9 route: Top 9 fantasy football waiver wire targets in Week 7
Every week during the NFL season, Arthur Arkush shares his top nine waiver targets for fantasy owners. This will focus exclusively on players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and this season there’s a twist: we’re sharing out top nine targets at each position, in addition to our top nine overall regardless of position.
Although this column focuses on players with less than 50 percent Yahoo! ownership, a quick note before we get started: The Cowboys “other” backs, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, both are in the low fifties and are both must-adds until we gain more clarity on Zeke Elliott’s suspension and a potential new backfield pecking order.
We also like a pair of NFC East wideouts — Nelson Agholor and Sterling Shepard — both of whom are owned in just more than 50 percent of leagues.
As far as attempting to replace Aaron Rodgers and potentially Jameis Winston, sadly there are no easy answers. We’ll discuss the Packers’ replacement plan below, but Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor are both reasonable long-term options — Taylor is fine this week, too — and even Josh McCown and Jacoby Brissett have had their moments (desperate times...).
Now let’s get to the ‘9 route...’
9. Washington RB Rob Kelley — Kelley is far and away the best early-down option for a pass-first offense that likes to throw near the goal line, and he returned to practice after missing the majority of the past three games with a rib injury. Honestly, in a more exciting week, he’s probably not on this list. But there’s value in any lead fantasy back, especially one who finished as RB25 overall last season and, when healthy, has shown obvious improvement in Year Two. In Philadelphia on Monday night isn’t the spot we’d feel great about starting Kelley, but at home vs. Dallas in Week 8 is viable.
8. Patriots RB Dion Lewis — Of course Lewis breaks out the week (A) James White reunites with the Falcons, against whom he would’ve been Super Bowl MVP in February if not for that Brady dude; and (B) Rex Burkhead (rib) may return to further cloud the Pats backfield crowd. But Lewis, not Mike Gillislee (who fumbled Sunday), has been the guy the past two weeks for Bill Belichick, and in that offense, that makes him startable as long as he sustains it. The Falcons run ‘D’ is No. 24 in stopping fantasy backs.
7. Jets WR Jermaine Kearse — While Jeremy Kerley and Austin Seferian-Jenkins had bigger fantasy days — ASJ’s should’ve been TE2 overall last week — Kearse again saw four targets and parlayed them into a respectable 79 yards, one week after turning in a WR2 performance. Quietly, Kearse is WR19 overall. We’d rather have ASJ than him, but we’d rather have Kearse than Kerley and a lot of other volatile WR3-types.
6. 49ers TE George Kittle — I wish I had time to quantify my belief that rookie quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends. Alas, we’re going on a hunch here, but Kittle attracting seven targets (trailing only Pierre Garcon’s nine) once the rookie’s college QB, C.J. Beathard, replaced Brian Hoyer Sunday is encouraging. So too is Kittle’s overall trajectory; he’s closing in on Garcon as the offense’s second-leading target, has explosive catches in three straight, his first touchdown two weeks ago and attracted 17 combined targets in the two previous games combined. He’s a big-play threat on a team lacking in that department, and I shouldn’t have to tell you what a sad state of affairs the fantasy TE scene is this year.
5. Packers QB Brett Hundley — Go find our Monday NFC Fantasy notebook for a greater detailed explanation of our belief in Hundley. In short: he has a ton of talent, a renowned QB developer and one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. If you’re deterred by his first extended appearance, against a rising Vikings ‘D’ on the road, that’s on you. But two of Hundley’s three picks weren’t on him, and young quarterbacks with proper support absolutely can develop quickly. What a fascinating spot for Hundley’s first career start, against a New Orleans ‘D’ with some momentum but a long history of being undressed by other quarterbacks with questions.
4. Bills WR Jordan Matthews — Buffalo’s top wideout returned to practice less than two weeks after breaking his thumb and was listed as “day to day” by Sean McDermott. For a player with a track record of dropping balls, there’s risk here, obviously. But an inconsistent Matthews is better than anyone else Tyrod Taylor has as long as Charles Clay is sidelined, and a broken thumb shouldn’t effect Matthews’ ability to run. Call it a calculated risk. If Matthews, who caught his first touchdown as a Bill shortly before the injury and had 3-61 receiving the week prior, doesn’t suit up Sunday vs. Tampa, the Raiders, Jets, Saints and Chargers loom — not exactly murderer’s row.
3. Titans WR Eric Decker — Decker showed up big for his limited quarterback on Sunday night with a game-high seven grabs and 88 receiving yards. He out-snapped Rishard Matthews and moves around the formation to find favorable matchups. Corey Davis, if and when he returns, figures to put a cap on Decker’s ceiling. But the Titans may not need Davis in Cleveland next week before the bye, which would make Decker a solid fill-in with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Golden Tate all on bye. Plus, Decker is the most established receiver in an offense whose arrow points up. He belongs on rosters.
2. Jaguars RB Chris Ivory — He’s the RB30, or No. 7 among real-life RB2′s, in PPR formats. Ivory has blossomed as a receiver in a passing game where growth is otherwise nonexistent. And Leonard Fournette, unstoppable against NFL defenses, may only be contained by his own health — he departed Sunday early with an ankle injury, though Doug Marrone said he’ll be full-go in Indy this week. Still, Ivory has emerged as perhaps the game’s most valuable handcuff, and now pushing 10 touches weekly and coming off his best day ever as a receiver (9-74-1), his vitality is only on the rise.
1. Cardinals WR John Brown — Do I trust Smokey to stay healthy? Heck no. Will I ignore his past two healthy weeks, when Brown not only twice found the end zone but handled 84 percent of the offensive snaps as Bruce Arians’ clear WR2? If he didn’t have a WR25 finish in the past two seasons and, suddenly, a back who’ll begin attracting safeties defenses need to protect from Smokey’s fire vertical prowess, perhaps. But barring health (as always), he’ll be a rock-solid WR3 with WR2 upside until further notice, starting with Sunday’s trip to the banged-up Rams.