Fantasy Football: 11 waiver wire targets for Week 3 and beyond


Fantasy Football: 11 waiver wire targets for Week 3 and beyond

Well it appears we have another injury-riddled fantasy season on our hands this fall.

Studs like David Johnson and Greg Olsen are already down while Odell Beckham Jr. has missed a game and made almost no impact in the one contest he did appear in. Then on the other hand, Ezekiel Elliott has had hardly any positive effect on fantasy even though he's surprisingly been active for the first two weeks.

All told, it's a mess.

When three of the consensus Top 6 picks in a perfect, suspension-free world (Johnson, Elliott, Beckham) are struggling or injured to this magnitude, no doubt the waiver wire comes into play in a far more impactful way than usual at this time of year (aka, pre-Bye weeks).

Here are 11 guys to target entering Week 3 and beyond:

1. Chris Carson, RB, SEA

Carson may be the Tarik Cohen of Week 3, as a must-add pick of the week. (Note: If Cohen is somehow available in your league, make sure to rectify that immediately. Dude is a stud and a huge part of the Bears offense.) Carson is owned in less than 10 percent of ESPN leagues, but it appears all the hype he generated in preseason is legit. This is no Christine Michael/Robert Turbin situation in Seattle with guys who had a big preseason and failed to make a fantasy impact. Carson had 21 touches in the Seahawks' win over the Niners last week while Eddie Lacy was a healthy scratch and Thomas Rawls (5 carries) continues to nurse an injury. C.J. Prosise did not get a carry and looks to be a factor only in passing games. Carson — a 7th-round rookie — is the only Seattle back with his arrow pointing up and he could take the job and run with it — literally.

2. J.J. Nelson, WR, ARI

Most fantasy owners know who Nelson is and I would bet some have even owned him or thought about picking him up in the past. The third-year speedster is certainly worthy of a spot on your roster now, possibly even as a starter moving forward. With John Brown out in Week 2 and Larry Fitzgerald looking like Father Time is catching up to him, Nelson exploded for 5 catches on 7 targets and a TD. He has caught 10-of-13 targets this season with a TD in each game and has been the Cardinals' most worthwhile player in fantasy this season, to the surprise of everybody but maybe Nelson's mom. 

3. Coby Fleener, TE, NO

With Olsen going on IR with a broken foot, fantasy owners need to replace him STAT. Unless you had a backup tight end on your roster (which typically isn't the best strategy, you guys), Fleener should be available, as he's only owned in about 31 percent of ESPN leagues. He's scored a TD in back-to-back weeks and is a good bet to do so again in Week 3 given he scores basically every week the Saints are without Willie Snead (who's suspended until Week 4). But even when Snead returns, Fleener is clearly a factor in this Saints offense that will have to THROW every single week. I was apparently a year too soon on Fleener's big breakout.

4. Chris Thompson, RB, WAS

Thompson is owned in 70 percent of fantasy leagues, but that should be 100 percent, especially in PPR. He has 3 TDs this year and is a dynamic, consistent force in a Washington backfield that still has some question marks. His coach is talking about expanding his role, but be warned, Jay Gruden also said he doesn't want to give Thompson 20-25 carries a game because he's too small to take the beating.

5. Samaje Perine, RB, WAS

Owned in only 2 percent of leagues, Perine went from a goose egg in Week 1 to 22 touches in Week 2. The 4th-round rookie was expected to make an impact at some point this season, but after the first week of action, nobody thought it'd come to this level in Week 2. Rob Kelley still received 12 carries and averaged 6.5 yards per carry (compared to Perine's 3.2), so the situation is muddled right now. But Perine should be owned and stashed, at the very least.

6. Chris Johnson, RB, ARI

With David Johnson out, many turned to Kerwynn Williams immediately as a fill-in. But Williams was ineffective early in Week 2 and Chris Johnson — who was released by ARI before the season started and signed immediately after David's injury — took over and had 11 carries in Week 2. He's 31 and hasn't been a fantasy factor in two years, but Chris Johnson could be the Cardinals back worth owning in David Johnson's absence.

7. Rashard Higgins, WR, CLE

Higgins was a complete unknown to the fantasy world 72 hours ago. But after playing 54 of the Browns' 71 snaps in Week 2 and garnering 11 targets with 7 catches and 95 yards, the second-year receiver is one of the hottest adds on the waiver wire this week. Corey Coleman is likely headed to injured reserve for the second year in a row and Higgins is now listed as a starter in Cleveland and clearly has some rapport with DeShone Kizer. Higgins sure looks like the top Cleveland receiver to own right now. The best news? He's owned in just 0.4 percent of fantasy leagues. 

8. Marqise Lee, WR, JAC

Allen Robinson went down and Marqise Lee stepped up. Lee had 7 catches for 76 yards, corralling a team-high 12 targets. Allen Hurns had more yards (82) and scored but only had 7 targets. There's still much to be decided in the Jacksonville passing game, but Lee is the best bet to receive the top share of targets right now and he actually had 851 yards and 3 TDs last season, so he's already been a low-end fantasy factor for a little while now. 

9. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, NYJ

More Olsen insurance. ASJ returns from a two-game suspension this week and will immediately slot in as one of the only weapons on the Jets offense. He's still only 24 and has flashed enormous fantasy potential in the past. It's worth taking a chance if you're in desperate need for a TE.

10. Jermaine Kearse, WR, NYJ

Kearse's trade from Seattle to New York was one of the more under-the-radar moves of the preseason, but he's been a factor with the WR-thin Jets already  15 targets, 11 catches, 123 yards, 2 TDs in two games. Kearse could be a good target for those Jordy Nelson owners looking for a one- or two-week option or any fantasy team needing a low-risk long-term option.

11. D'Onta Foreman, RB, HOU

Let's end this week's waiver picks with a strictly long-term option on the market. Right now, Lamar Miller is the guy in Houston, but he's had 18 games in a row without much of an impact and all the whispers have turned into a roar suggesting the Texans need to make a RB change. It's looking like a near-certainty Foreman unseats Miller at some point this season and that point could even be in Week 3. The 235-pound rookie back only had one carry in Week 1 but had 12 carries in Week 2 and clearly ate into Miller's touches in a game Houston won, so consider it a harbinger of things to come. Scoop Foreman now with the possibility of him making an impact at some point this fantasy season, possibly as early as Week 3.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

The first thing you notice is some swagger, some chips on the shoulders of the newest Bears, and while that doesn’t win any games in-season, let alone in March, it’s something of a positive for a team that’d had a lot of its swagger pained out of it over the past two years in particular.

Receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and kicker Cody Parkey all said the requisite niceties and platitudes on Thursday, all about how much they like the coaches, the organization, all that stuff.

But I’ve seen free agents come and go since real free agency started in 1993. All levels of players coming through, and they all say right stuff. There was something else with this bunch, though, and it wasn’t always there in the past. (More on that in a second.)

So there was Gabriel mentioning how Mitch Trubisky had texted him after Gabriel had signed, and Gabriel first piping in with, “How’s your deep ball?” And Trubisky was right back at Gabriel, one of the fastest players in the NFL, with, “Are you still fast?”

Best guess — they’ll get along just fine.

Gabriel’s first comment on impressions of coach Matt Nagy? Not about his football knowledge, his enthusiasm. No, it was: “Smooth dude, man,” Gabriel said. “I like his swag a little bit.”

Robinson was described by former Jacksonville and current Bears teammate cornerback Prince Amukamara as “a nightmare” to play against because he let defensive guys, even his own, know when he’d had them for lunch. As far as now, a very high bar has been set: “I think for me as a player, it's not my job to make Mitch's job easier, it's to make his job easy.”

Two points on why this comes with a touch more relevance in the case of a Bears team coming off a fourth straight NFC North basement finish:

First, because of what developed on the other side of the football when the likes of Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee (describing his style of football as “violent”) and Danny Trevathan came in, even rookie safety Eddie Jackson last year. They brought in attitudes from not just winning organizations, but more important, championship organizations. And they were good enough to walk the walk, even as they struggled through injuries.

The result was that in less than three full seasons, the Bears were a Top 10 defense. Attitudes can be infectious, for good or bad, and the right attitude with the right players made the defense a force, even with its injuries.

What the Bears secured in their first wave of free agents was five players all involved in points production — two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a backup quarterback, whose two mission statements consist of being ready to play winning football if he’s needed and also to be a foundation pillar for the starter, in this case Trubisky.

What makes this a speck more interesting is that Trubisky will be the biggest factor in formation of the 2018-and-beyond Bears, and it was Trubisky whom Leonard Floyd and his defensive mates dubbed “Pretty Boy Assassin” last year because of Trubisky’s give-some-smack attitude anytime he lit up the No. 1 defense just running scout-team plays.

The second observation is that this wasn’t the case last year with Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and certainly not Mike Glennon, last year’s main free agency additions. Some of that’s obviously personality; Glennon and those guys are simply not swagger-smack kinds of guys, and that’s OK, as long as they play with attitude.

Last year’s group, just to use them as a case in point, came from decent programs. But the current top Bears additions include Super Bowl winners (Burton, Daniel as Drew Brees’ backup), a Super Bowl loser (Gabriel, painfully in the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse vs. New England) and a top wideout who had his dream derailed by injury and missed out on his team’s drive to within 2 minutes 48 seconds of a Super Bowl (Robinson).

And while Nagy and the organization are probably wise to counsel patience in the Bears’ recovery climb, the players aren’t seeing it that way.

“You can never underestimate how important youth is and guys who are willing to learn and willing to get better, but then also you look at the city,” Burton said. “They want another championship. They want to win. They want to be winners. You look at the other sports, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Cubs just won a couple years ago.

“The city's ready for another championship and like I said, they have a great quarterback, young quarterback, and an unbelievable head coach. They're aggressive and they're ready to win right now.”