Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Chuba Hubbard, Emmanuel Sanders, Dalton Schultz (2021)
Once again, a running back replacing an injured star demands the most waiver-wire attention.
So far this season, few undrafted players look poised to shift the fabric of the 2021 fantasy football season. It also should be too late to add September’s uncovered gems (Derek Carr, Tony Pollard, Ty’Son Williams, Cordarrelle Patterson, Christian Kirk), leaving a relatively uninspired batch of options entering Week 4.
However, an unfortunate injury opens the door for a consensus top-priority pickup.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 4
Chuba Hubbard (RB – CAR): 26% Rostered
This week’s top waiver-wire priority is especially obvious for managers who lost Christian McCaffrey. The star running back will miss time after straining his hamstring Thursday night. In his place, Hubbard claimed first dibs on the spotlight.
Playing 40 snaps to Royce Freeman’s 11, Hubbard compiled 79 total yards (52 rushing, 27 receiving) on 11 carries and five targets. That’s a lot of action considering McCaffrey exited in the second quarter. While he won’t come close to replacing CMC as the king of fantasy football, the Panthers rookie is a must-add and viable starter during McCaffrey’s absence. Mike Davis finished last season as the RB15 despite averaging 3.9 yards per carry and going touchless in the first and final week.
Anyone rostering McCaffrey may need to bid a few dollars above their comfort level.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR – BUF): 26% Rostered
Buffalo’s offense found its mojo in Week 3’s 43-21 win over Washington, and Sanders benefitted with 94 yards and two touchdowns. Although a clear ancillary option, he was 20 targets and 194 yards through three games. With Josh Allen already attempting 127 passes, Sanders is emerging as a steady depth option whom managers will appreciate once bye weeks arise. He could register a final line close to 2019’s 869 yards and five touchdowns.
Dalton Schultz (TE – DAL): 3%
Schultz suddenly became the week’s top tight-end add by scoring two touchdowns and leading the Cowboys in targets (seven), catches (six), and receiving yards (80) on Monday night. That’s 23 half-PPR points in one game, which is as many as Noah Fant — a perfectly respectable starting option — has all season.
Schultz is the last significant contributor of this dynamic Dallas offense on the waiver wire. That won’t last for long after a dominant primetime display.
Sam Darnold (QB – CAR): 22% Rostered
Three weeks into life without Adam Gase, Darnold has averaged 296 passing yards on 35.7 attempts. He’s done so with a remarkably narrow range of 279-305 yards and 34-38 throws. With three passing and rushing touchdowns apiece, Carolina’s new quarterback has recorded at least 22 fantasy points in each game, finishing no lower than QB17.
As plenty of touts predicted, Darnold is a new man away from the Jets. He’s now a stout QB2 worthy of streaming in the right matchup. Week 4’s showdown at Dallas qualifies, as the Cowboys have given up 1,043 passing yards to Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts.
Peyton Barber (RB – LV): 6% Rostered
Even with Josh Jacobs sidelined, managers limited their hopes to Barber falling into the end zone. He indeed pounded in a one-yard score, but that was far from all. Barber also ran for 111 yards on 23 carries while catching three of five targets for 31 yards. The Chargers have allowed 100-yard rushers (Tony Pollard and Clyde Edwards-Helaire) in back-to-back weeks after surrendering 90 to Antonio Gibson in Week 1, so Barber is an intriguing flex play if Jacobs misses another week. However, Barber is unlikely to see much work once Jacobs returns from an ankle injury.
Notable Players 36-50% Rostered
Henry Ruggs III (WR – LV): 50% Rostered
It was great to see Ruggs burn the defense for a 72-yard touchdown in Week 2, but Week 3 was just as encouraging for his long-term outlook. Although he didn’t break free for a big score, the second-year speedster still submitted a productive 85 yards (78 receiving, seven rushing) while drawing seven targets for the second straight game. He never garnered more than five targets in a game as a rookie.
Combining decent volume with his big-play upside would elevate Ruggs from a boom-or-bust WR4 to a more comfortable starting option. He hasn’t graduated to that circle of trust just yet, but Ruggs should be rostered everywhere.
Daniel Jones (QB – NYG): 45%
Jones failed to score a single touchdown against a Falcons defense ripe for the picking. He still tallied 16.5 fantasy points on the strength of 39 rushing yards and a two-point conversion. That’s why everyone loves mobile quarterbacks. Jones undeniably let down managers who called his number, but he didn’t torpedo their chances of winning the week. Despite only throwing two touchdowns for the 0-3 Giants, Jones is the QB10 this season with the third-most rushing yards among quarterbacks behind Hurts and Lamar Jackson. Consider giving him another chance when the Giants go to Dallas in Week 5.
Evan Engram (TE – NYG): 39%
Given the lack of quality tight ends, we should probably note Engram making his season debut after missing the first two games with a calf injury. He caught two of six targets for 21 yards against the Falcons, so the 27-year-old still must prove he’s more than a frustrating TE2 who should be a TE1. Despite failing to meet the hype, Engram received 10 targets in four different games last season. Furthermore, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton each left Sunday’s loss with a hamstring injury. Engram would likely receive considerable opportunities if Shepard — Jones’ favorite target thus far — misses time.
Marquez Callaway (WR – NO): 37%
Callaway squandered his preseason buzz by accruing 22 yards through two weeks. Once everyone moved on, he caught four of five targets for 41 yards and a touchdown against New England. No team has attempted fewer passes than the Saints (64) this season, so it’s hard to get too excited about any pass-catcher not named Alvin Kamara. On the flip side, that means Callaway has a 17.2% target share despite his middling results. He’d matter a lot more if Jameis Winston ever attempts 30 or more throws like a normal NFL offense in 2021.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Chicago Bears (D/ST): 29%
A lot of attention will go to Justin Fields getting sacked nine times during his disastrous first NFL start, but the Bears stockpiled five sacks for the second straight game. Although they otherwise faltered in road losses against the Rams and Browns, they delivered 21 fantasy points in Week 2’s win over Cincinnati. The Bears host the Lions in Week 4, making them one of a few attractive matchup plays.
Tennessee Titans (D/ST): 15%
They play the Jets in Week 4.
A.J. Green (WR – ARI): 15%
He’s probably the fourth-best wide receiver on his own team, but Green has received six targets in each game. The 33-year-old turned back the clock Sunday with five catches for 112 yards, his first time reaching triple-digits since 2018. There are too many mouths to feed for Green to carve out a consistent role, and a banged-up DeAndre Hopkins mainly was used as a decoy Sunday, but Green could pop up for a handful of good games in Arizona’s dynamic Air Raid attack. Just don’t overreact to one big game out of deference to past glory.
Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV): 11%
Renfrow continues to factor prominently into the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense. He caught five of six targets for 77 yards and his first touchdown of the season in a victory that went the distance in overtime.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) September 26, 2021
While two games beyond regulation have given the Raiders additional opportunities, Renfrow’s early floor is notable. He’s snagged at least five catches each game with a low of 57 yards. They’ll be weeks later in the season where fantasy managers would happily take five receptions and 57 yards from their fill-in flex play.
Dawson Knox (TE – BUF): 10%
Knox has found the end zone in back-to-back games, joining six other tight ends with more than one touchdown this season. While the floor is still low, he’s already topped 40 receiving yards more times (twice) than last season (once). He’s a decent TE2 who could gradually earn streamer appeal in Buffalo’s high-octane aerial attack.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Malcolm Brown (RB – MIA): 7%
After taking a backseat to begin the season, Brown played the role Myles Gaskins’ managers feared. Playing 34 snaps to Gaskin’s 43, Brown took one of his seven carries to the house for a 24-yard touchdown. He also received two handoffs inside the 10, so the former Rams back could vulture some shorter touchdowns. He’s more of a pest to Gaskin in most leagues, but Brown is a sturdy bench option in deeper formats.
Tyler Conklin (TE – MIN): 4%
Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, and Schultz are the only tight ends with more catches than Conklin. That says more about the position, since 13 isn’t exactly an astronomical number through three games. Yet it’s enough, as Conklin ties Mark Andrew as the TE9 with 31.5 half-PPR fantasy points. He’s played over 70% of Minnesota’s snaps in all three games and has caught 81.25% of his targets (16) from a quarterback posting a 73.9% completion rate.
Cincinnati Bengals (D/ST): 3%
The Bengals rank eighth in total defense with 10 sacks and four takeaways. You’re certainly not counting on them to shut down Aaron Rodgers in Week 5, but they’ll first host the Jaguars this Thursday night.
Kadarius Toney (WR – NYG): 2%
Collin Johnson (WR – NYG): 0%
After Shepard and Slayton exited Sunday’s game early, Johnson tied Saquon Barkley with a team-high seven targets and led all Giants wide receivers with five receptions. He could accumulate some boring PPR volume if both wideouts — or at least Shepard — stay sidelined, but Toney would become the more interesting deep lottery ticket. Kenny Golladay was the only receiver who played more snaps than New York’s first-round 2021 NFL Draft pick.
Royce Freeman (RB – CAR): 1%
This looks like Hubbard’s backfield now, but the 126th overall pick isn’t guaranteed ample job security. Freeman could siphon some goal-line touches and early-down carries, making him a worthwhile handcuff in deep leagues.
Kalif Raymond (WR – DET): 0%
Raymond was the first Lions wide receiver to garner any attention from Jared Goff when drawing 10 targets Sunday. No other wide receiver had more than one. With 136 receiving yards in three games, Raymond could be the most viable option of this group, even if that means he’s just a contingency plan in deep PPR formats.
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