For the second straight week, a significant injury at the quarterback position will send some in the fantasy community scrambling to the waiver wire. This week, it’s Ben Roethlisberger’s knee that has his owners desperate for help. More likely than not, those of you in one-quarterback leagues who just lost Roethlisberger for the next four-to-six weeks will want to fill that void on the wire. If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that you can play the matchup game at quarterback. You’re better off giving up the last player on your roster for a good waiver QB, rather than using a real asset to trade for one.
Who might that quarterback be? One particular option, who has been extremely productive over the last two weeks, jumps off the page for the Week 4 Waiver Wire.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
Carr has put together consecutive strong performances, going north of 300 yards in wins over the Ravens and Browns while throwing a total of five touchdowns against just one interception. With Amari Cooper out wide and Latavius Murray in the backfield, it appears the Raiders have some real weapons around Carr in his second season. The Ravens and Browns don’t feature lights-out defenses, but they aren’t doormats either, and Carr made both of them look bad. What he has done the last two weeks has placed him in that high-end QB2 class that can produce a handful of starters every week, depending on matchup and roster construction. Carr should be an attractive player on the waiver wire for those of you who lost Ben Roethlisberger or Tony Romo.
Michael Vick, QB, Steelers
Vick takes over as the starting quarterback in Pittsburgh for the next four-to-six weeks while Ben Roethlisberger is on the shelf with a sprained knee. We saw enough from Vick while he was with the Jets last year to know that he’s nowhere near a reliable fantasy option, even with the weapons he has at his disposal in Pittsburgh. Having said that, he’s worth throwing a few bucks at in your round of bidding this week. He’s a obvious target in two-quarterback leagues, but even in the traditional one-quarterback format there’s a spot for him on a roster. He can’t be counted on as a regular starter, but if he throws the ball well in the Steelers' Week 4 Thursday night matchup with the Ravens, he might turn into a matchup play while he’s the starter. Todd Haley’s not going to change his stripes at all. This will still be an aggressive offense.
Karlos Williams, RB, Bills
Williams is still available in about three-quarters of all fantasy leagues, but that is almost certain to change after his third consecutive strong per-touch outing. The rookie had his best, most active game of the season, riding 12 carries to 110 yards and his third touchdown in as many games. Williams is the only running back in the league to score in all three weeks (pending Jamaal Charles’ outcome against the Packers), and could be in for an even larger role next week. LeSean McCoy got just 11 carries, and spent much of the game on the sideline because of his ailing hamstring. Rex Ryan said after the game that McCoy is nowhere near 100%, and there is some belief that he might need to sit for a game or two before he’s all the way back. Williams has already worked into the low-end flex discussion. If McCoy is indeed out, he’d be an easy RB2.
Lance Dunbar, RB, Cowboys
This one is mainly for those of you in full PPR leagues, where Dunbar can really shine. The third running back in Dallas has just two carries this year. He also has 21 receptions, which has him tied for 13th in the league, ahead of Calvin Johnson, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green. His 23 targets are the most for any running back, tied for 29th regardless of position. Dunbar is going to be a fixture of the Dallas passing game this year, and that makes him an attractive player in full PPR leagues. Those targets don’t turn into fantasy points consistently enough to consider him in leagues that don’t award a full point for every reception, but there’s little doubt that he’s one of the top two or three weapons in the passing game. With the bye-week portion of the schedule beginning this week, Dunbar can provide some necessary depth at the position.
Alfred Blue, RB, Texans
This is a short-term recommendation, with Arian Foster expected to return from his groin injury in the next few weeks. After getting a total of 14 carries in Houston’s first two games this season, Blue toted the rock 31 times against Tampa Bay, racking up 139 yards and a touchdown. If the Texans are going to feature one back before Foster returns, Blue will be that guy, and that could result in another big game in Week 4. The Texans travel to Atlanta to take on a Falcons defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Last week, the three-headed Cowboys backfield combined for 123 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and 12 catches for 118 yards. After that, they get the Colts and Jaguars, both of which are in the top 10 in points allowed to backs.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
Rawls is garnering some attention on the waiver wire this week, and rightfully so. He stepped in for a hobbled Marshawn Lynch last week and ran for 104 yards on 16 carries against the Bears. Still, let’s go into this with eyes wide open. The Seahawks didn’t need Lynch to beat this Bears team. When the slightest hint of trouble regarding Lynch’s hamstring popped up, the team was smart to keep him on the sidelines. Rawls may not have another game this season with even 10 carries, let alone 16. What’s clear, however, is that he, and not Fred Jackson, is Lynch’s primary backup. If you’re a Lynch owner, you’ll want to make Rawls a priority this week, just to protect your investment. If you’re not, you can throw a few bucks, but no more, at him.
Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals
As the foremost supporter of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, I would like to welcome all of you to the bandwagon. It sure was empty around here three weeks ago. It was pretty much just me, Dalton’s family members, and the most sanguine of Cincinnati fans. Now we’re packed on here like the Clampetts. That’s fitting, given that Jones, the subject of this waiver recommendation, hails from Los Angeles. In Week 1, Jones’ first game in more than a year, he had two catches on just three targets. He was a little more involved the following week, hauling in two of his five targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. He came all the way back last week, grabbing five Dalton passes for 94 yards and another score. Remember, he had 10 touchdowns in 2013, and while his touchdown rate that season was unsustainable, the fact remains that he is a dangerous receiver playing in what could very well be one of the best offenses in the league. Jones looks like, at worst, a WR3 for the rest of the year.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Dolphins
With a couple of big performances in his game log over the last two weeks, it’s time to take Matthews seriously as a fantasy receiver. You’ll recall that he had a fling with fantasy relevance back in 2013 when he put up a two-touchdown game against the Buccaneers, but it didn’t have any lasting power. Now that he has turned into one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite receivers, however, he should be considered in all formats. Matthews has played in 68% of the team’s snaps, more than every Miami receiver not named Jarvis Landry. He also has become the team’s best deep threat, catching three of his five deep targets for 115 yards and two touchdowns. His value could recede as a certain rookie, who we’ll touch on to put a bow on this week’s column, continues to round into form, but for the time being Matthews has a bankable role in the Miami offense.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
Last year at right about this time, the 12th overall pick in the draft was finally getting close to make his NFL debut for the New York Giants. He would eventually miss his team’s Week 4 game because of a hamstring injury that slowed him throughout the preseason and lingered into the regular season, but he made it onto the field the following week. From that point forward, there was a new man in the elite receiver club. Odell Beckham Jr. flew under the draft radar because of his injury last year, but all that did was turn him into the sort of player that wins leagues. Could DeVante Parker, who the Dolphins grabbed with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, follow that same script? There’s no doubt that Parker was one of the most talented receivers in the draft, and he likely would have gone even higher if not for a foot injury he suffered during his senior season at Louisville. The plan all along has been to ease him in, and we saw the first real signs of him being ready to take on a larger role last week. He played one snap in Week 1 and 17 in Week 2. In last week’s loss to the Bills, Parker was on the field for 42 of Miami’s plays. You won’t be able to get him cheaply for too much longer.
Photos: Jason Miller/Getty Images (Carr), Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images (Williams), Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images (Blue), Patrick Smith/Getty Images (Matthews)