We are just one week into the 2019 season and already a lonely fantasy football nation turns its lonely eyes to the Waiver Wire. Plenty of major injuries and some gruesome Week 1 performances have left fantasy owners scrambling to right the ship. It’s never too early to go into crisis mode, and here are some of the top players available in fantasy leagues that can help you stop the bleeding:
Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford is kind of like Philip Rivers. He’s going to put the ball in the air early and often, even with a talented running back in his huddle. And Stafford was at it again in Week 1, finishing fifth in passing attempts (45), third in yards (385) and third in TDs (3). Perhaps most important, no picks.
Case Keenum, Washington Redskins: The running game in Washington is messy, at best. So the passing volume is going to be there pretty much every week, and Keenum was both voluminous and effective, completing 30 of 44 attempts for 380 yards and three TDs. Voluminous + effective = fantasy gold.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton was supposed to be headed for the Pit of Misery without A.J. Green and having to face the Seawhawks in Seattle. But maybe the Curse of Marvin Lewis as been lifted. With Joe Mixon out early with an ankle injury, Dalton chucked the ball all over Pacific Northwest, completing 35 of 51 (!) passes for 418 yards and two scores. Holy Esiason, Batman! If that’s the new normal in Cincy, he needs to be owned.
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Could he be the next Tom Brady? A sixth-round pick who replaces the injured starter after a Week 1 injury? Well, Brady actually replaced Drew Bledsoe after a Week 2 injury in 2001, but work with me, people! Minshew didn’t seem fazed at all by the moment against the Chiefs on Sunday, completing 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two TDs. Now that he gets to work full-time with the first team in practice, there might be something worth investing in here.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: I know, I don’t trust him, either. But you really can’t argue with his performance against a (presumably) good Browns defense, completing 14 of 24 passes for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. If Mariota, who also rushed for 24 yards, is only going to throw the ball to his own team and his offensive line keeps him upright, he has a chance to be serviceable each week. And on some occasions, like Week 1, he can put up big numbers, especially when he runs.
Disclaimer: There is not a lot on the wire this week to get excited about. By and large, fantasy drafters did well to scoop up most of the relevant talent. But there are a few names to consider:
Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams: It’s hard to say what exactly is happening here with the Rams. Todd Gurley played, and showed some of the burst that made him a top fantasy asset the past two years, but Brown was the man on the goal line and finished with 11 carries to Gurley’s 14. And Brown got the touchdowns. If this is going to be how it is every week, Brown might actually be more valuable.
Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers: Tevin Coleman is going to miss multiple weeks, which gives Mostert plenty of chances to try and unseat Matt Brieda as the No. 1 back in this offense. Mostert has always been a tantalizing prospect, and he was solid on Sunday with 40 yards on nine carries.
Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots: He’s about as un-sexy as it gets, but the guy just keeps producing, and in a PPR league, he’s absolute gold. Burkhead was targeted by Tom Brady eight times Sunday night – the fifth-most targets for a running back in Week 1 — catching five of them for 41 yards. He also ran the ball eight times for 44 yards. Those receptions bump up his point total pretty impressively, and he’s figures to remain a vital cog in the machine here. Don’t sleep on Rex.
Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins: With Derrius Guice injured again, Adrian Peterson figures to be the starter, but whomever gets the nod, Thompson is going to be the third-down back and he’s going to get a ton of targets. Thompson was thrown to 10 times on Sunday, second-most in the league, and he caught seven for 68 yards. He only carried three times, but if he’s catching 5+ passes a game, he has solid value.
Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles: We said, the shelves are pretty empty at the running back store, so here we are. Sproles, despite being 56-years-old, looked pretty spry on Sunday, carrying nine times for 47 yards and catching three passes for 16. He’s clearly got a role in the offense, and it’s an offense that’s going to rack up yards and points, so there are certainly worse options.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets: As expected, Crowder was an absolute target monster on Sunday, getting a whopping 17 from Sam Darnold – four more than any other receiver in th league. Crowder converted them into 14 catches for 99 yards, so there’s even room for growth if he can find the end zone. Crowder’s binky status with Darnold figures to remain in place at least until Week 6, when tight end Chris Herndon returns from suspension, but you can get in on the lovefest now.
Marquis Brown, Baltimore Ravens: Hooray for Hollywood! Brown was electric in his debut on Sunday with the Ravens, catching 4 of 5 targets for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Now, admittedly, playing the Dolphins had something to do with it, but it’s pretty clear who Lamar Jackson’s favorite big-play target is going to be.
Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions: Kenny Golladay is the big-play threat in Detroit, but Amendola is the glue, garnering 13 targets and catching seven of them for 104 yards and a touchdown. Golladay had just nine targets, so Matt Stafford is fine to spread the wealth here and Amendola is as dependable as they come.
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals: It was hard to know what to expect from the Bengals passing game without A.J. Green and playing in Seattle, but Ross put all concerns to bed by catching 7 of 12 targets for 158 yards and a pair of TDs. Ross had one more target than expected No. 1 Tyler Boyd, so it’s clear Ross is going to be a big part of things going forward, perhaps even after Green returns.
D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars: Chark hauled in all four of his targets for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs for a top-10 fantasy performance on Sunday. Chark, who had just 174 yards total in his rookie season of 2018, caught passes of 65 and 39 yards from new starting QB Gardner Minshew. Not only did Chark have the best game of any pass-catcher on the Jaguars, including the immensely popular Dede Westbrook, but you can seamlessly substitute his name for “Baby Shark” and drive people insane signing it.
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders: The departure of both Antonio Brown and Jared Cook blew the doors wide open for Waller to become a major force in the Raiders’ passing attack, and it was there for all to see on Monday night as Waller hauled in 7 passes for 70 yards. His impressive showing validated all the encouraging talk about Waller in the preseason and this is arguably the only week his ownership will be below 80 percent this season. Get him now.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: He might not be good at saying, but Witten clearly still has the skills for doing. The grizzled veteran made the most of four targets against the Giants, catching three for 15 yards and a score. Dak Prescott has no problem looking for big No. 82 near the goal line, and getting 8 to 10 points every week is nothing to sneeze at.
Vernon Davis, Washington: There’s simply no telling if and when Jordan Reed will return to the lineup, and Davis appears up to the challenge, putting up a nice 4-59-1 line on seven targets against the Eagles. That’s a pretty sweet line in a PPR league.
C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals: With A.J. Green sidelined, others are going to have to step up for the Bengals in the passing game, and Uzomah did his part against the Seahawks with a 4-66 effort. The talent has always been there, but the results have been lacking. But maybe this is the year Uzomah finally puts it all together.
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams: In retrospect, Higbee only being owned by one percent of leagues is kind of ridiculous. Higbee came on strong for the Rams in the postseason and there really wasn’t any reason why that shouldn’t have continued. And, sure enough, it is continuing. Higbee had five targets on Sunday and caught four for 20 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Everett had one target. Higbee is always going to be one of Jared Goff’s favorite red zone targets and we’re all going to have to accept it.
Tennessee Titans: You have to take notice when a defense leads the league in sacks and interceptions for the week, no less on the road against the preseason darlings in the league. Malcolm Butler even provided the Titans with a pick-six as part of a 25-point effort, the second-highest of the weekend for a defense. It won’t be that good every week, but the pieces are in place for more strong performances going forward.
New York Jets: It might not translate into many wins, but this is a much better team all around than we’ve seen in many years in New Jersey. The Jets were all over the place statistically, with interceptions, fumble recoveries, a defensive score and a safety. They will be active, even if they only managed one sack. But the turnovers and opportunistic plays are just what we want in fantasy defenses
San Francisco 49ers: Even if you take away the two defensive scores, the 49ers were a top-5 defense on Sunday with three sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick. And they did have two defensive scores, making them the top-scoring defense in fantasy this weekend.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals held the Seahawks to 233 yards from scrimmage and sacked Russell Wilson four times. On the road. There’s clearly some potential here.