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

Win the Wire: Week 3

San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Week 3 can be a quiet week after the initial rush to the wire from the start of the season dies down. Not so much this year. Sunday may have set the record for injuries to fantasy stars with lineup staples such as Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Raheem Mostert suffering multiple-week to full-season injuries. That leaves a lot of work to be done in this week's wire and may create a few sneaky impact additions for your fantasy teams.

Rostered percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars


Many fantasy players were aligned with my Week 2 advice to prioritize Robinson over the field of waiver claims, but he remains available in about one-third of fantasy leagues. Don't overlook him this week. Robinson offered a worthy encore of touch volume in Week 2 with 16 carries and three receptions that he turned into 120 total yards. Combined, his 36 touches through the first two weeks are 13th-most at the position and have him on a full-season pace for 288, an RB1 workload. As if that weren't enough, Robinson has been efficient with 5.8 yards per touch, 12th-best of the 51 backs with 15 or more touches through two weeks. Try to judge your league mates' tendencies, but don't be afraid to exhaust your FAB if you deem it will take that to land Robinson. He's that kind of a fantasy difference-maker.

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

Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers


I offered a tepid endorsement of Kelley after his Week 1 game without a target. But after Sunday, I think I may have underrated his receiving potential, and I'm not sure it matters as much as I thought it would with the Chargers' commitment to the run and blocking performance.

To the former point, Kelley caught two passes for 49 yards in Week 2. The first was a 35-yard catch-and-run that was undefended, but Kelley showed an unexpected breakaway speed to weave through the second level.

And he followed that with a 14-yard reception with fewer yards after the catch but showcasing a nice tracking and adjustment to a slightly off-target throw.

Kelley's lone incompletion was on a screen that failed to develop. First-time rookie starter Justin Herbert intentionally threw the ball into the dirt.

To the latter point, the Chargers have so far showed an improvement in their run-blocking from 4.37 adjusted line yards last season (13th) to 4.60 through two weeks this season (10th). That plus a lead against the Chiefs' relatively poor run defense (-0.7% in 2019, 26th) made it possible to run 44 times against just 33 pass attempts on Sunday. And I expect the Chargers to aim for that level of imbalance when they can manage it in Herbert's early career starts. That could create a rushing volume to support Kelley's RB2 consideration even if he seldom sees multiple targets. And he may well catch a few passes per game, especially if Herbert is under center and likely checking down to his backs more often than the veteran Taylor did in Week 1. Just 3.4% of Taylor's aimed attempts in Week 1 targeted his running backs.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 70%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers


Christian McCaffrey drafters have only ever had one fear with their top pick, and that injury fear has materialized in the form of an ankle injury that could sideline the Carolina star for multiple weeks. Most players have never handcuffed McCaffrey, either because of his health to date or a lack of clarity on who his backup even is. But suddenly, it seems crystal-clear that Davis will be that player. In relief of McCaffrey on Sunday, Davis took a carry and, more important for fantasy, had eight catches for 74 yards. He played 24 offensive snaps while the team's other healthy back, Trenton Cannon, played on just special teams. And while Davis has a reputation as a receiving back, his 5-foot-9, 221-pound size suggests he is built to withstand a short-term bell-cow volume of touches. You can comfortably plug-and-play Davis for McCaffrey, and you may even enjoy RB1 numbers in PPR formats when you do.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 51%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers


Head coach Kyle Shanahan's ability to turn any player into a productive one for fantasy will be put to the test next week with Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Nick Bosa, and Solomon Thomas potentially missing the Giants game with their myriad injuries. For McKinnon, the two to monitor will be Mostert and Coleman. The former sprained his MCL, an injury that our Andrew Potter's research suggests will likely cost him at least two weeks. Meanwhile, Coleman sprained his knee and could miss multiple weeks, as well.

McKinnon may be third string with everyone healthy, but his 4.35s 40 time indicates that he is cut from the same cloth as the journeyman-turned-star Mostert. And my own research suggests that it isn't coincidence that fast players such as Mostert can break long touchdown runs such as the two he already has in as many weeks. McKinnon immediately followed suit with a 55-yarder on one of his just three touches in relief on Sunday. He should slot in near where Mostert typically ranks as an RB2 if Mostert and Coleman both miss time.

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

Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers


Anderson turned in an exceptional team debut with 114 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, but his (eight), D.J. Moore's (nine), and Curtis Samuel's (eight) target totals suggested that the Panthers could have too distributed a passing attack for he or Samuel to achieve WR3 status. One week later, I have no concerns. Anderson was a touchdown away of a full encore performance with nine catches and 109 yards in Week 2. And while he and Moore both exceeded their Week 1 target shares, Samuel fell back to just two targets. Now through two weeks, Anderson is tied for 10th among all receivers with 18 targets and top-20 with a 24.3% target share. On a team looking to pass with new offensive coordinator Joe Brady and likely having to pass with a defense that will land them in a lot of second-half deficits, Anderson is a WR3 with upside to be even better.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 20%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team


The Gibson hive that drafted him as a sleeper in August on the strength of his greater-than-50% college receiving ratio may have been turned off by Peyton Barber's two-touchdown performance in Week 1. But now that I've seen the team for two weeks, I think I have a read on how they will use their backs. When tied or winning, Barber leads their trio of backs with 10 carries versus just four for Gibson and one for J.D. McKissic. But when trailing, Gibson has a clear advantage with 18 carries versus 10 for McKissic and just eight for Barber. Those splits make sense for their skill sets, with Gibson and McKissic more versatile as receiving threats and Barber the biggest at 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds. But they shouldn't lead to a fully distributed workload. Despite their Week 1 upset of the Eagles, Washington remains a bottom-two team in DAVE. They will likely trail more than they lead this season, and Gibson's workload will likely expand across game states as he grows more comfortable at this new level of competition.

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

Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams


It's difficult to disentangle the Rams' intended reliance on Darrell Henderson as part of a three-back committee from the seemingly minor injuries Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown suffered against the Eagles on Sunday. But even if Akers and Brown can return to the field in Week 3, it may be worth adding Henderson to your fantasy benches as well. The bulk of his 121 yards on Sunday came from a few big plays. He took one carry up the middle for 40 yards.

And another for 11 yards.

Those breakaway carries likely say more about the Rams' run-blocking than Henderson's skill set. But Henderson should continue to benefit from an offensive line that at least so far this season has bounced back from 4.27 adjusted line yards last season (19th) to 4.89 this season (sixth). Meanwhile, Henderson is likely the best receiving option of the Rams' three backs, something he showed with a nifty spinning catch on a 28-yard wheel route that nearly resulted in a touchdown.

Overall, Henderson is averaging 7.5 yards per touch this season, the second-highest rate among the 51 backs with 15 or more touches. With that level of efficiency, he could overcome a time share to become a flex option in PPR leagues.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 15%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Dion Lewis, RB, New York Giants


With Saquon Barkley confirmed to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, there is no mystery of which back will be in the New York spotlight. Lewis played 88% of the Giants' offensive snaps on Sunday. And after playing just three snaps the week before, Wayne Gallman was a healthy inactive in Week 2. The greater question is how effective Lewis can be in fantasy the rest of the way. The Giants have put up a dismal 1.61 adjusted line yards through the first two weeks, more than a yard and a half shy of the rest of the NFL. And while that rate undoubtedly reflects the excellence of the run defenses of their first two opponents -- the Steelers (who cut YPA by 14%, fifth-most) and Bears (7%, seventh-most) -- things don't improve dramatically over the next two months with matchups against the 49ers (1%, 17th-most), Rams (2%, 16th-most), Cowboys (5%, 11th-most), Buccaneers (31%, most), and Eagles (18%, third-most) twice. Lewis will likely land in the flex range most weeks rather than the top five that Barkley lived in. And that is even before one considers the chances that the Giants could add a bigger back to take over the power runs that Lewis (5-foot-8 and 195 pounds) and Gallman (6-foot-0 and 210 pounds) may not be suited to handle.

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

Devonta Freeman, RB, Free Agent


If you plan to bid a non-trivial amount of FAB on Lewis, I recommend you handcuff him with a similar bid on Freeman. Frankly, I'd spend more on Freeman if I knew he were signing, but you maybe can add him cheaply if the Giants sign him after the Week 3 waiver deadline.

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

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans


Tannehill had multiple outlier statistics in 2019 that pointed to likely regression, such as A.J. Brown's historic rate of yards after the catch and the team's incredible 11.3-yard average on play-action passes based on Sports Info Solutions charting. But Tannehill's fantasy success still demands that he at least be on benches to start this season. He threw four touchdowns against the Jaguars on Sunday, and that isn't too different from what he did down the stretch last year. From Week 7 when he became the Titans starter on, he has averaged 22.2 fantasy points per game. That's the second-most at the position behind only Lamar Jackson (27.9). I still might treat him as a matchup play, but his upside is demonstrably immense.

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

Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs


Sammy Watkins took a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out of the Chiefs-Chargers game on Sunday. It's too early to know whether he will clear protocol for Week 3, but last year taught us that even temporary Chiefs ascensions offer a lot of fantasy potential. Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are both options, but I'll side with Hardman as the better fantasy choice. He passed Robinson with a 65% versus 62% offensive snap share in Week 2, and his status a second-year player suggests he would be the bigger home run swing if Watkins ended up missing multiple weeks.

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

Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons


Austin Hooper may have absorbed most of the Falcons' tight end targets in 2019, but the team had a middling 65% rate of three of more receivers on the field. Even as much as Matt Ryan throws the ball, that wasn't a recipe for the slot receiver Gage's fantasy success. Well, that does not seem to be the case anymore in 2020. Gage owes some credit for his top-10 wide receiver total of 21 targets through two weeks to the Falcons' extreme pass ratio, but he also has a top-20 23.9% target share at the position. That rate would have been 12th among wide receivers in 2019. And Gage even has a top-10 total of 1.12 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns. The Falcons look like the rare team that can support three receivers in fantasy, so don't overlook Gage's potential because of his teammates.

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

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins


Gaskin has yet to escape the three-headed running back monster the Dolphins are deploying this season. He led the team with 13 touches in Week 2, but Matt Breida took eight and Jordan Howard took five. That workload split will likely prevent Gaskin from becoming fantasy-relevant in the short term. But long term, his superior efficiency could skew the share to elevate him to flex or even RB2 status. Helped by a top-five-among-backs total of 11 targets, Gaskin is averaging 5.7 yards per touch, tied for 13th-best of the 51 backs with 15 or more touches this season. That bests Breida (4.7) by a yard and Howard (0.8) by nearly 5 yards. The latter isn't a fair comparison since Howard has seen the bulk of his touches come in short-yardage situations, but that doesn't really matter for fantasy players. Yards are yards, and yards are fantasy points.

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

Jonnu Smith, TE, Tennessee Titans


A two-touchdown week always catches your eye at tight end, where quality fantasy options quickly become hard to come by after the elite tier of players such as Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews. But Smith always had potential as a touchdown-scorer. Scouts saw the 248-pound Smith as a Delanie Walker type before the Titans even drafted him as Walker's eventual replacement. And now two weeks into his fourth season, Smith seems to be approaching Walker's former TE1 role. At his peak from 2015 to 2017, Walker landed between a 20.8% and 24.5% target share every season. And so far this year, Smith is at 18.8%, 10th-highest of all tight ends.

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

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins


I wasn't expecting a fast start to Gesicki's 2020 season given Ryan Fitzpatrick's historical reliance on wide receivers over tight ends. But after an eight-catch, 130-yard, one-touchdown Week 2 on 11 targets that led the team, Gesicki is up to a 21.2% target share that is sixth among all tight ends this season. Meanwhile, he has been a red zone threat with 1.58 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns, second-most at the position and ahead even of Tyler Higbee (1.23) who scored three times on Sunday. With better touchdown fortune, Gesicki could have the look of a top-10 tight end. Take advantage of his relative anonymity now while his market price is a bit depressed.

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

N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots


New quarterback Cam Newton has monopolized the team's touchdown scoring through their first two weeks, but that may be good news for fantasy players looking to add N'Keal Harry, a second-year receiver poised for a breakout, for a discount. The Patriots have overhauled their offense to take advantage of Newton's rushing ability, but that run-leaning has not pushed Harry out of the top 10 wide receivers with 18 targets. His 29.0% target share is sixth at the position this season and would have tied him for second in 2019 with DeAndre Hopkins. Newton's 397-yard passing performance in Seattle in Week 2 shows that the Patriots can throw when the matchup calls for it. At the very least, that should make Harry a flex option when the team faces quality opponents.

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

Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars


I may have spent too much time this preseason extolling Teddy Bridgewater's possible fantasy benefits from a terrible Panthers defense and not enough doing the same for his cat-team counterpart Minshew in Jacksonville. After an unexpected frontrunner performance against the Colts in Week 1, the Jaguars fell behind the Titans on Sunday and shifted to the pass. Minshew ended up top-five at the position with 45 attempts in Week 2, and he capitalized on them with 339 yards and three touchdowns. Visually, Minshew seems to have improved his accuracy from his rookie season and to be enjoying better receiver play with the additions of rookie wideout Laviska Shenault and receiving back Chris Thompson. After a 5.2% shortfall in 2019 that was the second-biggest of regular starters, Minshew this year is completing 9.3% more of his passes than expected according to Next Gen Stats. That's the third-highest surplus at the position. Even a regressed surplus would make Minshew a valuable fantasy option when coupled with his likely passing volume and scrambling. Last year, he averaged 24 rushing yards per game, fifth-most of the 36 quarterbacks who played in eight or more games.

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

Golden Tate, WR, New York Giants


Barkley's injury was the team's most important and longest lasting from Week 2, but No. 1 receiver -- at least by target share -- Sterling Shepard also suffered a turf toe injury and is poised to miss several weeks. Tate took 91% of his targets from the slot last season, so he isn't a direct role replacement for Shepard. But Tate did enjoy much better production with 6.0 catches for 81 yards per game between Weeks 6 and 10 last season with Shepard sidelined by a concussion versus 3.2 and 52 with Shepard sharing the field from Weeks 12 to 17.

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

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Football Team


Thomas didn't match my performance expectations in Week 2 against a Cardinals team that was the No. 1 increaser of tight end completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target last season. But more important for his future fantasy value, he saw another nine targets. That was second on the team on Sunday and four more than the No. 3 receiver, and it boosts him to a 27.0% target share through two weeks that is second-most among all tight ends. Thomas hasn't translated that usage into a ton of yards so far, but he has teased touchdown upside with 1.39 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns, third-most at the position.

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

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals


Burrow's totals from Thursday night of 316 yards and three touchdowns look a bit more impressive when you look past his attempt total of 61 passes. The Bengals are bad, but they aren't 61-passes-per-week bad. Still, Burrow has passed the eye test. He looks comfortable in the pocket despite seeing heavy pressure behind what is likely a poor offensive line (8.2% adjusted sack rate). Unlike the team's less experienced options from 2019, Burrow seems to have found the necessary balance of throwing the occasional shot downfield but mostly getting rid of the ball quickly. His 8.0-yard average depth of target is 15th-highest of the 34 quarterbacks with 20 or more attempts, and his 2.64s average time to throw would have been sixth-fastest at the position in 2019 according to Next Gen Stats.

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

Drew Sample, TE, Cincinnati Bengals


I didn't realize Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah was a must-have fantasy player before he tore his Achilles on Thursday night. But if his six-catch second half was any indication, second-year backup Sample should do a fair impression. He definitely has the TE1 job. For the full game, Sample played 54 offensive snaps compared to just seven for Cethan Carter. And with Burrow, that Bengals TE1 role has teased some remarkable fantasy potential. Combined, Uzomah and Sample have 21 targets through the first two weeks, which are tied for the second-most among tight end units in football. And they lead the position with 1.86 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns, suggesting even greater touchdown upside than they've shown so far this season.

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

Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts


With top prospects such as Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb landing on teams with established No. 1 receivers, the 2020 rookie receiver class has a volume problem. That opens the door for some less heralded prospects to enjoy the best rookie seasons. And now that Parris Campbell has suffered a PCL injury that knocks him out indefinitely, Pittman may end up leading his peers in targets this season. He had just six on Sunday, but that did lead the Colts. More important from a forecasting perspective, Pittman led the team's receivers by playing 92% of the team's offensive snaps. That bested Zach Pascal at 81% and easily topped presumed No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton at 58%.

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

Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts


Already down Eric Ebron from Frank Reich's 2019 squad that finished top-10 with a 34% reliance on two-tight end formations, the Colts lost Jack Doyle for Sunday's game against the Vikings and had to rely on Mo Alie-Cox. Even as an unquestioned temporary No. 1 tight end, I didn't have high expectations. Last season, the Vikings had the stingiest tight end defense in football, holding the position to a -46.4% DVOA. But Alie-Cox delivered with 111 yards on just six targets. And as JJ Zachariason pointed out, it's never a bad idea to bet on an athletic tight end such as Alie-Cox, a former college basketball player for VCU.

That said, I wasn't overly impressed by what I saw from the athletic tight end. His day started with a dropped pass that hit him in the chest and deflected to become a Philip Rivers red zone interception.

And while he rebounded to produce a number of big plays, most of those were generally uncontested by the Vikings defense. For example, Alie-Cox had only daylight in front of him on this 16-yard catch-and-run.

And either linebacker Eric Kendricks or a teammate forgot to cover him on the same route twice. The first went for 33 yards.

And the second gained 21 yards.

The tight end friendliness of the Colts offense makes Alie-Cox a waiver candidate even if Doyle can make it back quickly. But I'll want to see more evidence of good play before I spend up for Alie-Cox in FAB.

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

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (96%/98%)
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (92%/96%)
Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots (88%/90%)
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (88%/86%)
D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions (86%/88%)
Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos (86%/85%)
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (82%/86%)
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (80%/88%)
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (76%/84%)
John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills (75%/83%)
Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons (74%/86%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (100%/96%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (96%/83%)
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (55%/44%)
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (39%/48%)
Breshad Perriman, WR, New York Jets (37%/14%)
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts (21%/17%)
Blake Jarwin, TE, Dallas Cowboys (5%/24%)


8 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2020, 11:54pm

1 Diontae Johnson

Someone dropped him, for some reason, the day before week 2's games. He appears to be a locked-in WR2 based on his current volume, and I would guess Davante Adams, who is my WR1, is out this week. I would be willing to exhaust my whole budget, but I'm thinking around $50 should get it done. My league tends to splurge on RBs & Qbs (superflex) and overlook receivers. I wouldn't think that would change this week, in light of all the RB injuries. 

4 Re: Diontae Johnson

In reply to by ALauff

Diontae Johnson is up to 15th in my true-talent PPR WR rankings as of Week 3.  With his target volume, I can't believe someone in your league dropped him.  I'd be fine if you felt you needed to spend your entire FAB, but I agree you should use your judgment with your familiarity with your league.

6 Got him for $59. To give a…

Got him for $59. To give a sense of how upside-down my league is, Justin Herbert went for $27, Ryan Fitzpatrick for $20, and Mike Davis for only $4 (?!), even though Nyheim Hines went for $41 just last week. Wild. Oh, did I mention Nick Mullens and Jeff Driskel were also picked up? Superflex leagues are a different animal, or maybe I'm just playing with oddballs (neighborhood league, so...). 

7 Re: Superflex

I can see how Superflex should inflate QB waiver offers, but the Mike Davis one still baffles me.  He's in my overall top 20 in PPR formats this week.  And nice work on the Diontae Johnson offer.  I think you got him for less than I would have spent.

8 He got dropped in one of my…

In reply to by ALauff

He got dropped in one of my leagues after week 1 as well and I spent my #1 waiver priority on him. Which I’m happy with. I guess that person turned the game off after halftime.

2 Todd Gurley

Any thoughts on Gurley's underwhelming start? He seems irrelevant in that pass-heavy offense. And yet he was a preseason top 35 player in PPR according to KUBIAK. Any hope for a bounce back? 

3 Re: Gurley

In reply to by HWY68

I still have Gurley as my 16th true-talent RB in PPR formats as of Week 3.  He's sharing some workload with Ito Smith and Brian Hill, but his saving grace will likely be that his 1.75 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns so far are still top 12 among RBs.  He's been unlucky to score just once this year.