Each week of the NFL season, we will identify fantasy football waiver-wire pickups specifically for those of you looking for streaming options in deeper formats (including IDP leagues). These are players available in a majority of ESPN Fantasy leagues (or close) who have enticing matchups in the week ahead that make them worthy of consideration for your lineups.
While you might notice some overlap with Field Yates’ pickup column that publishes on Mondays, an important distinction is that the options mentioned in this column are focused solely on this week’s matchup and not the players’ values for the remainder of the season.
Darnold was dreadful for the Panthers in last week’s loss against the Eagles. He held onto the football too long, didn’t read Philadelphia’s defense well, was erratic in the pocket, and flat out missed open receivers. So Darnold’s had one less-than-stellar game? There’s no need to panic.
From Week 1-4 he’s averaged 27 fantasy points per game. Darnold is in a better position to bounce back at home against the Vikings this week and the return of running back Christian McCaffrey will help tremendously. Darnold can be viewed as a QB2 with upside this week against a Vikings defense (368.8) that’s allowed the 16th most yards per game.
The Jaguars are winless and head coach Urban Meyer is making headlines for the wrong reasons, but Lawrence has quietly improved with each game this season. Last week’s 273 passing yards was his most since Week 1 (332). Lawrence is also being used more as a runner. He’s accumulated 21 rushing attempts over the last three games. The Jaguars’ defense (109.62) has allowed the seventh most fantasy points per game. Lawrence will continue to find himself in neutral to negative game scripts which only strengthen his fantasy viability. He’s on the streaming radar this week against a Dolphins defense that’s allowed the sixth most point per game to quarterbacks (22.03).
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team (12.6%; vs. Chiefs)
Last week’s performance against the Saints paints a crystal-clear picture that Heinicke cannot be relied upon every week as a starter. He’s a matchup-based streamer and the last time I recommended him in this column, Heinicke threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns against the Falcons. Heinicke has another exploitable matchup against the Chiefs in Week 6.
No other team allows the most points to quarterbacks on a per-game basis than Kansas City (28). Heinicke’s rushing ability is also understated as he has stockpiled 22 rushing attempts in four starts and has averaged 5.17 yards per attempt. The Chiefs’ defense (141) has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game. Kansas City presents a perfect bounce-back opportunity.
Unfortunately, Clyde Edwards-Helaire will miss a few weeks with an MCL sprain. “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity,” was mentioned by Sun-Tzu and rings true to Williams’ situation. He led the Chiefs with 37 snaps and five rushing attempts against the Bills on Sunday Night Football, and is expected to be Kansas City’s lead back, while Jerick McKinnon is used as a receiver out of the backfield. Williams provided us with a glimpse of what he’s capable of last season in the playoffs when Edwards-Helaire was injured. In the Chiefs two playoff games, he stockpiled 1155 total yards and a touchdown on 31 touches. He’s an excellent plug-and-play RB2 against a Washington defense (120.24) that’s surrendered the most points per game this season in fantasy.
Herbert finished last week’s game against the Raiders with 18 rushing attempts compared to Damien Williams’ 16, and Herbert played more snaps. There should be enough touches for both in the Bears’ run-heavy offense with starting quarterback Justin Fields. For those unfamiliar with Herbert, he played his collegiate career at Kansas and Virginia Tech. In 46 college games, Herbert rushed for 2,918 yards and 22 touchdowns on 475 attempts and had 34 receptions for 297 yards and another score. From a film perspective, Herbert has solid balance, play speed, and identifies running lanes well. Herbert is a solid RB3 or flex option against the Packers in Week 6.
Watkins’ number of snaps continues to trend up as the season progresses. He’s caught 13 of 17 targets for 267 yards. On the other hand, Jalen Reagor has only caught 17 of 25 targets for 140 yards. Watkins lost out on a touchdown last week against the Panthers, as Jalen Hurts pass missed a wide-open Watkins on a free play. He could have a career day with his blazing speed against a Buccaneers defense allowing the second most points to wide receivers.
Moore was marvelous in the Cardinals’ Week 5 win over the 49ers. He displayed his catching ability, play speed, and tackle-breaking ability. Moore was deployed as not only a runner, but also as a receiver and it’s worth noting that this the first time this season that Moore ran more routes than Christian Kirk in a game. He’s an excellent flex option or WR3 especially if you are looking for upside.
Bateman’s return is imminent and it’s coming at a perfect time for the Ravens offense. Quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to develop nicely as a passer. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he’s the first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 50 rushing yards in a single game. The Ravens could use another receiving weapon. Tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise Brown combined for 23 targets. Bateman offers them the versatility to play both on the outside and from the slot. He finished his 31-game collegiate career at Minnesota with 147 receptions, 2,395 receiving yards (sixth in school history), and 19 touchdowns (fifth). You should consider starting Bateman in his first regular season game.
Gesicki has amassed 25 targets over the Dolphins’ last three games. His targets per snap is on par with Darren Waller. Although Gesicki has only played 60.8% of Miami’s offensive snaps, that paints a picture of how often he has been involved in the Dolphins’ passing game. This usage trend is likely to continue against the Jaguars as Jacksonville’s defense has allowed the ninth most points per game to tight ends. Gesicki is a TE1 you shouldn’t overlook if your fantasy team needs a streamer.
Henry has caught 10 of 13 targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games and quarterback Mac Jones has a passer rating of 110.4 when targeting him this season. Henry is starting to heat up and should continue to be provided targets. The rapport between Henry and Jones should only strength as the season progresses. He’s a TE1 against the Dallas Cowboys defense that’s allowed the tenth-most points per game to tight ends entering Week 6.
Alie-Cox is operating as the Colts No. 1 tight end ahead of Jack Doyle. Over the last two games, he’s caught 6 of 9 targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns. You can feel comfortable playing Alie-Cox against a Texans defense (20.8) that’s allowed the most points per game to his position.
Indianapolis Colts (43.7% rostered; vs. Texans)
You may be shocked to see the Colts as a recommendation after their defensive implosion on Monday Night Football against the Ravens. Indianapolis will be motivated to bounce back defensively against the Texans. Davis Mills threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but don’t allow that to blind you from two things. First, Mills is a rookie leading a Texans team with very few playmakers. Second, Houston has allowed 10 sacks, 6 takeaways, and averages a dismal 10 points per game. This is a great recipe for streaming success.
Green Bay Packers (20.1% rostered; at Bears)
The Bears are a disaster on offense right now. They rank last in total yards (240) per game and only average 16.8 points per game as an offensive unit which is also near the bottom of the league. On top of that, the Bears have limited the pass attempts of Justin Fields. He’s had 24 pass attempts or less in four consecutive games. The Bears offensive line has also given up 18 sacks this season. The Packers are in a good spot at home against Chicago’s suboptimal offense.
Cincinnati Bengals (17.1% rostered; at Lions)
The Bengals defense weren’t strong enough to subdue Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams last week. However, Cincinnati should have more luck against Jared Goff and the Lions offense. Detroit has averaged 339.6 total yards and 19.6 points per game. The Lions rank near the bottom of the league in both statistical categories. If you’re in a bind at the D/ST position, look no further than the Bengals.
Succop only had one field goal attempt, which he made, and was successful on all six extra point attempts in the Buccaneers win over the Dolphins last week. This is important because he’s had some misses in each of the last three games. The Buccaneers offense is a juggernaut averaging an incredible 431.4 total yards per game. Succop appears to be back on track and should see plenty of kicking opportunities against the Eagles.
Evan McPherson, Cincinnati Bengals (10%; at Lions)
McPherson is tied to a Bengals offense that has scored 24 or more points in each of their last three games. Cincinnati’s offense shouldn’t have trouble accumulating yards against the Lions defense. No other team allows more fantasy points per game to kickers than Detroit.
Zane Gonzalez, Carolina Panthers (0.3%; vs. Vikings)
Darnold and the Panthers look to bounce back at home against the Vikings. Gonzalez made all three of his field goal attempts and an extra point against the Eagles last week. He’s in a great position to replicate that performance against the Vikings who are tied with the Texans for allowing the fourth most points to kickers.
Individual Defensive Players (IDP)
Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (39.7%; vs. Eagles)
Barrett has stockpiled 18 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception. He’s stepped up in a major way for the Buccaneers defense. Barrett will have plenty of opportunities to display his pass rushing skills against an Eagles offense (36.6) averaging the 12th most pass attempts per game.
Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals (40.8%, at Browns)
Simmons has been the most consistent tackle producer on the Cardinals. He’s delivering on the hype after Arizona selected him eighth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He should be busy against a Browns offense that leans heavily on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Johnson was able to get retribution against the Chiefs after getting embarrassed by them during the regular season and playoffs last year. He led the Bills with 12 tackles against Kansas City. Johnson has become one of the most important players on the Buffalo defense. He’s in a good spot against the Titans and on the streaming radar.