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)

Charles Leno says 'it's just gonna suck' without Kyle Long around

Charles Leno says 'it's just gonna suck' without Kyle Long around

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. has a fond place in his heart for right guard Kyle Long. He's probably not alone in the Bears locker room with his feelings for the seven-year pro and three-time Pro Bowler.

Since being selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, Long has ascended into a leadership role with the Bears both on and off the field. And while his play in recent seasons has been negatively impacted by a variety of injuries (Long's been limited to just 29 games over the last four years), he still offered an experienced voice in the huddle and an enforcer's mentality after the snap.

But we may have seen the last of Long in a Bears uniform after the team officially placed him on season-ending injured reserve Monday (hip). It was news that Leno struggled to embrace.

“It’s the tale of the league for you,” Leno said from Halas Hall. “He’s been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and that’s just how the league goes. You never know when that time is going to come. His happened so fast. So abrupt. It’s like, ‘Damn. He’s not going to be here.’ So it just sucks. That’s how I look at it — it’s just gonna suck.”

Long hasn't been great this season. His play was progressively getting worse, too. He has the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of any player on Chicago's offense (38.0) and played his worst two games of the year in Weeks 3 and 5 (he missed Week 4 with the hip injury).

It was time to shut him down. Maybe for good.

“This is his words — he said he’s a Bear for life,” Leno said of his conversation with Long. “[Those are] the words I remember him saying. That’s how he wanted to end things.”

That certainly doesn't sound like a player who expects to ever wear a Bears jersey again. It's a shame, but it's also the reality of professional football for an offensive lineman. No position absorbs as much wear and tear as the big uglies up front, and Long is a perfect example. He was once considered the most promising young interior offensive lineman in the NFL just a few years ago. Now, it's anyone's guess if he'll ever play another snap.

“When he was healthy and he was on, he was a dominant football player," Leno said. "I told him plenty of times, ‘Get back to that [2013, 2014, 2015] self.’ It just sucks because so many times he would try to get back to it and had to take a step back. When injuries compile, it’s just really [unfortunate].”

The Bears will look to fill Long's starting role with either Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen or rookie Alex Bars. And while one (or all) of them will provide an upgrade on the field, none will be able to replace Long's larger-than-life presence everywhere else.

The Bears are getting key contributors Bilal Nichols and Taylor Gabriel back sooner than later

USA Today

The Bears are getting key contributors Bilal Nichols and Taylor Gabriel back sooner than later

The Bears returned to Halas Hall with a flurry of injury updates, most notably involving Kyle Long and Mitch Trubisky

And while the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against New Orleans is still TBD, wide reciever Taylor Gabriel will be back out there. Gabriel technically announced his return via Instagram on Sunday night, but confirmed to reporters on Monday that he's been cleared to play. 

"It’s just good to be back, to be around the guys," he said. "To be on the sideline just watching what’s been going on, I’ve been hungry to get back on the field... I probably practiced the hardest I’ve ever practiced in my life. I just had fun, and am glad I’m back." 

Gabriel suffered a concussion in the second half of the Bears' win in D.C., and dealt with the lingering effects of it up until last week. 

"I just woke up and I felt like myself," he said. "It was just a blessing. You always hear about concussions and all the crazy things. The athletic trainer, they did a great job with the whole process. I’m glad that I’m back."

Gabriel was coming off the best game of his Bears tenure: a six-catch, 75 yard performance that included three first-half touchdowns. The third touchdown – a 36-yarder featuring a highlight-reel catch – showcased the type of wrinkle that the Trubisky-Gabriel connection can bring to the offense. 

"The one thing that Taylor brings is he has that one element of downfield speed that helps out," Matt Nagy said. "So you’re able to take the top off of some defenses with him. And then he’s one of those wide receivers for us, like Allen Robinson, he’s got experience. So there’s a calming in the huddle that you understand that he knows what to do versus certain coverages. He’s coming off a pretty good game in Washington, and unfortunately got hurt, but there’s a calming element to him and then being able to take the top off.”

The Bears also had good news regarding second-year defensive tackle Bilal Nichols. Nichols returned to practice for the first time since breaking his hand during the Week 2 win in Denver. It's especially good news considering the team expects to be without Akiem Hicks sidelined for the foreseeable future. 

"[I] felt good today," Nichols said. "Just trying to continue to keep moving in the right direction and we'll see where it goes." 

Nichols wouldn't commit to playing on Sunday, and plans to see how he feels after a full week of practice. Nagy indicated that, at this point in his recovery, it's more about getting back into playing shape. 

"He’s been out a couple weeks, so now it’s just the ability for him to show probably more conditioning than anything," he said. "He has that cast on him, but he has the fingers that he’s able to use. Again, if you’re able to be out there and you’re able to suit up and go out there, then to me, let’s go.”

If Nichols is able to play against New Orleans, he'll do so wearing a club for extra protection. This was the first hand injury he's ever suffered, and Nichols admitted that playing with the cast takes some getting used to. Leonard Floyd wore the same type of club during the first half of last season, and has talked with Nichols about how to deal with it. 

"He's giving me a lot of insight and what to expect," Nichols said. "And things that he did that helped him out a lot. You know, we'll see. I'm going to try some things out."