Week 3 of the NFL season was once again full of surprises and historic feats. The Miami Dolphins scored 70 (!!!) points against the Denver Broncos, thanks to some help from one of our waiver wire targets, De’Von Achane, the Houston Texans blew out the Jacksonville Jaguars, Taylor Swift showed up to Arrowhead Stadium to watch Travis Kelce and a pure beatdown of the Chicago Bears, and…my Dallas Cowboys crapped the bed in epic fashion against the Arizona Cardinals.
The injury bug also reared its ugly head once more, with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams suffering a season-ending ACL tear, New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr is week-to-week with an AC joint sprain, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is in concussion protocol, plus some. While the waiver wire is already a little barren, don’t worry; I’ve got your back. Let’s cover some players to target this week and help keep you on the right track to a fantasy championship!
Waiver Wire Quarterbacks
Rostered in 11.2% of ESPN leagues, 20% of Yahoo leagues, and 31% of Sleeper leagues
After getting off to a somewhat rocky start in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, Stroud has put together two solid fantasy performances and looks to have real chemistry with rookie wide receiver Tank Dell (who we’ll discuss later). With 906 passing yards, he’s third in NFL history behind Cam Newton and Justin Herbert for the most yards in his first three starts, and he has yet to throw an interception.
With these performances, he’s slowly creeping into QB1 territory. While I would caution against starting him immediately against the Steelers, Falcons, and Saints, his schedule in the meat and bones of the season (and bye week hell) has some very favorable matchups, including two meetings against the Titans in Weeks 15 and 17.
Rostered in 26.2% of ESPN leagues, 27% of Yahoo leagues, and 29% of Sleeper leagues
I’m not overly enthralled with Pickett’s performance so far this season, but he did manage to throw two touchdowns against the Raiders on Sunday night, and let’s be honest…your options are limited. Pickett should be better once Diontae Johnson returns from his stint on IR, and he has thrown higher than the league average as far as passing yards go.
The problem seems to be the Steelers’ offensive efficiency as a whole, but it is improving. The Steelers have a favorable couple of weeks before their bye in Week 6 against the Texans and Ravens, so if you need a fill-in for Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, Pickett could be the guy.
Speaking of fill-ins, Jameis Winston came in for the injured Derek Carr in the Saints’ loss against the Packers, and although he didn’t find the end zone, he still finished with over 100 passing yards and no interceptions. He’ll likely be the starter for the next few weeks while Carr nurses the AC sprain, and with healthy receiving weapons and the return of Alvin Kamara, Winston could put up some numbers. Oh, and did I mention that Week 4 is against Tampa Bay? Give me all of that revenge game!
Waiver Wire Running Backs
De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins
Rostered in 16.1% of ESPN leagues, 41% of Yahoo leagues, and 47% of Sleeper leagues
If you have any FAAB left after all the injuries and emerging fantasy stars, you’re going to want to use it on Achane this week (which is pronounced A-Chan and no A-Chain, we just learned). The rookie out of Texas A&M put up over 200 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, then added another 30 yards and two touchdowns through the air in a historic blowout against the Denver Broncos, and even though Raheem Mostert is still the RB1 on the depth chart, Achane is simply too good to not see work. He likely won’t see the same usage in Week 4 against Buffalo, but as a long-term option, he is a must-add, especially in a sea of JAGs left at running back.
Rostered in 15.8% of ESPN leagues, 24% of Yahoo leagues, and 33% of Sleeper leagues
Spears’ box score may not suggest fantasy relevance yet, but his usage sure has. In each of the past two games, Spears has logged 22 snaps lined up in the backfield, eclipsing Derrick Henry’s 17 in Week 3. Henry seems to have a lingering toe issue that is limiting his efficiency, and if the Titans are going to be playing from behind (as it looks like they will be), Spears does have more pass-catching upside. He may not be more than a stash just yet, but if Henry is hobbled in Week 4 against a Bengals defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards per game, he moves way up in the ranks.
Rostered in 36.7% of ESPN leagues, 39% of Yahoo leagues, and 47% of Sleeper leagues
Christian McCaffrey is obviously the lead dog in the 49ers’ backfield, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t also be room for Elijah Mitchell. Even before Thursday night’s game against the Giants got out of hand, Mitchell saw playing time, ending the game with 11 carries, and although the yardage wasn’t the best, it was still encouraging to see him incorporated in the offense. Week 4’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals should provide another favorable game script for the 49ers, and if they see another big lead, look for Mitchell to have immediate fantasy relevance. (He also provides some much-needed handcuff insurance in the event of a McCaffrey injury.)
Rostered in 2.1% of ESPN leagues, 3% of Yahoo leagues, and 4% of Sleeper leagues
While I don’t endorse or condone the way the Cowboys played on Sunday, Rico Dowdle did show some flashes with his limited usage, and, let’s be real, it’s already brutal at the running back position. Tony Pollard saw the majority of the carries, but Dowdle was the one who found paydirt with work in the receiving game. He’s a stash pick-up at the moment, but the big question mark around Pollard this season was if he could hold up under his new workload, and if he starts to fade, we may see more Dowdle down the line. (Say that three times fast.)
Waiver Wire Wide Receivers
Rostered in 23.3% of ESPN leagues, 32% of Yahoo leagues, and 48% of Sleeper leagues
I’ve been preaching the gospel of Tank Dell all offseason, and if you listened, you’re already ahead of the game, but If you were a little hesitant to put your trust in a 5’9” rookie, I get it. I don’t think I’m overstating this when I say that the Texans’ offense has exceeded all expectations already this season, and Dell is a huge part of that. His ability to gain separation and his speed after the catch was so exciting to watch, and it looks like the connection is already clicking between him and CJ Stroud.
He has led the team in targets for two consecutive weeks, and even with a very positive game script, the Texans continued to keep him on the field while Nico Collins and John Metchie were rotating. It’s all coming together for the rookie, and if he’s on your roster, you’re going to be handsomely rewarded throughout the rest of the season.
Rostered in .7% and 46.2% of ESPN leagues, 4% and 32% of Yahoo leagues, and 5% and 51% of Sleeper leagues
This one is a bit of a twofer because it seems that everyone is yet again drawn to the shiny new rookie in Quentin Johnston, but I’m just going to say it…he doesn’t pass the eye test for me. Yes, he’s still very early into his NFL career and there is room for development, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seems to prefer Joshua Palmer at the moment.
Aside from the depth chart situation, Palmer performed well in the absence of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen last year, and with Williams now out for the season, he should step immediately into the WR2 role. So how do you decide between the two? Here’s my advice. If you need production now, go with Palmer, and if you want to find a bench stash that could develop throughout the season, go with Johnston.
Palmer may also be the cheaper alternative if you’re running into FAAB issues already, so that zag when others are zigging, may help your wallet as well.
Rostered in 54% of ESPN leagues, 47% of Yahoo leagues, and 58% of Sleeper leagues
All the fantasy football ageists out there are punching the air after Adam Thielen’s last two weeks. Admittedly, the Panthers’ offense hasn’t been the most efficient, but Thielen is seeing such a heavy target share that he is PPR GOLD. Some may attribute this to Andy Dalton starting in place of the injured Bryce Young, but he saw nine targets in Week 2. 23 targets in two weeks cannot be ignored, people! He’s on the higher percentage side of being rostered, but if he’s available, he’s an immediate plug-and-play.
Rostered in 3.2% of ESPN leagues, 2% of Yahoo leagues, and 12% of Sleeper leagues
I don’t know if everyone got the memo about undersized rookie receivers this week, but it seems to be a trend. Even with Anthony Richardson out of the game and a bad weather situation, Josh Downs had a day, finishing with eight receptions and 57 yards. The yardage clearly wasn’t great, but the fact that Downs has managed to have a huge role as the slot receiver bodes well for the rest of his season. We’ll have to see if this role will continue with Richardson back in the lineup, but it’s a very promising start, especially on a team that has run one of highest rates of 11-personnel in the league.
Rostered in 1.5% of ESPN leagues, 2% of Yahoo leagues, and 6% in Sleeper leagues
If Week 1 taught us anything, it’s to not trust the anomalies of Week 1, and Calvin Austin is proving that. Since Allen Robinson showed us that he was still alive, Austin has surpassed him in snaps and it seems that Robinson has been relegated to slot duties. Austin also scored one of the Steelers’ two touchdowns with one large breakout play on Sunday night, so while you shouldn’t pin all your hopes and dreams on the box score, he is trending in the right direction to have a role even when Diontae Johnson returns. Against Houston and Baltimore in the next two weeks, he is a sneaky (and cheap) waiver acquisition.
Waiver Wire Tight Ends
Honorable Mention: Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions
Rostered in 63.6% of ESPN leagues, 80% of Yahoo leagues, and 73% of Sleeper leagues
Yes, there is a good chance that Sam LaPorta is already rostered in most of your competitive leagues, but I would be remiss to not mention him after the start he has had. He’s the overall TE2 in PPR leagues going into Monday night, and somehow, he’s still not 100% rostered. Go and see if your league-mates are asleep.
Rostered in 13.3% of ESPN leagues, 18% of Yahoo leagues, and 25% of Sleeper leagues
What happened to the “rookie tight ends don’t produce” crowd? They’ve been awfully quiet regarding Sam LaPorta and Luke Musgrave. Sure, Christian Watson has been out with a lingering hamstring issue for the beginning of the season, but Musgrave’s usage has been *chef’s kiss*. Even when Watson returns, Green Bay’s pure lack of pass-catching options will keep Musgrave on the field, and he may end up being the de facto slot guy when all is said and done. He’s a top-ten fantasy tight end on the season, and now they have matchups against Detroit and Las Vegas before their Week 6 bye? Sign me up.
Rostered in 19.8% of ESPN leagues, 41% of Yahoo leagues, and 34% of Sleeper leagues
I’m finding it hard to find anything positive to say about any Cowboy after the egg they laid in Arizona, but the fact is, the tight end position is a wasteland, and Jake Ferguson has at least brought a canteen with him. After three weeks, he’s a top-ten tight end in PPR leagues and is the clear pass-catching tight end in Dallas despite only playing around 62% of the snaps in Week 3. When he’s in, though, Dak Prescott has both eyes on him, with Ferguson seeing a 32.4% target rate, good for fourth in the league.
Rostered in .4% of ESPN leagues, 1% of Yahoo leagues, and 2% in Sleeper leagues
Donald Parham has already had a surprising role in this Chargers offense, but now with Mike Williams out, his role is only set to increase. Through three weeks, Parham hasn’t seen a huge target share, but he has seen the targets when they count, logging three touchdowns to start the season. We typically preach against touchdown-dependent players, but in a Kellen Moore offense that is now down their WR2, he’s worth a dart throw.
This is for you deep, deep league managers out there, but Julian Hill hasn’t been talked about enough. Everyone thought that Durham Smythe would assume the pass-catching role after usurping Mike Gesicki last season, but it was Hill who was out there running routes in his first appearance in the NFL on Sunday. Sure, he only saw one target, but the Dolphins were out to such a huge lead, that there was no need to pass.
I am concerned about his target share when Jaylen Waddle returns, but if you’re desperate, there are worse plays.