The NFL has had no shortage of headlines through the first 4 weeks of the season with injuries. This week there will be headlines for a different reason; the return of Tom Brady from suspension. The Patriots managed to go 3-1 in his absence, with a mess of QB injuries in the process, making his return needed more than ever before.
On top of their need for a QB, you know Brady has a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder after losing his appeal from Deflate-Gate. I absolutely love anyone in a Patriots uniform this weekend since I think Brady will do everything he possibly can to run up the score on the Browns.
This week the Jaguars, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Saints are on a bye, putting a lot of pressure on fantasy owners to fill out their roster with a LOT of starters unavailable. With that being the case, let's take a look at some waiver wire players you will want to target, and possibly play, this week.
Carson Wentz – Eagles: Wentz looks as legit as they come at quarterback. Wentz can be picked up and used as a bye week filler for your normal QB, or as trade bait for a team either struggling, or in need of a QB for their own bye week filler.
Terrance West – Ravens: West will get the first crack at touches for the Ravens this weekend, making him someone to target if available on the waiver wire. Be aware that Kenneth Dixon is the future in Baltimore, and my guess is they turn to him as early as next week if West struggles. If you don't NEED a RB right now, Dixon is the guy to own from the Ravens.
DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard – Raiders: Latavius Murray has been awful for fantasy owners this season, averaging just 10 carries-per-game thus far. And now, he is doubtful to play in Week 5 because of a toe injury. That brings us to Washington, who is going to be the name everyone talks about in replacing him. He is worth adding for sure. But, the guy I want you to keep an eye on (or pick up if you have a free roster spot) is Richard. The twohave pretty much split time evenly, and Richard actually has slightly better fantasy numbers because he's scored and Washington hasn't.
Quincey Enunwa – Jets: Decker is out, probably for the year, putting Enunwa in a great spot for PPR leagues.
Robert Woods – Bills: With Sammy Watkins out, Woods is the next man up for the Bills No. 1 WR role. He is a guy who is underrated in my opinion, and should do well for people picking him up off the waiver wire. He's no stud, but a good WR3 guy for bye weeks.
Corey Coleman – Browns: When Coleman broke his hand, a lot of owners cut him. That is great news for us because now is the perfect time to grab him and stash him on your bench. He is still a few weeks away from returning, but the kid was brilliant in his first two games this season, posting 7 catches, 173 yards, and 2 touchdowns!
Carson Wentz – Eagles: It's unusual for a rookie quarterback to have success in the NFL given the speed of the game, not to mention the better guys usually go to the worse teams because of the draft set-up. Wentz, however, is proving that axiom wrong with his impressive play since being given the starting job following Sam Bradford's trade to the Vikings.
Wentz is coming off a Week 4 bye, and gets a Lions defense that gives up the 2nd most fantasy points to QBs this season at 27.1 PPG. There are some questions at RB, but the return of Zach Ertz should allow Wentz to not miss a beat. I like him as a great bye-week filler at QB.
Andy Dalton – Bengals: Dalton heads into Week 5 as fantasy football's #9 ranked QB, largely due to his 1,234 passing yards (3rd in NFL). The TDs (3) haven't been there early on with Tyler Eifert out, but the Cowboys have allowed QBs to throw for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs through 4 games this season.
If Eifert is able to go, Dalton has a great shot at finishing in the 5-7 range for QBs. If not, I expect him to still finish as a QB1, but closer to the 8-10 range in the rankings.
Jordan Howard – Bears: Howard had his best game of the season last week, posting 132 total yards on 26 touches against the Lions. This week he draws a Colts defense that generously 24.8 PPG to fantasy RBs this season, the 4th most in the NFL.
With Brian Hoyer at QB, and Kevin White on the I.R., Howard will be needed more now than before. He's an RB1 with real upside this week.
Jeremy Hill – Bengals: I get plenty of emails asking if owners should start Hill or not, which can be understood given last year's stats. However, Hill has shown his rookie form over the last two games, carrying the ball 31 times for 168 yards and 2 TDs. The landscape of the Bengals offense has changed in the post Hue Jackson era, and Hill looks to be gaining the traction fantasy owners had hoped he would.
This week he draws a Cowboys defense that has given up just 15.2 PPG to fantasy RBs thus far, 12th fewest in the NFL. With that said, they have also given up 330 yards on the ground, the 12th most in the NFL. The yards will be there for the taking, the question is can he score? I think he can.
Steve Smith Sr. – Ravens: Smith seems to be the ageless wonder at WR, playing as the Ravens No. 1 WR at the age of 37. So far this season Smith has seen 9-or-more targets in 3 of the Ravens first 4 games, with Weeks 3 & 4 providing 11 targets each. Smith ranks 14th in targets for WRs this season with 37, and 10th in receptions with 24. If he could just find the endzone more (1), he'd be in the WR1 discussion for sure.
Smith takes on the Redskins this week, who give up 27.0 PPG to fantasy WRs this season despite signing CB Josh Norman in the off-season. I'd consider him a WR2 for Week 5 and definitely worth grabbing off the waiver wire if he's available.
Terrelle Pryor – Browns: It's hard to believe that Pryor is 8th in targets (40), and 17th in receiving yards (290) as we head into Week 5 of the season. Pryor was thrust into the No. 1 role when rookie Corey Coleman broke his hand. Pryor and Isaiah Crowell have been the lone bright spots for a Browns team that lost Coleman and Josh McCown to injury, and are now moving on from troubled WR Josh Gordon.
Pryor has proven that he will see the targets, putting him in the discussion as a weekly fantasy starter. I have him as a WR2 this week against the Patriots simply because I think Angry Tom [Brady] runs up the score, forcing the Browns to throw more than run.
Chris Hogan – Patriots: Everyone knows guys like Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola. The player nobody is talking about is WR Chris Hogan, the Patriots deep threat. He hasn't put up the stats yet, but not many have for the Patriots outside of LeGarrette Blount. But, with Brady back, all that changes!
Hogan is a boom-or-bust play this weekend, but someone I think you should definitely target on the waiver wire as a hold at the very last. He is my sleeper pick for this week.
Quincy Enunwa – Jets: Enunwa was making a name for himself before Eric Decker went down with a rotator cuff injury by hauling in 17 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown through the first 3 games. He now finds himself in the starting line-up as the Jets No. 2 WR with Decker out, and sits in my WR2 rankings (bottom end of it) against the Steelers.
Yes, the Steelers have given up an average of 20.8 PPG to WRs (8th fewest) so far. But, Matt Forte isn't looking as good as he did to start the season, and the Steelers are sure to score enough to force the Jets into passing situations with Le'Veon Bell back. Don't sleep on Enunwa if you need WR help.
Rob Gronkowski – Patriots: Gronk has been a major bust in the two games he's played this season, but that all comes to an end with Brady back. And, there has been a lot of talk this week about how his hamstring isn't healing up as fast as he would have hoped. With all that said, I'm not buying it.
I don't think it is out of the realm of reason to believe that Gronkowski was taking it easy by design, so when Brady was back in Week 5 he could go full BEASTMODE on the NFL. I could be wrong, but I am starting him with full confidence.
Zach Ertz – Eagles: Ertz is back after missing two games with a displaced rib, drawing a Lions team struggling to find their identity on both sides of the ball. Through 4 games, the Lions are allowing 15.4 PPG to fantasy TEs, 2nd most in the NFL. If a TE can score 10-plus points and his name isn't Gronkowski, [Travis] Kelce, or [Jordan] Reed, you should hop on that like a starving man on a Thanksgiving ham.
Ertz immediately goes into the TE1 rankings, and is a legitimate top 5-7 option with Kelce, Julius Thomas, and Jimmy Graham out on byes.
Philadelphia Eagles defense: The Eagles defense has been rock steady on defense through the first 3 games of the season, racking up 10.0 sacks (9th in NFL), 1 safety, 3 recovered fumbles, and allowing just 27 points against them. Yes, the first 3 games were against the Browns, Bears, and Bell-less Steelers. But, they still held them to 27 total points.
This week the Eagles get a Lions offense that looked like a low-end DII college last week against a weak Bears defense. It's possible that Mathew Stafford comes out and looks to redeem himself after the poor showing in Week 4, but I like the Eagles chances with the Lions struggling to run the ball, and Eric Ebron highly questionable this weekend.
P.S. If the Eagles or Bills defenses are gone, I'm putting the Dolphins out there as a sleeper play. They ended up being just fine against the Browns after a shaky start, and Marcus Mariota easily has one of the worst WR corps in the NFL to throw to.
Mathew Stafford – Lions: Stafford is coming off an embarrassing game last week, where he threw for just 213 yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs. Golden Tate has all but disappeared from the passing game, Ebron is looking iffy to play, the running game is struggling, and the defense gets their clock cleaned any time a legitimate offense faces them (Colts = 35 points; Packers = 34 points).
The Eagles are giving up just 11.2 PPG to fantasy QBs heading into this week. Their only real test thus far has been the Steelers in Week 3, but they are also coming off a bye and Stafford is coming off probably the worst performance by a QB last week.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: The Bills offense is going to have their rough weeks as they try and adjust to being without Sammy Watkins, and playing a defense like the Rams won't help matter much. Through 4 games, the Rams are giving up the 14th fewest fantasy points to QBs this season at 19.3 PPG. That number is a little inaccurate though when you consider Jameis Winston went nuts in Week 3 and roasted them for 405 yards and 3 TDs. Outside of that one game, their average fantasy points allowed drops down to 17.9.
Taylor is a dual threat QB, and I am forced to play him in one of my leagues because there just isn't a better option on the waiver wire. And, despite me needing a good game from him in one league, the Rams defense is one that could certainly shut him down in Week 5.
Theo Riddick – Lions: I already told you I like the Eagles defense this week, which of course means I don't like Riddick and the Lions offense. But, people still own Riddick and might have to play him simply because of depth issues. Just so you know, the Eagles give up the 2nd fewest points to RBs this season at 11.8 PPG, and have allowed a total of 159 rushing yards against them.
Dwayne Washington injured his ankle, and is now considered doubtful from what I was told. Had he not gotten hurt, we might be looking at a time-share situation in Detroit at RB with Riddick averaging just 3.13 YPC.
Orleans Darkwa – Giants: While those big-box websites were telling people to grab Darkwa off the waiver wire, I was telling them to leave him alone and instead target Terrance West. Darkwa was fool's gold last week, and he will be fool's gold again this week too.
Rashad Jennings could make his return this week, crushing what little value Darkwa did have. And, even if he doesn't, he'll share carries with Bobby Rainey and Paul Perkins. You can do better than Darkwa I'm sure.
Kenneth Dixon – Ravens: I will tell everyone I converse with to grab Dixon right now. With that said, he isn't worth playing his first week back from injury. The Ravens are going to ride West one more time to see if he can stay hot, and to try and ease Dixon back into the flow of things. Dixon will have a role this weekend, but it won't be a big one unless something drastic happens with West.
Dixon should be owned in most formats, but stashed on the bench until the Ravens make the move on the depth chart.
Matt Jones – Redskins: Jones is coming off a huge game against the Browns in which he racked up 138 total yards and a touchdown. But, that was against the Browns and a defense where I can't name a single player outside of Joe Haden.
This week he matches up with a Ravens defense that is giving up just 12.9 PPG to fantasy RBs this year, the 3rd fewest in the NFL. I know you probably can't sit a guy like Jones due to bye week depth issues, but I'd expect numbers in the RB2/3 range from him.
Golden Tate – Lions: There is a milk carton with Tate's picture on it in every fantasy league in the world right now! With the emergence of Marvin Jones in the passing game, and the decline of Stafford, Tate is sitting on a season-high of 41 yards. Tate was targeted just 4 times in Week 4, catching one of them for 1 yard.
The stats speak for themselves with Tater Tot, and I'd give some serious thought to cutting bait with him if you can get a WR like Enunwa or Smith Sr. off the waiver wire.
Tajae Sharpe – Titans: Sharpe showed some promise in Week 1 after he hauled in 7-of-11 targets for 76 yards against the Vikings. But, it has been all downhill since then, as Sharpe has totaled 9 catches for 96 yards over the next 3 games. The Titans are so desperate for someone at WR they announced on Wednesday that Rishard Matthews was being replaced in the starting line-up by Andre Johnson.
The Titans have perhaps the worst receiving corps in the NFL, and it isn't going to get any better with old-man Johnson out there. I think it is safe to cut Sharpe if you still own him, and see if you can get a WR I talked about above.
Richard Rodgers – Packers: I am getting a lot of emails asking if people should start Rodgers this week, and my answer is always the same: why do you even own him? His season-highs are 3 targets, 2 catches, and 25 yards in 3 games. Aaron Rodgers makes players better, but Rodgers career will go down as "the guy" who caught the Hail Mary to win a game.
I'd drop him and get [Zach] Ertz, Dennis Pitta, Cameron Brate, or even Charles Clay (in that order).
Jacob Tamme – Falcons: Tight End is the one position in fantasy football where anything you get is just icing on the cake, unless you own one of the top 3-4 guys. So, when a guy on the waiver wire like Tamme catches 11 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown through the first two weeks of the season, we jump on the waiver wire to grab him.
The problem is, since then, Tamme has managed just 5 receptions for 31 yards. He did catch a touchdown last week, but he posted just 3 receiving yards on the day. Tamme is the true definition of TD-or-bust, and I'd treat him just like Rodgers above.
San Francisco 49ers defense: When news broke that Carson Palmer was ruled out for Thursday night, and Drew Stanton would indeed be the starting QB for the Cardinals, folks hit the waiver wire hard to grab the 49ers defense. Here's the problem: LB Navorro Bowman is out for the year, and DL DeForest Buckner & CB Jimmie Ward have been ruled out for Week 5.
The 49ers are as hurt on defense as the Cardinals are on offense without Palmer. I'd go with a defense like the Rams, Bills, or Eagles this weekend, and stay FAR away from the 49ers.