For the sake of determining who should qualify as a waiver wire priority in this article, we are going to use the 40% owned threshold from ESPN leagues. This will enable us to highlight players who are available in a greater number of leagues while providing analysis on some deeper targets in the free agency pool. The list is also in order of personal preference.
PPR waiver wire targets
Nyheim Hines (IND RB)
In PPR leagues, this week starts and ends with Hines, especially at a running back position that didn’t flash much upside in week 1 beyond a select few. Hines turned in a 27-point performance in PPR scoring, partly due to the Achilles injury to Marlon Mack. Hines was involved before Mack was even hurt, so it seems like there was going to be a role for him regardless. However, with Mack out of the picture, this now becomes a two-man backfield with teammate Jonathan Taylor. On the ground, Hines tallied 28 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on 7 carries, while leading the Colts with 4 red zone carries (compared to Taylor’s 2). Where Hines is going to make his money this year though, is in the passing game. He caught all 8 of his targets for 45 yards and a receiving touchdown. Hines and Taylor led the Colts in red-zone targets in week 1 as well, each tallying a pair. We know Philip Rivers loves throwing to running backs based on his career numbers with the Chargers. The running back position as a whole for the Colts in week 1 saw 17 targets from Rivers, and that is unlikely to change much as Taylor and Hines are both threats to catch passes out of the backfield. Think of this in comparison to Melvin Gordon (Jonathan Taylor) and Austin Ekeler (Nyheim Hines) the past couple of seasons with the Chargers (except Taylor is much better than Gordon). Hines is rostered in only 34% of ESPN leagues.
Dallas Goedert (PHI TE)
The changing of the guard at tight end might already be occurring in Philadelphia. Word on the street is that Zach Ertz wants a new contract with the Eagles, who are doing their best to avoid giving it to him. This is partly because they have a stud tight end waiting to take over as a main option in their passing attack. Goedert racked up 8 catches on 9 targets to go for 101 yards and a TD in week 1. The impressive aspect of this stat line is the fact that Jalen Reagor was able to suit up for the Eagles, while the only receiving piece missing from this game was old man Alshon Jeffrey (who wasn’t going to steal a ton of work anyways). Once Philly became extremely thin at the wide receiver position last year, Goedert stepped up in a big way. Goedert put up double-digit PPR points in 5 of his final 7 games last season. He ended up tying for second on the team in red-zone targets in 2019 as well, and saw 1 of the 3 red zone attempts that Carson Wentz offered up in week 1 of 2020. Goedert is here to stay as a centerpiece of this offense. He is owned in only 27% of ESPN leagues
Parris Campbell (IND WR)
One could argue that Parris Campbell saw his stock rise more without an injury ahead of him than even Goedert did. Campbell tied for the team lead in targets at 9 with T.Y. Hilton. All offseason, the Colts’ beat writers emphasized how Rivers was not forcing the ball downfield much, and instead was opting to work more short and intermediate throws over the middle. For someone like Campbell, who ran 58 of his 61 snaps out of the slot, this approach could not be more beneficial. He was able to turn his 9 targets into 6 catches for 71 yards. It remains to be seen what Campbell’s red zone role will look like, as he didn’t garner any red zone targets in week 1. However, in PPR leagues, TDs aren’t as amplified as they are in non-PPR scoring. Campbell is rostered in only 30% of ESPN leagues
Russell Gage (ATL WR)
Perhaps the biggest winner in the Falcons letting former tight end Austin Hooper walk in free agency was Russell Gage, and not the newly-acquired tight end Hayden Hurst. Gage flashed PPR scoring ability in the 2nd half of last year when some of the Falcons’ pass catchers were dealing with injuries. In his last 7 games, dating back to week 12 of last year, Gage has averaged 8.5 targets. Gage is operating as the slot receiver with 80% of his snaps from the slot in week 1. The surprising part when looking into Gage is his quietly-high red zone usage. Last season, Gage was tied with Calvin Ridley for third on the team with 10 red-zone targets. In week 1, Gage already garnered 2 red-zone targets, behind only Ridley’s 3. With the Atlanta defense being as bad as it is, and the Falcons being a pass-first offense, Gage is a great addition in PPR leagues thanks to his high volume role. He is owned in only 3% of leagues on ESPN.
James Robinson (Jax RB)
Yes, I know a lot of you are probably asking “what about Malcolm Brown?!” I think Robinson is a better waiver wire pickup than Brown, unless you need immediate running back help. Brown is going to continue to split work with Cam Akers on a weekly basis and, if Akers gets hot, there will be games where Brown only sees a handful of touches. Robinson, on the other hand, is the main reason the Jaguars were comfortable letting Leonard Fournette go. Robinson was the only running back on the team to get a carry in week 1, and he turned his 16 carries into 62 yards. He also had a reception for 28 yards. The Jaguars targeted their running backs a whopping 129 times last year, and none of those running backs are on today’s active roster. This means there is definitely receiving upside for Robinson, who has been labeled a true three-down back by the coaching staff. Robinson also handled the only 2 red zone rushing attempts the Jaguars had in week 1. In season-long leagues where double-digit points on a weekly basis are valuable to your team, Robinson’s workload is safe enough to be able to reach that threshold. Robinson is owned in 29% of ESPN leagues
Non-PPR waiver wire targets
As previously mentioned, touchdowns are much more valuable in non-PPR leagues, and the high volume pass catchers are much less valuable. This fact will change around some of the rankings for our waiver wire targets.
James Robinson (Jax RB)
See above for complete analysis, but a guy like Robinson – with locked-in volume and a secured role at the goal line – is as good as it gets on the waiver wire. The one concern for Robinson is the Jaguars’ defense isn’t very good, so they could be forced to pass a ton, which doesn’t really affect his scoring in a non-PPR league. The goal-line role is what we are chasing here and, with limited production at the running back position as a whole in week 1, you could definitely do worse.
Dallas Goedert (PHI TE)
See above for analysis. Goedert is going to be a main red zone target for the Eagles, and we have now seen his yardage ceiling as he eclipsed 100 yards in week 1. He is a top add in any format.
Joshua Kelley (LAC RB)
Kelley gets a top spot among waiver wire additions for me this week in non-PPR formats. Any pass game usage that Chargers running backs end up having will go to Austin Ekeler, so this pickup is amplified in non-PPR scoring. Kelley is a very talented rookie running back who has already carved out a role on the offense, having carried 12 times for 60 yards and a TD in week 1. The most encouraging aspect of Kelley’s outlook was his red-zone usage. He handled 6 red zone carries compared to Austin Ekeler’s 3. Kelley’s lone TD came on a 5 yard rush. He is owned in 11% of ESPN leagues.
Malcolm Brown (LAR RB)
Brown is a much better addition in non-PPR leagues than in PPR leagues because he does have some touchdown equity, regardless of Cam Akers getting the hot hand or not between the 20-yard lines. Brown was second on the team last year in red zone rush attempts, behind Todd Gurley (Brown ended with 15 and Gurley had 46). In week 1, we saw Brown takeover that red zone role with 5 red zone rush attempts compared to 2 for Akers and 2 for Darrel Henderson. This is going to be a committee backfield, a big reason I wouldn’t waste a large portion of your FAAB budget or a priority waiver claim for Brown, who is owned in 8% of ESPN leagues.
Nyheim Hines (IND RB)
Hines gets bumped down the list for me in a non-PPR format, but his red-zone usage from week 1 is too good to fully pass on. As previously mentioned, he led the team with 2 red-zone targets and 4 red zone rush attempts, while Jonathan Taylor had 2 red-zone targets and 2 red zone rush attempts. I expect this to be a pretty even red zone usage split for now until Taylor gets rolling, but Hines still has a good outlook in a non-PPR format.
Top streaming QB options
Teddy Bridgewater (CAR)
Teddy had a decent game in week 1 against the Raiders. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 270 yards and 1 TD. He also carried the ball 4 times for 26 yards. If Teddy can continuously add rushing yards to his stat lines, his floor inherently gets higher. The ceiling this week is tremendous, as the Carolina defense is among the worst defensive units in the league and they get a date with the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers offense. I expect Tampa Bay to put up a decent amount of points here, forcing Teddy to throw. Passing vs Tampa was the key to success last season as they ranked at the top of the league against the run and the bottom of the league against the pass. Carolina has also surrounded Teddy with weapons at the wide receiver position and, of course, McCaffrey at running back. I expect a good game here for Teddy. He is owned in 15% of ESPN leagues.
Mitchell Trubisky (CHI)
Any time you can get a mobile QB, it is a boost to fantasy production. Similar to Teddy, Trubisky falls in that bucket. Trubisky just led the Bears to a come-from-behind win against the Lions in week 1, and now he gets the Giants in week 2. While the G-Men are a new-look defense with a much different defensive personnel from last year, they should still be a pass defense that QBs can have success against. Trubisky is owned in 3% of ESPN leagues.
Top streaming defense options
The Titans play in prime time Monday night against the Broncos. Luckily for them, they turn around and play the Jaguars, who will end up among the bottom of the league in total offense this year and were pegged by Vegas to only have a 4.5 win total. The Titans brought in Jadeveon Clowney to bolster their pass rush this year. They already had a solid defensive unit returning from last season, but Clowney provides a big boost. Tennessee should control this divisional matchup from start to finish and their defense can force Gardner Minshew to make a couple of mistakes. The Titans are also 10.5 point favorites among bookmakers, in a low total game of 43 points. That alone makes them a top play in week 2. They are owned in 22% of ESPN leagues.
LA Rams defense
The one thing the Rams showed us on Sunday night is their defense is actually going to be solid this year. They are scheduled in week 2 to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, who are dealing with a few injuries on their offensive line. Because of these injuries, we saw the Washington Football Team sack Carson Wentz 8 times and force him into 2 interceptions. With Aaron Donald leading the charge, and Jalen Ramsey able to cover an opposing team’s top wide receiver, the Rams should be able to give the Eagles fits. The Rams are owned in 13% of ESPN leagues.