Free-agent recommendations refer to 12-team league formats, unless specifically stated. FAAB $ amounts are based on a $100 budget.
Fantasy football waiver wire targets
Priority Free Agent
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars
It wasn’t impressive from a volume perspective, but Minshew’s Week 1 surgical dissection of the Indianapolis Colts deserves attention. The second-year mustachioed ‘slinger completed 19 of his 20 throws for only 173 yards but three touchdown strikes. Running back James Robinson offered just enough life to keep the Colts honest, and Minshew’s cast of receiving targets are more than capable of getting the job done. In Week 2, a trip to Tennessee probably won’t go over so well, but then he has Miami, Cincinnati, Houston and Detroit leading into the bye week. If Minshew struggles in any of those Week 3-6 outings, we’ve seen enough to know he can be cast aside.
1-week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants
Should the Giants stifle Ben Roethlisberger, consider this recommendation null and void. Trubisky was far from perfect vs. the Detroit Lions, and it is fair to say Detroit helped him throw three touchdowns, but a favorable matchup means Trubisky shouldn’t be outright ignored. The Giants brought in James Bradberry from Carolina at cornerback last year, and while adding Logan Ryan will help, he still joined the team late in the offseason. The Bears have a pair of quality wideouts, and we saw flashes of Jimmy Graham rising from the fantasy dead in Week 1. Expect Trubisky — whose job is absolutely on the line from week to week — play like he has nothing to lose. Should he play well, entertain keeping him around … the upcoming schedule is a delight.
Priority Free Agent
Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams
The veteran back gives a well-rounded element to an offense orchestrated on the play-action guessing game. Not only is Brown a talented runner when the end zone is in sniffing distance, he’s a steady receiving outlet for Jared Goff. Rookie Cam Akers was given 14 carries and a receiving target in his NFL debut, and he was just okay, but Brown’s 18-79-2 line on the ground, plus 3-31-0 in the aerial game, gives fantasy gamers hopes of a dangerous one-two punch each week. That also brings some guesswork into play, and there will be weeks, especially as 2020 rolls along, in which the Rams are not married to Brown as the lead back. When Akers is finally up to speed, he could extract a larger share of touches from the offense. Until then, Brown is a weekly fantasy start when the matchup is even at least decent.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
In most competitive leagues, Hines was a late-round pick. The loss of Marlon Mack (Achilles) for the remainder of the year solidifies a weekly role for Hines in concert with the primary workload for rookie Jonathan Taylor. The second-rounder was targeted six times in his NFL debut to Hines’ eight. Look for that role to typically favor Hines in a more dramatic ratio. While rushing success won’t necessarily be his thing on a weekly basis, Hines is a PPR No. 2 or flex back the rest of the way.
Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler had seven more carries than the rookie’s 12, but Kelley was slightly more efficient (60 yards on the ground) and offers something around the goal line that the veteran doesn’t consistently bring to the table. Running back Justin Jackson (quad) suffered yet another injury (entered with a hamstring issue) and may have lost any opportunity to entrench himself as the No. 2 back, which is a weekly flex option in this offensive design.
UPDATE — Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers
James Conner’s ankle sprain is said to be minor, but there’s no reason Snell shouldn’t be added in all formats. It’s unclear how long Conner will miss, if at all, but he is quickly proving to be fragile. The Steelers have a smash-mouth, Pittsburgh-style running back in Snell, who amassed 113 rushing yards on 19 carries with Conner on the sideline. The second-year Kentucky product is not a receiving threat, but he’s built to carry the rock 30 times, if needed. If you’re thin at the position, don’t be afraid to spend up a few bucks on him. He could go for a huge sum to an owner enamored by the performance but not paying attention to Conner’s injury being mild. Gamers desperate for help could also look at Jaylen Samuels in PPR, but he’s barely on the radar, even without Conner in the lineup.
grab & stash
Peyton Barber, Washington Football Team
While it surely wasn’t pretty, Barber was effective enough in Week 1. Any back getting 17 carries belongs on a fantasy roster, and the two touchdowns show Washington’s likelihood to keep him in this role. Antonio Gibson (9-36-0, 2-8-0) should get more work overall as the season goes forward. After all, he is still a rookie who had to learn essentially a new position during a pandemic. Barber will present a weekly gamble for a touchdown, but when he doesn’t find paydirt, expect to be disappointed.
Frank Gore/Josh Adams, New York Jets
Meh. Don’t be excited to land either of these guys, especially Gore, but they have an opportunity to see enough action to matter with Le’Veon Bell battling a hamstring injury. It’s unclear how long Bell will miss, so don’t invest a great deal in either player. Early reports say a few weeks. Consider them interchangeable, and Adams may even have a little more value given his youth. The Jets aren’t a quality rushing offense, and defenses can key in on the backfield almost every play. Adams was on this roster last year and knows the system well enough. He had contributed 120 carries, 511 yards (4.3 YPC) and three scores to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 as a rookie, although the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is not much of a receiving option. This one is all about a warm body having an opportunity.
FAAB: $3-5 for each
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers
Six touches (eight utilizations), 44 yards and a score … not too bad for his first game back since Dec. 31, 2017. McKinnon should see more work as he becomes stronger, and it’s likely to come at the expense of Tevin Coleman. Don’t read too much into Coleman’s five total touches in this one, because he has a sickle-cell trait that probably wouldn’t have responded well to a heartier workload in the poor air conditions as California battles unprecedented wildfires. McKinnon has more appeal in PPR and going to be tough to play, but he belongs on rosters for now.
Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
It was the second-year back who led the way in touches for the Miami running back stable. Granted, Gaskin had only 13 utilizations, but he mustered a decent enough 66 yards of offense, including four catches. In seven appearances last year, the Washington rookie had run 36 times for 133 yards and a touchdown, chipping in 51 yards on seven grabs. He’s a compact 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, and it probably will be a headache deciding whether he’s worthy of a play most weeks. Nevertheless, given the volatility of running backs, he belongs in the conversation of a roster spot. Be prepared to move on quickly if we see a wild swing in the utilization figures over the next week or two, so keep your investment at a minimum.
J.D. McKissic, Washington Football Team
Keep an eye on him as the offense finds its way. He was targeted five times in the opener, but catching just one of them for a whole yard won’t draw much attention. Monitor McKissic’s involvement in the coming weeks if a PPR flex consideration is a need.
Priority Free Agent
Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
T.Y Hilton looked rusty, and Michael Pittman Jr. looked like a rookie. Campbell, however, was every bit of what pundits billed him to be when he came out of Ohio State in 2019’s draft. Finally healthy, the burner even displayed some traits of a possession weapon, landing six of his nine targets for 71 yards. The Colts lost running back Marlon Mack to injury over the weekend, and if the duo of Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines struggle some weeks, look for more passing than Frank Reich wants from Philip Rivers. Ahead, Minnesota and the New York Jets are coming to town — both have flimsy secondaries. Campbell faces only a handful of challenging matchups the rest of the way.
UPDATE — Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints
Initially, it looked like Michael Thomas’ high-ankle sprain wouldn’t cost him time, but he is now expected to miss several weeks and is a candidate for the new three-week version of injured reserve. My original reaction was “probably a game or two,” and even then, the interest in promoting Smith was lukewarm. In the event you need a wideout after losing, oh, say, Thomas, Smith is an acceptable add to a roster. Keep your expectations in check, unless he managed to make an unlikely leap over the abbreviated offseason program. In the next four weeks, the Saints face Las Vegas (great), Green Bay (good), Detroit (great), and the Chargers (reasonable). Saquon Barkley suffered the same injury last year and returned after three games. Four to six is usually the needed window.
grab & stash
Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars
Sure, his touchdown grab was a wide-open pitch-and-catch, but third-year receiver landing all five of his targets to lead the team in looks and yardage (only 47, but still) also deserve a mention. After facing a Tennessee secondary that is banged up and lost Logan Ryan in free agency, Miami, Cincinnati, Houston and Detroit are the Weeks 3-6 opponents before the bye. Cole probably doesn’t warrant a lineup spot vs. the Titans, but gamers with room should add him in case we’re seeing the start of a repeat of his rookie season (42-748-3).
Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons
Don’t ignore his nine targets, even if from a scenario when Atlanta effectively punted on the running game in effort to play catch-up football. Atlanta is poised to find itself in a similar situation with regularly. The defense isn’t overflowing with talent, and playing a base “big nickel” will make them highly susceptible play-action fakes. At any rate, Gage stands to benefit from the added scrutiny placed on Julio Jones and the departure of tight end Austin Hooper. Sure, Hayden Hurst figures to come into his own sooner than later, but we’re still looking at a chemistry/continuity situation. Gage played with Matt Ryan entering 2020, and Hurst is still feeling his way through the connection. Gage is a matchup option for PPR leagues that start at least three wideouts.
1-Week Plug & Play
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
The Lions entered Week 1 without cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, the 2020 No. 3 overall pick. The defense added safety Duron Harmon in the secondary — helpful, but not Aaron Rodgers-proof. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman both left with hamstring injuries in Week 1. Playing MVS in Week 2 requires a little fortitude, but it’s not without merit, specifically after he found the end zone vs. a similarly deficient Minnesota secondary. For gamers looking to swing for the fantasy fences, Valdes-Scantling is in an awesome boom-or-bust situation this upcoming week.
1-Week Plug & Play/grab & stash
Scott Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The smurfy wideout plays predominantly from the slot and had Tom Brady’s eye in Week 1 — shocker, right? Miller has respectable hands but also a limited track record. He’s in an offense loaded with individual talent, and Mike Evans being limited in the opener helped result in the six targets that headed Miller’s direction. The Bucs have a home date with the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, followed by a trip to the beaten-up Denver Broncos in Week 3. Give Miller that much runway on your roster before making a long-term determination.
Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
As long as Kenny Golladay (hamstring) is injured, Amendola is a lineup-worthy option. The Packers had little answer for Minnesota’s second-half passing game, and this defense’s weakness is stopping the run up the middle. The way Adrian Peterson galloped in Week 1 should improve Amendola’s chances of seeing a few play-action passes come his way. The long-range outlook isn’t ideal, though, but the journeyman could have PPR utility going into Detroit’s Week 5 bye.
Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets
Update: Mohamed Sanu was signed Tuesday, reuniting him with Kyle Shanahan. Given the poor situation facing the 49ers, expect the veteran to be thrown into the fire right away. He, like Bourne, is worthy of adding, but Sanu shouldn’t be started in Week 2. Bourne remains playable but his viability for Week 3 is now in doubt, despite the great matchup.
The Niners will be without Deebo Samuel (foot) at least through Week 3. The entire passing game for San Fran wasn’t clicking in Week 1’s loss to Arizona, but Bourne tied for the lead in targets (five) among 49ers receivers. He could make for a dirt-cheap lotto ticket vs. the New York Jets’ feeble secondary this week, and another potential matchup for deployment comes against the Giants a week later.
Priority Free Agent
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
He won’t be available in most competitive leagues, but it still warrants a look on your wire. Goedert should be a regular in an offense that consistently implements two-tight end route concepts. The wide receivers are less than 100 percent right now, and two of the top four are rookies, so there’s utility here regardless of him being a technical backup.
1-week plug & play/Grab & Stash
Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants
As mentioned in the Trubisky section above, Graham had a pulse in Week 1. He should have scored twice but was ruled down just shy of the goal line. That said, his role will be mostly limited to jump-ball situations and work in the red zone. The Giants improved, in theory, when it comes to covering the position, so consider Graham no better than a TD flier play in Week 2. Should he enjoy another quality game, look at him as a potential weekly consideration.
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
Blake Jarwin was on the verge of having a relevant fantasy season before being lost for the year to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. His replacement, the second-year Stanford product, brings similar skills to the field and could flash with the right matchup. Schultz should be on your watch list for the time being, because it looks like WR CeeDee Lamb and RB Ezekiel Elliott will have roles large enough to be detrimental to giving Schulz the benefit of the doubt.
Priority Free Agent
Michael Badgley, Los Angeles Chargers
Badgley has the chops to succeed in fantasy lineups, and the offense will struggle just enough to make him a consistently viable play. The Chargers afforded him four field goal tries in Week 1, and he came through on three of them. He has utility with any matchup that doesn’t look like a total cakewalk.
Joey Slye, Carolina Panthers
Slye was a fantasy asset at times in 2019 and returned to the conversation after Week 1’s three-FG display. He did miss an extra point, but so is life. The Carolina offense showed plenty of spunk and moved the ball effectively enough to suggest Slye will once again be in the lineup conversation more often than not.
Tyler Bass, Buffalo Bills
The rookie debut was on point for Bass, whose leg strength is in the upper tier of the NFL. And that’s even more important when considering where he plays half of his games. The Bills are good enough to move the ball consistently but not immune to struggling in the opponent’s territory with regularity. Wildly inaccurate throws by Josh Allen tend to do those sorts of things, but I digress. There will be hiccups from a rookie kicker, so take the bad with the good and accept he is in a strong situation for success.
1-Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles
Gone are the days of plugging LA’s defense into your lineup and expecting a strong output. The matchup is crucial, and facing Philly’s decimated offensive line should bump the Rams up the short list of Week 2 waiver plays. Aaron Donald is poised to destroy Carson Wentz in this one.
1-Week Plug & Play
Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Football Team
Yes, Washington upset Philadelphia in Week 1, but how much do you really trust Dwayne Haskins? Arizona has crazy speed and will be closer to coming into its own with every passing week. Haskins having to travel across the country to face a defense that racked up three sacks last week against a far better offensive line should make gamers excited for a bargain streaming option in the Red Birds.