The bye-week portion of the schedule kicks off in Week 4, and while it’s a relatively benign start with Carolina and Washington taking a seat this week, and Chicago and Tampa Bay getting the week off in Week 5, things take a turn after that. The Saints and Lions have byes in Week 6, and then there are at least four teams off per week for the following five weeks. In other words, the moves you make on the waiver wire this week could set you up for success during the toughest stretch of the fantasy season. With that let’s get to this week’s discussion at the top of the waiver wire.
Michael Beller: Week 3 brought us some huge surprises (the Browns won! The Bills aren't completely lifeless!), but I want to focus on something that felt a little more predictable. Namely, I want to pick your brain on three wide receivers who look like they're going to be part of the fantasy picture all season.
Let's start in Cincinnati with Tyler Boyd. The third-year wideout was already claimed in a lot of leagues after his big game in Week 2, and he followed that up by catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. A.J. Green is dealing with what, for the time being, appears to be a minor groin injury, but I'm not sure his injury status matters much with respect to Boyd's fantasy value. It seems like everything is coming into place for him this year. What are your expectations for Boyd going forward.
Mike Williams, too, was firmly on the fantasy radar before this week, and after his game against the Rams it's safe to say this is the last time he'll appear in a waiver wire column this season. The second-year player from Clemson hauled in four of seven targets for 81 yards and two scores, giving him three on the year. He has at least 80 yards or a touchdown in all three games this season, and has clearly become a key part of the Chargers' offense. After being held back by nagging injuries all of last season, he's showing why he was the seventh overall pick in last year's draft. In your estimation, is Williams a WR2/3 type, or will he be more of a depth receiver in the fantasy world?
Finally, Calvin Ridley pulled an Odell Beckham on Sunday, becoming the first rookie receiver since OBJ in 2014 to post a three-touchdown game. Ridley torched the Saints, racking up seven catches for 146 yards and the trio of scores. In the last two weeks, he has 11 receptions for 210 yards and four scores in the last two weeks. We know Julio Jones is the big show in town, but is there enough room in this offense for Ridley to turn himself into a fantasy mainstay this season? And finally, how would you rank these three receivers, all of whom should be owned in all competitive leagues, for the rest of the year?
John Paulsen: As they say in the financial industry, Boyd’s fundamentals are strong. He’s a former second-round pick out of Pittsburgh, so he had the college pedigree to set him up for success as a pro. As a rookie he caught 54 passes (on 81 targets) for 603 yards and a touchdown. His second season was forgettable, largely due to injury (10 games played), but production was also a problem. Conventional wisdom pegged him as the No. 4 option in the passing game after A.J. Green, John Ross and Tyler Eifert, but he has established himself as the second option in his third year. He’s currently on pace for 1,328 receiving yards, which seems like a stretch, but 900-1,000 yards and six to eight touchdowns seems completely reasonable. I view him as a WR4 with WR3 upside as the season wears on.
Williams is definitely benefiting from the absence of Travis Benjamin, who has missed the last two games. He has racked up six catches for 108 yards and three scores in that time, but he did post five grabs on six targets for 81 yards in Week 1 with Benjamin active. Whereas Boyd is playing 75% or more of the snaps, Williams has played 67%-68% of the snaps in the last two weeks with Benjamin sidelined, so his playing time seems to be a bit more tenuous than Boyd’s. However, his production should result in more snaps even when Benjamin returns because he’s clearly been more productive than both Benjamin and Tyrell Williams. Again, we thought he would be the No. 4 option in the passing game, but it appears that he’s angling to be the second option behind Keenan Allen. It doesn’t hurt that the Chargers don’t have much going on at tight end either. (Pours another one out for Hunter Henry).
After a goose egg in his Week 1 debut where he wasn’t even targeted despite playing two-thirds of the snaps, Ridley has posted back to back top-30 weeks, including Week 3’s No. 1 WR performance. He’s still being out-snapped by Mohamed Sanu (82% to 59%) but he has out-targeted Sanu 13 to nine in that span, and—at the risk of repeating myself—he’s establishing himself as the No. 2 option in his passing game. I would expect that his snap share will surpass 70% sooner rather than later.
I would probably rank these three Boyd, Ridley, Williams, but, as you said, they all should be owned in competitive fantasy leagues.
Beller: I’m definitely with you on Boyd at the top of the triumvirate, I see Ridley and Williams generally as equals, with a slight lean in Ridley’s favor, just because of how much of the production in the Chargers’ offense is sucked up by the run game.
And now, the rest of the Week 4 waiver wire. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns
One week ago, Mayfield was the highest-profile backup in the league, waiting for his opportunity to take over. Now, the entire city of Cleveland looks on him as a savior after he led the Browns to a dramatic come-from-behind win, the team’s first victory since December 24, 2016. The Browns named him the official starter on Monday.
Mayfield instantly changed the Browns’ offense, unlocking all the latent potential in the offense that was dormant with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. Jarvis Landry caught eight passes for 103 yards, including one on a gutsy seam throw from Mayfield that set up a touchdown. The run game came to life, with Carlos Hyde rushing for 98 yards and two scores on 23 carries. Mayfield was at the center of it all, completing 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards and 8.74 yards per attempt, leading three touchdown drives. At the very least, Mayfield is part of the huge group of quarterbacks on the stream radar every week, and he’ll be worth starting against the Raiders in Week 4. At the best, he’ll be in the starting mix in most weeks.
Javorius Allen, Ravens
Allen vultured another short-yardage touchdown from Alex Collins on Sunday, but he got just six carries compared with Collins’s 18. He caught three of four targets for 19 yards and second score, and played more snaps than Collins, so clearly he isn’t going away. Allen’s not going to be a regular fantasy starter without an injury to Collins, but he has enough of a role in the offense to be a valuable depth back in most leagues.
Chris Ivory, Bills
Ivory didn’t get in on the fun in Buffalo’s win over Minnesota, running for 56 yards on 20 carries, but pay particular attention to that second number. If LeSean McCoy has to miss more time with his rib injury, it’s clear that Ivory will be the lead back for the Bills. Marcus Murphy got eight carries, a negligible percentage compared with what Ivory secured, and the starter also netted four targets to Murphy’s one. The favorable game script certainly added to Ivory’s volume, and, despite the shocking win in Minnesota, that isn’t likely to be a regular occurrence for the Bills. Still, if you’re in need of short-term help at the position, Ivory could be on the radar if McCoy sits out in Week 4.
Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack, Colts
We might as well take the Colts backs all at once, because this could be a headache all season. The likeliest outcome is that this just isn’t going to be a backfield worthy of much fantasy attention. Wilkins ran six times for 19 yards in the Colts’ 20-16 loss to the Eagles, while Hines picked up 18 yards on five carries. Hines did make a bit of an impact as a receiver, catching all five of his targets for 25 yards, but that’s not exactly inspirational of much confidence in the fantasy world. Mack might be the most intriguing, based largely on the fact that he didn’t play in Week 3. The Colts’ run game is in need of a shot in the arm, and Mack should get an opportunity to provide it when he returns. All three are worth claiming in deeper leagues, but understand that a shot on any of them is mostly one taken in the dark.
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles
Smallwood took on a larger role in Week 3 with Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles out, running 10 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. He also got five targets, catching three of them for 35 yards. Corey Clement got 16 carries and played 45 snaps while Smallwood played 29, but the latter had enough of a role to be in the fantasy mix if Ajayi and Sproles are out again in Week 4. He’ll likely recede in the gameplan once again when Ajayi returns, so his value in most leagues is fleeting. The Eagles visit the Titans next week. Smallwood could find himself on the flex radar if Ajayi and Sproles are out, making him a worthy waiver target in deeper formats.
Jalen Richard, Raiders
Richard caught six passes for 59 yards in the Raiders’ 28–20 loss to the Dolphins in Week 3, and now has 15 receptions for 114 yards on the season. He’s not going to do much, if any, damage as a runner without an injury to Marshawn Lynch, but he has a significant role as a receiver that makes him attractive in PPR leagues. Even in those formats, though, he’s more a depth guy to have around in case of byes and emergency, not someone you’ll look to as a starter in most circumstances.
Rashard Higgins, Browns
Higgins didn’t do a whole lot during the Baker Show, catching three passes for 32 yards, but everyone in Cleveland deserves a look with Mayfield at the helm. In just more than two quarters, we saw just how significantly he can transform this offense. The obvious winners, other than Mayfield himself, are Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde and David Njoku, but everyone with a meaningful role in the offense is worthy of consideration for at least the next few weeks to see what the full Mayfield effect is. Even with the quarterback change, Higgins is a WR5-type in most leagues.
Antonio Callaway, Browns
Callaway is a bit more intriguing than Higgins for two reasons. First, we saw how dangerous he can be on his 47-yard touchdown in Week 2 from Tyrod Taylor. Second, he got 10 targets in the Browns’ Week 3 win over the Jets, five of which came from Mayfield. The rookie is going to be willing to take shots down the field, and Callaway’s speed makes him a major threat on the deep ball. He’s the readily available Browns receiver with a higher ceiling, and given that both are fringy options in most leagues, his upside makes him the more desirable target.
Geronimo Allison, Packers
Allison came through again in Week 3, hooking up with Aaron Rodgers for a 64-yard touchdown. He had just one other catch the rest of the game, but now has 13 receptions on 18 targets for 208 yards and two touchdowns on the season. He got just four targets in the loss to Washington, but played 52 of 69 snaps, and is getting more than enough run to be on the fantasy radar most weeks. The Packers’ offense hasn’t been quite as explosive as expected, thanks in part to Rodgers’ knee injury, but Allison is doing enough to warrant a spot in most fantasy leagues, especially with byes starting this week.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers
Godwin was limited in practice all week because of a toe injury, but it sounds like he’ll play against the Steelers on Monday night. The rising tide of Tampa Bay’s passing game has lifted his ship, with the second-year player out of Penn State catching eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s first two games. The over/under on Steelers-Buccaneers is 53.5, so there’s a good chance Godwin can add to his touchdown total on Monday night. No matter what happens in the game, he’s worth an add in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals
Kirk had his first big game as a pro, catching seven of eight targets for 90 yards in Arizona’s 16-14 loss to Chicago in Week 3. Kirk hadn’t done much the first two games of the season, but he was on the field a ton, playing nearly 80% of the team’s snaps in those games. He followed that up by playing 37 of 50 snaps on Sunday, getting a target on 21.6% of his snaps played. The offense struggled yet again, and that could be an issue all season, even if the team makes a permanent move to Josh Rosen. The rookie out of Texas A&M, though, is likely already a top-three playmaker in the offense, and should be featured more heavily in the future. His youth and upside, combined with the vacuum in Arizona’s offense, gives him a ceiling unmatched by most players as widely available as he is.
Ted Ginn, Saints
Ginn scored a touchdown in the Saints’ 43-37 win over the Falcons on Sunday, but he finished with just three catches for 12 yards. He was dealing with a knee injury, though, so it’s possible he played the game at less than 100%. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara hog so much of the production in this offense, but there’s essentially no bad way to get invested in the Saints. Ginn isn’t going to be a top-30 receiver, but there is always the opportunity for a big game in the right spot because the Saints’ offense is among the best in the league. Players at Ginn’s level are so interchangeable from week to week, and being in an offense like this one is a worthy tiebreaker in Ginn’s favor.
Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, Dolphins
Wilson has made the most of his 11 targets on the year, catching eight of them for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Grant has done the same, scoring on both of his catches in the team’s 28-20 win over the Raiders in Week 3, pushing him to nine receptions for 135 yards and two scores on the year. The Dolphins are 3-0, and while the wins have come against three teams that are a combined 3-6, it’s time to start taking this offense seriously. Kenny Stills is the only sure thing in the passing game, with Ryan Tannehill spreading everything else around to Wilson, Grant and Danny Amendola. If you’re in a deeper league, getting a line of investment in this passing game may not be a bad idea, especially with its egalitarian approach.
Taylor Gabriel, Bears
Gabriel led the Bears with 10 targets on Sunday, catching six of them for 34 yards. Average depth of target is always going to be an issue for Gabriel, and through three games the new-look Bears offense has exacerbated that reality. Still, it’s hard to ignore that he has 22 targets through three games and has played at least three-quarters of the team’s snaps every week, with a season-long snap rate of 84.7%. Rookie Anthony Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder in the win over the Cardinals, and while it won’t necessarily force him to miss any time, the team could easily decide to be cautious with him, especially with a bye looming in Week 5. If that were the case, Gabriel could have an even larger role against the Buccaneers in Week 4.
Dallas Goedert, Eagles
Goedert had the best game of his young career on Sunday, catching all seven of his targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. That he did so while Zach Ertz racked up a team-high 10 targets is all the more encouraging. There may not be so many targets for the tight end position when Alshon Jeffery returns, but Goedert proved himself in the Eagles’ first game with Carson Wentz at the helm this season. He also played two-thirds of the snaps after palying fewer than 25% in both of the first two weeks. Goedert clearly has a lower ceiling than some other readily available tight ends, but you’re not going to find a ceiling like this with Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Ricky Seals-Jones, or any of the other also-rans at the position.
Mark Andrews, Ravens
Andrews once again played the fewest snaps among the Ravens’ three tight ends, but that didn’t stop him from being the most productive of the trio. He caught two passes for 59 yards while Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle combined for two grabs for seven yards. Andrews has played just 35.4% of Baltimore’s snaps this year, but has eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He’s not going to be a reliable option so long as he’s ceding so many snaps to Williams and Boyle, but if he could play even just half of the team’s snaps, he could get himself into the TE1/2 mix. Like Goedert, he has a basement-level floor, but also has more upside than most of the tight ends we discuss as regular streaming candidates. If you’re in a deeper league or want to take a shot on a low-owned tight end who could develop into a semi-regular starter, Andrews is worth your time.