There’s no clear-cut claim among potential Week 5 waiver wire pickups. All the more reason to do your homework on some players with more complicated situations.
Fantasy managers feel a constant need to be wheeling and dealing on the waiver wire, but there are times when it’s a much better idea to stand pat and trust your roster. This could be such a week.
That’s probably not the best sales pitch for a waiver wire pickups article, but keep reading because every NFL week brings its own intrigue even if there’s a shift in strategy. There are always moves you can make to better prepare you for upcoming bye weeks, inevitable injuries and ambiguous backfields, but there were no performances or injuries in Week 4 in the NFL to have us racing to the waiver wire.
It’s the first week we have to rearrange our rosters because of the bye week so make use of the waiver wire, by all means, just don’t go wasting precious FAAB on one-week wonders.
The Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns are the teams who are on byes in Week 5.
Jonathan Taylor is also slated to return to at least practice for the Indianapolis Colts. This leaves Zack Moss, who is on the field for 83.8% of the team’s snaps, in a confusing spot. Cooper Kupp is scheduled to come off injured reserve with the Los Angeles Rams opening the 21-day window for him to return to practice. That might dilute the effectiveness of Matthew Stafford’s existing receiving corps and adjust their fantasy value. Kenny Pickett will miss time with a knee injury, and Mac Jones’ benching wasn’t actually a benching.
As always, there’s a lot happening in the world of fantasy football. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
We wrote about Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals last week before their 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. We regularly talk about league winners in fantasy football. If you picked Christian McCaffrey, for example, with your first pick and then managed to nab Keenan Allen in the second round, those two players might win you a league regardless of how badly you might have messed up the rest of your draft. Likewise, grabbing Puka Nacua or Kyren Williams when they were available might be the singular moves that win you a league.
On the flipside of that, by playing Joe Burrow weekly, you are essentially removing a player from your lineup because he hasn’t finished as a top 25 quarterback or higher this season despite being the fifth quarterback off the board in most drafts. Last week, he finished with 4.7 fantasy points. And that’s not even his lowest total of the season.
Make a move now and don’t regret it.
C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
- Rostered in 47% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: Falcons, @Saints, Panthers.
C.J. Stroud is currently QB10 this season and is averaging 18.4 fantasy points a week. The only time he has finished with fewer than 20 points in a week was against Baltimore on his rookie debut in Week 1.
The Texans play the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints next and have to be eyeing a run at the division title. They’re 2-2, the same as every team in the AFC South, and they’re competing. Stroud has thrown a pair of touchdowns in his last three games and is yet to throw an interception. He’s a potential fantasy star and the Texans’ passing game is legit.
Josh Dobbs, Arizona Cardinals
- Rostered in 5% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: @Bengals, Rams, Seahawks.
Dobbs just put up 23.4 fantasy points against the San Francisco 49ers and scored 17.1 against the Dallas Cowboys a couple of weeks ago. He has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions and has also rushed for a score, while adding 141 yards on the ground.
Who’s to say this will last, particularly with Kyler Murray’s eventual return complicating things? But it’s more exciting than watching Joe Burrow ground your fantasy football hopes into the dirt on a weekly basis. They actually play each other in Week 5, so if Dobbs puts on a display on Sunday night, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Jaleel McLaughlin, Denver Broncos
- Rostered in 4% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: @Jets, Chiefs, @Packers.
Javonte Williams has been eased back into action by the Denver Broncos after suffering a serious knee injury at the end of last season. The Broncos managed to scrape by the Chicago Bears in Week 4 and are looking for a spark from somewhere. McLaughlin provided that spark on Sunday against an admittedly awful Bears defense, with 72 yards on the ground on seven carries. He added 32 yards on three catches and a touchdown.
He won’t supplant Williams as the starting running back but if Williams were to miss time with a hip injury suffered against the Bears, McLaughlin becomes very fantasy relevant. The undrafted rookie looked better than Samaje Perine, averaging 6.9 yards after contact on his seven carries.
Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans
- Rostered in 24% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: Colts, @Ravens, Bye Week.
There’s no doubt as to who the starting running back in this offense is, but Spears continues to carve out his own role. Comparing Spears to Derrick Henry is pointless because they are doing two different things. Spears has 14 targets so far this season and two red-zone targets but is yet to see the end zone.
The Titans play the Colts and then the Ravens in the next two weeks and neither are particularly friendly to running backs, giving up the 13th- and 20th-fewest points to running backs this season. Spears is a stash option, but after four games with a role carved out for him already it obviously means the coaching staff can see the talent. If his role expands, he can become a flex option down the road in deeper leagues.
Trey Palmer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Rostered in 0.0% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: Bye Week, @Lions, @Falcons.
You would have to go back to 2019 to find a season where Mike Evans missed multiple games through injury. He has been banged up a lot but he almost always suits up. He is 30 now and left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday with a hamstring issue.
Second-year wideout Deven Thompkins took over for the veteran and hauled in four of his four targets for 45 yards and a score, but Palmer is running more routes and has more chance of making a splash in fantasy football.
The Bucs are targeting wide receivers on 69.7% of their throws, which is third in the league. Trey Palmer is third on the team in routes run (78) and his 9.9 average depth of target is behind just Evans and Chris Godwin on the team too.
We’ll have to wait to see what Evans’ status is after the bye week, but it might be worthwhile brushing up on the Bucs backup wide receivers if Evans’ hamstring continues to cause him bother. Palmer is available as a free agent in basically all leagues regardless of the format.
Michael Wilson, Arizona Cardinals
- Rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: @Bengals, Rams, Seahawks.
The third-round rookie is another player who might be worth a stash. He had himself a game in Week 4 against the 49ers and finished with seven catches for 76 yards, catching all of his targets. He also caught two touchdown passes.
He is second on the team in targets among wide receivers and is tied with Rondale Moore for routes run (95), which is third on the team. His yards per route run (2.49) is the best on the team. The Cardinals play the Bengals and the Rams in the next two weeks – both are above average defenses against wide receivers in fantasy – but, as a rookie, Wilson has shown promise and that’s worth pursuing.
Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions
- Rostered in 32% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: @Panthers, Buccaneers, Ravens.
This pickup has more to do with where Williams was drafted (12th overall in 2022) than anything that has come since. He tore his ACL and only ran 37 routes last season (one catch on nine targets for 41 yards) and has been suspended for the opening four games of this year.
He is eligible to play in Detroit’s next game on Oct. 8 vs. Carolina after the NFL announced they were reducing his six-game suspension down to four games.
The Lions lead the NFC North and have one of the best offenses in the league, too. Jared Goff’s well-thrown % is seventh in the league among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes. The Lions are targeting their wide receivers on just 58.9% of plays. It’s a one-two punch at receiver with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds seeing 34 and 18 targets so far respectively. If Williams can offer a deep threat, he could become pretty valuable for a team that likes to throw the ball.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
- Rostered: 43.1% on Yahoo
- Upcoming opponents: Cardinals, @Seahawks, 49ers.
If Joe Burrow has disappointed in fantasy football this season, then Tee Higgins has some culpability in the debacle with four drops — only Puka Nacua has more this season (5). Higgins has seen 32 targets come his way through four games but left the game on Sunday against the Titans with what turned out to be a fractured rib. That injury could leave him out between two and four weeks.
Boyd is behind just Ja’Marr Chase in routes run on the team with 141 and is seeing 16.4% of the team’s target share. Higgins was seeing 20.4% before the injury.
Wan’Dale Robinson, New York Giants
- Rostered in 12% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: Dolphins, Bills, @Commanders.
The Giants play the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks. Both of those figure to provide some game script advantageous to Giants pass catchers. The Giants aren’t very good, but Wan’Dale Robinson is and he could make a big difference to this offense.
Daniel Jones has been sacked 22 times now and Robinson can fix this as a slot receiver who knows how to get open in the middle of the field. He ran 100% of his routes from the slot in his comeback game in Week 3 and is open on 80% of the routes he is targeted on. Robinson is already eating into Darius Slayton’s targets (season-low three on Monday night), and as Robinson comes back from the ACL that ended his rookie season and the Giants get more desperate for a difference-maker, that might start to grow even more.
Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers
- Rostered in 36% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: Raiders, Broncos, @Vikings.
We are still not sure what to make of the Packers’ passing game. Is it Watson, Doubs or Reed? Is Jordan Love even good, or was he just lucky through three weeks? The Packers are 2-2 and have shown us a couple of sides to them after four games so far.
While Sam LaPorta and Jake Ferguson both sit inside the top 10 among tight ends, Musgrave is still waiting for his breakout game. He ramped up in Week 3 with eight targets and six receptions but left the Detroit game early. He has run the third-most routes (89) behind Doubs (112) and Reed (93) on the Packers and is tied for second with 12 receptions, and that’s in less than a full four games. If George Kittle, David Njoku or Kyle Pitts are letting you down, take a swing on Musgrave and stash him for when that breakout comes.
Logan Thomas, Washington Commanders
- Rostered in 6% of Yahoo leagues
- Upcoming opponents: @Bears, Falcons, Giants.
This is from a purely strength of schedule perspective. Thomas missed Week 3 with a concussion but when he has played, he has finished inside the top 12 on two occasions. He drew eight targets in Week 1 and caught a touchdown in Week 2. The Commanders’ passing game showed life against the Eagles in a 34-31 loss, and Thomas finished with three catches for 41 yards as he came back after injury.
Again, if you have a tight end on a bye and are in a bind in the coming weeks, Thomas has top 12 upside.