Waiver Wire Week 3: Top Pickups, Drops and Expert Analysis
While overreaction still runs rampant throughout the fantasy world, the Week 3 waiver wire become a lot more important for those dealing with injuries. While I shouldn’t be surprised to be talking about injuries this early in the season, it’s still not fun to do and a bit of a buzzkill considering how many big names have gone down with just two games behind us.
Eddie Lacy owners are holding out hope he’ll be able to play through the ankle injury he suffered in Week 2, but if he can’t go, James Starks may be sitting on your waiver wire, although he shouldn’t be if the Lacy owner played things the right way coming out of the draft.
The wide receiver and tight end positions don’t yield many exciting options with two weeks in the books, but you can get more than just short-term solutions at those spots and a couple of names flying under the radar.
As always, I preach diligence on the waiver wire no matter what your record. If you get too complacent with your roster management, the major injuries can cause bigger problems than you’re able to handle. Massage those rosters if you want to be in it at the end.
Joe Flacco, BAL
Percent Owned: ESPN—41.2, Yahoo—55
The Ravens struggled to get much going on offense against the Broncos in Week 1, and they traveled to Oakland in what looked to be a get-well game against the Raiders. They didn’t win, but Flacco put up strong numbers, going 32-of-45 for 384 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The concern for Flacco is the lack of weapons in the offense. Wide receiver Steve Smith is playing well (10 receptions, 150 yards in Week 2), and second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore stepped up against the Raiders (five receptions, 88 yards, two touchdowns), but they’re not getting enough out of running back Justin Forsett (68 rushing yards, four receptions, 12 receiving yards) and don’t have another reliable option in the receiving corps.
Flacco and the Ravens get their first home game of the season in Week 3 against the Bengals. Over the first two weeks, Cincinnati has held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 222 passing yards and two touchdowns. It’s not a great matchup for Flacco, but he’s more of an addition for the long term, as he should get a boost from the eventual return of rookie WR Breshad Perriman.
Week 3 Projection: 245-255 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, one interception
Blake Bortles, JAC
Percent Owned: ESPN—6.3, Yahoo—9
After an ugly performance in a Week 1 loss to the Panthers, Bortles and the Jaguars bounced back in a big way with comeback win over the visiting Dolphins. Bortles had one of his best games as a pro, going 18-of-33 for 273 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. He also added 27 yards on two carries.
I still have questions about just how good Bortles can be, but there’s no doubt the physical skills are there. Plus, he has one of the best young wide receivers in Allen Robinson, who came through with six receptions for 155 yards and a pair of scores in Week 2.
The New England Patriots visit Jacksonville in Week 3, and while they’ve looked dominant in their wins over the Steelers and Bills, their defense has looked vulnerable against the pass. In the first two weeks, they’ve allowed an average of 296.5 passing yards and two touchdowns. While the Patriots should control this game, it likely means more throwing for Bortles, so he may put up decent fantasy numbers based on volume, not to mention the matchup not looking so tough.
Week 3 Projection: 260-270 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions
Derek Carr, OAK
Percent Owned: ESPN—10.6, Yahoo—15
At this time last week, there were serious questions about Carr’s availability for Week 2. Those became a distant memory by late Sunday afternoon. Not only did Carr play, but he wound up with arguably the best game of his career. He completed 30 of his 46 attempts for 351 passing yards with three touchdowns and one interception and added 23 rushing yards on two carries. Carr led a game-winning drive that culminated with a 12-yard TD to wide receiver Seth Roberts with 26 seconds left on the clock.
Hopefully, he can follow that up as the Raiders go on the road for the first time this season when they visit the Cleveland Browns. It’ll be a stiff test for Carr after the Browns teed off on Marcus Mariota last week to the tune of seven sacks. Over the first two games, they’ve held QBs to an average for 218 passing yards and two passing touchdowns.
Having a major weapon in rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper certainly helps, although he could draw top cornerback Joe Haden. However, Carr has also established a connection with veteran WR Michael Crabtree and could be looking his way early and often if Haden stifles Cooper.
Week 3 Projection: 245-250 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions
Droppable Players: Nick Foles, Jay Cutler
Dion Lewis, NE
Percent Owned: ESPN—40.4, Yahoo—35
If you didn’t believe in Lewis after Week 1, you may have missed your opportunity to grab him on the waiver wire. However, he’s still available in the majority of leagues, so now’s your chance to get the top fantasy option in New England’s backfield not named Tom Brady.
In the victory over the Buffalo Bills, Lewis ran seven times for 40 yards and a touchdown and also had six receptions for 98 yards on nine targets. If you had concerns about LeGarrette Blount returning, he wound up with two carries for four yards and played just 8 percent of the snaps compared to 85 percent for Lewis.
While I’m well aware head coach Bill Belichick is game-plan specific with his running backs, I’m sticking with Lewis until he gives me a reason to bench him. Blount may be a little more active in Week 3 because of the matchup against the Jaguars, but it’s not like the Jaguars are struggling against the run. They’ve allowed an average of 44.5 rushing yards to running backs in the first two weeks. However, they've allowed 7.5 receptions and 38.5 receiving yards to RBs in that span.
Expect another busy day for Lewis and prepare to enjoy the benefits throughout the season.
Week 3 Projection: Five carries, 38 rushing yards, seven receptions, 72 receiving yards, one touchdown
Matt Jones, WAS
Percent Owned: ESPN—15.8, Yahoo—23
I’ve had my eye on Jones since the preseason and pushed him as a late-round flier to grab in your drafts. Heading into Week 1, I included him on the short list of waiver-wire running backs to grab before the season began because I thought he had a chance to make an impact at some point down the road.
Little did anyone know that would come in Week 2. Well, except Jones himself.
The rookie ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and caught all three of his targets for 23 yards. I had the chance to speak to Jones and he confirmed my suspicions that the rise in touches was not out of the blue. He was told earlier in the week to be prepared for a bigger role, which makes sense after the team lost DeSean Jackson to a hamstring injury in the opener.
With Jackson out of the mix for the time being, the Redskins should stick with the tandem of Jones and Alfred Morris to carry their offense instead of putting too much in the hands of quarterback Kirk Cousins. The split in snaps was nearly even, with Morris leading 47 percent to 43 percent, and Morris had one less carry but ended up with only 59 rushing yards and two receptions for 13 yards.
I expect a lot more out of this backfield when they head to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants on Thursday night. In the first two weeks, the Giants are giving up an average for 69 rushing yards and a rushing TD and nine receptions for 96.5 receiving yards. Jones is a better pass-catcher than Morris, so he’d be the one to take advantage of New York’s issues against RBs in the passing game.
Jones has value in Week 3 and should be owned in every league going forward because he’s in line for a significant role in this offense.
Week 3 Projection: 15 carries, 67 rushing yards, four receptions, 31 receiving yards
David Johnson, ARI
Percent Owned: ESPN—46.1, Yahoo—34
In last week’s look at the waiver wire, I advised everyone to pick up David Johnson over Chris Johnson. Later in the week, I made the out-of-the-box suggestion to play David Johnson over Chris Johnson (just ignore that Tom Brady stuff). If you made those moves, it paid off in a pretty big way depending on your league’s scoring system.
That’s because David took the opening kickoff back 108 yards for a score to open the game against the Bears. If you didn’t get credit for that touchdown, he came through later in the game with a 13-yard touchdown run. David rushed five times for 42 rushing yards and that score and added a catch for three receiving yards while playing just 27 percent of the snaps. Chris played 58 percent and had 20 carries for 72 rushing yards.
Efficiency and talent were my reasons for using David over Chris, and that’s while I’ll continue to go with the rookie over the veteran heading into Week 3. The Cardinals host the 49ers in an NFC West showdown in Week 3. San Francisco’s defense looked great in Week 1 but had no answers for the Steelers in Week 2. DeAngelo Williams got it for 77 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
Head coach Bruce Arians said Chris remains the starter, but according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, David’s touches should increase. Once again, with Andre Ellington out, don’t bother with Chris and get the upside and talent of David.
Week 3 Projection: 10 carries, 51 rushing yards, three receptions, 20 receiving yards
Devonta Freeman, ATL
Percent Owned: ESPN—64.5, Yahoo—45
The Atlanta Falcons came out of the preseason with rookie running back Tevin Coleman atop their depth chart, mostly because the rookie managed to get healthier quicker than Freeman. In the opener, Coleman ran for 80 yards on 20 carries against the Eagles and looked to be in line for another solid performance against the Giants.
Unfortunately, Coleman cracked some ribs, according to head coach Dan Quinn, and the timetable for his return is up in the air, although he’s likely out for Week 3 against the Cowboys. With Coleman down, Freeman stepped in to run for 25 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and added four receptions for 34 yards on eight targets in the win over the Giants.
Freeman never got a fair chance to lead the way as a rookie, but he’ll get one now out of necessity with Coleman’s injury. He’ll face a Dallas defense that’s held RBs to an average of just 39 rushing yards and roughly six receptions and 61 yards in the first two games. Their defense has been better than expected and won’t be an easy matchup for Freeman.
Expectations shouldn’t be too high for him this week, but if you can grab a starting running back in a pretty good offense, there’s obviously some value in that move.
Week 3 Projection: 16 carries, 71 rushing yards, three receptions, 26 receiving yards
James Starks, GB
Percent Owned: ESPN—8.3, Yahoo—12
Considering Eddie Lacy was one of the top backs selected in drafts, I was very surprised to see how widely available someone like Starks was since he is one of the top handcuffs in the league.
Starks’ value was on full display in Week 2 when the Packers lost Lacy to an ankle injury. He picked up the slack in a big way, rushing 20 times for 95 rushing yards while tacking on four receptions for 11 receiving yards in a win over the Seahawks.
The Packers play the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night in Week 3, so Lacy has an extra day to prepare. He still has a chance to play with the minor injury in what looks like a tough matchup, but Starks will likely play a role no matter what. The Chiefs have held running backs to an average of 76 rushing yards and just two receptions for 10 yards in games against the Texans and Broncos.
If needed, the Packers would have no problem calling on Starks to fill a big role, but this could be a headache for fantasy if Lacy has a chance to play and does, but needs to keep his snaps limited.
Because the time frame is up in the air, there are some caveats to grabbing Starks. If you own Lacy, you have to get Starks. If you don’t own Lacy, but need running back help this week, grab Starks with the hope Lacy sits out. If you don’t own Lacy and don’t need the RB help this week, you’re better off skipping over Starks for someone else who can help you for the long term, like Matt Jones or Dion Lewis.
Week 3 Projection: (If Lacy is out) 18 carries, 82 yards, one touchdown, three receptions, 18 yards. (If Lacy plays) 10 carries, 40 yards, two receptions, 13 yards
Droppable Players: Alfred Blue, Joique Bell
Michael Crabtree, OAK
Percent Owned: ESPN—31.6, Yahoo—23
Crabtree was one of my favorite late-round options in drafts because I thought he had a chance to be a solid contributor as the second option behind rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper in Oakland. So far, that’s looking pretty good.
In Week 1, Crabtree had just five receptions for 37 yards in a tough matchup against the Bengals. Week 2 didn’t look much easier against the Ravens, but the Raiders came out strong and finished that way with a big victory in the Black Hole. Crabtree racked up a team-high 16 targets and posted nine receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.
In the same game, Cooper had seven receptions for 109 yards and a score on 11 targets, proving that not only are these two the top options in Oakland’s passing attack, but that they can also put up big numbers in the same game. Credit goes to these two receivers, but also to quarterback Derek Carr.
If you’re picking up Crabtree this week, just know that he’s facing a Browns defense that’s limited wide receivers to an average of nine receptions, 113.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game in the first two weeks. Cooper could see more of cornerback Joe Haden, leaving Crabtree to deal with CB Tramon Williams.
Crabtree isn’t a lock to produce on a consistent basis and is likely just a WR3, but he’s proved that last year’s poor performance in San Francisco is just a thing of the past.
Week 3 Projections: Five receptions, 61 yards
Travis Benjamin, CLE
Percent Owned: ESPN—6.3, Yahoo—14
Benjamin has typically been a boom-or-bust fantasy player whose busts have come far too often, so before I get into praising him, just know that adding him should be done with caution.
With quarterback Josh McCown out thanks to a concussion, the Browns turned back to QB Johnny Manziel against the Titans in Week 2. The second-year passer attempted just 15 passes, but completed eight of them, including three to Benjamin. He had three receptions on four targets for 115 yards and scored on passes of 60 yards and 50 yards. Plus, he added a 78-yard punt return for a score in between those receiving TDs.
You really can’t be any more efficient than that, but it was more than enough for the Browns. Only three other Browns caught a pass in the win over the Titans, with WR Andrew Hawkins coming the closest to Benjamin at three receptions for 43 yards.
With McCown still in the concussion protocol, Manziel could get another start—and should no matter what happens with McCown’s health. If that’s the case, I’d feel better about Benjamin’s chance since there’s clearly a downfield connection between Manziel and Benjamin.
The Browns host the Raiders in Week 3. Oakland has given up an average of 13 receptions, 183.5 yards, but no touchdowns to wide receivers in the first two weeks. It’s not a terrible matchup for Benjamin, but hopefully it’s Manziel getting him the ball.
Week 3 Projection: Three receptions, 57 yards
Rishard Matthews, MIA
Percent Owned: ESPN—0.7, Yahoo—2
Remember Kenny Stills? You can forget about him if you do because he’s not only droppable, but also replaced in the fantasy options for the Dolphins. Jarvis Landry is the top Miami wide receiver, and now Matthews has found himself in a big enough role to consider adding heading into Week 3.
Matthews played the second-most snaps (78 percent) of any Dolphins receiver in Week 2 and had a team-high 115 yards on six receptions (seven targets). Greg Jennings didn’t have a catch on five targets and played 57 percent of the snaps. Stills was out there for 51 percent of the snaps and had just two receptions for eight yards on four targets. Stills was the odd man out when the Dolphins opened the game with a three-wide set.
I’m a Ryan Tannehill believer, and he played well in Week 2 despite the loss at Jacksonville, so naturally I’ll be looking for his top targets. Landry is the best, but after that Matthews and Jordan Cameron have emerged as secondary options, so they deserve the attention of fantasy owners.
The Dolphins host the Bills on Sunday, and Buffalo has allowed 19 receptions and at least 203 receiving yards to WRs in the first two games. They’ve had major struggles for such a highly touted defense, and Miami could take advantage of that this week.
If Matthews can post another solid effort, he’ll remain on the radar going forward. This is a great test to see if he’s a legit threat to be a regular, reliable target for Tannehill.
Week 3 Projection: Five receptions, 70 yards
Breshad Perriman, BAL
Percent Owned: ESPN—29.8, Yahoo—13
Unfortunately, Perriman has been out for nearly two months with a sprained PCL, which has delayed the rookie’s NFL debut. The Ravens haven’t provided much information on Perriman, and with all the catching up he’ll need to do, you may be asking why he’s on the waiver-wire list.
It’s a fair question, and one I’ll answer by pointing out the names at the top of Baltimore’s depth chart. Other than wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Justin Forsett, the Ravens are lacking consistent, reliable options in the passing game. Wide receiver Marlon Brown played 85 percent of the team's snaps and posted two catches for 12 yards. WR Kamar Aiken played 67 percent and had five receptions for 89 yards
The biggest performance, other than Smith’s 10 receptions for 150 yards on 16 targets, came from second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore, who caught five of six targets for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Gillmore deserves credit for taking advantage of the great matchup, but Baltimore is still missing a big-time receiver. Perriman can fill that role upon his return.
The injury bug may have bitten your team, or maybe you need to look elsewhere on the waiver wire to find production to make up for disappointing players. In those cases, Perriman may not be an option. If you’re in a deeper league or are comfortable enough with your team that you can wait out Perriman’s return, I fully expect him to play an important, productive role when healthy.
Week 3 Projection: Inactive
Droppable Players: Devin Funchess, Eddie Royal, Michael Floyd, Brian Quick
Eric Ebron, DET
Percent Owned: ESPN—20, Yahoo—16
The Lions are 0-2 and many are panicking, but unlike last season, Ebron isn’t a major part of the problem. In fact, he’s been a solution in the first two games with nine receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 15 targets.
With a pair of solid performances to start the season, I’m very surprised to see how available he is, but that likely won’t last, even if Matthew Stafford hasn’t looked particularly good and is dealing with a chest injury. All he has to be is the third option behind wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, especially since they draw the majority of the attention.
Ebron and the Lions face the visiting Broncos in Week 3. Denver has given up an average of 4.5 receptions, 75 yards, but no TDs to TEs in the first two games, although they dodged a bullet with Travis Kelce getting just five targets (four receptions, 58 yards) in Week 2.
I’d consider Ebron a top-12 TE going forward, so there’s no reason he should be on the waiver wire.
Week 3 Projection: Five receptions, 52 yards, one touchdown
Ladarius Green, SD
Percent Owned: ESPN—25.9, Yahoo—49
Through two weeks starting in place of Antonio Gates, Green has played at an above-average level. That’s been reason enough to put him in your fantasy lineups.
In the Week 2 loss to the Bengals, Green tied for the team lead with six targets and caught five of them for 47 yards. In the first two games, Green has 10 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Gates is still two weeks from returning, and if Green can keep this up, he’ll have to stay in the mix, especially if the Chargers want to get a longer look with both players in a contract year and Gates obviously close to the end of his career.
The Chargers head to Minnesota for their Week 3 matchup and take on a Vikings defense that has had issues with the tight end position in the first two weeks. They’ve allowed a total of 12 receptions, 135 yards and a TD to TEs in the first two weeks. This isn’t a matchup to worry about for Green, and he’s been an active target in the first two weeks.
Week 3 Projection: Five receptions, 60 yards
Droppable Players: Owen Daniels, Josh Hill, Scott Chandler
Percent Owned: ESPN—2.8, Yahoo—2
Once again, the best defenses are the ones with the great matchups or are widely owned, so I’m attempting to capitalize on a bad quarterback situation for the Cowboys.
Dallas has to turn to backup QB Brandon Weeden after losing Tony Romo to a broken clavicle. Weeden is a major step down from Romo, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets replaced as the starter before Romo returns, if that even happens.
The Cowboys have scored 47 points and allowed three sacks in their first two games, but they have to be concerned with putting the ball in Weeden’s hands too often. Obviously, they want to run it, but if their defense can’t slow down Julio Jones and the Falcons offense, Weeden’s arm becomes a lot more important.
The Falcons have two sacks, two interceptions and have allowed 44 points in their first two games against the Eagles and Giants. Typically, this wouldn’t be a defense you’d use, but between Romo’s injury and Dez Bryant’s foot injury, the Cowboys are vulnerable enough to take a shot on the Falcons defense this week.
Week 3 Projection: Two interceptions, three sacks, one fumble recovery, 20-23 points allowed
Brandon McManus, DEN
Percent Owned: ESPN—68.9, Yahoo—41
McManus lands on the waiver wire for the third straight week because he’s still available in a lot of leagues despite being tied for the most fantasy points at the position with Chicago's Robbie Gould through the first two games.
As we saw against the Chiefs, the Broncos offense can be good, but it is hardly dominant. And that means more stalled drives, which hopefully means more field goals.
Denver shouldn’t have a lot of trouble with Detroit, but it is on the road. Luckily, it’s a dome to provide optimal kicking conditions for McManus.
Josh Brown, NYG
Percent Owned: ESPN—17.6, Yahoo—25
Right behind McManus and Gould on the list of top-scoring kicker is Brown and Justin Tucker of the Ravens. Tucker is owned in almost every league, but you can scoop Brown up with relative ease heading into Week 3.
Brown scored 16 of his 24 points in the opener against the Cowboys, but he could be busy with the Giants hosting the Redskins on Thursday night. Considering it’s a short week, offenses tend to sputter, and hopefully for Brown, it comes after the team gets in decent field position.
He’s worth an add if you don’t have a regular kicker and want a top-five option from the first two weeks.