We're into November and the final third of the typical fantasy football regular season, but there is still new value popping up on the waiver wire every week. Remember that 12 teams still have yet to have their bye, including the Texans, Vikings, Patriots, Chiefs and Rams, all of which contribute big-name starters to the fantasy community every week. This is no time to ignore the waiver wire. To kick things off, we’ll focus on a running back in Cleveland, and a receiver in Green Bay.
Michael Beller: Alright, John, as we head into Week 10, there are two players on most waiver wires who I want to discuss.
The first is Duke Johnson, who came to life in Cleveland's first game after the close of the Hue Jackson/Todd Haley regime. Johnson, who entered Week 9 with 20 catches, 29 targets and 203 yards, caught all nine of his targets for 78 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns’ 37-21 loss to the Chiefs. This, of course, is nothing new for him. In his first three seasons of the league, he averaged 62.7 receptions, 79.7 targets, 580.3 yards and 1.7 receiving touchdowns. If this is Johnson's reality under interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, how should we view him in fantasy leagues for the rest of the year?
John Paulsen: Johnson certainly seems to be in the team’s offensive scheme now that Kitchens is calling plays. In half-point PPR, he finished as the No. 15 running back last year after posting RB3 numbers in 2015 and ’16, so he’s no stranger to fantasy lineups. I would view him as a fantasy RB3 with RB2 upside in PPR or half-PPR leagues since he’s a threat for four-plus catches every week. His upcoming schedule is pretty favorable, as well—the Browns face the Falcons in Week 10 before going on their bye, and then they have the Bengals, Texans, Panthers, Broncos and the Bengals again to close the season.
Beller: Let’s turn our attention to the second player I want to discuss, Marquez Valdes-Scantling. It’s clear that he isn't going anywhere despite Randall Cobb's return to health. The Packers flopped in the fourth quarter of their 31-17 loss to the Patriots, in part because the latter found a way to take away MVS. He finished the night with three catches on six targets for 101 yards, including a couple of very impressive grabs. What's more, he got the sort of targets that prove he has earned the trust of Aaron Rodgers, with the quarterback giving him a few opportunities to go up and make a play on what seemed like low-percentage pass attempts. Where does Valdes-Scantling fall in your rest-of-season valuations? Is he clearly the top receiver on the waiver wire this week?
Paulsen: During the game last night I tweeted, “Moar MVS please,” and he proceeded to make the two “impressive grabs” you just mentioned. It’s a pretty small sample, but Valdes-Scantling has star quality and it’s showing up on a regular basis. In his last four games, he has posted fantasy lines of 7-68-1 (catches-yards-touchdowns), 3-103, 2-45-1 and last night’s 3-101. What’s more telling is that he saw as many targets (six) as Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham, so clearly he’s building trust with his quarterback. I’d rank him as a fantasy WR4 for the rest of the season, but he has weekly WR2/WR3 upside depending on the matchup and the health of Geronimo Allison and Cobb. Even if both are healthy, I would think he’d have a big role, but as a longtime Packer fan I’ve learned not to expect rational coaching out of Mike McCarthy.
One other name I’d like to throw out there is John Ross, who is currently out with a groin injury and may be out there on the waiver wire. With A.J. Green’s toe likely to force him to miss a few games (and maybe more), Ross could help fantasy owners if he can just get healthy.
Beller: Absolutely, we will be detailing Ross’s case a bit later in the wide receiver section. With that, let’s get to our full breakdown of the Week 10 waiver wire. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Elijah McGuire, Jets
McGuire played his first game of the season Sunday after spending the first half the year on the PUP list because of a foot injury suffered during training camp. He did well with his opportunities, turning nine touches into 60 yards. What’s more, he played 36 of the team’s 66 snaps, 13 more than Isaiah Crowell and was third on the Jets in targets, trailing only Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson. McGuire’s largest contributions are going to come through the air, so it was encouraging to see him secure five targets in his first game of the season. The Jets still have their bye ahead of them (Week 11), but McGuire can be a depth option in PPR leagues the rest of the way. The Ravens, Broncos, Texans and Vikings are on bye next week, so McGuire could be of particular interest to owners invested in Alex Collins, Phillip Lindsay, Lamar Miller, Latavius Murray or Dalvin Cook.
Mike Davis, Seahawks
Chris Carson was active on Sunday but left after just 10 snaps with an aggravation of his hip/groin injury. Davis stepped in and got a ton of work, totaling 62 yards on 15 carries, and seven receptions for 45 yards in Seattle’s 25-17 loss to the Chargers. If Carson misses more time, which seems likely at this point, Davis figures to be the team’s primary back, leading a rotation that would also include Rashaad Penny. Davis got one start earlier this season, running for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in Week 3. He’d likely be worth starting if Carson is out in Week 10.
Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Corey Clement, Eagles
I am on record as believing that this Eagles backfield will not produce reliable fantasy value for the rest of the season. Sure, one or two of these three will have useful games here and there, and the trio as a whole will have its strong weeks, but fantasy owners can’t start Jocordell Adamentwood. The production will be disparate and impossible to predict, and that will likely make figuring out this backfield more of a headache than it’s worth. However, here’s a nearly comprehensive list of backs who have yet to have their byes this season: Alex Collins, Phillip Lindsay, Lamar Miller, Latavius Murray, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Kenyan Drake, James White, Sony Michel, Matt Breida, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley. In other words, there will be more than a few fantasy owners who have to hold their nose and find a starter at running back, at least for one week. These three Eagles should be in that mix. I’d rank them in exactly the order they’re listed above.
The necessary handcuffs: Malcom Brown, Rams; Spencer Ware, Chiefs; Giovani Bernard, Bengals; Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
November doesn’t just bring us the start of holiday season. It also ushers in handcuff season. To be a true handcuff at this point of the season, a back must be behind a clear workhorse, be under our 40% ownership rate threshold, and stand to inherit the lion’s share of the touches should the starter go down. If you are invested in Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon or David Johnson, especially the first three, you must go go their handcuffs while you still can.
Theo Riddick, Lions
Riddick returned from a knee injury in Week 9, catching seven of eight targets for 36 yards in the Lions’ 24-9 loss to the Vikings. He’s not going to make much, if any, impact as a rusher—he got zero carries against Minnesota—but he should see a ton of time in the slot now that Golden Tate is in Philadelphia. Riddick should be on the radar in full PPR leagues, at least while bye weeks are still active.
Nyheim Hines, Colts
Hines had his best game in a month in Week 8, the last time the Colts played, 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.
John Ross, Bengals
News broke on Sunday morning that A.J. Green will seek a second opinion on his foot injury, and that he will, at the very least, miss a few games. That opens the door once more for Ross, a popular sleeper back in draft season who has watched as Tyler Boyd has developed into a star this season. Ross is nursing a groin injury of his own, but he’s expected to get back on the field when the Bengals return from their bye in Week 10. Ross is one of the fastest players in the league who’s an instant deep threat every time he steps on the field, and the Bengals will need to figure out some way to replace all the value that Green brings to the table. Ross can fill some of that void by taking the top off a defense. The catch here is that Ross likely isn’t held back by waivers. Most leagues don’t place players on waivers when their teams are on bye, meaning that Ross is free for the taking right now. If you need help at receiver, take a shot on Ross while you still can. If you miss out on Ross, Josh Malone, a second-year player out of Tennessee, should also see an increase in workload while Green is out.
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 in Week 8, the team’s last game. 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. With the team’s bye in the rear-view mirror, Kirk can provide valuable depth for owners short at receiver because of byes the next three weeks.
Keke Coutee, Texans
Coutee didn’t play in Week 9 because of a hamstring injury, but he should still be on the fantasy radar. Demaryius Thomas played well in his first game as a Texan, catching three passes for 61 yards, but it was what he didn’t do that should have the fantasy community still interested in Coutee. He didn’t stretch the field, nor did he rack up a ton of targets, getting just three on the afternoon. There’s still plenty of room for Coutee to carve out a meaningful role, and chances are strong that he’ll get most of the deep targets previously reserved for Will Fuller. The Texans have a bye in Week 10, but Coutee has a good chance of returning in Week 11.
Willie Snead, Ravens
Snead got eight more targets on Sunday, catching seven of them for 58 yards in the Ravens’ 23-16 loss to the Steelers. Snead now has 69 targets on the season, good for 21st in the league. He has more targets than Keenan Allen, Tyler Boyd and Brandin Cooks, and while that’s partially inflated because the Ravens have not had their bye, it still speaks to how large a part of the offense he is. In fact, he has two more targets than John Brown, who has gone quiet in recent weeks. The Ravens’ bye finally arrives in Week 10, but Snead can be an asset in Week 11, when six teams are on bye, and Week 12 when two of the league’s best offenses, the Rams and Chiefs, take a seat.
Adam Humphries, Buccaneers
Humphries had a big game on Sunday, catching all eight of his targets for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 42-28 loss to the Panthers. While this was easily Humphries’ best game of the season, he has been trending in the right direction for weeks. The eight targets were actually his fewest over the team’s last three games, as he had nine in Week 8, and 10 last week. He has 19 grabs for 195 yards in that time, and brings a unique element to one of the best passing attacks in the league. He’s certainly worthy of a look in most formats with the Buccaneers’ bye in the past.
Maurice Harris, Redskins
Going into Week 9, Harris had 11 catches for 102 yards this season. In Week 9, he caught 10 balls for 124 yards in Washington's 38-14 loss to Atlanta. Jamison Crowder has missed the last month because of an ankle injury, and Paul Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the loss to the Falcons. It's entirely possible that when Washington takes the field against the Buccaneers next week, a defense that is eminently beatable through the air, Harris will be the top receiver on the depth chart. If you're looking for help with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins and Emmanuel Sanders on bye in Week 10, Harris can help you out.
Tre’Quan Smith, Saints
Smith showed the perils with trusting a player simply because he’s part of a great offense on Sunday. The Saints piled up 487 yards and 45 points in their win over the Rams, yet Smith had just two catches on three targets for 23 yards. He did get in the end zone on one of those catches, but that’s not going to be there every week. Despite playing more than 70% of the team’s snaps over its last four games, he has a total of 16 targets. He’s fine if you need to take a desperation shot over the next few weeks with your regulars on bye, but you shouldn’t be starting him if you have your full roster available to you.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins
Parker’s fantasy value mirrors Smith, minus the part about playing for one of the best offenses in the league. He played just shy of 90% of Miami’s snaps in its 13-6 win over the Jets, yet got just two targets on the afternoon. Parker’s a depth guy worth taking a shot on if you’re going to be hamstrung by byes over the next three weeks, but otherwise doesn’t carry much fantasy value.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Patriots
Patterson has helped the Patriots out of a couple of jams in the backfield the last two weeks, totaling 99 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The problem, though, is that he likely loses all value when Sony Michel returns from a knee injury, and that could happen as soon as this week. His role in a Michel-less offense is large enough to make him a blip on the waiver radar this week, especially since we won’t have more clarity regarding the rookie’s health until later in the week, but he’ll become instantly droppable the moment Michel returns.
Anthony Miller, Bears
Allen Robinson has missed Chicago’s last two games because of a groin injury, and Miller has stepped up in his absence. The rookie out of Memphis has caught eight of 13 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown in that span, making the most of his opportunities in a couple of games the Bears dominated from start to finish. It’s too early to know Robinson’s status for Week 10 when the Bears host the Lions, but Miller would likely be in line for at least seven targets in that game should the veteran remain on the sidelines.
Jack Doyle, Colts
Doyle played his first game since Week 2 two weeks ago—before the Colts’ bye—and led the team’s pass-catchers across the board, racking up six catches on seven targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in the 42-28 win over the Raiders. Doyle was one of three Colts’ tight ends to find the end zone in the game, joining Eric Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox, but he was the clear leader at the position. He played 73% of the team’s snaps, compared with 22% for Ebron and 32% for Alie-Cox. Now healthy, he’ll be on the TE1 radar for the rest of the season.
Chris Herndon, Jets
Herndon’s three-game touchdown streak was snapped in the Jets’ 13-6 loss to the Dolphins in Week 9, but, in a way, it was his best game of the season. He caught all four of his targets for a team-high 62 yards, and showed off his big-play ability again with a 28-yard grab. Over the last four weeks, the rookie out of Miami has 11 receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns, becoming a key player in the Jets’ offense. At the very least, he’ll be on the stream radar every week for the rest of the season.
Jeff Heuerman, Broncos
Heuerman had easily his best game of the season on Sunday, catching 10 of 11 targets for 83 yards and a touchdown in Denver’s 19-17 loss to Houston. He led the team in targets, but it’s not as though anyone else’s workload was anomalously small. Emmanuel Sanders got nine targets, Courtland Sutton had five, and Phillip Lindsay had 17 carries while getting three looks from Case Keenum. In other words, Heuerman could absolutely be in line for a larger role in the offense now that Demaryius Thomas is gone. The Broncos have a bye in Week 10, but, like Herndon, Heuerman’s floor is a weekly stream candidate for the remainder of the year.