Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Top Week 3 Pickups
Welcome to the weekly bazaar, and we are not referring to the bizarre early season fantasy results where James Starks is a star and the likes of Ray Rice and Trent Richardson are fantasy football public enemies.
We break down all of the mission-critical options on the waiver wire this week, including a warning issued that history won't necessarily repeat itself, particularly in the case of the Packers' Starks. He is this week's Joique Bell. (We suppose that kind of history will repeat).
We do have a number of potential pickups you should be excited about and have analyzed the fantasy options to consider by position, outlining the ones to add, the ones to monitor and the ones to ignore (i.e. Starks).
All of the player ownership data referenced in the ensuing slideshow is taken from CBS Sports leagues and roster trends.
Quarterbacks: Why Is Everyone Missing the Boat on Philip Rivers?
Quarterbacks to Add
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Owned in 63 percent of leagues
The lack of belief in Rivers as a renaissance man has got to stop in fantasy football. Two weeks of starter production and a reemergence of Eddie Royal should clinch it.
According to Ashley Fox of ESPN, "Rivers said he hadn't become complacent or stale, but did he admit the coaching change has reinvigorated him. It has forced him to work harder, to learn, to study, to get back to the basics, to concentrate on his fundamentals."
Rivers has performed better than all but Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick among fantasy quarterbacks. He still is available in 37 percent of CBS Sports leagues. He is a must-own and a solid start in Week 3 at Tennessee, even if the Titans have been surprising in the secondary thus far.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Owned in 78 percent of leagues
The additions of Jared Cook and Tavon Austin to a modest Rams offense seemed like it might make Bradford merely marginally better as a fantasy quarterback. Thus far, it has made him a star.
For everyone owning and starting Austin and Cook, you have to at least look at Bradford. He draws the Cowboys defense in Week 3 that has given up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks through two weeks. Tony Romo should make this a high-scoring game on the other side, so Bradford can be good for 280 yards and three touchdowns again.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Owned in 53 percent of leagues
Andy Reid has turned around the Chiefs in a hurry, particularly with regard to the production on offense. Smith has had a hand in that, too, outperforming the likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Russell Wilson.
Smith draws an Eagles defense on a short week Thursday night. Yes, that same defense that made Rivers look like Aaron Rodgers.
Smith also rates as a valuable bye-week replacement, and those fantasy pests are starting in Week 4 with Green Bay and Carolina. If you are a Rodgers or Newton owner, you might consider getting an early jump on Smith against the New York Giants secondary. That game promises to be bountiful for fantasy passing numbers.
Quarterbacks to Monitor
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Owned in 50 percent of leagues
There is some kind of smear campaign going on with Freeman and the Bucs right now, and the pending free agent hasn't done anything for fantasy owners to date. If you cannot trust your quarterback to put up numbers on the Saints defense, who can you trust him against?
Freeman is facing a New England defense that has been fifth-best against quarterbacks—although that is largely due to having faced two rookies (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith). Freeman is closer to an exit in Tampa Bay than anyone's fantasy starting lineup right now.
If you need to make space on your roster, Freeman is one of the best choices at this time. Mike Glennon needs to start warming up on the sidelines.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Owned in 32 percent of leagues
Tannehill has performed like a fantasy starter, but that victory in Indianapolis showed the Dolphins might be a legit wild-card contender. If they are, it will be because of the development of this second-year passer and his work with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and fullback-turned-tight end Charles Clay.
Tannehill is a fringe option even in two-quarterback formats right now, but he has a potential shootout on tap with Matt Ryan and the Falcons. A big performance here could make Tannehill a potential bye-week replacement in standard leagues when the matchup is right.
Quarterbacks to Ignore
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Owned in 43 percent of leagues
You were warned right here. Pryor was a waste of a waiver claim. If you cannot prove fantasy viable at home against the Jaguars, you have little hope for fantasy value. The Raiders are going to get biblically embarrassed by Denver next Monday night.
Heck, you might be better off owning the Bucs' Glennon right now than this fantasy scrub. At least Glennon will have Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to throw to once he becomes a starter.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Owned in 27 percent of leagues
Weeden's thumb injury comes at a bad time (or a good time if you are a Browns fan?). Josh Gordon is returning from suspension this week, and Jordan Cameron has already looked like a sure-fire fantasy starter. Weeden might have to give way to Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Owned in 35 percent of leagues
Unlike the two directly above Manuel here, we actually should hold out hope Manuel can be fantasy viable this season. That rally against the Panthers showed something.
You cannot like him on the road at the New York Jets, though. They have been the second-best team in fantasy against quarterbacks through two weeks, and that includes one week against Brady and the Pats on the road.
Running Backs: Knowshon Moreno Looks Legit; James Starks Does Not
Running Backs to Add
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Owned in 73 percent of leagues
The stars aligned in Week 2 for Moreno to seize the feature-back role with the Broncos, which still can be one of the most promising positions in fantasy football. Sure, that offense is all about Peyton Manning and his unfair set of receivers, but that will also make for a lot of second-half clock-grinding time and red-zone opportunities.
Moreno showed he can handle the job. Better yet, Ronnie Hillman was left buried on the bench, and Montee Ball fumbled away his chance into the end zone on the Broncos' first drive Sunday.
Moreno erupted for two touchdowns and 107 total yards, and now he looks like a must-start back for next Monday night's tilt against the Raiders. He should be owned and active in all leagues now.
Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
Owned in 72 percent of leagues
Ray Rice is dealing with a hip flexor injury, and Pierce scored a touchdown and ran out the clock on the Browns in Rice's place Sunday. Pierce was already a must-have handcuff, so we were a bit surprised to see he was available in almost 30 percent of leagues. You should not consider him a starter against the Texans run defense unless Rice is officially ruled out, though.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
Owned in 60 percent of leagues
Powell is in a virtual 50-50 time share with Chris Ivory (82 percent owned), but Powell is still the starter and was the one who got the pass receiving numbers and the goal-line carry. He is the more important back to own, and a promising matchup against the Bills run defense looms at home this week. Expect 60 yards and a touchdown from Powell, even if Ivory can do the same.
Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks
Owned in 14 percent of leagues
We already trumpeted this deep sleeper in Monday's weekend takeaways, but we will echo it here. Clearly, the Seahawks are a run-heavy team and managed to make Marshawn Lynch a star against an elite 49ers run defense.
Turbin, not the inactive Christine Michael (37 percent owned), was the backup Sunday night and managed solid numbers (six carries for 31 yards). If anything happens to Lynch, you are going to regret not having Turbin on your bench.
With the lowly Jags on the schedule this Sunday, Turbin might even be good for 100 yards and a touchdown in garbage time. It is time to get in early on the Incredible SeaHulk.
Running Backs to Monitor
Felix Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers
Owned in 12 percent of leagues
The Steelers seemed to have settled on Jones as their feature back until Le'Veon Bell (foot) returns from injury. Jones got virtually all of the work against the Bengals on Monday night, albeit to modest results.
The Steelers run game is very bad right now, and a matchup coming up against the Bears on Sunday night is downright ugly. You can add Jones because of his status, but don't dare use him in Week 3.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
Owned in 24 percent of leagues
David Wilson might have started and gotten the majority of the carries, but Jacobs did the goal-line work that matters most to fantasy owners. That doesn't figure to change. Jacobs is a legit touchdown vulture if you're looking for a back to get a cheap six points in a given week.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
Owned in one percent of leagues
Rashard Mendenhall had a solid Week 2, but Ellington did come in for a spell, getting four carries for 20 yards and two receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. The rookie is officially more valuable than Ryan Williams (seven percent owned) and Stepfan Taylor (six percent owned). If you own either of those Mendenhall backups, dump him for Ellington.
Running Backs to Ignore
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
Owned in five percent of leagues
This is easily the most controversial thing of this Week 3 waiver-wire slideshow: Starks is a waste of a pickup, despite his 168 combined yards (four receptions) with a touchdown.
There are myriad reasons the Packers had a 51-game drought for a 100-yard rusher, and most of them begin with Mr. Rodgers; it is his neighborhood. The Packers only started running the ball because the game was a blowout Sunday.
Starks, if he even starts, faces a much tougher run defense in the Bengals next week, and there is nothing yet to suggest Eddie Lacy (concussion) won't be ready to return to his feature-back role sooner than later. The Packers won't say anything on that until Wednesday's injury report.
Lacy will still be the Packers starter once healthy, and Starks isn't a short-term starting option in an unfavorable matchup. Starks is this week's Joique Bell.
With all this said, if you own Johnathan Franklin (14 percent), you might as well cut him to add Starks. He is the Lacy handcuff now.
Da'Rel Scott, New York Giants
Owned in 36 percent of leagues
While Jacobs did the goal-line work, Scott got the mop-up duty and did damage in the hurry-up. That was more of a function of his pass-blocking skills.
Even if Scott picked up two receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown, don't own him in any leagues. Wilson will emerge as more of a factor and Jacobs has to be considered the better pass protector on size and physicality alone.
Wide Receivers: Eddie Royal, DeAndre Hopkins and Marlon Brown Do It Again
Wide Receivers to Add
Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers
Owned in 17 percent of leagues
You ignored this space last week. You cannot ignore Royal now—not after his seven catches for 90 yards and three touchdowns. He leads the league in touchdown receptions and is now a must-start in all leagues, never mind a must-add.
He is a high-volume target receiver for a high-volume passer in Philip Rivers, not to mention a viable red-zone option. There is nothing to dislike about the career resurgence of Royal, who once looked like a burgeoning fantasy superstar in Denver.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Owned in 83 percent of leagues
He was mostly owned before his Week 2 coming-out party, but Hopkins qualifies as a must-have in all leagues now. That is true even if you own Lance Moore, Kenny Britt or any receiver for the Rams or Seahawks—two teams that spread the ball around to a number of comparable players.
Andre Johnson (concussion) is going to be questionable this week against the Ravens. If A.J. is on the wrong side of a game-time decision, Hopkins will emerge as a must-start in all leagues.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Owned in 27 percent of leagues
Kenny Britt is a pending free agent, and Coach Mike Munchak said of his benching on Sunday (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com), "That's two weeks in a row he's had a holding call, so it was more to refocus him. It cost us a 10-yard penalty on a 10-yard gain, and we can't have that."
The Titans might be interested in making Wright the go-to man for Jake Locker long-term. That should mean ample targets like he got in Week 2 (seven catches for 54 yards and a touchdown). Expect him to get back in the end zone in a game against the Chargers that could get a little loose late.
Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Owned in 42 percent of leagues
Jacoby Jones (knee) will be out about another month, so back-to-back weeks of this undrafted rookie finding targets and the end zone for Joe Flacco shouldn't classify as a surprise at this point. Brown is a solid add in all leagues still, just like we said last week.
Wide Receivers to Monitor
Austin Pettis, St. Louis Rams
Owned in less than 1 percent of leagues
You have to love what Pettis did in Week 2 (eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown), and you can even like Pettis' talent and long-term prospects. You cannot like how Pettis is behind Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and maybe even Brian Quick in Sam Bradford's pecking order.
Pettis is good enough to have performances like this one, but as a fourth, fifth or even sixth option in a mediocre offense, you shouldn't bother owning him yet.
Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
Owned in 26 percent of leagues
In the preseason it was Dobson screwing up routes and leading Tom Brady into interceptions. Now it is Kenbrell Tompkins (98 percent owned) who is drawing Brady's ire. That is great news for Dobson's prospects.
The loss of Danny Amendola for potentially a few more weeks opens up a spot on the active roster for Dobson, who will serve as the outside receiver with Thompkins in three-receiver sets. Julian Edelman clearly will be the No. 1 target out of the slot, but Brady makes Dobson someone to consider as a fantasy sleeper.
Wide Receivers to Ignore
Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers
Owned in 1 percent of leagues
Ginn saw just one target in Week 1 before erupting for eight targets, three receptions and 62 yards against the Bills, which included a 40-yard touchdown from Cam Newton. Newton is going to make someone productive in that passing game, but Ginn doesn't figure to be consistently a threat.
Ace Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguars
Owned in 2 percent of leagues
Sanders is a rookie slot receiver for the Jags, but that is a bad offensive team facing the scariest defense in football at Seattle this week. There will be plenty of chances to jump on Sanders down the road if he continues to get targets. Also, Justin Blackmon is just a couple more games from a return from his suspension.
There just isn't enough juice in this Jags offense to consider having three Jags receivers owned in leagues. Cecil Shorts and Blackmon are must-owns in all formats.
More to ignore
The following receivers hauled in a touchdown pass, but they don't warrant fantasy consideration in most leagues still: Santana Moss, WAS; Derek Moye, PIT; and Kevin Ogletree, TB.
Tight Ends: Martellus Bennett Now Looks Matchup Proof
Tight Ends to Add
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
Owned in 84 percent of leagues
Week 2 showed how tight ends can regress back to marginal after a surprising performance, but Bennett was not one of them. He was even better, reeling in seven passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Bennett's Week 4 matchup against the Steelers is not favorable, but the Bengals' two tight ends did combine for nine catches for 132 yards Monday night. Bennett has likely earned every-week starter status at the always-shaky fantasy position.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Owned in 35 percent of leagues
Fleener had a quiet Week 1, but the idea he would star with the arrival of his college offensive coordinator came through for him this Sunday. Not only did he reel in four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, but he had a second touchdown called back on a penalty.
Dwayne Allen will vulture some of Fleener's touchdowns, but the lanky end is clearly the more dangerous receiver in the middle of the field. Fleener has the look of a fantasy breakout for us still.
Tight Ends to Monitor
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Owned in three percent of leagues
The converted fullback is shaping up to being one of Ryan Tannehill's more reliable targets, catching five passes in each of the first two weeks and going over 100 yards in Week 2. You cannot consider him a safe option just yet, but one more week could do it.
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
Owned in eight percent of leagues
Remember this name? A high-ankle sprain has kept him out at the start of the season and he won't be a real option for Week 3, but if you're missing out on the tight end breakthroughs and want a piece of what's to come there, Housler is your man. He is capable of emerging as a must-start fantasy tight end once healthy, so take an early flier now if you have room.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
Owned in 24 percent of leagues
Mike Tomlin might get Miller back for Week 3 against the Bears, which could give a boost to a Steelers offense not getting anything done through two weeks. Miller was the team MVP a year ago and a top-five fantasy tight end before requiring reconstructive knee surgery. You won't play Miller in Week 3 regardless—not against the Bears—but track his status in practice and on the official NFL injury report.
Tight Ends to Ignore
There were a number of tight ends to find the end zone in the season's first couple of weeks, which makes these guys who found the end zone in Week 2 just too low on the fantasy totem pole: Garrett Graham, HOU; Clay Harbor, JAC; Jordan Reed, WAS; and Delanie Walker, TEN.
Have you heard this one before? Tight ends are dime a dozen in fantasy.
Defense/Special Teams: Jets Are a Must-Add, If Not a Must-Start, Unit
Defense/Special Teams to Add
New York Jets
Owned in 11 percent of leagues
Say what you will about the Jets, but they showed last Thursday night they can still play defense. Now they draw a Bills team that is starting a rookie quarterback. The Jets are also at home. Consider this unit a must-start this week and perhaps the most-added "player" in all of fantasy off waivers.
Owned in 50 percent of leagues
If you are a streaming-defense believer and miss out on the Jets, the Falcons are your next best bet. They haven't posted fantasy-worthy numbers yet, but the Dolphins are one of the weaker offenses they will face. Consider running Falcons defense out there if you own the Cowboys, Packers, Rams or Chargers.
Defense/Special Teams to Monitor
New Orleans Saints
Owned in 13 percent of leagues
Who would have thought we would be saying this at this point of the season? Rob Ryan has made this subpar defense a factor in fantasy leagues. Also, they draw the Arizona Cardinals at home. Carson Palmer has been error prone in his career, so a defensive score is possible this week.
Even if you cannot trust the Saints in your lineup just yet, Ryan can make this unit viable in favorable matchups down the road.
Defense/Special Teams to Ignore
Kansas City Chiefs
Owned in 40 percent of leagues
The Chiefs have been a revelation amid their 2-0 start, but a matchup looming against the uptempo Chip Kelly Eagles attack is not one you should be trusting a marginal unit in. The Eagles are going to put up points much better than the Jags or even the Cowboys did, particularly at home.
Kickers: Add Nick Novak, Steven Hauschka
Kickers to Add
Nick Novak, San Diego Chargers
Owned in seven percent of leagues
It is a Chargers week on the waiver wire! Novak is a legit threat and getting the benefit of what is now a legitimately potent Philip Rivers-led offense. Novak has been a fantasy starting kicker before, so consider his 4-of-4, three extra-point performance a sign of more fantasy goodness to come.
Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
Owned in 33 percent of leagues
The Seahawks have a blowout looming with the Jags, so consider Hauschka a must-add and must-start kicker in all leagues. In fact, he might be the most promising kicker in all of fantasy in Week 3. The Seahawks can make him a set-it-and-forget-it kicker.
Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles
Owned in 38 percent of leagues
Speaking of beneficiaries of potent offenses, Henery has that with Chip Kelly's attack, especially as long as Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy perform like fantasy monsters. Henery will be good for another double-digit effort Thursday night against the Chiefs.
Kicker to Monitor
Randy Bullock, Houston Texans
Owned in 77 percent of leagues
The first-year kicker is not someone to monitor because of his performance as much as the lack thereof. He missed three field goals, and the Texans might consider making a change. The Texans are the type of potent offense that relies on the run and playing solid defense, which combine to make a kicker intriguing in fantasy. The Texans kicker, whoever it is, will become fantasy viable this season.
Kicker to Ignore
Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals
Owned in 8 percent of leagues
The Cardinals like Feely so much they brought in extra competition for him in training camp. Feely won out and wound up nailing all four of his field-goal attempts in Week 2, but he won't rate as a top-20, much less a top-12, fantasy kicker by season's end.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.