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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Darnell Mooney, J.D. McKissic, D’Ernest Johnson (2021)

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Oct 19, 2021


This is when the fantasy football season truly gets interesting.

Managers will face their toughest lineup decisions to date when six teams take a Week 7 bye. While only a shortlist of top players (Alvin Kamara, Calvin Ridley, Deebo Samuel) had Week 6 off, the Bills, Cowboys, Chargers, Vikings, Steelers, and Jaguars take a plethora of starters off the table. For many managers, this will be the first time this season they need to deliberate their starting quarterback.

Of course, replacing Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris, James Robinson, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool won’t be fun either.

We’re also deep enough into the year to get a better gauge on usage and matchups. While managers are still clamoring for players who can make a long-term impact, fantasy football is a weekly game. It’s often better to take the immediate boost.

Let’s see who can help mend the voids in Week 7 — and in some cases, beyond — from the wavier wire.

Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.

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Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 7

Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI): 44%
While not yet a set-and-forget starter, Mooney should be rostered in all leagues. Hes’ averaging 51.0 receiving yards per game despite a nine-yard dud when Justin Fields completed six passes in Week 3. Mooney leads the Bears with 39 targets this season, which comes out to 22.2% of Chicago’s passes.

That target share skyrocketed to 30.8% in the last three games, during which Mooney has 215 total yards and a touchdown.

You may question how much a target share matters when playing on an offense ranked last in passing yards. Fair enough, but let’s look ahead to Chicago’s Week 7 opponent. Tampa Bay boasts the NFL’s stingiest rushing defense but ranks 27th against the pass. Considering the Bears are also massive underdogs who will play without David Montgomery (and potentially Damien Williams), Fields will need to throw more than usual. More passing could lead to double-digits looks for Mooney, who’s averaging 7.9 yards per target with massive big-play potential.

This could be the week the 23-year-old puts his name on the map as a mainstream fantasy option.

J.D. McKissic (RB – WAS): 42%
McKissic’s role is all over the place this season. In three odd-numbered weeks, he’s combined for 53 total yards on nine touches. In three even-numbered weeks, he’s compiled 262 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and 18 receptions.

But don’t wait until Week 8 to look McKissic’s way. Antonio Gibson left Sunday’s game early with a shin injury, leaving McKissic to total 110 yards on eight runs and catches apiece. While McKissic likely wouldn’t become Washington’s leading rusher if Gibson misses times, his floor would elevate with a higher probability of steady snaps and pass-catching work. A road matchup at Lambeau Field bodes well for late-game snaps and targets regardless of Gibson’s status.

D’Ernest Johnson (RB – CLE): 3%
Nick Chubb missed Week 6’s game with a calf injury. In that same contest, Kareem Hunt also suffered a calf injury likely to sideline him “several weeks,” per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. Chubb has a chance to return this Thursday, but the shorter week diminishes those odds.

If Chubb is out, look for Johnson to handle the bulk of Cleveland’s carries. He turned 33 rushes into 166 yards last season, 95 of them in a game where he played 17 snaps. Although the Broncos rank fifth against a run, fantasy players can’t ignore someone who could see starting reps on a team tied for an NFL-high 32.3 runs per game. Putting even more impetus on Cleveland’s ground game, Baker Mayfield is fighting an aggravated shoulder injury. If he plays, he’ll be far below full strength.

Assuming Chubb doesn’t miss more than one game, Johnson wouldn’t have too much value as a backup. He’s still worth grabbing as an immediate RB2 if the Browns play it safe with their star tailback this week.

Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL): 27%
Bateman’s highly anticipated debut was nothing to write home about, as he caught four of six targets for 29 yards in a blowout win. That subdued start could work perfectly for fantasy managers now potentially able to avoid a mad dash to the waiver wire.

This year’s No. 27 overall pick didn’t light the world on fire, but the returns are nevertheless inspiring. Bateman played 45 snaps, second to Marquie Brown among all Baltimore receivers. Per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, not even Ravens head coach John Harbaugh expected the newcomer to receive so much playing time.

Bateman earned praise from Harbaugh after a game in which Lamar Jackson attempted just 27 passes. The Ravens have struggled to support strong fantasy wide receivers in a run-heavy offense, but that should change. Their top three running backs (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill) are out for the season, and Jackson is averaging a higher completion rate (67.5%) and more yards per pass attempt (8.7) than in his 2019 MVP campaign.

Bateman immediately stepped into a prominent role despite missing the first five weeks because of a groin injury. Brown has flaunted major upside this season, but Bateman could emerge as a more reliable target with a lofty ceiling of his own.

Ricky Seals-Jones (TE – WAS): 29%
Seals-Jones continues to get all the work in place of Logan Thomas, playing every offensive snap Sunday after seeing the field for 82 of 83 plays in Week 5. Those opportunities yielded results when he caught four of six targets for 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 6. The 6’5″ tight end could find the end zone more often, as he received four of 15 targets inside the red zone over the last two games. Managers who replace Thomas with Seals-Jones may not sacrifice much, if any production.

Notable Players 36-50% Rostered

A.J. Green (WR – ARI): 44% 
Green has carved out a surprisingly sticky role in Arizona’s crowded offense, receiving exactly six targets in all but one game this season. He’s found the end zone in three of his last five games and offered 112 yards in another. Along with two duds, he’s provided double-digit fantasy points (regardless of the format) in four of six contests. With so many high-profile offenses on a break this week, the seven-time Pro Bowler is a viable Week 7 replacement starter against the Texans.

New Orleans Saints (D/ST): 40%
It’s a rough week for streaming defenses unless the Patriots (59% rostered), Cardinals (58%), or Panthers (54%) remain available in your league. The Saints didn’t deliver much fantasy production in strong matchups against the Giants and Washington, but they enjoyed big outings against Green Bay and New England to open the season. New Orleans returns rested from a bye week to face the Seahawks without Russell Wilson and Chris Carson on Monday Night Football.

Notable Players 10-35% Rostered

Tim Patrick (WR – DEN): 35%
Patrick continued to get the job done in unremarkable fashion by posting 42 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. That gives him three touchdowns this season with a healthy 50.3 yards on 5.5 targets per game. This Thursday night, he gets a Browns defense that’s allowed four passing touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.

Marquez Callaway (WR – NO): 34%
This time of year, we can’t forget about players because of a bye week. Callaway redeemed a slow start by submitting 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns in three games before the Saints got an early breather. He leads all Saints wide receivers in targets (21) heading into a Monday-night matchup against the Seahawks, who have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers.

Mark Ingram (RB – HOU): 32%
Ingram handled 18 carries for 73 yards — both his highest tallies since Week 1 — in a 31-3 loss to Indianapolis. His misleading season-opening success came in Houston’s only win of 2021, so it was encouraging to see him stay active in an unfavorable game script. Of course, it’d be far more encouraging to see Ingram snap a five-game touchdown drought. He’s a passable plug-in flex play against an Arizona defense allowing 5.2 yards per carry.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET): 23%
St. Brown still hasn’t scored a touchdown or exceeded 70 yards in a game this season, but he’s garnered 18 catches on 23 targets over the last three games. That’s amounted to 20% of Jared Goff’s targets, so he should piece his way to sneaky PPR value. A proper blow-up game (or just 71 yards and a touchdown) could finally materialize for St. Brown when Goff is forced to throw often on the road against his former squad.

Teddy Bridgewater (QB – DEN): 20%
Bridgewater has hit 20 fantasy points in four of five complete games. He fell short in the other despite going an economical 19-of-25 for 235 yards — but no touchdowns — in a 26-0 win over the Jets. The last two games were a far different story; he threw 38 times in a loss at Pittsburgh and attempted 49 passes in a 34-24 loss to Las Vegas. Only the Saints and Buccaneers have permitted fewer yards per carry than the Browns (3.6), so Bridgewater’s plate should be full once more Thursday night. He might be the best streaming option for managers needing to swap out an idle Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, Kirk Cousins, or Ben Roethlisberger.

Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): 19%
Recall from the Mooney section that the Bears will need to open up their passing game against Tampa Bay. Now consider that the defending champions have relinquished 13.7 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends without facing Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or Mark Andrews. Kmet has yet to reach pay dirt in a disappointing sophomore season, but he’s played more than 70% of Chicago’s offensive snaps in each game and delivered a decent four catches for 49 yards last Sunday.

Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA): 17%
Tagovailoa returned from the injured reserve to register 329 passing yards, two touchdowns, and a pick in a loss to Jacksonville. It wasn’t the prettiest effort given the opponent, but the second-year pro gets another opportune matchup against an Atlanta defense allowing a 109.5 quarterback rating with only one interception in five games. He’s startable in a bye-stricken week, though managers could also find a solid floor from Bridgewater or Carson Wentz, or a higher ceiling from Fields.

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE): 11%
Damien Harris not only played, but delivered 101 rushing yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s overtime loss at Dallas. Stevenson nevertheless also found the end zone while playing one-third of New England’s snaps. His usage is particularly intriguing. While he pounded in his touchdown from the one, the rookie also secured all three targets for 33 receiving yards. That makes Stevenson an even more intriguing handcuff to Harris, with the potential for standalone value.

Notable Players <10% Rostered

Le’Veon Bell (RB – BAL): 7%
Devonta Freeman (RB – BAL): 2%
So the Ravens are about to make their backfield as tricky for fantasy managers as possible, aren’t they? Latavius Murray handled nine carries on 28 snaps Sunday. Freeman had nine in 21 plays, and Bell had eight in 22 snaps. Each veteran signee scored a touchdown, a feat Baltimore is unlikely to replicate. If this trio continues to split responsibilities, none of them are startable beyond deep leagues. That said, Bell and Freeman now deserve to be rostered in most leagues. Any one of the three would make a decent flex option if given the bulk of Baltimore’s backfield touches.

Demetric Felton (RB – CLE): 6%
Felton could share snaps with Johnson if Hunt and Chubb are both sidelined Thursday night. Yet to receive a single carry in his NFL career, the 5’9″ rookie would likely serve as a pass-catching supplement. Keep him in mind in PPR leagues.

Pat Freiermuth (TE – PIT): 6%
Diontae Johnson once again led the Steelers in targets (13) Sunday night, but Freiermuth opened some eyes by matching Chase Claypool and Najee Harris with seven. The 6’5″, 258-pound tight end secured all of them for 58 yards while playing a season-high 60% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps. There’s room for Freiermuth to play a more prominent role with JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, so he’s firmly on the TE2 radar.

Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR – CLE): 2%
You could be looking at the people’s pickup after Peoples-Jones recorded 101 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6. One of those scores came on a 57-yard Hail Mary, but the 22-year-old also emerged with 70 yards on six targets the previous week. However, his value is a mystery with Mayfield hurt and Jarvis Landry pushing closer to returning from the IR.

Jaret Patterson (RB – WAS): 1%
Patterson, not McKinnon, would likely lead Washington’s backfield in carries if Gibson misses time. The 21-year-old bruiser could steamroll his way into the end zone, but Washington will probably have to throw far more at Green Bay this weekend. As a result, Patterson is merely a deep-league flyer.

Jamal Agnew (WR – JAC): 0%
If we can’t trust Laviska Shenault Jr. on a weekly basis, we certainly can’t rely on anyone deeper down Jacksonville’s depth chart. Yet Agnew has snagged 11 of 13 targets for 119 receiving yards — and an eight-yard run — over the last two weeks. The former cornerback had played 28 snaps on offense through Week 4 before logging 45 in Week 5 and 39 in Sunday morning’s London victory. Even if his role doesn’t expand further, the speedy Agnew could accrue deep-league value as a gadget player.

Dante Pettis (WR – NYG): 0%
Although the Giants welcomed back Sterling Shepard in Week 5, they entered Sunday without Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, and Darius Slayton before losing breakout rookie Kadarius Toney in the first quarter. With Daniel Jones (for some unexplainable reason) playing and throwing 51 times in a blowout loss, Pettis filled the void with 11 targets. It only amounted to 48 yards on five receptions, so save him for deep leagues. Even that’s assuming the Giants remain short-handed at wide receiver.

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Andrew Gould is a featured writer and editor at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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