- The Vikings' running back situation will remain a timeshare for the rest of the season, but Latavius Murray will get the ball plenty when the team is nursing a lead.
For the first time in weeks, injuries are not driving waiver wire decisions. There are, however, 12 teams going on bye over the next two weeks, and eight more the two weeks after that. Your roster depth will be as important as ever in the next month. The waiver moves you make this week could pay dividends in the run up to the fantasy playoffs. With that in mind, here are the early names we’re looking at on the wire.
Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings
Murray had his best game of the season in Week 7, running for 113 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He didn’t have a target, but his 18 carries were one more total touch than Jerick McKinnon got in the win over the Ravens. The game script certainly worked in Murray’s favor, but that shouldn’t detract from what he did. He looked like a different back on Sunday, ripping off a 35-yard run and a 29-yard run, the latter of which he took to the house. Murray himself said the week that Dalvin Cook tore his ACL that he was still recovering from off-season ankle surgery, and that was plain to see for anyone who watched him run the last few weeks. He looked like he had finally put the injury behind him on Sunday.
Minnesota’s backfield will remain a timeshare the rest of the season, and Murray will be in danger of falling out of the game plan during weeks where the Vikings fall behind. On the flip side, he’ll get fed when the team is nursing a lead, as was the case on Sunday. The game script should be in the Vikings favor again next week, when they host the Browns. Murray will be a worthy starter again in Week 8.
Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders; DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders
Marshawn Lynch is facing a one-game suspension after shoving a referee during a fracas between the Raiders and Chiefs last Thursday. Lynch is appealing, but his shove of the ref is clear as day, and he also ran off the sidelines to get involved. It’s hard to imagine the league backing off of this one. Assuming he’s out, Richard and Washington will split the backfield work when the Raiders visit the Bills in Week 8. Richard should be the priority add for fantasy owners looking for short-term help in the backfield, which could be a lot of us with six teams going on bye this week. Both Richard and Washington got nine carries and four targets in last week’s win over the Chiefs. Richard turned those into 76 total yards, while Washington got just 40 yards from scrimmage, though he did score a touchdown and will handle the goal-line work. Richard, however, has out-touched and out-snapped Washington on the season. For what it’s worth, they will have their hands full with a Bills defense that ranks eighth against running backs in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA).
Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots
Lewis ran the ball well again in Week 7, picking up 76 yards on 13 carries. He led the Patriots in rushing for the third straight game, and out-snapped Mike Gillislee for the second week in a row. At this point, it is absolutely safe to say that Lewis is the primary runner in New England, joining James White as the lead backs in the team’s backfield. Over the last three weeks, he has rushed for 181 yards on 31 totes, good for 5.84 yards per carry. White is going to dominate the passing-game duties, but Lewis can do enough on the ground to be in the flex discussion, at worst, every week. Whenever the Patriots have a lead, which is often, the game script will be in Lewis’s favor. Remember, he was a force for the Patriots in 2015, totaling 622 yards and four touchdowns on 85 touches in seven games. Injuries robbed him of most of his 2016 season, but he finally has himself back in a significant role in the offense.
Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
Mack turned nine touches into 66 yards in the Colts 27-0 loss to the Jaguars in Week 7. He played 10 more snaps than Frank Gore and tied for the team lead in touches, though a lot of that had to do with game script. Gore falls out of the gameplan with the Colts are trailing by multiple scores, and they were down big early in the Week 7 loss. Still, a team desperate for playmakers can’t ignore what Mack brings to the table. Gore is effective in the right spots, but Mack can be a difference-maker, regardless of where the Colts are on the field. If he can simply secure double-digit touches per game, he’ll have himself in the RB3 and flex mix. The Colts don’t go on bye until Week 11, so Mack can help you out if you’re hit hard by byes with six teams taking a rest in both the next two weeks.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
Ellington was inactive again on Sunday because of a quad injury, but he should be able to return after the Cardinals Week 8 bye. In what was a surprise to hopefully no one, Adrian Peterson went totally quiet when the game script was less than ideal, running for 21 yards on 11 carries. Ellington will still hog all the passing-down work when he is back on the field, and there could be a lot of that for the Cardinals with Carson Palmer likely out for the season after breaking his arm in the loss to the Rams. David Johnson is still on track to return from his dislocated wrist around Thanksgiving, but that will still give the Ellington owner a month or so of potential startable weeks, notably with six teams on bye in Week 9, and four apiece taking a seat in Week 10 and Week 11.
Ted Ginn, WR, Saints
Ginn had a big day in the Saints win over the Packers, catching all seven of his targets for 141 yards. Brandon Coleman scored the lone Drew Brees touchdown, but he got just three targets, and has a total of 19 targets on the season. With Willie Snead inactive again because of a hamstring injury, Ginn is locked in as the No. 2 option in the Saints passing game. Last week, he hauled in all four of his targets for 66 yards and a touchdown, giving him 26.7 points in standard leagues, and 37.7 points in PPR formats the last two weeks. Alvin Kamara is siphoning targets away from New Orleans receivers, but Ginn looks like a safe bet for about six targets per game the rest of the season. Given his big-play ability, the volume in the Saints passing game, and the explosiveness of the offense, he has the look of a WR4 the rest of the season. The Saints, too, already had their bye, making Ginn available for every week for the heaviest bye-week portion of the schedule.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams; Robert Woods, WR, Rams
The Rams have their bye in Week 8, so move right along if you need immediate help, as in a starter this week, at wide receiver. If you’re looking for help beyond Week 8, though, both Kupp and Woods can help you out. Not to belabor the point, but 14 teams go on bye from Week 9 through Week 11, and the Rams are not one of them. Kupp and Woods are both getting enough work in a solid offense to fill in as starters in any or all of those weeks. Kupp has 23 catches on 43 targets for 316 yards and three touchdowns this season, while Woods on a 27-44-381-0 line through seven games. The Rams visit the Giants in Week 9, host the Texans in Week 10, and travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in Week 11. The Texans are the only one of the three that grade as a positive matchup by aFPA, but don’t let that scare you away from either Kupp or Woods. When it comes to depth players at receiver and running back, beggars can’t be choosers.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Bills
Matthews returned in Week 7, weeks ahead of his original timetable after suffering a broken thumb in Week 4. He didn’t do much, catching two of three targets for 10 yards, but we can give him a bit of a pass given that he broke his thumb three weeks ago. The main takeaway is that the Bills continue to win in spite of their receiving corps. Charles Clay still leads the Bills in receiving yards, and he hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury early in the team’s Week 5 loss to the Bengals. LeSean McCoy leads the team with 32 receptions, and Clay is second with 20. Among actual receivers, Matthews, who missed one full game and most of another, leads the team with 12 receptions and 172 yards. Rookie Zay Jones, who was supposed to help inject life into the passing game, has caught seven of 32 targets for 83 yards. The Bills need more production on the outside, and it appears Matthews is the only player on the team who can provide it.
Robby Anderson, WR, Jets
The Jets don’t go on their bye until Week 11, so Anderson can provide some help for receiver-needy fantasy owners the next few weeks. He caught three of five targets for 35 yards and a touchdown in the Jets 31-28 loss to the Dolphins in Week 7. It was his second straight useful game, after he hauled in four of 12 targets for 76 yards in Week 6. This is not the first time in Josh McCown’s career that he has helped create a fantasy-relevant offense, so there is enough reason to believe in Anderson as a fringe starter in the short term. That clearly isn’t a ringing endorsement, but it doesn’t need to be with the reality facing the fantasy community over the next four weeks. Take this week as an example. The Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald), Packers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb), Jaguars (Marqise Lee), Rams (Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins), Giants (Sterling Shepard) and Titans (Rishard Matthews) are all on bye. Removing those players from the pool instantly gives Anderson, at worst, a WR4 projection. There’s almost no wrong way to add depth at receiver and running back for the next four weeks.
Get another perspective on the Week 8 Waiver Wire from our partners at 4for4 Football.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars
Westbrook is on schedule to be activated from IR in advance of the Jaguars Week 9 game against the Bengals. The rookie out of Oklahoma needed surgery on a core muscle for an injury he suffered in practice late in the summer. Before that, he opened eyes all preseason by racking up 288 yards, including a pair of 100-yard games. Preseason is preseason, but it was still impressive to see the fourth-round pick look like one of the best players on the field every time he was out there. Westbrook was slated for a major role in the offense before his injury, and that was with Allen Robinson in the fold. With the team’s top receiver out, Westbrook should have no problem carving out a significant share of the passing game, regardless of what Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns have done this year. The bet here is that Westbrook outperforms one, if not both, from the point he makes his debut through the end of the season.
Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins
Stills had his best game of the season in Week 7, catching six of nine targets for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t nearly all of his damage once Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler, with four of his six receptions for 42 yards and both scores coming with the backup quarterback under center. Whether there’s a special rapport between Moore and Stills is up for debate. What’s not, though, is that the Miami offense was efficient with Moore at the helm. That’s great news for everyone on that side of the ball. DeVante Parker is still nursing an ankle injury that has cost him the last two games. If he is out again in Week 9, Stills will be on the WR3 radar.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons
Sanu returned in Week 7 after missing one game because of an ankle injury. He caught six of 10 targets for 65 yards in the Falcons 23-7 loss to the Patriots. The Falcons offense is out of sorts, looking nothing like the unit that torched the league last year. Like all the receivers we have discussed in this space, though, Sanu provides valuable depth with all the byes looming the next four weeks, especially since the Falcons have already had their off-week. He’s the fourth option in a struggling offense, so fantasy owners should consider him one of the lowest-priority receivers on the waiver wire this week. Still, if you miss out on the players we’ve already discussed, he’s a fine fallback option.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks; Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks
Russell Wilson is on a hot streak, throwing for 1,200 yards, 7.95 yards per attempt, and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions in his last four games. He has at least 295 yards and multiple scores in three of those four contests, once again making due with one of the worst offensive lines in the league. As Wilson elevates the passing game, he makes everyone around him relevant in fantasy leagues. The Seahawks have already had their bye, so if you’re staring at the reality of a lot of your regulars taking a seat over the next few weeks, make a claim for Lockett or Richardson. Both can be worthy spot starters, though understand that they both also have a dangerously low floor. Lockett has 20 catches on 30 targets for 224 yards this season, while Richardson sports a 16-29-269-3 line.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans
Delanie Walker suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the Titans Week 7 win over the Browns. That opens the door for Smith to step into a significant role in the offense. The rookie out of Florida International hasn’t played much because of Walker’s presence, but he has 11 catches on 16 targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is dangerous enough as a pass-catcher for the Titans to not have to alter their scheme with Walker on the shelf. That means Smith is stepping into a role in which Walker has produced 32 catches for 324 yards on 49 targets this year. Smith can be in the TE1 picture for the entire time Walker is out. Be aware, however, that the Titans are on bye in Week 8.
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
Howard had the first big game of his career in Week 7, pulling down all six of his targets for 98 yards and two touchdowns. He played a season-high 71% of the snaps in the loss to the Bills, out-snapping Cameron Brate by 13 plays. It wasn’t the first time this season that he played more snaps than Brate, but it was the first time he clearly outperformed the starter. Brate isn’t going anywhere, and remains one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets in the red zone. Still, the Buccaneers, a team that already had Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Brate, used the 19th overall pick on Howard in this year’s draft for a reason. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see his role growing as the season progresses. There’s some real home-run potential here, especially for a fantasy owner who has nothing to lose at the tight end position.
Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals
Kroft has played as well as could expected since Tyler Eifert went on IR, catching 17 of his 20 targets for 157 yards and three touchdowns over the Bengals last four games. There’s a cap on his ceiling since he doesn’t make a ton of big plays, but he has proved an effective option in the red zone for Andy Dalton. He doesn’t have as much long-term value as Smith or Howard, but he could be the best short-term play of the three. The Bengals host the Colts next week in a game that opened with the home team as an 11.5-point favorite. The Colts rank 22nd in the league in tight end aFPA, and have surrendered four touchdowns to tight ends in seven games. The Bengals figure to be in scoring range quite a bit against the Colts next week, making Kroft a strong stream play.