Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Elijah Mitchell, Tim Patrick, Tony Jones Jr. (2021)
After spending all of Monday joking about overreacting to Week 1 results, most fantasy football players are going to do exactly that.
Perhaps a sobering reminder will deter you from unloading your entire FAB budget on some Joe Schmo who scored a touchdown Sunday. This time last season, Malcolm Brown headlined waiver-wire columns after tallying 110 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. Other standouts included Parris Campbell, Benny Snell Jr., and Gardner Minshew.
Then again, nihilism isn’t a winning formula when it comes to fantasy football. Anyone who swiftly reacted to strong 2020 debuts from Robby Anderson, Nyheim Hines, Logan Thomas, Corey Davis, and Washington’s defense sniped useful contributors for the rest of the season.
Some of the current waiver-wire darlings may be afterthoughts by October, a few are likely to make a lasting impact. While few stand out as must-adds, there’s a clear top prize from the NFL’s opening week.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 2
Elijah Mitchell (RB – SF): 9%
Kyle Shanahan strikes again. In one of Sunday morning’s biggest surprises, third-round pick Trey Sermon was a healthy scratch. That became an essential development when Raheem Mostert exited the game in the first quarter. The 49ers placed him on the injured reserve Monday with chipped cartilage in his knee. He then announced Tuesday to explain that he will undergo a season-ending procedure.
Without Mostert and Sermon, Mitchell instantly went from unknown to a top Google search. Drafted with the 194th pick, 106 choices after Sermon, the 5’10”, 200-pound newcomer carved up a decrepit Detroit defense for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. JaMychl Hasty, the only other active running back, registered just one carry and catch apiece.
Mitchel isn’t guaranteed to shoulder San Francisco’s workload throughout Mostert’s absence. The Shanahan name isn’t exactly synonymous with choosing one bell-cow back. Mitchell also made his debut in a highly favorable situation.
This is nevertheless an “act now, ask questions later” scenario. Although neither stayed healthy, Mostert and Jeff Wilson respectively averaged 5.0 and 4.8 yards per carry last season. The previous year, San Francisco ranked second in rushing. Sermon may challenge the role soon, but Mitchell enters Week 2 as the 49ers’ starting running back, and thus a viable RB2. Bid aggressively, but don’t go all in unless desperate to replace Mostert or another fallen rusher.
Broncos’ HC Vic Fangio confirmed today that WR Jerry Jeudy suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Giants. The injury is expected to sideline Jeudy four to six weeks, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2021
Patrick and KJ Hamler each received four targets in Week 1’s win over the Giants, but Patrick played 46 snaps to Hamler’s 24 and scored a touchdown. The 27-year-old now has seven touchdowns in his last 14 games, and Bridgewater is a far more precise passer than Drew Lock who will make use of Patrick’s career 14.0 yards per reception. He’s a steady WR3/4 candidate who can top last season’s 49.5 receiving yards per game and occasionally hit paydirt with Jeudy sidelined.
By the way, the Broncos play their next two games against the Jaguars and Jets.
Tony Jones Jr. (RB – NO): 23% Rostered
Jones not only made the roster, but became the Saints’ clear backup running back after they cut Latavius Murray. A surprising 38-3 rout over Green Bay gave New Orleans the perfect opportunity to introduce the rookie, who gained 50 yards on 11 carries after a standout preseason. Now a top-flight handcuff, Jones could have a path to deep flex value if the Saints play anywhere near as well as they did Sunday.
Mark Ingram II (RB – HOU): 21% Rostered
The Texans aren’t going to have many days like Sunday. Jumping out to an early lead allowed them to run the ball 41 times in a 37-21 win over the Jaguars. Ingram was the main benefactor, parlaying 26 carries — only Joe Mixon had more in Week 1 — for 85 yards and a touchdown. Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson also found the end zone, but they received just eight and six touches, respectively. Ingram also led the backfield with 36 snaps.
This performance at least tells us that Ingram is currently Houston’s featured early-down back. Of course, the workload will dwindle significantly if the Texans play down to expectations going forward. That said, the 31-year-old could see most of their goal-line work. The typical fantasy manager still shouldn’t feel comfortable starting Ingram, but any player capable of garnering so many touches must be rostered in all leagues.
Rondale Moore (WR – ARI): 27% Rostered
Moore tied for third in targets (five) and receptions (four) among all Arizona pass-catchers in a 38-13 stampede over Tennessee. He watched teammates DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk each score two touchdowns. However, the 5’7″ neophyte delivered an economical 68 yards in his NFL debut. Moore made the most of his breakaway speed on a 29-yard screen, teasing his upside in a role vacated by Larry Fitzgerald. He won’t be tasked with busting secondaries deep, but Moore should have a consistent presence in the Cardinals’ potent Air Raid offense.
Notable Players 36-50% Rostered
Jameis Winston (QB – NO): 44%
Well, this definitely wasn’t Winston’s typical line in Tampa Bay. In his first start for New Orleans, the former No. 1 pick went 14-of-20 for 148 yards … and five touchdowns. More importantly to some, mainly Sean Payton, he had zero turnovers.
According to NFL on ESPN, no quarterback has ever thrown five passing touchdowns with so few passing yards. Winston didn’t need any more, as the Saints rocked the Packers and ran for 171 yards (37 from Winston). This is a long way from the player who exceeded 5,000 passing yards, but threw 30 interceptions in 2019. This Winston will likely sacrifice some of his volume-driven ceiling for a steadier floor, making him a decent matchup play and a trustworthy QB2.
Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG): 39%
The Giants once again look like one of the NFL’s worst offenses. Shepard was the lone bright spot in their 27-13 loss to the Broncos, securing seven of a team-high nine targets for 113 yards and their only touchdown.
One could argue Shepard shouldn’t be available in the first place. In 10 games played with Jones last season, Shepard averaged 58.3 yards on 7.7 targets. He ended the season with 17 catches on 22 targets for 189 yards, two receiving touchdowns, and an additional rushing score in the final two games. The end zone has eluded him since depositing eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2016, but the 28-year-old offers a sturdy floor in PPR leagues. Now that Golden Tate isn’t around to vie for snaps from the slot, Shepard’s ceiling could be higher than anticipated.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): 34%
Kmet’s 42 yards certainly didn’t swing any Week 1 matchups, but he played 51 of 69 snaps and caught five of seven targets. Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, secured one of two targets on 14 snaps. Kmet is sustaining over last year’s late role increase, which should eventually yield some goal-line looks for the 6’6″ tight end. It’s also increasingly likely the Bears will insert Justin Fields under center sooner than later.
New Orleans Saints (D/ST): 32%
New Orleans put up Week 1’s most dominant defensive display, shielding Green Bay from the end zone while allowing 229 total yards and one third-down conversion. The Saints limited Aaron Rodgers to his fewest passing yards (133) in a game not left by injury since 2015 and procured two picks off a legend with the lowest interception rate in NFL history. Sam Darnold is not Aaron Rodgers, and the Saints are a far tougher challenge than the Jets. New Orleans is the best Week 2 streamer unless Cleveland (68% rostered, vs. Houston) is still available.
Jalen Reagor (WR – PHI): 21%
Reagor averaged 36 receiving yards per game in a disappointing rookie campaign, topping out at a game-high of five catches. He reeled in all six targets Sunday for 49 yards and a receiving touchdown, already matching last year’s tally.
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/L01UT7wLZW
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 12, 2021
Propelled by a masterful performance from Jalen Hurts (27-of-35, 264 yards, 3 TDs), the Eagles’ offense is looking far more dangerous than last season. Hurts also targeted Reagor 19 times in his three full games in 2020, so the former first-round pick could continue to develop a rapport with his fellow second-year namesake. At the very least, Reagor cemented himself as a starting receiver in a promising young offense alongside rookie DeVonta Smith.
Bryan Edwards (WR – LVR): 19%
Edwards didn’t have a single reception with a minute left in regulation. He finished with 81 yards on four catches, coming feet shy of a game-winning touchdown in overtime. Derek Carr trusted the second-year wideout with the game on the line, which isn’t shocking after he spent the offseason praising the 2020 third-round pick. Carr only targeted Edwards once before the final two drives, but it shouldn’t take so long for the duo to connect next time after the rapport they showed late Monday night.
Carlos Hyde (RB – JAC): 16%
Reverse the outcome of the Texans/Jaguars game, and we might be talking about Hyde in the same spot Ingram now occupies. He played 25 snaps despite the Jaguars trailing throughout, so it’ll be interesting to see his role if Jacksonville authors a favorable game script. With 11 touches for 58 yards, Hyde outproduced James Robinson‘s 54 yards on eight touches. Robinson also fumbled, opening the door for his veteran teammate to seize more opportunities. Hyde will likely at least steal some goal-line work.
Christian Kirk (WR – ARI): 14%
Moore is the more explosive talent with tantalizing long-term value, but Kirk flaunted his weekly upside by catching all five targets for 70 yards and two scores. While Kirk had a pair of two-touchdown games last season, he also finished five games with fewer than 20 receiving yards. Kyler Murray won’t get Moore and Kirk heavily involved alongside Hopkins every week, so prepare for similar inconsistency this season. However, Kirk has week-altering potential in the right matchup.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB – DEN): 11%
It should be too early for anyone to need a quarterback streamer. That said, Bridgewater should conclude September as one of fantasy football’s highest-scoring quarterbacks. He carried over last season’s efficiency in a methodical Broncos debut, going 28-of-36 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants are a bad team, but that’s not because of their defense. The same can’t be said for the Jaguars and Jets. Those next two upcoming opponents respectively allowed the fourth- and third-worst passer rating last season, and they didn’t look any better last Sunday.
Juwan Johnson (WR/TE – NO): 11%
Last week, I wrote that Johnson could headline waiver-wire columns after everyone gets a glimpse of his role alongside Winston. Yes and no. Winston’s goal-line success with tight ends fueled that excitement, and the duo connected for two touchdowns. But the converted wide receiver only saw three targets. Remember that Winston attempted just 20 passes in a ruthlessly efficient onslaught, so Johnson might not necessarily be a touchdown-or-bust fantasy option. Even if he is, that’s the case for all but the best — and highly drafted — tight ends.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Kenneth Gainwell (RB – PHI): 8%
Miles Sanders ate well in Week 1, accruing 113 total yards on 19 touches. Yet Gainwell also factored into Philadelphia’s attack, turning nine carries into 37 yards and a touchdown in 25 snaps. The rookie had another touchdown nullified by a penalty to close the opening half. Along with playing most of that two-minute drive, he received a fourth-down handoff. Gainwell clearly isn’t a backup bystander in an offense that immediately prioritized him in short-yardage situations. He could keep vulturing touchdowns from Sanders and garner some standalone value in larger leagues.
Tyrod Taylor (QB – HOU): 4%
Onlookers who said the Texans might not win a game all year weren’t giving enough respect to Taylor. The 32-year-old opened the season by going 21-for-33 for 291 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and 40 rushing yards. He was rostered in as many Yahoo leagues as Taysom Hill prior to Sunday’s showcase. He’s still a last-ditch streamer in single-quarterback leagues, but he needs to be rostered in all Superflex or two-QB formats.
KJ Hamler (WR – DEN): 2%
Hamler would garner more attention as the Denver receiver to add in place of Jeudy if he hadn’t dropped what would have been a 50-yard touchdown. Taking a glass-half-full approach, he burned the Giants’ secondary to get wide open downfield. That breakaway speed could make him Bridgewater’s top deep threat against Jaguars and Jets defenses that each surrendered a passing play of over 50 yards in Week 1. The 22-year-old has more upside than Patrick, but he still needs to catch the football.
Van Jefferson Jr. (WR – LAR): 2%
During the Jared Goff era, no Rams wide receiver had consistent standalone value behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. That may change with Matthew Stafford, who hit Jefferson for a 67-yard touchdown less than five minutes into his team debut. Although that was one of only three targets for the second-year wideout, Jefferson played just four fewer snaps (36) than Robert Woods. Perhaps more importantly, DeSean Jackson — Jefferson’s main competition for deep strikes as the No. 3 receiver — only saw the field for 14 plays.
Zach Pascal (WR – IND): 1%
With T.Y. Hilton sidelined, Pascal caught both of Carson Wentz’s two touchdowns in Week 1’s loss to Seattle. He also played 91% of the Colts’ snaps. Pascal was useful a handful of times last season, but ultimately didn’t see consistent targets. He made the most of his five targets Sunday, which led all Colts wide receivers. In fact, Wentz only threw 24 of his 38 attempts to running backs and tight ends. This will probably be a frustrating situation again, but Pascal now has six touchdowns in his last five games, including a playoff loss. Consider Pascal a depth piece with red-zone potential in larger leagues.
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