Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
With multiple severe injuries and the bye weeks starting up, the waiver wire will be a feeding frenzy this week.
In some ways, Week 4 felt like the turning point of the fantasy football season. A handful of major injuries could have season-altering ramifications, and it’s also the last week every team played before the bye weeks start. The challenges are just starting for fantasy owners, and the waiver wire will be more important than ever during this middle stretch of the year.
Let’s just go over the biggest names that fantasy owners will be missing:
Dalvin Cook: Torn ACL, done for the season
Chris Carson: Broken ankle, possibly done for the season
Derek Carr: Back injury, possibly day-to-day
Marcus Mariota: Hamstring injury, extent unknown at time of writing
Julio Jones: Hip flexor, day-to-day but possibly back for Week 6
Jordan Matthews: Thumb surgery, out for a month
Davante Adams: Concussion and neck, week-to-week
Ty Montgomery: Rib injury, possibly week-to-week
On top of all those injuries, fantasy owners now have to worry about the bye weeks. Here are the Week 5 bye teams, with the important players that won’t be available.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan, RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, WRs Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel, TE Austin Hooper
Denver Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian, RBs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders
New Orleans Saints: QB Drew Brees, RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, WRs Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and Ted Ginn, TE Coby Fleener
Washington: QB Kirk Cousins, RBs Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine, WRs Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder, TEs Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis
That’s a lot of star power missing from fantasy lineups, so this is going to be a real test for your bench depth and waiver wire savvy.
With so much turnover at every position, here are the top five options available on the wire, owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo! standard leagues.
1. RB Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings (17 percent)
The Vikings’ next man up is also the guy they had pegged as their starter before drafting Cook. Murray underwent extensive ankle surgery in the offseaosn, which wiped out most of his training time with the team and led to Cook seizing the job. Now he’ll be counted on to carry a Vikings offense that’s teetering on the brink with Sam Bradford still on the shelf.
Murray had some productive years in Oakland, but never really broke out as a legitimate RB1. There’s a reason the Raiders kept signing competition for Murray before letting him walk in free agency. Nevertheless, he’s the guy and should immediately step into an RB2 role in every fantasy league.
2. QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (33 percent)
Talk about a coming-out party. Watson nearly knocked off the New England Patriots on the road with a stellar performance in Week 3, then followed it up by stomping the Tennessee Titans, throwing four touchdowns and rushing for one. Looking completely comfortable in the offense, Watson keeps getting better by the week, which makes it even more baffling that the Texans stuck with the Tom Savage charade as long as they did.
Watson and the Texans are flying high, but they’re heading into another real test against the Kansas City Chiefs. That will deflate Watson’s fantasy ceiling this week, but he’ done enough to prove that he needs to be taken seriously as a streamer during the bye weeks.
3. WR Will Fuller, Texans (32 percent)
It’s probably not a coincidence that Watson’s blowup happened the same week Fuller came back from a broken collarbone. The two hooked up for a pair of touchdown passes and Fuller finally gives the offense a real No. 2 receiver next to DeAndre Hopkins.
Like Watson, Fuller gets a stiff challenge against the Chiefs, but there’s potential for target volume if Marcus Peters shadows Hopkins. Fuller remains a flawed talent and needs to show more consistency, but Week 4 was a nice start.
4. RB Thomas Rawls/Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. Rawls was a healthy scratch one week after playing just a single snap. Lacy was a non-factor all year before getting 11 carries for 52 yards against the Indianapolis Colts, most of it in meaningless garbage time. There’s also J.D. McKissic, who did a fine job filling C.J. Prosise’s role as the pass-catching back. All signs point to a full-blown committee as Pete Carroll tries to find a hot hand. Rawls and Lacy are just fantasy dart throws when the Seahawks play the Los Angeles Rams on the road.
5. RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (11 percent)
Montgomery’s rib injury is not as serious as first reported, and he has a long week to recover after the Packers played on Thursday. But Jamaal Williams is definitely out for a while with a sprained knee, so Jones assumes the No. 2 spot for now. He’ll be the starter if Montgomery can’t go against the Dallas Cowboys, and carries some streaming appeal as a SPARQ freak in an Aaron Rodgers offense. There is legitimate RB2 upside here.
Honorable mentions: WR Danny Amendola, WR Cooper Kupp, WR Devin Funchess, RB Andre Ellington, WR Zay Jones, WR Geronimo Allison, RB Alex Collins, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Jaron Brown, RB Wayne Gallman