Waiver Wire Week 4: Chuba Hubbard Takes the Spotlight

Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard
Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 4 - I think we've been here before. Last season, at the end of a Week 2 game in Tampa Bay, Christian McCaffrey suffered a high-ankle sprain that cost him the next six weeks and turned journeyman Mike Davis into a consistent RB2. This year, McCaffrey made it four days longer but pulled up with a hamstring injury on Thursday night in Week 3. And with Davis as a handcuff precedent and with an even clearer backup situation in Carolina this season, there isn't any doubt who the top waiver wire option is for Week 4.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers


As of this writing, it isn't clear whether McCaffrey will miss just a week or two or significantly more time. Hamstring injuries can vary dramatically in their severities. But I think the combination of McCaffrey's unexpectedly long absences last season, the Panthers' previous reliance on a bell-cow in Davis in the former's absence, and Hubbard's talent makes the rookie a reasonable player for whom to exhaust your FAB even in September.

Hubbard was just a fourth-round draft pick, but BackCAST liked him more than every running back prospect in the class except first-rounders Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. He may not have a plus-plus trait, but Hubbard is capable with all the requisite running back skills and dominated his Oklahoma State backfield in carries and with a solid 8.3% receiving ratio that bodes well for his chances to do what Davis did for the team and for fantasy players last season. Hubbard showed his strong 4.48s speed on a pair of Week 3 carries on which he turned the corner, first on the right end…

And then on the left.

Hubbard did nothing special with his three catches, but he did not drop either of his incompletions and out-targeted his likely major competition for short-term work Royce Freeman five-to-one and out-snapped him 55% to 15%. If he can continue that split, Hubbard could do what Davis did in his 12 games as the Panthers' starter in 2020—17.4 touches, 75.3 yards, 0.67 touchdowns, and 15.3 PPR points per game.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 100%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts


When we discussed Pittman on last week's waiver wire episode of the Football Outsiders Fantasy Show, scouting expert Derrik Klassen made an important distinction between Pittman the short-term fantasy option and Pittman the prospect. With T.Y. Hilton out injured again and Parris Campbell likely playing through an injury as well, Pittman has enjoyed a 24.8% target share this season that is the 22nd-highest among wide receivers. He has seen 12 targets in each of the last two games and seems like a decent bet to see a flex-worthy volume over the next month-plus while his teammates try to recover. That said, Derrik explained that Pittman has some athletic limitations that lower the ceiling you might expect of a 6-foor-4 receiver that can run a full route tree and has at least a temporary role as the No. 1 Colts receiver. You can spend more than my recommended 10% FAB bid if you need a receiver to put in your lineups today. But you shouldn't invest in Pittman with an expectation that he could carry his current value into the fantasy playoffs.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 10%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills


This was the last time I'll fall for this, I swear. My avoided-tackles crush Devin Singletary showed up to camp in tremendous shape and then took the lion's share of the Bills backfield touches in Week 1 with his teammate Moss a seemingly healthy inactive. I thought maybe he had wrestled control of the team's running back committee. It turns out that wasn't the case. Bills head coach Sean McDermott told Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic that Moss was inactive in Week 1 because of his training camp injuries. And with that extra context, it now makes sense that Moss went from inactive in Week 1 to a modest 28% snap share in Week 2 to a 56% share in Week 3 that both matched what he regularly saw in 2020 and bested Singletary for the week (43%). At this point, I assume the committee has returned to its 2020 standard. That isn't great news for Moss as a fantasy asset. He may have scored three times in the last two weeks, but he saw 0.39 expected rushing touchdowns per game last season, 30th among running backs with 100 or more carries. The Bills may prefer Moss to Singletary (0.29) in those goal-line situations, but quarterback Josh Allen (0.46) remains the team's primary red zone scorer and renders Moss a flex option at best in typical formats. Moss' moderate FAB bid reflects the lack of other appealing options at the position. If you need a back, I'm not sure how much better you can do on the wire.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 8%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons


Patterson may put that last thought for Moss to the test. Clearly, Patterson has the lesser fantasy floor. As a Round 1 bust as a wide receiver, the previously primary kick returner has never had more than last year's 85 offensive touches in a season. But with a position switch that has made him the Falcons' No. 2 running back, Patterson has 34 touches in three games this year and is on pace for close to 200 over the full schedule of 17 games. His 31.8% carry share barely cracks the top 40 at his new position, but Patterson has a 12.8% target share that is 13th among backs and already has him an intriguing option in PPR scoring. Nyheim Hines saw a very similar 5.6 carries and 4.8 targets per game in 2020 and finished the year as the 15th back in the format. I'm somewhat pessimistic Patterson can continue his current pace. His 42% offensive snap share remains low, and he may have enjoyed a target uptick in Week 3 with slot receiver Russell Gage sidelined with an ankle injury. But Patterson has a high ceiling since we know less about his capacity as a runner than we would for pretty much any other 30-year-old player and since he trails just Mike Davis on the team's depth chart. Davis has consistently impressed me since replacing an injured Christian McCaffrey in 2020, but he remains short on track record and reached 200 touches for the first time in 2020.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 7%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings


Cousins may offer the least mystery in his skill set of any quarterback in the league. He has been a healthy starter for six straight seasons and finished in a tight band between 64.3% and 69.8% completion rates and 25 and 35 passing touchdowns in those six seasons. Previously, I would have said that you know when he does and know when he doesn't make sense as a fantasy option in your leagues. But his recent starts provide an important reminder of how much context can matter for a player's fantasy value. Cousins himself may be no better than he was in 2018 and 2019, but since the Vikings inserted first-round receiver Justin Jefferson into their starting lineup in Week 3 last season, Cousins has thrown for 4,808 yards with a 69.5% completion rate, 41 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. That covers 17 games and could foreshadow his 2021 numbers if Cousins can stay healthy all season. The touchdown total is particularly impressive. Only Tom Brady (57), Aaron Rodgers (53), Patrick Mahomes (46), and Josh Allen (43) have thrown more.

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

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys


Ezekiel Elliott reasserted his place in the Cowboys backfield hierarchy with 116 total yards and two touchdowns on Monday night. But Pollard continued his steady climb with 12 touches. As I explained last week, I don't see Pollard as a threat to take Elliott's job. But Pollard may have entered Kareem Hunt territory as a clear No. 2 back with fantasy relevance despite the role. That plus handcuff value makes Pollard a worthwhile FAB target.

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

Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys


After a surprising season with a top-10 total of 89 targets at his position in 2020, Schultz seemed like he might take a back seat in 2021 when his teammate Blake Jarwin returned from a torn ACL. Instead, Schultz out-snapped Jarwin 102 to 77 the first two weeks, and then he broke through on Monday night with six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Schultz may not duplicate his standout target total from 2020 this year, but he is poised to better his fantasy production thanks to the return of his quarterback Dak Prescott.

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

Giovani Bernard, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Like Zack Moss, Bernard had a slow start to his 2021 season with 26% and 10% snap shares in Weeks 1 and 2. And it may have been for the same reason. Bernard suffered a mild high-ankle sprain in the preseason that had him on the Bucs' injury reports to start the year. Well, with possibly better health on Sunday, Bernard broke out for his new team with a 45% offensive snap share and nine catches for 51 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets, tied for the most on the team. Bernard always had fantasy potential with Tom Brady at quarterback. Receiving back James White finished among the top 30 backs ins PPR points in three of Brady's final four seasons with the Patriots. Meanwhile, incumbent Bucs backs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette have dropped 17.1% and 13.2% of their catchable targets since the start of last season, highest and third-highest among backs with 35 or more targets. Bernard can carve out a White-sized role with the Bucs even in the team's crowded backfield. He should even make sense in the team's more typical leading game scripts—White averaged more targets per game in Patriots wins between 2016 and 2019 (6.4) than he did in losses (5.9). The only question for Bernard is his health. He had to be carted off the field after his fourth-quarter touchdown on Sunday, and head coach Bruce Arians told Sports Illustrated's Zach Goodall on Monday that Bernard is still being evaluated for his newest injury.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills


Teammate Emmanuel Sanders took the greatest fantasy advantage of Josh Allen's five-touchdown outburst against Washington on Sunday. Sanders caught five balls for 94 yards and two touchdowns and even led his skill group with an 80% snap share. He may well have fantasy value this season since the Bills concentrate their production at wide receiver where most teams siphon some to their running backs and tight ends. Still, Sanders has a meager 16.1% target share this season that is just the 60th-highest at his position. As such, I believe the slot receiver Beasley is a better waiver option. His 13 targets on Sunday were the most on the team by three and raise his full-season target share to 24.2%, the 27th-highest among wide receivers. Beasley is unlikely to match Sanders in terms of touchdowns. But he did score four times in 2020 and is due for some improved touchdown fortune this season since he has failed to score but has 1.0 expected touchdowns considering the proximity of his targets to the end zone and their air yards.

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

Jakobi Meyers, WR, New England Patriots


Meyers is a similar fantasy option to Beasley. He led his team with 14 targets on Sunday and has a 24.4% target share this season that is almost identical to Beasley's 24.2%. He also is a long shot to score touchdowns. Meyers famously failed to find the end zone on 81 targets with Cam Newton at quarterback in 2020. And while Mac Jones should increase those opportunities in 2021, the Patriots remain a run-oriented offense. Meyers has just 0.3 expected touchdowns so far this season. That less explosive and less fantasy-friendly offense is the reason to spend a bit less for Meyers than I recommend for Beasley. But receiving back James White's hip subluxation could land him on injured reserve and temporarily boost Meyers' already high target share. Ideally, I'd have both players on every PPR roster.

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

Henry Ruggs, WR, Los Angeles Raiders


Ruggs has a higher fantasy ceiling than either Beasley or Meyers and may merit a more substantial FAB bid than either in standard instead of PPR formats. Ruggs isn't the same lineup fixture as those other receivers. He played just 58% of the Raiders' Week 3 snaps. And his 14.4% target share this season is just 65th at the position. That said, Ruggs is 31st among receivers with 212 air yards. For context, that is 4 yards ahead of top rookie receiver pick Ja'Marr Chase, and if you flipped their respective totals of one and four touchdowns through three weeks, you would flip their fantasy reputations. Ruggs has that sort of upside because his elite speed allows him to stretch the field and excel after the catch.

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

Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers


Darnold continued his fantasy renaissance last Thursday night in an unconventional way. He failed to throw a touchdown, but he ran two in at the goal line and now has three rushing scores on the season. I suspect most readers know not to expect a bunch more of those the rest of the way. But make sure you account for that quirky production in your estimation of Darnold's rest-of-season fantasy potential. If you add his league-leading 2.2 expected rushing touchdowns to his top-eight total of 5.0 passing touchdowns, Darnold is currently fourth among quarterbacks with 7.2 expected touchdowns. Only Josh Allen (9.4), Tom Brady (8.9), and Justin Herbert (8.2) have more. Darnold is on pace to shatter his previous career bests with a 68.2% completion rate and 8.3 yards per pass attempt. After escaping his former coach Adam Gase, Darnold looks like the new Ryan Tannehill and could provide borderline QB1/2 value like his predecessor.

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

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals


Burrow hasn't matched Darnold for team success or raw fantasy production this season, but he has faced a dramatically more difficult set of circumstances. The Bengals have had a challenging start to the season playing at home against the Vikings—rather than in the latter's dome—and then on the road in Chicago and in Pittsburgh. All three of those opponents entered the year with upper-half defensive DVOA projections, and all three project to increase their opponents' interception rates by 10% or more. I think the schedule explains some of Burrow's otherwise discouraging total of four picks in three starts. And beyond the turnovers, Burrow has teased a potential Year 2 breakout. His 70.7% completion rate and 8.5 yards per attempt are exceptional, and his seven passing touchdowns tie him for the fifth-most at his position. I expect more of the latter going forward as the Bengals' schedule flips from three teams that I projected would cost Burrow 1.2 fantasy points to one over the remainder of the year that is much closer to neutral (-0.3). I expect Burrow to outproduce Darnold over the rest of the season. But Burrow will likely be a cheaper waiver option after the pair's disparate production so far this season.

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

Sony Michel, RB, Los Angeles Rams


Darrell Henderson missed the Rams' Week 3 game with his rib injury, but Sean McVay told reporters last week that Henderson had a chance to play. I think that bodes well for his likely availability in Week 4, but I can understand spending a bit of FAB on Michel just in case. Michel showed his handcuff potential with a 74% snap share versus a 22% one for Jake Funk. And the Rams have an easier opponent for rushing in Week 4 in the Cardinals (-25.3% run defense DVOA, 10th) than they did in the Bucs last week (-42.7%, fifth).

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

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings


Mattison is in the same camp as Michel. He served a bell-cow role for the Vikings in Week 3 with Dalvin Cook sidelined with a sprained ankle. But I expect Cook to play in Week 4. Feel free to speculate, especially if you already roster Cook.

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

Peyton Barber, RB, Las Vegas Raiders


And I guess Barber, too? I have been stunned to see it after the team signed Kenyan Drake to a free-agent contract that put him in the top 15 at the position in average annual value, but Barber out-snapped Drake 47 to 36 in Week 3 and has 39 versus 23 touches the last two weeks with Josh Jacobs out with an ankle injury. He won't be a bell-cow if Jacobs misses more time, but that may not matter with the Raiders poised to play the Chargers' 28th-ranked DVOA run defense this weekend.

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

Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Football Team


The NFL's new injured reserve rules allow players to return to the field in as little as four weeks. As such, the first wave of reserved players in 2021 could play as soon as Week 4. Few of those candidates stand out in fantasy, but Samuel piques my interest because of his 202 targets the last two seasons, his $34.5-million free-agent contract, and his ability to run in pads and a helmet in practice last Wednesday. Before it was clear Samuel would start the year on IR, I ranked him as a top-30 receiver in PPR formats. And with injury substitutes Dyami Brown and Adam Humphries underwhelming despite snap shares over 60%, Samuel should reassert that value as soon as he is healthy enough to play.

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

Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans Saints


Callaway has fallen dramatically short of the fantasy value he teased with two touchdowns in Jameis Winston's breakout performance in the third preseason game that won the quarterback his starting job. Callaway finally caught a touchdown on Sunday, but that is about all he has accomplished this season. He has just seven catches and 63 yards in three games and will likely land on more waiver wires this week with Tre'Quan Smith eligible to return from injured reserve. But I'm not ready to ditch Callaway just yet. Callaway owes much of his underwhelming production to some quirky Saints game scripts that have limited Winston to 63 pass attempts in three weeks. Sean Payton may want his turnover-prone quarterback to a run a conservative offense, but there is no way Winston will continue a pace that has him 12 passes behind Joe Burrow for the fewest among the quarterbacks who have started all three weeks. There are 17 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts this season. With any sort of correction there, Callaway has fantasy potential. He led his team's receivers with a 61% snap share on Sunday, and his 17.7% target share is 53rd at the position. Couple that with a high touchdown rate in a less extreme offense and Callaway could salvage flex value, at least until Michael Thomas can return from the PUP list some time in October or November.

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

Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants


Giants fans didn't seem thrilled to have their starting tight end back after he missed two games with a calf injury. Engram fumbled on his second offensive touch, and that sparked his home crowd to boo him every time he stepped on the field. That seemed super harsh since Engram had just one previous fumble in his career and since he played all 16 games for the first time in 2020. But maybe it will depress his fantasy value and net you a waiver bargain. Engram saw 109 targets in 2020, the fourth-most at his position. And while he figured to see a reduced volume in 2021 after the team added Kenny Golladay in free agency and Kadarius Toney in the draft, receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both suffered hamstring injuries on Sunday. Daniel Jones may have little choice but to force-feed his top tight end.

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

Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens


Bateman is my second recommended receiver with a chance to return from injured reserve in Week 4. And while his value is skewed more heavily toward dynasty versus redraft formats than that of Curtis Samuel, Bateman has short-term potential because of his talent and because of a subtle shift in the Ravens offense. Last year, Lamar Jackson threw just 42.8% of his pass attempts to wide receivers, the lowest rate of the 36 quarterbacks with 200 or more attempts. But so far this year, Jackson has targeted a wide receiver 55.4% of his throws, a middling rate of 21st of 35 quarterbacks with 20 or more attempts. Small samples and game scripts may explain much of that difference. The Ravens trailed on many of their offensive plays against the Raiders and Chiefs in Weeks 1 and 2 and have yet to build a multi-touchdown lead like they so frequently have in previous years of the Jackson era. But Jackson may too be turning a corner as a passer, one that could transform both Bateman and third-year receiver Marquise Brown into fantasy assets.

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

Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons (93%/94%)
Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland Browns (93%/93%)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (93%/92%)
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (92%/93%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (92%/91%)
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (91%/90%)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (91%/88%)
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (90%/91%)
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (89%/93%)
Kenny Golladay, WR, New York Giants (89%/83%)
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (89%/82%)
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos (88%/89%)
Ty'Son Williams, RB, Baltimore Ravens (87%/85%)
Marvin Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (87%/79%)
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (86%/85%)
Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets (84%/85%)
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (83%/86%)
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (82%/81%)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins (81%/65%)
Elijah (Eli) Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (80%/75%)
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (80%/75%)
Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions (76%/80%)
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (75%/94%)
Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers (68%/84%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns (79%/68%)
James White, RB, New England Patriots (67%/58%)
David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans (51%/42%)
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Houston Texans (36%/33%)
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (34%/19%)
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (32%/23%)
Tyrell Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (24%/17%)
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (23%/5%)
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (20%/19%)
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (20%/12%)


2 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2021, 10:47pm

1 Chubatime

I paid 54% for Chuba Hubbard, Scott.  Hoping he catches fire in the next couple of weeks.  Thanks for the analysis.

2 Re: Chuba

In reply to by Dave0

I'm a Panthers fan, so I definitely hope he catches fire, too.  Thanks for reading.