Team byes begin to take a serious toll on the fantasy football community this week. Four teams—the Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Raiders—go on bye in Week 7, and at least four teams will take a rest every week through Week 11, with six teams off in Weeks 9 and 10. Roster depth will be imperative through Thanksgiving, making scouring the waiver wire for players fantasy owners might have ignored in previous weeks more important than ever. We begin our look at the Week 7 wire, however, with a player who could prove to be a league-winner.
Michael Beller: We’ve been talking up Marlon Mack as a waiver target for a few weeks now as he worked his way back from a hamstring injury, and on Sunday ;he racked up 89 yards on 12 carries in the 42–32 loss to the Jets. Nyheim Hines ran it just three times for 14 yards, while Jordan Wilkins didn’t get a touch, despite being active. It’s safe to say that Mack is back atop the depth chart in Indianapolis. Hines has played well as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but the Colts have received essentially nothing from their run game this season. This may not be an empty-the-wallet situation, but what percentage of your remaining FAAB are you willing to spend on Mack? If you’re in a retrograde league that still uses waiver priority, are you burning the No. 1 spot on Mack?
John Paulsen: On Mack? Yes, absolutely. During the offseason, I watched all of his touches from the second half of last season and came away impressed. The knock on him as a runner was that he wanted to bounce everything outside, but I saw several good, tough runs up the middle. He’s explosive as a receiver, as well, and is capable of serving as the Colts’ primary back, so long as he stays healthy. Back in early August, owner Jim Irsay said that he could see Mack “approaching 1,500 yards” this year. While that milestone is now a pipe dream, Mack is certainly capable of putting up fantasy RB2 numbers when healthy, and Irsay’s comments illustrate how the team viewed Mack in the offseason. He’s their guy, and nothing that Nyheim Hines or Jordan Wilkins has done through the first quarter of the season changed that mindset. Mack has two more good matchups coming up (Buffalo and Oakland) before the Colts’ Week 9 bye. After the bye, there are a few tough matchups (Jacksonville twice, Tennessee) but Mack’s likely volume and dual-threat ability should keep his floor relatively high.
Beller: The Bears will want to soon forget their Week 6 loss in Miami, but there were silver linings for the offense. One of them was the performance of Taylor Gabriel, who caught all five of his targets for 110 yards. He has consecutive 100-yard games, and is up to 27 grabs for 303 yards and two scores on the season. Volume doesn't appear to be an issue, with the receiver totaling at least five looks in every game this season, and seven or more in three of them. Is there some season-long WR3 juice here, especially considering the Bears have already had their bye?
Paulsen: It looks like Gabriel is going to see a big and consistent role for the first time in his career. He set a career high in targets with 72 as a rookie, but is on pace for 108 this year. When Matt Nagy took the head coaching job in Chicago and the Bears eventually signed Gabriel, I thought he might be used as a poor man’s Tyreek Hill since they’re both on the small side with speed to burn. Through five games, Gabriel trails Allen Robinson by only four targets, and has outgained him by 23 yards thanks to a much better catch rate. He’s also getting a bit of work as a runner (five carries for 36 yards through five games), so Nagy is looking for different ways to get one of his fastest players the ball. He’s looking like a WR3/WR4 as long as this usage holds.
Beller: I think you’ve got both of these situations diagnosed correctly, John. I’m totally with you on Mack. Every season we see a player emergee on the waiver wire in the middle of the year who becomes a staple of championship teams. Mack could be that player in 2018.
With that, here’s the rest of the Week 7 waiver wire. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Frank Gore, Dolphins
Gore once again led the Miami backfield, running for 101 yards on 15 carries in the team’s 31–28 overtime win over Chicago in Week 6. Additionally, Kenyan Drake lost what was nearly a back-breaking fumble, coughing it up on the one-yard line in overtime, where a touchdown would’ve won the game for the Dolphins and precluded the need for a last-second field goal by Jason Sanders. Other than the fumble, Drake actually did well with his workload, turning 17 touches into 78 yards from scrimmage, but his performance once again paled in comparison to Gore’s. The veteran did leave the game in overtime because of a knee issue, but, for the time being, it doesn’t appear to be serious. Gore may not be a true workhorse, but he’s clearly at the head of Miami’s backfield committee, and has proved himself capable of translating that role into meaningful fantasy production. It’s a fact the fantasy community can no longer ignore.
D’Onta Foreman, Texans
Houston’s backs in Week 6 failed to live up to their end of the bargain—again—and that nearly cost the team in a hard-fought 20–13 win over the Bills. Lamar Miller ran for 46 yards on 15 carries while Alfred Blue picked up 26 yards on seven totes. They combined for 42 receiving yards on six targets, which isn’t terrible from an efficiency standpoint, but doesn’t really move the needle on the bottom line, for either the Texans or their fantasy owners. We’ve been discussing Foreman’s impending return for weeks, which is still on schedule to occur in Week 7 when the Texans visit the Jaguars. Foreman may not be usable in that game, but it’s a certainty that he’s going to get his chance to bring some much-needed production to a rushing attack that has been listless this season. Miller has fallen short of expectations for the third straight season in Houston, totaling 271 yards on 73 carries while still searching for his first touchdown on the ground. Blue, meanwhile, is nothing more than a backup. Foreman is capable of leading a backfield, something he was starting to do last season before rupturing his Achilles in November. In his last game before suffering the injury, he ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. It may not be until Week 8 or 9 that Foreman provides returns, which makes him a better target for fantasy teams near the top of the standings, but he could be a second-half star.
Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
One of the more interesting box scores of the week came from Seattle’s 27–3 win over Oakland in London. On the one hand, Penny, the embattled rookie, did well with his chances, totaling 70 yards on 11 touches. On the other, how much of that opportunity arose from the fact that the Seahawks played nearly the entire game with at least a two-score lead? Davis still appears to be the primary backup to Chris Carson, who led the team with 14 carries and 59 yards, and the main takeaway may be that the latter remains in control of Seattle’s backfield. Still, Davis and Penny could be worth a claim with heavy bye weeks arriving in Week 7.
LeGarrette Blount, Lions
The Lions were on bye last week, giving Kerryon Johnson a free week of recovery for his injured ankle. The injury wasn’t though to be serious, and it’s entirely possible that he will retrun in Week 7 without missing a game. Should he need another week or two to recover, though, Blount would step in as the primary runner in Detroit. Blount vulture a couple of short-yardage touchdowns from Johnson in Week 5 before the latter suffered his ankle injury, though he wasn’t terribly efficient from a yardage standpoint, running for 22 yards on 12 carries. Still, he’d be in for a large role against the Dolphins if Johnson is out this week, and, with four teams on bye, would likely show up on the flex radar.
Ronald Jones, Buccaneers
Jones was finally active for the first time all season in Week 4, and, with the Buccaneers coming off a Week 5 bye, it was plausible to think that Jones would be in for a larger role. Instead, he got all of one carry and totaled 19 yards on four touches. Barber, meanwhile, had his best game of the season, running for 82 yards on 13 carries, and catching four balls for 24 yards and a score. Jones is still a semi-attractive target on the waiver wire, and it helps that the Buccaneers have had their bye. At this point, though, he shouldn’t be considered anything more than a depth back in deep leagues.
Ito Smith, Falcons
On the other side of Buccaneers-Falcons, Smith threw a wrench into the best-laid plans of Tevin Coleman owners by leading the team with 11 carries and scoring Atlanta’s only rushing touchdown of the game. Outside of the trip to paydirt, he wasn’t all that effective, running for 22 yards on 11 carries and managing to lose one yard on two receptions. Smith will retain fantasy value with Devonta Freeman is out for the rest of the season, but he's on the short side of a backfield split and has been completely touchdown-dependent for his fantasy value. Don't go crazy here. once the nominal starter is back in the fold, Smith’s volume will be too dodgy to trust in even the deepest fantasy leagues.
Jalen Richard, Raiders
Richard was at it again in the passing game, leading the Raiders with seven receptions and 48 receiving yards. He’s up to 31 catches, 37 targets, and 253 receiving yards on the season, totals that have him ranked fifth, seventh, and seventh, respectively, among running backs. He’s a solid depth option at the position for owners in full PPR leagues.
Malcolm Brown, Rams
Todd Gurley set a career high with 208 rushing yards in the Rams’ 23-20 win over the Broncos on Sunday. He’s up to 623 rushing yards, 21 receptions, 247 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in six games this season. Brown is an absolutely necessary handcuff for every Gurley owner.
Jermaine Kearse, Jets
Quincy Enunwa suffered what is feared to be a serious ankle injury in the Jets’ 42-34 win over the Colts in Week 6. Kearse filled the void as the team’s primary slot receiver, catching nine passes for 94 yards, and leading the way with 10 targets. Enunwa was the team’s target leader heading into Week 6, and Kerase’s usage suggests that the offensive identity won’t change much, if at all, if Enunwa is forced to miss time. That’s great news for Kearse, who has proved a viable fantasy option when given the opportunity previously, with both the Seahawks and Jets. If the ankle knocks out Enunwa for the foreseeable future, Kearse is a more reliable fantasy option than teammate Robby Anderson.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals
This has to be the week that Kirk’s ownership rate finally starts to make some sense, right? He hauled in six of seven targets for 77 yards in the Cardinals’ 27-17 loss to the Vikings in Week 6, again leading the team in receptions and yards. In his last four games, he has 20 catches, 24 targets, 290 yards and one touchdown, which comes out to 8.75 points per game in standard leagues, and 13.75 points per game in PPR formats. For sake of comparison, Mike Williams is averaging 8.8 points per game in standard formats, while John Brown is at 13.6 points per game in PPR leagues. It’s time for Kirk to be owned in all competitive leagues.
Chester Rogers, Colts
Rogers again took advantage of T.Y. Hilton’s absence, catching four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in the Colts’ 42-34 loss to the Jets in Week 6. Equally encouraging were his 10 targets, which led the team. Hilton is expected to return soon, and there’s no doubt he’ll command just as large a target share as usual once he’s back on the field. Rogers, however, has carved out a role for himself over the last few weeks, edging ahead of Ryan Grant and Zach Pascal on the depth chart. He has the look of a viable depth receiver in most fantasy formats the rest of the way.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers
Williams made the most of his limited opportunity in Week 6, catching three of four targets for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers’ 38-14 win over the Browns. Williams doesn’t have more than five targets in a game this season, meaning he’s likely to remain a boom-or-bust player all year. Still, when you play in an offense like the one he does, the chances of a boom game are significantly higher than they are in other spots. The Chargers are the only team in the league to score at least three offensive touchdowns in every game this season, and while Melvin Gordon hogs a ton of that volume, Williams plays in one of the best scoring environments in the league. With four-team bye weeks beginning in Week 7, players on bankable offenses become even more valuable.
Josh Reynolds, Rams
Cooper Kupp will miss at least a game or two after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 6, giving Reynolds some serious short-term value. The Rams use a three-receiver set as their base offense, and that won’t change with Kupp on the sidelines. Reynolds, a second-year player out of Texas A&M, will step in as the starter in Kupp’s stead. He may not secure the same target share as Kupp does from week to week, but we can expect him to play just about the same amount of snaps as Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. Being on the field in an offense like the Rams’ is all the opportunity a player needs to show up on the fantasy radar.
D.J. Moore, Panthers
Moore has been held mostly silent thus far in his rookie season, catching 10 of 13 targets for 162 yards and a touchdown. He has shown some signs of life the last two weeks, though, racking up eight of his catches and 108 of his yards in those two games. He also has two carries for 36 yards in that time, and it’s likely not a coincidence that what appears to be an increased role took root after the Panthers came out of their bye. We’ll still need to see more from him before recommending him as a starter, but he is trending in the right direction. Moore gets a bit of a value bump with the Panthers’ bye already in the rear-view mirror.
David Moore, Seahawks
Moore delivered on scant opportunity again in Week 6, turning three targets into two catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Despite hitting paydirt for the third time in two weeks, his season-long value took a bit of a hit with Doug Baldwin’s strong game. The incumbent No. 1 receiver in Seattle has been dealing with knee injuries going back to the preseason, but he had his best game of the year in Week 6, catching six balls for 91 yards. A healthy Baldwin necessarily means fewer targets for everyone in Seattle, and Moore’s volume is already limited enough as it is. Still, he has clearly moved ahead of Brandon Marshall on the depth chart, and no running back on the Seahawks is a significant receiving threat. Moore rates as a worthy depth receiver in deeper leagues now that the heavy bye-week portion of the schedule has arrived.
Paul Richardson, Redskins
Richardson caught three of five targets for 31 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s 23-17 win over Carolina in Week 6. Richardson isn’t going to move the needle significantly in most weeks, but he is the prototypical depth receiver in the fantasy game at this time of year. He has at least five targets in four of Washington’s five games this season, gets chances to make plays down the field, and has already had his bye. You may not start Richardson more than once or twice all season, but every fantasy owner needs players like him to get through the next five weeks.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
Valdes-Scantling delivered again with Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison out, catching three passes for 103 yards in Week 6. In two games without Cobb and Allison, the rookie has 10 receptions for 171 yards and a score. Even when they return, his performance likely guarantees him a role in the Green Bay offense.
Albert Wilson, Dolphins
Wilson had his best game of the season in Week 6, catching six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns in Miami’s 31-28 overtime win against Chicago. Wilson’s second touchdown came on a 75-yard play that featured some of the worst tackling you’ll ever see on an NFL field, but Wilson has established himself as enough of a threat in the Dolphins’ offense to show up on the fantasy radar during the heavy bye-week portion of the schedule. He’s one of the last receivers listed in this column for a reason, but is still worth a claim for those of you in deeper leagues.
Justin Hardy, Falcons
Hardy’s fantasy utility is entirely dependent on injuries to Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu. Ridley left Atlanta’s eventual 34-29 win over Tampa Bay in the first half and did not return. Sanu, meanwhile, aggravated his hip injury in the second half, and also sat the rest of the game. If both of them miss time, Hardy could pop up on the fantasy radar in deeper leagues. He caught three passes for 33 yards in the win against the Buccaneers.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals
Uzomah turned in a useful game in Week 6, pulling down six of his seven targets for 54 yards. With Tyler Eifert out of the season and Tyler Kroft possibly joining him because of a broken bone in his foot, Uzomah should dominate the tight end work for the Bengals the rest of the way. Given the strength of the team’s passing game, Uzomah has some real TE1 upside for the remainder of the season.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals
The process sustained Seals-Jones backers in Week 6 after he was shut out on six targets the week before. He got the same number of looks from Josh Rosen on Sunday, but this time caught five of them for 69 yards. Seals-Jones has at least six targets in four of his games this season, and his 31 targets on the season are tied for 11th among tight ends.