No one wins a competitive fantasy league without making a few smart in-season pickups. Your draft, while important, was just the beginning. Each week throughout the NFL season, we identify six players to target on waiver wires, plus a lightly owned D/ST. All are available in a majority of Yahoo leagues and approved for immediate use. Add as needed.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles, 4% owned
Smallwood received a dozen carries in Philly’s win against the Giants on Sunday, rushing for 71 yards (5.9 YPC). He added one catch for nine yards on two targets and he out-snapped LeGarrette Blount for the second straight week. Darren Sproles suffered a fractured arm and torn ACL on Sunday, injuries that will end his season, so expect a significant role for Smallwood moving forward. Blount will of course remain a significant contributor in this team’s backfield, and Wisconsin rookie Corey Clement has carved out a role as well. (Clement had a promising preseason, you might recall, and he scored a late, game-tying TD against New York in Week 3. He’s a guy to target in deep formats, less than 1% owned in Yahoo leagues.)
Smallwood, however, figures to lead all Eagles backs in snaps and touches in the weeks ahead. He was a 1500-yard rusher as a junior at West Virginia in 2015 (6.4 YPC), and he tied for the FBS lead in runs of 10-plus yards. Smallwood is legit, a flex-worthy fantasy option for the foreseeable future.
Schedule, next three weeks: at LAC, vs. Ari, at Car
FAAB bid: $19
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens, 2%
Early in the third quarter at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Terrance West popped up after a modest 7-yard gain and made the “feed me” gesture toward Baltimore’s sideline. His team was losing 30-0 at the time. On the game’s next play, West was stripped of the football.
After that less-than-ideal sequence, Alex Collins was the back who got fed. Collins piled up 82 yards on nine carries, ruling the garbage-time portion of an embarrassing Baltimore loss. The second-year Arkansas back has clearly earned a greater share of his team’s rushing workload moving forward. Collins isn’t the fastest or flashiest runner you’ll ever see, and he was waived by Seattle less than a month ago. But he runs with power and surprising shiftiness. He’s clearly made a favorable impression on John Harbaugh, who talked him up entering the London game. It appears Collins may have just overtaken West in the Ravens’ backfield hierarchy; expect double-digit touches in the weeks ahead.
Schedule, next three weeks: vs. Pit, at Oak, vs. Chi
FAAB bid: $8
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants, 35%
At some point, the Giants will just stop pretending they have a running game. This team ranks dead-last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 48.7 yards per game and 3.1 per carry after three weeks. On Sunday, New York ran the ball only 17 times while attempting 47 passes against Philadelphia. Game-flow definitely suited Sterling Shepard, who finished with seven receptions, 133 yards and one score (shoulda had two) on 10 targets. He’s now averaging 7.3 targets per game, so he doesn’t lack opportunities. Shepard was a 683-yard receiver last year as a rookie, and he’s on pace to top 1000 yards in his second pro season. The addition of Brandon Marshall to the Giants’ receiving corps hasn’t been much of a problem for Shepard. Next week, New York will face a Bucs defense that just allowed 369 passing yards to Case Keenum. Shepard is a good bet to deliver another useful fantasy line.
Schedule, next three weeks: at TB, vs. LAC, at Den
FAAB bid: $12
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers, 20%
Add Kelvin Benjamin’s name to the expanding list of injured Carolina receivers. Benjamin limped away from Week 3 with a left knee injury. Monday’s MRI reportedly brought good news, but Kelvin isn’t yet a lock to play in Week 4. Greg Olsen (foot) remains sidelined as well, which leaves third-year wideout Devin Funchess as his team’s presumptive top receiving option.
Funchess hasn’t resembled a No. 1 receiver at any point in his pro career, of course, but he’s now in line for double-digit targets. He caught four balls on 10 chances in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. Based purely on projected volume, he has to enter the WR3 conversation in fantasy. Cam Newton isn’t exactly putting on a quarterback clinic these days, so no one should expect a win-your-fantasy-week performance from any of his receivers. But the upcoming matchup with New England is certainly friendly. The Pats defense currently ranks last in the league against the pass, allowing 330.7 yards per game and a passer-rating of 112.9.
Schedule, next three weeks: at NE, at Det, vs. Phi
FAAB bid: $10
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans, 14%
Watson shredded the miserable New England pass defense on Sunday, passing for 301 yards and two scores on 33 attempts, adding eight carries for another 41 yards. He tossed two picks, but, for fantasy purposes, those were offset by the rushing stats. If you haven’t yet caught Watson’s Week 3 highlights, give ’em a view. He was plenty impressive. You’ll see the advanced ball placement demanded at the NFL level, and you’ll see a young quarterback using his mobility to extend plays when pressured. Watson has three straight home games upcoming, and Sunday’s matchup is against a Tennessee defense that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Houston’s receiving corps is about to get Will Fuller back in the mix, adding a deep threat to an already talented group. Watson has a shot at another top-12 positional finish in Week 4. When the byes begin the following week, his fantasy services will be in demand.
Schedule, next three weeks: vs. Ten, vs. KC, vs. Cle
FAAB bid: $5
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills, 20%
Clay caught all six of his targets in Buffalo’s upset win over Denver, gaining 39 yards and scoring the go-ahead second-half touchdown. With three weeks in the books, he ranks as the fifth highest-scoring fantasy tight end. He’s second on his team in targets (18), trailing only LeSean McCoy. At this point, he feels like a near-lock to finish among the top-12 at his position for the season, assuming good health. If you’re among the tens of thousands of fantasy owners scrambling for a replacement tight end, Clay is very likely the best rest-of-season option on the wire.
Schedule, next three weeks: at Atl, at Cin, bye
FAAB bid: $6
Jacksonville Jaguars, 42%
Whatever doubts you may have had about Jacksonville’s defense were presumably erased in Week 3. The Jaguars absolutely humiliated the Ravens in London, holding Baltimore to just 186 total yards, seven points and 12 first downs. Joe Flacco somehow finished with only 28 passing yards and two picks on 18 attempts. He completed eight throws and was picked off twice. Jacksonville’s D leads the NFL in sacks (13.0) and this team has allowed just 443 total passing yards over three games. This group has talent at every level on defense and a terrific pair of corners.
Add this group for the upcoming matchup against the Jets, but think of the Jaguars’ D as an every-week option.
Schedule, next three weeks: at NYJ, at Pit, vs. LAR
FAAB bid: $4