If opening week left a mark on your fantasy rosters, you are certainly not alone. Even if you’d somehow dodged the plague of injuries that hit the league’s top tight ends leading up to Sunday, bad news probably found your squads eventually. It was a rough weekend.
But, as coaches are constantly saying, the games keep coming. We need to patch up our teams and move on. Every Monday throughout the NFL season, we bring you a collection of priority fantasy pickups, each of them available in at least 50% of Yahoo leagues and approved for use.
Wide receivers and tight ends
Fifteen targets generally makes a player an automatic fantasy pickup, without regard to game circumstances. But 15 targets for a fifth-round rookie in his NFL debut?
Well, that’s just not a thing that ever happens — at least not before Nacua’s arrival. He was outrageous in his debut, leading the Rams in targets, receptions (10) and receiving yards (119). He was mostly a short-range menace …
… although he managed to get deep as well (see below).
Nacua drew consistent praise in camp from all the right people — notably Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford — and it seems those weren’t just empty words. He didn’t produce eye-popping season totals at the college level for BYU, but he was hyper-productive in terms of yards per route.
This is one of those rare scenarios in which a prospect receives plenty of preseason hype, then still manages to immediately produce beyond anyone’s expectations. Go get him.
Recommended bid, assuming $100 budget: $18
Shaheed is a burner who broke off plenty of flashy plays as a rookie, averaging 17.4 yards per catch. He opened his second season with a five-reception, 89-yard effort in which he scored a way-too-easy touchdown:
His talent was obvious last year and it seems as if he’s ready to build on an impressive first pro campaign. If you can make room for a high-variance boom/bust receiver who clearly has a few spike weeks ahead of him, Shaheed deserves a claim.
Henry out-snapped Mike Gesicki on Sunday, 63 to 33, and he out-targeted his teammate, six to three. The roles of these two players weren’t really in doubt entering the opener, but the Philly game offered confirmation. Henry is the guy to get if you absolutely need to have a Patriots tight end on your roster. He finished with the precise stat line he’s been giving us since he entered the league: 5-56-1. He’s a trusted weapon for New England near the goal-line and that won’t be changing any time soon.
Other priority receiving options on the wire
Romeo Doubs: He shrugged off a hamstring injury to make a pair of house calls against the Bears.
Tutu Atwell: The speedy third-year receiver was another piece of the Kupp replacement plan for L.A., delivering six catches for 119 yards on eight looks.
Rashee Rice: He caught a TD pass in the opener following a coverage failure, and, as you might recall, KC’s primary receivers didn’t exactly distinguish themselves on opening night.
Hayden Hurst: Five catches and a touchdown makes him an exceedingly appealing option at a position that suddenly looks like a minefield.
At no point Sunday afternoon was Love even remotely inconvenienced by Chicago’s defense. He operated under no threat whatsoever and his receivers uncovered easily. We’ll learn more about Love when he faces competent, game-ready opponents down the road, but the opening week results were certainly promising. (Sorry, but this is what you get when a Bears fan writes the pickups column.) Love averaged 9.1 yards per attempt, threw three touchdown passes (two to Romeo Doubs) and generally had his way with an overmatched, under-coached D. Green Bay travels to Atlanta in Week 2 and, at some point, Christian Watson will return from his hamstring issue.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams (29%)
If you’re new to fantasy and somehow unfamiliar with vintage Stafford, he looked a little something like this back in the day:
Stafford was outstanding Sunday, like a much younger and fully operational version of himself. He passed for 334 yards at Seattle, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt despite the absence of offensive centerpiece Cooper Kupp. It was masterful.
Remember when people were discussing how difficult it was for a very old man like Stafford to relate to younger teammates, with their constant screen time and TikToking and whatnot? Well, it seems like he’s struck up a pretty decent relationship with Nacua and Tutu Atwell; those two just combined for 16 receptions and 238 yards. Stafford had a refreshingly healthy, productive offseason and the early returns are promising. You probably don’t want to mess around with him next week when he faces a monstrous Niners defense, but he’s approved for use in later matchups.
Howell had a carnival ride of a day against Arizona, including one pick, multiple sacks and a fumble that became a scoop-and-score TD for the defense. But he also did this …
… which was pretty sweet. Howell later ran for a 6-yard go-ahead score, saving his fantasy day (and your 2023 survivor entry):
Basically, Howell gave us the full young-dual-threat-QB experience. Washington has an abundance of talent at the skill spots and an offensive coordinator with impeccable credentials. If you find yourself questioning your draft day quarterback choices, give Howell a long look.
Additional QB pickups
Derek Carr: He’s coming off a 300-yard effort, heading to Carolina and his receiving corps is excellent.
Baker Mayfield: He’s the guy who gets to face Chicago next week and his receivers are of the highest quality.
It turns out all the early-August talk about Gainwell as Philadelphia’s definitive No. 1 RB was, in fact, pretty accurate. He dominated the snaps in the opener (62%), finishing with 74 scrimmage yards, catching all four of his targets and out-touching all other Eagles backs, 18 to four. D’Andre Swift had only a cameo role, gaining 3 yards; Rashaad Penny was a healthy scratch.
There is really no conclusion to draw other than this: Philly’s backfield belongs to Gainwell right now. He is the entire committee. If you’re interested in adding the featured back in an upper-tier offense, this is your guy. Gainwell has caught 56 balls over his first two NFL seasons while averaging 4.4 YPC, plus he handled 40 touches over three playoff games last year. He entered the league from the running back factory at Memphis coming off a 2069-yard, 51-catch college season, so he’s approved for use in all situations, on any down. He’s a clear waiver priority this week ahead of a Thursday matchup with the Vikings.
We have terrific news for those of you who enjoyed burning all your FAB resources on various Rams running backs last season:
Williams broke the plane twice at Seattle on Sunday, splitting carries with Cam Akers and out-rushing him, 52 yards to 29. He dominated the snap share, too, particularly while the game was competitive.
Williams was of course one of the many Rams RBs we mistakenly chased last season, but — just maybe — this year’s situation might be different. He was moderately hyped in the summer ahead of his rookie season, but was injured on the first special teams snap of his first game. Williams was plenty productive as a collegiate back at Notre Dame, producing back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but he kinda/sorta failed the combine (4.65 speed). The lack of elite sprint speed didn’t exactly hurt him Sunday, however. After his success in the season-opening win (and a brutally inefficient performance by Akers), there’s really no way his usage will be dialed back.
Deon Jackson had a disaster of a game for Indianapolis on Sunday, featuring two fumbles and only 28 scrimmage yards on 18 touches. Rookie Evan Hull exited with a knee injury, so he was unavailable to take advantage of Jackson’s many struggles. Next week, we can assume Moss will have a substantial role when the Colts travel to Houston. Despite missing much of camp with a fractured arm, Moss returned to practice ahead of the opener and seemed close to being active against Jacksonville. He was a sneaky-efficient runner last season (4.9) and he finished the year averaging 83.5 rushing YPG over the final four weeks. It’s tough to believe he won’t serve as Indy’s featured back when ready — at least until the Jonathan Taylor fiasco is resolved.
Other recommended RBs
Gus Edwards and Justice Hill: This pair split the backfield work following the unfortunate season-ending injury to JK Dobbins, but there’s a decent chance another back will be added to the mix, perhaps soon.
Joshua Kelley: He ran as a full committee member Sunday, carrying 16 times for 91 yards and one touchdown against Miami.
Roschon Johnson: Don’t go out of your way to invest in Chicago’s offense, but it’s worth noting that the rookie caught six balls on seven targets, plus he broke the plane for a late, meaningless score.
Myles Garrett and friends just held the Bengals to three points and 142 total yards in one of the week’s most impressive team performances. Next week, this group gets a lower degree-of-difficulty matchup against Kenny Pickett and the Steelers, so stream as needed.