OK, let's start with some housekeeping. Last week, I said we had reached a state of utter unplayability on both Kyle Pitts and Joe Burrow. This week, Arthur Smith and Burrow's calf laughed in my face as both players finished top 10 at their respective positions. This is fantasy football. Things change. We adapt. (Though I still don't feel confident about Pitts, and you can let Coach Smith know I said so.)
Meanwhile, Adam Thielen continues to reward those of you who (finally) came around on the veteran. He might just be a WR1 the rest of the season. So, let's focus on finding the next Thielen(s).
As always, these are the most intriguing pickup options that are rostered in less than 60 percent of NFL.com 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.
If you only follow Stafford’s fantasy stat lines, you might be hesitant on this pickup. After all, he he's yet to top 17 fantasy points in a game this season. Don’t be deceived. The L.A. QB has thrown for 1,451 yards (fourth-most in the league) and just got a clearly-100-percent-healthy Cooper Kupp back. As a result, he posted a season-high in fantasy points in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles -- and could’ve had a better week if not for Philly’s voracious pass rush. The Cardinals do not have a voracious pass rush, and they’re up next for Stafford and the Rams -- after Arizona helped fix Joe Burrow and the Bengals' offense in Week 5. I think Stafford enjoys a breakout week and is an excellent combo streamer the rest of the season with this impressive receiving corps.
Just barely sneaking under the 60-percent-rostership cutoff, Wilson has actually looked like Mr. Unlimited over the past few weeks -- if somewhat inconsistently. He’s posted 22-plus fantasy points in two of the last four weeks and just hung 18.7 on one of the best defenses in the league, despite losing a fumble and taking four sacks. If he’s still available in your league, grab him for this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs (and as a 'stache-and-stream down the stretch).
If the duo above is unavailable on your waiver wire, Howell would be my next target. As I mentioned last week, he has been solid or better in all but one game (the messy loss to the Bills in Week 3) this season. He torched the Bears defense for 388 yards and two scores last Thursday and didn’t really have to use his legs -- something he’s more than capable of doing -- to hit 25 fantasy points in that contest. The Falcons (this week's opponent) are a middle-of-the-road matchup, but the Giants and Eagles (on the slate in Weeks 7 and 8) are both plus matchups for QBs.
If you are very desperate in a two-QB league, there are worse hype trains to board than Minshew Mania, now that Anthony Richardson is due to miss at least a month with an AC joint sprain. Minshew completed 11 of his 14 pass attempts for 155 yards after stepping in for Richardson in Week 5, and the Jaguars (Indy's Week 6 matchup) are beatable through the air. Plus, it’s a reveeennnnnnge game!
The undrafted rookie running back (and star of last week’s column) has now scored three touchdowns through the first five weeks of the season. The last undrafted rookie to do that? James Robinson, back in 2020 -- when he finished as the RB7 in fantasy. More importantly, McLaughlin has looked extremely good on tape and is averaging 7.1 yards per touch this season (in the neighborhood of big-play studs Breece Hall and Raheem Mostert). With McLaughlin playing like he is, the Broncos have little reason to rush Javonte Williams back or to give him a dominant workload when he does return. McLaughlin should have the opportunity to maintain value the rest of the season and has major upside if he earns a more substantial role.
According to NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero, Khalil Herbert is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the ankle injury he suffered on Thursday night. This one bears heavy scrutiny on Monday and Tuesday, as we will need news out of Chicago to know how Johnson progresses through concussion protocol and if Foreman is expected to be game day active in Herbert’s absence. If Johnson is cleared, I much prefer him as the add, but Foreman isn’t a bad consolation prize if he’s going to see the field.
Through five weeks, Warren has outscored Najee Harris 50-33 in fantasy points on 13 fewer touches. That’s primarily -- OK, entirely -- due to his dominance in the passing game, where Warren has 21 catches on 25 targets, while Harris has five catches on nine targets. Not only that, Warren is actually an RB2 on the season, despite his wildly limited role in the run game. He is a decent PPR flex play if nothing changes in the Pittsburgh offense. If, by some miracle, Matt Canada and/or Mike Tomlin start involving Warren more completely, he could be a huge sleeper value over the rest of the season.
Oh, looky here: the first entirely-unrostered player to make the waiver-wire column this season! Demercado is an undrafted rookie who played behind Kendre Miller at TCU. He actually popped up on fantasy radars in Week 3 with three catches on four targets, but it was James Conner’s knee injury on Sunday that made Demercado a legitimate consideration for this column. The rookie managed to scrape together 12.7 fantasy points in Week 5, posting an 11-yard rushing touchdown while averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry. We learned Tuesday that Conner is expected to miss multiple weeks. If Demercado is called upon to take up Conner’s mantle in this offense, he will have fantasy value in the near term.
Miami running backs have totaled 230.4 fantasy points this season. The next-closest team is the 49ers at 176.2, and after that, every other team falls below 140. Yes, those numbers are inflated by the explosivity of De'Von Achane and Raheem Mostert, and in the case of San Francisco, the pure brilliance of Christian McCaffrey -- but it's also no coincidence that Miami's offense is run by Kyle Shanahan's former run game coordinator, Mike McDaniel, and the Niners are run by Shanahan himself. These are the most RB-friendly schemes in the NFL. Wilson is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, and while we don't yet know when Wilson will play, we do know Achane is going to miss several weeks with a knee injury. If Wilson ends up getting significant work in this offense at some point, he will be valuable for fantasy. Period. He should be rostered in nearly every league -- preferably on your roster!
GUYS TO 'STACHE: A couple of these names have made this section of the column before, and both are still less than 10 percent rostered in NFL.com leagues. Neither should be that available. For the second time in the last three games, Tyjae Spears outperformed Derrick Henry in fantasy, posting a career-high 16.9 fantasy points while scoring Tennessee's only touchdown in the loss at Indianapolis on Sunday. He is a must-roster handcuff with some standalone value in the right matchups as we navigate bye weeks. Meanwhile, Chuba Hubbard continues to be an interesting 'stache in Carolina, as he out-touched a questionably healthy Miles Sanders once again in Week 5. Like Warren and Spears, Hubbard is a solid handcuff at worst and could simply play his way into a more fantasy-relevant role in the coming weeks. And a third guy to consider: The Saints' clear RB2 behind Alvin Kamara, Kendre Miller. Miller had 53 receiving yards on four catches (plus 37 yards on 12 carries) in New Orleans' blowout win at New England. He is yet another handcuff that may have playable weeks, even with Kamara healthy.
The third-round pick led the Colts in receptions (six) and yards (97) in Sunday’s win over the Titans, and looked very good in doing so. Over the last three weeks, he has averaged seven targets a game and hit double-digit fantasy points in two of those games. While the North Carolina product is undersized (5-foot-9, 171 pounds), he is also very athletic and explosive (Next Gen Stats’ second-ranked combine WR this past spring). He has the upside to be a budget version of DeVonta Smith -- with Michael Pittman Jr. playing the role of A.J. Brown -- in Shane Steichen’s offense (you know, the former offensive coordinator for Smith and AJB in Philly). He is by no means a break-the-bank add or a must-start for fantasy, but he should be rostered in the majority of leagues after Sunday's performance.
Alright, let’s just be clear out of the gate: The most likely outlook for the Chiefs' wide receiving corps the rest of the season is that their mess of WR3s take turns being fantasy relevant in a highly unpredictable and frustrating fashion. However, there’s reason to believe this second-round rookie out of SMU might be the best bet to rise out of the scrum in Kansas City and take hold of a legitimate role down the stretch. Beyond the draft capital and prospect profile (both solid), Rice has averaged 2.8 yards per route run this season -- an elite output in a metric that’s heavily predictive of breakout candidates. For context, there are just 11 players with higher yards-per-route-run figures in 2023 (min. 50 routes) -- all of them are top-15 wideouts in fantasy. If Rice can become a regular piece for Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, he could be a late-season revelation.
Justin Jefferson is heading to injured reserve with a hamstring injury. His fantasy managers are headed to the waiver wire in desperation. The easiest solution: the next man up in Minnesota. Osborn has had productive stretches before and is actually an accomplished touchdown threat. For however long Jefferson is out, Osborn will likely be heavily involved in this pass-first offense and rank somewhere in the high 20s or low 30s among wide receivers heading into each week. Absolutely startable in a pinch.
GUYS TO 'STACHE: Curtis Samuel is more "a guy to consider if you're in a deeper league, can't get Downs, Rice or Osborn, or are simply a fantasy degenerate." After making this section last week, Samuel had 18.5 fantasy points against the Bears. Score one for the Guys to 'Stache! Once again, he is flexable in most matchups.
Thomas might be my favorite pickup of the entire column this week. With the Commanders playing on Thursday Night Football last week, your league mates might have forgotten his nine catches, 77 yards and one touchdown (on 11 targets) in that loss. Don’t be that league mate. Thomas has posted seven-plus fantasy points in every game he’s played this season (yes, that is a good number for a tight end, and yes, that includes the game from which he exited early with a concussion). Thomas is one of just six TEs with 18-plus catches and multiple touchdowns -- the others are Sam LaPorta, Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, Cole Kmet and Mark Andrews ... the top five tight ends of the season (in that order). At a position with a whole lot of volatility and very little reliability, Thomas might have the best combination of floor and ceiling outside of the guys I just listed.
Fortunately, very few of you joined me in my rage-induced jettisoning of Kyle Pitts from my roster last week. Unfortunately, very few of you joined me in adding his teammate, Jonnu Smith. The fact that Smith still managed six catches for 67 yards during Pitts’ breakout (11-target) game should be a strong yellow flag: Even if Pitts maintains this level of involvement (highly unlikely), Smith can still be fantasy relevant. And of course, despite the fact that Pitts narrowly widened his target lead over Smith on the season, Smith still has more catches (21) and yards (246). If you’re streaming tight ends, Smith is about as good as it’s gonna get.
This is not a great week for streaming D/STs, but if you don’t have a reliable option, I think your best bet might be Tennessee vs. Baltimore. Prior to a very poor showing on Sunday, the Titans had logged three-plus sacks in each of their first four outings and averaged a takeaway per game. Even after that loss to the Colts, they have allowed just 18.6 points per game to opposing offenses (top 10 in the NFL). And the Ravens have looked out of sync recently, surrendering three turnovers and four sacks to the Steelers in an ugly 17-10 loss on Sunday.
I know I recommended Gardner Minshew as a (desperate) stream against the Jaguars. And I still (sort of) stand by that. But Jacksonville has also been a takeaway machine this season, with five interceptions and six fumble recoveries in five games (11 total takeaways, top five in the league). The Jags have a great shot at piling up more takeaways against the Colts in Week 6 -- and maybe one will turn into a touchdown.
The Raiders' defense has not been very impressive this season. Heck, the unit has totaled six fantasy points on the season entering Monday, when they managed 12 points against a messy Packers offense. But have you watched this New England offense? The Patriots have scored fewer points each successive week since posting a season-high 20 in Week 1 and have totaled 18 over the last three games. Something’s gotta give in Sunday's Pats-Raiders matchup. I’m willing to take the unit led by Maxx Crosby over the unit led by Mac Jones. Yeesh.