Week 5 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: D’Ernest Johnson & More
Week 5 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: D’Ernest Johnson & More
Before we get into the waiver wire and FAAB bids after Week 4, I do need to offer up a little bit of a mea culpa. Back after Week 2, when Christian McCaffrey went down, I suggested that going over 50% of your FAAB on Mike Davis *might* not be the best use of funds. That is laughably wrong. Davis is going to absolutely carry the teams that picked him up while CMC is out, and it’s not exactly clear when he will be returning.
Now, the Giants backfield situation is total chaos, so all of the advice there wasn’t wrong. Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, and the other rookie wide receivers continue to look like screaming values, so we are overall doing well on the waiver wire. The Week 5 Waiver Wire has no screaming values unless you are somehow in a league where Chase Edmonds or Kareem Hunt are out in free agency. This is a good week to churn the bottom end of your roster, drop players who don’t have a path to your starting lineup and see if anyone solid gets dropped by your competitors (this happens more often than you would think).
Each week, we will look at three tiers of players: the “must adds” or players that we expect will be picked up in every league and in every format, the “borderline” tier, and the deep-league darts. The focus will be on 12-team PPR leagues as our frame of reference and as always, if you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me on Twitter @DavisMattek or in the Daily Roto NFL Slack channel.
All players referenced in the Fantasy Football Waiver Wire column are under 50% owned in Yahoo! Fantasy Football Leagues. It is possible these players might be owned in your league.
Absolutely Should Be Owned In Every League But You Will See There Name In Other Fantasy Football Waiver Pieces: CeeDee Lamb, Joshua Kelley, Mecole Hardman, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas, Preston Williams, N’Keal Harry, Jerick McKinnon, Tee Higgins, Justin Jefferson, Laviska Shenault, Chase Edmonds, Malcolm Brown
POTENTIAL DIFFERENCE MAKERS (THESE ARE PLAYERS WORTH > 25% OF YOUR FAAB, OR THE #1 OVERALL WAIVER CLAIM) FROM THE FANTASY FOOTBALL WAIVER WIRE
It is not exactly clear just yet what is wrong with Nick Chubb’s knee, but he is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday afternoon. This is a weird sentence to type, but one of the best backfields to invest in has been the Cleveland backfield. They have attempted the most rushes in football, ran for over 150 more yards than everyone else in the NFL, and scored more rushing touchdowns than everyone else in football. Their situation neutral rush rate is top five in the NFL. It is clear that the coaching staff wants to run early and often, in basically every conceivable script.
Johnson is not really anything special as a running back, and neither is Dontrell Hilliard (the other running back on the Browns roster). As a UDFA with 4.86 speed, Johnson’s best comp from PlayerProfiler is Travaris Cadet, and outside of this fairly perfect situation, we were probably never going to be spending FAAB on him. If we learn that Chubb is out for the season, I can see 20% or so of remaining FAAB on Johnson. The problem he has is that he is likely just going to be a straight backup to Kareem Hunt and not in a timeshare like Hunt + Chubb were. In fact, the better use of your FAAB in this backfield is probably spending 5% or so on Dontrell Hillard who played ahead of Johnson last season and recorded 21% of the Browns snaps against the Cowboys after Chubb left. Hilliard is also the better athlete.
Justin Jackson/Darius Bradwell
Austin Ekeler is going to miss several weeks with a knee injury, which leaves the Chargers backfield to Josh Kelley (who should be owned in every fantasy league), Justin Jackson, and UDFA Darius Bradwell. Bradwell is a total nothing, an unproductive UDFA who has only been active because of injuries to Justin Jackson, but he may get some snaps, so I am going to mention him here. I’d be shocked if he played ahead of Justin Jackson, but with Anthony Lynn, you really do not know. Bradwell is a $1 bid guy.
Justin Jackson is more intriguing to me. He was a four-time 1,000+ yard rusher at Northwestern and had 32 targets on only 274 career offensive snaps. There was some reasonable chance that Jackson could have Josh Kelley’s role in tandem with Ekeler if Kelly had not had such a strong training camp. If Ekeler misses a month or more, Jackson can be an RB2 in this offense with Justin Herbert seeming rather strong. He played 40% of the offensive snaps in the loss to the Buccaneers and is likely sitting on many waiver wires right now. If you are in actual need of running back points right away, the Chargers play the Saints, Jets, and Dolphins while Ekeler projects to be out. I think Jackson is a fine 20-30% FAAB spend.
We strictly prefer Justin Jackson as FAAB bid OVER D’Ernest Johnson this week.
Picture Scotty Miller in your head right now; what position do you think he plays for the Buccaneers? Somehow, he is not their slot wide receiver. He has played only 34 slot snaps through four games while playing 120 snaps out wide. Through those four games, Miller has run the second-most pass routes on the Bucs and has been targeted five or more times in three of the Bucs four games. Somehow, in an offense that has had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin off and on, Miller has carved out a real and viable fantasy role.
Even with Godwin likely coming back after the upcoming Thursday Night Football game, the 4.4-speed Miller, who had a 41.5% Dominator Rating at Bowling Green in college, is going to have a role in this offense. Miller’s aDOT in this Buccaneers offense is 16.5 while Evans’ is 10.4, and Godwin’s is 8.8. Miller is the deep threat and worth owning in all PPR leagues at this point.
BORDERLINE STARTERS (THESE PLAYERS LIKELY ARE COMING OFF A GOOD GAME BUT DO NOT PROJECT AS MULTI-WEEK STARTERS, WORTH LESS THAN 25% OF YOUR FAAB) FROM THE FANTASY FOOTBALL WAIVER WIRE
Tre’Quan has finally started to showcase the promise that had many of us (I mean, mostly me) believing in him as a future WR1 when he was drafted in the third round out of UCF. The free-agent signing of Emmanuel Sanders never made much sense when Smith was already on the team, and he has proved that with Michael Thomas out. His game logs with Thomas out have been very solid:
7 targets, 5 Recs, 86 Yards, 0 TD
6 targets, 4 Recs, 42 yards, 0 TD
4 targets, 4 Recs, 54 yards, 2 TD
Obviously, with Michael Thomas likely coming back in Week 5 from his high ankle sprain, we don’t have to break the bank (or shouldn’t, at least) to get Smith on our teams after his double-touchdown day. Long term, these are the sorts of third-year breakouts that we do like to buy off the waiver wire as opposed to veteran wide receivers who we know have no ceiling. The biggest issue facing Smith is that Drew Brees still mostly looks like toast. If, for some reason, Jameis were to start for the Saints, Smith would have a legit WR2 ceiling even with Thomas back in the lineup.
Every Buccaneer running back is bad. Let’s just call it like it is. Ronald Jones is not a plus in the passing game despite being fine as a rusher, LeSean McCoy was a cooked goose 24 months ago, Kenjon Barner somehow found his way into the Buccaneers Week 4 game and then promptly got injured, and well, the less said about Leonard Fournette, the better. The fact that all of these players are not making the most of their opportunities opened the door for the very-average-himself Ke’Shawn Vaughn to find playing time for Tampa Bay.
Vaughn saw his first action this week after McCoy and Barner left injured, playing 25% of Tampa Bays snaps, rushing three times for four yards, and catching two of his three targets, turning one of them into a touchdown. The 23-year-old Vanderbilt running back does not have plus athleticism or any sort of spectacular skillset, but given the level of talent that Jones and Fournette have shown thus far, just playing C+ football for 70% of the Buccaneers snaps might get it done. While RoJo is not “benched” or anything of the sort, there is now open doors to Vaughn slowing taking the ways away from Jones and Fournette.
I never thought I would be typing this sentence, but we want pieces of this Bills offense. Josh Allen has engineered an offense that has gained the third-most yards in football, scored the fourth-most points, and for our PPR leagues, attempted the seventh-most passes. Gabriel Davis is a part of that Bills PPR machine and played 59% of the Bills’ snaps last week despite John Brown being active and healthy. He was targeted only once, and you won’t feel comfortable starting him anytime the Bills are favored, but his price is going to be higher on the WW this week than it was last week when we suggested buying him for $1.
Davis’ PlayerProfiler page shows what we can also conclude from watching him play for the Bills. He doesn’t have the raw talent of Stefon Diggs or blazing speed of John Brown, but he is a nice fit in their offense as a solid, possession wide receiver who is built well enough to play all three wide receiver positions.
DEEP LEAGUE TARGETS AND BENCH STASHES FROM THE FANTASY FOOTBALL WAIVER WIRE
The likelihood of McKenize actually being a year-four breakout are so slim that I am hesitant to even include him here, but the role he is playing in the Bills offense is interesting enough. With Zack Moss, the Bills have been using him more often as a ball-carrier with two rushes in Week 4 and 34% of the offensive snaps. The way McKenzie becomes a fantasy startable option probably includes two or more injuries, but the Bills commitment to running out of 10 personnel (most in the league) does give him enough playing time to make his 4.42-speed interesting.
Jeff Smith is somehow an actual appealing waiver wire add despite playing for the New York Jets. In his first game back off of the short-term IR, he played 95% of the Jets snaps and was targeted nine times, which was only one fewer than Jamison Crowder. Smith ran a 4.41 coming out of Boston College, where he broke out a young age (and is only 23 now) but struggled to post dominant numbers in his final seasons at BC. Smith is a really strong add this week because he played on Thursday and everyone forgot about him, and because he plays for such a poor offense, there is no reason he cannot lead them in targets the rest of the way.
Wilkins was mentioned as a $1 add last week (and so was Reggie Bonnafon, who looks like another strong churn candidate this week) and played a surprising role for the Colts in Week 4. Wilkins rushed the ball nine times for the third straight week while being targeted once and playing 17% of the snaps. The weird part of Wilkins’ role was that Jonathan Taylor rushed the ball only 17 times and was also targeted only one time. It appears that Wilkins is basically filling in for the Marlon Mack role, and Jon Taylor has not fully won over this backfield yet.
Finally, we get to Cam Brate, who is basically always the Buccaneers break-glass-in-case-of-emergency player. He has 28 touchdowns on 295 career targets and has had multiple stretches of being a productive starter for the Buccaneers. Particularly, last season when Godwin and Evans were both banged up, he had multiple TE1 games. With Godwin banged up, O.J Howard out for the year, and Gronk looking more like a right tackle than a tight end (despite playing 90%+ of the Bucs snaps), I am adding Brate in all tight-end-premium leagues.
Look Ahead Defense Bids (5% of FAAB or less): Carolina Panthers (Nick Foles at home is one of the best DST streaming matchups we can ask for), New York Giants (Dwayne Haskins and the impotent Washington Football Team at home in Week 6)