Waiver Wire Week 2: Williams, Williams, & Williams Highlight Available Stars

Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams
Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 2 - Fantasy players always have a plan for their team post-draft until they are punched in the mouth. This year, the punches came early in the forms of offseason injuries to star and potential star running backs Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, Travis Etienne, and Gus Edwards. And they came faster still on Sunday with the early Raheem Mostert exit. That's why I write Win the Wire. In this column, I will list the players I believe are your best bets for pick-ups, sorted by my recommended FAB expenditures and referencing both ESPN and Yahoo! roster percentages.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Elijah (Eli) Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers


So much for my theory that Mostert was a safer weekly lineup choice than he was a full-season one. He made it all of four snaps this season before he chipped cartilage in his knee. According to Ian Rapoport, Mostert will likely miss the next two months. Most teams would be hard-pressed to replace the league's No. 1 back in both yards per carry (5.4) and yards before contact per carry (3.3) from the past two seasons, but the 49ers have a savant in head coach Kyle Shanahan whose scheme has turned countless lesser-pedigreed backs into fantasy stars, Mostert included.

This year's edition of that star from nowhere seems likely to be the sixth-round rookie Mitchell. The 49ers drafted another back in Trey Sermon two rounds earlier, but Sermon was a healthy scratch in Week 1. I wouldn't assume that will continue without Mostert with complete confidence. Mitchell and backup runner JaMycal Hasty made sense as reserve options in Week 1 as special teams contributors; Mitchell himself is an accomplished kick returner. But Mitchell clearly has his coach's confidence. He was efficient in relief of Mostert in Week 1 with 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He dramatically out-snapped Hasty 64% to 29%. And he always seemed like a better skills comp for Mostert than Sermon did. Mitchell matched Mostert with a league-leading 4.32s 40 time in last year's pre-draft process. The power back Sermon was markedly slower with a 4.58s time. I wouldn't drop Sermon if I didn't have to. But neither would I skimp on a waiver bid for Mitchell. Whomever leads the 49ers backfield is likely to excel in fantasy.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 61%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Ty'Son Williams, RB, Baltimore Ravens


Williams wouldn't be available in even his small percentage of leagues if Gus Edwards hadn't followed J.K. Dobbins to injured reserve late in the preseason. But since even then, the Ravens have added a 2015 Pro Bowl roster of running back depth in Latavius Murray, Le'Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman, the latter two headed to the team's practice squad as they try to fast-track their way to football shape. That trio isn't young, but they would have been a threat to Williams if he failed to perform on Monday night. Instead, Williams excelled early in his debut as a starter and ended the night with an efficient 65 yards on nine carries plus three catches for 29 yards as a receiver. He has a clear path to RB2 value with a leading role with the team and a mostly holdover offensive line that finished top 10 in run-blocking last year (4.58 adjusted line yards). But Williams also vanished in the fourth quarter and overtime and allowed Murray to pass him in carry volume. For me, that adds enough uncertainty to bump Williams behind Mitchell in my waiver priority for the week.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 36%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions


Williams seemed like a candidate for more work in Detroit than he had in Green Bay with toughness-minded Dan Campbell at head coach—Williams is at his best as a pass-protector. And he seemed like a candidate for more work in Week 1 with D'Andre Swift recovering from a groin injury. But with Swift playing 68% of offensive snaps and drawing the 11 targets one would expect of the versatile back with the Lions down by multiple scores early, I never would have expected Williams to contribute nine carries and eight catches of his own. Williams was a sneaky valuable PPR back in 2020 with a 10.5% target share that was 25th highest at his position, but his 15.8% share in Week 1 this year was top 10. And Williams never bested his Week 1 total of nine targets in four seasons in Green Bay and only matched the total twice. Technically, it's a time share. But I think it makes more sense to treat Swift like a receiver who sometimes carries the ball. That should help you pull the trigger on the substantial FAAB bid I believe Williams justifies this week.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 31%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Mark Ingram, RB, Houston Texans


If Sunday was any indication, Ingram is more definitively the Texans' lead back than Jamaal Williams is the Lions'. The former player took 26 carries on Sunday, second most of all backs. He had a 63.4% carry share that was 11th best at the position. And he accounted for 81.3% of the team's expected touchdown total based on where he and their other backs saw their carries. Ingram should have a decent volume of carries and touchdowns this season with the role he showed on Sunday. I just can't help but fear that his production will underwhelm when the Texans fail to build multi-score leads like the one that netted him two touchdowns against the Jaguars. Despite his heavy volume of carries, Ingram was part of a committee that limited him to 46% of offensive snaps and just one target. David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead contributed four, one, and two targets on their lesser 28%, 26%, and 13% snap shares. Forty catches in a season loses a running back ground compared to an average fantasy contributor. If Ingram has just 20, he will be difficult to play in PPR formats.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 25%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers


Washington's top-seven run-stopping defensive line (4.06 adjusted line yards) disrupted any plans the Chargers had for a balanced offensive approach in a close game on Sunday. As such, you should take Williams' total of 12 targets with a grain of salt. His 25.5% target share was a more realistic 15th at the position. Still, that cannot slow my enthusiasm for the fifth-year player. As a sophomore in 2018, the 6-foot-4 and 220-pound Williams caught 10 touchdowns on just 43 catches. Since, he has disappointed with seven touchdowns in two seasons. But over that span, Williams has 13.3 expected touchdowns based on where he has seen his targets. His 6.3-touchdown shortfall is the most at the position and bodes well for a rebound in fortune in 2021, when Justin Herbert's possible Year 2 ascension could turn multiple Chargers skill players into fantasy superstars.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 16%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jakobi Meyers, WR, New England Patriots


After he became a starter in Week 8 last season, Meyers saw a 30.1% target share in the second half that was third highest at the position behind just Davante Adams (34.1%) and Stefon Diggs (30.5%). That didn't translate into tremendous fantasy production because the Patriots skewed toward the run with quarterback Cam Newton and because Meyers did not catch a touchdown. But I expect those scripts to flip with pocket passer Mac Jones. New tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith both played more than 70% of snaps on Sunday as part of a heavy reliance on 12 personnel, but Meyers still led the skill positions with a 99% snap share, comfortably ahead of free-agent wide receivers Nelson Agholor (85%) and Kendrick Bourne (44%). Expect better than six catches and 44 yards in future nine-target games against lesser defenses than the Dolphins.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 13%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts


It wasn't a secret that Hines was one of the game's best receiving backs. He just earned a three-year, $18.6-million extension because of it. But I had concerns for Hines' fantasy value in 2021 because his 2020 quarterback Philip Rivers and 2021 quarterback Carson Wentz have traditionally played very different brands of football. Last year, Rivers targeted a back on 24.5% of his pass attempts, the fifth-highest rate of the 36 quarterbacks who attempted 200 or more passes. Wentz, meanwhile, threw just 17.1% of his passes to backs. Well, if Week 1 is any indication, Colts head coach Frank Reich has reprogrammed Wentz. He targeted a back on 37.5% of his throws on Sunday, the highest rate in the league. That netted Hines eight targets to complement his nine carries. He won't threaten Jonathan Taylor for total volume, but Hines is poised for flex value in even shallow PPR leagues.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills


Apart from the quarterback himself, Cole Beasley was the biggest incumbent Bills player to benefit from Josh Allen's breakout third season. The nine-year veteran set new career highs of 82 catches and 967 yards in 2020. But those totals were threatened by the team's free-agent addition of Emmanuel Sanders, a receiver with the inside/outside versatility to cut into Beasley's target volume if not outside receiver Gabriel Davis'. Well, Week 1 relieved that fear even if it didn't net Beasley more than a modest eight catches and 60 yards of fantasy production. He still finished with a fantasy-friendly 91% offensive snap share as a clear part of the team's primary 11 personnel with Stefon Diggs (93%) and Sanders (93%). Davis was indeed the odd man out with a 51% snap share. As such, Beasley could duplicate his average of 13.8 PPR points per game that was 31st-best among wide receivers last season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants


Giants general manager Dave Gettleman invested some major resources in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to try to improve the team's skill talent in support of third-year quarterback Daniel Jones. That may well work in the end, but from a fantasy perspective, it looked like business as usual in Week 1 for the veteran Shepard. He paced the team with nine targets, 113 yards, and a 95% snap share. Golladay and deep threat Darius Slayton were within shouting distance with 85% and 70% shares, but Toney was a nonfactor with an 8% share. Unless Jones really does make the leap, Shepard is unlikely to vault into the WR2 discussion whatever his prominence in the Giants offense. But Shepard did average 13.5 PPR points per game in 2020, 34th among regular wide receivers. Like Beasley, he is a flex-worthy PPR option.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints


Winston is difficult to evaluate from Week 1. He was a fantasy standout with his five touchdowns. But the inept-at-least-for-the-week Packers handed him a number of short fields such that Winston needed just 14 completions and 148 yards to compile them. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic. The Saints looked excellent in pass protection on Sunday, and that seemed like a major factor for Winston's bid to revive his career as a starter. According to Sports Info Solutions, Winston saw a 29.0% pressure rate from his Bucs offensive line in 2019. Last year, the Saints allowed pressure on just 19.4% of dropbacks, the fourth lowest rate in football. Meanwhile, Winston seemed to embrace a transition from his former coach Bruce Arians' YOLO offensive philosophy to Sean Payton's conservative one in Week 1. Winston's 4.7-yard average depth of target was less than half of what it was in 2019 (10.4 yards) when he threw 30 interceptions. That conservative approach may limit Winston's ceiling to a back-end QB1 for fantasy, but that is likely the best you can find on the wire until the Bears name Justin Fields their starter.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles


Gainwell struck me as a difficult player to classify. At just 5-foot-8 and with excellent hands, he looked a lot like Darren Sproles or Boston Scott, players the Eagles have consistently turned into relevant fantasy players despite their smaller statures. But Gainwell also weighs 201 pounds, which as his height nets him a 30.6 BMI, typical of a bell-cow NFL back. And at Memphis in 2019, he rendered current NFL star Antonio Gibson a bit player as he survived and thrived with 231 carries and 51 catches. I doubt he has that kind of ceiling in the short term. He was a fifth-round draft pick, after all. But Gainwell clearly already passed Scott for the Eagles' No. 2 running back duties. He played 35% of offensive snaps on Sunday while Scott played just special teams. And with his hands, Gainwell could be a relevant PPR back this season if he can keep up the volume of 11 touches he saw in Week 1.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 4%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jared Cook, TE, Los Angeles Chargers


I understand the instinct to jump off a fantasy player before he declines. And Cook is now 34 years old and has seen his target volume slip from 101 in 2018 to 65 in 2019 and 60 last year. But I think it's helpful to remember what Cook's predecessors in New Orleans and now Los Angeles, Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates, accomplished in the back nines of their careers. Size doesn't get old. Cook had 8.0 expected touchdowns per 100 targets in 2020, an exceptional rate just below the elite touchdown-scorers at his position Rob Gronkowski (10.8), Graham (10.5), and Robert Tonyan (9.0). Cook should score plenty for an explosive Chargers offense. And in Week 1, he reversed the clock with a 58% offensive snap share and 17.0% target share, the latter which was 11th highest at the position. Donald Parham and Tre' McKitty may be the team's future at the position, but Cook could reasonably make it into the top 10 at the position one more time in 2021.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 3%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Adam Trautman, TE, New Orleans Saints


This recommendation was meant to be for Juwan Johnson, the tight end that seemed to replace Cook with the Saints with his two red zone touchdowns on Sunday. But the more I researched, the more I felt I had to recommend Trautman in his stead. Trautman out-targeted Johnson six to two in Week 1. He led the team with those six targets and led all tight ends for the week with a 30.0% target share. That may have been fluky—the Saints needed just 20 pass attempts to dispatch the Packers. But Trautman also out-snapped Johnson 82% to 19%. That disparity is much harder to fake and for me suggests the early preseason buzz for a Year 2 Trautman breakout may not be as misguided as his and Johnson's Week 1 production would on its own lead one to believe.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 2%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars


The Jaguars fell far short of glory in a 16-point loss to the butt of many NFL offseason jokes, the Houston Texans. And Lawrence threw three interceptions, a total you can expect to see from a rookie quarterback on a bad team from time to time, however bright that rookie's career prospects. That said, Lawrence may have the recipe for fantasy success that his No. 1 pick predecessor Joe Burrow followed to a QB1 start to his rookie season. Before Burrow injured his knee in Week 11 last year, he led his position with 41.1 pass attempts per game. He had little choice but to fling the ball—the Bengals had the 27th defense by DVOA and routinely fell behind by multiple scores. Well, Football Outsiders projected the Jaguars to be even worse with the 31st defensive DVOA this year, and they looked every bit that bad against the Texans. So while Lawrence may make a lot of mistakes in an unfavorable situation for real success, he could continue to pile up passing boxscores of 300 or more yards and multiple touchdowns to buoy his fantasy ledger.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 2%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears


Matt Nagy's Bears did not give Fields the Week 1 start like Urban Meyer's Jaguars did Lawrence. But Andy Dalton showed on Sunday why it may not take long for the former coach and team to follow suit. Dalton isn't a problem, per se. He unloaded the ball quickly and avoided multiple major mistakes against last year's No. 1 weighted DVOA defense in the Rams on Sunday night. But that still seems unlikely to be enough with the problems the Bears have on their offensive line. Under frequent duress, Dalton threw for just 206 yards on 38 attempts in Week 1, good for a meager average of 5.4 yards per attempt. Fields has more arm talent to stretch the field, and he's likely a better fit for a team with poor pass protection because he can scramble away from pressure. That rushing ability makes Fields a compelling fantasy stash. He ran on 27.4% of his plays the last two seasons at Ohio State, and if he does the same in the NFL, he will likely follow the recent examples of quick-starting fantasy quarterbacks such as Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray even if he struggles through the air.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Nelson Agholor, WR, New England Patriots


Trailing Jakobi Meyers in both targets and snap share, Agholor may not be the No. 1 receiver his free-agent contract might have suggested. Nevertheless, I'm encouraged for his fantasy potential because the Patriots appear to have expanded his role from the one he played as mostly a deep threat with the Raiders last year. On Sunday, Agholor saw four of his eight total targets come at or behind the line of scrimmage. With the Raiders, Agholor saw just three of those short targets all of last season. A more diverse role should help Agholor avoid his boom-or-bust tendency from last year. And he may enjoy a dramatic increase in volume as well. He matched or exceeded his Week 1 total of eight targets in just five of his 16 games a year ago.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Trent Sherfield, WR, San Francisco 49ers


Kyle Shanahan continued his Week 1 playing time surprises at wide receiver where Sherfield drew the start and out-snapped the team's Round 1 draft pick from 2020 Brandon Aiyuk 49% to 47%. There may be an innocuous reason for that split. Aiyuk dealt with a hamstring injury late in the preseason and had only had a few healthy practice days before the team's first game. That said, Shanahan also told reporters that Sherfield earned his Week 1 role with the team. And Shanahan does such a tremendous job of scheming his skill players into production that I wouldn't want to leave Sherfield on the waiver wire if I had room to stash him for a few weeks to watch this situation unfold.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina Panthers


Marshall wasn't quite a tit-for-tat replacement for departed free agent Curtis Samuel's role with the Panthers. The former player made it into a modest 53% of the team's offensive snaps in Week 1, well behind the 81% rates from both DJ Moore and Robby Anderson and in range with tight ends Ian Thomas (55%) and Dan Arnold (52%). But even with a somewhat restricted role, Marshall made an immediate impact with six targets, third-most on the team behind its primary two receivers. He has looked like a Round 1 talent through camp and the start of the regular season. His fall to the end of Round 2 may well have been the result of a last-minute medical concern in a pandemic-affected draft year when teams couldn't easily dispel such a fear.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams


Jefferson didn't continue the immediate success of his 67-yard play-action touchdown on Matthew Stafford's second play for his new team. Jefferson finished the night with just two catches on three targets. But he may have shown a more important development in his 69% offensive snap share. That was easily the third-best of the team's wide receivers, well ahead of DeSean Jackson's 27% and Tutu Atwell's 4% shares. Jefferson never played more than 60% of the team's snaps in his rookie season and averaged just a 22% share in his active games. With second tight end Gerald Everett now in Seattle, Jefferson has a path to consistent fantasy production as the third receiver on a team poised to use a lot more 11 personnel.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys


Schultz teased fantasy potential in a 14.4% target share in 2020—16th-highest at the position—but he couldn't translate that into upper-tier TE2 fantasy success with Dak Prescott out for the season. I had mostly discounted the chance that Schultz could do so in 2021. Blake Jarwin was slated for the Cowboys' No. 1 tight end role before his own injury cost him all of last season. Now healthy, I assumed he would reassert his position at the top of that depth chart. That may have been a mistake. Schultz out-targeted Jarwin six to four last Thursday and out-snapped him 68% to 57%. That latter rate falls short of the 80% snap threshold that Schultz carried every week from Week 5 to the end of last season. But as good as Prescott looked in his return, even a 1A role in a two-man tight end time share may lead Schultz to better fantasy success in 2021. Plus, Schultz may be the likeliest beneficiary of Michael Gallup's expected month-long absence due to a calf injury.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

K.J. Osborn, WR, Minnesota Vikings


Under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have finished in the top five in percentage of plays with two or more tight ends each of the last three seasons. I figured to see the same this season even after Kyle Rudolph left for the Giants in free agency. But then Irv Smith got hurt. Down to just Tyler Conklin and recently acquired former Jets tight end Chris Herndon, Zimmer pivoted to 11 personnel in a major way on Sunday. Herndon played just 14% of the team's offensive snaps, and the third receiver Osborn shot up to 81% and contributed seven catches and 76 yards on nine targets. That type of role seems likely to continue with Smith out for the year and with the stark advantage Osborn enjoyed in front of his competitors for the third-receiver role, Dede Westbrook (18%) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (5%). That may only matter in deeper fantasy formats, but Osborn looks like a flex candidate there in PPR scoring.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 1%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams (93%/97%)
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (92%/92%)
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos (92%/91%)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (92%/90%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (92%/82%)
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (91%/95%)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (91%/85%)
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers (89%/92%)
Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (89%/81%)
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86%/91%)
Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets (86%/86%)
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (82%/77%)
Marvin Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (82%/61%)
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnat Bengals (77%/85%)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (77%/83%)
Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers (75%/91%)
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (72%/96%)
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (67%/80%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (93%/95%)
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (89%/66%)
Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Football Team (73%/41%)
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills (72%/71%)
David Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (64%/52%)
Phillip Lindsay, WR, Houston Texans (47%/46%)
Tyrell Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (37%/40%)
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (33%/30%)
Tevin Coleman, RB, New York Jets (27%/31%)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Washington Football Team (25%/43%)


4 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2021, 5:37pm

1 Broncos WRs

With the Jeudy injury, any thoughts on Tim Patrick and/or KJ Hamler, and how the Broncos' target distribution might shake out while Jeudy is out?

3 Re: Jeudy

In reply to by mworley

I debated including Patrick here, but since Jeudy will hopefully only miss 4-6 weeks, I don't think of him as a definite shallow-league fantasy option.  Courtland Sutton didn't have many targets in Week 1, but he led the team playing 80% of offensive snaps at the position.  I'm projecting him for a slight target lead over both Patrick and K.J. Hamler that will likely leave them all outside of the top 30 at the position for now.

2 Christian Kirk

Any thoughts on Christian Kirk? Just lucky to have 2 TDs?

4 Re: Kirk

In reply to by akalinich

I think it's mostly luck, yes.  Behind DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green out-snapped Kirk 80% to 57%, and Rondale Moore also played 29% and will likely increase from there.  Maybe an improved Kyler Murray will support multiple fantasy-relevant receivers, but I expect it will be difficult to predict which secondary option will pop from week to week.