It’s Week 4 of the NFL regular season and not only will Miami and Oakland travel across the pond to play in London, but the byes are upon us! Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, St. Louis and Seattle all get a breather, putting a lot of offensive (and defensive for that matter) firepower on the bench. This coupled with more injuries to significant players means another busy week for the waiver wire.
And in that respect Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye in Week 4: Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, St. Louis and Seattle
Week 3 Recap:Kirk Cousins looked pretty comfortable leading Washington’s offense, leading all quarterbacks in Week 3 with 427 yards passing. He also tossed three touchdowns and just one interception in his first start this season. Cousins is definitely a worthy bye-week fill-in if not borderline every-week starter as long as Robert Griffin III remains sidelined.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
After throwing more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3) in the first two games, Manning was mistake-free in the Giants’ win over previously undefeated Houston. Manning completed 21 of 28 passes for 234 yards and two scores and has now put up back-to-back respectable games. It looks like he and his teammates are getting more comfortable in the new offense with each game. Next up for Manning and the Giants is a Thursday night date with Washington, who gave up 325 yards and three TDs to Nick Foles on Sunday. He may have dropped out of the circle of trust as an every-week starter, but Manning should definitely be on the radar if your starting QB is on bye this week.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
There are some rookies (Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater) out there slated to make their first career starts in Week 4 as well as some other “veteran” options (Mike Glennon, Austin Davis), but let’s give the “old” man on the block some credit shall we? Playing behind an offensive line that lost three starters this offseason and with a lack of established weapons compared to other teams, Smith has continued to get the job done. He may not throw for a ton of yards, but he generally takes care of the football (no turnovers since Week 1) and can make plays with both his arm (3 TD passes Sunday vs. Miami) and legs (78 yards rushing in three games). The Chiefs get the Patriots on Monday night at home, and while it may not be an ideal matchup would you rather trust a guy who has gotten the job done before or a young quarterback still getting his feet wet as a professional?
Week 3 Recap:Knile Davis stepped in admirably for an injured Jamaal Charles, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries in the win against Miami. Charles may be back from his high ankle sprain sooner rather than later, so just keep that in mind. Bobby Rainey got off to a tough start against Atlanta and fumbled twice, but the Buccaneers stuck with him and he finished with 105 total yards on 18 touches. How much work he gets this week against Pittsburgh will depend largely on Doug Martin’s (missed last week because of ankle injury) health. Jeremy Hill scored another touchdown in what was an otherwise quiet (7 att., 39 yds.) afternoon. Matt Asiata struggled in the run game (12 att., 35 yds.), but was somewhat of a factor again in the passing game (3 rec., 36 yds.).
Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts
Trent Richardson is still getting his chances, but Bradshaw is clearly an active part of this Colts offense. Through three games he already has three touchdown catches and also is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Bradshaw is averaging more than 10 touches per game and if the Colts’ offense continues to produce, the veteran should as well. Bradshaw may be No. 2 on the depth chart (for now), but he’s currently seventh in fantasy points at his position.
Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews is expected to miss about a month with a sprained MCL. Danny Woodhead was going to be a factor, especially as a receiver, but he went on injured reserve this week with a broken leg. That leaves Brown to handle the bulk of the workload. To that end, he got a whopping 31 carries against Buffalo on Sunday. And while he may not have picked up a ton of yards (62), any back that sees that many carries is valuable. Brown also caught five passes for 27 yards, so his versatility only increases his fantasy potential moving forward.
Roy Helu, Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris left Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia with a knee injury (which he got running into his own quarterback), but he was able to return. That said, with a short turnaround to get ready for the Thursday night game against the Giants, it’s possible that Helu could see more touches than usual. Helu got just two on Sunday, but one was a 55-yard reception and the other resulted in a one-yard rushing touchdown. Helu is already a part of Jay Gruden’s offense, but his role figures to increase if Morris is limited by the knee injury.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore Ravens
Bernard Pierce was scratched prior to kickoff because of a thigh injury. Justin Forsett got 11 carries and five targets (65 total yards), but it was Taliaferro, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick who got the most work. An unheralded rookie from FCS member Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries (5.1 ypc) and his first NFL touchdown in the win over Cleveland. Obviously Pierce’s health will dictate Taliaferro’s role moving forward, but it looks like the rookie may be on his way to at least moving past Forsett on the depth chart, if he hasn’t passed him already.
Week 3 Recap:Mohamed Sanu was up to his usual tricks against Tennessee, connecting with Andy Dalton on a touchdown pass. Sanu also caught five passes for 44 yards, but he’s on bye this week and the Bengals could get Marvin Jones back in Week 5. James Jones was third on the team in targets (5) Sunday against New England, but he still led the team in receiving with 43 yards on three catches. On the other hand, Rueben Randle was targeted a team-high 10 times against Houston, but he hauled in just five of those for a mere 27 yards.
Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers
Royal (12-131-2) has better numbers than Floyd (6-148-1) to this point, but I prefer the latter over the former long term. For one, Keenan Allen is the Chargers wide receiver you want to own, but he’s gotten off to a slow start (12-109-0) because of a combination of competition (first two games were against Arizona and Seattle) and a groin injury that hampered him on Sunday against Buffalo. While Allen is limited, Royal figures to benefit the most since he’s been a reliable red zone target for Rivers. However, Royal is as streaky as they come – of his eight touchdowns last season, five of those came in the first two games – whereas Floyd is a legitimate vertical threat (24.7 ypc). With so many wide receivers on bye either Floyd or Royal are viable fill-in candidates, but be wary of the boom-or-bust potential with each.
Devin Hester, Atlanta Falcons
To be fair, Hester has a total of seven receptions on eight targets. But he’s turned those opportunties into 126 yards (18.0 ypc) and he also took his first rushing attempt of the season 20 yards for a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Thursday. Roddy White (hamstring) didn’t play against the Bucs while Harry Douglas injured his foot. The Falcons have used the most four-wide receiver sets of any team this season, so if anything it looks like Hester will continue to get chances. It’s just a matter of what he does with them. Hester’s return skills (28.0 yards per kickoff return, 15.2 ypr on punts and a TD) only add to his appeal in those leagues that include special teams contributions in their scoring.
Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts
Nicks is tied for fifth on the team in targets (12), but he and Andrew Luck have connected on 10 of those for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Remember Nicks was targeted 102 times last season with the Giants, catching 56 of them yet he didn’t get into the end zone once. If this connection continues to produce results, chances are pretty good that Luck may start to look Nicks’ way a little more. The Colts’ offense rolled up some ridiculous numbers against Jacksonville on Sunday and could be in for another big day this week when they host Tennessee.
Allen Robinson and Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson is one of a trio of talented rookie wide receivers the Jaguars are employing. Second-round pick Marqise Lee carries the most upside, but he missed Sunday’s game because of a hamstring injury. It’s the same type of injury that kept Shorts (right) off of the field the first two games. Robinson and Shorts tied for the team lead in targets (10 each) against Indianapolis with the rookie tops in catches (7) and yards (79) while the veteran scored a touchdown. Robinson’s snap count has risen each game, and even when Lee returns he seems a safe bet to stay involved in the passing game. Shorts meanwhile was Jacksonville’s leading receiver last season (66-777-3) and I don’t really expect that to change despite the fact that first-round pick Blake Bortles has been given the starting quarterback job. Moving forward, I prefer Shorts and then Lee, but the latter’s hamstring injury will only help Robinson and Week 2 waiver wire wonder Allen Hurns, who caught his third touchdown pass on Sunday, remain fantasy relevant too.
Week 3 Recap:Niles Paul remained active (9 targets, 6 rec., 68 yds.) for Washington while Larry Donnell (6 rec., 45 yds.) posted his lowest numbers of the season. In both cases, these tight ends were not as productive as their team’s respective wide receivers, something that bears watching moving forward.
Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip on Sunday against Cleveland. Unfortunately it’s the same hip that he fractured last summer that wiped out most of his 2013 season. While the full extent of his latest injury is not yet known, it’s safe to assume we probably won’t see Pitta again this season. Daniels will take over as the Ravens’ primary tight end and his familiarity with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak doesn’t hurt. Daniels caught two touchdown passes in Week 2, but has just five catches for 42 yards in the other two games. Daniels isn’t a “safe” every-week starting TE1, not yet, but he certainly is an appealing fill-in option.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce’s snap count has been on the rise each game and that’s a good sign for this young, talented tight end. A player that generated some preseason buzz because of his combination of size and athleticism, Kelce has caught at least three passes each game and is averaging 16.6 yards per reception. He also hauled in his first touchdown of the season against Miami. If the playing time stays consistent and the results keep coming, Kelce could enter the TE1 discussion shortly.
Week 3 Recap: Washington followed up its 10-sack, 10 PA effort against Jacksonville by coughing up 37 points and 379 total yards to Philadelphia, with no sacks and just one takeaway. The Redskins get the Giants on Thursday night for those interested in taking another chance on this DST.
San Diego Chargers
Through three games the Chargers are tied for fourth in the NFL in points allowed (16.3 ppg). This defense has done a good job getting to the quarterback (7 sacks) and forcing some turnovers (3 fumbles). Next up is a visit from a Jacksonville team that has lost its past two games by a combined score of 85-27 and has given up 14 sacks and committed four turnovers during that same span. And besides making the cross-country trip to face the Chargers, Blake Bortles will be making his first career start at quarterback for the Jags. What’s not to like here?
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.