Waiver Wire Pickups: Week Five
The tale of the season so far has been one of quarterback injuries, but Drew Brees made his triumphant return in Week 4. Brees put up a respectable 22-point performance on his way to crushing the dreams of Cowboys fans everywhere, and while he doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent healthy, he looks like an unquestionable QB1 moving forward.
Jay Cutler also returned, to the tune of 18 points, so the only fantasy-relevant quarterbacks on the sideline now are Romo and Roethlisberger. Both look like they’ll be out a while, and with bye weeks starting up, owners need all the help they can get.
Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets.
Let’s dive in and see who’s available on the wire in Week 5.
Alex Smith is available in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues, and has put up at least 17 points every week that he hasn’t played Denver’s monstrous defense. He could be a good fill-in play against soft Chicago.
Don’t let the 20-point showing or the game-winning drive fool you; Kirk Cousins is not to be trusted. Atlanta’s defense has been much stouter than usual under former Seattle defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, and Cousins has four touchdowns to four interceptions so far this season. Washington fans hope he’s their savior, but he won’t be the savior of your fantasy team.
If you’re desperate, Blake Bortles continues to put up respectable fantasy numbers even as his team loses. Jacksonville faces the equally inept Bucs this week on the road, so Bortles can provide temporary relief if your starter is on bye this week. Don’t trust him as anything more than that.
- Must-Adds: None
- Bye Week Replacements: Alex Smith, Blake Bortles
- Speculative Stashes: Kirk Cousins
Raise your hand if you benched Doug Martin for Arian Foster. Just me? Great.
With Foster back, you can safely dump any of the other Houston backs if you’ve kept them this long. Foster didn’t have a great showing, but Houston had to abandon the run before they got to the stadium thanks to the immediate beating Atlanta put down. He should be much more effective against Indy on Thursday.
Foster is only available in about 7 percent of leagues. If he is, grab him. Also of note: Devonta Freeman, the top RB so far, remains unowned in 11 percent of leagues. Karlos Williams, the sixth-highest scorer, is unowned in 18 percent, and LeSean McCoy is out until who knows when. If either is unowned in even 1 percent of leagues on Wednesday, something is desperately wrong.
Moving on to guys who are actually available in most places, Duke Johnson on the Browns remains the backup to Isaiah Crowell, but has big play potential. If you’re hit by injuries already, he offers better upside than most others available on the wire.
Darren McFadden in Dallas will continue to split time with Joseph Randle, but with Lance Dunbar out for the season, someone has to step up in the passing game. Randle rode the bench for much of the second half in New Orleans as punishment for jumping over the pile on his touchdown run, so McFadden might see more action if he can stay in Jason Garrett’s good graces.
Surprisingly, Ronnie Hillman is still available in 65 percent of leagues. With C.J. Anderson continuing to underwhelm and Hillman breaking the only decent-looking run of the Broncos’ season so far, his carries should continue to creep up as Denver’s offense starts to gel. Hillman has value regardless of whether Anderson remains healthy and should be owned.
- Must-Adds: Karlos Williams, Devonta Freeman
- Quality Pickups: Darren McFadden, Duke Johnson, Ronnie Hillman, David Johnson
- Ignore: Roy Helu, Khiry Robinson, Terron Ward
I know, I know. Rishard Matthews blew it. Hold on to him, though. He has talent and should get more opportunities moving forward than he did in London.
You probably won’t own anyone more frustrating than Tavon Austin all year, but if you’re in a 14-person league or a deep 12-person league, it’s time to pick him up. Two red zone touchdowns is no coincidence, and if Todd Gurley makes the Rams’ opponents play the run, Austin will get more opportunities down the line.
I still refuse to acknowledge Rueben Randle as a potentially viable fantasy receiver. Cruz is coming back. Randle’s talent and potential are overstated. He will not be fantasy relevant outside of daily leagues this season.
Kamar Aiken of the Ravens got some good looks with Steve Smith hobbled, but his ceiling is limited with Smith on the field, Perriman’s assumed return, and the Ravens’ offensive woes in general.
Some people who dropped Terrance Williams last week will be scrambling to pick him up again. Don’t be one of them, unless you’re in a deep league and want to stash him for Romo’s return. Brandon Weeden’s struggles throwing the ball to the outside will continue to prevent Williams from consistent production.
Whether to pick up Leonard Hankerson depends on whether you believe in late bloomers. If Julio Jones continues to command a lot of attention (spoiler: he will), Hankerson seems to be the clear beneficiary. He’s passed Roddy White on the de facto depth chart, and defenses now have to respect the run in Atlanta. Hankerson might have some duds, but as long as the Falcons’ offense keeps humming, he’ll continue to change minds.
- Must-Adds: None
- Quality Pickups: Tavon Austin, Leonard Hankerson
- Ignore: Rueben Randle, Kamar Aiken, Terrance Williams
The play of the week this week? Owen Daniels. The Raiders couldn’t stop Betty White if she lined up at tight end. Owners of Greg Olsen, Jordan Cameron, and Kyle Rudolph should take note.
No one quite understands where Gary Barnidge came from. He’s allegedly 30 years old, but perhaps he just appeared out of thin air because the Browns needed him. Cleveland seems to trust him. With two good games behind him, if you’re desperate at TE, you should pick him up now. If he has a third, he won’t be available.
Antonio Gates is only owned in 55 percent of leagues, but returns from his suspension this week. The Steelers have done well covering tight ends not named Gronk this season, but San Diego will want to get their future HoF tight end involved in an important AFC matchup on Monday night.
Beyond those three players, tight ends on the waiver wire this week are about as pick-one-and-pray as you’ll find all year.
- Must-Adds: Gates
- Quality Pickups: Owen Daniels, Gary Barnidge
- Ignore: Everyone else
Unless someone is on the waiver wire who shouldn’t be, don’t waste your claim on anyone this week.
Overall Top 12
- Antonio Gates, SD TE
- Ronnie Hillman, DEN RB
- Leonard Hankerson, ATL WR
- Darren McFadden, DAL RB
- Owen Daniels, DEN TE
- Tavon Austin, STL WR
- Duke Johnson, CLE RB
- David Johnson, ARI RB
- Gary Barnidge, CLE TE
- Alex Smith, KC QB
- Blake Bortles, JAX QB
- Betty White, GG
Percentages based on Yahoo! Fantasy ownership.
Preston has lived all around Texas, and his loyalties always lie with his Texas Tech Red Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. He lives with his fiancée, Cheyenne. When he’s not busy winning fantasy football championships, he enjoys reading detective novels and taking naps.