Your focus for the Week 6 fantasy football waiver wire should be rookies. It felt like many of them crossed the Rubicon this week. Five of the recommendations below are all in their first year, and as injuries ravage rosters and bye weeks require changes, they can be game-changers. After a period of adaptation, many saw significant opportunities arise and others came good on some early promise shown.
Th Bengals showed signs of life and the 49ers pulverized the Dallas Cowboys, but there were other big storylines from the trenches in Week 5 too.
We got to see how the Los Angeles Rams offense would look with Cooper Kupp back in the frame, and we also got the chance to see Zack Moss’s usage with Jonathan Taylor suited up again even if he is being eased back in.
It’s just the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on bye weeks in Week 6.
Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 6
Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 25%
This was the kind of game we have been waiting for from Spears, and we wrote about it last week. The rookie has carved out a special role for himself in the Titans offense. They lost to the Indianapolis Colts and now sit at 2-3, but they’re still very much in contention in a very competitive AFC South.
Spears finished with 7-34-1 on the ground and added four receptions for 35 yards. He got 35% of the carries and grabbed the touchdown with Derrick Henry only carrying the ball 13 times. This was by far the most fantasy points he has finished with all season — 16.9 in PPR leagues and a top-10 finish.
Ryan Tannehill has targeted his running backs 30 times this season and Spears has seen 19 of those to Henry’s 11. He has also seen three red-zone targets this season with two receptions but with no touchdowns through the air yet. Keep betting on Spears’ upside because Mike Vrabel and his staff know how good he is and want to get the ball in his hands.
Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 41%
The Chicago Bears backfield continues to confound us. They signed D’Onta Foreman during the summer and drafted Roschon Johnson after David Montgomery went to the Lions in free agency. Foreman became the odd man out and has only played in one game (Week 1) while Khalil Herbert became the lead back. Herbert is expected to miss multiple weeks after an injury during the Thursday night game against the Washington Commanders and could go on IR.
If it wasn’t for Johnson’s concussion, this would be a slam-dunk decision, but we do caution that you pay attention to his health before fully committing to starting him.
Johnson has only run 44 routes, which is sixth on the Bears, but he has the highest targets per route run (0.27) on the team. He has 11 receptions too, which is third on the team, and Justin Fields is heating up with four touchdowns in each of his last two games. The Bears offense has looked good in consecutive weeks now. If Johnson is healthy, he should benefit from the rising tide with his diverse skillset.
Jaleel McLaughlin, Denver Broncos
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 59%
There isn’t much good news in Denver, but the emergence of Jaleel McLaughlin has been one positive even if it has come due to a Javonte Williams injury.
There is no team targeting its running backs more often than the Broncos. Russell Wilson has thrown 42 times to his running backs with Samaje Perine seeing the majority of them (18) followed by Williams (15) and then McLaughlin (8). Seven of McLaughlin’s have come in the last two weeks, and he has caught a touchdown in consecutive weeks too.
Over the last two weeks, McLaughlin is RB9 with 18.7 fantasy points per game. Javonte Williams will be back soon, but the rookie has done enough to earn reps even once the starter is back.
K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 14%
K.J. Osborn is the guy in Minnesota now after the Justin Jefferson injury news. The star wide has been put on injured reserve and will miss at least the next four weeks. The Bears game at Soldier Field on Sunday will be the first game Jefferson has missed during his four-year career. He’ll also miss games versus the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bears are giving up 30.7 points a game to wide receivers and Osborn is rostered in just 14% of Yahoo leagues. If you can pick him up, you have a true WR1 for at least a month. This season, Osborn has been solid but never spectacular with his highest finish in PPR formats being 34 in Week 5 in the absence of Jefferson.
He saw nine targets on Sunday versus the Chiefs as Jefferson stood on the sideline and he had five catches for 49 yards. You’d have to go back to last season before Jordan Addison was drafted to see Osborn’s true ability. In the final four weeks of the season, he finished second, 67th, 11th and 12th (all PPR) catching 25 passes and two touchdowns during that run of games.
The Vikings are 1-4 and have already lost to the Detroit Lions, giving them the advantage in the NFC North and while many in the Vikings building won’t give up on the season, they must be thinking about resting Jefferson, the crown jewel in this offense, and not rushing him back.
For the next four weeks, at least, you can rest assured that it’s K.J. Osborn season in Minnesota.
Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 9%
Anthony Richardson is out for up to a month with a shoulder injury, and Jonathan Taylor is back in the fold. The terrain seems to keep changing under Downs’ feet, but it remains him and Michael Pittman Jr. as the two most important passing options in this offense. Pittman Jr. has 46 targets to Downs’ 33.
He caught all six of his targets for 97 yards (15.7 PPR fantasy points) during Sunday’s win over the Titans. That leaves him as a comfortable WR2 this week. Gardner Minshew’s arm isn’t as strong as Anthony Richardson’s, and the former is more of a game manager than Richardson. That could actually be good news for Downs. The wide receiver’s average depth of target is just 6.0, and only Zack Moss’ is lower on the team. That’s a decent match for Minshew, whose 6.7 air yards per throw is the sixth-lowest mark in the league among qualified quarterbacks.
Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 39%
On any given week, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs could change their script and target any one of Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore or even Justin Watson. Rice’s college numbers were spectacular and he was playing injured in his final year. He has slowly earned both Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ trust after an unconvincing first offseason as a pro.
He had four catches for 33 yards and a score in the Chiefs’ win over the Vikings on Sunday. Rice has eight red-zone targets this season, which is tied for fifth among wide receivers. His name appears among some pretty heavy hitters on that list. Even if the volume isn’t there, those red-zone targets are a good sign.
Jonathan Mingo, Carolina Panthers
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 8%
It’s hard to know what Bryce Young will do on any given week — one of the harder positions to predict for rookies is quarterback and especially so when there is no true alpha receiver on the team. He showed signs of life after a rough start against the Detroit Lions despite the scoreline. He dropped back and threw 42 passes, which means there were plenty of targets to go around. Adam Thielen maintained his role as the No. 1 wide receiver but D.J. Chark and Jonathan Mingo both featured.
Mingo has been a darling of the advanced stats stable this season despite not putting up the actual numbers to back it up. On Sunday, we saw a glimpse of the upside. He was targeted seven times and saw his first red-zone target that he could have hauled in for a score. As Young’s understanding of the offense grows, Mingo’s role will grow with it.
Logan Thomas, Washington Commanders
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 15%
We said the Commanders and Thomas had a pretty tasty schedule coming up, and that proved to be the case on Thursday against the Bears. Sam Howell found Thomas nine times on 11 targets for 77 yards and a score. Howell might be conservative but he’s accurate and Thomas is benefiting from that precision.
Between weeks 3 and 5, only Joe Burrow has thrown the ball more times, and Howell chucked it 51 times against the Bears. The Commanders are getting involved in high-scoring games frequently and they have the Falcons next week, who are allowing 13.4 points per game to tight ends, which is the second worst mark in the league.
Jonnu Smith, Atlanta Falcons
- Yahoo Roster Percentage: 16%
It’s safe to say Jonnu Smith is the starting tight end in this Atlanta Falcons offense. Kyle Pitts has lined up in the slot on 58.9% of his routes. Desmond Ridder has faced criticism for just being a game manager but Smith isn’t complaining. Smith is TE13 through five weeks and has been targeted no less than six times in each of the last four weeks.
The Falcons offense has stuttered this season but Smith has put up good numbers now in consecutive weeks. No team is targeting their tights ends more than the Falcons (40.5%), and despite the conservative nature of his throws, Ridder has attempted at least 30 passes in each of his last four weeks.
This may sound like a desperate move, but face it: Tight end is a desperate position this season in many fantasy leagues.
One Waiver Wire Pickup For Each NFL Team
Here’s a sentence (or two) on each team’s most intriguing waiver wire pickup candidate.
Note: these are not recommendations.
Green Bay Packers: Christian Watson muddies the wide receiving room in Green Bay but Matt LeFleur continues to get the ball in Jayden Reed’s hands. He has nine red-zone targets and is yet to play this week (the Packers play the Raiders on Monday night).
San Francisco 49ers: If the 49ers continue their romp towards the No. 1 seed in the NFC, we have to take game-state into consideration. Jordan Mason finished with 10 carries for 69 yards and a score in what was supposed to be the 49ers toughest game of the season.
Denver Broncos: Adam Trautman has had two weeks with five-plus catches (Week 1 and Week 5) and he caught a touchdown on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills: Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid are both competing for touches at the tight end position. Knox is rostered in 18% of leagues but only had three catches for 17 yards against the Jaguars on Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay somehow managed to make Kupp, Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell all relevant on Sunday. Add Atwell as a handcuff to the big two.
Baltimore Ravens: If you are looking for that sweet, sweet touchdown equity then look no further than Justice Hill. He can turn a nothing week into a viable start with his hawking of touchdowns from Gus Edwards.
New York Giants: Wan’Dale Robinson has 17 targets in three games. They so desperately want to get him involved but he is injured again and the New York Giants’ offense is struggling behind a disastrous offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals: We’re not sure how many weeks Tee Higgins will miss but Trenton Irwin (10% rostered) had eight catches for 60 yards, outperforming Tyler Boyd as the Bengals finally got some offense going against the Cardinals.
Cleveland Browns: David Njoku has TE1 potential if Deshaun Watson could get it together.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Baker Mayfield might be a safe bet for when your quarterback is on a bye week (seven touchdowns and two interceptions so far this season). Trey Palmer knows where the end zone is with two touchdowns in very limited usage this season.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Chark has 20 targets in the last three weeks and a pair of touchdowns with three red-zone targets on Sunday. The Panthers will find themselves behind a lot this season and there are opportunities for everyone in this offense.
Dallas Cowboys: Rico Dowdle as a handcuff to Tony Pollard but other than that, there isn’t a whole lot of meat left on the bone in this Dallas’ offense.
Las Vegas Raiders: This passing attack is a two-man operation (Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers) but Hunter Renfrow is a veteran who has proven he can be a steady hand if opportunity arises.
New York Jets: If Zach Wilson can become an average quarterback, Allen Lazard has relevance but aside from that, the only fantasy players worth taking in this Jets offense are Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Zay Jones has only played two full games but he caught touchdowns in both of them. There’s a lot of competition in Jacksonville for touches but Jones has three red-zone targets in Week 5 making him a viable flex play during bye week madness.
Indianapolis Colts: Gardner Minshew will start for the next number of weeks and can guide you to safety on bye weeks.
New England Patriots: “Yeah, there are a lot of problems. Certainly wasn’t all him,” was Bill Belichick’s response to benching Mac Jones for the second week in a row. Ezekiel Elliott is slowly eating into Rhamondre Stevenson’s touches and might be the outright starter before long.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jaylen Warren once again outperformed Najee Harris. He had nine carries for 40 yards and three targets, all of which he caught for 39 yards.
Miami Dolphins: Does Chase Claypool have a role? It’s hard to see how many more mouths Mike McDaniels can feed as they seem to be at their absolute limit right now.
New Orleans Saints: Kendre Miller had 12 carries and caught all four of his targets for 53 yards on Sunday. In PPR-land, that’s a serviceable starter.
Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Watson is a big play waiting to happen. He only had two catches on Sunday but they went for 56 yards. We have been pushing Marvin Mims Jr. for his big-play capacity. Perhaps Watson has one massive play a week in him if you’re stuck.
Detroit Lions: Regardless of the situation, Jared Goff always has at least five targets for Josh Reynolds. He had another five on Sunday and caught four of them for 76 yards and a touchdown in the absence of Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Washington Commanders: It’s ambiguous but amid the uncertainty, Curtis Samuel is averaging 5.4 targets a game and has two touchdowns. Sam Howell is heating up too, which might mean even more action. Antonio Gibson always has play in the passing game but he didn’t carry the ball against the Bears.
Seattle Seahawks: Some have given up hope on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, so to follow on from the theme of the article, back the rookie who went high on the draft. Aside from that, it’s slim pickings in Seattle.
Philadelphia Eagles: This is a very concentrated offense with the only uncertainty being at running back. D’Andre Swift is intent on ending the debate, but roster Kenneth Gainwell as a potential handcuff.
Houston Texans: Dalton Schultz has touchdowns in back-to-back weeks and C.J. Stroud is looking like the standout of the 2023 QB crop.
Chicago Bears: We already mentioned Roschon Johnson, but if he’s not available pick up D’Onta Foreman because they’re going to need reinforcements after Herbert’s injury.
Atlanta Falcons: We mentioned Jonnu Smith earlier, and after that the pickings are very slim. Maybe Tyler Allgeier (66%) as a handcuff to Bijan Robinson but hardly worth the roster spot.
Tennessee Titans: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has a pair of touchdowns this season and it’s just himself and DeAndre Hopkins as the only viable options in the wide receiver room.
Minnesota Vikings: We have already covered this above but spend every last dime of your FAAB on Osborn.
Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston has to emerge from the pack eventually, right? Right?
Arizona Cardinals: Emari Demercado played his first meaningful snaps when James Conner got injured against the Bengals. He carried the ball 10 times for 45 yards and a score. Unlucky not to make the actual waiver wire pickups list.