Fantasy football waiver wire targets
Priority free agents
1) RB Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers: It doesn’t get much easier than this one … Hubbard backs up the best running back in the business, and said RB Christian McCaffrey could miss several games with a hamstring strain. Furthermore, we’ve now seen a pattern of injuries, fair or otherwise, appearing to develop for CMC after such a massive workload. Hubbard can do it all — not as good as the man he replaces — but we’re talking about a guy who created 2,292 yards and 21 total touchdowns in 2019 at Oklahoma State. The rookie looked every bit capable over his post-McCaffrey reps (14 touches, 79 yards). If you own CMC, spend whatever it takes. This is the tax you pay for not handcuffing the consensus RB1.
2) RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings: While Mattison is almost universally owned, and Dalvin Cook could return as soon as Week 4, gamers need to take a peek at the wire just to be safe. This one is intended for the most casual of formats. Spend up if you own Cook, but the FAAB recommendation really comes down to whether you’re willing to tie up a roster spot for a player who won’t touch the rock without an injury to No. 33. He’s a must-add, regardless of whether you roster Cook, so long as you can traverse bye weeks with Mattison in reserve.
3) WR Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots: Fourteen targets, even due to trailing on the scoreboard, ought to catch one’s attention. Meyers led the Patriots vs. New Orleans in receptions (nine) and has 19 on the year, which is the same number as the next two New England receivers combined. The only thing he hasn’t done is catch a touchdown. Meyers has weekly utility and deserves universal ownership. He’s still on the wire in far too many casual leagues.
4) WR Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders: After three weeks of watching the Vegas receiving corps shake out, it’s clear Renfrow means so much more to this offense than he was last year. The third-year wideout has chemistry with his quarterback, partially illustrated by Renfrow being targeted at least six times in each game this year. The sure-handed Clemson hero managed to bulk up in the offseason to become more durable and useful in new situations. After his 5-77-1 line in Week 3, the Raiders may showcase plenty more of Renfrow with matchups against LAC, CHI, DEN and PHI before a Week 8 bye.
5) WR Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills: The veteran snagged a pair of Josh Allen touchdown strikes in Week 3. The well-seasoned Sanders has been targeted six or more times in the first three weeks, and there’s actually room for him in this offense to keep it going. He won’t house it every week, especially not twice, but we have a pass-happy system and a proven veteran with his QB’s eye … gamers can do much worse for depth off the wire as bye weeks near. Upcoming games include Houston and trips to KC and Tennessee before a Week 7 break.
6) TE Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings: The Central Michigan product isn’t completely the classic inline “Y” tight end, often flexing into the the slot at 248 pounds. He saw four targets for 41 yards in Week 1 and was mostly written off, due to the strong play of WR K.J. Osborn. Part of Osborn’s success had been thanks to a lack of a tight end presence. Conklin landed seven of eight looks in Week 3, generating 70 yards and a touchdown. He’ll be added in most competitive leagues and warrants a roster spot in casual setups, too. Ahead: Cleveland, Detroit, Carolina … Conklin could have some staying power heading into a Week 7 bye. There is some concern he and Osborn may cancel each other out from week to week, however. Focus on the strength of the opposing matchups before deploying either player.
7) WR Kalif Raymond, Detroit Lions: There’s not a great deal of excitement with Raymond, but the opportunity cannot be ignored. The former Tennessee wideout and special teamer paced the defensively challenged Detroit group with 10 targets vs. Baltimore. WR Tyrell Williams went to IR, rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown has been a total non-factor, and Quintez Cephus isn’t getting it done by himself. Smart money says Cephus emerges as the season-long best bet, but after flex utility in two of three 2021 games, Raymond’s consistency will become much more transparent in the coming weeks (@CHI, @MIN, and vs. CIN in the coming games.
QB Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team at Atlanta Falcons: The New York Giants were unable to capitalize on this matchup after losing WRs Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton to hamstring injuries in the first quarter. While it is somewhat risky by virtue of Heinicke’s inexperience, he has showed moxie and a willingness to push the ball down the field.
WR Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Despite leading the Patriots in yardage and scoring in Week 3, unlike the aforementioned Meyers, Bourne has less long-term utility. While there’s an argument he should be more than a one-week play, you’ll know what to do with him if Bourne cannot make hay vs. the maligned Tampa secondary. No bye weeks don’t lend to taking a flier at the deepest fantasy position, but few teams are as exploitable vs. Tampa Bay, and the Pats will be forced into a script that requires volume through the air.
WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Tennessee Titans at New York Jets: This one is mostly based on the injury to WR A.J. Brown after a hamstring issue suffered in Week 3 kept him from returning to the game. Westbrook-Ikhine caught a team-high four passes, which led to 53 yards and a touchdown vs. Indy, hauling in each of his targets. It could get tricky, since Brown may not miss time, and WR Josh Reynolds was a healthy scratch this week after being removed from the Week 2 injury report with a foot ailment. Should Brown miss time, the second-year Westbrook-Ikhine is a sneaky Week 4 play against a Jets defense that has to contend with Julio Jones and Derrick Henry.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence has at least two turnovers in each of his first three games, and that alone is enough reason to feel compelled to trust the Bengals. Cincy upgraded its pass rush in the offseason, and it has shown (tied for 4th in sacks). While the Bengals have only four takeaways in three games, it could be worse as several teams have two or fewer, and Lawrence should help pad those stats.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: It’s unclear whether Andy Dalton (knee) is available this week, and it doesn’t even matter. If the mobile Justin Fields couldn’t stay upright vs. Cleveland (nine sacks), even a healthy Dalton has no chance. Presuming Fields makes his second start after injuring his hand, it’s an even better time to take a chance on the Lions. This defense made Lamar Jackson look human in Week 3, and he was dropped four times. Detroit is tied for 10th in sacks and has recorded four takeaways so far. Fields has completed a laughable 12-for-33 (36.3 percent) of his throws for 128 yards, no TDs, and a pick since Dalton exited in Week 2.
PK Randy Bullock, Tennessee Titans at New York Jets: Tennessee heads to New York in Week 4 to face a team that has given up consecutive games of four field goal attempts (all made). The Titans could be without WR A.J. Brown (hamstring), possibly stunting the offense. This matchup is 42 percent better than the league average.
PK Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: A general rule of thumb is to avoid recommending a kicker visiting a city known for its wind, but it’s early enough in the season where it shouldn’t be a factor. Check the weather as the game approaches to be safe. Kicker Ryan Santoso filled in for Austin Seibert (COVID) in Week 3, so if Seibert returns, then he’s an adequate play instead. It’s more about the matchup than the kicker himself. The Bears have given up seven kicks (all made) from three-point land in 2021, and two of those contests resulted in double-digit fantasy points being scored.
Grab & stash
WR DeSean Jackson, Los Angeles Rams: The issue with a 34-year-old D-Jax isn’t the inevitable injury (it’s just a matter of time), but rather the erratic nature of his role in an offense absolutely loaded with talent. As evidenced by his 75-yard touchdown grab in Week 3, and pretty much all of Jackson’s career, he can pop off for a monster play at any moment. But in this scenario, he’s basically the team’s WR4 and will require either a broken play or a designed throw. The latter is more likely, and he has several fantastic matchups ahead for adventurous gamers to test the waters: ARI, @SEA, @NYG, vs. DET, @HOU, vs. TEN, and @SF before a Week 11 bye. He won’t produce in all of those games, but Jackson belongs on rosters as byes approach.
TE Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills: Given the weapons around him, Knox is more likely to be that two-catch, one-TD guy from Week 2 than the 4-49-1 dude from Week 3 who was five targets. However, he has at least four grabs and 41 yards in two of his first three games this season, which makes him worth entertaining in either cavernous leagues or as a spot-play reserve. Generally, I’m not a fan of rostering two TEs, but by weeks are approaching, and the position is extremely volatile.
Keep your eye on ’em
WR Collin Johnson, New York Giants: Pending updates on WRs Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — both suffered hamstring injuries — Johnson could be worth an add. Rookie first-round WR Kadarius Toney is behind the curve after missing just about the entire offseason program. Johnson has flashed prior to this season, and at 6-foot-6, the former Jaguar has serious potential in the red zone. The Week 4 opponent (New Orleans) doesn’t leave us feeling comfortable promoting Johnson as a viable play, but a Week 5 visit to Dallas will have him in the conversation should the injured duo still be out.
TE Tommy Tremble, Carolina Panthers: The trading of TE Dan Arnold to Jacksonville gives the rookie a chance to see more action. He’s a hybrid and can be utilized in more ways than Arnold. The position has little consistent use in this offense, so the hope here would be Tremble helps fill the loss of McCaffrey as a pass-catching outlet in short area.