Week 2 Waiver Wire Pickups (2020 Fantasy Football)
NFL fans spent months waiting for a season some thought may never come. As a result, receiving their first taste of football will cause some overreactions.
Don’t jump to concrete conclusions just yet. Last year, Sammy Watkins, John Ross, and DeSean Jackson were fantasy’s top-three Week 1 wide receivers. Phillip Dorsett offered 0.1 more point (standard scoring) than Michael Thomas and Julio Jones combined. Case Keenum and Marcus Mariota were top-10 quarterbacks. Kyler Murray and Matt Ryan were not. Aaron Jones, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, and George Kittle all opened 2019 with relative duds for their standards.
Then again, Week 1 also set the tone for many league-winning breakouts and weekly contributors who had gone undrafted. Those who responded from last year’s opening Sunday may have snagged Josh Allen, D.J. Chark Jr., Terry McLaurin, Mark Andrews, or Darren Waller off the waiver wire. Fantasy managers must thus walk a tightrope between reacting to recent developments but not overreacting to blips.
A couple of players below return from last week’s column. A couple probably graced last year’s column in September as well. While a handful of them could have potentially plateaued in Week 1, a few will wind up playing a pivotal role on championship rosters.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 1
Malcolm Brown (RB – LAR): 27% Rostered
Unfortunately, we have not successfully time-traveled back to 2019. For the second straight season, Brown scored two touchdowns in the opening week. Last year peaked with him gracing waiver-wire columns at this same juncture; he finished with just 255 rushing yards and didn’t find the end zone again until Week 11.
There are a few reasons to expect this beginning to transpire differently. For starters, Todd Gurley is out of the picture. The Rams’ backfield is now wide open, and Brown made an indelible first impression during Sunday night’s victory over the Rams. Back in 2019, Brown played just 21 snaps in the season-opener. This time around, he played 44 of 73 snaps. Cam Akers played 24, and Darrell Henderson barely saw the field with five. Brown, who had just two catches for 16 yards all of last season, delivered three receptions for 31 yards on top of his 18 rushes for 79 yards against the Cowboys. He received three handoffs inside the 10 as well as an additional rush and target each inside the 20.
Gamers who got burned by Brown last year may be hesitant to touch the stove again, but this performance could be the sign of a breakout rather than a one-off fluke. He was easily the Rams’ best running back in Week 1, and thus deserves every opportunity to remain their primary option going forward. While he won’t become vintage Gurley, Brown could flourish as an RB2 or flex play.
Dallas Goedert (TE – PHI): 55% Rostered
This is cheating a bit, as Goedert is already rostered in a majority of Yahoo leagues. The 17th tight end in preseason ADP and ECR was hardly falling under the radar entirely, but that will prove far too low if Week 1 is the new norm. Goedert saw the field for 54 of Philadelphia’s 68 snaps, just four fewer than Zach Ertz. Each tight end caught a touchdown from Carson Wentz, but Goedert posted eight catches for 101 yards on nine targets. Ertz mustered just three grabs for 18 yards on seven targets.
Meanwhile, every Eagles wide receiver combined for 130 yards on eight receptions.
Goedert’s 85% snap rate is a major takeaway, as it carries over last year’s late progress. His five highest rates came during his final seven games, a stretch in which he was the TE9. Even if Ertz is still Wentz’s top target, Goedert might spend the season second in line.
Nyheim Hines (RB – IND): 19% Rostered
Seeing Hines record eight receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown was a welcome, but not entirely shocking sight. After all, Philip Rivers led Austin Ekeler to 92 catches on 108 targets (both second to Christian McCaffrey among all running backs) last season. Yet how many called Hines also recording the Colts’ first rushing touchdown of 2020?
OFF AND RUNNING ‼️
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 13, 2020
With all the debate of whether Marlon Mack or Jonathan Taylor would lead the ground game in what promised to be a high-volume victory over the listless Jaguars, Hines instead topped the team with a measly 26 rushing yards in a 27-20 loss. The 23-year-old played 39 of 74 snaps and received six red-zone touches — including an unsuccessful 4th-and-1 from the three-yard line — for the Colts.
It would have been reasonable to write this performance off as a one-off anomaly if not for Mack leaving the game with what the Colts later confirmed to be a torn Achilles. Three is a crowd, but there’s now room for Hines to operate as a third-down back who piles up receptions and takes a few spare handoffs from Taylor. Given Rivers’ proclivity to dump off to running backs, Hines may now be every bit as valuable as James White in PPR leagues.
Benny Snell Jr. (RB – PIT): 13%
Following an ineffective start, James Conner left Monday night’s game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Snell, who also filled in for Conner at times last year, stepped in to submit 1113 rushing yards on 19 carries. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year and remains a complete non-factor in the passing game. However, Snell usually receives all the handoffs he can handle when Mike Tomlin commits to him as that game’s lead back. The second-year pro also slimmed down during the offseason, which paid off with a career-long 30-yard run.
If Conner needs to miss time, Snell becomes an instant top add, especially in non-PPR formats. The way they played against the Giants, Snell could even take the job away from a healthy Conner. Yet don’t forget about Anthony McFarland Jr. Although the rookie was not active for Week 1, he could at least complement Snell as a third-down back and change-of-pace burner. That is, of course, unless he takes the lead role outright.
Parris Campbell (WR – IND): 20% Rostered
Hines wasn’t the only performer who established himself as a focal point of Indianapolis’ offense. Campbell matched T.Y. Hilton with a team-best nine targets, yielding six catches for 71 yards. He led all Colts wide receivers with 61 snaps, many of which came from the slot. That resulted in instant chemistry with Rivers, who’s used to directing a heavy supply of passes to Keenan Allen.
A second-round pick in 2019, Campbell saw multiple injuries derail his rookie campaign. He’s now healthy and ready to utilize his playing speed in open space. Per Player Profiler, Campbell’s 40-yard dash (4.31), speed score, and burst score at the NFL Combine each rank in the 97th percentile or better. There shouldn’t be another chance to add him after this week.
Notable Players 35-50% Rostered
Adrian Peterson (RB – DET): 45% Rostered
At first glance, Peterson looks like the main man in Detroit’s backfield. A week after signing with the Lions, the 35-year-old looked a decade younger while running for 93 yards on 14 carries. He also secured all three of his targets for 21 yards. Meanwhile, Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift, who dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown catch, combined for 37 yards on 13 touches.
Before unloading all of your FAAB on Peterson, consider that the three backs actually split playing time:
Despite the final score, Detroit led for a majority of the contest before squandering a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead. Peterson’s fantasy success will still likely depend on the game script, and Matt Patricia has consistently frustrated fantasy managers by tweaking multi-man backfields. With all that said, Peterson is far from washed up. He’s coming off a campaign with 1,042 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and is capable of replicating those numbers if given another 15 carries per game.
Allen Lazard (WR – GB): 42%
The bad news? Lazard didn’t open with the target uptick anticipated when touting him last week. It didn’t matter, as he caught all four of them for a super-efficient 63 yards and a touchdown. Even if he didn’t benefit from the extra volume, it’s nevertheless promising from Lazard’s rest-of-season outlook to see Aaron Rodgers open up the aerial game and go 32-of-44 for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Per The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, the MVP quarterback once again endorsed Lazard:
Aaron Rodgers on Allen Lazard: "He's a guy I trust, and you all have covered me for a long time and you know that's the most important characteristic a receiver can earn because once I trust him, the ball's coming your way."
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 13, 2020
If Rodgers trusts Lazard as he inches closer to vintage form, so should you.
Los Angeles Rams D/ST: 48%
The Rams, who ranked fifth in fantasy scoring last season, opened 2020 with a 20-17 victory over last year’s top-ranked passing offense. While they didn’t conjure any takeaways — and therefore much fantasy production — against the Cowboys, they at least picked up three sacks. Playing without Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Andre Dillard, the Eagles surrendered eight sacks to Washington. Those backups won’t have much fun dealing with Aaron Donald in Week 2.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Robby Anderson (WR – CAR): 31%
The ultimate boom-or-bust option hit in his Panthers debut, as Teddy Bridgewater connected with Anderson for a 75-yard touchdown. Anyone who ever deployed Anderson has relied on such a seismic strike.
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/QqePG4nkMt
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 13, 2020
Making his first game with Carolina all the more exciting, the 27-year-old also reeled in a team-high six catches on eight targets. Consistency will be the key to transforming Anderson from a high-upside streamer to a weekly starter. If Week 1’s 34-30 loss is any indication, the Panthers will play in the types of shootouts conducive to unlocking his potential beyond just a handful of cameos throughout the season. Anderson is still unlikely to serve as a reliable WR3, but he’s too talented to wither away on the waiver wire.
Gardner Minshew II (QB – JAC): 26%
Minshew needed only 20 passing attempts to compile 20.8 fantasy points. He threw three touchdowns and just one incompletion. That spectacular efficiency in victory came from a quarterback who garnered sleeper appeal on the prospect of accumulating volume in garbage time.
Let’s not re-write the book on Minshew just yet. Week 1 upset upside, the Jaguars are unlikely to vault back into the playoff picture behind a depleted supporting cast. Interestingly enough, he also opened 2019 by going a remarkably accurate 22-of-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick in his NFL debut. That performance, however, came off the bench in a blowout loss. He attempted no fewer than 29 passes in his next 13 games while showing more aggression downfield. Sunday’s outing verifies his potential as a strong QB2 with low-end QB1 potential. Just don’t expect Minshew to follow this same blueprint going forward.
Greg Olsen (TE – SEA): 26%
Will Dissly was last season’s TE5 through Week 6 (.5-PPR) before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury. From Week 7 onward, Jacob Hollister placed as the TE13. Russell Wilson can support a productive tight end, especially if the Seahawks are finally letting him run the show. He directed four of Sunday’s 35 passes to Olsen, who caught all of them for 24 yards and a touchdown. The 35-year-old is likely a touchdown-dependent option at this stage of his career, but he somehow managed to finish 2019 as the TE13 through 14 games.
Joshua Kelley (RB – LAC): 13%
If told Austin Ekeler would receive 19 carries, nobody would have expected much from Kelley. Yet the rookie quickly supplanted Justin Jackson as the second in command, turning a dozen handoffs into 60 yards and a touchdown. This wasn’t empty volume; the Chargers fed Kelley three times inside the 10 in a highly competitive contest. He could quickly make life uncomfortable for those who invested a high pick on Ekeler, turning this backfield into more of a timeshare with high-impact touches. As mentioned when recommending Kelley before the season began, his September schedule sets up perfectly for immediate results. He’ll see Kansas City in Week 2 and the Panthers (who just yielded three touchdowns to Josh Jacobs) the following week.
Laviska Shenault (WR – JAC) 12%
A year after Chark rose to relevance, the Jaguars could produce another waiver-wire gem. Playing nearly as many snaps (31) as Keelan Cole (33), Sheanault tallied 47 yards (37 receiving, 10 rushing) and found the end zone during his NFL debut. While Cole also scored a touchdown, the 21-year-old is a more worthy upside pick. Former Jaguars Pro Bowler and current receiving coach Keenan McCardell compared Shenault to Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson because of his power and explosion. He could follow Chark’s example and quickly rise up Jacksonville’s depth chart as Minshew’s No. 2 wideout.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – GB): 7%
Some read the Lazard love above and wondered where the same recognition was for Valdes-Scantling, who submitted 96 yards and his own score on six targets. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, only Marquise Brown and DeSean Jackson averaged more air yards per target Sunday. The difference is, he’s burned us before. While Lazard has often delivered in limited opportunities since getting a chance late last year, MVS secured under half (64) of his 129 career targets entering 2020. He may have finished Week 1 with a stellar line, but Valdes-Scantling also had a noteworthy drop. While Lazard is still the top add, MVS has some deep-league potential with the Lions and a trio of NFC South opponents (at NO, ATL, at TB) on Green Bay’s upcoming schedule.
Corey Davis (WR – TEN): 5%
Well, if you say so…
You're darn right you're going to see Corey Davis on all the waiver wire lists tomorrow. ALL OF THEM.
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) September 15, 2020
Following yet another letdown season, drafters finally gave up on Davis. By the laws of fantasy sports, that meant he had to open 2020 with seven catches for 101 yards late Monday night. It marked his first time reaching triple-digit yardage since November 11, 2018. While this skeptic needs to see more than one blow-up performance to buy back in beyond deep leagues, the former No. 5 overall pick is only 25 years old.
Washington D/ST: 4%
Washington’s defense made quite the statement in Week 1’s upset over Philadelphia, compiling eight sacks, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Although Carson Wentz started hot, he ended up with a pedestrian 270 passing yards on 42 attempts. Chase Young and Co. can inflict more damage against a leaky Arizona offensive line in Week 2 before facing a Cleveland offense that put up six points in a Week 1 stinker.
Peyton Barber (RB – WAS): 4%
For all of the attention paid to Antonio Gibson, it was inevitable that Barber would punch in two goal-line touchdowns. In true Barber fashion, he collected just 29 yards on 17 carries without a single rush above eight yards. The main story, however, is that he nearly doubled Gibson’s eight handoffs without getting his number called near the end zone. Just like during his Tampa Bay tenure, Barber is a touchdown-dependent flex play — preferably in deeper, non-PPR formats — when the right matchup beckons.
Frank Gore (RB – NYJ): 4%
Josh Adams (RB – NYJ): 0%
Adam Gase expects Le’Veon Bell to miss “a couple of weeks” with a hamstring injury sustained in Week 1. Even without Bell, this will likely be a messy situation to only bother with in deep leagues. Nobody in Gang Green’s backfield did much of note in a loss to the Bills, and Gore played just one more snap (14) than Adams. The veteran is at least more likely to get goal-line looks, so he’s the top add despite a severely capped ceiling.
Russell Gage (WR – ATL): 2%
With Atlanta trailing for most of Week 1’s 38-25 loss to Seattle, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Gage each caught nine of 12 targets. While Matt Ryan won’t throw 54 times every game, the Falcons handily lead the NFL in pass attempts last season. Their defense could force them to continually play from behind, so it’s encouraging to see Gage match the squad’s stud receiving duo step for step. Last season, he emerged after the Falcons traded Mohamed Sanu and saw 66 of his 74 targets over their final nine games, including a season-high 13 in the season finale. He’s a sneaky volume play in deeper leagues.
Logan Thomas (TE – WAS): 2%
Entering 2020 to some sizzling sleeper buzz, Thomas delivered four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown on a team-high eight targets. Those targets also matched a personal-high set in 2018. No longer competing with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the 6’6″, 250-pound tight end could develop a significant rapport with Dwayne Haskins. There’s immediate matchup appeal as well. Washington plays its next game against the Cardinals, who allowed 13.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends last season when no other team relinquished 10 or more. The team then faces the Browns, who just surrendered a pair of touchdowns to Mark Andrews in Week 1.
Danny Amendola (WR – DET): 2%
It wasn’t too shocking to see Amendola register a team-high 81 receiving yards in Kenny Golladay’s absence. Last season, he produced at least 95 yards in three of seven games played with Matthew Stafford. That stat covers up the basement level floor, as he mustered a combined 72 yards in the other four contests. Although no more than a deep-league matchup play with the Lions at full strength, Amendola could make a more consistent impact if Golladay misses more time.
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