Win the Wire
The best players to add to your fantasy rosters (based on Football Outsiders' advanced metrics).

Win the Wire: Week 2

Los Angeles Rams RB Malcolm Brown
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

After a draft season with way too few running backs to fill even shallow starting lineups, Week 1 introduced a handful of new and unexpected starters that likely deserve a healthy bid in the waiver wire. Each listed player includes my recommendation for how much of your Free Agent Budget (FAB) you should bid to try to win them as well as whether I think you should use a No. 1 waiver priority in a format where you would then fall to the back of the line.

Ownership percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

I would have understood if the Jaguars had simply released Leonard Fournette because of the timeline of their rebuild. It doesn't help to have an unhappy veteran in so young a locker room. But after seeing undrafted rookie James Robinson run in his NFL debut, I now suspect the team was comfortable releasing Fournette because they knew they had a capable alternative. I was skeptical of the Phillip Lindsay comparisons because Robinson ran a slow 4.64s 40 at the combine. But he plays much faster than that. Watch him burst through a small hole in the line on a 9-yard carry…

… and beat the Colts' linebackers to the edge and turn the corner.

Quickness has always been more important for backs than top-end speed. They so rarely break into the open field. Robinson is quick, but he also plays fast because he explodes out of his cuts into top gear.

And while he was not a major part of the Jaguars' passing attack in Week 1, he showcased tremendous athleticism on his one catch by hurdling a pair of would-be tacklers to gain 20 extra yards.

On its own, Robinson's 69.6% carry share would be enough to justify a big FAB spend. That rate would have been the eighth-highest of regular starters in 2019. But Robinson demands extra attention because of the quality of his play. And if his team is better than their last-place assumption, then he should have plenty of opportunities to carry the rock this season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 41%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Even before news broke that Marlon Mack tore his Achilles and will miss the rest of the season, Hines was a clear waiver target, especially in PPR formats. Targets are the name of his game. He had eight of them on Sunday, and that puts him on a full-season pace of 128, which would have landed him second at the position last season between Christian McCaffrey (142) and Austin Ekeler (108). Mack or no Mack, that 128 total is ambitious, but Ekeler is one of three receiving backs -- along with Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead -- whom new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers shepherded to seasons of 59 or more catches with the Chargers. Hines fits that mold of player and looks especially important for a Colts team that already had questionable receiver depth and lost runner depth on Sunday.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 40%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Malcolm Brown, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Brown fooled fantasy owners with a two-touchdown opener a year ago; he followed with disappointing totals of 58 carries and two scores over the rest of the season. Second-round rookie Cam Akers looms this year like Todd Gurley did last year, but I still believe Brown could continue his Week 1 success for at least a month or two this time. The key to that success will likely be his red zone usage. Brown finished ninth at the position with 1.28 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns this week and had two carries inside the 5-yard line, totals that suggest his two-score outburst is not an outlier. Akers nearly matched Brown with 15 touches to 21, but his 0.26 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns and zero carries inside the 5-yard line fell dramatically short. Meanwhile, Brown may sustain his improvements from 3.7 yards per carry and a 44% success rate last year to 4.4 yards per carry and a 67% success rate so far this year if the Rams offensive line continues its bounce back. In 2018, that unit led the league with 5.49 adjusted line yards; last year, they fell to 19th with 4.27 adjusted line yards. Visually, both Rob Havenstein (1.1% in 2018, 3.5% in 2019) and Austin Blythe (0.8% and 3.5%) looked much better against the Cowboys than did last year when they blew more than three times as many blocks as they had the year before based on Sports Info Solutions charting.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 35%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Adrian Peterson, RB, Detroit Lions

A 23-27 final score obscures a game script that favored the Lions and their power back Peterson before the Bears started their 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter. But even if the more versatile rookie D'Andre Swift sees a relatively heavier workload in closer games in future weeks, it seems clear that Peterson has at least passed incumbent Kerryon Johnson on the depth chart, even if Johnson was the nominal starter for Week 1. Peterson took 48.3% of the team's carries on Sunday, more than Johnson (24.1%) and Swift (10.3%) combined. And he even saw three targets, a total he hit just eight times and exceeded just once in two seasons in Washington. With such a heavy and distributed workload to accompany his expected red zone usage -- he out-carried Swift four-to-one in the red zone even though Swift punched his one opportunity in for a touchdown -- Peterson enters the short-term RB2 conversation. Swift teased a greater fantasy upside with more targets (five) than carries (three), but I doubt his dropping of a bunny would-be-game-winning touchdown will earn him a bump in his workload in Week 2 against the Packers.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 26%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets

Fantasy players may not rush to the wire to pick up Herndon. He was a forgotten man on draft day this year after a sophomore season disrupted by a suspension and hamstring and shoulder injuries. And his six-catch, 37-yard performance on Sunday was only impressive by Jets standards. But those absences make it easy to forget how dominant Herndon was as a rookie in 2018. His 9.0 yards per target that year is tied for the third-most by a rookie at the position since 2007 and puts him on a short list with many of today's most productive tight ends.

That efficiency manifested as a strong 6.3% DVOA. And now Herndon looks healthy and is a featured part of the Jets offense again. His seven targets on Sunday represented 21.2% of the team's total. That rate was seventh-highest of the tight ends who played before Monday this week and would have landed him sixth at the position last season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 22%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers

On its own, one 75-yard touchdown catch that represented nearly two-thirds of his total production would not merit an Anderson waiver recommendation … even if the catch-and-run was pretty sweet.

But ever since my snap judgment that the traditionally conservative Teddy Bridgewater would throw all of his passes to his shorter-depth targets Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore, I've slowly decided that assumption could be wrong. Bridgewater showed low average depths of target (aDOT) in both Minnesota and New Orleans, but so too did quarterbacks Kirk Cousins (7.4 yards in 2018 and 2019) and Drew Brees (7.2 yards) under head coaches Mike Zimmer and Sean Payton. It's reasonable to assume that Bridgewater's conservativism was more an artifact of his coaches' preferences than his abilities. To that point, he finished fifth at the position with a 56.5% accuracy rate on attempts that traveled 16 or more yards in the air last season. On Sunday, he aired out nine deep passes, including two to Anderson that flew 20-plus yards in the air. Overall, Bridgewater posted the 10th-highest aDOT (8.2 yards) among the 28 quarterbacks who played before Monday, and he threw just one more pass to Moore than he did to both of his deeper threats Anderson and Curtis Samuel. Anderson will likely be streaky, but I expect he will remain a major part of an underrated Panthers offense.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 21%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Scotty Miller, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Miller will likely be one of the most popular waiver additions this week because he produced 73 yards on six targets -- second on Tampa Bay behind Chris Godwin's seven -- and because he looks like Julian Edelman. Well, I like the decision if not the reasoning. From my perspective, there always seemed to be too many Buccaneers targets for all of them to have their anticipated success in fantasy this year. Week 1 clarified things. Mike Evans was under-targeted (four) because of a hamstring injury, but he wasn't under-played. Like Godwin (94%), Evans played almost all of the Bucs' offensive snaps (93%), and Miller still compiled an impressive rate of 61% of snaps played. That was noticeably ahead of second tight end O.J. Howard's rate of 53% and ahead by default of rookie sleeper Tyler Johnson, who was a healthy inactive. And that split matches head coach Bruce Arians' historical tendencies. His 19.6% tight end target share in 2019 was the highest of his coaching tenure and still barely cracked the upper half of teams in football (16th). In his final two years in Arizona, Arians' offenses were bottom-10 with 13.7% and 16.9% tight end target shares. Rob Gronkowski and Howard are talented enough to have big fantasy days with smaller numbers of routes run, but Miller showed the usage patterns that could make him a consistent third receiver this season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 21%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

No. 1 tight end Zach Ertz reportedly had a heated argument with general manager Howie Roseman last week, and then he disappeared with just one catch for 6 yards in the final three quarters of an Eagles collapse in Washington. Are those two things related? I don't know, but I don't think that uncertainty should dissuade your bid for Goedert in fantasy. The Eagles led all teams with 43% and 57% reliance on two-tight end formations the last two seasons, and one could argue that Goedert has outplayed his more targeted teammate Ertz with 0.3% vs. -1.1% DVOA in that time. Meanwhile, Goedert is clearly a featured target on a team full of young and injured wide receivers. His nine targets led the team on Sunday, and his 24.1 PPR points led the position this week.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 18%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Campbell's rookie season was such a disaster that his moderate total of 71 receiving yards on Sunday got him more than halfway to his first-year total of just 127 yards. And while one healthy game doesn't erase the durability concerns he engendered with four different injuries to his hamstring, abdomen, hand, and foot last year, it does point to fantasy utility for as long as he can stay on the field. Campbell was actually on the field regularly in the Colts' 2020 opener. His 82% snap rate led the team's receivers, just ahead of presumed No. 1 wideout T.Y. Hilton (80%) and significantly ahead of Zach Pascal (62%) and rookie Michael Pittman (53%). He also tied Hilton for the team lead with nine targets. And I liked what I saw on those targets. Playing from the slot, Campbell ran a lot of slant and crossing patterns like this one that gained 21 yards…

… and this one that gained 18 yards.

But Campbell flashed a greater versatility, beating Jacksonville's top corner pick CJ Henderson on a jump ball and seeing a handful of targets down the field.

One week in, Hilton remains my pick to lead the Colts receivers in fantasy scoring, but he plays more the Mike Williams role to Campbell's Keenan Allen -- and in fact, Allen saw most of his targets in 2019 (64%) from the slot. In the best-case scenario, Campbell could enjoy similar production in a breakout sophomore season.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 12%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins

In the short term, Myles Gaskin's surprise inclusion in a three-back committee with Jordan Howard and Matt Breida may serve only to sabotage each of their potential fantasy value. But based on his performance, I see a much greater potential for him. After five pedestrian Howard carries to start the game, the Dolphins transitioned their workload to Gaskin. Starting with five minutes left in the second quarter, he saw eight touches to just three apiece for Howard and Breida. And where Howard was mostly ineffective with a 13% success rate, Gaskin showed he could do more than run straight into the line. He weaved between Patriots defenders on a 10-yard carry.

And he very naturally spun to catch a pass with his momentum carrying him upfield on the right sideline.

By and large, a revamped Dolphins offensive line had trouble with the formidable Patriots defense, but Gaskin was still efficient with 4.4 yards per carry and a 67% success rate. You shouldn't drop Howard for just anyone. He paced the backfield and finished third in football with 1.59 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns and had three carries inside the 5-yard line this week. He's definitely the team's goal-line back. But Gaskin has more fantasy upside with a diverse skill set. Stash him if you can.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 12%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Normally, a widely available rookie back who had 12 carries and a touchdown would lead my waiver targets. And actually, one did in James Robinson. I just don't think Kelly has that same great potential. He was the clear third back for the Chargers on Sunday, not seeing his first carry until the final four minutes of the first half and only after No. 2 back Justin Jackson suffered a quad injury. Jackson may be ready to play again this week. But even if he isn't, Kelley looks like a committee back. Scouts saw him as a powerful runner who lacked elusiveness, which likely motivated his fall to the fourth round of the NFL draft. That makes him a good complement to the smaller and quicker Ekeler and Jackson. With 28.0 and 27.9 body mass indices, Ekeler (5-foot-10 and 195 pounds) and Jackson (5-foot-11 and 200 pounds) fall short of the typical range for bell-cow backs. Kelley (30.5 BMI, 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds) doesn't, but his lack of elusiveness and modest 7.7% college receiving ratio suggest he is more likely to be a touchdown scorer than a full Melvin Gordon replacement. But even that pessimistic view of his role makes him a second-tier waiver choice. His 0.92 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns were more than four times as many as Ekeler had (0.22), and Kelley scored on one of his two carries from inside the 5-yard line on Sunday.

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

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

It feels strange to see established fantasy producer Michel available in nearly half of all fantasy leagues and even stranger to recommend him with more reservations than I do unproven backs such as Robinson, Brown, Gaskin, and Kelley. But put me in the camp of second-year back Damien Harris truthers. Beat reporters including Greg Bedard were convinced that Harris was going to win the job of Patriots lead back before he injured his hand and landed on injured reserve. And that really isn't a stretch after Michel's pedestrian first two seasons with -2.7% and -6.4% rushing DVOA. New injured reserve rules mean that Harris could return after just a few more weeks. If Sunday is any indication, Michel will be the lead back in the meantime. But without targets, that role doesn't mean what it did when Tom Brady was under center. Cam Newton looked fully healthy in his Patriots debut and played lead back when the Patriots approached the goal line. Newton outpaced Michel with 0.90 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns and two carries inside the 5-yard line versus 0.69 and one for Michel. And with Newton, Rex Burkhead, James White, and even rookie J.J. Taylor in the mix, Michel took just 23.8% of the team's carries in Week 1. That's a similar rate to what Alexander Mattison (25.2%) and DeAndre Washington (24.8%) took as clear backups for their teams last season.

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

Peyton Barber, RB, Washington Football Team

The ordering of Washington's initial depth chart suggested that rookie Antonio Gibson might not be a Week 1 fantasy boon, although it was veteran running back Peyton Barber who enjoyed the premium fantasy day rather than receiving back and listed No. 1 J.D. McKissic. Washington's unexpected success against the Eagles produced a lot of scoring opportunities, and Barber capitalized with two touchdowns on six carries inside the 5-yard line. His 2.76 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns were the second-most in football prior to Monday, behind only Clyde Edwards-Helaire. And that role could continue. With a 31.4 BMI, Barber (5-foot-11 and 225 pounds) looks like the better red zone runner than the lankier Gibson (28.4 BMI, 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds). Still, I'm less excited for Barber's future fantasy value than I am for Kelley's even if I'm relatively bullish on Washington's chances to remain competitive. The major difference is that Barber has proven himself to be an inefficient runner. His 1.7 yards-per-carry and 29% success rates in Week 1 were diluted by unfavorable attempts in short-yardage situations, but they hardly counteract a four-year career with a -14.4% rushing DVOA. Gibson teased greater potential with 4.0 yards per carry and a 44% success rate in his debut. He even took a carry inside the 5-yard line. Sooner or later, Gibson or Bryce Love will likely pass Barber in the team's early-down pecking order. But feel free to rely on Barber in deeper or touchdown-heavy scoring leagues in the meantime.

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

Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Gage's totals of nine catches and 114 yards on 12 targets were inflated by a game script that demanded Matt Ryan throw 52 aimed attempts. By rate, Gage's 23.1% target share was less outstanding. That said, he has sustained a fantasy-worthy 17.7% target share since the team traded Mohamed Sanu in Week 8 last season, tied for 38th among wide receivers just between Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders. And on Sunday, Gage teased an increasing share. With veteran tight end Austin Hooper on the roster in 2019, the Falcons had a middling 65% reliance on 11 personnel last season. But in Week 1, Gage played 70% of the team's offensive snaps, more than double the rate of second tight end Luke Stocker (32%).

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

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers

Even after a 96-yard, one-touchdown day, Valdes-Scantling will likely face some resistance from the fantasy players who were burned by his disappointing sophomore season in 2019. Given the Packers' infamous failure to add to their undermanned receiving corps in the 2020 draft, I wouldn't want to be too slow to consider a possible bounceback. That said, Valdes-Scantling saw the usage of a No. 3 receiver on Sunday, playing just 54% of the team's offensive snaps compared to 90% for Davante Adams and 87% for Allen Lazard. And even at his best, Valdes-Scantling has been a boom-or-bust option that may make more sense for DFS. Since 2018, he has paced receivers with 100 or more targets by scoring 47.5% of his PPR points on passes that traveled 16 or more yards in the air.

Highest Percentage of PPR Points on Deep Passes, 2018-2020
Player Team Pts Deep Pts Deep Pts%
Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB 210.9 100.2 47.5%
Mike Williams LAC 341.4 159.8 46.8%
Mike Evans TB 524.3 239.0 45.6%
Robby Anderson NYJ 343.3 156.4 45.6%
Tyler Lockett SEA 466.4 211.1 45.3%
DeVante Parker MIA 315.5 141.3 44.8%
DK Metcalf SEA 209.5 91.8 43.8%
Tyrell Williams OAK/LV 279.4 121.1 43.3%
Tyreek Hill KC 508.5 218.7 43.0%
John Brown BUF 376.7 160.0 42.5%
Minimum 100 targets

Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, and the Seahawks duo show that it's possible to enjoy consistent fantasy success with that skill set and the right quarterback. And whatever his coaches think, Aaron Rodgers is definitely the latter.

The question is whether Valdes-Scantling is the former. If you have an available bench spot, I think it's worth a small bid to find out.

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

Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets

In the category of "last man standing," the 37-year-old Gore could see the lion's share of the Jets' carries the next few weeks. Head coach Adam Gase suggested that Le'Veon Bell could miss a few weeks with his hamstring injury, and Round-4 pick La'Mical Perine will likely miss at least one more week with an ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. Just don't expect more than volume. The team's next opponent, the 49ers, cuts run plays by 16% (third-most) and rushing touchdowns by 21% (seventh-most) per attempt.

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

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (96%/98%)
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (94%/92%)
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (92%/92%)
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (89%/92%)
Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots (85%/86%)
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (84%/91%)
Henry Ruggs, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (82%/72%)
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets (81%/76%)
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills (77%/86%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Kerryon Johson, RB, Detroit Lions (86%/72%)
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts (76%/75%)
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams (64%/44%)
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (27%/11%)
Randall Cobb, WR, Houston Texans (24%/8%)
Blake Jarwin, TE, Dallas Cowboys (21%/62%)


2 comments, Last at 17 Sep 2020, 6:00pm