Perhaps the most important skill to consistently winning in fantasy
football - or any fantasy sport for that matter - is having an accurate
vision for the future and making proactive - and not reactive -
moves. The ability to add pieces via the waiver wire is critical
as the bye-week crunch begins in Week 6.
With that in mind, fantasy managers now have three weeks of information
to digest. Somewhat reliable trends begin to emerge. In this thing
called fantasy football, sometimes that is the best we can ask
Over the next few paragraphs, I hope to prepare readers/managers
for the weeks ahead by providing 12 names of players that are
available in the majority of leagues and could be primed to become
a good bench stash or viable fantasy starter.
As per usual, I do not typically write for casual fantasy players.
This is not a waiver-wire piece in the traditional sense that
recommends picking up Jamaal Williams, Alexander Mattison or Khalil Herbert. All three of these players were ranked inside my top
50 running backs, so none of them should be available outside
of 10-team leagues with short benches.
The goal this week is to highlight players that are largely off
the radar in most leagues but could be on the verge of having
some value soon, hopefully saving us all some FAAB dollars in
Most of the free world wants Pickett under center already. HC
Mike Tomlin does not care what you want and it is probably not
the best thing for anyone - outside of your teams with Diontae Johnson and George Pickens' shares - that he is named the starter
for another month. Tomlin has been around long enough to know
how this works, and the last thing he wants is for the team's
first-round pick - and likely long-term starter - to lose confidence
almost immediately. After this week against the Jets, the Steelers
face the Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Eagles before their Week
9 bye. That is perhaps the most brutal four-game stretch for any
team this season.
Barring injury to Pickett in November or December, there is a
good chance Tomlin already knows Mitchell Trubisky will not be
taking meaningful snaps over the second half of the season. He
would probably prefer to make it official when the opposition
is not so stout and the offensive line has (hopefully) had more
time to gel.
(Yeah, it is going to be that kind of article this week.) Dalton
played well in the preseason, but that is obviously not why he
is being included here. The first reason is that Jameis Winston
has not been great in 2022, outside of the fourth quarter of Week
1. The second reason, which may explain the first, is that Winston
is playing through broken bones in his back. The third reason
is if Winston has to miss time because of injury (or poor performance),
Dalton will have a supporting cast that includes Alvin Kamara,
Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.
While I realize Dalton as a multi-week starter would be a stretch
even for 14-team leagues, he could have matchup-based streamer
* If either Brian Robinson Jr. and/or Gus Edwards were dropped
in your league or have been hanging out on the wire all season,
they should be stashed in most leagues. Both players were drafted
in all of my high-stakes leagues and have not been dropped.
White will go down as one of the most obvious of my recommendations
this week, although he will likely be dropped in many leagues
after Week 3. Here are the facts: Josh Jacobs has handled much
more of the workload than anyone expected. He has also never played
a full season. While he is getting it done after contact (his
2.6 YPC after contact is tied for seventh among qualified runners
so far), he is not running behind a good offensive line. He is
typically not on the field in long down-and-distance situations.
Week 3 was the first time he saw more than one target. A bad offensive
line and a lack of passing-game work on an offense that looks
like it will be working in negative game script a lot this season
is not a good recipe for fantasy success.
So why is White a good add? Well, Jacobs is the RB29 through
three weeks. That may not be worth much, but it means he is a
flex option that will likely start during the bye weeks. White
appears to be the future in Vegas, if only because the Raiders
appear uninterested in extending Jacobs. Given the Raiders' 0-3
start, the future may be coming sooner than expected. The preseason
hype surrounding White was legit; White's power and tackle-breaking
ability could be just the thing Vegas needs to make its struggling
line look a bit better. He remains a strong stash in fantasy,
even if Brandon Bolden has more immediate value given his role
in the passing game - specifically in long down-and-distance and
Warren was discussed in this space two
weeks ago. Not much has changed since then other than the
fact that he consistently looks like the most explosive option
Pittsburgh has in the backfield. That is not to say that Najee Harris is going to give up his bell-cow role. He won't. Harris
is the kind of all-purpose, powerful runner that the Steelers
like. That is also not the point. The Steelers are highly unlikely
to be in a position to grind a defense over the next month (Bills,
Buccaneers, Dolphins and Eagles) and could benefit from a bit
of explosiveness from their backfield. Will he do enough to be
worth a flex start in one or two of those games? Probably not.
However, the main reason to add Warren is that he has already
achieved - in my mind anyway - the same elite handcuff status
that makes the aforementioned trio of Williams, Mattison or Herbert
so valuable. We already know Harris has twice injured his foot.
Do you want to bet on the possibility he will go another 14 games
without another injury or aggravation? I don't.
Johnson has done nothing but ball out just about every time he
has been given an opportunity. Unfortunately, he has the misfortune
of being stuck on the same depth chart as perhaps the best pure
runner in the game right now (Nick Chubb) and another highly capable
back who should be a starter in the league (Kareem Hunt). Johnson
has only been active for once in 2022 (Week 3) and played all
15 of his snaps in that game on special teams. With that said,
Chubb has not made it past Week 5 without a multi-week injury
the last two seasons and Hunt missed half of last season due to
injury. That is not to say that either back is injury-prone; both
players play in an offense that loves to pound the rock. Injuries
will happen. What it does mean, however, is that a proven starting-caliber
fantasy option is on the wire in virtually every league and one
injury to Chubb or Hunt away from being in that conversation.
Fantasy managers should try to find room on their rosters wherever
possible to stash him. He likely has more value than a WR7 or
WR8 in a 12-team league with 18-man rosters or just about any
Now we are talking! OK, it seems a bit ridiculous to recommend
a player coming off a career day in the same week J.K. Dobbins
made his season debut. After all, Dobbins is coming back to do
what Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis could not do: take advantage
of the rushing opportunities created by defenses worrying so much
about Lamar Jackson. There is also the small matter of Gus Edwards
(ACL) returning from PUP soon. Here is the thing: the Ravens showed
patience with Dobbins in his return despite two weeks' worth of
full practices to get him ready. They can probably be expected
to do the same with Edwards.
HC John Harbaugh noted after Baltimore's Week 2 effort that "the
arrow is up" in regards to his thoughts on Hill. After
his breakout Week 3 performance (60 yards on six carries), Harbaugh
went to a much different level with his praise:
"I thought Justice Hill really stepped up. He was kinda
the bell cow today. He made some exceptional runs. He and I have
been talking about that for a couple of weeks - he was gonna break
out and run like a star running back, and he did."
There is no denying that Hill looks more like the explosive running
back now that he was at Oklahoma State than at any point during
his NFL career. Does that give him league-winning fantasy upside?
Probably not. Dobbins will be the lead back in this backfield
when he is ready and Edwards will be the sledgehammer that he
was pre-injury when he is ready. However, it might take until
Week 8 or longer for that to happen. Hill has a chance to make
a case for regular playing time in the interim. His snaps have
increased from two to five to 14 since the season started and
his carries have increased similarly (2-3-6). At least until Dobbins
gets back to speed, Hill may be the most dynamic back the Ravens
have on the roster. His role should continue to grow for now,
enough so that he may be a worthwhile option for D'Andre Swift
managers who may be without his services until after Week 6.
Williams has mostly been trending downward since the NFL Combine.
His 4.70-second time in the 40 removed whatever chance he had
of going on the second day of the draft despite a mostly stellar
career at Notre Dame. He experienced a brief positive moment when
the Rams used some of their limited draft capital to move up in
the fifth round to select him this spring. Just over a month later,
however, he broke his foot in rookie minicamp and missed the majority
of the offseason program. He was activated from the PUP list in
early August and made
enough of an impression in his limited practice time that
the team held him out of the final preseason game. Williams barely
got a chance to justify the faith in him, suffering a high-ankle
sprain on the opening kickoff of Week 1.
For anybody who watched him in college, it is not hard to understand
what the Rams see in Williams. Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson
are both capable receivers (despite how Los Angeles uses them
sometimes), but Williams has some Dion Lewis and Austin Ekeler
to his game. He could be a handful for most linebackers to cover.
It seems unlikely he will get a chance to reach the heights of
Lewis or Ekeler in this offense, but fantasy managers should always
be on the lookout for backs who could/should play meaningful roles
in the passing game. He is that. Williams is purely a stash now
for those managers who have IR spots in deep leagues.
The second-round pick was "the
star" of the offense during training camp, according
to NBC Sports' Peter King. Unfortunately, Robinson lasted all
of nine snaps in Week 1 before succumbing to a knee injury. He
is still not practicing and details about the injury have been
scant. The fact he was not placed on IR after the opener suggests
he is probably looking at a Week 5 return. Robinson's return took
on an added importance after hard-luck Sterling Shepard tore his
ACL at the end of Week 3. Not only does Shepard's injury naturally
open up a ton of snaps in the slot for the rookie, but it also
creates an opportunity for a receiver like Robinson to absorb
the 10 targets Shepard saw in each of his final two games.
Robinson does not belong on this list just because he is the
most natural replacement for Shepard, however. Although it is
fair to question the legitimacy of such a claim, there was some
thought in the preseason he could serve as Saquon Barkley's immediate
backup. While it seems unlikely to those who do nothing more than
look at his 185-pound frame, Robinson carried the ball 141 times
in three college seasons and occasionally served as Nebraska's
primary rusher. Any rushing production this year would be gravy,
if only because Barkley will not leave the field very often as
long as he is healthy. However, Rondale Moore and particularly
Curtis Samuel have shown us in recent seasons that the possibility
of 200 rushing yards and 1-2 touchdowns out of the backfield does
wonders for raising the fantasy floor of a receiver. Those numbers
are possible if Robinson returns soon. Add to that the potential
for the 8-10 targets Shepard leaves behind and there is some definite
Forget for a second that Beasley fits the prototype of slot receivers
that have flourished with Tom Brady (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola,
Wes Welker, etc.). After entering the season with Mike Evans,
Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones, only Evans is a lock
to play in Week 4. Injuries to three of the top four receivers
have rendered Brady nearly useless for fantasy purposes to this
point, while injuries to the new offensive line have increased
the importance of Brady getting rid of the ball quicker than ever.
If there is one thing Beasley can do well, it might be the fact
he can get open quickly.
There is a good chance Tampa Bay will not need Beasley at this
time next month, but that would also assume that Godwin, Jones
and Gage are at full health. There are no assurances at least
two of those three will get there anytime soon despite the fact
they are practicing in limited fashion this week. Assuming that
at least two of the three make it back and stay healthy for the
remainder of the season, the Bucs still need to find a player
who can control the middle of the field like Rob Gronkowski did.
While Beasley will not run down the seam the same way Gronk did,
he could probably move the chains every bit as well. At worst,
Beasley is a worthwhile bench stash in deeper leagues. In his
best-case scenario, Beasley becomes Brady's No. 2 option if Godwin,
Jones and Gage cannot get right physically.
We are probably at least two weeks away from the point where
we even need to consider Beckham. With that said, we have a decent
idea that he wants to play for the Rams again - assuming his knee
checks out. It is anyone's guess how well he can recover from
a second ACL surgery, but we already know what he can do in this
offense when he is healthy - even as he turns 30 years of age
in early November.
The thing about Beckham is that he does not even need to return
to the Rams in order to be worth a stash. While teams like the
Patriots and Giants make sense from a WR1 need perspective, they
seem unlikely matches for multiple reasons. What if Baltimore
reached out? What if Dallas wanted to make a splash? There are
at least 2-3 potential opportunities that could arise that make
Beckham worth a fantasy roster spot now, especially for a fantasy
team that has receivers from Arizona, Atlanta, Green Bay, New
Orleans and/or Washington - NFL teams with Week 13 or Week 14
byes. It makes sense for those fantasy teams to stash players
like OBJ now and see where things go with his knee and employment
in the coming weeks.
There are much better bets out there than the potential third
receiver on a bad offense. I know that and I will assume you know
that. The difference between Johnson and most other third receivers
is that he probably should be a starter somewhere in the league.
Johnson is not a special talent per se, but he is very capable.
It would help all parties involved if a third receiver emerged
in Houston. That receiver was supposed to be John Metchie this
season, but his leukemia diagnosis put a quick end to that possibility.
So far, all we know about Johnson as a Texan is that he is still
learning the playbook after he was claimed off waivers right before
the start of the season. The fact that he has yet to see the field
is slightly discouraging, but it seems like it is only a
matter of time before that happens. Johnson is admittedly
a long shot in fantasy for an offense that sometimes struggles
to keep one receiver relevant in fantasy and rarely makes two
wideouts viable. However, Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins could
both benefit if Johnson simply emerged as a chain-moving threat
in the slot (think Jakobi Meyers). Johnson's fantasy ceiling will
likely only be reached if Cooks and/or Collins miss multiple games,
but there is not much doubt he would be the one to fill in for
them once the coaching staff believes he has the playbook down.
The preseason hype on Likely was deafening toward the end of
August, but I think we will discover it was deserved at some point
this season. The difference between him and someone like Brevin Jordan (from last year) is that Likely was not mothballed until
the second half of the season. Likely has been targeted on 19
percent of the routes he has run so far. His role in this offense
will almost certainly continue to grow, perhaps at the expense
of Devin Duvernay, who ranks third on the team in slot snaps (19)
behind Mark Andrews (61) and Likely (34). It is kind of a big
deal that Likely ranks third on the team with 11 targets, which
is only five behind Rashod Bateman.
How "likely" is it that two tight ends on the same
team can have fantasy value - especially in an offense that wants
to lean on the run? Not very. Again, that is not the point. In
deeper leagues, fantasy managers need to take calculated risks
with their upside stashes. Likely will almost certainly be stuck
in TE2 purgatory for as long as Andrews is healthy. There simply
is not enough volume to make Andrews, Bateman and another option
relevant consistently. However, I think it is becoming clear that
Baltimore believes Likely could handle Andrews' role should the
veteran miss multiple games. If the Ravens believe that, Likely
has league-winning upside in fantasy. How many backup tight ends
can we say that about around the league?
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.