With plenty of injuries and depth chart turmoil arising, week four of the NFL season will certainly provide fantasy surprises. With week four comes the dreaded first set of bye-weeks, creating openings for more than a few fantasy lineups.
The teams that are on byes this week are the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
With all of these teams on bye, everyone is going to be running to the waiver wire to fill the bye-week gaps in their lineups. Here are our top waiver-wire pick ups for this week:
1.) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: If you have either Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson who are on bye weeks, and don’t have a viable backup, this is the guy you need to put in a claim for as soon as you can. Since Robert Griffin III went down in week two, Cousins has thrown for five touchdowns while averaging 338.5 yards per game, and has thrown only one interception. Through two games, Cousins has averaged the second most fantasy points per week, behind Andrew Luck. Cousins is owned in 48 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues and 29.4 percent in ESPN leagues, making him an available option. There should be no question about grabbing this guy, whether you only need a quarterback for one week or if you’re simply looking for value at the position.
2.) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: If you can’t grab Cousins–a large possibility– go for a consistent, proven fantasy option in Smith. Although he’s a notably dull pick up, Smith finished last season as a Top 10 fantasy quarterback and is still a potential top-15 fantasy quarterback this season.
3.) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: If you’re digging deep here, go for the third overall pick that has recently been named the starter over Chad Henne. Bortles has a good matchup this week against San Diego, with the Chargers giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, including a three touchdown, 300 yard passing day to a subpar Carson Palmer in week one. Also, you’d have to be thinking Jacksonville will be airing it out, playing behind a red hot San Diego offense.
1.) Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers: This is a guy who is not being talked about enough in fantasy circles, as Brown is still available in most ESPN and Yahoo! leagues. Brown is certainly no Marshawn Lynch or Le’Veon bell, but with fellow running backs Ryan Mathews out 4-6 weeks, and Danny Woodhead likely out for the rest of the year, the backfield duties fall completely on Brown’s shoulders. With Woodhead and Mathews out last week, Brown rushed the ball 31 times and caught five passes. Although I don’t expect 35-plus touches this week, Brown will be heavily involved in the offense once again, especially against the second-worst defense against opposing fantasy running backs in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2.) Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings: With Adrian Peterson out indefinitely, Asiata has taken over for Minnesota. This is not a great matchup against an underrated run defense in Atlanta. But, if you’re picking up Asiata, you’re not picking him up for his raw running ability. Asiata is primarily a pass-catching back, making him much more valuable in PPR formats. Besides, if anyone is getting carries in Minnesota, it will be Asiata.
3.) Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore Ravens: The only reason Taliaferro is ranked so low is because of the unreliability in the Ravens’ backfield depth chart. Taliaferro is currently listed as the third back behind Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett, respectively. Despite that current order in the depth chart and with Pierce absent, Taliaferro overshadowed an unimpressive Forsett with 91 rushing yards and a touchdown. With Pierce nor Forsett capitalizing on their opportunities, the Ravens could be looking at a change at running back in the near future in Taliaferro. Don’t expect immediate impact from any of the Ravens backs in week four, with Baltimore facing a stingy Carolina run defense.
4.) Alfred Blue, Houston Texans: This one is simple. Arian Foster is being loaded with carries, and he’s not the volume back that he used to be. Foster is already banged up early this season, missing last week’s contest against the Giants. Against a marginal Buffalo run defense, Blue becomes a logical start if Foster can’t go Sunday. The Foster injury is one to watch carefully this week.
5.) Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Once a solid and automatic fantasy start, Martin is losing his No. 1 back status with his ineffectiveness and seemingly constant injuries. To his credit, Tampa Bay’s offensive line is far from a top unit and the Buccaneers offense has been a train wreck thus far. Rainey is a speed back that can catch out of the backfield, and can potentially break off long runs at any moment. Martin has returned to the practice field this week after missing back-to-back contests against St. Louis and Atlanta. Martin was a late scratch last Thursday against the Falcons, and this Sunday could leave fantasy owners in the same situation. Even if Martin suits up, one would have to figure Rainey will get a good amount of touches as they try to ease Martin back into the offense.
1.) Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: If your draft went haywire and are looking for an elite wide receiver in the hopes of a late fantasy playoff push this year, go grab Gordon. This guy is available in nearly 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues and is owned in only 11.3 percent of ESPN leagues. With the recent drug policies being adjusted, Gordon has been reinstated and will serve a 10-game suspension instead of his season-long ban. What does this mean? Even if you muffed the draft, come playoff time you could potentially have a top-5 fantasy receiver at your disposal, with Gordon looking to suit up in week 12.
2.) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles: Last week was a break out game for the former Vanderbilt star, with Matthews bringing down five catches, two of them being touchdowns. If you missed out on the crop of top rookie receivers (i.e. Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins), here is a guy you can pick up. No, he probably won’t reproduce Sunday’s performance, but he has the potential to be the second receiver in a pass-heavy, uptempo Philadelphia offense.
3.) Cecil Shorts III, Jacksonville Jaguars: Shorts is a great value when he is healthy, and is only owned in 57 percent of fantasy leagues. The Jacksonville offense is looking for a fresh start with rookie Blake Bortles at the helm now instead of Chad Henne. Bortles could be looking for his veteran wide out frequently as a safety blanket. Shorts has a decent match up this week against an average passing defense in San Diego.
4.) James Jones, Oakland Raiders: Not an ideal matchup against a good Miami passing defense, but Jones is clearly the most talented receiver on the Raiders. Jones is a reliable target, but will continue to be low-ceiling, third receiver.
5.) Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams: If you don’t need a guy this week and you’re just looking to add depth, go get Quick. Quick has quietly emerged himself as the number one receiver for the Rams, and faces no other competition for targets besides the injured and inconsistent Tavon Austin.
1.) Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers: Tight ends are hard to come by, but Green looks to be the heir to Antonio Gates in San Diego. For the most part, Green’s 2014 “rise” has been rather unsuccessful. Tight end production is hard to predict, especially since most teams use multiple tight end sets in the red zone. However, the Jags have the third-worst fantasy defense against tight ends this year. Although Gates will be the first option, Philip Rivers loves to spread the ball in this offense, which could generate targets for Green.
2.) Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs: Kelce continues to be involved in the Kansas City offense, making him a better pickup and safer play this week when compared to Green. This is because Kelce has simply outplayed starter Anthony Fasano, while Green has had to sit behind the red hot Antonio Gates on the depth chart.
1.) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles: With a high-octane Philadelphia offense, Parkey has been given a lot of opportunities to convert field goals. Through the first three games, Parkey has averaged the most fantasy points among kickers this year. Parkey has a good matchup against a rather suspect Buccaneers defense up next, with more three-pointers likely this Sunday.
1.) Detroit Lions D/ST: The pass rush of the Lions’ front four will be too much for Geno Smith and the Jets to handle. Smith had trouble in the pocket against Chicago’s tough defense, with Sunday perhaps looking like another rough day for the Jets signal caller.
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST: The Steelers have been a traditionally great fantasy defense, but still remain a plug-in option only. Pittsburgh has an easy match up against a Buccaneers offense that only mustered 14 garbage-time points against the Falcons’ second-team defense in the fourth quarter. Use the Steelers defense with confidence this week.