- Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers (8.9% rostered in ESPN leagues): He had a ridiculous stat line this week, popping off for 4 TDs, 7 receptions and 110 yards. One of his TDs was a rushing TD. The fact that Diontae Johnson got hurt and left the game fairly early probably had a lot to do with Claypool’s big day, but even if Johnson doesn’t miss time, it seems like Claypool has probably earned himself more snaps and targets. Obviously you shouldn’t expect him to go crazy like this every week, but the rookie is definitely going to be a bigger part of this offense going forward. This was his breakout game. The Steelers are excellent at drafting wide receivers, so we should trust that this wasn’t just a lucky game for Claypool but rather an indication that he is the real deal. I think the Steelers have three fantasy-relevant WRs now.
- Alexander Mattison, RB, Vikings (41.5% rostered): If he’s not already owned by the Dalvin Cook owner, go after him. This dude can play. If Cook misses time, Mattison is a lock to put up huge numbers. This week he had 20 carries for 112 yards along with 3 catches for 24 yards. 16.6 PPR points in a game he didn’t start, and didn’t score a TD in. That shows he has a solid floor and is a good runner. The Seahawks defense is pretty bad, so maybe this inflated his numbers a bit, but I think you can expect great numbers out of Mattison if Cook misses a game. But keep in mind that it looked like Cook wanted to get back in the game, so he may not even miss next week. Still, today is a reminder of just how valuable Mattison can be in the event of an injury to Cook.
- Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals (40.5% rostered): The Bengals got absolutely blanked by the Ravens today. They only had 205 total yards on offense, and would have been shut out if not for a late field goal to get them on the board. And yet still Tee Higgins put up a respectable 10.2 PPR points. He had 4 grabs for 62 yards on 8 targets. That was actually better than Tyler Boyd, who had 4 catches for 42 yards on just six targets. The biggest factor for Higgins, though, is that AJ Green went down with a hamstring injury. This makes Higgins now the clear #2 WR on the Bengals offense as long as Green is out. He seems to be building more and more chemistry with his QB, fellow rookie Joe Burrow, and even when AJ Green is healthy it still felt like Higgins was in the process of vaulting him in the pecking order. This might be your last chance to pick up Higgins and I’d strongly recommend doing so. Joe Burrow throws it a lot, and Higgins is going to get opportunities. The Bengals have a tough upcoming schedule (Colts, Browns, Titans, Steelers) but they should not be as bad as they were today going forward.
- Preston Williams, WR, Dolphins (38% rostered): He’s had a slow start to 2020, but against the 49ers today he went off for 106 yards, 4 catches and TD on five targets. The target volume isn’t great, but my theory is that he has nowhere to go but up. Williams was having a pretty good season last year in Miami before he went down with an ACL tear in early November of last year. It hasn’t even been a full year since that injury so even though he’s been playing all year, it’s likely he wasn’t fully back to 100% to start the season. Maybe someone else in your league gave up on him too early and he’s available. Pick him up in hopes that he’s now back to full health and about to assume the role of the clear-cut #2 WR in the Dolphins offense behind DeVante Parker the way the coaching staff envisioned it.
- Andy Dalton, QB, Cowboys (0.2% rostered): This one is simple. Dak is done for the year after that gruesome ankle injury (thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery), and now Dalton is the Cowboys’ starting QB. They have a loaded offense and Dalton should put up decent numbers by default. Don’t expect Dalton to step in and put up Dak Prescott numbers, but he’ll be a serviceable fantasy QB. He belongs on a roster in fantasy leagues, although in leagues with 10 or fewer teams there are definitely going to be better starting options.
- Travis Fulgham, WR, Eagles (0.2% rostered): It seems like a different no-name Eagles WR pops off every week, and this week it was Fulgham. He went for 10 receptions, 152 yards and TD on 13 targets. There’s no guarantee he’ll ever even come close to these numbers again this season, but I don’t care. 13 targets is 13 targets. That’s huge. His value takes a dip if and when Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson come back, but it seems like Fulgham has the trust of his QB Carson Wentz and will see major targets as long as the other WRs remain sidelined. Don’t expect an explosion like this every week, obviously, but this dude should be a solid flex option IF the Eagles’ other WRs continue to miss games. But once they come back, all bets are off.
- Cam Brate, TE, Buccaneers (1.8% rostered): Because he played in the Thursday night game, people have probably already forgotten that he had a good game. He finished with 5 catches for 44 yards on 6 targets. OJ Howard going down for the season is the only reason Brate moved up on the depth chart, and not only that but the Buccaneers are dealing with some injuries at the WR position. But still: Brady likes his tight ends, and Brate is a solid, dependable veteran. Classic Brady guy. Six targets is nothing to scoff at when it comes to tight ends this season. Brate is more of a deep-league add, but could provide some decent insurance as a backup tight end in a year where having depth is more important than ever.
- Henry Ruggs, WR, Raiders 9 (48.4% rostered): I’m always concerned by guys who score big points on a small number of receptions, and this is exactly what Ruggs did this week: 2 catches for 118 yards and a TD on just three targets. This is a DeSean Jackson-esque statline. However, if your bench is thin, or you need desperation fill-in guys due to postponed games, you now know that Ruggs can pop off in any given week. It’s impossible to predict how guys like Ruggs will perform week to week–he’s just as likely to put up 3 fantasy points as he is 20. But you now know that he can turn in a quality fantasy performance on just a couple of catches. So if you’re in need of fill-in guys, add Ruggs to your bench and plug him in as a WR or a flex when you’re dealing with injuries, byes and Covid postponements. If you’re a gambling type and prefer to swing for the fences, you might just get lucky and get a monster day from Ruggs.
- ***Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans (62% rostered): This one doesn’t really count on the list since it’s unlikely he’s available in your league, but I’m including him because a lot of people dropped him after last week’s zero-burger. Lots of fantasy analysts and experts were telling people Cooks was officially droppable after week 4, so if you play in a league where he was dropped, he’s worth a pickup. The Texans fired their coach and finally got their first win, and it may not have been a coincidence that Cooks also had his best game of the season thus far. Remember, Cooks is in his first season in Houston and still has to develop chemistry with QB DeShaun Watson. He didn’t have much of an offseason to do so. At the end of the day, Cooks is the #2 WR on an offense with a very good QB. He just went off for 8 catches, 161 yards and a TD on 12 targets. Maybe it took Bill O’Brien getting fired to unlock Cooks’ true value in that offense. It seems like he and his QB are finally on the same page and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cooks’ season turns around starting now. Again, it’s worth noting they did play the lowly Jaguars so this is a big reason why he was running wild today, but maybe the Texans are good again now that they’ve fired their coach. I’d say Cooks is now a WR3/flex option. He’s always been a boom/bust kind of guy, but 12 targets is 12 targets. He’s worth an add if you can get him.
This is not a great week for waiver wire pickups. I’m sure there will be leagues where guys will burn their #1 waiver pick or spend big FAAB bucks on Claypool or Mattison, but I would not recommend that. I just don’t see any of these guys as season-changing pickups. The only exception is Mattison in the event Dalvin Cook misses serious time, but that does not appear to be the case.
Still, target these young rookies like Claypool and Higgins. I love owning rookies in fantasy because there’s so much potential upside. The way I look at is that every rookie WR could be the next Odell Beckham, and every rookie RB could be the next Alvin Kamara. Those guys were almost immediate superstars in their rookie seasons, and they were cheap as hell to obtain. Imagine being able to add a guy that produces like a first-round pick for almost no cost. That’s going to take your team to the next level no matter what.
You just don’t know how good these rookies are going to be, and it could turn out they’re the next breakout NFL stars. Rookies are usually cheap to obtain (with the exception of Clyde) but have very high potential upside. Don’t take this as if I’m saying Claypool and Higgins are the next Odell Beckhams; my point is they could be future NFL stars