Bears

Fantasy Football: Eight waiver wire pickups for Week 5

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Fantasy Football: Eight waiver wire pickups for Week 5

Every football season, Fantasy Football owners deal with players getting hurt. It's part of the game.

But all football owners might be on the injury report this week with an eye injury after witnessing this on Sunday Night Football.

There are two concerns with this: Why is he showing off his belly at the game? And (maybe more importantly) why did he do it when his team (Saints) were kicking what would've been the game-winning field goal?

So many questions and not enough answers.

[MORE: Get the latest Fantasy Football coverage here]

Anyway, let's move on to this week's waiver wire gets to help you battle through some bye weeks. 

1. Tavon Austin, WR, STL

Was Week 4 finally (FINALLY!!) Tavon Austin's breakout game in the NFL? I've liked this guy since the Rams made him the eighth overall pick in 2013, but he's failed to live up to any sort of threat as a receiver. His game-breaking speed helps out in the return game (three punt TDs, including one already this season) and ground game (four rushing TDs, including one this year). His six-catch, 96-yard, 2-tuddie game in Week 4 was fantastic, but amazingly enough, it was only his second career game with more than 47 receiving yards. Last season, he did not break the 35-yard threshold in any game. Temper your expectations, but Austin has the talent to be a valubale fantasy asset and he's absolutely worth owning for right now, just maybe don't start him yet until he proves it. (Tony Andracki)

2. Leonard Hankerson, WR, ATL

We finally found the No. 2 target in Atlanta and it's not Roddy White (anyone know where he is?). It's Hankerson and he's now worth owning. A strong Week 4 performance should preview what will be a productive rest of the season for Hankerson. The Falcons offense is #FireEmoji right now and it hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. With defenders gravitating towards Julio Jones on every snap, Hankerson should get a lot of 1-on-1 looks and Ryan will find him. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

3. Duke Johnson, RB, CLE

It's gotten to that point of the season where everyone is getting desperate to find running backs. Bye weeks certainly a factor in that but also some guys just aren't effective. Everyone in Cleveland wanted Johnson to be "the guy" and it looks like the light may have finally turned on for the rookie. He wasn't quite as dangerous rushing but he was very productive in the passing game. He is a great add for PPR leagues and he should look to get more carries going forward in the Browns offense. (Paschall)

4. Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN

This one will sting for CJ Anderson owners. Hillman looks to be the better and more effective runner so far in the Broncos offense. Gary Kubiak won't avoid the run and with Peyton Manning's arm still a major concern and winter coming (God, I miss Game of Thrones), Hillman will get the rock more. The balance of power in the Broncos backfield looks to be shifting towards Hillman. (Paschall)

5. Kamar Aiken, WR, BAL

Not even the offensive guru Marc Trestman can make this Ravens offense better. It's tough to watch at times, although Justin Forsett's Thursday night game was pretty great. But with Steve Smith out, who will Joe Flacco throw the ball to? Aiken seems to be that guy by process of elimination. Going against the Browns, Aiken may be a decent emergency FLEX play. (Paschall)

6. Gary Barnidge, TE, CLE

Who is this guy? The Raiders defense allowed us to finally learn his name and the Josh McCown-Barnidge connection (never thought I'd write that in a million years) stayed hot in San Diego. The Ravens defense has been surprisingly awful and McCown is hot right now. He's not a bad backup tight end or emergency start this week. (Paschall)

7. Ted Ginn Jr, WR, CAR

Ginn isn't going to win you any PPR leagues, but he's far and away the only receiver worth owning in Carolina right now. Ginn is coming off a two-tuddie game (albeit with only 2 catches and 18 yards total) and is catching less than half of his targets on the season, but his 25 targets are almost double the next Panthers receiver (Devin Funchess with 13) and Ginn is always a threat to break off a big play with his speed. (Andracki)

8. Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN

Deep sleeper alert! I love dropping these at the end of our waiver wire posts. But seriously, Diggs might be what we thought Charles Johnson might be. I know it's only one game, but Teddy Bridgewater went to him often and was successful. He will probably receive more playing time going forward but is still a major boom-or-bust pickup. But when Diggs starts doing well, remember where the hype train started. (Paschall)

 

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.