Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups (2020 Fantasy Football)
Forget your record after Week 2. Consider yourself fortunate if you merely escaped the opening weeks without any significant injuries.
Following an unconventional offseason and no preseason, it’s not surprising to see an avalanche of ailments infiltrate the NFL. It’s nonetheless jarring to have seen Marlon Mack, Kenny Golladay, A.J. Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Chris Godwin, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Drew Lock, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Akers, Parris Campbell, Sammy Watkins, Courtland Sutton …. sighs deeply …. Michael Thomas, George Kittle, Davante Adams, Christian McCaffrey, and Saquon Barkley all get hurt just two games into the season.
Chances are your team is hurting. Some of those players are impossible to properly replace via the waiver wire. There’s no choice but to make do with the current choices. While the circumstances causing it are grim, opportunities have nevertheless arisen for several available players.
Try to fill your roster’s wounds with these players before Week 3.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 1
Joshua Kelley (RB – LAC): 39% Rostered
After rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, Kelly totaled 113 yards (64 rushing, 49 receiving) on a gargantuan 25 touches in Week 2’s overtime loss to Kansas City. Only Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor topped his 23 carries on Sunday, and that was despite Austin Ekeler also receiving 20 touches.
That workload mandates that the fourth-round pick must be rostered in all leagues going forward. However, it’s especially essential to add Kelley right now. The Chargers are set to host the Panthers, who have already permitted 255 rushing yards and six touchdowns in two games. Ekeler and Kelley are both must-starts for their golden Week 3 matchup.
Gardner Minshew (QB – JAC): 32% Rostered
This is the third time I’ve mentioned Minshew in as many weeks. It should be the last time he’s available in enough leagues to qualify for a waiver-wire column.
Jacksonville’s starter began 2020 by going a resoundingly efficient 19-of-20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns in an upset win over the Colts. I wrote that it’s more likely he’d amass volume in losses going forward. That’s exactly what he did Sunday, completing 30 of 45 passes for 339 passing yards, three touchdowns, and two picks in a 33-30 loss at Tennessee. Regardless of the path taken, he’s accrued the 10th-most fantasy points among all quarterbacks.
All four of Minshew’s next four games (vs. MIA, at CIN, at HOU, vs. DET) have the makings of fantasy-friendly shootouts against subpar defenses. He may now be less of a streamer and more of a genuine top-12 play in those matchups.
Mike Davis (RB – CAR): 6% Rostered
Because 2020 needs to remain awful in every imaginable way, Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss “multiple weeks” with an ankle injury. Davis probably won’t break fantasy football as the far-away top performer, but he looks poised to play a heavy role in Carolina’s passing game. Despite not relieving McCaffrey until late in Week 2’s loss to Tamp Bay, he caught all eight targets for 74 yards.
Davis also ran for just one yard, but the Panthers were already clawing at a deficit by the time he saw the field. The 27-year-old averaged 4.6 yards per carry when given a bit of work for Seattle in 2018, so perhaps he can do a bit on the ground as well. At the moment, Carolina doesn’t have much competition for reps in the backfield. Barring another acquisition, which is entirely possible, Davis could see a heavy heaping of work for an offense accustomed to funneling through McCaffrey.
Myles Gaskin (RB – MIA): 16% Rostered
In a Miami backfield expected to split duties between Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, Gaskin has instead led the way with 13 touches in each game. He’s also logged 88 snaps compared to just 30 for Breida and 17 for Howard. While his 148 total yards haven’t exactly led any gamers to glory, those in PPR leagues have gotten their money’s worth. Gaskin ranks second all running backs with 10 receptions.
Is he a league-winning find? Doubt it. Yet opportunity is valuable currency, so Gaskin now has the capital to merit flex consideration in the right matchups.
Jerick McKinnon (RB – SF): 21%
Raheem Mostert left Sunday’s game with a leg injury. Although he appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario, he’s likely to miss Week 3 with an MRI sprain. There will be plenty of opportunities to absorb in San Francisco’s backfield, as the 49ers ranked second in rushing attempts and yards behind the Ravens last season. They have already handed the ball off 51 times in two contests, and they may want to run even more if Jimmy Garoppolo is also out.
Without Mostert, the most carries would have likely transferred to Tevin Coleman. However, he also suffered a knee injury that will likely cost him a few weeks. As a result, everyone should turn to McKinnon. Although given a dainty three touches against the Jets, he broke off one for a 55-yard run on third-and-31.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 20, 2020
The 49ers must have had big plans for the back when signing him to a four-year, $30 million deal prior to the 2018 season. An ACL tear cost him all of 2018, and then knee surgery halted his attempted recovery last year. If at least one of Mostert or Coleman was able to play, that hazardous health history would limit McKinnon to a small-dosage role focused primarily on pass-catching. However, he’s shown an ability to make the most of limited touches when healthy, so he’s an intriguing high-upside stash with both the first- and second-stringers sidelined.
Notable Players 35-50% Rostered
Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN): 46%
Tannehill flipped Minshew’s script, leveraging 43 pass attempts to an effective Week 1 before tossing four touchdowns on just 24 throws to defeat Jacksonville. He’s now averaging 23.6 fantasy points per game in a dozen starts since taking over as Tennessee’s starting quarterback last season. Only Lamar Jackson had a higher point-per-game tally under center last season. While the Titans have tough Steelers and Bills defenses on the horizon in Weeks 4 and 5, they first face a downgraded Vikings unit that yielded 9.8 yards per pass attempt to Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers.
Corey Davis (WR – TEN): 42%
Tannehill has thrived without much assistance from his top wide receiver, A.J. Brown. The long-ago discarded Davis has instead caught 10 of 13 targets for 137 yards and a touchdown. He was even nice enough to spread out the yards (101) in Week 1 and score in Week 2. A perennial breakout candidate who didn’t break out, Davis has personally victimized more fantasy managers than Regina George. Here’s the thing: This is just his fourth season. He’s only 25.
Regardless of the sport, fantasy players have a bad tendency of lifting up young stars, only to quickly jettison and blacklist them if they don’t put it together immediately. Just like DeVante Parker was likely on many 2019 “Never Again” lists, Davis could finally be ready to produce in an effective offense, especially if Brown misses any more time.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – GB): 36%
Last week’s tepid recommendation of Valdes-Scantling still needed to see more than one week. While his three catches for 64 yards doesn’t represent a ground-breaking effort, it signifies major progress. After all, MVS exceeded 55 yards just twice last season. He followed up his best game of the campaign, 133 yards and a touchdown in Week 7, with 36 yards combined the rest of the season. Valdes-Scantling saw seven targets — more than any other Green Bay receiver in its 42-21 win over Green Bay. While Davante Adams left this game with a hamstring injury, it may not be a long-term issue. Look at Valdes-Scantling either way; he’ll either see more targets without Adams or lesser attention with the star on the field.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Darrell Henderson (RB – LAC): 33%
OK, so the Rams’ backfield is going to be one of those situations. Malcolm Brown drew top billing in this column after a two-touchdown opening weekend. Last Sunday, despite Cam Akers exiting early with a hip injury, Brown settled for 47 yards on 11 handoffs. Henderson, meanwhile, produced a gaudy 121 yards (80 rushing, 41 receiving) and a touchdown on 14 touches.
Perhaps getting snake-bitten by this backfield last week keeps Henderson out of the Top Targets section. Another problem: Henderson still didn’t play as many snaps (29) as Brown (37). Then there’s the fact that a healthy Akers could turn this into a three-headed monster, a situation that rarely works out for fantasy purposes. Given all the hype surrounding him in 2019 drafts following a 2,200-yard, 25-touchdown campaign at Memphis, Henderson certainly has a high ceiling if he can carve out a meaningful slice of opportunity.
N’Keal Harry (WR – NE): 27%
This says more about his disappointing rookie campaign, but it only took Harry two games to exceed last year’s total receptions and yards. Some onlookers may ask, “So what?” He didn’t exactly win matchups with 13 catches for 111 yards. However, the 2019 No. 32 overall NFL Draft pick has received a substantial 28.56% (18-of-63) of Cam Newton’s targets.
Newton has raised eyebrows by already completing 45 of those throws (72.4%) for 552 yards. The former MVP is leaping back toward vintage form, and Harry is his primary target on the outside. As he continues to earn Newton’s trust, the 6’4″ wideout should eventually see more downfield and red-zone looks.
Russell Gage (WR – ATL): 22%
Another week, another productive game from Gage. Although Matt Ryan’s pass attempts dipped from 54 to 46, his No. 3 receiver still caught six of nine targets for 46 yards and a touchdown. Through two contests, Gage trails the blazing-hot Calvin Ridley by just one catch and target apiece and has Julio Jones beat in both categories. He’d even have a passing touchdown if not for an uncharacteristic drop by Jones. Based on their horrendous defense thus far, it seems clear that last season’s leader in pass attempts will have to keep airing it out often in high-octane shootouts. Gage, who has at least five catches in seven of his last eight games dating back to last season, could continue to hold his own as a borderline WR3/4.
Michael Pittman (WR – IND): 15%
Just as Parris Campbell began to find his footing, the speedy slot receiver suffered a PCL injury that will take him out of commission for a while. Zach Pascal was the recipient of Philip Rivers’ lone Week 2 touchdown pass, but Pittman was on the field for all but six of the Colts’ 73 snaps. That’s despite a toe injury putting his availability in question prior to Sunday’s kickoff. A far different player than Campbell, the 6’4″ rookie is more of an end-zone threat like Rivers had with Vincent Jackson in San Diego.
Tre’Quan Smith (WR – NO): 14%
Monday night provided a decisive answer to who would step up in the absence of Michael Thomas. Smith tallied five catches for 86 receiving yards against the Raiders; Alvin Kamara was the only other New Orleans player to top three catches or 25 yards. He easily led all wide receivers with seven targets while extending plays after the catch. Smith has teased managers with a breakout that never came to fruition over his first two seasons, but a clear opportunity is present to flourish while Thomas is sidelined.
Devonta Freeman (RB – FA): 12%
*Editor’s Note: Freeman signed a 1-year deal with the Giants >>
As injuries pile up across the NFL, Freeman remains unsigned. That could change soon. The Giants brought him in for a workout after losing Barkley to an ACL tear. The 28-year-old would make a lot of sense as the lead runner in a tandem with Dion Lewis and/or Wayne Gallman. The Eagles have also expressed interest, and the Panthers have major shoes to fill in their backfield as well. He should find a home soon. Depending on the landing spot, it may not take long for the two-time Pro Bowler to get instant touches.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Mitchell Trubisky (QB – CHI): 7%
It hasn’t been pretty beyond Week 1’s fourth-quarter comeback, but Trubisky has tossed five touchdowns in a pair of victories against the Giants and Lions. Although you’d have to be really desperate to play him in a 10- or 12-team league with one quarterback, another advantageous matchup puts him in a strong spot to succeed. The Falcons surrendered 78 combined points to the Seahawks and Falcons. Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott cumulatively totaled 772 passing yards and four touchdowns apiece (three rushing for Prescott). Of course, Trubisky is an inferior quarterback, and the Bears are a far lesser offense. Yet Atlanta’s defense still looks like a major problem, so Trubisky should put up strong numbers as a QB2.
Dion Lewis (RB – NYG): 4%
Wayne Gallman (RB – NYG): 1%
Upon seeing the crushing news of Barkley’s ACL tear, the gut reaction was to place Lewis as a priority pick-up. Pressed into duty Sunday, he promptly received 10 carries and five targets for the G-Men and punched in a one-yard touchdown run. Three years ago, the 5’9″ back totaled 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns in New England. However, he’s far from guaranteed to inherit the featured role going forward.
A healthy scratch Sunday, Gallman is also a skilled pass-catcher who could eat into Lewis’ snaps. Last year, he gained 118 yards and two touchdowns on 24 touches (18 rushes, six receptions) in a Week 4 contest sans Barkley. There’s also a decent chance Freeman — or another free agent — signs and limits one or both of them to a third-down assignment. Grab Lewis just in case, especially if facing the impossible task of replacing Barkley. Gallman is more of a deep-league dart throw; Lewis is currently ahead of him in the pecking order, and the duo might be too similar to co-exist.
Justin Herbert (QB – LAC): 3%
Surprisingly tapped to make his NFL debut in place of Tyrod Taylor, Herbert threw for 311 yards with one passing and rushing touchdown apiece. It was certainly an impressive introduction for a rookie thrown into the fire at the last second to face the defending champions. Given how lackluster the Chargers offense looked with Taylor at the helm in Week 1, he shouldn’t have a stronghold on the job regardless of his health status. Head coach Anthony Lynn said Taylor will start if 100%, but that doesn’t appear to be the case yet. While this hardly makes Herbert a must-add option in the typical one-quarterback league, he can immediately be used in two-quarterback or Superflex formats for a cushy Week 3 matchup against Carolina.
Dalton Schultz (TE – DAL): 2%
Schultz didn’t look like a suitable replacement for Blake Jarwin when pressed into duty Week 1. On Sunday, however, the second-year pro stepped up to catch nine of 10 targets for 88 yards and a touchdown. This performance likely isn’t the norm for a player envisioned as a block-first tight end. Dak Prescott also threw 47 times in a wild come-from-behind victory over the Falcons, but Schultz now has a role in last year’s second-ranked passing offense. He’s now firmly on the TE2 map in deeper leagues and — if Week 2 was more than a one-off — a potential matchup play and bye-week replacement down the line.
Mo Alie-Cox (TE – IND): 1%
With Jack Doyle sidelined, Alie-Cox collected 111 receiving yards on a day where Rivers mustered just 214 yards through the air. As noted by numberFire’s JJ Zachariason, Doyle has one 100-yard game in his entire 101-game career. Before the season started, I broke down Rivers’ affinity for the tight end position. Keep an eye on Doyle’s status. If he remains sidelined, Alie-Cox is certainly an intriguing option who’s available just about everywhere.
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