- A handful of injuries have made certain players must-adds in fantasy football leagues, including Giovani Bernard. And now that we've seen two weeks of Fitzmagic, should owners add Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Injuries always create opportunities on the waiver wire, and this week’s top priority results from an injury in Cincinnati. Before we get to that, however, Michael Beller and 4for4’s John Paulsen discuss the sensation of the early season, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and a few other intriguing situations around the league.
Michael Beller: Alright, John, another week of the NFL regular season is in the books, and I have one big question for you. How seriously should we take Ryan Fitzpatrick?
It isn't often that we discuss quarterbacks on the waiver wire. In one-QB leagues, free agent quarterbacks are typically no more than streamers. In two-QB leagues, any quarterback with a modicum of value is already owned. Fitzpatrick is threading that challenging needle this season, turning himself into a regularly available quarterback with long-term value in one-QB leagues. At least in my estimation. I think he has played well enough to keep the starting gig when Jameis Winston returns, and that the Buccaneers passing game has shown surprising signs of life that suggest he'll be part of the fantasy picture all season long. How do you read this situation?
We probably should have discussed Phillip Lindsay in some detail last week, huh? There's no avoiding it now after the undrafted free agent out of Colorado ran for 107 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in Denver's come-from-behind 20-19 win over Oakland. In the process, Lindsay became the first undrafted free agent in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in both of his first two games. Royce Freeman, meanwhile, got just eight carries for 28 yards against the Raiders, and has yet to catch a pass. We have to assume that Lindsay is now atop the depth chart in Denver, right?
I'll let you plant our wide receiver flag for the week. Who opened your eyes and will be getting your attention at the position on the waiver wire in advance of Week 3?
John Paulsen: Fitzpatrick isn’t going to maintain his ridiculous numbers (13.43 yards per attempt, 13.1% TD percentage) but he’s taking full advantage of one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the league. Mike Evans is a legit No. 1 option, DeSean Jackson is showing that he still has speed to burn and Chris Godwin is one of the most talented young receivers in the game. Throw in O.J. Howard and his 4.51 speed at the tight end position, and it’s obvious that Fitzmagic has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. He’s definitely worth streaming in Week 3 at home against a Steelers defense that just got shredded by Patrick Mahomes. I do see a couple of speed bumps in Week 4 (at Chicago) and Week 6 (at Atlanta), which sandwich Tampa Bay’s Week 5 bye. If the Bucs drop either or both of those games against good defenses, the Bucs could quickly turn back to Jameis Winston. But if Fitzpatrick is 4-1 heading into Week 7, I would have a hard time seeing Winston immediately installed as the starter.
Whatever fantasy owners spent on Lindsay after Week 1 was probably the right amount. He now has 32 touches for 213 yards and a touchdown through two weeks, while Freeman has 23 touches for 99 yards and a touchdown. At the very least, I think we have to view Lindsay as a Danny Woodhead-type in a committee situation. At best, he’s the lead back in that committee with extra value in PPR formats. And remember, there’s actually upside from here since the Broncos are still giving Devontae Booker 25%-33% of the snaps.
Two young receivers emerged as possible waiver pickups this week: James Washington (one catch for 14 yards and a touchdown on five targets in Week 2) and Antonio Callaway (three catches for 81 yards and a TD on four targets). Both players saw more than 80% of the snaps, but I would favor Callaway given the Browns’ decision to release Josh Gordon. That move created quite a bit of opportunity in the Browns receiving corps, and Callaway is in position to take advantage. Washington is also worth a pickup given his ability to compete for 50/50 balls and the quality of his quarterback.
Beller: We agree on both Fitzpatrick and Lindsay, and I agree that Callaway is one of the receivers to go after on the waiver wire this week. It’s impossible to ignore the opportunity available in Cleveland with the stunning soon-to-be resolution of the Gordon situation.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals
Joe Mixon will miss 2–4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, making Bernard the priority add in all leagues where he is available. Bernard ran the ball six times for 27 yards and caught four passes for 15 yards in the Bengals 34-23 win over the Ravens last week. More importantly, he handled all the work out of the backfield after Mixon left the game, and that’s a trend we can expect to hold true while the starter is on the shelf. Bernard started the final five games of last season for Cincinnati, getting at least 15 touches in all of them, twice toping 130 yards from scrimmage, and scoring two touchdowns. He’ll be a worthy starter as long as Mixon is out.
Latavius Murray, Vikings
This one applies more to Dalvin Cook owners than anyone else. The second-year player out of Florida State left Sunday’s tie with the Packers because of a hamstring injury, but it did not appear to be much of an issue after the game. Hamstring injuries are rarely minor, but the early indications are that Cook won’t miss any time. Cook owners will want to protect their investment, while fantasy owners who don’t have Cook would be wise to focus their waiver-wire attentions elsewhere. It doesn’t seem that there will be much payoff here from sniping the Cook owner on the wire by grabbing Murray.
Jordan Wilkins, Colts
Marlon Mack returned in Week 2, but it was Wilkins who again led the Colts’ backfield in carries, yards and snaps. Wilkins was on the field for 24 plays, running the ball 10 times for 61 yards. Mack got the same number of carries, but turned them into just 34 yards. What’s more, Wilkins spent some time getting checked out by the training staff after a minor ankle injury, which likely cost him a handful of touches. More likely than not, this backfield is going to be a fantasy headache all season. Wilkins, however, leads it and should be owned in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues.
Javorius Allen, Ravens
Allen played the same number of snaps as Alex Collins in Baltimore’s 34-23 loss to Cincinnati in Week 2. That was largely driven by game script, with the Bengals scoring the first 21 points of the game. Still, what the game showed is that Allen will be a key weapon in the Ravens’ passing game, with the USC product catching five of seven targets for 36 yards. Just as importantly, he got his second short-yardage touchdown of the season, a critical piece of his long-term value. If he were just a goal-line back or just a receiving back, he wouldn’t be much of a fantasy option. With both, however, he can cobble together enough value to be a relevant depth back.
Corey Clement, Eagles
Clement got a little more run in Week 2, carrying the ball six times for 30 yards and a touchdown, and catching five passes for 55 yards. That owed largely to Darren Sproles being inactive and Jay Ajayi leaving the game with a back injury. Ajayi returned, and even with him missing a few possessions, Clement still got just six carries. He remains a valuable depth back who should be owned in most 12-team leagues, but he’s unlikely to be a regular starter without an injury creating more consistent opportunity.
Chris Ivory, Bills
This is all about LeSean McCoy’s injury. The starter left Week 2’s loss to the Chargers with a rib injury, which opened the door for Ivory to score his first touchdown of the season. With that said, it sounds like McCoy will be able to play in Week 3, which would keep Ivory relegated to backup duty. On top of that, the Bills’ offense looks like an absolute mess that is unlikely to produce much fantasy value this year. Owners in deeper leagues can throw a few FAAB dollars at Ivory, but don’t go crazy to secure his likely marginal services.
Theo Riddick, Lions
Riddick is one of the many backs setting eye-popping reception paces after catching nine of 12 targets for 47 yards in Detroit’s Week 2 30-27 loss to San Francisco. With Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones all locked into large roles in the offense, it’s hard to imagine too many 12-target games for Riddick. Still, he’s clearly the top receiving back in a pass-first, pass-happy offense.
Nick Chubb, Browns
Chubb carried the ball just three times in Week 1 and did even less in Week 2, running twice for 14 yards. Carlos Hyde, however, has been unimpressive, picking up 105 yards on his 38 carries this season. With as bizarre and disheartening an 0-1-1 start as possible, the Browns may look to give the offense a shot in the arm when they host the Jets in Week 3. It’s worth taking a small gamble on Chubb on the wavier wire hoping that the team starts to give the rookie out of Georgia more run.
John Brown, Ravens
It’s likely that this is the week where Brown’s ownership rate finally reaches a level where it should have been immediately after the end of draft season. Brown was great again in Week 2, catching four of his team-high 10 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. In two games, he has seven catches on 14 targets for 136 yards and two scores, all while bringing a unique element to the Baltimore offense. Buck Allen may wrest touches away from Alex Collins, and Willie Snead and Mark Andrews can steal possession-style targets away from Michael Crabtree, but no one will challenge Brown’s primacy as the team’s best deep-ball receiver.
What has to make the fantasy community even more excited about Brown are the red-zone looks. Joe Flacco looked his way inside the 20-yard line three times, and all of those have come from inside the 10. In Week 2, Brown got an end-zone target from inside the 5-yard line, and while he dropped what should have been a touchdown, the confidence Flacco has shown in him in scoring range is encouraging. Brown is always going to get plenty of opportunity on balls deep down the field. If he can add to that consistent looks inside the 5- and 10-yard lines, his touchdown upside increases dramatically.
Geronimo Allison, Packers
Allison was productive again in Week 2, catching all six of his targets for 64 yards. He was tied with Randall Cobb for third on the team in targets, trailing Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham. What’s more, the Packers running game was a presence all afternoon, with Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery combining for 24 carries. Even when Aaron Jones returns next week, it’s not going to be out of the ordinary for Aaron Rodgers to attempt 42 passes, as he did on Sunday. Even though Allison is likely to run third, at best, in the passing game, there will be enough opportunity to go around.
Allison has 14 targets in the first two weeks of the season, pulling down 11 of them for 133 yards and a touchdown. He has put up those numbers against the Bears and Vikings, which appear at this early stage of the season to be two of the better defenses in the league. Twelve of Allison’s 14 targets have come from Rodgers, meaning he has a 16.7% target share with the starter on the field. If the fantasy community can expect that to hold all season, Allison is going to be relevant in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway, Browns
With the weekend’s shocking news that Josh Gordon is out in Cleveland, someone will need to step up alongside Jarvis Landry in the passing game. Higgins and Callaway both had their moments against the Saints, and are worthy pickups in most formats. Higgins got seven targets, catching five of them for 47 yards, while playing 74.2% of the team’s snaps. Callaway had a slightly higher snap rate at 80.6% and caught three of his four targets for 81 yards, including a dramatic 47-yard touchdown from Tyrod Taylor which tied the game, albeit briefly, late in the fourth quarter. The preference here is for Higgins, but both should be able to find spots in your typical competitive 12-team leagues.
Dede Westbrook, Jaguars
Don’t be fooled by the box score or the highlight reel. Yes, Westbrook’s catch and run that resulted in a 61-yard touchdown, icing the win for the Jaguars over the Patriots, was an impressive play. He had just three catches for 22 yards before that play late in the game, and was tied for fourth on the team with five targets, trailing both Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief. There doesn’t appear to be a true No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville, with Moncrief at 14 targets, Cole at 12 and Westbrook at 11, but Cole has been the most consistently productive relative to his opportunity. None of the three is a reliable starter, but all carry value as depth receivers.
Anthony Miller, Bears
Miller scored his first career touchdown in the Bears' 24-17 win over the Seahawks on Monday night. Unfortunately, the score was one of just two catches, and he finished the night with 11 yards. Miller has yet to break through in the Bears' first two games, and, thus far, the team's exciting new-look offense is still more of a theory than a real thing. Still, there's enough potential here to make Miller a target in deeper leagues, and the fact that he got a look from Mitch Trubisky inside the 10-yard line bodes well for his touchdown upside.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons
Ridley experienced a host of career firsts in Week 2. His first target, his first catch and his first touchdown all came in Atlanta’s 31-24 win over Carolina. All told, Ridley caught four of five targets for 64 yards and a score. He played 13 fewer snaps than Mohamed Sanu, and it seems likely that he’ll remain third among the team’s receivers in snap rate for the foreseeable future. It’s encouraging that he was able to produce with the somewhat limited opportunity, though, and his touchdown came on a play from the 11-yard line. Given that Atlanta has struggled mightily in the red zone dating back to last year, any player who helps the team find paydirt should be rewarded with more looks in the scoring area of the field.
Willie Snead, Ravens
Baltimore’s offense isn’t likely to support three WR3s or better all season, and Snead is running third to Michael Crabtree and John Brown. We cannot ignore that he has 14 targets in two games, though, or that he has caught nine of them for 103 yards and a touchdown. If you have your full team available to you and you’re starting Snead, chances are something has gone terribly wrong. Byes are just two weeks away, though, and once they start they are with us through Week 12, typically the second-to-last week of the fantasy regular season. Snead can be a valuable guy once the byes start to hit.
Phillip Dorsett, Patriots
Dorsett wasn’t nearly as good in Week 2 as he was in Week 1, catching five passes for 44 yards. He did out-catch, out-yard and out-target Chris Hogan for the second straight week, however, though it was Hogan who scored two touchdowns. He played all but five of New England’s 61 snaps, and may be carving out a role for himself in a Patriots future that will eventually include Julian Edelman. Give him a look if you’re in need of some deep receiver help.
Will Dissly, Seahawks
Dissly didn't show up until late in the Seahawks' 24-17 loss to the Bears on Monday night, but he scored a meaningless (in real life) touchdown in the fourth quarter, ending with three catches for 42 yards and the score. In two games, he has six catches on 10 targets for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and appears to have a relevant role in the Seattle offense. With the team struggling for reliable pass-catching options, Dissly figures to be on the WR1/2 radar every week.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars
Seferian-Jenkins defied all the odds, catching a touchdown pass that wasn’t called back by penalty or replay review. He caught three passes for 23 yards and the score in Jacksonville’s 31-20 win over New England, making him one of four different pass-catchers to connect on a touchdown with Blake Bortles. Seferian-Jenkins remains a touchdown-dependent fantasy player who’s no more than the third or fourth option in Jacksonville’s passing game, so he’s more a streamer than a regular starter in all but the deepest of leagues.
Jesse James, Steelers
James had a particularly great matchup against the Chiefs in Week 2, and he won’t be the last tight end this season to go off against that soft defense. Having said that, it’s impossible to ignore a five-catch, 138-yard, one-touchdown line from any tight end, given the position’s current environment. James is in the same class as Dissly and Seferian-Jenkins, better cast as a streamer than a regular starter, but he has a greater chance to retain long-term value because of the strength of Pittsburgh’s offense.