The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 2 2021
Welcome back for another year of my Waiver Wizard column! For those not familiar with this weekly article, I'll share my thoughts on games that recently concluded and highlight opportunities on the waiver wire that Fantasy Football players should consider moving forward. Think of it as your quick-read to be competitive for the next matchup in your leagues. Enjoy!
Fantasy football, at its core, shouldn't be an emotional game. Participants merely select players that they think will compile statistics to beat their opponents. Period. It's mathematical, not emotional. And that point is hammered home by analysts repeatedly. Drafting should be done with your head, not your heart. Separate yourself from the pack by using advanced metrics and numbers - not a gut feeling. The list goes on.
Sadly, that is nearly impossible.
The world around us (in case you haven't looked lately) is in a constant state of chaos, and Fantasy Football is supposed to be the reprieve. Players use this as an escape from reality, and want nothing more than to have fun and win. So, when they wait through an entire offseason where things are grim around them and finish their draft with a sense of hope and optimism, the LAST thing that they want is a slap in the face of our good friend - reality.
Losing sucks. I'll get that out of the way. It is frustrating, for sure. And sadly, 50 percent of your league will lose on a given week - it is bound to happen. The game (and I'll emphasize this - GAME) that we play is unpredictable, and bad breaks are bound to happen. Stars will have bad games. Defenses will fail to stop opponents. Kickers will… be kickers. So expect that. Expect an eventual loss or bad break. But don't let it consume you, or (even worse) let it lead you to making bad choices in the future. Let this article be your anchor to logic and reason.
Alright, big breath. Here we go.
(Waiver bids are based upon an assumed $100 FAAB)
Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 29
This was one heck of an opener, and really showed fans what they were missing the last several months. Starting off with Dallas, Dak Prescott answered many questions about how much his shoulder injury would dictate gameflow. There were no restrictions, with Dallas throwing the ball an absurd 58 times in an effort to minimize the pass rush by Tampa Bay. Ezekiel Elliott did little on the ground, and although others may be concerned, I'm not particularly worried. There was a script to this game, and he was asked to block. Michael Gallup left with a calf injury that is expected to keep him out 3-5 weeks, and in his absence both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb went ballistic.
Tampa Bay's passing game carried them to victory, led by the trio of Antonio Brown (5/121/1), Chris Godwin (9/105/1) and Rob Gronkowski (8/90/2). You'll notice Mike Evans absent here. Better weeks are to come for him, but the presence of so many weapons is a headache for Fantasy purposes. Two receivers will likely do well each week, take a coin flip to dictate who. Leonard Fournette was on the field for more snaps than Ronald Jones, due to Jones coughing up a fumble. He's in the doghouse already.
Waiver Wire Targets: Cedric Wilson in 14-team or larger leagues ($1)
Texans 37, Jaguars 21
How about them UNDEFEATED Houston Texans! Yee haw! Tyrod Taylor led Houston up and down the field on a weak Jacksonville defensive secondary. Brandin Cooks (5/132) led the way in targets and receptions, and remains the most Fantasy relevant player on the team. The three-headed hydra of Mark Ingram, Philip Lindsay and David Johnson is an even bigger mess than anticipated. If we assume this game script holds true, Ingram will be the first option on the ground, with Johnson operating as a third down and passing game back. Maybe. Ugh. Avoid.
Trevor Lawrence managed to finish with over 330 yards passing and threw three touchdowns - an admirable freshman game indeed. That aside? Lawrence barely completed 50 percent of his passes, and he thew three interceptions against a really bad secondary. Carlos Hyde coming away with more rushing attempts than James Robinson is criminal. The history between Hyde and head coach Urban Meyer is well documented - that said this move feels odd. Keep and eye to see if the 60:40 split continues. D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault Jr. all finished with nine targets or more. All three players will be capped by the presence of each other, making their ceiling FLEX options.
Waiver Wire Targets: Carlos Hyde in 12-team or larger leagues ($1)
Chargers 20, Football Team 16
Austin Ekeler was able to get medical clearance and start, though he didn't appear to be as spry as usual. His injury worries me in the short term, especially since Los Angeles didn't even attempt a pass in his direction. Ekeler remains a back-end RB1 in PPR formats, nothing new there. Justin Herbert looked sharp and really focused on both his primary weapons, Keenan Allen (9/100) and Mike Williams (8/82/1). If Williams could only stay healthy for one full season, that would be tremendous. Jared Cook was a much bigger factor than Donald Parham, who hardly saw the field.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was forced out of this game due to injury, and it was later revealed that he suffered a hip subluxation, which is expected to keep him out multiple weeks. In his absence Taylor Heinicke played admirably well, though it was noticeable how limited the offense became. Terry McLaurin (4/62) and Logan Thomas (3/30/1) were the entire passing attack. It was good to see Antonio Gibson become the true bellcow in Washington, with J.D. McKissic's reign of terror over.
Waiver Wire Targets: Taylor Heinicke in two-quarterback or Superflex leagues ($5-$10)
Seahawks 28, Colts 16
Not much to discuss in this one, honestly. Russell Wilson was pinpoint sharp on low volume, but made every pass count. I'd hardly call it "Letting Russ Cook" as he finished with just 23 attempts, but "Let Russ Flashfry". Wilson will continue to funnel 70 percent of his targets through D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Chris Carson finished with over 100 all-purpose yards, though he did lose a fumble (something he is prone to).
Despite the major addition of Carson Wentz, this Indianapolis offense goes through the running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Both players were hyper-involved. Despite being an inferior talent compared to his counterparts, Zach Pascal came away with both touchdown receptions in this game. I'm going to be blunt on Pascal - this is likely his best game of the season, and I don't view him as a strong pickup. I'll list him below out of necessity.
Waiver Wire Targets: Zach Pascal in 14-team or larger leagues ($2), Owners should also place Michael Strachan on their watch lists. He's an athletic marvel.
Panthers 19, Jets 14
This game was hard to watch. Though penciled as a "revenge narrative" by many, strong play on both defensive sides limited point totals. Sam Darnold turned into the second coming of Teddy Bridgewater, checking the ball down on short targets to Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore consistently. Robby Anderson scored the lone receiving touchdown and finished with just three total targets. At this point the entire Carolina offense is McCaffrey. He finished with 30 total touches, and I view that as a strong baseline moving forward.
Zach Wilson reinforced the idea that Corey Davis is his favorite weapon, even with Elijah Moore now back on the field. Davis finished with a 5/97/2 line on seven targets, and he constantly torched defenders on "out" routes. Wilson faced constant pressure on pass plays - a scenario that will be more frequent following the loss of Mekhai Becton to an MCL sprain. The New York backfield is a mess that I currently want no part of. Eventually Michael Carter may eventually separate himself from the pack, but his snap share is too low to justify a current FLEX spot.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Bengals 27, Vikings 24
Minnesota struggled to get things going on the ground against Cincinnati, with Dalvin Cook averaging barely 3 YPC. As a result, Kirk Cousins stepped up and performed quite well, finishing with over 350 passing yards on the day. Both receiving touchdowns went to Adam Thielen - it is good to see him healthy again. He's primed for a huge season opposite Justin Jefferson. Hello there, K.J. Osborn! Minnesota's decision to operate in "11" personnel led to a sharp uptick in snaps.
Joe Burrow and Ja'Maar Chase had their fair share of struggles in the preseason, but corrected things quickly when it actually mattered. Chase led all Bengals wideouts with seven targets, which is notable. Many suggested that Boyd would remain the alpha dog of the group, but statistics point otherwise. Joe Mixon played very well - I did think that he was dropping too low in drafts towards early August. Not sure he will get 33 touches a week, but he does have a high floor.
Waiver Wire Targets: K.J. Osborn in 14-team or larger leagues ($2)
Cardinals 38, Titans 13
This game was actually even more of a blowout than the score suggests. Kyler Murray was a one-man show, totaling five touchdowns through the ground and air. DeAndre Hopkins made two insane catches in the end zone - nothing new for him. How about Christian Kirk? 5/70/2? Could this finally be his breakout season? Arizona's backfield is a dead-even split somehow, even though Chase Edmonds is by far the superior talent. "Plodder Conner" is a nuisance that caps the Edmonds breakout. Rondale Moore is incredibly dynamic every time that he gets his hands on the ball.
Tennessee looked like a lifeless corpse on offense for most of the afternoon, with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones struggling to gain separation on defenders. Derrick Henry found no holes along the stout Arizona front, totaling 58 yards on 17 carries. It is very nice to see him involved in the passing game this season - he came away with three receptions and four targets in Week 1. Even a small tick in his receptions would mean a massive return.
Waiver Wire Targets: Christian Kirk in 12-team or larger leagues ($3)
49ers 41, Lions 33
Raise your hands if you had San Francisco finishing Week 1 with the most points scored? (no one raises hands). Okay, now raise your hands if you had Raheem Mostert getting hurt Week 1? (everyone raises hands). Shocking, I know. With Trey Sermon a surprise scratch and Mostert sidelined with a knee injury, rookie Eli Mitchell took the reins, rushing for 104 yards and a score on 19 carries. He will without question be the top recommendation in most waiver-wire columns, though it is difficult to predict how Week 2 will shake out, should the team activate Sermon. Kyle Shanahan has frustrated me in the past with running back carousels. Brandon Aiyuk didn't see one target despite the plus-matchup. Odd.
Giving credit where its due, Detroit hung in this game and put up significant "garbage time" production, when they could have very easily opted to run the clock out. Jamaal Williams was announced as the starter shortly before game time, though no explanation was given as to why. D'Andre Swift appeared to be fine from a health perspective, and finished this game as the more productive option. This will remain a frustrating split backfield, unfortunately. Both Swift and Williams finished with 8 receptions, and both players figure to be a central part of the passing game moving forward.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Steelers 23, Bills 16
This matchup gets my weekly "the game that feels like it will never end" award. What a snoozer. Pittsburgh was able to show off its new shiny toy Najee Harris, though he was promptly bottled up by a VERY tough Buffalo defense. Better days are ahead for him. Diontae Johnson left the game early when he knocked knees with a defender on a tackle, thankfully he was able to return. Johnson led Pittsburgh with 10 targets, catch five for 36 yards and a touchdown. He will remain a volume-based WR2. Chase Claypool made some impressive grabs, but I fear that he is turning into Mike Williams 2.0 - he often comes down harder than necessary and is at risk of injury.
Buffalo made the decision to make Zack Moss a healthy scratch, and chose instead to let Matt Breida operate as the backup. No further information has been released as to the thought process of this decision. Devin Singletary played well when afforded a touch, but Buffalo largely ignored running the ball unless absolutely necessary. I did make a note to bring up Emmanuel Sanders playing ahead of Gabriel Davis and seeing more targets. Sanders won't give up the WR3 role without a fight.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Eagles 32, Falcons 6
Atlanta's offense started off strong, with Matt Ryan finding Calvin Ridley several times on the opening drive. Why the team shifted away from throwing passes his way is anyone's best guess, but that decision crippled the team. Mike Davis did little when given the opportunity, and Kyle Pitts wasn't given the chance to take over the game. The Falcons seemed to be on "three and out autopilot" for most of this game.
Jalen Hurts does Jalen Hurts things. One of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the league, Hurts chipped in 62 yards on the ground on seven carries. Always nice to have a free touchdown-worth of points. Miles Sanders led the backfield in touches, but Kenny Gainwell was very impressive when handed the ball. Devonta Smith had a stellar first game as an NFL pro, catching six receptions for 71 yards and his first score. People want to discuss his small stature, but Smith roasts defenders with precision cutting and footwork. He has the chance to really open some eyes.
Waiver Wire Targets: Kenny Gainwell should have already been rostered as a Sanders-handcuff. He could be added to watchlists in deep PPR formats.
Chiefs 33, Browns 29
Fun statistic that I just saw on Twitter - Cleveland is 1-21-1 in season-openers since 1999. Ouch. Cleveland jumped out to an early lead in the first half on the strength of Nick Chubb and their running game, then chose to stray from that strength. Baker Mayfield played well overall, completing 21-of-28 passes for 321 yards - this in the absence of his top receiver Odell Beckham. Mayfield's propensity to spread his targets around has led to Jarvis Landry being the lone startable receiver for Fantasy purposes. I was hoping to see Donovan Peoples-Jones make an impact with OBJ declared out, but he saw just one target. Disappointing.
Patrick Mahomes is just an utter freak at the quarterback position. Enough said. Kansas City will continue to be the Tyreek Hill (11/197/1) and Travis Kelce (6/76/2) show moving forward, and it is difficult to envision any of the Mecole Hardman/Demarcus Robinson/Byron Pringle trio to break out. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a name that I avoided in drafts around his ADP - he showed me nothing in this game of particular note. If a team wants to beat Kansas City, they need to actually play all four quarters.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Saints 38, Packers 3
Did anyone in Green Bay get the memo that the season officially started? Wow. I'll hope that this was just a blip on the radar for the Packers, because they were unable to do ANYTHING right on Sunday. Aaron Jones finished with nine rushing yards total. Aaron Rodgers had a sub 35 QBR. The list goes on. One interesting note however? Marquez Valdes-Scantling actually led the team with 8 targets (he had just three receptions since many passes were uncatchable). Reports came out of Green Bay that this was the best training camp of his career, so maybe there is something to this.
Of Jameis Winston's 14 completions, five went for touchdowns. Break out the crab legs folks. Winston spread the ball around to a bevy of targets, with five players on the team seeing multiple looks. Preseason darling Marquez Callaway finished with just one reception, disappointing owners. Volume will come his way when/if the Saints begin to play from behind, have no fear. Juwan Johnson - hello there. We've been waiting for a Fantasy relevant Saints tight end - will Johnson be the pickup over Adam Trautman? It appears so from the early going.
Waiver Wire Targets: Juwan Johnson in a 14-team or larger league ($3)
Broncos 27, Giants 13
Yet another pathetic display on offense from New York. Even with offseason additions and the return of Saquon Barkley, unimaginative playcalling and poor offensive line play doomed things from the start. For silver linings, Barkley escaped the game from injury and appears to be fine. Sterling Shepard blew up (7/113/1) and Kenny Golladay (4/64) managed to make several contested catches. Denver is an above-average defense that really forced New York to become pass-dependent early. Daniel Jones managed to salvage his otherwise dreadful performance with a touchdown run on the final play of the game.
Teddy Bridgewater was an effective game manager in this contest, and although his numbers won't pop off of the page and surprise you, his ability to continually convert third and fourth-down scenarios was eye-opening. Denver was able to run the ball at will, which resulted in the New York defense surrendering points in all but three Denver possessions. Unfortunately for Denver, they lost Jerry Jeudy for the next 5-6 weeks after he sustained a gruesome looking ankle injury. Thankfully nothing is broken, and hopefully he will return at full strength. In his absence both Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler are expected to pick up the slack, opposite Courtland Sutton.
Waiver Wire Targets: Sterling Shepard should be added in 10-team or larger leagues ($8). K.J. Hamler should be added in 12-team or larger leagues ($4) and Tim Patrick should be added in 14-team or larger leagues ($3).
Dolphins 17, Patriots 16
Despite the low score, this proved to be an entertaining game that yielded plenty of noticeable statistics. Tua Tagovailoa continues to be a middle of the road passer that exhibits modest scrambling potential when asked. I don't see the full-blown breakout many predicted, but he should be better than 2020. Myles Gaskin started and performed well, averaging over 5 YPC while chipping in five receptions for 27 yards. That said, Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed also saw the field due to the committee situation. It will be difficult for Gaskin to return RB2 value at this rate. Nice catch by Jaylen Waddle on his first NFL touchdown.
The Patriots offense was able to move the ball on Miami all day, but settled for three short field goals after they stalled on multiple drives. Damien Harris ran the ball very well, racking up 100 yards on the ground prior to his game-ending fumble in the fourth quarter. Hopefully Bill Belichick doesn't permanently send him into exile (after all, Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled also). New England's main receiving options (Nelson Agholor, James White, Jakobi Meyers and Jonnu Smith) were all involved, seeing at least five targets each. Hunter Henry came away with less targets than Smith, but I think that statistic will change each week.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Rams 34, Bears 14
Rams fans should be absolutely elated now that Matthew Stafford is under center. This offense hummed along for most of the game, punting only one time. Darrell Henderson saw 16 carries to Sony Michel's one - it is safe to say that this isn't a committee situation like some feared. Cooper Kupp led Los Angeles with 10 targets, followed by Tyler Higbee with six. I really liked Higbee as a breakout candidate this year, absent Gerald Everett. Van Jefferson caught my attention, catching two passes for 80 yards and a score. He will compete with DeSean Jackson for the WR3 in this offense. Think he's currently in a hold pattern until we get more data.
Man, Chicago looks lost with Andy Dalton under center. Though it isn't surprising, it is unfortunate, since every snap the Red Rifle takes under center is another one away from Justin Fields. The Bears ran the ball effectively with David Montgomery (108 rushing yards and a score) but stalled when he went off to the injury tent to fix a finger issue. Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney both fell short of 10 points in a full PPR format - I wouldn't be overly concerned since easier matchups are on the horizon.
Waiver Wire Targets: None, though "flag" Van Jefferson or place him on your watch list to see if the production continues.
Ravens , Raiders Before I begin with commentary, can I just say how refreshing it was to see fans back in the Black Hole? For the first three quarters of the contest, Carr looked one way and one way only - in the direction of Darren Waller. We agree that it is a smart move as he is the top passing option on the team, but Carr missed a plethora of throws his way. Eventually the offense opened up to both Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and the (eventual) game winning toss to Zay Jones. Josh Jacobs still found paydirt even though he was clearly less than 100 percent.
No running backs? No problem. Ty'Son Williams played much better than I anticipated, and was a major contributor to the passing game. Fantasy players that are worried about Latavius Murray or Le'Veon Bell cutting into his workload should take a deep breath. Lamar Jackson continues to demonstrate that he is untackleable in open space - his legs will continue to give him a massive floor each week. Sammy Watkins led the Baltimore receiving crew in targets and yards, as he is prone to do Week 1. Sell early, sell now on Watkins. He does this every season.
Waiver Wire Targets: None