Running backs have dominated our looks at the waiver wire recently, but this week it’s the wide receiver position demanding attention. It got started on Thursday with the unfortunate injury to Will Fuller, and carried through Sunday, where a couple of receivers broke through in a way that could have lasting power for the rest of the season. Here are a few players you should already be considering, especially those of you invested in A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, T.Y. Hilton and Alshon Jeffery, all of whom will be on bye.
Michael Beller: Dang it, John. We had this great intro to the waiver wire this week. It was already published for about 24 hours, and was all about our top three receivers on the waiver wire: Keke Coutee, Courtland Sutton and D.J. Moore. And then, in one fell swoop, the Texans and Broncos went and made our handiwork obsolete, agreeing on a deal that landed Demaryius Thomas in Houston, forcing us to completely recalibrate what we think of Coutee and Sutton for the rest of the season.
I'll let you start us off. With Thomas in Houston, how do you view Coutee and Sutton for the rest of the season. And yes, you can start with Sutton, given that the entire fantasy community can barely contain its excitement over the rookie out of SMU now that Thomas is out of town.
John Paulsen: Thomas’s departure opens up a boatload of snaps and targets for Sutton, who is immediately upgraded to a WR3 with WR2 upside. He’s the big winner in this trade, as the Broncos were only willing to deal Thomas because they were so high on Sutton. He should see seven to nine targets per game the rest of the way. He hasn’t been terribly efficient so far this season—17 receptions on 37 targets—but he’s averaging 19.1 yards per catch and has 182 yards and two touchdowns in his last four games (on only 4.3 targets per game). Due to his big-play ability, he holds more value in standard leagues than in PPR formats.
As for Coutee, he was slated to get most of Fuller’s usage, so Thomas’s arrival keeps Coutee in the WR4 range, with the new Texan likely to soak up five to seven targets on a weekly basis. Coutee does have the ability to play on the outside, so if he can fully recover from his hamstring injury, we may see him downfield more often with Fuller out of the picture.
Beller: We're in total agreement here, John. Sutton could really change the fortunes of fantasy owners who secure his services, and he should be the top target on the wire this week, regardless of position. I'd be remiss if we didn't circle back to Moore, who now gets left out in the cold because of the Thomas trade. With Torrey Smith inactive last week, he caught five passes for 90 yards. The bet here is that he'll remain the No. 2 receiver behind Devin Funchess, though that would require a belief in competent coaching. Luckily, Carolina has the right duo in place to make that bet, with Ron Rivera and Norv Turner guiding the offense. Moore is comfortably behind Sutton in the waiver-wire pecking order, but he's our No. 2 receiver on the market ahead of Coutee. With that, let’s turn our attention to the full Week 9 waiver wire. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles
This is a bad week to be in need of running back help on the wire, as you will see over the next few paragraphs. Smallwood barely falls under the ownership threshold for this column, and he’s likely the best bet if you’re searching for a potential starter. The problem, though, is that Philadelphia’s backfield is a total mess, with no one really standing out. Smallwood had 76 yards and a touchdown on 10 touches in the Eagles’ 24–18 win over the Jaguars in Week 8. He out-touched Corey Clement, but got fewer carries than Josh Adams, who we’ll discuss momentarily. That Smallwood is the top available back drives home the theme of this section this week: Hopefully, you’re already set at this position, because the likelihood of getting meaningful help on the wire is slim.
Josh Adams, Eagles
Adams led the Eagles on the ground in Week 8, running for 61 yards on nine carries. He has surprisingly carved out a role in the backfield, but not one that’s likely to make him fantasy-relevant. What’s more—and this also applies to Smallwood—long-range plays like Adams are best-suited to being in lineups during the two weeks this season where six teams are on bye. The only problem with that is that the Eagles are one of those six teams in Week 9.
Elijah McGuire, Jets
If I had to bet on one back who is on most waiver wires this week producing any long-term fantasy value, it would be McGuire. He’s expected to be activated this week after spending the entire season on the PUP list because of a foot injury that required surgery in the summer. Trenton Cannon predictably gave the Jets little in his first game filling the Bilal Powell role, carrying the ball six times for 10 yards and catching three passes for 12 yards. When healthy, McGuire will take over that role, and could actually be dangerous in it. He carried the ball 88 times for 315 yards, caught 17 of 26 targets for 177 yards, and scored two touchdowns as a rookie last year.
Frank Gore, Dolphins
The Dolphins continue to run Gore as often as Kenyan Drake, giving him 12 carries that he turned into 53 yards in the Week 7 loss to the Texans. Gore has had at least 10 carries in all of Miami’s last five games, and that volume makes him someone fantasy owners crushed by injuries or byes can turn to for a spot start. The Dolphins play the Jets in Week 9, and Gore will be on the RB3/flex radar.
Nyheim Hines, Colts
Hines had his best game in a month in Week 8, running for 78 yards on 11 carries in the Colts’ 42–28 win over the Raiders. The catch, though, is that the Colts ran 71 plays, 40 of which were rushing attempts, which helped create more volume for Hines. That isn’t going to happen very often. Marlon Mack dominated the backfield once again, carrying the ball 25 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two of four targets, getting double the number of looks in the passing game than Hines. In a way, this game represented a hit to his long-term value, because Mack appears to be in total control of the backfield, both on the ground and through the air. Still, with the pickings so slim at running back, Hines is a worthy target for fantasy owners in need of help at the position.
Malcolm Brown, Rams
Handcuff season has arrived, meaning anyone with the luxury of having Todd Gurley needs to protect that investment by grabbing Brown. The third-year player out of Texas isn’t going to generate any fantasy value behind a healthy Gurley, but would step in as the team’s starter should something happen to the MVP candidate.
Spencer Ware, Chiefs
Ware is also a pure handcuff play, making him a must-add for Kareem Hunt owners. Ware didn’t touch the ball in the Chiefs’ 30-23 win over the Broncos, but would step right into Hunt’s role should he go down with an injury.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals
Bernard, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, is another handcuff play. The reason why Brown, Ware and Bernard show up on the waiver wire while someone like, say, Chase Edmonds does not is that they will be expected to get the same touch share as the starters should they be pressed into action. That’s not true for Edmonds, or other possible handcuffs like Rod Smith in Dallas or Wayne Gallman with the Giants. Meanwhile, the handcuffs to James Conner and Melvin Gordon are already widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Javorius Allen, Ravens
Allen would be a better add than most of the players we’ve discussed here, but he’s so low in the column because chances are he’s owned in most competitive leagues. He’s just above the threshold, though, so those of you in shallower leagues may be able to grab him this week. He caught three passes for 18 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 36-21 loss to the Panthers in Week 8. He has 288 yards from scrimmage and five scores on 68 touches this season.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins
If Parker was finally going to show up with a big game, he couldn’t have timed it much better for himself. He had six grabs on nine targets for 134 yards in Miami’s 42-23 loss to Houston in Week 8. Even if you take away that fluky catch reminiscent of the Immaculate Reception, he had five receptions for 88 yards. Parker could have a new home by Tuesday’s trade deadline, but could be the No. 1 receiver in Miami the rest of the season, depending on the injuries to Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals
Kirk still can’t catch on in fantasy leagues, with an industry-wide ownership rate hovering around 30%. He caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 18-15 win over the 49ers on Sunday. While the reception and yardage totals left a bit to be desired, Kirk did get seven targets, second on the team to Larry Fitzgerald. There were some encouraging signs for the offense in Byron Leftwich’s first game as the offensive coordinator, even though the team still scored just 18 points. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are one of the six teams on bye this week, taking away some of Kirk’s fantasy utility as a depth receiver.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers
The Chargers had a bye in Week 8, but Williams was one of the hottest receivers in the league, at least on a per-catch basis, before the team took its annual rest. He popped another big play in Week 7, hooking up with Philip Rivers for a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He caught three more passes for 43 yards, giving him a 4-118-1 line on four targets. Williams gets precious few opportunities, registering more than four targets in just two games this season, but he has made the most of them the last two weeks, racking up 236 yards and three scores. His big-play ability and the foundation of the Chargers’ offense makes him a worthy add in most formats.
Jermaine Kearse, Jets
Kearse racked up 10 targets in the Jets’ 24-10 loss to the Bears in Week 8 thanks, at least in part, to Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson missing the game due to injury. Enunwa is going to miss at least another game or two, while Anderson was nowhere near suiting up against the Bears. The Jets also released the injured Terrelle Pryor, leaving Kearse in a desirable spot, at least from a volume perspective. He caught just three of those 10 targets for 30 yards, but the Bears are a tough matchup, especially for a limited offense. Kearse’s status as the de facto No. 1 receiver on the Jets makes him worth a look in all leagues.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb returned for the Packers in Week 8, but Valdes-Scantling remained a big part of the offense, catching two of his five targets for 45 yards and a touchdown in the 29-27 loss to the Rams. Those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but he played more snaps and ran more routes than both Allison and Cobb. Even though it was their first game back, there’s a good chance that at least one of them, likely Cobb, is now running behind Valdes-Scantling on the depth chart. Unless the Packers make a move before the trade deadline at receiver, Valdes-Scantling will retain fantasy value as a depth receiver the rest of the season.
David Moore, Seahawks
Moore had another big game in Week 8, catching all four of his targets for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 28-14 win over the Lions. In his last three games, Moore has turned 15 targets into nine receptions, 182 yards and four scores. He’s being carried by Russell Wilson, who has played at a ridiculous touchdown pace in that same timeframe, throwing for nine touchdowns on just 61 pass attempts, to go along with a hyper-efficient 10.95 yards per attempt. The fun can’t last forever, but Moore has shown enough to be worthy of an add in deeper leagues.