Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 4 and beyond


Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 4 and beyond

Don't do it. Don't fall into the trap.

Marcedes Lewis set the fantasy world on fire with three tuddies in London early Sunday morning before the Noon games even kicked off. 

It means next to nothing going forward.

Lewis was a complete nonfactor prior to that game, with zero catches on four targets in Weeks 1 and 2 combined. He is a not a big part of the Jaguars offense and until he proves he can approach those numbers again, Lewis does not need to be owned. 

The larger point is making sure you're not getting too caught up in one week of action. If you pick up a guy who's had an awesome stretch of games or one awesome game, that doesn't always translate to moving forward and obviously it's the future we're worried about with every fantasy transaction.

But even if Lewis isn't a legit option moving forward, there are plenty of guys who are worthy of your waiver claims this week:

1. Wendell Smallwood, RB, PHI

The hottest add this week, Smallwood figures to play a BIGwood (nailed it) role in the Eagles offense moving forward. Darren Sproles is done for the year and Smallwood played 57 percent of the snaps in Week 3 even with Sproles healthy to begin the contest. The Eagles did rediscover the fact they have LeGarrette Blount on the roster and he rushed for 67 yards and a TD, but Smallwood will be the receiving back and he also outperformed Blount on 12 carries (71 yards). He's the top back on the market (owned in only 2 percent of leagues) and could be a difference-maker moving forward.

2. Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG

The Giants offense is broke no more. Odell Beckham Jr. is back in a big way and while Brandon Marshall is starting to emerge on the opposite side of the field from OBJ, Shepard is proving there's room for him in this offense, too. Manning won't throw 47 times every week, but Marshall caught 8 balls on 11 targets (but for only 66 yards; 8.3 ypc) while Shepard hauled in 7 passes on 10 targets for 133 yards and a TD. That makes 22 targets in three games for Shepard plus two games with 7 catches. But keep in mind, he'll have those clunkers where he catches only 2 balls for 23 yards (like he did in Week 2).

3. D'Onta Foreman, RB, HOU

We keep saying it, but Foreman needs to be picked up in all leagues, not only 5 percent. He's emerging as an integral part of the Texans offense and rattled off 90 yards from scrimmage Sunday on 10 touches. Most of those came on receptions of 34 and 31 yards, but he's proven more effective and explosive than Lamar Miller this year and it may not be long until he's THE guy in Houston. 

4. Orleans Darkwa, RB, NYG

This comes with a huge caveat: Darkwa left Sunday's game with a back injury and his status moving forward is in question. But if he's deemed healthy, it's possible he takes the Giants backfield job and runs with it (pun intended). Paul Perkins has not impressed at all and before he left Sunday's game, Darkwa led the Giiants backfield with 33 total yards on 8 touches. It's clearly not a fantasy performance that jumps off the page, but eventually somebody's gotta take over that job and provide some value.

5. Geronimo Allison, WR, GB

Randall Cobb was out, so cue the Geronimo Allison hype train. The Illinois product didn't even play in Week 1 and corralled only 22 targets in 2016, his rookie year. But he broke out in a big way this past weekend, hauling in 6 of 8 targets for 122 yards, including a 72-yard play. Allison doesn't provide much value when Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams all play, but if you're really hurting for receivers, he could be a one-week filler if Cobb misses Week 4, too.

6. Robby Anderson, WR, NYJ

Jermaine Kearse was the most intriguing waiver add in the Jets offense last week, but he secured only 3 catches on 3 targets while Anderson stole the show with 95 yards and a TD on 6 targets (though only 3 catches). The Jets offense is a muddled mess in both real life and fantasy, so neither Kearse nor Anderson are exactly safe options, but in deep leagues or if you're desperate, both guys could be longshot plays capable of big games.

7. Taylor Gabriel, WR, ATL

Gabriel was a forgotten man in drafts this fall, but he turned in one of the best WR performances of Week 3 when he caught 5 balls for 79 yards and a tuddie. Remember, this is the guy who scored 7 TDs last season, all coming in a 7-week span toward the end of the fantasy season. He only had 6 targets in the breakout game and had just 7 coming into Week 3, but Gabriel is an intriguing boom-or-bust option and should be owned in more than 8 percent of leagues.

8. Ryan Griffin, TE, HOU + Vernon Davis, TE, WAS

Neither Griffin nor Davis would be worthy of owning if injuries were turned off like a real-life Madden game. But since Houston's C.J. Fiedorowicz is done for the year and Washington's Jordan Reed is currently banged up, both backup tight ends have become interesting fantasy options. They each scored a TD in Week 3 and could be fillers again moving forward if you're desperate (and if Reed sits once again).

9. Bruce Ellington, WR, HOU

It may surprise football fans, but Ellington is actually in his fourth NFL season after netting only 19 receptions in three years in San Francisco. But he looks like he is the No. 2 guy in Houston behind DeAndre Hopkins. Ellington netted 7 targets in Week 3, catching 4 of those for 59 yards and a TD. He likely won't become a difference-maker in fantasy, but you could do worse at the end of your bench than a guy who lines up opposite Hopkins and is on the field for almost every one of his team's offensive snaps.

10. Jamaal Charles, RB, DEN

He's starting to look like the Jamaal Charles of old. After racking up 56 rushing yards on 9 carries, the 30-year-old veteran now has a hearty 5.1 yards per carry average, which is not a far cry from his 5.4 career mark. Charles has had 10 touches in all three games this year and could carve out a bigger role for himself moving forward. After all, it's not like C.J. Anderson is running away with the job as bellcow back in Denver's backfield.

BONUS. Jake Elliott, K, PHI

No, you shouldn't use a waiver pick on a kicker, but Elliott set an Eagles franchise record Sunday and may be the next big kicker in the NFL. Not bad for a kid from Western Springs, Ill.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times


Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.