Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we’ll list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo! leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on the near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.
Waiver-wire anglers won’t find the RB pond as well-stocked as it was just a few weeks ago, but the fish are really jumping in the WR estuary. And in nearly two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, there’s a trophy-sized catch making himself comfortable in the waters of Pittsburgh. Read on.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (18% owned)
Yeah, I get it: Owning Smith is about as exciting as attending a dentist convention. Check out his upcoming schedule, though: at Oakland, home vs. New Orleans, at Indianapolis, home vs. Jacksonville, at Carolina, home vs. Tampa Bay. That slate is softer than freshly whipped meringue. It doesn’t matter if you hate his mincing style of play; Smith nonetheless has a sunny near-term outlook.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: A | OVERALL: B+)
Brian Hoyer, Chicago Bears (18% owned)
Bears management seems to like Jay Cutler even less than you do, so Hoyer could hold the Bears’ QB gig for the rest of the season. He’s a mediocre quarterback, and his supporting cast is “meh” at best, but Hoyer lit up the Colts for 397 yards and two TDs Sunday and has exceeded 300 passing yards in three straight games. He gets the Jaguars and Packers over the next two weeks—both streaming-friendly matchups.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: C+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (47% owned)
Mariota had an efficient, low-yardage performance in the Titans’ “exotic smashmouth” offense Sunday in Miami, completing 20 of 29 passes for 163 yards with three TDs passes and no INTs. He added considerable fantasy value with his legs, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown. The conservative nature of the Tennessee offense and a dearth of playmaking pass catchers lowers the ceiling on Mariota’s weekly value. On the other hand, Mariota is about to start a three-game run that includes manageable matchups against the Browns, Colts and Jaguars.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (38% owned)
Flacco is chucking it like crazy, averaging 43.2 pass attempts per game, but he’s averaging a laughable 5.94 yards per attempt and has thrown only five TD passes in five games. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman after Sunday’s loss to Washington, and perhaps his replacement, Marty Mornhinweg, will be able to restore a downfield dimension to the Baltimore passing game.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B-)
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (13% owned)
After missing Week 5 with a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder, Siemian is tentatively expected back for Thursday night’s game against the Chargers. Siemian has vastly exceeded expectations so far. He’s completing 67% of his throws and averaging 8.16 yards per pass attempt, and he’s thrown six TD passes vs. three interceptions. Siemian will play two of his next three games against the Jason Verrett-less Chargers and is a decent streaming option in both contests, less so against the Texans in Week 7.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
Roll your eyes if you must, but Brock Osweiler is a viable streaming option this week in a favorable home matchup against the Colts. The Jets’ pass-heaviness gives Ryan Fitzpatrick some low-level appeal, but that appeal wanes with a matchup as troublesome as the one Fitz faces this week in Arizona. Ryan Tannehill looks lost, and you’d have to be desperate to stream him this week against the Steelers. Regardless of how you feel about his National Anthem habits, it’s hard to gin up much enthusiasm for Colin Kaepernick as a fantasy prospect considering that he played poorly enough in training camp and the preseason to lose a positional battle with Blaine Gabbert. Cody Kessler is expected to play against the Titans this week despite having his ribs rattled by the Patriots in Week 5 and would be a last-resort streamer play.
Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars (48% owned)
This dude’s fantasy stock has really taken a nose dive. A popular target in this year’s fantasy drafts, Ivory missed the first two games of the season due to a mysterious non-football injury, then averaged 2.2 yards per carry in his first two games back. Some people figured Ivory would own a bigger share of the Jacksonville RB workload than T.J. Yeldon, but Ivory has played 36% of the snaps in his first two games back. That figure could creep up closer to 50%, and Ivory can still offer value in standard leagues. It’s certainly possible that he wasn’t fully fit upon his return from illness, and perhaps the bye week bought him some time for conditioning. His name is no longer in klieg lights, but Ivory certainly has a chance to re-emerge as a cherished fantasy asset.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B+)
Dion Lewis and James White, New England Patriots (19% and 46% owned)
The return of Tom Brady would seem to bolster the value of White, who had four catches for 63 yards Sunday in Brady’s first game back from suspension, along with 26 rushing yards. But White’s value, greater in PPR leagues than in standard formats, figures to eventually wane with the return of Lewis, who’s still recovering from a torn ACL. Lewis is eligible to return to practice Oct. 18, but his outlook is remains murky after cleanup surgery on his knee. It’s easy to say “stash him,” but roster spots are precious, particularly during the bye weeks. A reasonably healthy Lewis could certainly provide major help in PPR leagues and would at least be worthy of flex consideration in standard leagues. But LeGarrette Blount’s role as the Patriots’ primary runner is secure, which relegates Lewis to a somewhat limited role upon his return. Bid up to 20% or 25% in PPR leagues; don’t go beyond 15% of budget in standard leagues. White is worth up to 15% of your budget if you need immediate help in a PPR league.
(Lewis: Talent: A | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B+)
(White: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (38% owned)
After missing the first four games of the season with a torn MCL, Dixon made a lackluster debut, playing with a knee brace and rushing three times for a loss of one yard and catching one pass for six yards. With Terrance West turning in a second consecutive good day, Dixon will be practically free this week in leagues where he remains unclaimed. I’ve been pushing him for weeks now, and suddenly it looks as if I was trying to peddle you a junk bond. But I continue to believe that Dixon will play a prominent role in the Baltimore offense before long. Place a small bid now and thank me (or curse me) later.
(Dixon: Talent: B | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
Dwayne Washington, Detroit Lions (14% owned)
Washington is the Lions’ only hope of having any semblance of a running game. He missed Week 5 with an ankle injury but could be back this week. A modest investment could produce reasonable returns in standard-scoring leagues.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins (33% owned)
Clearly the only Dolphins running back worth owning other than Arian Foster, Ajayi had 13-42-1 rushing in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. Foster is expected back soon from what’s been alternately reported as a groin and a hamstring injury. If Foster isn’t ready to come back this week, Ajayi offers low-end RB2 value in a matchup against the Steelers. If Foster is back, Ajayi won’t be usable.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C)
Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders (21% owned)
DeAndre Washington is 59% owned in Yahoo leagues, but Richard, the other backup to Raiders starter Latavius Murray, is still widely available. With Murray out with a foot injury on Sunday, Richard did more damage than Washington, providing 8-31-0 rushing and 6-66-0 receiving. Richard is an intriguing little dynamo, but Murray’s return will make for a crowded house. Still, Richard is worth stashing if you have the roster space.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)
Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) is nearing a return, but if he misses another week, fantasy owners who are hamstrung (ahem) at running back might want to consider grabbing Cameron Artis-Payne for a nice matchup against the Saints, and Fozzy Whittaker continues to hold a wee bit of fantasy value as Carolina’s passing-down back. The presence of Matt Forte limits the value of Bilal Powell, but Powell should at least be owned in PPR leagues of 12 teams or more. C.J. Anderson owners might want to grab backup Devontae Booker, who got quite a bit of work on Sunday and totaled 59 yards from scrimmage. Matt Asiata is on bye this week and is effectively the No. 2 back in Minnesota behind Jerrick McKinnon, but he’s a weekly threat to score touchdowns. Orleans Darkwa will take a substantial value hit if Rashad Jennings returns to action this week, but Bobby Rainey will maintain a degree of PPR value as the Giants’ primary passing-down back. Chris Thompson isn’t getting consistent work for Washington, but he’s scored two touchdowns, and his pass-catching ability gives him PPR depth value. With Chris Johnson on injured reserve, Andre Ellington makes a logical handcuff for Chris Johnson owners in leagues with deep rosters. James Starks will be a popular waiver addition this week if the ankle injury that Eddie Lacy sustained on Sunday threatens to keep him out of the Packers’ Week 6 game against the Cowboys.
Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers (35% owned)
This figures to be Coates’ final appearance in this column after his 6-139-2 detonation in the Steelers’ Week 5 win over the Jets, which will have waiver wire shoppers in a feeding frenzy. Coates really should have had four touchdowns Sunday but dropped a couple of easy ones. And so it is with Coates: His hands are erratic, but his physical gifts—size, speed and body control—are prodigious. Coates has had six receptions in each of his last two games, with eight targets in Week 4 and 11 targets in Week 5. He’s settling nicely into the role previously filled by Martavis Bryant, and Coates has the potential to be a difference maker for your fantasy team. Bid robustly: up to 30% of budget if you need help at wide receiver.
(Talent: A | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: A-)
Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears (2% owned)
Who? The heretofore anonymous Bears receiver exploded for 9-130-1 on 12 targets against the Colts on Sunday. An undrafted free agent from Illinois State now in his second season, Meredith offers a 6-3, 207-pound frame and the sort of athleticism that suggests NFL general managers were asleep at the wheel when they let him slide through the 2015 draft. With Kevin White on injured reserve and Alshon Jeffery seemingly not himself this season, Meredith could become a consistently high-volume target for Brian Hoyer. Yes, Cam Meredith is really happening, folks. Don’t turn up your nose simply because Meredith lacks draft pedigree.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: A | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B+)
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (25% owned)
Kept mostly under wraps during his first four games with the Patriots, Hogan broke out in Tom Brady’s first game back from suspension, catching four of five targets for 114 yards. In a Brady-triggered offense, Hogan is certainly worth a waiver claim, though the pass distribution in New England can be wildly unpredictable from game to game.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B)
Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns (41% owned)
Don’t forget about this guy. His ownership rate is falling as he recovers from a broken hand, but absence should really be making the heart grow fonder in this case. Cleveland has major issues at quarterback, but Coleman is still a playmaker worth owning. Bid now before the price becomes exorbitant.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams (40% and 9% owned)
Beasley had his first TD catch of the season Sunday and is on pace for 86 catches and 1,062 yards. He should be owned in every league. Williams has had 13-202-1 receiving over his last three games and has a small degree of fantasy value as long as Dez Bryant remains sidelined.
(Beasley: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: A | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
(Williams: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C)
Jeremy Kerley, San Francisco 49ers (8% owned)
The lone ray of light in the shadowy San Francisco passing game, Kerley has amassed 26-302-2 so far this year and is proving himself to be a useful asset it PPR leagues. There might even be some standard-scoring value here, too, as injuries continue to mount and as we lurch deeper into the bye weeks.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (1% owned)
Every fantasy season is strange in its own way, and this season’s list of unusual developments certainly has to include Patterson’s resurrection as a wide receiver. A first-round pick in 2013, Patterson has always possessed a tantalizing combination of size and speed, but after three years of mental mistakes and general underachievement, he seemed destined to spend the rest of his NFL life as a dangerous kick returner, nothing more. But suddenly Patterson is involved in the Vikings offense again, with nine catches for 77 yards and a TD on 12 targets over the last two weeks, plus two carries for nine yards. It’s hard to tell what sort of role Patterson is going to play in the weeks to come (it’s noteworthy that Vikings WR Stefon Diggs didn’t play in Week 5), and perhaps a Week 6 bye will quell FAAB bidding on him this week. But this it talent worthy of speculation. Fish for upside with a modest bid.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (30% owned)
The Bills’ No. 1 receiver by default with Sammy Watkins on injured reserve, Woods has been targeted 24 times over his last three games. But Woods is a possession receiver of modest talents, and those talents don’t mesh particularly well with those of Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, who is erratic on short and intermediate throws. Still, there’s enough volume here to make Woods worth your while in PPR leagues, and Woods’ matchups against the 49ers and Dolphins the next two weeks are favorable.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Tajae Sharpe (33% owned)
The promise of the preseason hasn’t carried over to the regular season, but I’m continuing to stubbornly tout Sharpe as a potentially useful fantasy commodity. The low-volume nature of the Titans’ passing game gives Sharpe little more than flex potential, but the spark that he showed in training camp and exhibition game offers hope that he’ll soon snap out of his early-season doldrums.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)
Kenny Britt is still looking for his first touchdown of the season, but he’s averaging 4.6 catches and 71.2 yards per game, and he’s had at least four receptions in every contest. Don’t look now, but the Packers’ oft-maligned Davante Adams has scored three TDs in four games. The Packers use three-WR formations often enough to keep Adams fantasy-relevant. Brandon LaFell had 8-68-2 receiving in Cincinnati’s loss in Dallas Sunday, giving him 21-276-2 for the season. Those numbers aren’t bad, but he’s still just an any-port-in-a-storm fantasy option. Washington’s Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon are Los Hermanos PPR, each of them offering lots of empty-calorie, low-impact catches. Victor Cruz was skunked against the Packers on Sunday but he averaged four catches and 61.2 yards per catch in his four previous games. Ted Ginn will have a handful of long TD catches this year and turn in a few productive fantasy weeks; trying to predict when they will occur, however, requires the services of an astrologist. The Chiefs’ Chris Conley has 15 catches for 172 yards, and his average of 11.5 yards per catch belies his game-breaking speed. He also has a cushy upcoming schedule over the next six weeks. Marqise Lee has 16 catches for 169 yards and is playing 62% of the Jaguars’ snaps. He’s worth a look in deep leagues. Young Ravens WR Breshad Perriman has stash-worthy talent. Anquan Boldin is averaging only 8.8 yards per catch but has two TDs and is on pace for 67 receptions. Talented but enigmatic Dorial Green-Beckham keeps getting a small handful of targets for the Eagles every week; it’s not much to get excited about, but talent like this might justify a bid. Dontrelle Inman followed up a 7-120-0 day in Week 4 with a 1-3-0 clunker on Sunday and has been targeted four or fewer times in all but the one big game; the return of Antonio Gates from a hamstring injury won’t bode well for Inman’s target load.
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (41% owned)
With a bye this week, Cameron Brate won’t be able to provide you with immediate help, but he can be useful going forward as the Buccaneers’ primary tight end. Entering Monday night’s game, Brate had 16 catches for 159 yards and two TDs.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B)
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (7% owned)
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN tweeted on Sunday that Green was running routes with authority before the Steelers’ game against the Jets. Green can come off the PUP list in Week 7 and might be ready to go as soon as he’s eligible. Jesse James hasn’t been of much help to Ben Roethlisberger, who long used Heath Miller as his middle-of-the-field security blanket. Green has the potential to be a major contributor to the Pittsburgh offense, though his unfamiliarity with the scheme and lack of training camps suggest that he might not make a splash right away. Don’t invest more than 10% of your FAAB budget even if you have a hole at tight end.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (12% owned)
The Sammy Watkins injury boosts the value of Clay, who’s had five receptions in each of his last two games. There’s not a lot of big-play potential here, but Clay is a TE2 type who’s tolerable as a short-term lineup patch. Clay’s matchup against the 49ers this week makes him a solid streaming option.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers (28% owned)
Even with Antonio Gates returning from a hamstring injury in Week 5, Henry had three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. With the season-ending injuries to Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, the Chargers offense might just be able to support two tight ends.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C+)
Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons (46% owned)
Over his last two games, Tamme has had just three targets, three catches and four receiving yards. But He had a one-yard TD in Week 4, and he had 14-154-1 in his first three games. A streaming tight end at best.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Window shopping:Virgil Green should be back from a calf injury soon and might have sneaky value upon his return. Richard Rodgers is slow-footed but scored eight TDs last year and will get plenty of snaps in the Green Bay offense for as long as Jared Cook remains out with an ankle injury. Will Tye was unable to take advantage of a favorable matchup against the Packers on Sunday and now draws an unfavorable matchup against the Ravens. Austin Seferian-Jenkins had two catches in his Jets debut and is talented enough to at least earn a spot on waiver wire watchlists.