The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 4 2021

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano Perhaps the most memorable dynamic of the 2020-21 Fantasy Football season was top-10 talent (running backs, specifically) going down with lasting injuries that hamstrung players. For several weeks, the team that came out on top was simply the healthiest, not the most talented.

Fast forward to this past weekend. In a lopsided Thursday Night contest, Carolina stomped Houston to the tune of 24-9. Sam Darnold played admirably well, passing for over 300 yards while peppering D.J. Moore with looks up and down the field. However, Christian McCaffrey exiting in the first half and promptly being ruled "OUT" with a nasty hamstring pull has Fantasy players praying that this malady won't linger, and that the top player in all of Fantasy comes out unscathed in a week or two.

In McCaffrey's absence, Chuba Hubbard inherited most of the snaps in the Carolina backfield, accompanied by recently signed Royce Freeman. Hubbard will undoubtedly be the top waiver-wire target wherever he is available (likely shallow leagues). Carolina hasn't placed McCaffrey on the new I.R. list as of Monday evening, which suggests that the team views his absence as short-term. Regarding Hubbard, I'd definitely place a bid on him for waiver purposes, but I wouldn't go all-out, ala Elijah Mitchell a few weeks ago. Hubbard will be on the right side of a split in the backfield, with Freeman leeching just enough snaps to be a nuisance. A bid of 20-25 percent should do the trick.

I suppose I should write a sentence about Houston. Sigh. Start Brandin Cooks, and no one else. Bang. Covered.

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Eli Manning's jersey was being placed into the Hall of Honor in East Rutherford this past Sunday. Atlanta entered the game 0-2 and looked listless. Saquon Barkley was coming off of 10 days rest. And yet despite everything favoring New York, the most inept franchise in the league couldn't scrounge out a win.

Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton exited early in the first half with hamstring injuries, and Kenny Golladay clearly wasn't 100 percent. Barkley played well enough on one leg, but his trademark explosiveness still isn't there. Luckily for his owners, he was able to find the end zone on a short run. With their receivers decimated, New York surely turned to their first-round selection Kadarius Toney for help, right? You wish. Instead, Collin Johnson ate up the targets. This tells you all you need to know about New York.

Mike Davis continues to underwhelm me, and is only Fantasy relevant because the team opted to not address the position in free agency. Cordarrelle Patterson is the most dynamic Falcon not named Calvin Ridley, and Atlanta is smart to give him additional touches. Kyle Pitts hasn't lived up to his draft ADP, but better days are ahead as he becomes more comfortable during his rookie season.

Waiver Wire Targets: In 14-team or larger leagues, keep an eye on Collin Johnson. Should BOTH Shepard and Slayton be sidelined for Week 4, he would make for a sneaky FLEX play in PPR leagues.

Bills 43, Washington 21

"Josh Allen clearly isn't the same player that he was in 2020. I should bench him in favor of Justin Fields, right?" - yes, this was actually a question that I received on Twitter. Yeesh. Allen played out of his mind against a stout defense, totaling five touchdowns while silencing the doubters. My biggest takeaway on the Buffalo side was how much better Zack Moss is than Devin Singletary. Moss should be the starter, rather than this being a time split - he is too talented to lose snaps and is adept enough at catching the ball to be in for all three downs.

The talk going into the game for Washington centered around the usage of Antonio Gibson and how J.D. McKissic siphoned away touches for seemingly no reason. Gibson only totaled 13 touches in this game, but don't be alarmed by the low number - Washington hardly had the ball all afternoon. I'm waiting another week before making a judgement. Terry McLaurin was the only wideout or tight end to break double-digit points in a full PPR format.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Browns 26, Bears 6

Don't look now, Cleveland just had another sack. Yeesh. Justin Fields had a difficult rookie debut, and was constantly under duress due to an inept OL. Fields finished with six completions on the day for just 68 yards. David Montgomery and Allen Robinson both disappointed. I'm concerned about Robinson, who has given players little return on their investment. I'd typically recommend Fantasy players to pounce at the opportunity to buy low, but unless it is for ten cents on the dollar, I don't know if it is worth it.

Baker Mayfield had to do little to win this game, between the Browns defense and running game crushing the time of possession. Kareem Hunt was heavily involved, and he totaled more than 150 scrimmage yards and a score. Nick Chubb's lack of involvement in the passing game makes him incredibly touchdown dependent. It was nice to see Odell Beckham Jr. back, and he immediately became the go-to option for Mayfield when the team needed to throw.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Ravens 19, Lions 17

Credit Detroit for taking this game all the way to the wire, then finding a Giants-esque way to lose on the final play of the game. DeAndre Swift continues to impress me, and he has done a tremendous job fighting through a groin injury to enter RB1 discussions. His involvement in the passing game provides him with a very high floor. T.J. Hockenson finished with just two grabs for 10 yards, but it was clear that Baltimore made it a point to neutralize him.

Lamar Jackson is simply magical in space, and his legs have made up for all the injuries that Baltimore sustained in the backfield. Jackson should have had a massive statistical day, but Marquise Brown dropped multiple walk-in touchdowns that kept this game close. During his struggles, Mark Andrews broke the century mark on five receptions.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Titans 25, Colts 16

No A.J. Brown, no problem. Tennessee's star wideout left with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, but that hardly seemed to slow down the Titans. The team is currently treating this as a "week to week" situation, and has no need to rush him back Week 5 against the hapless New York Jets. In Brown's absence, Julio Jones will see an uptick of targets, with Derrick Henry moving the yardsticks when needed. I'm not interested in bidding on Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who caught four passes and a score against Indianapolis - I don't view that as repeatable.

To his credit, Carson Wentz overcame multiple sprained ankles in an effort to play this past week - his toughness is well noted. Unfortunately, he found few passing lanes against Tennessee, resulting in a final QBR of 38.7. Ouch. Michael Pittman was Indianapolis' top target, but he was only able to haul in 6-of-12 targets for 68 yards. Jonathan Taylor had yet another quiet game - I view him as a buy low for trades. He's too talented to not get going.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Chargers 30, Chiefs 24.

Before I get into any sort of analysis, let me pass along thoughts and well wishes to Andy Reid, who was sent to a local hospital at the conclusion of this game while battling dehydration. Glad you're okay, Coach. For the first time in recent memory, Kansas City has a losing record. Mahomes tossed multiple interceptions against Los Angeles, and it really felt like he was forcing the ball into tight windows unnecessarily. Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished with 19 touches and answered criticism about drifting out of RB2 discussion. It is still surprising that CEH isn't more involved in the passing game, all things considered. Kelce (7/104) and Hill (5/56) both failed to find the end zone.

Sophomore slump? What is that? Justin Herbert was downright incredible, completing 26-of-38 passes for four scores on the day, including two to Mike Williams. Williams has assumed the "Michael Thomas" role, and is no longer only used on jump-passes on third down and in the end zone. This shift has benefitted him tremendously. Even with an uptick in utilization for Williams, Keenan Allen continues to be the "alpha" on this offense, and will see double-digit targets each week. Ekeler's receiving ability is evident, but his inside runs raised my eyebrow this Sunday. How about those Bolts!

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Saints 28. Patriots 13

New Orleans has had a very "Jekyll and Hyde" start to the 2021 season, with two dominant wins and one blowout loss. Jameis Winston will gnaw on some crab legs at the conclusion of this victory, but in truth he had very little to do with the victory. New Orleans defense rattled Mac Jones up and down the field, forcing three interceptions (one of which went for a pick-six). Alvin Kamara is the only startable asset for the Saints - I'm not reading much into Marquez Callaway coming down with a circus catch for a touchdown. For what its worth, I'd love to see the team get both Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson more involved before Michael Thomas comes back later this season.

Playing from behind most of the day, New England was forced to throw early and often - a situation that Bill Belichick hates. Matters were further complicated when James White went down with a hip subluxation while the Patriots played catchup. White is expected to miss multiple weeks, at a minimum. Third-down duties would be shared between J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson. Both Kendrick Bourne (6/96/1) and Jakobi Meyers (9/94) had big days against Marcus Lattimore. It is odd to see offseason acquisition Nelson Agholor be an afterthought, after New England opened their wallets this offseason.

Waiver Wire Targets: I'd be willing to spent $3-5 on J.J. Taylor in 14-team or larger PPR formats. White's absence can't be understated.

Bengals 24, Steelers 10

Ben Roethlisberger came into the week questionable with a pectoral injury - one has to hope that was the reason for his horrific play. To be fair, Pittsburgh was without Diontae Johnson, and JuJu Smith Schuster left early in the game with bruised ribs after taking a body shot early. Their absence led to Big Ben targeting Najee Harris an absurd 19 times. I thought that the box score was incorrect for a moment. Holy smokes. Harris and Chase Claypool were the entire offense for Pittsburgh - the two combined for 23 of the 38 completions Big Ben threw. Harris' usage in the passing game is a great sign for dynasty purposes, but the Steelers really need Johnson back to be functional again.

It turns out that Ja'Marr Chase can not only see, but he can catch an NFL-sized football without issue. Chase has scored in each of the first three games of the NFL season, and his long-term arrow is pointed sky-high. Joe Mixon continues to see 20 touches each week, but remains unimpressive every time that I flip channels to watch him. Volume is king - a well known fact. I just wish that he would produce more with the opportunities given. Tyler Boyd salvaged an otherwise quiet day with a score. Tee Higgins is looking to return in a juicy Week 4 matchup against Jacksonville.

Waiver Wire Targets: Pat Freiermuth was a name that I circled entering the season, and it appears that he has begun the process of taking the TE1 role in Pittsburgh. Steelers beat reporters rave about him. Try to add him for $5 in 14-team or larger leagues before he finds the end zone again to beat the rush.

Cardinals 31, Jaguars 19

And the train keeps-a-rolling for Arizona. It was widely assumed that the Cardinals would roll over the hapless Jaguars, a scenario that played out. Statistically, Kyler Murray had his quietest game of the season - passing for just 316 yards with his only touchdown being a rollout on a rush. Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds led the Cardinals with eight targets each - Kirk translated that into yet another big game (7/104). With DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore already commanding targets, guessing which games Kirk will explode is near impossible. Speaking of Moore, last week's top waiver wire target saw just two targets, catching both for a whopping yard total. Better days are ahead.

Jacksonville was outclassed on both sides of the ball, but to their credit they finally unleashed James Robinson up and down the field. Carlos Hyde should only be used to spell Robinson, nothing more. Hopefully Urban Meyer sees that by now. Laviska Shenault continues to disappoint - I was really hoping for a breakout season on his behalf. Difficult to see given his lack of touches.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Broncos 26, Jets 0

I'd rather step on my toddler's Legos than watch the New York Jets. Zach Wilson is under duress every time he drops back on a pass play, a situation that is only compounded by their lack of a running game. Ty Johnson and Michael Carter continue to fight for snaps in the backfield, but neither has seized the opportunity. I'm still only starting Corey Davis, and even that is as a PPR desperation FLEX.

The Javonte Williams watch continues. Williams is still playing fewer snaps than Melvin Gordon, a decision that is utterly maddening to all involved. Unfortunately for the rookie, he lost a fumble and hasn't truly taken over a game yet. Yet. The Broncos lost K.J. Hamler for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL, and they are already without Jerry Jeudy in the short-term. Courtland Sutton (5/37) and Tim Patrick (5/98) will continue to be called upon to move the offense vertically.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Raiders 31, Dolphins 28

Can we please start giving the Raiders a little respect now? Derek Carr continues to play out of his mind, and has passed the 350-yard mark for the third consecutive game. Las Vegas was able to run the ball against Miami, with Peyton Barber being asked to handle the majority of work. Hopefully this is the last week that Josh Jacobs misses, because watching Barber run is an exercise in patience. Darren Waller was very quiet, barely breaking ten points in a full PPR setup. Hunter Renfrow stepped up as Carr's safety blanket, with Miami attempting to lock down Waller.

I'm not sure how it is possible for an NFL quarterback to have 32 completions for just 215 yards while nearly every receiver is a vertical threat. Yet, that happened. Mike Gesicki (10/86) and Jaylen Waddle (12/58) kept this game competitive, forcing OT. Myles Gaskin has averaged over 5.0 YPC this season, but the team hasn't given him NEARLY enough opportunities. Utilize the talent!

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Rams 34. Buccaneers 24

Tampa Bay and Kansas City both losing in the same week is … odd. Brady played incredibly well, for what it is worth - 41-of-55 for 432 yards and a score without turning the ball over once. Brady wasn't the issue - it is Tampa Bay's complete lack of a running game. Sure, the Buccaneers receiving threats are all dynamic and great - but if you make this team play that one dimensional, it becomes predictable. Tom Brady led the team in rushing yards. Enough said.

Matthew Stafford has firmly planted himself within the MVP discussion, thanks largely in part to the incredible chemistry he has with Cooper Kupp. Kupp, his well-documented "breakfast buddy" is currently the top Fantasy wideout in the NFL. Volume and talent have meshed together into an elite package - players with Kupp on the team should enjoy this ride. Kupp's ascension has come at the cost of Robert Woods. Sony Michel struggled to generate anything on the ground against Tampa Bay, but that is no surprise. Fingers crossed Darrell Henderson can come back healthy in Week 4.

Waiver Wire Targets: Some will point to DeSean Jackson being a pickup, but his lack of targets and boom-or-bust potential isn't ideal for non-best ball formats.

Vikings 30, Seahawks 17

What a disappointing effort by Seattle. The Seahawks defense struggled to contain Kirk Cousins, who systematically picked them apart. Justin Jefferson (9/118/1) and Adam Thielen (6/50/1) both were exceptional, but it was Tyler Conklin (7/70/1) that really caught my eye. Conklin played well in limited chances at the end of 2020 when Irv Smith was injured. Conklin saw many of the snaps that K.J. Osborn had in prior weeks. Fantasy players who dropped a modest bid on Osborn were disappointed, but I'd urge them to hold on for another week or two.

Tyler Lockett left this game briefly with a leg injury, limping off into the locker room before coming back on the field several minutes later. His presence was sorely missed. Playing from behind after halftime, Russell Wilson made good use of his best healthy option in D.K. Metcalf (6/107/1). Chris Carson appeared to be banged up mid-game, but finished with 12 carries for 80 rushing yards and a score. Alex Collins was hardly used.

Waiver Wire Targets: SOMEONE is going to produce for Minnesota other than Jefferson and Thielen. Whether that is Conklin or Osborn is anyone's best guess. I wouldn't advise owners to chase last week's stats, but nor should they dismiss Conklin as a fluke. Add Conklin to the watch list before full-fledged add him.

Packers 30, 49ers 28

Aaron Rodgers looked early and often for Davante Adams (12/132/1) who took over the game on 18 targets. San Francisco had no answer for Adams, even when they tried to knock him out of the game on a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit that the referees somehow ignored. Aaron Jones continues to dominate the Green Bay backfield, with A.J. Dillon only coming in when absolutely necessary. Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to finish second in targets to receivers, and he finally came away with a few receptions in this game. We've discussed him in earlier columns.

Trey Sermon started in the San Francisco backfield for the first time in his career, but found it difficult to gain traction - rushing for a paltry 31 yards on 10 carries. Luckily for folks that started him, he was able to find the end zone, and also caught two passes on the day. The 49ers running game will be interesting to watch in Week 4, should Elijah Mitchell return healthy. Brandon Aiyuk caught four-of-six targets for 37 yards and a score - he continues to be more involved with each passing week. His buy-low window is shutting quickly. George Kittle managed to return to form with a solid 7/92 showing.

Waiver Wire Targets: None

Cowboys 41, Eagles 21

Speaking in generalities, the primetime TNF/SNF games have been fantastic to start the 2021 season - until this one. Dallas dominated both sides of the ball, proving that they are the class of the NFC East (a low bar to be sure). Dak Prescott picked apart the Philadelphia secondary on the shoulders of his tight ends, rather than the wide receivers. Both CeeDee Lamb (3/66) and Amari Cooper (3/26) were incredibly quiet in a game where so many points were scored. Following a week where Tony Pollard seemingly "closed the gap" on Ezekiel Elliott, Zeke was fed early and often. Pretty sure the Dallas coaching staff wanted this to be a "get right" game.

Jalen Hurts struggled to get ANYTHING going for the majority of the game, and the bulk of his statistics came when the game was already out of hand. DeVonta Smith (3/28) struggled mightily against Trevon Diggs - he won't be the last this season to do so. An interesting thought for Philadelphia? Try to give the ball to Miles Sanders - good things happen. Sanders rushed for 27 yards on two carries before the Eagles abandoned the running game. This was a really lopsided contest.

Waiver Wire Targets: None