Week 5 of the fantasy football season is here, and there are a lot of variables that fantasy owners are facing on a weekly basis when constructing their teams. From massive injury issues to the COVID-19 breakout in the Titans’ organization to the movement of the Patriots-Chiefs game, it seems that each passing week in fantasy football has created a new challenge. This week, scheduled byes are starting up and four key teams will be off in Week 6 with the Patriots, Raiders, Saints, and Seahawks all set to be idle. With that approaching, fantasy owners will soon be scrambling to check the waiver wire and find worthwhile streamers and sleepers. At this point in the post-Week 5 waiver period, looking ahead and grabbing a free agent that could be the next “must-have pickup” can be a viable strategy.
It’s likely there are a few spots on your roster that are revolving doors at this point — or, you should, at least. Yes, it’s nice to hold onto your favorite preseason sleepers, but after four games, it’s time to start cutting some dead weight. Is dropping Duke Johnson to grab a flex WR for the week a risky move? Sure, because if David Johnson gets hurt, Duke is a sure-fire RB2, but filling an immediate need for your lineup is more important than playing the what-if game. Usually, you can pick up those types of players again if you really want them (unless, of course, the start in front of them gets hurt the week you drop them). You should also be taking advantage of IR spots if you have them, especially on sites like Yahoo where you can put players who are “out” for a given week in your IR spot until the next scoring period starts and you need to make another move.
Every roster move you make is just an educated guess. You can’t kick yourself for getting something wrong. It’s fantasy; it happens. But when you pick up the right guy in advance, it can be a big-time difference-maker, as you no longer have to compete to pick up the guy on waivers or spend up in FAAB to get them.
With more than a quarter of the season gone, the waiver wire is starting to thin out a bit. There are still some good speculative pickups available and some excellent streaming options at the QB, TE, and D/ST positions (like Gardner Minshew, Eric Ebron, and the Chargers D/ST). At RB and WR, the options aren’t quite as plentiful, but there are still some potential committee backs that could pop in good matchups (D’Ernest Johnson, Justin Jackson), and there are also some receivers that get enough touches to be relevant (Laviska Shenault and Tim Patrick stand out).
By no means do you have to make a move for one of these guys now, but if you do, you could outpace your competition ahead of Week 6. If you’re comfortable with what you have though, just use this list to keep track of some players you might want to add to your roster come waivers next week.
Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Watchlist
Reminder: This list was put together in the lead-in to Week 5, looking forward to the players that could be waiver-wire targets to scoop before the season starts to use in future weeks. If you have a roster spot to play with, these are options you could pick up early to beat the waiver buzz.
All these players are below 50-percent ownership on Yahoo unless otherwise specified.
Week 6 Waiver Wire Watchlist: Quarterback
Key QBs out because of byes: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Cam Newton
Gardner Minshew, Jaguars (49 percent ownership)
For yet another week, Minshew makes this list. Minshew has multiple TDs in all but one game this season and is averaging 284.5 passing yards per contest. In Week 6, he gets to take on a Lions defense that is allowing 21.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to QBs. That will make Minshew a solid streamer, and he should be owned in more leagues as a backup QB.
Justin Herbert, Chargers (40)
So far through three starts, Herbert has been excellent for the Chargers and fantasy owners alike. He is averaging over 300 passing yards per game and has multiple TDs in two contests. In Week 6, Herbert gets to take on the Jets, so he could be a top-12 quarterback with three fixtures of the top 15 out because of byes. Scoop him up this week if you have one of those passers or just need some extra help at the quarterback position.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (29)
No team has given up more FPPG to QBs than the Falcons have (33). Cousins and the Vikings will get to play Atlanta in Week 6 and should have a chance to do a lot of damage as Justin Jefferson continues to get involved on offense. Cousins should be a solid play in that matchup as a result and he has a decent matchup in Week 5 against the Seahawks, too. If you grab him now, you can certainly stream him for a couple games and hope that he hits a hot streak against a couple of bad defenses.
Week 6 Waiver Wire Watch List: RB
Key RBs out because of byes: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, James White
Damien Harris, Patriots (55)
In his first game of the season, Harris racked up 100 rushing yards on 17 carries and led the team in both categories. As long as Sony Michel (quad) is out, Harris will handle a bulk of the between-the-tackles work for a run-heavy team. His schedule may not be great (Week 6 bye, Week 7 vs. 49ers, Week 8 @ Bills), but if he has volume, he can be an RB2. And if he performs well with Michel out, he could be New England’s backfield leader for the rest of the season. Harris’ ownership jumped from 45 to 55 percent this week, so grab him while he’s still close to half-owned in most leagues.
Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (51)
Lindsay hasn’t played since Week 1 after suffering a toe injury, but he will be back in action against the Patriots in Week 5, barring a setback. After playing the Patriots, Lindsay will get to take on the Dolphins, and if he earns enough touches out of the backfield, he should be a solid flex play. His ownership should bounce right back up once he’s cleared to play, but if he’s available in your league, make sure to grab him, as he’s a startable playing that could have RB2 upside if he overtakes Melvin Gordon in the rotation.
D’Ernest Johnson, Browns (44)
With Nick Chubb (knee) out for about six weeks, Kareem Hunt will be the leader in the Cleveland backfield. That said, Johnson could find a role as well after logging 13 carries for 95 yards against the Cowboys. Johnson won’t do as well against the Colts in Week 5 as he did against the weak Cowboys defense last week, but he should get touches nonetheless. Johnson probably can’t be considered as a flex until Week 7 against the Bengals, but it’s worth picking him up given how good that spot looks and the fact that Hunt has been battling a groin injury the past few weeks.
Malcolm Brown, Rams (38)
It looked like Darrell Henderson was taking over as the Rams’ lead back, but Brown actually out-touched him 14-9 against the Giants in Week 4. The Rams figure to split backfield carries and ride the hot hand, and that may get tough to figure with Cam Akers returning, but Brown should still be on a roster. He had a two-TD game in the Rams’ opener and has shown dual-threat ability out of the backfield. The Rams have the 49ers and Bears the next two weeks but after that, they get the Dolphins. If Brown is playing well at that point, he could be a nice flex play.
Justin Jackson, Chargers (35)
Austin Ekeler (hamstring) is out for the foreseeable future, so Joshua Kelley and Jackson will be the top backs in Los Angeles. Many are assuming that Kelley will be the back to own, but Jackson is a strong runner and the duo could split touches 50-50 out of the backfield. Jackson is a solid handcuff, and his schedule from Week 6 on (vs. Jets, @ Dolphins, vs. Jaguars, vs. Raiders) looks pretty good.
Jamaal Williams, Packers (14)
The Packers gave Williams a season-high 36 snaps against the Falcons, and he caught eight passes for 95 yards. Granted, that came against a bad defense, but as long as the Packers are without some of their top receivers, Williams will be able to catch passes out of the backfield and do damage, especially in PPR. His expertise in this area may be helpful after the bye, as the Packers will take on a Bucs team that shuts down the run very well.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Buccaneers (9)
LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette are both nursing ankle injuries, and Vaughn is the only backup to Ronald Jones that’s currently on the Tampa Bay roster. Vaughn was solid as a receiver in his first offensive action and caught two passes for 22 yards and a TD against the Chargers. The Bucs play the Packers, Raiders, and Giants consecutively after their game against the Bears in Week 5, so if Vaughn earns more work, he could be a nice value pickup at this point in the season.
Week 6 Waiver Wire Watch List: WR
Key WRs out because of byes: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs
Tee Higgins, Bengals (48)
Higgins has averaged four catches for 50 yards and has two TDs over the course of his last three games. He’s getting to be a favorite of Joe Burrow and should continue to be a solid flex option in favorable matchups.
Russell Gage, Falcons (45) | Olamide Zaccheaus, Falcons (2)
Julio Jones (hamstring) could miss some time with the Falcons sitting at 0-4. If Jones is out for an extended period, Gage (19 catches, 208 yards, one TD) and Zaccheaus (13 catches, 137 yards) will have bigger roles in the Falcons offense and should put up nice numbers. The Falcons play the Vikings in Week 6 and then take on the Lions, Panthers, and Broncos the following three weeks. You can trust these receivers in those lower-level matchups, especially if teams give increased attention to Calvin Ridley.
Brandin Cooks, Texans (45) | Randall Cobb, Texans (20)
Cooks has undoubtedly been frustrating this year, and he just failed to make a catch against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL (the Vikings allow 31 FPPG to WRs, fourth most in the NFL). Still, Cooks should be owned, and the Texans’ coaching change could jumpstart what was previously a sluggish offense. That could boost Cooks’ value along with that of Randall Cobb, who has become a preferred target of Deshaun Watson and has caught 13 of 18 targets for 213 yards and two TDs through four games. Feel free to stash these receivers as potential WR3/flex plays to see if they turn into anything.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers (42)
As long as Allen Lazard (core) is out, Valdes-Scantling will be the No. 2 receiver in the Green Bay offense, and he may actually get a boost when Davante Adams returns to action after missing a couple of games because of a hamstring injury. The Packers play the Bucs, Texans, and Vikings in the coming weeks, so the latter two matchups will make MVS a potential WR3.
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs (41)
Hardman has caught a TD in consecutive games and appears to be turning into a bigger part of the Chiefs’ offense as the season goes along. Hardman will face the Bills in Week 6 before a nice four-game stretch against the Broncos, Jets, Panthers, and Raiders that could see him continue to put up big plays and score TDs.
Laviska Shenault, Jaguars (31)
Shenault had a career-high 86 receiving yards last week and continues to average about six touches per game. The Jaguars face the Lions in Week 6, so feel free to trust him as Detroit isn’t good against either the run or the pass.
Scotty Miller, Buccaneers (30)
As long as Chris Godwin (hamstring) is sidelined, Miller will be the No. 2 receiver in Tampa Bay. With Mike Evans and Justin Watson also banged up, Miller could see even more targets than usual from Tom Brady. Grab him before the Bucs’ Thursday night game against the Bears and feel free to use him as a WR3/flex play. He has a good matchup against the Packers in Week 6, as well, so he can be relied on as a starter in most fantasy lineups.
Tim Patrick, Broncos (17)
Courtland Sutton (knee), Noah Fant (knee), and KJ Hamler (hamstring) are all out for the Broncos. Drew Lock (shoulder) is close to returning and will need someone to throw to. Patrick has two TDs in as many games an went off against the Jets for 113 yards on six catches. He should be added, as he may be the No. 2 receiver across from Jerry Jeudy for the rest of the season given the lacking personnel the Broncos have on offense.
Darnell Mooney, Bears (1)
Mooney is a bit of a sleeper, as he saw a team-high nine targets from Nick Foles in Foles’ debut as the Bears’ starter. If Mooney performs well on Thursday night against the Bucs, he could be a hot waiver pickup. At least keep an eye on him Thursday even if you’re not ready to pick him up yet.
Kalif Raymond, Titans (0)
Somebody will have to catch passes from Ryan Tannehill with Corey Davis and Adam Humphries on the COVID list. Raymond had three catches for 118 yards in a game recently and will be the No. 2 receiver in Tennessee to A.J. Brown once the Titans resume play. They’re slated to take on the Texans in Week 6, so that could be a nice spot for the speedster.
Week 6 Waiver Wire Watch List: TE
Key TEs out because of byes: Darren Waller, Hunter Henry, Greg Olsen
Eric Ebron, Steelers (40)
Ebron is a top-10 play in Week 5 against the Eagles, and then in Week 6, he takes on a Browns team that is allowing 12.9 FPPG to TEs, good for fifth most in the NFL. The good times keep rolling in Week 7 when he plays the Titans (11.4 FPPG, ninth-most to TEs). Ebron should be a good multi-week streamer, and if he establishes a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger, he could be a TE1 the rest of the way.
Mo Alie-Cox, Colts (39)
Alie-Cox has at least one TD or 100-plus receiving yards in his past three games and has established himself as one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets this year. Matchups with the Browns, Bengals, and Lions in the coming weeks should make him a solid streamer with a high ceiling, though he’ll have to earn his playing time now that Trey Burton is back.
Chris Herndon, Jets (25)
There’s nothing flashy about Herndon, but he has 19 targets so far this season and will get a chance to play against a Chargers defense that is allowing 10.3 FPPG to TEs (10th-most in the NFL) in Week 6. He should at least get consideration as a streamer in what could be a tough week for the position with two top-10 players on bye.
Jordan Akins, Texans (10) | Darren Fells, Texans (1)
The Jaguars have allowed 11.8 FPPG to TEs so far this year, and the Texans should be rejuvenated a bit on offense after a coaching change. Akins has caught 14-of-15 targets this year for 168 yards and a TD, so he’d be the yardage threat while Fells (6-7) would be more of a red-zone option for Houston.
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings (6) | Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (5)
The Vikings TEs have the best matchup of Week 6, as they take on the Falcons, who just allowed Robert Tonyan to score thrice and allow a whopping 18.1 FPPG to the position. The Vikings TEs could have a big day as a result. Smith Jr. is the better receiver of the two, but it has been Rudolph that has been more active in reason weeks (five catches, 38 yards, one TD the past two games). It’s tough to figure which option is better, but perhaps both could have good games against a week defense.
Week 6 defense streamers and sleepers
D/STs out because of byes: Patriots, Saints, Raiders, Seahawks
Los Angeles Chargers (36) | Week 5 opponent: vs. Jets
Washington Football Team (6) | Week 5 opponent: @ Giants
New York Giants (1) | Week 5 opponent: vs. Washington
Carolina Panthers (1) | Week 5 opponent: vs. Bears
It’s tough to find any sort of consistent streaming defense for Week 6. That said, the Chargers are clearly a cut above the rest of the league, as they have a matchup with the lowly Jets. The Chargers’ ownership dropped after a poor outing against the Buccaneers, but they should be in better shape at home against New York. The Jets are starting Joe Flacco instead of Sam Darnold (shoulder) in Week 5, but either QB would be a good matchup for the Chargers.
After that, these defensive streamers are just dart throws. The game between Washington and the Giants could turn into a sloppy mess, so both teams have decent ceilings, with Washington’s being higher because of their pass rush and Daniel Jones’ turnover issues. We’ll soon see how Washington looks with Kyle Allen on offense, but there’s no doubt that the Giants defense will have an easier time against them than the Cowboys, their Week 5 opponent.
Finally, the Panthers could be worth a shot against the Bears if Nick Foles continues his scoring issues against the Bucs in Week 5. The Panthers have allowed only 18.5 points per game in their last two outings against the Chargers and Cardinals, so they’ll stand a chance of slowing down a pedestrian Bears offense.