- Several injuries in Week 5 have shoved a number of players, including Alfred Morris and Josh Reynolds, into the must-start category for fantasy football teams.
This has been a thankfully light season on the injury front, but the worst part of football reared its ugly head on Sunday. Injuries in a couple of games on the West Coast altered those contests, and could have lasting effects on the fantasy football landscape. That’s where we focus our attention to kick off the Week 6 waiver wire.
Michael Beller: Alright, John, a few injuries may have created some short-term starters in the fantasy world. Let's start in San Francisco, where Alfred Morris could have the backfield to himself for a while after Matt Breida hurt his ankle in Week 5. Morris ran for 61 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 30 yards, handling nearly every running back touch for the 49ers once Breida was out of the game. It appears the youngster dodged a serious injury, but he could still miss multiple games with what is likely a high ankle sprain. What sort of value do you place on Morris as a waiver claim this week?
Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp left the Rams’ win over the Seahawks with concussions, which throws their Week 6 status into doubt. Josh Reynolds caught two passes for 39 yards in their stead last week, and would likely start if either of them need to miss a game. The Rams are a heavy three-wide set team, and that won't change, even if one or both of Cooks or Kupp are out, forcing Reynolds into a potentially lucrative starting gig in one of the best offenses in the league. If you claim him this week, are you starting him right away? Can he be a WR3?
Give me one more player you think can go straight from the waiver wire to fantasy starting lineups in Week 6.
John Paulsen (@4for4_John): Funny story about the 49ers situation yesterday: When I was checking late game inactives, NFL.com incorrectly said that Breida was inactive, so I took him out of our projections. Five minutes later I saw that he was active so I put him back in. Why am I telling this story? Well, when I made Morris the lead back, he came in as our No. 15-ranked running back in standard formats in what was a great matchup against the Cardinals. And I think that’s sort of the high end of where Morris would be ranked on a weekly basis while Breida is out for the next three to four weeks, if it is a high ankle sprain. He only has one bad matchup in his next five games—the Rams, who are No. 3 in our signature strength-of-schedule metric, aFPA—so he should provide fantasy RB2 numbers in the short term.
Reynolds, a second-year player out of Texas A&M, is 6' 3" and has good measurables. In his lone start last season he converted four of six targets for 37 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. If both Kupp and Cooks miss Week 6, Reynolds will definitely be startable against the Broncos, but my expectations for the Rams’ offense would be lower than usual if they’re without Cooks and Kupp, for obvious reasons. Reynolds would probably be in the WR3/WR4 mix if one or both players remain out.
One player who reemerged as a potential fantasy starter in Week 5 is Robby Anderson, who posted a 3-123-2 line on five targets against the Broncos. Heading into the game, he had been out-targeted by Quincy Enunwa 37 to 16, but both players saw five targets in Week 5. Anderson averaged 5.0 targets from Week 2 to Week 4, so while this big game didn’t stem from more usage, hopefully it leads to more looks from Sam Darnold. He was a top-20 receiver last year and certainly has the talent to be in fantasy lineups, but his role in the offense has taken a big hit since the team handed the quarterback keys to Darnold, and Enunwa returned from injury. He faces the Colts (No. 13 in WR aFPA) and the Vikings (No. 26) in the next two weeks, so he’s worth a look as a high-upside receiver.
Beller: I’m not quite as optimistic as you are on Anderson, though I do think it’s likely that there’s an owner or three in every league who should consider taking a shot on him. I probably wouldn’t drop anyone of much value for him, but he’s likely on the right side of the roster-churn divide for someone in every competitive league after his big game against the Broncos.
With that, here’s the rest of the Week 6 waiver wire. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Marlon Mack, Colts
Mack was out again this week, missing his third game of the season because of a hamstring injury. The Colts struggled to get anything going on the ground in his absence, totaling 84 yards on 21 carries. Nyheim Hines generated 45 yards on 15 rushes, while Jordan Wilkins showed some signs of life, running for 39 yards on six totes. Still, the Colts rushing attack has been mostly punchless this season, and it’s safe to say that Mack will get a real opportunity to take over as the primary early-down back when he returns from his injury. The Colts played on Thursday in Week 5, so it’ll be 10 days between the team’s next game and the last time Mack was inactive. That could be enough time for him to get back, especially since he was practicing last week. The Colts play the Jets in Week 6, and while Mack likely won’t be an advisable starter in that game if he returns, the possibility that he’ll eventually take command of the team’s backfield makes him a worthy pickup this week.
Ronald Jones, Buccaneers
The Buccaneers come off their bye this week to take on the Falcons in Atlanta. We already know Jameis Winston will start that game, but will it also be the week in which Jones takes on a larger role in the backfield? Peyton Barber has been terrible as the starter this season, and Jones was active for the first time in Tampa Bay’s loss to Chicago in Week 4. Jones may have been a massive disappointment in the summer, but it’s time for the team to see what the second-round pick out of USC can do. At they very least, it can’t be worse than what it has gotten out of Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers this season. Jones has a real chance to take the job and run with it, and there aren’t many waiver backs who can make that claim at this point of the year.
LeGarrette Blount, Lions
Blount scored two short-yardage touchdowns in the Lions’ win over the Packers in Week 5, but that’s not why he’s here. Kerryon Johnson left that game with an ankle injury, and any absence for the rookie would put Blount in the starter’s chair. The problem, though, is that the Lions have a bye in Week 6, giving Johnson two full weeks to recover from the injury. Blount would be firmly on the start radar should Johnson need to miss time, but the injury occurred at the perfect time for him and his fantasy owners. Blount is still worth placing a bid on, but don’t go too crazy here. Even if the injury does force Johnson to the sidelines, it likely wouldn’t be for more than a game or two.
Frank Gore, Dolphins
Kenyan Drake eased his owners’ anxieties a bit by catching seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 5, but it’s a concern that he got single-digit carries for the third straight game. He looked good on those carries, totaling 46 yards on six rushes, but the volume issues are real. Part of that owes to the fact that this Dolphins’ coaching staff can’t seem to get enough of Gore. He ran for 63 yards on 12 carries and played more than 40% of the team’s snaps. His main role in the fantasy world is as a thorn in Drake’s side, but he’s getting enough run to be a long-range flex option, especially with the heavy bye weeks starting in Week 7. If Drake were to get injured, Gore could be looking at a workhorse role.
Mike Davis, Seahawks
Chris Carson returned in Week 5 after missing one game with a hamstring injury, racking up 119 yards on 19 carries. While he led the backfield in touches, yards and snap rate, Davis had a sizable role, as well, running for 68 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. The team turned to Davis in short-yardage situations, with his touchdown coming from six yards out to kick off the scoring in the Seahawks’ 33-31 loss to the Rams. Davis has enough of a role to warrant consideration as a deep-league flex play, even with Carson healthy, and it’s clear that he has moved ahead of rookie Rashaad Penny on the depth chart.
Jalen Richard, Raiders
Richard isn’t going to do much in the running game without a Marshawn Lynch injury, but he has a real presence in the passing game that makes him a worthy add in full PPR leauges. Richard caught all six for his targets for 53 yards in the Raiders’ 26-10 loss to the Chargers in Week 5. It was his third game this season with six or more catches, and he’s up to 24 grabs for 205 yards on the season. To give that some context, he’s seventh among backs in catches and eighth in yards, and the players ahead of him on both lists are generally workhorse backs: Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Saquon Barkley, for example. Richard should be owned in all competitive full PPR leagues.
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles
Smallwood's fantasy value received a jolt on Monday when the Eagles announced that Jay Ajayi would miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. It’s unlikely the Eagles will replace Ajayi with a true workhorse back. Instead, Doug Pederson will likely prefer to keep a committee in place, led by Clement and Smallwood. Clement had been playing ahead of Smallwood before suffering a quad injury, opening the door to a larger role for Smallwood. He did the most with his opportunity, turning six touches into 71 yards and a score in the team’s Week 5 loss to the Vikings. It’s likely that performance alone earned Smallwood more run, and he should be considered a co-equal option to Clement in a post-Ajayi world. Smallwood has simply been too good to ignore, totaling 246 yards and two scores on 35 touches. This is going to be a shared backfield, but there’s enough work to go around for both Clement and Smallwood to be fantasy-relevant. I’d put in claims for both of them, with a slight lean toward Clement in leagues where he's still available, simply because the coaching staff favored him when both were healthy, and he did not play his way out of that status. In three games this season, he has 112 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and eight catches for 74 yards.
Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers
Juszczyk had his best game of the season in Week 5, catching six passes for 75 yards. He’ll only be a viable fantasy option if Matt Breida misses time with an ankle injury—which seems like a certainty—and even then you’ll only want to consider him if you’re in a deep league—think 14-plus teams, or 12-teamers with deeper than average rosters and starting lineup parameters. He does have 14 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown in a limited role this season, and could expect volume similar to what he got in the loss to the Cardinals if Breida misses time.
D’Onta Foreman, Texans
There hasn’t been much news this season about Foreman, who started the year on the PUP list because of the ruptured Achilles that ended his 2017 campaign. Last week, we got our first bit of news about Foreman, and it was good. According to a report from ESPN’s Sarah Barshop, Foreman is “on track” to return in Week 7. Lamar Miller has not taken the job and run with it in the way many expected him to, totaling 225 yards on 58 carries, and catching eight passes for 54 yards and one touchdown. Alfred Blue filled in for the injured Miller as the starter in Week 5, but ran for just 46 yards on 20 carries, though he was active in the passing game, catching eight balls for 73 yards. It’s likely that Foreman will have an opportunity to carve out a role for himself when he returns, making him a worthy stash in most leagues.
Keke Coutee, Texans
Coutee should have been scooped up in most competitive leagues after last week, but his ownership rate still qualifies him for our waiver wire column. He turned in another solid performance in Week 5, catching six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Will Fuller was active, too, showing that Coutee can generate fantasy value as the No. 3 option in the passing game on paper. Coutee has 22 targets in just two games this season, and needs to be owned across the board.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals
Kirk, too, is a guy who should have been owned in far more leagues coming into this week, but it’s likely the fantasy community will rectify that after the game he put together in Arizona’s win over San Francisco. The rookie out of Texas A&M caught three passes for 85 yards and a score, making it his second game in the last three weeks with at least 16 points in PPR leagues. His day was the result of one big play, a 75-yard touchdown, but that illustrates what he brings to the table. Kirk can be a top-40 receiver the rest of the season, and will be a valuable depth piece with during the bye-week portion of the schedule.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers
I was surprised to see Godwin owned in fewer than 40% of leagues on both Yahoo and ESPN, but here we are. His ownership rate should be north of 50% at the very least, and that accounts for shallow leagues and the fickle nature of the fantasy community. Godwin had his worst game of the season in Week 4, and the Buccaneers were on bye in Week 5, but don’t let that cloud the fact that he has 15 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns this season. With O.J. Howard out at least a few weeks because of a knee injury, he could be in for more targets in the short term. Godwin is just the sort of guy you should be adding at this point of the season, even more so since he has already had his bye.
Taylor Gabriel, Bears
Like Godwin, Gabriel just had his bye in Week 5. Unlike Godwin, he went into the bye on a high note, catching seven passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears’ 48-10 thrashing of the Buccaneers in Week 4. Anthony Miller could return for the Bears when they visit the Dolphins this week, but Gabriel is a perfect fit for Matt Nagy’s offense, and should have a large enough role to be a bye-week option for most fantasy owners. Again, depth is about to become hugely important in the fantasy football world with at least four teams on bye every week between Weeks 7 and 11. Gabriel has already had his bye, making him even more valuable over the next six weeks.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons
Sanu caught four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in Week 5, giving him three straight games with at least 9.6 points in standard leagues, and 13.6 points in full PPR formats. Julio Jones has not been the singular force this season that he typically is, opening up some room in the offense for both Sanu and Calvin Ridley. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Sanu’s value comes in providing depth during the bye-week portion of the schedule. Atlanta takes a rest in Week 8, meaning Sanu will be available in Week 9 and Week 11, both of which feature six teams on bye. His role in a high-powered offense will have him on the start radar both of those weeks.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
Valdes-Scantling took advantage of the opportunity created by injuries to Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, catching seven of 10 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s 31-23 loss to Detroit in Week 5. Just as importantly, Valdes-Scantling led all Packers receivers in snap rate, including Davante Adams, playing all but four of the team’s 81 snaps. That, coupled with his bottom-line production, suggests he’ll have a role in the offense, even when Cobb and Allison return.
Taywan Taylor, Titans
Don’t hold Taylor’s three-catch, 30-yard performance in Week 5 against him too much. Titans-Bills had the lowest over/under on the board, and was always going to be a slow-paced, low-scoring affair. Instead, look on the bright side, which is that his five targets were second on the team to Corey Davis, and accounted for nearly 20% of Marcus Mariota’s pass attempts. Taylor’s not going to be an every-week starter, but he will maintain a high target share with Rishard Matthews gone and Delanie Walker on IR.
Chester Rogers, Colts
Rogers took on a larger role in the Colts’ offense with T.Y. Hilton out in Week 5, catching eight of 11 targets for 66 yards. He was second on the team in catches, targets and yards to Eric Ebron, but he outplayed both Ryan Grant and Zach Pascal. Hilton is likely to return in Week 6, but it appears that Rogers will be second to him at the receiver position. Admittedly, the Week 5 game was unique for multiple reasons. Not only was Hilton out, but so were Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack. Additionally, Andrew Luck attempted 59 passes with the Colts trailing by multiple scores for most of the evening. Still, Rogers has enough potential to be worth a claim in most moderately deep leagues.
Antonio Callaway, Browns
Callaway struggled against the Ravens, catching three of five targets for 22 yards. He remains a worthy add in deeper leagues, but he’s no better than the third option in the passing game, and fourth option in the offense, behind Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Carlos Hyde. His big-play ability will lead to a gaudy stat line or two, but he’s a true boom-or-bust player with far greater likelihood to be on the wrong side of that divide.
David Moore, Seahawks
Moore has been slowly but surely siphoning away snaps from Brandon Marshall, significantly out-snapping him in both of the last two weeks. That finally showed up in the stat line in Week 5, with Moore catching three passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns. He’s merely a depth option in deeper leagues, and he’s going to lose volume as Doug Baldwin gets healthier, but he can still be a useful guy to have around with so many heavy bye weeks on the horizon.
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
With O.J. Howard out at least this week with a knee injury, and likely and additional game or two, Brate steps right back in as the primary tight end in Tampa. He and Jameis Winston have always had a strong on-field rapport, which was on display in the second half of the team’s loss to the Bears back in Week 4, its last game. Brate had three catches for 29 yards and a touchdown in that game, and has found the end zone in both games in which he has received at least one target this season. Given the state of the tight end position, he’ll be an easy player to start in Week 6.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals
Uzomah caught two passes for 43 yards in the Bengals’ 27-17 win over the Dolphins, but his Week 5 numbers are hardly the reason he’s in this column. Tyler Eifert is out for the season after breaking his ankle, and Tyler Kroft left the win over the Dophins with a foot injury. In Week 6, and possibly beyond, Uzomah could be the only show in town for the Bengals at tight end. That’s a good enough reason to grab him with this season’s tight end landscape.
Geoff Swaim, Cowboys
Swaim has been quietly productive as the primary tight end in Dallas, catching 14 of 19 targets for 159 yards and one touchdown on the season. Unless you’re lucky enough to have one of the position’s obvious starters, Swaim’s 95% snap rate and four games with at least three targets are attractive qualities in a tight end. He’ll stick on the TE2 radar for the season, which makes him a worthy dart throw if you’re in trouble at the position.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals
Yeah, Seals-Jones got shut out in Arizona’s win over San Francisco in Week 5. It wasn’t pretty, no matter how you look at it. The silver lining, though, was that he got six targets in the game. He has 25 targets on the season, and at least six in three games. That volume keeps him in the mix at fantasy’s ugliest position.