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2023 NFL fantasy football waiver wire, Week 5: QB C.J. Stroud, WR Romeo Doubs among top targets

Let's start with the bad news: You can drop Kyle Pitts (cue my open weeping) and you must bench Joe Burrow.

The good news? I have replacements for both guys on this week's waiver wire wish list. Plus some must-add pass catchers and a few sneaky 'stache running backs. Not to mention, the top three D/STs of Week 5 (yep, calling my shot), all of which are available for the adding. There is light at the bottom of this Pitts. Let's seek it together.

As always, these are the most intriguing pickup options that are rostered in less than 60 percent of leagues. And yes, I have incorporated mustache wordplay. (If you got it, flaunt it!)

If you have questions, my DMs are open: @MattOkada on Twitter ... or X ... or whatever it is.


C.J. Stroud
Houston Texans


Through the first four weeks of his young career, Stroud is a top-10 fantasy quarterback. He has thrown for 280-plus yards and two touchdowns in each of his last three games, and -- as if to provide one last boost of confidence for prospective fantasy managers -- the youngster just posted 21.8 fantasy points against the Steelers' defense. The next three weeks bring the Falcons and Saints -- both of whom field solid defenses -- and then a Week 7 bye. I don’t care. You must add Stroud. If you have one of the elite QBs, add the rookie to keep him away from your league mates. If you don’t, Stroud is now your every-week starter. How serious am I? If you’re stuck with Joe Burrow and struggling to find wins ... I’d drop Burrow for Stroud.

Sam Howell
Washington Commanders


For the second time this season, Howell threw for only one passing touchdown but still posted a start-worthy week on the merits of his rushing ability (40 yards on the ground in a near-upset of the Eagles on Sunday). The second-year signal-caller also topped 20 fantasy points in Week 2 against the (inept) Broncos defense on his arm alone. Translation: Howell is a solid streamer in the right matchups. Matchups like Chicago in Week 5, as the Bears have surrendered the fourth-most passing yards in the league through the first month. If your QB is named Justin Herbert, Geno Smith, Deshaun Watson (all on bye) or Joe Burrow (must-bench until further notice), you should happily turn to Howell to take the start this Thursday night.

Joshua Dobbs
Arizona Cardinals


Dobbs is starting to put together a season somewhat reminiscent of Geno Smith’s Comeback Player of the Year campaign in 2022. After six years as a backup (and a stinker in Week 1), Dobbs has scored 65.7 fantasy points over the past three weeks -- fifth-most among quarterbacks in that span. He has thrown four touchdowns, no interceptions and has a 106.1 passer rating since Week 2 -- and he’s added 144 rushing yards and one touchdown in those three games. On Sunday, he managed 23.4 fantasy points against the 49ers, who had allowed just 27.8 fantasy points to QBs over the prior three games combined. Say it with me: “Rushing quarterbacks are fun for fantasy!” It’s hard to imagine -- and it’s undeniably risky -- but Dobbs is legitimately startable.

Zach Wilson
New York Jets


Wait, wait -- don’t leave! Just hear me out for a second. Part of this -- a small part -- is about Wilson’s performance on Sunday night. He looked quite good against a solid Chiefs defense -- and scored 19.2 fantasy points. Maybe, just maybe, he’s starting to figure out how to run this offense. But (far) more importantly, this is about the Broncos' defense. That unit has allowed roughly 25 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and just made nationally maligned signal-caller Justin Fields look like the greatest QB in Chicago Bears history (which, I’ll admit, isn’t saying much). Jimmy Garoppolo’s 15.1 fantasy points against Denver feels like the absolute floor in this matchup, and the ceiling -- even for Wilson -- is a mile high.

GUY TO 'STACHE: The entire fantasy community can agree on two things: We love Puka Nacua, and we DON'T love Desmond Ridder. Ridder (and Arthur Smith) have made a mockery of our Drake London and Kyle Pitts ADPs, and now the Falcons have lost two straight and face a hot Houston team in Week 5. If they continue losing and Ridder continues playing like he has (horribly), I think it's possible we get Taylor Heinicke at quarterback sometime soon. And if that happens, we'll be looking at a competent passer with a wealth of weapons at his disposal. This is a deep, contemplative two-QB 'stache -- but it's a 'stache nonetheless.


This is not a great week for running back additions -- no successor to De'Von Achane, sadly. But, I'm a man of the people, so I won't leave you nameless. Here are some deeper considerations that you can 'stache without breaking the bank.

Jaleel McLaughlin
Denver Broncos


Let’s start with some disclaimers on this undrafted rookie. His Week 4 stat line was inflated by the early exit of Javonte Williams (hip flexor) and the incompetence of the Bears' defense. Plus, this offense is (mostly) bad. Still, 104 scrimmage yards on 10 touches, including an 18-yard receiving touchdown, is impressive. Even if Williams is healthy heading into this week’s matchup with the Jets, McLaughlin is an intriguing add (though I wouldn’t start him). And if Williams does miss time, McLaughlin becomes a high-priority pickup.

Chuba Hubbard
Carolina Panthers


Like McLaughlin, Hubbard needs some disclaimers. Miles Sanders entered this game dealing with a groin injury, which likely opened the opportunity for Hubbard’s 16 touches on Sunday. Additionally -- and stop me if this sounds familiar -- this offense is bad. Like ... very bad. So even if Hubbard were to step into a consistently significant role moving forward, his upside would be Carolina-capped (a term I just made up). Still, double-digit touches in a game as the “1B” is promising.

Melvin Gordon
Baltimore Ravens


MG III was the last name in last week’s "GUYS TO 'STACHE," and he’s making another appearance here primarily on the merit of (limited) tape in Sunday’s 28-3 win over the Browns. Gordon only had four touches, but he averaged seven yards per tote and caught his only target for an impressive 23-yard gain. He looks electric -- at least for a 30-year-old with just under 1,900 career touches -- and could have a fantasy impact if anything happens to lead back Gus Edwards down the stretch.


Adam Thielen
Carolina Panthers


Remember earlier when I said the Panthers' offense was very bad? Well, it is. But the ball has to go somewhere. In this case, somewhere looks a lot like old reliable in the No. 19 jersey. After a third straight week with 15+ fantasy points (in PPR), Thielen is a top-10 wide receiver on the year (even in spite of a Week 1 dud). As I suggested was possible last week, Bryce Young did learn from Andy Dalton’s Week 3 display and connected with Thielen for seven catches and 76 yards in a close loss to the Vikings. While his ceiling isn’t exciting, Thielen is a near lock for double-digit fantasy points on a weekly basis with this kind of volume. He is a permanent flex option and becomes a plug-and-play WR2 with bye weeks on the horizon.

Michael Wilson
Arizona Cardinals


Quick intro: Wilson is a rookie receiver out of Stanford whose prototypical size (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) and competitiveness, as well as an impressive Senior Bowl showing, helped make him a third-round pick despite an injury-riddled college career. Wilson flashed over the first few weeks of the season, but really broke out on Sunday with seven catches (on seven targets) for 76 yards and two touchdowns against the vaunted 49ers defense. The biggest thing here might be Wilson’s size (no pun intended), as it grants him a leg up over the diminutive Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore for the possession-receiver and red-zone roles. With Joshua Dobbs playing surprisingly well and Kyler Murray’s potential return, Wilson could be one of the bigger surprises of the 2023 draft class.

Romeo Doubs
Green Bay Packers


Despite a pair of strong fantasy lines over the first three weeks of the season (and multiple appearances in this column), Doubs remains readily available on most waiver wires. That’s likely due to an expected reduction in role with the return of Christian Watson. While Thursday night's game wasn’t proof that expectation was misplaced -- Watson only played 45 percent of snaps in his first game back -- it was certainly encouraging. As were Doubs’ 13 targets, nine catches and 95 yards in the game. As I attempted to remind everyone prior to the season, Watson’s stretch of relevance in 2022 was directly correlated with a stretch of missed games for Doubs. With both guys now healthy, I truly believe Doubs is the better bet to lead Green Bay in targets and catches. He should be rostered in at least three times this many leagues (shoutout to anyone who gets that Zoolander reference).

Quentin Johnston
Los Angeles Chargers


Josh Palmer
Los Angeles Chargers


I stated in last week’s column that I believed Palmer was the better short-term add (over Johnston) after Mike Williams’ season-ending injury. Surprise, surprise: Palmer ran more routes, out-targeted Johnston 8-3 and racked up 77 receiving yards to Johnston’s 18 on Sunday (though, admittedly, 51 of those yards came on one catch at the end of the game). I still prefer Palmer to Johnston as a flex option, at least until we see Johnston take on more Williams-esque usage and participation. Both players should be rostered in more than half of leagues, but Johnston should be on your bench until a breakout.

Wan'Dale Robinson
New York Giants


A week after Robinson made GUYS TO ‘STACHE, he’s now graduating to the waiver-column big leagues. I talked about it on the Week 3 recap episode of the NFL Fantasy Football Podcast: Robinson had an impressive prospect profile, and the Giants are in desperate need of a go-to guy. He blossomed from eight routes run in Week 3 to 30 routes run in the ugly Week 4 loss to the Seahawks -- and put together 47 total yards on a team-high six targets and one rush. Most importantly, he looked electric every time he touched the ball, something that can’t be said for ... anyone else in a Giants uniform on Monday night. Along with the return of Saquon Barkley, Robinson might be the spark Big Blue needs to get the offense on track.

GUYS TO 'STACHE: Once again, Curtis Samuel was a favorite of Sam Howell on Sunday (season-high eight targets and seven catches in the overtime loss to the Eagles). The upside isn't superb, but I'd consider Samuel a decent spot-start receiver in the right matchups -- like on Thursday Night Football against the hapless Bears defense. Tee Higgins suffered a rib fracture in Week 4 and will likely miss some time -- which opens the door for Tyler Boyd to post a few valuable PPR performances. This would be much more exciting if Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense looked functional. As is, Boyd is a low-upside filler play.


Jake Ferguson
Dallas Cowboys


Remember a couple weeks ago when I highlighted Ferguson in this column on the merits of a single touchdown catch? Well, since then, Ferguson has averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game and he led the Cowboys with seven catches (on seven targets) for 77 yards in Sunday’s 38-3 rout of the Patriots. There is a clear rapport between Dak Prescott and his top tight end, and this offense is absolutely humming. Oh, and did I mention Ferguson leads the entire NFL with 11 red-zone targets? At this point, Ferguson is a must-start tight end in all but six-team leagues, so the fact that he’s so readily available on the wire is utter nonsense. 

Cole Kmet
Chicago Bears


Speaking of readily available nonsense, how does Kmet (narrowly) make the cutoff for this column at 59 percent rostership in leagues? It’s baffling. I understand he hadn’t lit up the fantasy box score through three weeks, but he is essentially the 1B in this receiving corps (alongside DJ Moore). We saw the usage translate into production in Justin Fields’ renaissance performance on Sunday -- to the tune of 85 yards, a pair of scores and 27.6 fantasy points. It will be spotty, given the inconsistency of Chicago's quarterback, but you simply can’t leave a tight end this involved on the waiver wire. He’s now the TE3 on the season. Let’s not be silly.

Jonnu Smith
Atlanta Falcons


I’m averting my eyes while I write this, so if the following paragraph is rife with typos, that’s my excuse. As I noted in the intro, Kyle Pitts is droppable -- at least until the potential quarterback change mentioned above. Unfortunately, Desmond Ridder isn’t the only blight on our Pitts shares: Jonnu Smith has out-produced Pitts in essentially every category over the past three weeks, culminating in a team-high six catches and 95 yards in the London loss to the Jaguars. For the record, I don’t feel great about starting Smith, either. But most of us are in desperation mode at tight end. OK, I’m going to go cry for a bit.



Aidan Hutchinson and the Lions face Bryce Young and the Panthers in Week 5. Outside of a shootout with the Seahawks in Week 2, the Lions D/ST has scored nine (vs. the Chiefs), 16 and 10 fantasy points in their three wins. Spoiler alert: Detroit is going to win again this Sunday. Carolina has surrendered 14 sacks and five turnovers in four games. Safety Harrison Smith just sacked Young three times on his own in Week 4. I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down here. Now go pick up the Detroit defense. This might be the top fantasy unit in Week 5.


Coming into the season, I would have audibly laughed if someone suggested streaming the Cardinals' defense against the Bengals' offense. Now I’m the someone. Well, well, well -- how the turn tables ... This one is fairly simple. Through four weeks, the Bengals are the worst scoring offense in the NFL ... and the worst total offense. They have averaged 12.3 points and 236 yards per game. Joe Burrow is hurt (as is Tee Higgins now), and the QB's injury has bled through to the entire offense. Until something changes, you can stream literally any defense against Cincinnati (except maybe Denver's).


Prior to a poor showing against the surprisingly effective Rams offense in Sunday’s overtime loss, Indianapolis' D/ST had scored nine-plus fantasy points in all three games to open the season. The Colts have been above average in both sacks and takeaways ... and they draw the Titans in Week 5. In case you haven’t watched Ryan Tannehill this season, he's not exactly lighting the world on fire. Tennessee has allowed 16 sacks through the first month (only the Bears and Commanders have given up more) and averaged just 18 points per game. In a divisional matchup, to boot, I’m expecting Indy to have its way with this Tennessee offense.

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