The NFL season is now nine weeks old. Broadly speaking, the waiver wire isn’t quite as important two weeks ago or five weeks ago or seven weeks ago, for a couple of reasons. First, most of the best players who will emerge from the waiver wire this season have already done so. Even in an unpredictable league filled with injuries, there are only so many players who will go from undrafted to fantasy starters. Second, with just two bye weeks left this season, depth won’t matter nearly as much as it has over the last month or so.
Still, the waiver wire will remain an important source of potential fantasy value all the way through the end of the season. Below are the players you should be taking a look at in advance of Week 10.
Corey Davis, WR, Titans
Davis returned in Week 9 after missing the Titans last six games because of a hamstring injury, and he was relatively quiet in the 23–20 win, catching two of five targets for 28 yards. Still, the mere fact that he returned and played a full game at 100% bodes well for the rest of the season. Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker scored touchdowns in the win over the Ravens, but Davis is the one pass-catcher who can truly be a game-breaker for Marcus Mariota. The Titans offense has not taken the step forward so many expected, but at least some of that owes to Davis’s absence for most of the season. Now that he’s back in the fold, the Titans can add a vertical element to the offense that has been lacking. As effective as Matthews has been for the better part of the last two seasons, that simply isn’t his game. Davis, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft out of Western Michigan, can be that brand of player. He’s more than just a depth receiver. Even with bye weeks coming to an end over the next couple weeks, Davis is well worth making a priority on the waiver wire this week.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
Bryant’s 2017 season has been nothing short of a disaster. I don’t blame any of his previous owners for cutting him loose. And yet, he’s too talented to just sit on the waiver wire the rest of the season. I admit that I’m grasping at straws a bit with this one, but the Steelers would have been wise to use the bye week to get Bryant on the same page with everyone else in the offense. They’re always going to lean heavily on Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and Juju Smith-Schuster has been a revelation in his rookie season, but the Pittsburgh offense is more effective, and certainly more explosive, when Bryant is a key contributor. If Bryant’s previous owner in your league let him go, it makes all the sense in the world to take a shot on him over the next two weeks, especially with the bye week possibly serving as an elixir for what has ailed him this season.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens
The Ravens made Woodhead a priority this offseason, signing him on the first day of free agency back in March. They had him healthy for all of one possession before he suffered a hamstring injury that landed him on IR, with a designation to return, but that return is just around the corner. Woodhead practiced last week for the first time since injuring his hamstring, and remains on pace to get back on the field in Week 11. When he does return, he’ll get right back into the role he was supposed to have all season. Javorius Allen has played decently as the Ravens primary pass-catching back, but he’s not nearly the weapon Woodhead is. Alex Collins has emerged on the ground, and his workload likely isn’t in any danger, but Woodhead will make Allen obsolete. Woodhead is obviously a major player in PPR formats, but there should be enough opportunity through the air and on the ground for him to be a factor in standard leagues, too. Woodhead can be the type of player who helps swing regular season and fantasy playoff championships, so long as he can stay on the field.
Matt Forte, RB, Jets
Forte entered Week 9 having played just shy of 50% of the Jets snaps in the previous two games. He racked up 18 touches in the win over the Bills, running for 77 yards on 14 carries, catching four passes for 19 yards, and scoring two touchdowns. Neither he nor Bilal Powell is going to pull away from the other back entirely, and Powell ran for 74 yards on nine carries in Week 9. Still, Forte’s presence in the offense has grown over the last three weeks, and he handled all the goal-line work against the Bills. The Jets still have their bye ahead of them, but Forte could be a flex-worthy player for the rest of the season, depending on matchups and the depth of your league.
Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots
The Patriots were off in Week 9, but don’t let their absence make you forget about Lewis. He’s now the primary runner in the offense, getting double-digit carries in all of the team’s last three games, and totaling 225 yards on 46 carries in his last four contests. James White is going to hog the receiving work, and Rex Burkhead is back in the mix, but Lewis has enough of a role in an elite offense to be a fantasy factor in all formats. The mere fact that he has three straight games with double-digit carries suggests he’s inhabiting the role that LeGarrette Blount made so lucrative last season. Lewis may not have the same touchdown upside as Blount did in 2016, but there’s enough fantasy value here to place him on the flex radar most weeks.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
Damian Williams, RB, Dolphins
We got our first look at the Miami backfield without Jay Ajayi, and it played out mostly as expected. It was a nearly even split of the workload, with a slight tilt in Drake’s direction. Drake played seven more snaps and got nine carries, to Wlliams’s seven. Both backs got six targets, and both caught all six. Drake turned his 15 touches into 104 total yards, while Williams’s 13 touches resulted in 61 yards from scrimmage. Williams got a receiving touchdown, but Drake was more effective overall, with his 69 rushing yards standing out on their respective stat lines. After the Ajayi trade, we said both backs were worth owning, but that Drake was the preferred option. That remains true after one game in a post-Ajayi world.
Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins
Kelley’s two touchdowns in the win over the Seahawks were the ultimate salve for an otherwise terrible day. He ran for just 18 yards on 14 carries, with a long run of five yards. Still, there are two important factors to note for Kelley’s fantasy value. First, he got 14 carries, a clear signal that he remains in command of the rushing share of the Washington backfield when he is healthy. Second, he handled all the goal-line work, turning a favorable game script into a two-touchdown performance. Kelley is likely to deliver a few duds the rest of the season, but his role is such that he should be owned in all fantasy formats. You may never feel great about starting him, but there’s enough touchdown upside here to believe in him as a top-30 running back the rest of the season.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
Eddie Lacy got the start for the Seahawks in Week 9, but exited the game with a groin injury. Rawls owned the backfield from that point forward, running for 39 yards on nine carries and catching two passes for 31 yards. It wasn’t the greatest effort in the world, but it was one of the most encouraging performances by a Seahawks back all season. That likely says more about the Seattle backfield than it does about Rawls, but it’s enough to make him a waiver-wire target. He could lose much, if not all, of his receiving volume when C.J. Prosise returns from an ankle injury.
Robert Woods, WR, Rams
Woods had been quietly effective for the Rams all season, though he had the look of a player whose real-life value didn’t fully translate to the fantasy game. That took a turn in Week 9, when he caught four of five targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams don’t have a true No. 1, with Woods and Cooper Kupp sharing co-equal status, about half a step or so in front of Sammy Watkins. That makes projecting target share for the three troublesome, though Woods and Kupp are relatively safe bets to get at least five or six looks from Jared Goff every week. That volume, coupled with the effectiveness of the Rams offense, makes both Woods and Kupp worth owning. While the latter is widely owned, the former is available in about two of every three leagues.
Robby Anderson, WR, Jets
Anderson found the end zone again in Week 9, his third straight game with a touchdown. All told, he caught four of five targets for 48 yards and his fourth score of the season. Anderson is now up to 31 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns on the year. That translates to 8.03 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 11.48 points per game in PPR formats. He has more catches than DeSean Jackson and Emmanuel Sanders, more yards than Dez Bryant, Jarvis Landry and Chris Hogan, and more touchdowns than Doug Baldwin and Brandin Cooks. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling from week to week, but he has a safe, respectable floor as the No. 1 receiver in a Jets offense that is much better than expected.
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys
Dez Bryant left the Cowboys 28-17 win over the Chiefs with an ankle injury in the second half and did not return to the game. If he misses time, Williams would be the No. 1 receiver in the offense. He had his best game of the season in Week 9, hauling in all nine of his targets for 141 yards. He, too, suffered an injury in the win, though the knee issue he reported in the fourth quarter appears to be minor. He may take it easy in practice this week, but he is expected to play when the Cowboys visit the Falcons on Sunday. If Bryant is out, Williams will be a worthy starter in most fantasy formats. His long-term value, however, is dubious, so don’t break the bank to secure his services. Remember, before the big game against the Chiefs weak pass defense, he had just 21 catches for 216 yards on the season.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers
If the Panthers first game without Kelvin Benjamin was any indication of the personnel the team will use the rest of the season, Samuel is going to be the big winner of the trade. He played 75% of the team’s snaps after playing more than 30% of the team’s snaps just once over the first eight weeks. Not coincidentally, that was the game in which Benjamin left early with a knee injury. Devin Funchess moved over to the X receiver spot, and Samuel stepped into his role as the Z receiver, with Russell Shepard manning the slot. Samuel got five targets in Week 9, catching three of them for 23 yards. The Panthers have a stated goal of stretching the field more, which was part of the motivation for trading Benjamin, and Samuel is the player who can make things happen deep down the field.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
Lee finally turned his big role in the Jacksonville offense into his first touchdown of the season in the team’s Week 9 win over the Bengals. He caught eight passes for 75 yards and got double-digit targets for the second time in the last three weeks. Lee has now topped 60 yards in five of the team’s seven games since losing Allen Robinson to a torn ACL, giving him a decent floor in all fantasy formats. Being the No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville’s offense isn’t the same as having that status in, say, New England’s offense, but it does guarantee Lee a target share that places him safely on the fantasy radar. In every game in which he has received at least six targets, he has at least 65 yards.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars
Of course, Lee’s target share could take a hit in the not-too-distant future. Westbrook, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft out of Oklahoma, is expected to make his career debut next week. He has been on IR with a designation to return all season because of an injury to a core muscle that required surgery. Westbrook opened eyes during the preseason, and was set for a significant role in the offense, even if Robinson had remained healthy. At the very least, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he became the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Lee. There’s enough upside here to take a shot on him, even with the possibility that he’s not much of a fantasy weapon until 2018.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers
Goodwin is now the No. 1 receiver in the San Francisco offense with Pierre Garcon on IR because of a neck injury. He got eight targets in his first game atop the depth chart, but caught just two of them for 38 yards. While the output was disappointing, the fact that he got eight targets bodes well for his future this season. His status as the top receiver for the 49ers could get interesting if and when the team makes the move to Jimmy Garoppolo. So long as C.J. Beathard is starting, though, it’ll be hard to trust Goodwin as much more than a spot starter if you’re in a bad spot due to byes or injuries. If that describes your situation, he could provide some help in Week 10 going up against a Giants defense that is in shambles.
Dontrelle Inman, WR, Bears
Inman will make his Bears debut in Week 10 with the Packers in Chicago. The Bears have been desperate for a vertical threat in the offense since losing Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL in the preseason, and swung a trade for Inman before their Week 8 loss to the Saints. Inman was the odd man out for the Chargers, but he instantly became the best receiver in the Bears offense the moment he touched down in Chicago. He caught 58 of 94 targets last season for 810 yards and four touchdowns, and had six catches on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. He should get an opportunity to bring that deep-ball ability to bear immediately in the Chicago offense. Mitchell Trubisky should be all too excited about using his new weapon immediately.
Josh McCown, QB, Jets
If Kelce, Ertz and Cook are on bye in Week 10, that means Alex Smith, Carson Wentz and Derek Carr are, as well. Smith and Wentz are likely regular fantasy starters in every league this year, so if you need a one-week answer, take a look at McCown. He has accounted for at least two touchdowns in five straight games, and is ninth among quarterbacks in fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. The Jets are on a long week in Week 10 and visit a Buccaneers defense that ranks 31st against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Broncos
This is for owners in superflex and two-quarterback leagues only. Brock Osweiler was predictably terrible in his first start of the season, completing 50% of his passes for 208 yards, 5.47 yards per attempt, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Broncos 51-23 loss to the Eagles. The touchdown came in garbage time with the Eagles defense pretty much just going through the motions with the game well in hand. With Trevor Siemian already deposed, and the Broncos season slowly but surely slipping away, it will likely be time for them to see what they have in Lynch sooner rather than later. Remember, they traded up to take Lynch with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 draft. They clearly view him as someone capable of being their quarterback of the future. Chances are good that he’s under center the moment he proves that he’s over the shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason.