- Jim McCormick is a fantasy football and fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Each week of the NFL season, we will identify fantasy football waiver-wire pickups specifically for those of you looking for streaming options in deeper formats (including IDP leagues). These are players available in a majority of ESPN Fantasy leagues, who have enticing matchups in the week ahead that may make them worthy of consideration for your lineup.
While you may notice some overlap with Field Yates’ pickup column that publishes on Mondays, an important distinction to make between that column and this one is that the options mentioned in this column are focused solely on this week’s matchup and not the players’ value for the remainder of the season.
Do you need replacement options for injured players? Or are you merely dealing with depth issues? A roundtable of fantasy analysts and NFL Nation reporters will join me to identify some choice names to consider each week.
Here are some of our favorites for Week 5:
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers (12.6% rostered; at Falcons)
In deeper leagues, such as 12-to-14 teams, Bridgewater fits as a matchup-dependent quarterback in this week’s game versus the Falcons. Bridgewater was efficient as a thrower last week, completing 70.3% of his passes for 276 yards with two TDs in the win over Arizona. And now he gets a Falcons defense that has really struggled with alignment, assignment and communication in the secondary. Look for Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady to scheme-up Atlanta’s single-high coverages, which will create catch-and-run opportunities for Bridgewater’s targets in the route tree. -Matt Bowen, NFL writer and analyst
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders (15.1% rostered; at Chiefs)
Eighth in QBR and second in completion rate among qualified arms this season, Carr heads into Arrowhead with real fantasy helium given the Chiefs were ceding 19.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks before dismantling New England’s duo of backup signal-callers on Monday night. Carr serves as a high-floor streaming option in a game that has Kansas City favored by more than a dozen points with a total of at least 56 across most books, which means Las Vegas could spend much of the game simply trying to keep pace with the Chiefs’ elite offense. Essentially, a blend of volume and efficiency aids Carr’s case as a solid streamer this Sunday. -Jim McCormick
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (11.7% rostered; at Saints)
Herbert is coming off his best game as a pro and now gets to face the worst red zone defense in the league through four weeks. He has shown no reservations about weighing down Keenan Allen with as many looks as he can handle, and without Austin Ekeler in the mix, Herbert’s rushing potential takes a mini step forward. He’s a versatile option and viable for those with Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford on bye. -Kyle Soppe, ESPN Fantasy researcher.
Frank Gore, New York Jets (17.8% rostered; vs. Cardinals)
It’s fairly amazing that Gore was in his 10th season in the NFL when Kyler Murray was born. OK, I kid, but to say that we’ve endorsed Adrian Peterson and Gore in this space as the leading rushers of their respective offenses in consecutive weeks in 2020 is remarkable. The attractive element here, beyond the fact Gore is likely to see 15 touches, is just how porous Arizona’s rush defense has been this season in allowing 4.58 yards per carry and 111 rushing yards per game to backfields. He’s clearly not an exciting selection, but Gore is a plug-and-play veteran with a very viable path to 80 scrimmage yards. -J.M.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots (15.4% rostered; vs. Broncos)
Fresh from injured reserve, Harris successfully served the early-down role vacated by an injured Sony Michel in Week 4 with an even 100 yards on the ground. There was a good deal of positive buzz from the Patriots beat in August about how well Harris played in summer practices, so it’s not entirely shocking that the former third-round pick flashed on Monday. Denver has been respectable against the run this season, but Harris’ potential to consolidate early-down and goal-to-go rushing work drives real value compared to his peers on the waiver wire this week.-J.M.
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (26.1% rostered, vs. Dolphins)
Usually first-round rookie receivers are overhyped and over-rostered, but that’s not the case with Aiyuk, who is surprisingly available in three-quarters of ESPN leagues. Not only has he tallied 13 targets and seven catches during his past two games, he also has four carries for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, Deebo Samuel is back, but Aiyuk has a chance to shine in Week 5 against a Dolphins team that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing receivers and rushers. -Tom Carpenter, ESPN Fantasy editor and analyst
Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills (20.2% rostered; at Titans)
Based on target share, alone, it’s hard to find a more reliable receiver than Beasley. In 19 games with the Bills, Beasley has seen at least six targets or scored a TD in 16 of them. He’s generally not a threat to blow up, but he already has a 100-yard game under his belt in 2020 and is on pace for his first-career 1,000-yard season. Bills quarterback Josh Allen referred to Beasley as the team’s most consistent receiver and there’s little reason for him not to be at least rostered in 12-team leagues for this matchup with the Titans, especially in PPR scoring. -Marcel Louis-Jacques, ESPN NFL Nation Buffalo Bills reporter
Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks (14.7% rostered; vs. Vikings)
Targeted on a team-high 35% of his routes in Week 4, Olsen is emerging as a meaningful contributor to the Seattle offense. Three of his five receptions netted the team first downs, while he’s been targeted 13 times the past two weeks, third on the roster during this sample. The Vikings have surrendered nearly a dozen fantasy points per game to tight ends, leaving room for Olsen to help fantasy managers in a bind.-J.M.
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers (27.4% rostered; vs. Eagles)
Second on the Steelers this season in routes run and becoming more involved in red zone opportunities of late, Ebron is positioned to produce a nice line against a Philly back seven that has struggled in coverage against tight ends. The Eagles have yielded 21.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends, third most in the league, supporting a nice spectrum of potential outcomes for Ebron in this battle for state pride.-J.M.
Defense/Special Teams (D/ST)
Dallas Cowboys (20.0% rostered; vs. Giants)
The streaming tier of defenses is quite weak this week; poor matchups converge with the first official bye week to create a thin crop of viable plays. Dallas has been uniquely bad on defense, that much we know. And yet, the Cowboys are a bit above league average in creating pressure on passers and now host a Giants team that has been the second-best matchup for an opposing defense this season. Through the first month, D/ST groups are averaging 11.5 fantasy points facing the Giants. There is obviously some risk present given Dallas’ defensive struggles, but the matchup metrics suggest real potential.-J.M.
Individual Defensive Players (IDP)
Harold Landry III, Tennessee Titans (10.1% rostered; vs. Bills)
With at least four tackles in each outing and a favorable upcoming matchup with regard to sack upside, Landry is an ideal streaming option off the edge this week. The Bills have allowed the 10th-highest pressure rate in the league, while Landry is due to get to the quarterback given his pressure metrics. -J.M.
Foyesade Oluokun, Atlanta Falcons (3.1% rostered; vs. Panthers)
The Yale product has at least six tackles in each appearance this season and is in a good position to produce strong numbers against the rival Panthers given his steady snap rate. Carolina’s commitment to the ground game supports a solid floor for tackles. -J.M.
Kenny Vaccaro, Tennessee Titans (7.2% rostered; vs. Bills)
Another player benefiting from a heavy snap count, Vaccaro’s steady presence in the box for the Titans defense fuels a fun fantasy profile. Facing a thriving Buffalo passing attack Vaccaro should be busy policing the passing lanes and crashing down on runs in Week 5.-J.M.
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