Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we 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 rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on 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.
Just as the prophecies foretold, the bye-pocalypse is now upon us, good people. It promises to be so cataclysmic that the living will envy the dead. There will be six teams on bye this week, six more next week. Fantasy owners are going to need waiver wire help, and a lot of it. For more on the provisions you’ll need to ensure your survival, read on ...
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (38% owned)
Smith has attempted only 46 passes over the last two weeks, and because the Kansas City offense is more conservative than the tea-party wing of the GOP, the Chiefs’ signal caller can’t be counted on to produce QB1-caliber numbers, even in a favorable matchup. We saw an example of that in Week 7, when Smith performed efficiently in a win over the Saints and their sad-sack defense but threw for a modest 214 yards and two TDs. Still, Smith’s rushing ability and basic competence make him a useful asset at times, and this might be one of those times. He’s in a very favorable stretch of schedule, following last week’s game against New Orleans with a week 8 game against Indianapolis. Smith figures to be in demand as a streamer this week.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (19% owned)
The Jets learned Monday that Geno Smith has a torn ACL, forcing them to reluctantly hand the rudder back to Fitz after his brief benching. Fitz has a ghastly TD-INT ration of 6-11 and has completed 57.4% of his passes. He’s nevertheless a strong streaming option this week thanks to a date with the Browns, who have given up 2,000 passing yards, 18 TD passes and 8.6 yards per pass. For this week, at least, there’s no reason to fear the beard.
(Talent: C- | Supporting cast: B- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B-)
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (48% owned)
Wentz has thrown only one TD pass in his last two starts and failed to reach 180 passing yards in either of those games. After struggling in a difficult Week 7 matchup against the Vikings, Wentz will now face a softer Dallas defense that’s yielding 266.2 passing yards per game and letting QBs complete throws at a 66.8% clip. Although Wentz’s fantasy production has temporarily dried up, the second overall pick in this year’s draft threw seven TD passes over the first four games of the season and averaged 251.8 passing yards over that stretch. He’s a decent streaming option in a bye-laden week.
(Talent: B+ | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans (14% owned)
Osweiler hasn’t played aesthetically pleasing football for the Texans this year, but that’s less important right now than his Week 8 matchup against the Lions. Detroit has given up 18 TD passes (tied for the highest total in the league) and is allowing 273 passing yards per game. The Lions’ opponent passer rating of 117.3 is the NFL’s worst. Osweiler has a good chance to get himself right this week.
(Talent: C | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: A | OVERALL: B-)
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (11% owned)
Having witnessed Siemian playing substandard football for Northwestern University a few years ago, I can’t recommend him for your fantasy team in good conscience. But Siemian’s next three games are against the Chargers, Raiders and Saints. He’ll be a reasonable streaming option for all three of those games, provided Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak hasn’t gotten an itchy Paxton Lynch finger by then.
(Talent: D | Supporting cast: B- | Schedule: A | OVERALL: C)
The conservative nature of Minnesota’s offense limits Sam Bradford’s appeal, as does his red cape-waving offensive line, but in a week with six teams on bye, he’s playable in a road game against the Bears. Colin Kaepernick has a Week 8 bye but faces the Saints the following week, so plan-ahead types might want to grab him now and stream him in Week 9; his running ability almost makes up for his glaring deficiencies as a passer. With a matchup against the Jets’ leaky pass defense, Cody Kessler will have low-level streaming appeal if he’s able to get out of concussion protocol; if he can’t, either rookie Kevin Hogan or veteran Josh McCown (due back soon from a shoulder injury) will be stream-worthy in deeper leagues. It’s looking less and less likely that Tony Romo will reclaim his starting job once when he returns from a back injury, but Dak Prescott owners in leagues with roomy rosters could grab Romo as an insurance policy. Brian Hoyer’s broken arm could put Jay Cutler back in Chicago’s starting lineup once Cutler’s sprained thumb has healed, but the Bears have a brutal matchup against the Vikings this week and then have a Week 9 bye.
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos (32% owned)
There are some smart fantasy analysts who believe we’re on the verge of seeing a Booker takeover in the Denver backfield. After C.J. Anderson’s big opening-night performance against the Panthers, he’s averaged 3.2 yards per carry in the five games since, and he hasn’t run for 50 or more yards in a game since Week 2. Booker has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and had been seeing an incremental weekly increase in his snap percentage until that trend was broken in Week 6. Anderson seems to be looking for cutback lanes that aren’t there, whereas Booker has been dashing decisively through whatever holes are opened for him. Obviously, Monday night’s result will have an impact on what sort of interest Booker draws this week, but if the signs are encouraging, open the purse strings.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B+)
Knile Davis and James Starks, Green Bay Packers (38% and 7% owned)
Eddie Lacy is on injured reserve. Starks is expected to miss another two weeks or more following knee surgery. Don Jackson, a heretofore anonymous jobber who saw his first action with the Packers last week, promptly injured his hand after two carries. Davis figures to be the only true running back on the Packers’ roster for the next two weeks, so there could be significant opportunity for the ex-Chief in the weeks to come. Thing is, the Packers have had success using WRs Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery out of the backfield in recent weeks. Also, despite some impressive athletic measurables, Davis has a career average of 3.3 yards per carry and hasn’t been much of a pass catcher. Injuries have turned the RB position into a wasteland, so the possibility that Davis might inherit a heavy workload will make him a popular target this week in leagues where he hasn’t already been claimed. Scale your bidding according to need, but realize that his window of opportunity might not be as large as some people perceive it to be. Part of the reason is that Starks could be back in early November. He’s out of sight, out of mind for a lot of owners, but Starks figures to take over the lead role once healthy. If you can afford to reserve a roster spot for Starks during the bye-pocalypse of Weeks 8-9, a small FAAB investment now could pay off handsomely in a few weeks.
(Davis: Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
(Starks: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars (48% owned)
Ivory carried the ball only five times Sunday, as the game script went against the Jaguars’ running game in a lopsided loss to the Raiders. He had 48 rushing yards, highlighted by a 42-yard run, and caught two passes for three yards. The division of labor between Ivory and T.J. Yeldon still seems to be in flux and will likely depend on week-to-week game flow. Still Ivory’s 48% ownership rate in Yahoo leagues is surprising—he should be owned in every league.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Mike Gillislee and Reggie Bush, Buffalo Bills (51% and 0% owned)
I feel obligated to discuss Gillislee even though he’s owned in 51% of Yahoo leagues and thus technically ineligible for inclusion here. LeSean McCoy tweaked his hamstring in practice last week, and Rex Ryan foolishly let McCoy play through it Sunday in Miami, leading to an aggravation of the injury that could last for multiple weeks. Gillislee is first in line for carries while McCoy is shelved and figures to have RB2 value in Shady’s absence. Gillislee will share some of the workload with Bush, who might have some small degree of value in deep PPR leagues. It’s worth noting that the Bills have difficult matchups against the Patriots and Seahawks the next two weeks. Still, Gillislee is worth up to 20% of your FAAB budget if you need short-term RB help (and particularly if you’re a McCoy owner).
(Gillislee: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
(Bush: Talent: C | Opportunity: D | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C-)
Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings (20% owned)
Asiata out-touched Jerick McKinnon 18-12 in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. McKinnon also injured his ankle in that game, so the Vikings might need to lean on Asiata heavily when they face the Bears on Halloween night. The plodding Asiata isn’t a good bet to rack up big yardage in any game, but he’s a serious TD threat, and his yardage stats can be respectable if he gets enough touches.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (27% owned)
There’s still no timetable on Lewis’ return from a torn ACL, and while the Patriots have been mum about his status, it doesn’t seem as if he’ll be back anytime soon. With six teams on bye in each of the next two weeks, roster spots are precious. A healthy Lewis is certainly capable of helping a fantasy team, but it might only be feasible to play the waiting game in leagues with big rosters. (The uncertainty about Lewis’ return is reflected in the schedule grade below.)
(Lewis: Talent: A | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C+)
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (30% owned)
Powell is a hard sell after Matt Forte’s 30-carry, 100-yard rushing performance against the Ravens on Sunday. Still, if you’re in need of RB help in a PPR league, Powell is a decent option. He’d played more snaps than Forte in the three previous games before Forte out-snapped him 57-9 on Sunday. Though he hasn’t had more than four rushing attempts in a game this season, Powell has 24 catches on the year. Perhaps he’ll see an uptick in his workload after the way the Jets worked Forte into the ground in Week 7. The Jets’ offense has an appealing Week 8 matchup against the Browns.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: C+)
Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (11% owned)
Interest in Thompson is apt to percolate this week after Thompson out-touched starter Matt Jones 19-10 in Washington’s painful Week 7 loss in Detroit. While Jones was stuck in sludge, rushing 10 times for 27 yards, Thompson had 12 carries for 73 yards and caught all seven of his targets for 40 yards. Already a decent PPR asset because of his pass-catching ability, Thompson might have some significant standard-league value, too, if he can mount an assault on Jones’ job security. Bid if you’re a Jones skeptic looking for RB help.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, Chicago Bears (32% and 2% owned)
So much for the notion that Jordan Howard had won the lead RB role in Chicago. Carey played 31% of the Bears’ offensive snaps in Week 6 and then out-snapped Howard 26-22 in a Week 7 loss to the Packers. Jeremy Langford is due back soon from a high-ankle sprain, which could make for a messy backfield indeed. It won’t cost you much to make a speculative play on either Langford or Carey, but with the Bears having QB issues and a tough schedule ahead, this figures to be a low-yield backfield.
(Langford: Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
(Carey: Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
DeAndre Washington wasn’t able to capitalize on Latavius Murray’s temporary absence and faded into the woodwork upon Murray’s return in Week 8, but he’ll continue to get a few touches each week and could still emerge at some point. Dwayne Washington will probably return from an ankle injury this week, but the Lions’ run-blocking is terrible, and Washington is just one cog in a three- or four-man committee that also includes Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett. With rookie C.J. Prosise finally healthy enough to play in Week 8, the Seahawks didn’t bother suiting up C.J. Spiller; that bodes well for Prosise as a potentially worthwhile asset down the road.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (16% owned)
As I noted on Twitter last week after he’d shredded the Bears for 13 catches, 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns, a rare combination of circumstances have created a perfect storm for Adams. Jordy Nelson, coming off reconstructive knee surgery, is operating at a diminished capacity and is having trouble consistently separating from defenders. With RBs Eddie Lacy and James Starks out, WRs Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery are both getting snaps at running back, leaving Adams extra snaps as a receiver. And the Packers appear to have undergone an abrupt philosophical shift on offense, embracing a short, quick-strike passing game not unlike the one Adams played in at Fresno State. Teaming with Derek Carr, Adams had 233 catches for 3,031 yards and 38 TDs in just two (!) collegiate seasons, suggesting that he can thrive if conditions are right. Well ... it appears that conditions may be right. Adams’ numbers against the Bears might raise expectations to unrealistic levels, but the Packers’ new offensive M.O. suits Adams, who’s worth 15% of your budget in standard leagues, 20% in PPR leagues.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: A- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (32% owned)
Enunwa hasn’t seen the uptick in targets you might have expected since moving into the starting lineup due to Eric Decker’s season-ending hip injury. He’s averaged 5.8 targets in the four games since Decker was hurt, but he’s caught 65% of those targets and has averaged a respectable 56.5 yards per game over that span. He’s an attractive Week 8 play against a Browns defense that has been among the most accommodating in the league to opposing wide receivers.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B)
Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins (36% owned)
Crowder has season highs in receptions and receiving yardage Sunday against the Lions, hauling in seven passes for 108 yards. Yes, Detroit’s pass defense is terrible, but the little second-year receiver from Duke University is on pace for 71 catches and nearly 900 receiving yards. He’s better in PPR leagues than standard leagues, though the distinction isn’t as big nowadays as it was last season.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B-)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (2% owned)
Even with Stefon Diggs back in the Minnesota lineup after missing a pair of games, Patterson remained involved, catching a season-high seven balls for 67 yards and a touchdown. Patterson has 16 receptions in his last three games and has TD catches in two straight. Because he’s being used in some pretty gimmicky ways rather than as a conventional downfield receiver, he’s averaging just 8.8 yards per catch. Still, the big-play potential here is immense. Patterson is a worthy flyer.
(Talent: A- | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C)
We should probably start paying proper respect to Marqise Lee, who had 7-107-0 on Sunday and has more receptions and yardage than teammate Allen Robinson. Anquan Boldin has had a TD catch in four of his last six games and is on pace for 73 receptions. Brandon LaFell has four TDs in his last three games and has a solid matchup against a Washington pass defense that could be without ace CB Josh Norman, but realize that the return of TE Tyler Eifert will put a dent in LaFell’s target total. Marquise Goodwin is Buffalo’s version of Ted Ginn, oscillating between big games and no-shows. He had 4-93-1 against the Dolphins in Week 7, and the rash of injuries in the Buffalo WR corps boosts his big-game potential. Sammy Watkins could conceivably be back from IR as early as late November, making him a certifiable super-stash. Robert Woods missed Week 7 with a foot injury; if he’s back this week, he might have some PPR appeal since the Bills are so short on pass catchers. It might not be a bad idea to proactively grab Dorial Green-Beckham, who hasn’t had more than 43 yards in a game this season but scored his first TD of the season last week and is becoming more involved in the Philadelphia offense. Pierre Garcon, who has 30 mostly low-impact receptions, is a depth option in PPR leagues. After catching four passes for 115 yards in Tom Brady’s first game back from suspension, Chris Hogan has seen only three targets in the two games since, catching all three for 64 yards. Rishard Matthews is probably the best fantasy bet from amongst the shaky Titans WR corps and is a batten-down-the-hatches option against the Jaguars if you need to weather the bye-pocalypse. Mohamed Sanu is a warm body for deep PPR leagues.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans (7% owned)
Entering Monday night’s game against Denver, Fiedorowicz had caught 14-194-2 on 20 targets over his last three games. He’s becoming a dependable weekly contributor to the Texans’ offense, and he has a juicy matchup this week against the Lions, who are among the worst teams in the league at defending opposing tight ends.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (30% owned)
With fellow TE Dwayne Allen out on Sunday, Doyle turned 10 targets into 9-78-1. Allen has a high-ankle sprain that figures to keep him sidelined for at least another week or two, and Doyle should continue to soak up targets in Allen’s absence. Just realize that Doyle will take a value hit once Allen is back.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B-)
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31% owned)
Although Brate’s last couple of weeks have been fallow, he’s positioned to take advantage of the Buccaneers’ dearth of quality wide receivers beyond target monster Mike Evans. Brate has 20-226-2 through six games, and chances are good he’ll start to pick up the pace.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (8% owned)
A stash worth considering, Green might be ready to come off the PUP list when the Steelers return from a Week 8 bye. It may well take some time for him to get comfortable in the Pittsburgh offense since he missed all of training camp. But Green’s athleticism and the potency of the Steelers’ attack make him a shoot-for-the stars stash.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: C+)
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (38% owned)
After missing three games with knee and ankle injuries, Ebron is now available in a lot of leagues. He should be back soon, though the Lions’ upcoming schedule is very TE-unfriendly. The Lions are a pass-heavy bunch, but once Ebron and RB Theo Riddick are back, there will be a lot of mouths for QB Matthew Stafford to feed.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C)
Vernon Davis had 6-79-0 in Week 7; he’ll have streaming value in Week 8 if Jordan Reed remains out but won’t be usable if Reed returns. In theory, the WR shortage in Buffalo should be pumping up Charles Clay’s fantasy value, but someone forgot to tell Clay. Virgil Green played 77% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps in Week 6, and the Broncos have a skinny usage tree in their passing game, making Green a viable pinch hitter if you’re thin at tight end. Jared Cook could be back soon from an injury believed to be a high-ankle sprain but would only be worth stashing in the deepest of leagues.