Fantasy Football Week 4 Waiver Wire: McCaffrey Injury Opens Up Panthers Offense

Alex KayContributor ISeptember 28, 2021

Fantasy Football Week 4 Waiver Wire: McCaffrey Injury Opens Up Panthers Offense

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    The first month of the 2021 NFL season is nearly complete. That means fantasy football managers should assess their rosters and make some adjustments if necessary.

    At this point, it's starting to become clear which players aren't living up to the hype. Managers who have been exercising patience with some of their underperforming draftees may want to cut their losses and dive into the waiver-wire pool for an upgrade.

    Early-round picks such as Robert Woods, Allen Robinson and Jonathan Taylor have become liabilities for those still starting them. Sending them to the bench may be your best move for now, as that will open a spot for a more consistent contributor.

    With that in mind, here are some of the players you should claim ahead of Week 4. Every suggestion is rostered in no more than 50 percent of all Yahoo leagues.

    Fantasy points are cited from ESPN standard scoring formats as of Monday morning, and snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

QB Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers (21 Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $6,000

    The Carolina Panthers are one of the NFL's biggest early-season surprises. They've gotten off to a 3-0 start, making them one of only five teams still undefeated at this juncture.

    Quarterback Sam Darnold has been a major part of their success during his first season in Carolina.

    The 24-year-old has completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 888 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. He's also made an unexpected impact on the ground, punching in three scores on 14 carries.

    In a standard 12-team league, Darnold is worth rostering and deploying if you don't have one of the elite signal-callers on your roster. He's currently fantasy's No. 11 QB, making him a viable starting option for many teams.

    One knock on Darnold is the soft schedule that the Panthers have played. They've clashed with the Jets, Texans and Saints so far. However, he has some more dream matchups on tap over the next month.

    The Panthers will face the Cowboys, Giants, Vikings and Falcons in four of their next five games. Each of those defenses rank in the bottom half of the league for passing yardage allowed. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect Darnold to put up some big numbers against these weak secondaries.

    Due to his body of work to date and soft upcoming schedule, Darnold projects to be a QB1 for the first half of the 2021 season and potentially beyond.

    FAB Bid: ~3%

RB Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers (25 Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $5,900

    Consensus No. 1 fantasy pick Christian McCaffrey is set to miss an extended stretch of time for the second straight year. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported he's expected to be sidelined for at least a "few weeks" after going down with a hamstring injury Thursday.

    Carolina will now turn to backup Chuba Hubbard to shoulder the load. He finished Week 3 with a respectable 79 all-purpose yards on 14 touches after McCaffrey went down, while third-string RB Royce Freeman had only 25 yards on six touches against the Houston Texans.

    Last year proved that Carolina's backup RB can put up impressive stats while McCaffrey is sidelined. Mike Davis—the Panthers' No. 2 back in 2020—started 12 games last season, finishing as the No. 12 PPR RB after rushing for 642 yards and six touchdowns while adding 373 yards and two scores on 59 receptions.

    While Hubbard likely won't be a season-long starter, he can give RB-desperate managers an edge during McCaffrey's absence. He should be considered the week's top waiver-wire target as a result.

    You should keep the rookie on your roster even after McCaffrey returns since he's one of the league's most important handcuffs.

    FAB Bid: ~15%

WR Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills (26 Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $4,900

    After a slow start to the 2021 campaign, the Buffalo Bills' offense seems to have finally turned a corner. The team put up a season-high 481 yards in its 43-21 victory over the Washington Football Team on Sunday.

    QB Josh Allen led the way, throwing for a season-high 358 yards and four touchdowns, and he got all of his top targets involved. Emmanuel Sanders in particular broke out with five receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

    Stefon Diggs is still the top target in this receiving corps, but Buffalo's offense can support up to three fantasy-relevant wideouts. While Diggs hasn't been as productive as he was last year, he is drawing plenty of defensive attention. Slot receiver Cole Beasley has been a boon for managers in points-per-reception leagues, but Sanders is emerging as a legit WR3 in all formats, especially now that he's finding paydirt.

    According to News 4 Buffalo's Heather Prusak, Sanders said his chemistry with Allen is currently at an "8" or "B" level. He and Allen should produce at an even higher level as they build more rapport this season.  

    With Gabriel Davis way behind as the No. 4 wideout—he's played only 38 percent of the offensive snaps—there is little reason to doubt Sanders' ability to be a weekly contributor in your starting lineup.

    FAB Bid: ~10%

WR Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints (37 Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $4,300

    The Saints lost QB Drew Brees to retirement this offseason, and they've also started the 2021 season without longtime No. 1 wideout Michael Thomas. The veteran has been sidelined with an ankle injury and remains on injured reserve, which has opened the door for Marquez Callaway to take the top wideout job for now.

    The 23-year-old hasn't produced at a high level yet, but the second-year receiver has been steadily improving throughout September.

    After catching only three passes for 22 yards across New Orleans' first two games, he finally reeled in his first regular-season touchdown against the New England Patriots in Week 3. He finished with four receptions for 41 yards and the score, and he could have done more if the Saints didn't hold a large lead for much of the contest.

    Saints QB Jameis Winston told reporters he was trying to throw the ball away on Callaway's highlight-reel scoring grab. The quarterback lofted the ball to the back of the end zone on a free play that the receiver made an impressive adjustment to come down with.

    Although he still has a ways to go before becoming a weekly fantasy starter, Callaway has undeniable upside as the top WR in New Orleans. He's well worth stashing in many formats and could be a decent spot starter for managers in deeper leagues.

    FAB Bid: ~5%

WR Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders (11 Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $N/A at this time

    The Las Vegas Raiders offense has been electrifying, but none of their wide receivers are rostered in 50 percent or more of fantasy leagues. That should start changing with the emergence of Hunter Renfrow, who is breaking out as Derek Carr's favorite target outside of TE Darren Waller.

    After his Week 3 performance against the Dolphins—he had five receptions for 77 yards and a score—Renfrow now has 16 catches for 204 yards and a TD on the season. His 22 targets over three games lead Vegas' receiving corps and are behind only Waller for most on the team.

    Managers in PPR leagues should place a waiver claim on Renfrow. The third-year wideout has been taking advantage of the defense-stretching ability of Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, finding weaknesses and soft spots in coverage for short receptions on quick-hitting plays.

    While he might not put up huge yardage numbers, Renfrow seemingly has a floor of five catches per game with the upside for much more. He was the overall WR10 in Week 3 heading into Monday Night Football, and he could improve on that against a tough Chargers defense that will focus on locking down his big-play threat teammates in Week 4.

    FAB Bid: ~7.5%

TE Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings (Four Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $3,500

    The Minnesota Vikings went into the season with concerns at tight end after Irv Smith Jr. tore his meniscus, but they seem to have found an answer in Tyler Conklin.

    Conklin reeled in seven of his eight targets for a career-high 70 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. It was the third straight game in which the fourth-year veteran saw at least four targets. 

    Conklin bounced back from a disappointing two-catch, 15-yard outing in Week 2 against the Cardinals, and he might have put himself ahead of wideout K.J. Osborn in the Vikings' offensive pecking order with his latest performance.

    Vikings QB Kirk Cousins appeared to prefer Osborn in Week 2, looking for the second-year wideout six times. He put up a commendable five catches for 91 yards in a score against Arizona, but he caught only two passes for 26 yards against Seattle on Sunday.

    Defensive matchups and game script may determine whether Conklin or Osborn gets a higher volume of targets in any given week. However, Conklin's big 6'3", 248-pound frame makes him a perfect target in the red zone compared to the 5'11", 203-pound Osborn.

    Considering the dearth of available at tight end, managers streaming the position or looking for a potential long-term starter should place a claim on Conklin this week. He led the position in fantasy points in Week 3 and should remain in the mix as a low-end TE1 going forward.

    FAB Bid: ~5%

TE Tommy Tremble, Carolina Panthers (Zero Percent Rostered)

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    DK DFS Value: $2,500

    The Carolina Panthers traded starting tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for cornerback C.J. Henderson on Monday morning. That clears the way for rookie Tommy Tremble to take over as their top TE moving forward.

    "Tommy Tremble for me, when you talk about the draft, he was like this year's Jeremy Chinn," head coach Matt Rhule told reporters Friday. "A guy who we thought could do a lot of different things. I'll tell ya, after the draft, we got more phone calls from other teams, tight end coaches, special team coordinators, to our guys about Tommy."

    Tremble displayed his elite athleticism and versatility on Thursday, burning Houston's defense for an impressive 30-yard reception and becoming the youngest tight end ever to score a rushing touchdown after taking a handoff seven yards into the end zone.

    The rookie will still have to compete with Ian Thomas for targets, but the veteran has been targeted only four times this season. Thomas was on the field for 51 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 3 but didn't draw a single target.

    Tremble should assume much of Arnold's workload going forward. During his three games in Carolina, Arnold saw 11 targets, catching seven of them for 84 yards. Tremble could earn an even larger role in Carolina's offense once he gets more established.

    This is a speculative add, but a worthwhile one for TE-needy fantasy managers. If you can afford a spot on your bench and don't have a top-tier tight end, take a flier on Tremble this week.

    FAB Bid: ~1%