can play Wentz with confidence in weeks when he has a good matchup. He has one this week, facing a leaky Lions pass defense in Detroit. Wentz also has a pretty good matchup against Washington in Week 6. (Bonus: Wentz also has his bye week out of the way.) It’s unwise to go overboard in FAAB bidding for any quarterback, but Wentz is worth 10% to 15% of your FAAB budget.
(Talent: B+ | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B+)
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (33% owned)
It’s been quantity over quality for Flacco so far. He’s averaging just 6.31 yards per pass attempt, but he’s thrown 42.5 passes per game. With a home matchup against Washington this week, Flacco is a strong streaming option.
(Talent: B | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Brian Hoyer, Chicago Bears (5% owned)
There have been hints emanating from Bears headquarters that Jay Cutler might not get his job back once his injured thumb has healed. That was the word on the street in Chicago even before Brian Hoyer engineered the Bears’ first victory of the season on Sunday, a 17–14 defeat of the Lions. Hoyer completed 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards, with two TD passes and no interceptions. It may not have been a dazzling aerial display, but the Bears might be inclined to stick with the sort of patient, ball-control approach that Hoyer took on Sunday as an alternative to the risk-heavy and often careless Cutler approach. Whoever quarterbacks the Bears over the next three weeks will encounter favorable matchups, first against the Colts in Indianapolis this week, then at home against the Jaguars and on the road against the Packers.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: C+)
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (42% owned)
Interest in Tannehill is sure to be tepid this week after his less-than-sterling performance in a Thursday-night loss to the Bengals. It should be noted, however, that Tannehill’s next four games will be played at home, against the Titans, Steelers, Bills and Jets. None of those defenses are patsies, but nor are they to be feared, and home cooking is always a plus. One concern is that the Dolphins’ offensive line is awful, save perhaps for rookie Laremy Tunsil. Still, you could do worse for a cheap short-term streamer.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: C- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
If a concussion keeps Carson Palmer out of the Cardinals’ Thursday-night game against the hapless 49ers, Drew Stanton might make a decent if unlikely spot starter thanks to the favorable matchup and an array of playmaking pass catchers. ... Trevor Siemian was thrown onto his shoulder Sunday and has a sprained AC joint, making highly regarded rookie Paxton Lynch an intriguing Week 5 streamer play against a suspect Atlanta defense. ... If you believe in the power of garbage-time passing numbers, then you might believe that Cleveland’s Cody Kessler is streamable this week in a rough matchup against New England.
Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens (25% and 27% owned)
Dixon is due back from a torn MCL this week, and the rookie from Louisiana Tech has a chance to claim a prominent role for offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who traditionally has preferred to have a single running back handle the brunt of the work. West had far and away his best game of the year on Sunday, rushing 21 times for 113 yards and a TD in a loss to the Raiders. But West didn’t do much in his first three games and has been a nonfactor in the Baltimore passing attack. Don’t overreact to West’s 100-yard rushing day against a mediocre Oakland defense. It’s possible that the Ravens work Dixon into the mix by using him exclusively on passing downs, or perhaps he’ll evenly share carries with West, but any early success could quickly lead to an expanded role for the rookie. Bid up to 35% of your budget on Dixon if you’re in dire need of RB help. West is worth a more modest investment—maybe 15% of budget at most in standard leagues, and no more than 5% in PPR leagues.
(Dixon: Talent: B | Opportunity: A | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: A-)
(West: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B)
Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles (12% and 47% owned)
Let’s start with the disclaimer that the RB situation in Philadelphia is quite clearly a committee affair, and Ryan Mathews may well be the committee chair once his balky ankle gets right. Smallwood is nevertheless a worthy speculative play. With Mathews limited to just a handful of snaps in Week 3, Smallwood carried 17 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. The rookie fifth-rounder from West Virginia figures to play a prominent role whenever Mathews can’t answer the bell, and Smallwood might be a significant contributor even when Mathews is healthy. Sproles’s niche in the Philadelphia offense is narrowly defined but assured. Better in PPR leagues than standard formats, Sproles will catch passes, spring the occasional big play and chip in a handful of rushing yards. Smallwood is worth around 15% of your budget. Sproles is worth 10% in PPR leagues but no more than a minimum bid in standard leagues.
(Smallwood: Talent: B- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B)
(Sproles: Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B-)
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (22% owned)
Be sure to monitor the status of Matt Forte, who reportedly was carted to the X-ray room following the Jets’ loss to the Seahawks. If Forte misses any time, Powell would be instantly startable as a dual run-catch threat. Powell has been playing second fiddle to Forte early in the season but had 701 yards from scrimmage last year in 11 games. Better as a pass catcher than as a runner, Powell is more valuable in PPR leagues than standard leagues. Bear in mind that the opportunity grade you see below is just a guess due to the uncertain status of Forte.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B-)
Orleans Darkwa and Bobby Rainey, New York Giants (37%, and 3% owned)
Rashad Jennings has been dealing with a short-term thumb injury and may well be back in action against the Packers this week. But Jennings is neither durable enough nor good enough to handle a workhorse role. With Shane Vereen on injured reserve, Rainey will see a lot of action on passing downs and could have sneaky PPR value. (He may have a smidge of value in standard leagues, too, especially if Jennings can’t avoid injury.) Darkwa would have Week 5 value if Jennings weren’t able to go, though the matchup against the Packers is a tough one. With only 56 career carries heading into Monday night’s game, Darkwa is still a largely unknown commodity. His college resume from Tulane doesn’t suggest NFL stardom, but he did have 39 rushing touchdowns in college, and his athletic profile isn’t bad. If you have the roster space, he’s worth speculative investment.
(Darkwa: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C+)
(Rainey: Talent: C | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C-)
Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner, Detroit Lions (39% owned)
Washington sustained an ankle injury Sunday in the Lions’ loss to the Bears, but the severity of that injury was unclear as of this writing. If he’s out for a while, Zenner is the next man up. It’s becoming apparent that the rushing specialist in Detroit’s backfield-by-committee isn’t going to be particularly valuable, or at least not as valuable as pass-catching RB Theo Riddick. Washington is the better talent than Zenner, though Zenner has his supporters among fantasy analysts and draftniks. The Lions’ putrid run blocking will probably cap the ceiling on both, so don’t go overboard with FAAB bidding.
(Washington: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
(Zenner: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C)
DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders (13% owned)
Washington has logged at least five carries in each of the Raiders’ first four games and is averaging 6.5 yards a pop. The rookie was fortunate that his lost fumble didn’t cost Oakland a road win in Baltimore, but Washington probably won’t be relegated to the doghouse for his first fumble of the season. The Raiders clearly don’t want to use in Latavius Murray in a workhorse role, so Washington should continue to get a handful of touches each week. That role could expand if Murray were to get hurt or fall out of favor.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne (24% and 32% owned)
With Jonathan Stewart still sidelined by a hamstring injury, Whittaker caught all nine targets for 86 yards and ran three times for six yards in a 48–33 loss to Atlanta, while Artis-Payne carried six times for 12 yards and didn’t catch a pass. The negative game script in the lopsided loss to the Falcons favored Whittaker, the preferred back on passing downs, more than Artis-Payne. Going forward, Whittaker has a chance to maintain relevance when Stewart returns (which could be soon), while Artis-Payne will have no value once J-Stew is back. Whittaker is worth a few dollars in PPR leagues. Artis-Payne might maintain some short-term value in standard leagues if Stewart’s recovery drags out, but he has a difficult matchup this week against a tough Buccaneers run defense. A Week 6 matchup against the Saints would be more inviting if Stewart remained out.
(Whittaker: Talent: C | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C+)
(Artis-Payne: Talent: C | Opportunity: D | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C-)
James White will continue to have some PPR value at least until Dion Lewis returns, and Tom Brady could funnel a few more targets White’s way. Lewis himself is worth stashing if you have the roster space. ... With Arian Foster out of commission, the Dolphins have been ladling up an unsavory four-ingredient goulash at RB; Jay Ajayi is the best of the bunch, but you’d have to be starving to want a helping of him. ... Jerrick McKinnon figures to get the bulk of Minnesota’s RB touches in Adrian Peterson’s absence, but the lumbering Chris Thompson has played a minor role in the Washington offense so far, with 15-71-1 rushing and 8-82-1 receiving, but it’s not hard to envision him playing a bigger part. Matt Asiata could punch in some short-yardage TDs and may have value in deeper leagues that use standard scoring. ... Jalen Richard is third in the Raiders’ RB pecking order, but the kid has looked good so far, and it wouldn’t take much for his stock to jump. ... Javorius “Buck” Allen finally played on Sunday after being a healthy scratch for the Ravens’ first three games. He only caught a couple of passes but could eventually be a useful asset in PPR leagues. ... Josh Ferguson, who had seven receptions for 33 yards against the Jaguars in London, seems to be passing Robert Turbin as the top backup (and handcuff) to Frank Gore. ... C.J. Spiller had two carries and two catches for 17 total yards in his Seahawks debut. The change of venue gives a needed jolt to his flat-lining fantasy value, though it’s hard to see him playing more than a peripheral role in Seattle.
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (37% owned)
On pace for a 92-catch, 972-yard season, Enunwa has played a prominent role in the Jets’ offense. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick may start leaning even more heavily on the big WR/TE hybrid if Eric Decker continues to miss time with a shoulder injury. Enunwa should be owned in every league. Bid aggressively if you’ve sprung a leak at the WR position.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B+)
Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns (48% owned)
A lot of owners were forced to drop Coleman to fill other roster needs after Coleman broke his hand a couple of weeks ago. He’s expected to remain out another 3–5 weeks but should play a major role in the Browns’ offense upon his return. The distribution of targets would have been tricky had Josh Gordon been part of the mix, too, but with Gordon no longer part of the Browns’ plans, Coleman and Pryor are the only two receivers in Cleveland who matter. This would be a good time to proactively snare Coleman before his return draws closer and the price goes up.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans (45% owned)
The darling of the preseason is now owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues after failing to reach amass 50 yards in any of his last three games. Admittedly, Sharpe has been a disappointment thus far. Still, he’s averaging eight targets a game and hasn’t had any fewer than seven targets in any of his first four outings. Being the Titans’ No. 1 receiver might not mean much, but that sort of target volume should eventually pay dividends for Sharpe. This might not be a bad time to invest in a deflated stock.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers (17% owned)
Another game, another gain of 40-plus yards for the second-year man from Auburn. With his 47-yard catch in Sunday night’s demolition of the Chiefs, Coates now has five gains of 40 or more yards. Never mind that his target load has been relatively light: This is a dude who can do a lot with a little. It’s also reasonable to think that Coates is endearing himself to QB Ben Roethlisberger by repeatedly making big plays. Do yourself a favor and stash Coates away.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (7% owned)
With Sammy Watkins going on injured reserve, Woods becomes the Bills’ No. 1 receiver by default. He saw a team-high 10 targets Sunday in Buffalo’s 16-0 win over New England, and he’s destined to see a lot of looks even in a ball-control offense. The biggest problem here is that Woods is a possession receiver who does his best work on short and intermediate routes, and Bills QB Tyrod Taylor throws a pretty deep ball but tends to be erratic on short and intermediate throws. This QB-WR pairing isn’t exactly a match made in heaven, but Woods is still one of the better widely available options at wide receiver this week.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (45% owned)
More than just a novelty, Beasley is becoming the Wes Welker of the Dallas offense, consistently getting open on short routes and picking up good yardage after the catch. He hasn’t found the end zone yet, but Beasley is on a 92-catch, 1,116 yard pace. As long as Dez Bryant remains sidelined, Beasley is must-start in PPR leagues and warrants flex consideration in standard leagues.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (24% owned)
Hogan has caught only eight passes over his first four games with the Patriots, but Tom Brady is the rising tide that lifts all ships in New England. With Brady back from his suspension this week, Hogan’s value could soar. Bid up to 10% of budget if you’re WR-needy.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Dontrelle Inman finally got involved in the San Diego passing game, turning in a 7-120-1 performance in the Chargers’ loss to the Saints on Sunday. He’s an intriguing commodity, though we need to affix an asterisk to his Week 4 performance since it came against the atrocious New Orleans defense. ... The Rams’ Kenny Britt has caught at least four passes in each of the Rams’ first four games and is on pace for more than 1,000 yards. ... Finally healthy again, Victor Cruz is contributing as the third receiver for a Giants offense that uses more three-WR formations than any other team in the league. ... Mohamed Sanu is a starter in a strong passing attack, but he and his modest talents have produced only 13-152-1 thus far. ... There isn’t a great deal of WR value in Cincinnati beyond A.J. Green, but Brandon LaFell is on an 832-yard pace and warrants consideration in deep leagues. ... Adam Humphries has passed Vincent Jackson as the second-best WR for Tampa Bay and is worth a look in PPR leagues. ... Good ol’ Eddie Royal still has sporadic PPR value at age 30, as he reminded us last week by catching all seven of his targets for 111 yards and a TD against Detroit; Royal’s value ticks up if Kevin White misses any time due to the injury he sustained Sunday. ... While Jamison Crowder is now owned in half of all Yahoo leagues and thus not eligible for inclusion here, his teammate Pierre Garcon is still readily available if you find yourself craving low-impact PPR depth. ... With 18-202-1 so far, Jeremy Kerley offers sneaky PPR value and is the only 49ers receiver worth owning. ... It’s too early to write off Markus Wheaton, a highly pedigreed receiver playing in an explosive passing offense, but this is his fourth season, we’re still waiting for him to show consistency, and he’s now playing behind Sammie Coates.
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10% owned)
In the two games since Austin Seferian-Jenkins was dismissed from the Buccaneers, Brate has caught 10-113-2 on 18 targets. The target volume should remain stable going forward, making Brate a worthwhile choice for anyone in need of TE help.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (12% owned)
The pass-catching options in Buffalo are limited now that ace WR Sammy Watkins is on IR, so Clay could get a steady stream of targets. He’s an ordinary talent, but sometimes opportunity trumps ability.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers (30% owned)
In the two games Antonio Gates has missed with a hamstring injury, Henry has had 9-133-1 on 12 targets. It’s unclear when Gates will be able to return, and if he misses Week 5, Henry will make an excellent streaming option against an Oakland defense that has trouble with opposing tight ends.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons (45% owned)
The 31-year-old veteran isn’t a true TE1, but he’s making himself useful in Atlanta and offers streaming-TE value. Tamme has 16-157-2 on 22 targets and draws matchups against the Broncos and Seahawks the next two weeks.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C+)
Window shopping: Jack Doyle had one catch for six yards Sunday, yet he had three or more catches in each of the Colts’ three previous games. ... Clive Walford hasn’t produced more than 50 yards in any game so far, but he has 11-102-1 on 16 targets. ... Virgil Green could be back soon from a calf injury. He’s missed the Broncos’ last two games after catching 7-74-0 in the first two. ... It was widely believed that Ben Roethlisberger loves throwing to his tight ends; Jesse James is doing his best to disprove that theory. James does have two TD catches, though, so there’s that.