Fantasy Football: 12 waiver wire targets for Week 3


Fantasy Football: 12 waiver wire targets for Week 3

We haven't even kicked off Week 3 of the NFL season and there's already been a full year's worth of surprises.

You don't have to look any further than survivor pools for proof. There have been so many upsets that some survivor pools are already over and others are not far behind.

There has been no shortage of shocks in the fantasy world, either.

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Between huge injuries to key players (Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Eddie Lacy, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Witten, Mike Evans) and ineffectiveness from top picks (DeMarco Murray, C.J. Anderson, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Andrew Luck, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller, Melvin Gordon, Jimmy Graham, Frank Gore), it seems as if no team can escape a bout of bad luck right now.

Things will start to even out, of course. They always do.

But two weeks into the season, the waiver wire starts to become an important aspect to any team's success. You need to pick up guys to absorb the loss of key players and to possibly plug in for those disappointing "stars."

We've got 10 guys you should target on your waiver wire this week:

1. Matt Jones, RB, WSH  

Jones is owned in less than 17 percent of ESPN leagues, but that number will obviously jump up after his 123-yard, two-tuddie performance against the Rams in Week 2. I've been all about Jones since the preseason (I still believe he will end up outperforming Alfred Morris) and he has another very good matchup against the Giants this week. He's a rookie, so expect some inconsistency, but you can easily make the case for Jones to be the No. 1 pickup this week. (Tony Andracki)

2. David Johnson, RB, ARI

He's scored a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the first two weeks of his NFL career. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said he wants to get him the ball more. That backfield is wide open with Andre Ellington hurt and Chris Johnson being...well...Chris Johnson. The younger Johnson is a great pick up this week. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

3. Dion Lewis, RB, NE

Lewis lost a fumble to the Bills but still didn't find himself in Bill Belichick's doghouse. That should tell you all you need to know about how the Patriots and Belichick view Lewis. LeGarrette Blount returned from suspsension and received just two carries while Lewis had seven carries and nine targets. Of course, there is plenty of concern about consistency given Belichick's history of utilizing RBs, but Lewis is a must-own right now, especially in PPR leagues. (Andracki)

4. Derek Carr, QB, OAK

I'm not a big believer in Carr in actual football, but in fantasy he's starting to look like a pretty good option. The Raiders offense flashed some real potential against the Ravens defense on Sunday and Carr was the main factor in their explosion. He's got two great weapons to throw to in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. If you were a Tony Romo or Jay Cutler owner, Carr is your guy to go after on the waiver wire. (Professor)

5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN

With all the QBs going down, Bridgewater is a perfect guy to go out and claim as at least a temporary fill-in. I think he can be even more, though. Many expected Bridgewater to take a big leap forward in his second NFL season and he disappointed in Week 1. But he turned things around against the Lions last week, going 14-for-18 with 153 passing yards and a tuddie through the air plus 21 rushing yards and a tuddie on the ground. You're going to want to sit him Week 4 against the Broncos and he has a Bye Week 5, but other than that, Bridgewater has solid matchups all the way through Week 12, which should help absorb the loss of Romo or Brees. (Andracki)

6. Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN

How is he owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues? For two straight games, Hillman has been the most productive back on the Broncos, even though he has just seven fantasy points total in PPR leagues. C.J. Anderson looks rough right now and the Broncos will get the running game going. Plus, Hillman has a nice matchup against the Lions this week. Go get him. (Andracki)

7. Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK

Shoutout to CSN Bay Area Raiders Insider Scott Bair for calling this one before the season. Crabtree was a target monster on Sunday with Derek Carr in the game and performed extremely well. Crabtree is out to prove he's healthy and worthy of a new contract next year and that's always something that helps motivate a player. If you're desperate for a receiver, he's a nice get. (Professor)

[MORE: Fantasy Football: 11 waiver wire targets for Week 2]

8. James Starks, RB, GB

Perhaps this is our fault - the experts' - but Starks as a handcuff for a bruising running back like Eddie Lacy makes too much sense. True, Lacy has missed just one game in his 2+ seasons in the NFL, but he was bound to get dinged up at some point, which he did Sunday night against the Seahawks. Starks responded with 20 rushes for 95 yards and four receptions. He did fumble, but the takeaway here is that Starks, much like a Ryan Mathews, becomes a top-5 back if his starter goes down. Lacy may miss Monday night's tilt against the Chiefs, making him a surefire pick-up. And even when Lacy is back, Starks deserves to be owned in more than 8.7 percent of leagues. If you've got a spot to fill, grab him. (Mark Strotman)

9. Tyrod Taylor, QB, BUF

Taylor looked solid in Week 1, but he exploded on the fantasy scene in Week 2 with 242 passing yards, three passing tuddies, 43 rushing yards and a rushing tuddie. He did throw three picks and fumbled twice (though didn't lose either), but it was against a Patriots defense that has historically shut down inexperienced QBs like Taylor. His fantasy production on the ground is an added bonus but he's proving to be a capable passer and is a very solid injury fill-in or matchup play. (Andracki)

10. Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE

Holy crap. A Browns player worth owning in fantasy? Well, sort of. Benjamin has been an electric playmaker for the Browns in Week 1 and especially Week 2. If you were to name the Browns top WR at the moment, it'd be Benjamin. It's hard to put trust into the Browns offense but he's clearly got something going with Johnny Football, who should probably (hopefully) start next week. (Professor)

11. Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA

I got to witness firsthand Sunday night Doug Baldwin's improved play in Year 5. He was Russell Wilson's go-to target, racking up a team-high eight targets (catching 7 for 92 yards and a touchdown) while Green Bay limited Jimmy Graham to one catch on two targets. Quietly, Baldwin now has 14 receptions on 17 targets this season. Graham is far from a bust in Seattle, and Jermaine Kearse is still lurking, but Baldwin has been fantastic through two weeks and should be on your radar. Especially with a date against the Bears looming in Week 3. I'd consider him a solid add and start in 12-team leagues this week. (Strotman)

12. Rishard Matthews, WR, MIA

Deep waiver wire pickup alert. Tannehill has frustrated me like crazy the first two weeks. He put up great numbers on Sunday but outside of Jarvis Landry, there were some odd names at the top of the receiving list: Rishard Matthews led the team in receiving and Damien Williams and Jake Stoneburner caught the only two touchdowns. That's frustrating for owners who had guys like DeVante Parker or Kenny Stills. Matthews might be the play now with the Dolphins, although I'm still not high on that unit at all. (Professor)

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?


Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

With the Bears releasing Josh Sitton and having the option to franchise Kyle Fuller, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at two of the first big decisions for Ryan Pace’s offseason plan.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.