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In fantasy football, the line between being over-reactive and under-reactive is fine and ill-defined.
A player's sudden and sometimes inexplicable spike in opportunity and/or production can stir hysteria among fantasy managers who feel pressure to act and act now -- to use a waiver priority or blow their free agent budget on a guy who looked so damn good on Sunday afternoon (or Sunday night, if you, like me, wait all day for Sunday night).
We have precious little time for under-reaction. Ours is a short season. This isn't baseball or basketball; we don't have endless, meaningless regular season games with which to work. We deal in small sample sizes, doing the best we can with a range of metrics that might show us who on the waiver wire can propel us to fantasy glory, or something like it. Over-reaction is natural though. We like what we see and we want what we want.
Overcoming these biases and finding the magical middle ground between over-and-under reaction is the key to working the wire with sobriety, with a clear head free from the sort of lizard brain nonsense that so often gets us into trouble. We're emotional creatures who let fear and anger and anxiety guide us. Keep this in mind as you make early-season roster moves, especially after a start to the season that leaves your molars grinding at night. There ends your therapy session.
I'll do my best to use this space as a kind of tempering environment for one-week reactions, balancing fantasy managers' short-term needs with long-term outlooks for players who are simply not rostered in enough leagues. Tempering doesn't come natural for me, someone whose overactive imagination can generate a hundred scenarios of a player's immediate future based on his usage, his team, and his upcoming matchups.
Below are my Week 3 waiver pickups. I've included whether these players should be acquired in smaller or larger leagues, and what kind of rosters would be good (or bad) fits for these waiver wire options.
Marcus Mariota (ATL)
Rostership: 33 percent
Mariota shouldn't be mistaken for a plugged-in weekly starter in 12-team formats. In ten teamers that start one quarterback, he shouldn't be rostered.
It's Mariota's rushing, as you may have guessed, that makes him interesting as a fantasy option. He's logged 18 rushing attempts through two games; he has ten designed runs, the third most among QBs in this young season. Mariota, who has three rushes of more than 10 yards in two games, can get there for fantasy purposes even in a lifeless Atlanta offense that treats Kyle Pitts as an afterthought (I'm not mad).
Mariota in Week 3 gets a matchup with a Seahawks defense allowing the NFL's highest EPA per drop back. Only six teams are giving up a higher passing success rate than the Seabags, one of eight defenses giving up more than six yards per play. Mariota could have something of a ceiling against a defense we'll be targeting throughout 2022.
Jared Goff (DET)
Rostership: 22 percent
Goff has had a good amount of volume on his side, which will be necessary if he's going to be fantasy viable as a streamer or as an option in Superflex formats. He's dropped back to pass 77 times through two weeks, leading to six passing scores at just 6.6 yards per attempt.
Please don't misunderstand. Goff is the same old Goff. He's 27th in completion rate over expected and 26th in success rate per drop back. He's still bad. A Week 3 game against the heavily-favored Vikings, however, could lead to a glut of pass attempts. The Lions showed in Week 2 against the Commanders had one of the NFL's highest pass rates over expected. The Vikings, meanwhile, as the NFL's fifth most extreme pass funnel defense and have given up the league's third most yards per play (6.4). Goff should be serviceable in Week 3.
Other quarterbacks to roster
Ryan Tannehill (19 percent): Tannehill is anything but an every-week starting option in 12-team leagues. He might not even make the cut in 14-team formats. He should, however, be interesting in Week 3 against a miserable Raiders defense giving up the eighth-highest drop back EPA.
Joe Flacco (2 percent): Flacco is reaping all the benefits of a Jets offense that has a 70 percent neutral pass rate through Week 2. The hope is the Jets will again be forced to chase points in Week 3 against the Bengals. The extremely down-bad Bengals put that eventuality in serious question, however. Fantasy's QB8 is worth a hard look in Superflex formats. Cincinnati's defense is hardly a pushover though: Only eight defenses have given up a lower passing success rate this season.
Garrett Wilson (NYJ)
Rostership: 23 percent
There were flickers of what was to come during the Jets' Week 1 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens. Wilson was a not-so-distant third in pass routes and was targeted on a healthy 24 percent of his routes, a little higher than Corey Davis and way higher than Elijah Moore. Joe Flacco often locked in on Wilson as the Jets played from behind against Baltimore. When I talked with Rotoworld's Patrick Kerrane on our Sunday night recap podcast, we both raised an eyebrow at Wilson's opening day usage. That makes two raised eyebrows, per the analytics.
His usage and efficiency continued, as you may have seen, in Week 2 against the Browns. Wilson, a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, caught eight of 14 targets for 102 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He led the Jets with a 31.8 percent target share and once again posted a gaudy target per route run rate of 38 percent. Moore, meanwhile, was targeted on just 10.9 percent of his routes against Cleveland.
I don't think it's entirely reactive to reach for Wilson on the wire this week if you faded high-end wideouts and find yourself in need of plug-and-play starters. The Jets stink. They have a 70 percent neutral pass rate through two weeks, the third highest in the league. They're giving up the league's second-highest EPA per play. They'll be chasing points all season. Wilson's early-season usage could portend a larger role as the season wears on in an offense that doesn't even pretend to run the ball. The worst thing that can happen to Wilson's long-term fantasy prospects? The return of the team's failed 2021 second overall pick, Zach Wilson.
Jakobi Meyers (NE)
Rostership: 35 percent
Meyers shouldn't be available on many, if any, 12-team league waiver wires. It was Nelson Agholor who made the splashy play against Pittsburgh in Week 2, but it was Meyers who continued as a magnet for Patriots targets. After he caught nine of 13 targets for 95 yards against the Steelers, Meyers now has a 31 percent target share in a New England offense that likely won't be able to establish the run like they would so desperately want.
Meyers' usage in the slot should continue to make him an easy target for Mac Jones. He needs to be rostered in 12-team leagues that start 3-4 receivers.
Jahan Dotson (WAS)
Rostership: 43 percent
I am once again asking you to pick up Dotson. Against Detroit in Week 2, he ran a route on every single Carson Wentz drop back and was again efficient with his five targets, catching four for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Washington appears ready and willing to establish the pass this year. Their 65 percent neutral pass rate would suggest as much. While Dotson's target share is a tad troubling, I would expect his role to grow in a Commanders offense that either can't or won't run the ball. Dotson, a top-15 fantasy wideout through two weeks, should continue enjoying single coverage while opposing secondaries shade toward Terry McLaurin's side of the field.
Josh Palmer (LAC)
Rostership: 27 percent
We were told rostering Palmer would be fun this season. It has been anything but fun, as Palmer has seven catches for 35 yards and a garbage time touchdown. Keenan Allen (hamstring) missing Week 2 against the Chiefs didn't mean much for Palmer's production.
Still, he ran a route on 98 percent of the Chargers' Week 2 drop backs and will remain an every-down player for as long as Allen is sidelined. If Herbert misses time with his rib injury, Palmer isn't playable in 12-team formats.
Other receivers to roster
Breshad Perriman (0 percent): Perriman ran a route on 77 percent of Tom Brady's Week 2 drop backs and caught three of five targets for 45 yards and a score against the Saints. Perriman ran routes from both the outside and from the slot. Mike Evans' one-game suspension ensures Perriman will serve as a starting wideout in Week 3 against Green Bay. His upside isn't what it might have been in the pass-obsessed Bucs offense of old. Through two games, Tampa has the league's seventh-lowest pass rate over expected. Brady's Bucs are a run-first team. Adjust.
Chris Olave (60 percent): I didn't highlight the rookie (and didn't include him in my top-ten adds) because he's rostered in most leagues. Probably he's not a starter in most 10-team formats, but in 12-team leagues his rostership should approach 100 percent. Olave set out to break air yards models the world over in Week 2 against the Bucs, as he racked up 334 air yards -- 154 more than anyone else on Sunday. His average depth of target (26) against Tampa would suggest Olave won't be the most consistent producer. But Jameis Winston is clearly willing to sling the ball downfield to the team's best downfield threat -- a guy who ripped college secondaries on deep shots at Ohio State.
Rondale Moore (20 percent): Moore's rostership is slipping toward zero following a preseason in which many real and fantasy football analysts (including me) were bullish on the second-year wideout. Backup slot receiver Greg Dortch's usage through two games could mean plenty of routes and targets for Moore when he returns from his hamstring injury. That could still be a couple weeks away. He should be picked up in 12-team leagues with deep benches.
Greg Dortch (7 percent): Dortch Szn continued unabated in Week 2. Kyler Murray's slot receiver ran a route on 78 percent of Arizona's drop backs and caught all four of his targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. Dortch had a solid if unspectacular fantasy outing while going against standout Raiders slot corner Nate Hobbs, who in Week 1 allowed the third lowest yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. Dortch is a 12-team starter if Rondale Moore (hamstring) remains sidelined in Week 3.
Sterling Shepard (11 percent): Whether we like it or not (we don't), Shepard is probably the Giants' No. 1 receiver. He's seen a target on a solid 21 percent of his pass routes through two games, and against the Panthers in Week 2, he led New York with six catches on 11 targets for 34 yards. Daniel Jones' many deficiencies will continue to hold down the fantasy outlook of every Giants pass catcher, though Shepard could be useful in deep PPR leagues with multiple flex spots. The Giants were top-ten in pass rate over expected in Week 2. Brain Daboll, if you're reading: More of that, please.
Ashton Dulin (1 percent): Dulin has quietly posted a team-leading 31.6 percent target per route run over two games. He led the Colts in receiving in their Week 2 humiliation at Jacksonville and has presumably earned a spot alongside Michael Pittman (quad) and Alec Pierce (concussion), both of whom were sidelined against the Jags. PFF grades Dulin as the team's top wideout through Week 2.
Noah Brown (2 percent): Be careful with Brown. His five-catch, 91-yard, one-touchdown line against the Bengals might make him look like Dallas' 1B to CeeDee Lamb's 1A receiving option. But it was Lamb who commanded a 36.6 percent target share against Cincinnati, while Brown saw a less-than-stellar 16.6 percent of Cooper Rush's attempts. He won't be helped by the Cowboys' obsession with operating a balanced offense no matter the result. Brown is only startable for receiver-desperate fantasy managers in Week 3. He'll be droppable upon Michael Gallup's return from an ACL injury.
Scotty Miller (0 percent): This is strictly a deep-league add. Please don't chase Miller's Week 2 usage if you're in a 12-team format. Miller subbed in for Mike Evans after Evans started his annual brawl with arch-nemesis Marshon Lattimore and was subsequently suspended for this week's game against the Packers. Miller was targeted on a stunning eight of his 19 routes against New Orleans while posting a 16.9 average depth of target, per PFF. He finished with three grabs for 34 yards. The analytics darling could stumble into a full complement of snaps in Week 3 as Evans' primary replacement.
Raheem Mostert (MIA)
Rostership: 43 percent
Not In My League Twitter is going to riot over this recommendation. So be it.
Mostert played well behind Chase Edmonds in Week 1 against the Patriots. But here's the rub: Edmonds was the worst back in the NFL on opening day. He had the league's lowest rush yards over expected per attempt while facing eight defenders in the box on a low 16 percent of his rushing attempts.
Mostert last week against Baltimore started and led the Dolphins backfield and led Edmonds in carries, 11-5. The most important development here is Mostert splitting pass-catching work with Edmonds, the presumed pass-catching specialist. Maybe the usage won't stick. It's certainly possible in a Miami offense still searching for its identity. Mostert should be added by managers thirsty for running back options.
One complicating factor here is Edmonds' Week 2 performance. He was quite good, gaining 33 yards on five carries and nearly breaking a long run in the fourth quarter. You can't start Edmonds in 12-team leagues but you can't drop him either.
Eno Benjamin (ARI)
Rostership: 11 percent
Darrel Williams (ARI)
Rostership: 4 percent
What looked like a clearcut backfield situation in Arizona is now a muddled mess that could destroy any fantasy viability should James Conner miss time with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 2. Conner's ankle issue, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, is not of the serious variety. That doesn't preclude him from missing Week 3 against the Rams.
Eno Benjamin in Week 1 appeared to be in line for a workhorse-type role should Conner miss any time in 2022. Those hopes (we love a clear backfield) were summarily dashed in Week 2 when Darrel Williams ran more routes than Benjamin and matched his targets and rushes against Vegas. Williams looked to be the team's preferred short yardage back; he punched in a short touchdown against the Raiders in the second half after Conner's departure. Williams also ripped off a 30-yard carry on his eight attempts.
If you forced me to choose a Cardinals back by threatening to throw me out of an airplane, I would first ask why you had to resort to such measures. Then I would say Williams. He probably fits the Conner prototype more than Benjamin, a longtime fascination of the analytics community. Whoever gets a lead back role for the Cardinals will likely see a bunch of high-value opportunities (receptions plus green zone touches), as Conner has since the start of the 2021 season. This isn't to say Benjamin is lacking. He's not. Only six backs have a higher rush yards over expected per attempt this season. His 2.63 yards after contact per attempt is better than guys like Leonard Fournette and Jonathan Taylor. Benjamin might be excellent.
One note: The Rams, who face off against Arizona this week, are a nightmare running back matchup. No team has given up a lower EPA per rush than LA in the season's first two games. That doesn't mean Williams (or Benjamin) can't get there with pass-catching work.
Rachaad White (TB)
Rostership: 35 percent
These aren't your grandfather's Bucs. They don't even wear creamsicle uniforms anymore.
The 2022 version of Tom Brady's Tampa offense is the opposite of what it was in 2020 and 2021, when the Bucs were a pass-first, pass-always offense. Through two weeks, they have the NFL's third-lowest pass rate over expected on first and ten and the eighth lowest pass rate over expected overall.
That makes White -- who has eight carries over two games -- one of the most important running back insurance options in fantasy. He would be an RB1 if Leonard Fournette got banged up for the third season in a row. White should be rostered by anyone seeking a contingency-based plug-and-play back.
Other running backs to roster
Jordan Mason (5 percent): Tyrion Davis-Price is expected to miss several weeks with a high ankle sprain. That makes Mason, an undrafted free agent, the Niners' presumed RB2 behind entrenched (for now) starter Jeff Wilson. Davis-Price saw 14 of the 49ers' 32 rushing attempts in Week 2 against Seattle. Mason could immediately see double-digit touches in an offense with the league's lowest pass rate over expected. Mason's upside is tremendous if Wilson gets dinged up.
Brian Robinson (48 percent): Robinson incredibly returned to Commanders practice last week in a (very) limited capacity, working to the side. Beat writers expect the rookie to be back on the field by mid-October. It could take a couple weeks but Robinson has a real shot to eventually slot in as Washington's lead back. Antonio Gibson managed 28 yards on 14 carries in Week 2 against the Lions.
Evan Engram (JAC)
Rostership: 21 percent
Whoever writes this column should have mentioned Engram in last week's writeup. We're looking for whoever did this. Anyway, Engram had a strong Week 2 against the down-bad Colts, catching seven of eight targets for 46 yards. He's cracked 80 percent route participation in both regular season games.
Though Engram's 2022 target per route rate of 15.5 percent leaves a lot to be desired, he's running plenty of routes and has been used in the slot on 37 percent of his routes in the early going. This wouldn't be the first time a tight end succeeded in Doug Pederson's offense.
Juwan Johnson (NO)
Rostership: 0 percent
The folks did not heed this column's advice last week to pick up Johnson, the Saints' primary route-running, pass-catching tight end who now has 12 targets through two games. Johnson's 18.5 percent target per route run rate is good enough for a streaming option.
A massive, seem-busting tight end who's being targeted down the field isn't the worst waiver target for those scraping by at the tight end spot.
Other tight ends to roster
Logan Thomas (14 percent): Thomas saw increased involvement in Washington's pass-happy offense in Week 2 against the Lions. His 61 percent route participation rate was a marked uptick over Week 1; the veteran caught three of five targets for 37 yards and a touchdown against Detroit. Thomas is being eased into a full-time role in the Commanders offense after suffering a devastating late-season injury in 2021. Don't be surprised if his route participation ticks up toward 90 percent in the coming weeks. A Washington offense that is among the league leaders in pass rate over expected could facilitate usable production for Thomas even if he remains the third or fourth option in the passing offense.
Tyler Conklin (3 percent): Conklin is the classic he's-out-there-running-routes-so-why-not fantasy option in deeper 12-team leagues where the waiver wire might be barren. Conklin through two weeks is among the league leaders with 90 pass routes in a pass-heavy Jets offense. That route volume has translated to 14 targets (and 10 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown). You could do worse?
Jonnu Smith (1 percent): I can confirm Smith is still in the league. In fact, he's doing a weird thing where he's running some pass routes and seeing targets. Smith has always been a target per route rate all-star -- cold comfort for those who have drafted him as a fantasy starter over the years. That hasn't changed. Smith has seen a target on 23.3 percent of his routes through two weeks (while Hunter Henry has been targeted on 7.6 percent of his routes). Still, Smith remains a desperation option.
Wil Lutz (NO)
Rostership: 11 percent
Don't fret about Lutz's poor Week 2 outing against Tampa. No kicker on this or any other planet will thrive in that sort of nightmare game script. Look to Week 1, when Lutz made two of his three attempts with plenty of positive script on his side.
Now he takes on a Carolina team allowing the most field goal tries through two weeks (8). However bad the Saints were last week against the Bucs, they should be in much better shape against a horrendous Panthers team. Lutz certainly fits the kicker process in Week 3.
Other kickers to roster
Graham Gano (3 percent): Gano should be useful as a Week 3 streaming option against Dallas. The Giants are currently three-point home favorites and there's fleetingly little reason to believe the G-people will be chasing points against Cooper Rush and the Cowboys. Dallas is tied with Carolina in allowing a league-high eight field goal tries through Week 2.
Cade York (24 percent): The rookie had a down Week 2 against the Jets, making his lone field goal attempt on his way to seven fantasy points (he missed a critical extra point). York should benefit from neutral and positive game script in a game that sees the Browns enter as three-point favorites. The Steelers have allowed the eighth most field goal tries through two weeks.
Matt Amendola (0 percent): Amendola fared well in his Chiefs debut last week. He made both of his field goal tries and all three of his extra points. If Harrison Butker (foot) remains sidelined in Week 3 against the Colts, Amendola is a perfect process-based play. The Chiefs are 5.5-point favorites against the Colts.
For the best Week 3 streaming defenses, check out Gary Davenport's Getting Defensive column.