A wave of byes will be working against fantasy football owners for the next two weeks, with a total of 12 teams scheduled for rest over that span. This means owners will be extra busy looking for the best waiver wire pickups. To help you with that, here’s a look at some potential diamonds in the rough.
10. Matt Moore – Miami Dolphins QB (0.1% owned in ESPN)
Moore gave the Dolphins the jolt they needed on offense in Week 8 when he subbed in for the injured and ineffective Jay Cutler to lead Miami to a win over the New York Jets. In lieu of Cutler, Moore completed 13-of-21 passes for 188 passing yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Head coach Adam Gase has declared Moore the starting quarterback this Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens, and if Moore takes off again, the Dolphins may not have to rush Cutler to return.
9. Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers RB (0.5% owned in ESPN)
Ekeler looks like a desperate add for running back-thirsty owners since he will not supplant Melvin Gordon as the Chargers’ go-to running back so long as Gordon is healthy. Gordon, however, has been constantly dealing with injuries this season.
If you’re a Gordon owner or an opportunistic fantasy manager with a droppable player, it’s a good idea to handcuff/stash Ekeler, who leads the Chargers in rushing yards per carry (5.7). Ekeler showed glimpses of what he’s capable of last Sunday when he rushed for 38 yards on just seven carries. To sum it up, Ekeler is a Gordon absence away from being one of the hottest commodities on the waiver wire.
8. Jalen Richard — Oakland Raiders RB (5.0% owned in ESPN)
Raiders starting running back Marshawn Lynch is suspended for one week, and even if he wins his appeal and becomes eligible to go up against the Buffalo Bills this coming Sunday, that won’t change the fact that the Raiders’ ground game has been nothing to write home about during his reign as the top tailback on the team.
Richard has a chance to shine and show the Raiders that their run game will be far deadlier with him on the field in Week 8 after rushing for 31 yards on nine carries and turning 11 catches into 45 receiving yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. Richard will be sharing backfield duties with DeAndre Washington, but he’s proven himself as the better passing play component among the running backs. On the season, Richard has 153 receiving yards on 15 targets.
7. O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE (9.2% owned in ESPN)
Patience is key for fantasy owners who drafted Howard, and it all paid off last Sunday when the Alabama product had his breakout NFL game. Up against the Bills, Howard pulled down all six catches Jameis Winston darted his way and converted them to 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Winston likes to spread the ball around to his receivers, but after Howard’s eruption, the tight end is in line to have an increased role in the passing game.
6. Tyler Kroft – Cincinnati Bengals TE (10.7% owned in ESPN)
Kroft got back to work following a bye with a performance that made his owners overjoyed that they kept him despite a disappointing performance against the Buffalo Bills back in Week 5. Last Sunday, Kroft resurrected his fantasy relevance by collaring all four targets for 23 receiving yards and a touchdown. Kroft is still owned in less than 11 percent of ESPN leagues. For a guy who’s been a favorite red-zone target by Andy Dalton and one who’s second on the team in looks inside the 20-yard line, Kroft is terribly underowned.
5. Josh McCown – New York Jets QB (12.0% owned in ESPN)
We’re not going to stop preaching for McCown if the quarterback keeps putting up solid numbers. McCown has been a top seven quarterback in each of the past two weeks in terms of fantasy scoring per NFL.com. A week after throwing for 354 yards against the New England Patriots, McCown passed for 209 yards, but he put up a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio in the loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
For those who are keeping count, that’s McCown’s third straight game with at least two touchdowns.
4. Robby Anderson – New York Jets WR (13.5% owned in ESPN)
Anderson put his 4.34 speed to good use in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins defense as he caught three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. That’s a decent follow up to his Week 6 output of 76 receiving yards on 12 targets. Anderson’s targets may vary, but Jets quarterback Josh McCown clearly likes having him around. Anderson tops the team with 331 receiving yards and 46 targets.
3. Kenny Stills – Miami Dolphins WR (15.4% owned in ESPN)
Matt Moore put Kenny Stills in his comfort zone in Week 7. The wide receiver showed instant chemistry with Moore against the New York Jets on Sunday, as Stills finished the game six catches, 85 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns on nine targets. Stills did most of the damage when Jay Cutler was removed in the game in favor of Moore.
The Dolphins will have a convenient excuse to keep Cutler on the shelf with a cracked rib, and with Moore at the helm of the offense for the meantime (maybe even for good this season), Stills’ chances of producing booming games like he had against the Jets just went way up.
2. Dion Lewis – New England Patriots RB (20.4% owned in ESPN)
The Patriots backfield is as crowded as Tom Brady’s trophy shelf, but if you’re going to own someone from the group, it’s Dion Lewis. In the win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Lewis punctured the opposing defense for 76 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Lewis is second only this season to Mike Gillislee in carries and rushing yards, but he led the team in snaps (26) against the Falcons and is currently looking like the most-trusted running back by Bill Belichick. Lewis could have a big week ahead of him against the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense that’s second-worst in the NFL with 140.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
1. Jordan Matthews – Buffalo Bills WR (25.9% owned in ESPN)
Matthews faded off the fantasy grid after not being on the field the past two weeks with a thumb injury and a bye. He failed to turn heads when he returned to action and caught two passes for 10 yards. Not much, though he might have been just shaking off the rust after a brief layoff. Matthews should be better in the coming weeks as he gets back to being the target of choice for Tyrod Taylor.
Additionally, Buffalo has a tasty three-game stretch against defensively challenged teams in the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, and New Orleans Saints.