It feels like this fantasy football season has been a whole lot of "pick up this guy for a couple weeks but he'll probably lose the job in the not-too-distant future." The only guy who's given us truly long-term promise has been Jeff Wilson (with Elijah Mitchell out a couple months) and for some baffling reason -- despite my weekly efforts -- he is still only rostered in 68% of NFL.com leagues. If his 20-point performance in Week 5 doesn't resolve that atrocity, I truly cannot help you.
Meanwhile, managers who drafted Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, Ezekiel Elliott, James Conner and/or AJ Dillon (among others) are desperate for help from the pickup pool as their intended starters have dealt with disappointment or injury to start the year.
And on top of all that, arguably our best waiver bright spot outside of Wilson -- the reliable tight end duo of Gerald Everett and Tyler Conklin -- combined for 1.2 fantasy points in Week 5 (all of which were scored by Everett).
But ... I'm not here to wallow in the uninspiring quagmire of the first five waiver wire weeks. Nay, I instead come to bring you the first potential stud running back of the 2022 Waiver Wire AND a whole litter of legitimately startable wide receivers! Read on ... and bid high.
To the wire!
(And if you want more guys, more explanations, or more answers, hit me up on Twitter @MattOkada!)
Rostered percentages are from NFL.com's fantasy football player trends. Players are roughly ordered by priority within position.
Just a week after his 29-fantasy-point breakout against the Lions, Rashaad Penny suffered a fractured fibula in Week 5 and won't return this season. A tough turn of events for Penny and the Seahawks, but an open door for rookie Kenneth Walker III. Seattle selected Walker 41st overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, on the merits of his 1,636 rush yards, 18 rush touchdowns and explosive game tape (which he also displayed on his first NFL touchdown on Sunday). And to our surprise (and Geno Smith’s credit), Walker will take the helm of a Seahawks offense averaging a solid 25 points per game and a league-leading 5.6 yards per carry, and could easily be in line for 15+ touches on a weekly basis. As I stated in the intro, this is possibly the first waiver pickup I’m willing to go all in on. If Walker is available and you need RB help (or even if you don’t), do whatever it takes to get this guy on your roster.
To the 24% of you who added Raheem Mostert last week after his appearance in this column, congratulations on your win, thank you for listening and you’re welcome for your rest-of-season RB2. After following Mike McDaniel from San Francisco to Miami, Mostert has fully ascended as the Dolphins lead back. He tallied 18 carries for 113 yards and a score on Sunday, while the rest of Miami’s backfield combined for 5 carries and 10 yards. Sadly for Chase Edmonds drafters, Mostert appears to have a firm hold on this job. Happily for you, he can slot into your weekly lineup, barring extremely tough matchups, until further notice.
With injuries to both James Conner and Darrel Williams in Week 5, third-year running back Eno Benjamin stepped up to total 53 scrimmage yards on 11 touches and score his first touchdown of the season. Benjamin, a former 7th-round pick, has admittedly done a whole lot of nothing in his career to date and his upside may be limited even if he does earn the starting job for a stretch. With that being said, he was already getting notable work with both Conner and Williams healthy and has averaged 4.5 yards/carry and snagged 12 catches in his backup role this season. If Conner and/or Williams miss significant time (both are to be determined as of Monday), Benjamin will have an opportunity to contribute.
Guys to 'Stache: It appears that #29 Rachaad White may be stepping up and into the role No. 28 James White played for Tom Brady for several years in New England. He's played 40% of snaps in each of the last two games and totaled 8 catches on 9 targets for 78 yards in those games. Thursday Night Footballers Deon Jackson and Mike Boone both looked valuable in an otherwise hideous game last week — Jackson is a Taylor handcuff, while Boone could earn significant usage as Melvin Gordon continues to struggle with fumbles. Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley more or less split the work in Cordarrelle Patterson's Week 5 absence (and had a TD vultured by Avery Williams), which makes both guys less attractive as a waiver add. Still, both guys (and also returning sleeper Damien Williams) are worth an opportunity-based 'stache. Apparently Tevin Coleman is still playing NFL football (for Kyle Shanahan no less). He popped up like a jack-in-the-box and scored 21.7 fantasy points on Sunday — not a horrible 'stache in case if Wilson get an injury.
George Pickens didn’t blow any minds on Sunday -- though 14 fantasy points is nothing to sneeze at -- but he was the most productive Steelers wideout for the second straight week and is clearly an important cog in this offense under Kenny Pickett. Despite being out-targeted by Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, Pickens led the team in catches, receiving yards and has received 36% of the team’s air yards since Week 4 (a higher mark than Cooper Kupp or Stefon Diggs over that span). Plus, Pickett piled up 327 pass yards against the Bills (83 to Pickens), a promising portent of prospective production. Pickett likes Pickens. I like Pickens. Pick up Pickens. Please.
Jakobi Meyers’ fantasy scoring this season is giving Led Zeppelin vibes. 10.2 fantasy points in game one, 18.5 in game two, 24.1 in game three on Sunday (he missed Weeks 3-4). It’s a stairway. To heaven. The Led Zeppelin song. Okay, you know what, Adam Rank got it. The point is, even after dealing with injury, Meyers has established himself as the clear go-to option in the Patriots’ otherwise run-first offense. Heck, even with his mild Week 1 performance, Meyers is currently averaging 17.6 fantasy points per game on the season to rank eighth among wide receivers. You heard me right. The per game WR8 is on the waiver wire. Let’s fix that.
Tale as old as tiiiiiiiiime ... I don’t remember the rest of the words to the Beauty and the Beast song, sorry. The point is Michael Gallup is back in this column for the fourth-straight week. What I DO know is that Gallup looked like an absolute beast on his beauty of a toe-drag-swag snag on Sunday (8.2% Next Gen Stats catch probability by the way). And while the fantasy production has been mild through Gallup’s first two games back from injury, they were just that -- his first two games back from injury. In addition, Dak Prescott is likely to return very soon ... and is equally likely to catapult the Cowboys’ pass play frequency back to where it was in Week 1 (a monstrous 72%) ... or closer to it. If you can store Gallup on your bench now, he will pay much spicier dividends over the course of the fantasy season.
Yes, D.J. Chark was out on Sunday and yes, Amon-Ra St. Brown was questionable right up until kickoff ... and was on a pitch count in the game. So, what do we do with Reynolds and his 15.2 fantasy points? Well, I don’t think he’s averaging 9 targets and 90 yards per game rest of season (which he has done the past three weeks). But, he also has a long history with Jared Goff (dating back to the L.A. days) and could have solidified the WR2 spot in a productive offense (shutout in Week 5 notwithstanding). Add Reynolds if you can’t get one of the guys above, but don’t weep if you miss out on him.
Guys to 'Stache: Colts rookie wideout Alec Pierce has increased his targets, catches and receiving yards in every game this season and has outproduced Michael Pittman in back-to-back games. He's only in the 'staches because of how ineffective Matt Ryan and the Colts offense has been, but he could be a breakout star sooner than later. Darius Slayton led the Giants in targets, catches and receiving yards in the London win over the Packers (with Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney both out). Will he produce if those guys return? Maybe, maybe not. 'Stache him just in case. Any interest in a 32-year-old wide receiver who's starting to rebuild his connection with an old flame? I'm talking about Randall Cobb, who had 17 fantasy points on 13 targets in the aforementioned London game. Aaron Rodgers might start relying on his old buddy more and more if the youngsters underperform in Green Bay.
I’ve only got one new name for you at tight end this week, and he’s been here before. Hurst had 7+ fantasy points in three of his first four games (yes, that’s meant as a compliment), before breaking out on Sunday Night Football to the tune of 17.3 fantasy points. Granted, Tee Higgins played very little in this contest and Hurst certainly benefited from his absence. But you could do worse than Joe Burrow’s go-to tight end on a heavily pass-first offense. Not much worse. But worse.
Guys to 'Stache: Here is your obligatory Taysom Hill mention. Yes, he had a monstrous 34-point game on Sunday. No, this will not be a consistent occurrence. Yes, it will be impossible to predict when it's coming. No, there are not seven tight ends with more fantasy points than Hill. If you've got a spot or are desperate, go for it.
There is one quarterback I am willing to recommend as a legitimate add and start option this week. He leads the NFL in passer rating (113.2), is averaging more than 19 fantasy points per game and is the QB5 on the season. That’s right, I’m talking about 10th-year breakout Geno Smith. If you have an explanation for the brilliance we’ve seen from Smith this season, I am all ears. Because I sure don’t. But whatever the explanation, the man put up 24 fantasy points on a Saints defense that had allowed 11 points per game to the previous three quarterbacks (including 9.4 to Tom Brady). Until this Cinderella story ends, Smith should be considered as a legitimate weekly option.
Guys to 'Stache: If you're looking for a boom-bust QB2, Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson and Kenny Pickett are all interesting youngsters who have shown both rushing upside and a prevalence for mistakes. You're rolling the dice with any of these guys, but in the right matchups, they're better than the boring 14 points of Jimmy Garoppolo ... or Rodgers. That was a joke ... mostly.
My favorite D/ST add by far is the Jaguars D/ST, who have scored the 5th-most points at the "position" this season and draw the Colts, Giants, Broncos and Raiders over the next four weeks. It feels good to set a D/ST and forget about it for a month. This is your opportunity. The Chargers D/ST has been inconsistent this season, but the Broncos offense has been consistently bad. Shoutout to Snoop Dogg and Andy Samberg for that joke. Start up the Bolts in Week 6. The Saints have surrendered the most fantasy points to D/STs this season and the Bengals D/ST has the talent to capitalize in Week 6