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Week 5 Waiver Wire: Top Fantasy Football Pickups

An early look at the names that will highlight the Week 5 Waiver Wire.

Another week in the NFL, another round of video-game results with huge scores in the fantasy world. Ten of the first 14 games of the week went over their Vegas total, and 12 teams scored at least 31 points. High-scoring offenses are a new NFL reality, and the impact is being felt across the fantasy landscape, including on the waiver wire. A couple of AFC South players kick off this week’s discussion with 4for4’s John Paulsen.

Michael Beller: A couple of guys took advantage of unique situations this week, and that's where I want to go on the waiver wire. The first was Nyheim Hines. It's no secret that the Colts have got nothing out of their backs this season. That was shaping up to be the case again in Week 4, with Marlon Mack inactive and Jordan Wilkins underwhelming to the tune of 16 yards on eight carries. But then Hines exploded in the second half—as a receiver. He finished the game with seven catches on nine targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. With the Colts in action again on Thursday this week, it's entirely possible that Mack could sit again. Do you think that we could see the Hines takeover, at least to the point that he's a palatable fantasy starter, move forward this week?

You've been banging the drum for Taywan Taylor for a couple of weeks now, so you had to be happy when you saw his solid effort in the Titans' win over the Eagles. With Rishard Matthews suddenly out in Tennessee, Taylor stepped up, catching seven passes for 77 yards. He got nine targets, tied with Dion Lewis for second on the team behind Corey Davis. With Marcus Mariota essentially proving his health in the win, it looks like we can start taking the Titans' offense seriously again. Where do you see Taylor going from here? Is he a claim in all leagues, or just deeper formats?

John Paulsen: I’d like to start by saying that I really want to see what Marlon Mack can do in a lead role. During the offseason, I watched all of his touches in the last half of the season and came away really impressed. I think he can be the dual-threat that the Colts are looking for, but he can’t get healthy right now and I understand that many fantasy football owners can’t wait for that potential production. Something about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush. Owners should definitely stash Mack if they can.

In the meantime, enter Hines, who hasn’t done much as a runner (54 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries), but was drafted mostly for his ability in the passing game. He’s averaging 7.0 catches for 40 yards (and 0.67 TD) in the three games that Mack has missed, and is a viable RB3/flex in PPR formats as long as Mack remains out. Ultimately, I think they’ll use Mack as the lead back and bring in Hines as a change-of-pace back and as a receiver, but I’m not sure that this Colts offense can support two viable fantasy running backs at this point.

I’m glad you asked about Taylor, who was a preseason star for the Titans but found himself buried on the depth chart for no apparent reason. He was running as the WR4 and that was with Matthews sidelined due to injury. I tweeted about him last week as a talented player who is seeing an increase in snaps—13% to 41% to 52% through three weeks—and an increase in role with the absence of Delanie Walker and the departure of Matthews. I got more than a little pushback from followers wondering how I could be recommending picking up a WR2 in an offense where the WR1 isn’t even producing starter-quality numbers. Things were certainly looking dire for the Tennessee passing game (and the offense as a whole) while Mariota was dealing with a numb throwing arm. but after Week 4 the future looks considerably brighter.

Owners in deeper leagues may find that Taylor is no longer available—some savvy owner rolled the dice a week early and was rewarded for it. Should he be owned in all formats? I’d say no. There are certainly leagues with short benches where he may not be worth a roster spot, but I’d love to nab him in any of my leagues with 18+ rosterable players, or in leagues where receivers hold more value due to positional requirements or PPR scoring. After this week, I think he’ll be ranked as a low-end WR4 with upside.

Beller: That’s a good point on Mack, and we’ll be touching on him in the meat of the column. With Hines and Taylor leading the way, here’s our full look at the Week 5 Waiver Wire.

Running Backs

Ronald Jones, Buccaneers

Jones finally made his NFL debut, running 10 times for 29 yards in Tampa Bay’s 48–10 thrashing by the Bears. His exact numbers aren’t all that important, especially since the Bears had complete control of the game by the middle of the second quarter. What matters is that Peyton Barber was bad again, running for 24 yards on seven carries and catching one pass—his second in four games—for six yards. The Buccaneers need more out of their running game, and with a Week 5 bye to go back to the drawing board, it’s likely they’ll give Jones more opportunity. Remember, he was a second-round pick just five months ago after an excellent college career at USC. Jones is the one guy in this backfield who could actually move the needle, and the Buccaneers would be foolish to not see what he can do at this point.

Mike Davis, Seahawks

When the Seahawks announced that Chris Carson would miss the team’s game with the Cardinals because of a hip injury, most in the fantasy community naturally assumed that Rashaad Penny would get his chance to reassert himself in the backfield. Instead, the team started Davis, and he delivered with 101 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Penny ran the ball well when he was out there, but he got just nine carries, totaling 49 yards. We have no choice but to assume that Davis is the primary backup to Carson, and that Carson will be back in the starter’s chair when healthy. That makes Davis a name to know on the waiver wire this week. For what it’s worth, the Seahawks have a tough matchup with the Rams in Week 5.

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Nick Chubb, Browns

The Browns are showing no signs of going away from Carlos Hyde, giving the veteran 22 carries in Week 4. He delivered for his fantasy owners, running for 82 yards and a touchdown, his fourth straight game with at least 10.3 fantasy points from his rushing production. Still, it was impossible not to be impressed by Chubb, who turned three carries into 105 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie out of Georgia ran for a 63-yard score in the first half, and then added a 41-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hyde remains clearly in command of Cleveland’s backfield, but the team might want to see more of Chubb after what he did against the Raiders in Week 4.

Wendell Smallwood, Eagles

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Smallwood was again a significant part of Philadelphia’s offense in Week 4, getting 10 opportunities, five carries and targets apiece. He turned that into eight touches and 54 yards, which doesn’t really register in the fantasy world. With Corey Clement and Darren Sproles both nursing injuries, though, Smallwood could remain second on the Eagles’ depth chart to Jay Ajayi for the next few weeks. That still places him on the radar only in deeper leagues, but with four-team by weeks kicking off in Week 7, Smallwood could end up being flex worthy if Clement and Sproles are unable to return. You shouldn’t be making him a priority on the waiver wire, but those of you in 14-team leagues or 12-teamers with deep lineups or rosters should consider making a modest claim.

Malcolm Brown, Rams

This one is just for Todd Gurley owners or people in deep leagues who need to make moves on the fringes whenever possible. Brown is clearly the backup to Gurley, with John Kelly a healthy scratch for the third straight game. Brown’s only real role in the offense is to spell Gurley and to do the dirty work when the Rams have a big lead, but he’d step in as the starter were anything to happen to the team’s star running back. That makes him a necessary handcuff for Gurley owners, as well as a lottery ticket stash in deep leagues.

Marlon Mack and Robert Turbin, Colts

While we discussed Nyheim Hines earlier, his takeover of the Colts’ backfield is still just a theory at this point. Mack could return from his hamstring injury on Thursday, and the coaching staff will certainly want to get him back in the mix, whenever he does suit up again. Turbin, meanwhile, should be active for his first game in Week 5 after serving a four-game suspension. If Turbin has any role in the fantasy world, it will almost certainly be further muddying an already frustrating backfield, but with no player clearly in command in Indianapolis, it’s possible for anyone to break through to fantasy relevance. Mack is a claim in most formats, while Turbin should only be on the radar in the deepest of leagues.

Theo Riddick, Lions

Riddick did his usual thing in Week 4, catching four of five targets for 20 yards and getting one carry for seven yards. The dual emergence of Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson has crushed Riddick’s volume, as the reliable pass-catching back has 27 targets and five carries through four games. He’s nothing more than a depth back in full PPR formats, but he’s still worth owning in all such leagues.

Wide Receivers

Keke Coutee, Texans

First and foremost, let’s acknowledge that it’s going to be hard for Coutee to break out with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller both accounting for significant target share in Houston’s offense. That said, the rookie out of Texas Tech showed that he was one of the best players on the field in the Texans’ 37-34 win over the Colts, nabbing 11 of his 15 targets for 109 yards. Remember, too, that this was the first game of his career. That he got 15 targets in his NFL debut is a good sign that the team wants to feature him, especially considering that Hopkins was up to his usual tricks, catching 10 of 12 targets for 169 yards and a score. The teams played an extra 10 minutes with the game using a full overtime period, but it’s not like the volume was particularly egregious. Deshaun Watson attempted 42 passes, and the team attempted 35 runs, with Coutee getting two of them. In what’s shaping up to be the lightest waiver wire week of the season, Coutee should be one of your priorities, even if you’re already in good shape at receiver.

Antonio Callaway, Browns

Callaway got nine targets in Baker Mayfield’s first start, catching three of them for 54 yards. Bizarrely, his longest catch went for 59 yards, with his other two receptions costing him five yards from his bottom line. Still, the fact that he was second on the team in targets to Jarvis Landry speaks to the role he should have with Mayfield at the helm. He’s going to get multiple chances every game to do damage deep down the field, and the team is also going to give him opportunities to use his speed to make plays in space. Callaway can be a top-40 receiver the rest of the season, making him a valuable depth piece in all but the shallowest of leagues.

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Taylor Gabriel, Bears

Mitchell Trubisky enjoyed the best game of his young career in Week 4, and Gabriel was a big part of it. He caught all seven of his targets for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears’ 48–10 domination of the Buccaneers. Gabriel has 17 targets in the last two weeks and 29 on the season, locking down a meaningful role in Chicago’s offense. The Bears have a bye in Week 5 and that could give Anthony Miller enough time to return from his dislocated shoulder, but Gabriel should remain a key part of the passing game for the foreseeable future.

Christian Kirk, Cardinals

Kirk was relatively quiet in Josh Rosen’s first start, catching four of five targets for 28 yards. It’s clear, however, that he’s the No. 2 receiver in the offense behind Larry Fitzgerald, and a top-three option in the offense, with David Johnson at the top of the pecking order. Rosen’s stat line doesn’t look great, but a few drops and would-be receptions negated by the receiver landing with a foot out of bounds obscured what was a solid performance. As he gets more comfortable, everyone in the offense should see an uptick in fantasy value. Kirk may never be more than a depth receiver for fantasy purposes this season, but he should still be owned in most competitive leagues.

Dede Westbrook, Jaguars

Westbrook was a nightmare cover for the Jets in Week 4, pulling down nine passes for 130 yards in the Jaguars’ 31–12 win. Jacksonville’s passing attack can be a hard one to pin down for fantasy purposes. While Blake Bortles has been mostly productive this season, Westbrook, Keelan Cole and, to a lesser extent, Donte Moncrief occupy co-equal status in the passing game. That has Jacksonville following a script we’ve seen from other successful teams in recent years where the quarterback generally gets his, but the receivers on the other end change from week to week. That makes them all impossible to trust on a regular basis, but still valuable enough to roster in most leagues, especially during the bye-week portion of the schedule.

Mohamed Sanu, Falcons

Sanu had his best game of the season in Week 4, catching six passes for 111 yards. Understand that there were some unique factors at play. First, the Falcons needed every point they could get, and ultimately didn’t score enough in a 37–36 loss to the Bengals. The Bengals, meanwhile, have allowed at least 23 points in all four of their games, and ranked in the bottom half of the league against wide receivers in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric, a ranking that’s sure to fall even further after last week. Sanu is the third option in the passing game behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and that’s going to limit him to spot duty in fantasy leagues. Still, given the explosiveness of Atlanta’s offense, it’s advisable to find a line of investment in it, if possible. Sanu is likely the only meaningful player on the Falcons available in most fantasy leagues.

Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant and Zach Pascall, Colts

These three are grouped together not only because they’re teammates, but also because they have the same opportunity, at least in the short term. The Colts have a quick turnaround this week, visiting the Patriots on Thursday, and Frank Reich said after the team’s Week 4 loss to the Texans that the short week will likely cost T.Y. Hilton a game because of a hamstring injury. That would put these three at the top of the depth chart in a game where game script could require Andrew Luck to throw 40-plus passes. Rogers and Pascal were both great in Week 4, with the former catching eight passes for 85 yards, and the latter putting up a six-catch, 56-yard, one-touchdown line. Grant did his part, too, totaling five receptions for 64 yards. Grant has had the largest role through the first four weeks, but Rogers and Pascal both took major steps forward last week. Consider Rogers the favorite of the three, with Grant slightly ahead of Pascal. None of the three is likely to have significant long-term value.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers

Randall Cobb missed Green Bay’s Week 4 win over Buffalo with a hamstring injury, and Geronimo Allison suffered a concussion during the game. If both are forced to miss time, Valdes-Scantling would likely start opposite Davante Adams. The rookie out of South Florida has two catches for 41 yards on the season, but has played only sparingly with the Packers so reliant on Adams, Cobb, Allison and Jimmy Graham. Valdes-Scantling should be on the radar in deeper leagues, and he’d be an intriguing play in Week 5 with the Packers visiting the Lions, assuming Cobb and Allison are both out.

Tight Ends

Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals

Tyler Eifert suffered yet another significant injury, this time to his ankle. With Eifert done for the season, Kroft steps into the starting tight end role for the Bengals. Kroft has been here before, catching 42 passes for 404 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The Bengals are 3–1 with one of the best passing games in the league, scoring at least 34 points in all of their victories. Andy Dalton is pacing for the best season of his career, with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd forming one of the best receiving duos in the league. That could curb Kroft’s volume, but the efficiency and explosiveness of this offense will more than make up for that. Given all the issues at the tight end position this year, creating a ton of weekly turnover in the TE1 class, Kroft is worth a long look on the waiver wire this week.

Vance McDonald, Steelers

McDonald followed up his huge game in Week 3 with five catches for 62 yards in the Steelers’ 26–14 loss to the Ravens in Week 4. McDonald is clearly the tight end to own in Pittsburgh, with Jesse James catching just two passes for 30 yards the last two weeks. McDonald is still no more than a fringe starter, and is better cast as a streaming option, but with all the injuries at the position this season, he could be worth an audition as a regular starter over the next few weeks.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers

O.J. Howard left the Buccaneers’ 48–10 loss to the Bears with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like the team was just playing it safe with the game well out of reach. Howard is slated for an MRI on Monday that will determine the severity of the injury. The Buccaneers have a bye in Week 5, so if the injury isn’t serious, it’s likely that Howard won’t miss any time. If it is, though, Brate would have the position mostly to himself. Always a favorite of Jameis Winston, who appears set to take over as the starter after the bye, Brate caught three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown against the Bears in Howard’s absence.

Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals

Seals-Jones is back on the fantasy radar because of the injuries at the tight end positon, and Josh Rosen’s ascension to the starting gig. He caught two of four targets for 52 yards in Rosen’s first start, which qualifies as his best game of the season. Like McDonald, he’s more palatable as a streamer than a regular starter, but the carnage at this position in starting to pile up, and is making the fantasy community dig deeper for starters on a weekly basis. There’s enough upside here to take a shot on Seals-Jones as a semi-regular starter, especially with Rosen at the helm.