Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Tony Pollard, Rondale Moore, Alexander Mattison (2021)
That beautiful, unblemished fantasy football roster didn’t last long.
It was only a matter of time before injuries contaminated your team. A brutal Week 2 saw many relevant players leave with ailments that could alter the fantasy landscape. Read Skyler Carlin’s recap of Sunday’s most significant injuries to determine which players need monitoring throughout the week.
Developments could change everyone’s waiver-wire needs and targets later in the week, but here are the top standouts fresh off the 2021 season’s second slate.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 3
Tony Pollard (RB – DAL): 54% Rostered
He’s already rostered in most Yahoo leagues, but Pollard’s Week 2 performance deserves recognition. In a back-and-forth 20-17 victory where Ezekiel Elliott was healthy and productive (18 touches, 97 yards, 1 TD), Pollard nevertheless turned 13 carries into 109 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all three targets for 31 more yards.
As noted by every person on Twitter, Pollard has looked far more explosive than Elliott early in the season. That’s not an entirely new development, as the 24-year-old has averaged 5.0 yards per carry over his career.
His snap rate only rose from Week 1’s 24% to a still modest 34%, so Pollard hasn’t usurped Elliott as the Cowboys’ RB1. However, Sunday matched the most touches Pollard has procured in a game alongside Elliott since a 35-3 win in Week 3 of 2019. Even if he’s the NFL’s most lethal change-of-pace back, Pollard should handle a role that leads to standalone flex value. Without Elliott, he’d instantly become a top-10 fantasy back.
Rondale Moore (WR – ARI): 34% Rostered
Two weeks into his NFL career, Moore has demonstrated a tantalizing blend of opportunity, efficiency, and big-play upside. Following a respectable four-catch, 68-yard debut, the speedster caught seven of eight targets in a Week 2 shootout. That includes a 77-yard touchdown that bolstered his total to 115.
KYLER MURRAY IS ELECTRIC. #AZCardinals
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
As seen above, Moore is too quick to remain covered when Kyler Murray extends plays. He’s also receiving a heavy share of bubble screens to wreak havoc in open space. This is on an explosive offense that’s scored 72 points in two games, so a limited snap count hasn’t deterred the rookie. Consider this your final opportunity to add Moore.
Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN): 33% Rostered
Dalvin Cook twice exited Sunday’s game. He returned both times, but it’s a daunting reminder for a first-round fantasy pick who’s yet to play more than 14 games in a season. Grab Mattison just in case, especially if you have Cook.
While Minnesota’s backup delivered a 30-yard dud when Cook sat out Week 6 last season, he also swung some championships with 145 yards and two touchdowns when Cook sat the season-finale. He doesn’t contribute much as an understudy, but Mattison would immediately jump to a must-start back with a chance of drawing 20-plus touches if Cook is inactive.
Cordarrelle Patterson (RB/WR -ATL): 15% Rostered
An intriguing hybrid role has yielded 14 carries, seven catches, 136 total yards, and two touchdowns for Patterson. While Mike Davis is still garnering most of Atlanta’s backfield touches, Patterson already has four red-zone touches. Nine years into his career, the 30-year-old finally looks like a fantasy contributor to roster in all formats.
Henry Ruggs III (WR – LVR): 35%
This is why the Raiders drafted Ruggs with the 12th overall pick last year:
HENRY RUGGS IS FAST. #RaiderNation
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
Until proven otherwise, Ruggs remains too much of a boom-or-bust option to trust in most starting lineups. As a rookie, he finished six games with less than 20 receiving yards and only offered 8.5 or more fantasy points (half-PPR) twice.
Then again, his role is also poised to expand. Ruggs never exceeded five targets during his inaugural campaign, but he opened 2021 with five looks before getting a career-high seven targets en route to 113 yards and a score. Last season, Nelson Algholor amassed 896 yards and eight touchdowns as Derek Carr’s primary deep threat. Ruggs could slide into that position as a receiver who will trade volume and consistency for a few game-breaking outbursts.
Notable Players 36-50% Rostered
Zack Moss (RB – BUF): 49%
A surprising healthy scratch in Week 1, Moss pounded in two touchdowns on his three touches inside the 10. That’s precisely why many drafters preferred Buffalo’s bulldozer back to Devin Singletary, who also collected 82 rushing yards and a score in a 35-0 blowout over the Dolphins. Singletary played 43 snaps to Moss’s 18, so the latter is merely a touchdown-or-bust option. Eventually, however, this could revert into a confounding committee when the two rushers take turns offering fantasy utility. If Singletary went down, Moss would have a real shot of stockpiling double-digit touchdowns.
Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI) 45%
It doesn’t take much for a preseason sleeper to lose helium. Entering 2021 with plenty of fanfare, Mooney mustered only 26 yards in Week 1. However, he played all 69 of Chicago’s snaps and received seven targets. Those positive trends continued the following week, where he lined up on 58 of 65 snaps and garnered a team-high eight targets. This time, he caught six of them for 66 yards. The dynamic playmaker could benefit from Justin Fields making his first career start if Andy Dalton (knee) can’t suit up.
Kenneth Gainwell (RB – PHI): 36%
Gainwell didn’t return to the end zone in Week 2, but he still played one-third of Philadelphia’s snaps and garnered eight touches. After capturing a goal-line score in his NFL debut, the rookie got targeted by Jalen Hurts inside the red zone. He remains an interesting supporting back to Miles Sanders when the Eagles’ offense sees better days than Sunday’s 17-11 loss. Monday night’s NFC East showdown at Dallas should yield more points and scoring opportunities for Gainwell.
J.D. McKissic (RB – WAS): 29%
McKissic was a complete afterthought in Week 1, touching the ball once in 20 snaps. On Thursday night, however, he returned closer to his 2020 role. He caught five of six targets for 83 yards and even vultured a two-yard touchdown run from Antonio Gibson.
Last year, McKissic led all running backs with 110 targets, finishing second to Alvin Kamara with 80 catches. He averaged 12.0 PPR points per game and caught a 29-yard touchdown from Taylor Heinicke in the quarterback’s only regular-season appearance last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick probably wouldn’t have checked down enough to make much use of McKissic, but Heinicke can transform him back into a reasonable PPR flex option.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Derek Carr (QB – LVR): 27%
Carr leads the NFL with 817 passing yards. Murray is second with 689. It’s volume-driven, as Oakland’s signal-caller has also fired a league-high 93 pass attempts. However, he still boasts a 104.1 quarterback rating and 8.8 yards per attempt through two victories over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. (The Ravens defeated Kansas City Week 2, and the Steelers bested the Bills in Week 1. That means the 2-0 Raiders also have transitive-property victories over last year’s AFC Championship Game participants.)
Carr probably won’t maintain this pace and post 6,944 passing yards in 2021. Yet he has topped 300 passing yards in his last six full games — he only lasted two drives in Week 15 — dating back to last season. Although he might show his basement floor soon, the 30-year-old is looking like a potent QB2 with considerable upside in the right matchup.
Tim Patrick (WR – DEN): 22%
Patrick nearly mirrored his Week 1 performance, going from 39 yards and a touchdown on four targets to 37 yards and a touchdown on four targets. Those targets are underwhelming in Jerry Jeudy’s absence, but Teddy Bridgewater has already looked Patrick’s way three times inside the red zone. Consider Patrick a steady hand as the second wide receiver in a burgeoning offense.
Daniel Jones (QB – NYG): 19%
Here’s the Jones fantasy drafters hoped to see last season. He’s paired two passing touchdowns with two rushing scores — he had another one called back by a questionable holding penalty — and the most rushing yards (122) from any quarterback after Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. While he coughed up a fumble in Week 1, the third-year quarterback has yet to toss an interception.
In 2019, Jones ranked 15th among quarterbacks (between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady) in fantasy points per game. If the Giants continue to utilize his athleticism outside the pocket, the 24-year-old could run his way to some more flashy QB1 showings. He’ll get a golden opportunity this week against the Falcons, who have already allowed eight combined passing touchdowns to Hurts and Brady this season.
Carolina Panthers (D/ST): 20%
The Panthers have stockpiled 10 sacks and three interceptions in the first two weeks, allowing 14 points to the Jets and seven to the Saints with an NFL-low 380 total yards relinquished through Week 2. They stand out as the clear top streaming pick-up for Thursday’s bout at Houston, especially since the Texans won’t have Tyrod Taylor under center.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB – DEN): 17%
Bridgewater has a 77.1% completion rate through two games after connecting on 69.1% of his pass attempts last season. He’s tossed two touchdowns in back-to-back road games, making him a high-floor Week 3 streamer when Denver hosts the Jets.
Zach Pascal (WR – IND): 15%
All he does is score touchdowns. Pascal has reached the end zone three times this season and seven times in his last six games (including the playoffs). While not a volume monster, he’s caught nine of 11 targets this season while playing 91% of the Colts’ offensive snaps in each game. Pascal isn’t a trustworthy starter in the standard league yet, but it’s getting tougher to ignore him altogether.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Hunter Renfrow (WR – LVR): 6%
Remember when Mohamed Sanu would always hover around 50 yards for the Falcons? Renfrow is now emerging as a perfectly respectable depth piece in deeper (preferably PPR) leagues. He leads all Raiders wide receivers with 16 targets, which he turned into six catches for 70 yards against Baltimore and five receptions for 57 yards at Pittsburgh. Renfrow also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 8 of 2020 or reached 100 receiving yards since the final two games of 2019. The 5’10” wideout may hit his head on his low fantasy ceiling, but he’s a steadier WR4/5 in deeper formats.
Taylor Heinicke (QB – WAS): 4%
In his second career NFL start, Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown — and ran for 46 yards and another score — during a postseason loss to Tampa Bay. He went 34-of-46 for 336 yards and two touchdowns in a last-second victory over the Giants in his third NFL start. The former XFL backup looks good enough to use in two-quarterback and Superflex formats.
K.J. Osborn (WR – MIN): 3%
Who had Osborn leading the Vikings in receiving yards through two weeks? After unexpectedly catching seven of nine targets for 76 yards to start the season, the second-year wideout hauled in a 64-yard touchdown within the opening minute of Week 2’s shootout at Arizona. With deep targets and an active slot role, Osborn could be more than an early flash in the pan for a passing offense that leaned exclusively on Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson last year. He’s the highest-priority add of these deep options and one worth rostering in some larger 12-team formats.
Kerryon Johnson (RB – SF): 0%
Trenton Cannon (RB – SF): 0%
Not even the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s softball team experienced as many misfortunes as San Francisco’s backfield. Raheem Mostert underwent season-ending knee surgery after getting hurt early in Week 1. At least the 49ers have plenty of options … and all three got hurt Sunday. Last week’s waiver-wire king, Elijah Mitchell, didn’t last a complete game in the spotlight before injuring his shoulder. He’s day-to-day. Trey Sermon is in the league’s concussion protocol, and JaMycal Hasty will miss at least one game with a high-ankle sprain.
Who’s left? Johnson is on the practice squad, and the 49ers claimed Cannon off waivers from Baltimore last week. The answer might not be there yet. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, they worked out Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller, and T.J. Yeldon. For now, Johnson and/or Cannon will likely see a sizeable role against the Packers this Sunday night.
Braxton Berrios (WR – NYJ): 0%
It may not count for much these days, but Berrios leads the Jets in targets (18), receptions (12), and receiving yards (124). His role as Zach Wilson‘s safety blanket may vanish when Jamison Crowder returns, so he’s no more than a back-end placeholder in deep PPR leagues. Keep an eye on Berrios’ role, as someone has to catch some passes in New Jersey.
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