Here are this week’s top Waiver Wire players who are owned in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Our favorite players are broken down in Top Targets and the best secondary options are in our Going Deeper sections. We’ll also list any players at the top of each position who are above the 50% threshold — or are household names — and are still widely available for those who might be in smaller leagues.
Be sure to check out our weekly Waiver Wire podcast for more analysis. We’ll also have Streaming articles every Tuesday that focuses on the top quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses for the upcoming week(s).
Note: The initial Waiver Wire article writeup will be posted every Monday evening, followed by in-depth updates Tuesday, and continued additions/updates Wednesday.
Jameis Winston (NO, 44%) - Winston faced one of the better pass defenses in the league with a skeleton crew at receiver, and all he did was outplay and outproduce the reigning MVP in Aaron Rodgers. Winston went 14/20 for only 148 yards passing, but he tossed 5 TD passes and also ran for 37 yards. New Orleans’ schedule looks pretty solid, so if Jameis keeps running, he could certainly settle in as a top-20 option.
Ben Roethlisberger (Pit, 37%) — It wasn’t pretty but Big Ben led the Steelers to a Week 1 victory over one of the AFC’s best in a defensive battle with the Bills. He completed 18/32 passes for 188 yards, including the go-ahead five-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger averaged just 5.9 YPA in the season opener after averaging just 6.3 YPA in his first season back from elbow reconstruction surgery, but he does have some easier matchups (LV, Cin, @GB, Den) coming up to get on track. New OC Matt Canada will look to run a more balanced attack with Najee Harris in the mix this season so Big Ben is looking like a low-end QB2 unless he becomes more efficient.
None of note.
Teddy Bridgewater (Den, 11%) — Bridgewater continued to cement his spot as Denver’s starting QB with his typical solid play in a season-opening victory over the Giants. He completed 28/36 passes for 264 yards (7.3 YPA) and two touchdowns and he added 19 rushing yards. Bridgewater did lose Jerry Jeudy for the foreseeable future with a high-ankle injury, but the Broncos at least have more depth at WR than most teams with K.J. Hamler (who dropped a bomb TD from Teddy in the opener) and Tim Patrick ready to take on bigger roles. Bridgewater has two excellent matchups to keep his momentum going before his schedule becomes more difficult (@Jax, NYJ, Bal, @Pit).
Derek Carr (LV, 23%) — Carr played a sloppy game in Week 1, but he put the ball up 56 times and ended up with 435/2 passing to finish as the QB9 for the week. The Raiders want to be balanced, if not run-heavy, but Josh Jacobs is already banged up, so Carr may have to put the ball up more than usual this year. He has a stud in Darren Waller, and he might have an emerging player in WR Bryan Edwards, plus there’s enough otherwise to support solid production. Carr has a lot of continuity on this side, but he does have a tough slate of games upcoming (at Pit, vs. Mia, at LAC). His schedule after that, however, looks favorable.
Mac Jones (NE, 26%) — Jones looked the part in his professional debut against a tough Dolphins defense. He completed 28/39 passes for 281 yards (7.2 YPA) with his lone touchdown coming on a seven-yard pass to Nelson Agholor. Jones did a good job of spreading the ball around with seven different receivers seeing three or more targets. Jones has a mix of beatable matchups and tougher matchups (@NYJ, NO, TB, @Hou) as a low-end QB2 the next four weeks, but he’s already shown he can play well in one of the tougher spots in the league, which is playing in Miami in September. Jones used TE Jonnu Smith and RB James White, and looked to be on the same page as his WRs.
Daniel Jones (NYG, 20%) — Jones looked like his normal, inconsistent self in the first action of his third season. He scored on a four-yard rush on the final play of a 13-point loss to the Broncos as he finished with 6/27/1 rushing with one lost fumble and he completed 22/37 passes for 267 yards (7.2 YPA) and one touchdown. The Giants are waiting for noticeable improvement from Jones after getting him Kenny Golladay this off-season, but his porous offensive line could stunt any potential growth after he was under siege for much of Week 1. It is possible, at least, that the OL improves and Jones is able to truly maximize his weaponry, which is considerable. Until then, Jones is a volatile QB2 option, especially while Saquon Barkley gets his legs back under him. He doesn’t have the easiest upcoming schedule (@Was, Atl, @NO, @Dal), as well, and he needs medium-to-good matchups mostly. Jones won’t have TE Evan Engram in Week 2, but Engram is expected to make his 2021 debut in Week 3. UPDATED: 9/14
Sam Darnold (Car, 15%) — Darnold cracked 20+ FP in his first start with the Panthers, but he was hardly impressive going against his former team, which sports one of the league’s worst secondaries. He completed 24/35 passes for 279 yards and one touchdown and he added a five-yard touchdown run to cap off his victory over the Jets. Darnold’s improved cast makes him more intriguing for fantasy than he ever was in New York, but he’s still a low-end QB2 for the foreseeable future (NO, @Hou, @Dal, Phi) until he shows more improvement.
Carson Wentz (Ind, 15%) — Wentz showed no ill effects from his August foot surgery in his first action with the Colts, but Indianapolis didn’t really threaten the Seahawks in the season opener. Wentz padded his stats late, completing 25/38 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns while adding 4/23 rushing against Seattle. Wentz needs more help from the likes of Michael Pittman and the rest of his thin receiving corps going forward if he has any hope of being more fantasy relevant. Wentz is a low-end QB2 for now, especially with a difficult upcoming stretch of games (LAR, @Ten, @Mia, @Bal).
Jared Goff (Det, 7%) — Goff could be the king of garbage-time production this season after racking up 29.9 FP in their mostly one-sided loss to the 49ers in his debut with the Lions. He completed 38/57 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns, and one INT in Detroit’s furious comeback from a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Even with his impressive garbage-time performance in Week 1, Goff will be just a fringe QB2 option with a difficult upcoming schedule (@GB, Bal, @Chi, @Min) and a lack of difference-making wide receivers at his disposal.
Tyrod Taylor (Hou, 4%) — The Texans came storming out of the gates in a lopsided victory over the Jaguars, and Taylor showed some vintage form from his days with the Bills. He completed 21/33 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns and he added 4/40 rushing for 23.64 FP against Jacksonville. Taylor may not have an easier matchup than the one he had in the season opener, but at least he still runs to boost his fantasy production and he has a dynamic receiver in Brandin Cooks to make plays for him. It’s probably not worth chasing Taylor’s production from the season opener with tougher matchups looming (@Cle, Car, @Buf, NE) in the future.
Taylor Heinicke (Was, 0%) — Heinicke will be in line to start for at least three games starting this week on Thursday Night Football against the Giants, since Ryan Fitzpatrick was placed on IR. Heinicke completed 11/15 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown and he added 3/17 rushing after entering the game in the second quarter against the Chargers. Heinicke has some good weapons in Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and Antonio Gibson, and he ran for 68 yards and a touchdown in two starts last season if you’re looking for a second starter in Superflex/two-QB formats. He’s clearly ahead of #3 QB Brandon Allen in the coach’s minds. But if Heinicke struggles, they could pull him for Allen, who knows the offense well.
Zach Wilson (NYJ, 18%) — Wilson had a rough go of it for much of his professional debut but he salvaged his fantasy day with some late production to post a respectable 19.3 FP. He completed 20/37 passes for 258 yards (7.0 YPA), two touchdowns, and one INT against the Panthers. Wilson’s offensive line did him no favors — he took six sacks — and the Jets will also be without LT Mekhi Becton for 4-6 weeks after he suffered an MCL sprain in the season opener. Wilson is going to need more help from his offensive line and his receiver if he’s going to be anything more than a low-end QB2 with a tough stretch coming up (NE, @Den, Ten, @Atl).
Latavius Murray (Bal, 62%) - Considered a good fit for their blocking scheme, Murray is on track to carve out a significant role in this offense. In fact, long-time Raven beat writer Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com has believed that Murray has the potential to eventually emerge as the team's top option at the position. It certainly didn’t take him long to factor into the backfield, as Murray played 21 snaps (31%), mostly in the second half, and he looked good and scored. He basically looks like the new Gus Edwards with Ty’Son Williams as the JK Dobbins. Murray is more versatile than Edwards, though, so Murray should get more snaps and touches than Gus did last year. The Ravens also on 9/14 released RB Trenton Cannon, who did get two carries in the opener. That means we may see Le’Veon Bell, but we think Bell is cooked. UPDATED: 9/15
Tony Pollard (Dal, 53%) - Pollard played a solid 24% of the snaps in the opener, and he looked good in the passing game catching all 4 of his targets for 29 yards. The Cowboys are expected to use him more this year on a consistent basis, and he could get the nod over Zeke Elliott in hurry-up situations.
Elijah Mitchell (SF, 7%) — Raheem Mostert is OUT for the season while popular top-80 fantasy pick, Trey Sermon, was a surprise healthy scratch against the Lions. That left sixth-round pick Mitchell as the team’s surprising top option for the final three quarters against the Lions. He broke off a 38-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter on his way to finishing with 19/104/1 rushing on 64% of the snaps. JaMychal Hasty scored on his only carry of the game and he added a 15-yard catch while playing 29% of the snaps as the team’s passing back. Clearly, Mitchell has earned playing time as the team’s #2 RB, and he has a chance to be the top runner for at least the next two months. Sermon will be elevated to the active roster to be his backup now and is a threat, so Mitchell is more of a priority addition this week for those who need RB help. He’s viable for any and all fantasy teams, at least for now, but with Sermon lurking (and also Jeff Wilson, who could be back in two months, it may not be wise to use 70% of your budget or more if you don’t need RB help. UPDATED: 914
James White (NE, 33%) — He’s back. White has a fantasy pulse again with Cam Newton no longer in the lineup. He finished with 6/49 receiving on seven targets (18%) and he added 4/12 rushing while playing 37% of the snaps against the Dolphins. White saw a target on a whopping 31.0% of his routes run (57 of 184) last season, and he should run a lot more routes with Mac Jones at quarterback after he averaged 374 routes per season in 2018-19 with Tom Brady. White should be an active piece of New England’s passing game going forward, and he’s back to being a viable RB3 in PPR formats with Jones at the helm. And if the two RBs ahead of him keep fumbling as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stephenson keep fumbling as they both did in Week 1, White may even start getting some carries and goal line carries.
Kenneth Gainwell (Phi, 8%) — Gainwell is the second back to own behind Miles Sanders and he could carve out some standalone value based on his Week 1 usage as the team’s hurry-up/passing back. He was also a TD vulture to Miles Sanders. Gainwell finished with 9/37/1 rushing and 2/6 receiving on three targets and he played on 36% of the snaps as the only option behind Sanders (66%). The Eagles would likely elevate Boston Scott to the lead runner role if Sanders missed time, but Gainwell has already carved out a significant role over Scott as a receiver and the Eagles could have some heavier pass scripts in the next couple of weeks (SF, @Dal, KC).
Mark Ingram (Hou, 19%) — HC David Culley went with Ingram, whom he worked with in Baltimore, as his top back in the season opener and the veteran took advantage of a cushy matchup against the Jaguars. He finished with 26/85/1 rushing while playing 45% of the snaps while Philip Lindsay finished a distant second as a runner with 8/25/1 rushing and 27% of the snaps. David Johnson (3/18/1 receiving) and Rex Burkhead (1/6 receiving) also factored in as passing backs with 28% and 13% of the snaps, respectively. Ingram averaged just 3.3 YPC and the Texans are working three other backs into the mix so chasing his Week 1 production could be fool’s gold.
Tony Jones (NO, 23%) — With 35% of the snaps logged in Week 1, Jones has taken over as the power-back complement next to Alvin Kamara, which was previously held by Latavius Murray, whom the Saints released before the start of the season. He posted a solid 11/50 rushing (4.5 YPC) while catching his only target for three yards in New Orleans’ dominant season-opening victory over the Packers. Jones could eventually develop some standalone value in non-PPR formats as he gains more trust from HC Sean Payton, and he’ll have high-end RB2 value if Kamara misses any time.
Larry Rountree (LAC, 1%) — Austin Ekeler is playing through a balky hamstring to open the season after he missed six games because of the same injury in the first half of 2020. Sixth-round pick Larry Rountree served as the second option behind Ekeler in the season opener, playing on 27% of the snaps to Justin Jackson’s 13% snap share — Joshua Kelley was a healthy scratch. Rountree finished with 8/27 rushing without a target in victory over the Football Team. The Chargers would likely use a committee between Rountree and Jackson if Ekeler’s hamstring forces him to miss time, but Rountree is worth consideration in deeper formats since Ekeler is already playing at less than 100%.It’s a great sign for him that he played over Kelley and also Jackson.
Giovani Bernard (TB, 29%) — Bernard played on only 29% of the snaps in the season opener even with Ronald Jones getting benched for fumbling. OC Byron Leftwich used Gio in the James White role as Bernard played in only hurry-up and third-down situations against the Cowboys. He managed just 2/12 receiving on three targets (he didn’t get a carry) in Week 1, but Leonard Fournette continued to look shaky as a receiver so there could eventually be a path to more playing time. Bernard isn’t lineup-worthy right now but he’s worth a stash if you’re in deeper PPR formats as he gets more game reps with Tom Brady and fully picks up the offense. Week 1 certainly proved the need for a reliable veteran like Gio.
Carlos Hyde (Jax, 16%) — Hyde is sharing Jacksonville’s backfield with James Robinson after Travis Etienne’s season-ending foot injury in August. Hyde padded his stats late in a blowout loss to the Texans, leading the Jaguars with 9/44 rushing while adding 2/14 receiving. HC Urban Meyer loves Hyde more than anyone else in the world based on his playing time dating back to the preseason, and it continued in Week 1 with J-Rob finishing with a 62% snap share and Hyde owning a 37% share. Hyde isn’t a usable fantasy piece unless desperate, but he could creep into the RB2 picture if anything happens to Robinson.
Ty Johnson (NYJ, 11%) and Tevin Coleman (NYJ, 32%) — The Jets’ backfield is an absolute abomination for fantasy early in the season. Johnson led the group with a 53% snap share in Week 1 with the Jets playing from behind most of the game, but he produced just 1/11 receiving on three targets and 4/15 rushing. Coleman was the preferred runner with just 9/24 rushing on 25% of the snaps while fourth-round pick Michael Carter posted 4/6 rushing and 1/14 receiving on two targets on 27% of the snaps. This backfield is a mess and the Jets will also be without LT Mekhi Becton for some time after he suffered an MCL sprain in the season opener. Carter has the most potential in the group if you’re looking to stash one of these backs, but Johnson could have the best pathway to fantasy production if the Jets are going to be playing in a lot of negative game scripts this season.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Atl, 3%) — Patterson showed he’s going to be a little more than a gadget player under new HC Arthur Smith as the Falcons rolled with just Mike Davis and Patterson in their backfield in Week 1 — Wayne Gallman was a healthy scratch. Patterson led the Falcons with 7/54 rushing and he added 2/13 receiving while playing 33% of the snaps to Davis’ 73% share. We’ll see if Gallman is worked into the mix at some point in the near future since he’s still learning the offense, but Patterson is worth a look in deeper formats since Davis is hardly a special option in front of him.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (TB, 1%) — Vaughn is unlikely to be elevated into the lineup after Week 1 (he was a healthy scratch), but it’s at least notable that Ronald Jones is once again in Bruce Arians’ doghouse. RoJo will likely get more chances to redeem himself but Vaughn could be worth a stash for those in the deepest formats just in case the Buccaneers start to turn the page on RoJo, who is a free agent at the end of this season.
Best Handcuff Stashes
Rhamondre Stevenson (NE, 24%) — Stevenson fumbled on his second NFL touch and he never saw the rock again, but he’s still the top candidate to lead this backfield if Damien Harris misses time this season.
Devontae Booker (NYG, 8%) — The Giants are easing Saquon Barkley back into the lineup off of his ACL recovery, and Booker is the player to own for Barkley owners who are looking to protect their top asset.
Alexander Mattison (Min, 36%) — Mattison doesn’t have much of a role playing behind Dalvin Cook, but he’d be a priority add if he’s ever pressed into the starting lineup. He’s unlikely to be a three-down option if Cook is out of the lineup with Ameer Abdullah likely handling passing-down work.
Chuba Hubbard (Car, 19%) — Christian McCaffrey owners who are looking to handcuff their asset should consider adding Hubbard, the Panthers’ fourth-round pick in 2021. He offers no standalone value playing behind CMC but he’d instantly become a potential RB1 option as Mike Davis did in his place last season.
Deejay Dallas (Sea, 0%) and Alex Collins (Sea, 1%) — Rashad Penny is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a calf injury, and could be played on IR. Since HC Pete Carroll can’t quit Collins, he may be the next man up, but Dallas has had a good offseason and training camp and is probably the better choice.
Jaret Patterson (Was, 1%) — Patterson, a UDFA out of Buffalo, would take over as the team’s lead runner if Antonio Gibson is forced to miss time at any point with J.D. McKissic working in passing situations.
Samaje Perine (Cin, 1%) — Joe Mixon is dominating work in the Bengals’ backfield but Perine is the top option behind him and he’s seeing work as a change-of-pace option. He’d be viewed as an RB2 option if Mixon missed time at any point this season.
Marvin Jones (Jax, 61%), Jakobi Meyers (NE, 61%), Marquise Brown (Bal, 61%), Darnell Mooney (Chi, 48%), Cole Beasley (Buf, 47%), Elijah Moore (NYJ, 43%)
DeVante Parker (Mia, 39%) — Parker was one of the most overlooked players in fantasy drafts this summer, but he showed in Week 1 that he should be rostered in most formats. He paced the Dolphins with 4/81 receiving on a team-best seven targets (26% share) against the Patriots. Parker will have more competition for targets starting this week with Will Fuller returning from his suspension, but Parker has worked in this offense with Tua Tagovailoa dating back to last year, and their chemistry appears to be coming into its own. He should be a rock-solid WR3 option moving forward.
Sterling Shepard (NYG, 39%) — Kenny Golladay will eventually become Daniel Jones’ top weapon in this passing game, but Shepard continues to be an under-the-radar PPR stud as Jones’ safety valve. He led the Giants with nine targets (24% share) and 7/113/1 receiving against the Broncos, and he looked great and showed some YAC ability on his 37-yard touchdown. Shepard has now posted 6+ catches in 9-of-13 games since the start of 2020, and he’s a plug-and-play WR3 option off of the waiver wire if you’re hurting at wide receiver.
Nelson Agholor (NE, 33%) — Agholor had a relatively quiet August with Jakobi Meyers and Jonnu Smith garnering more preseason hype, but he showed he’s going to be an active piece of New England’s passing attack in Week 1. He finished with a team-best 5/72/1 receiving on seven targets (18% share) against the Dolphins, scoring on a seven-yard pass from rookie Mac Jones. Agholor is going to be primarily used as the team’s deep threat, which is going to lead to some volatile performances as a WR4, but he had a promising first showing with Jones.
K.J. Hamler (Den, 2%) and Tim Patrick (Den, 1%) — The Broncos lost Jerry Jeudy to a high-ankle injury in their season opener, which has resulted in an IR stint, and HC Vic Fangio intimated on 9/13 that it could be longer than a month. Hamler nearly had a monster performance against the Giants but he had to settle for 3/41 receiving on four targets after dropping an easy 50-yard touchdown. Patrick took advantage of all four of his targets for 39 yards and a two-yard touchdown. The Broncos will be without Jeudy and they also eased Courtland Sutton into the mix in Week 1, so these receivers could take on more work until he’s back up to full speed. Both Hamler and Patrick are widely available in most leagues, and Hamler is the higher upside add while Patrick will be the more consistent option for as long as Jeudy is out of the lineup. Denver has two beatable matchups looming against the Jaguars and Jets in the next two weeks.
Jalen Reagor (Phi, 21%) — Quez Watkins came out on fire in the season opener with catches on the Eagles’ first three plays but he wouldn’t see another target the rest of the way. DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Reagor eventually emerged as Jalen Hurts’ favorite targets in their Week 1 victory over the Falcons. Reager caught all six of his targets (17% share) for 49 yards, including a late 23-yard touchdown to ice away their victory. Reagor posted just one touchdown and he caught just 57.4% of his passes during his rookie season. The 2020 first-round pick is off to a much more promising start in his second season, but he’ll still be battling with Watkins, Goedert, and Zach Ertz to be the #2 receiving option behind Smith. But with Smith added, Reagor is in his ideal spot more often than not, which is the slot.
Rondale Moore (Ari, 27%) and Christian Kirk (Ari, 13%) — The Cardinals used DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green as their top two WRs, but Green (2/25 receiving on six targets) didn’t impress in his debut with the Cardinals. Meanwhile, young WRs Kirk and Moore did a lot more with their more limited opportunities against the Titans. Moore finished with 4/68 receiving on five targets (16% share) and 20 snaps (29%) while Kirk caught all five of his targets (16% share) for 70 yards and two touchdowns on 37 snaps (56%). Moore and Kirk could see more opportunities in the future if Green continues to play as he did in his final year in Cincinnati.
Bryan Edwards (LV, 19%) — He was a complete non-factor for much of the game, as Derek Carr fed the ball to Darren Waller, but Edwards did heat up late and put up 4/81 on 5 targets and just missed a game-winning TD in OT. There won’t be a ton of targets here, but Edwards may soon command 6-7 a game at least, since Henry Ruggs is still trying to figure things out. The Raiders are very, very high on Edwards, so there is some upside to be had. UPDATED: 9/14
Terrace Marshall (Car, 20%) — Marshall, a 2021 second-round pick, made plenty of noise this preseason with a team-best 9/181/1 receiving. It didn’t quite translate to his professional debut as he finished with just 3/26 receiving against the Jets but he did see six targets (17%), including a goal-line look. Marshall is going to have plenty of competition for targets each week between Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson, but he’s worth stashing since he’s shown plenty of potential early in his career.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (GB, 13%) — The Packers had a season opener to forget with the offense generating just three points and 229 yards. Green Bay didn’t have a single player perform above expectations against the Saints, but MVS’ usage was the most encouraging development from their Week 1 stinker. He saw a team-high eight targets (23% share) but he turned his looks into just 3/17 receiving. It still appears that MVS has emerged ahead of Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb as the #2 WR behind Davante Adams after he reportedly had a stellar training camp. MVS played on 63% of the snaps compared to Lazard’s 68% share with the Packers pulling their starters early. MVS will likely go under the radar on the waiver wire this week after scoring just 4.7 FP in Week 1, but there are still signs of a potential breakout campaign in his fourth season.
Emmanuel Sanders (Buf, 21%) and Gabriel Davis (Buf, 8%) — As expected, Sanders stepped into John Brown’s old role in the offense with Davis working behind him in four-WR sets. Sanders posted a serviceable 4/52 receiving on eight targets (16% share) while Davis made the most of his five looks with 2/40/1 receiving (10% share) with his touchdown coming on a three-yard pass. Sanders is the floor play as a WR4 while Davis is a boom-or-bust WR4 option with his more limited role. Davis did get hurt in the game, which may have explained his lack of targets late, but there’s no word of anything. Both players would be looking a lot better if there was an injury to the other, obviously. Davis is on the injury report ahead of Week 2, which could help Sanders. UPDATED: 9/15
Zach Pascal (Ind, 1%) — Pascal worked with Michael Pittman in two-WR sets ahead of Parris Campbell (1/24 receiving on three targets) in the season opener. He led all Colts WRs with five targets (13% share) and he scored both Colts’ touchdowns on his way to 4/43/2 receiving. Pascal showed the best rapport with Wentz in the season opener so he’s worth a speculative add in deeper formats in case he continues to be active going forward. Even if and when he’s back to the WR3 role, all this guy does is score and make plays.
Cedrick Wilson (Dal, 0%) — Michael Gallup suffered a calf strain midway through the third quarter in Week 1, and he’s expected to miss the next 3-5 weeks after ending his night with 4/36 receiving on seven targets. He’s been placed on IR so he’s definitely out at least three weeks. Wilson stepped right into Gallup’s spot in the lineup as the team’s #3 WR and he caught all three of his targets for 24 yards, and it’s notable that the Cowboys played only four WRs in Week 1. Wilson will be a desperation play the next couple of weeks for anyone who was counting on Gallup in their lineup.
Dyami Brown (Was, 2%) — Brown had a professional debut to forget about with just a negative-two-yard catch to his name, but his usage in the season opener indicates that better days are ahead. He played on 93% of the snaps as a starter across from Terry McLaurin and his four targets were good enough for a 19% target share on a day when Washington attempted just 21 passes with Ryan Fitzpatrick getting hurt and giving way to Taylor Heinicke. Brown isn’t lineup-ready quite yet but he should be stashed in more competitive leagues before he starts trending upward, potentially after a national TV game against the Giants in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football.
Sammy Watkins (Bali, 14%) — His QB did not play well in the opener, but it was a good showing for the veteran Watkins, who caught a nice ball for 49 yards and played a healthy 82% of the snaps. He finished with 4/96 on 8 targets, so he wasn’t efficient, but he did look good, so he’s a solid depth add on the wire. UPDATED: 9/14
Van Jefferson (LAR, 2%) — Jefferson played a promising 69% of the snaps in 3-WR sets in Week 1, and he obviously flashed on his 67-yard TD. He did have only 3 targets, so he’s not a must-add, but there is some upside to stashing him given the strong-armed Matthew Stafford and their new interest in pushing the ball down the field. And if here’s an injury to either Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods, Jefferson would be startable.
Danny Amendola (Hou, 1%) and Nico Collins (Ari, 3%)— He played only 17 snaps but DA did what DA usually does, which is produce in PPR. He caught all 5 of his targets for 34 yards and a TD, and as long as Tyrod Taylor gives them competent QB play, Amendola will be capable of getting you 10+ PPR points any given week. The rookie Collins played an encouraging 55% of the snaps and almost scored and is clearly the upside option here for later in the season.
K.J. Osborn (Min, 0%) — The Vikings could be playing with three WRs on the field more this season with Irv Smith (meniscus) and Kyle Rudolph (free agency) out of the picture. Osborn clearly cemented himself as the team’s #3 WR in their season opener by posting 7/76 receiving on nine targets (18% share) against the Bengals. Osborn is a player to monitor in most formats but he could be worth a speculative add in the deepest formats after an impressive performance in first major NFL action.
Hunter Henry (NE, 57%), Austin Hooper (Cle, 53%)
Juwan Johnson (NO, 10%) and Adam Trautman (NO, 11%) — Johnson has taken over in the Jared Cook role this season next to inline TE Trautman. He jumped onto the fantasy radar during the preseason, and he kept his momentum going in the season opener by catching all three of his targets for 21 yards and two red-zone touchdowns despite playing on just 12 snaps (19% share). Trautman’s role is much more locked in with an 82% snap share and he saw a team-high six targets against the Packers, which he turned into just 3/18 receiving. Johnson could be a volatile fantasy option if he doesn’t see an uptick in targets and snaps, but his outstanding performances since August should warrant a bigger role going forward, especially with New Orleans’ issues at wide receiver. Trautman’s promising 29% target share and his heavy snaps indicate he’ll be a much more reliable TE2 option moving forward.
Jared Cook (LAC, 26%) — Donald Parham drew plenty of buzz during Los Angeles’ training camp, but it was the 34-year-old Cook who led the position in the season opener. He posted 5/56 receiving on eight targets (17% share) against Washington while Parham failed to catch his lone target. Cook hadn’t seen eight or more targets in a game since Week 12 in 2019 with the Saints so he may have more streaming appeal than we initially thought. The Chargers also seemed to be going out of their way to limit Austin Ekeler as a receiver with his balky hamstring so there could be a few more targets available going forward. He gets a matchup against a Cowboys’ defense that got torched for 8/90/2 receiving by Rob Gronkowski in the season opener.
Cole Kmet (Chi, 34%) — Jimmy Graham was an afterthought in the opener, playing just 14 snaps with only 2 targets and 1/11 receiving. Kmet, meanwhile, picked up where he left off late last season with a large role. He played 74% of the snaps and was tied for second on the team with 7 targets and a decent solid 5/42 receiving. TDs could be hard to come by with Graham still around, but the Bears do like Kmet quite a bit, and he should be a good bet to catch 50+ balls.
Tyler Conklin (Min, 5%) — Conklin is Minnesota’s new top TE after Irv Smith suffered a season-ending meniscus injury in the preseason. He caught all four of his targets (8% share) for 41 yards while recently acquired Chris Herndon failed to catch either of his two targets in their overtime loss to the Bengals. Conklin is on the streaming radar and he’ll be competing with #3 WR K.J. Osborn and Herndon for targets most weeks.
Dawson Knox (Buf, 6%) — Knox saw just an 8% target share in the season opener against the Steelers, but he at least caught all four of his targets for 41 yards. He caught just 55.3% of his targets through two seasons (52/94) and a whopping 14 of his misconnections came via drops (15.2% drop rate), so Knox is off to a positive start by catching all four of his targets. He’s more of a player to monitor at this point until we see if he can carve out a bigger target share in this deep passing attack.
Dalton Schultz (Dal, 1%) — Schultz is stuck in a TE committee with Blake Jarwin but, for now, he’s the top option at the position for the Cowboys. He caught all six of his targets for 45 yards while playing 68% of the snaps against the Buccaneers compared to 3/20 receiving on four targets on 57% of the snaps for Jarwin. It’s tough to get too excited about Schultz since Jarwin is the more dynamic receiver who is working his way back from last year’s ACL injury. Dak Prescott also isn’t likely to throw 58 times as he did in Week 1, but Schultz could remain active for the next couple of weeks while Michael Gallup (calf) is out of the lineup.
Pharaoh Brown (Hou, 0%) — Brown was Tyrod Taylor’s preferred TE target over Jordan Akins in the season opener, which helped him to finish second in receiving behind Brandin Cooks. Brown recorded 4/67 receiving on five targets (15% share) while Akins went catchless against the Jaguars. The Texans have an extremely thin receiving corps behind Cooks so it’s worth watching to see if Brown, a once-decorated prospect at Oregon, can develop into the #2 option in this passing attack. He is banged up heading into Week 2, though, so check status. UPDATED: 9/15
Hayden Hurst (Atl, 3%) — He’s obviously uninspiring but Hurst did look good in Week 1 and a little quicker and more athletic. It does appear as he will be one of their top-4 options in the passing game and he could catch 4-5 balls most weeks (4/24 on 4 targets in Week 1 and 60% of the snaps) since defenses will easily take their chances with him while devoting resources to stop Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley.
James O'Shaughnessy (Jax, 0%) — We’re not expecting O’Shaughnessy to develop into a fantasy-relevant option, but his Week 1 stat line caught our attention. He finished with 6/48 receiving on eight targets (16% share) in their blowout loss to the Texans. O’Shaughnessy will be a distant #4 option, at best, in this passing attack behind Marvin Jones, D.J. Chark, and Laviska Shenault, but he’s at least a player to monitor in case he becomes a favorite safety valve for Trevor Lawrence.
Jason Myers (Sea, 38%) _ Myers did not make a single field goal attempt on opening day. The Seahawks did not need him to do so. With a home game coming up against Tennessee, who should be fired up after that embarrassing loss at home to Arizona, Myers should be needed in this one.
Matt Prater (Ari, 31%) - Arizona exploded out of the gate in Week 1 on the road. Prater had five extra points and a 34-yard field goal. While he did miss wide left on a 43-yard attempt, at least they gave him a bonus range opportunity. The Cardinals offense should give Prater plenty of chances moving forward.
Greg Joseph (Min, 4%) - Joseph is not a sutd, by any means. What stood out for him in Week 1 was that he had a field goal made from 53 yards. Granted, it was in the waning minutes of the game. Still, it was a pressure kick to force overtime, which it did, and these types of kicks are confidence builders. This is something to ride until he misses kicks.
Cleveland (Cle, 67%) — This Browns defense wasn’t a hot option in Week One as they faced Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. But now, their schedule hits a soft spot. Cleveland faces a Houston team that managed to play one of the few teams worse than them in Week One. Houston’s lack of weapons are likely to turn them back into a pumpkin in time for Myles Garrett and Co. to do damage. Vegas has the Texans posting 18 points and losing by almost 2 TDs. After that, Cleveland hosts the plodding Chicago offense which hasn’t put fear into anyone’s hearts lately. Matt Nagy’s Bears have finished in the bottom 10 in offense in each of the past two seasons, and one week into 2021 hasn’t changed that narrative.
Saints (NO, 31%) — Yes, the Packers were a mess in Week One. But this New Orleans defense had a lot to do with that. Now that Marcus Davenport has blossomed into a legit #2 pass rusher across from stud Cameron Jordan, they have the winning combo of a strong pass rush and sticky outside corners (rookie Paulson Adebo - a fave of mine and Wes Huber’s - showed why he is deserving of a starting spot across from Marshon Lattimore with his pick of Aaron Rodgers). The Saints are favored against Carolina this week, and have New England’s rookie QB, a work-in-progress Giants offense, and likely Taylor Heineke over their next four games (@Car, @NE, NYG, @Was) .
Cardinals (Ari, 6%) — Chandler Jones won’t always rack up 5 sacks a game. But he and J.J. Watt clearly can - and will - wreck many a game. This is what the Cardinals wanted when they signed Watt: 2 veteran pass rushers that teams can’t handle at the same time. Their LB corps is also much-improved from last season. These are a few of the reasons John Hansen and I are higher on this Cards D than some. That, and their potent offense can build leads quickly. Their Week One thrashing of the Titans (13 PA, 6 sacks, 1 Int, 2 FR) has them off to a fast start, and now their schedule gets easier. Arizona faces Minnesota and Jacksonville next.