Fantasy Football 2021 Waiver Wire Pickups: Mitchell, Shepard popular options heading into Week 2


Fantasy Football is finally back in full swing. If you are like me, you spent much of Sunday swiping through the scoreboard pages of your various teams and questioned why you didn’t start Jalen Hurts over Aaron Rodgers. Seriously, all the reigning MVP needed to do was not have the worst fantasy output of any starter in Week 1 and I would’ve won. I lost that matchup by 0.4 points.

But I digress, because whether you feel like you crushed your draft or really messed it up, you now have a second chance to build your fantasy team. Welcome to the waiver wire. Every year, there are a few great fantasy options that slip through the cracks and wind up going undrafted. Usually, the fantasy managers who scoop those handful of players up tend to be the ones that make deep playoff runs.

Don’t believe me? Alvin Kamara went undrafted in most formats back in 2017. He finished the year as RB3. Perhaps you rode James Robinson or Justin Jefferson to a championship last year after both started the year widely available on the waiver wire. The point is, your season is not over because you had a bad Week 1 or lost a couple players to injury.

A quick reminder of how I go about this column. I am looking at players who are available in at least 50 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues as a guide for who will be available. Of course you should pick up star players if they are somehow sitting on the waiver wire, but that won’t be the case for most people.

Going beyond simply looking for players to add to your roster, working the waiver wire requires a bit of strategy. Different leagues have different policies for how waiver claims are awarded. Some have the waiver order reset in reverse order of the standing after every week. Some move teams to the back of the queue after a successful waiver claim. Some have allotted budgets of real or fake money for managers to allocate on players throughout the season. It is important to check which set up your league has and know the best way to work within those parameters.

There is also no chance you will see me advocating for you to use a waiver claim on a defense or a kicker. That does not mean that you should not pick one up if let’s say you have the Panthers defense going up against the Saints this week, but don’t waste a valuable waiver claim on a position that likely will not offer you any long term value.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my top additions heading into Week 2. These are listed in no particular order, simply broken up by position.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, DEN
It didn’t take long for Bridgewater to settle in. The former Panthers quarterback carved up the Giants defense for 264 yards and a pair of scores on his way to a QB14 finish. Those aren’t gaudy numbers, but solid nonetheless. On top of that, Bridgewater will face a Jaguars defense that gave up 291 yards and two scores to Tyrod Taylor in Week 1. Even without Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos still have plenty of talented receivers and backs to work with. It doesn’t hurt that Bridgewater can add a bit more value with his legs as well. He rushed for 19 yards this past week and could be in line for more as the season rolls on. I think he is a solid spot starter this week if you are in the market for one.

Mac Jones, QB, NE
I am a lot less sure about this one. Mac Jones looked really good in his NFL debut, but he did not do much from a fantasy perspective. However, he plays a very young Jets defense in Week 2 on the heels of throwing the ball 39 times against the Dolphins. That bodes well for some increased fantasy success against a weaker opponent. Jones is going to be incredibly efficient and will likely avoid turnovers. If you are searching for a fantasy option with a decently high floor, he feels like someone worth a look this week.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF
I’m ready to get burned again! I targeted Trey Sermon in a lot of my fantasy drafts this year under the assumption he would start if anything happened to Raheem Mostert. The latter has a lengthy injury history, so it felt pretty likely he would miss some time. Low and behold, Mostert is out of the season, but it is Elijah Mitchell who seems poised to take over the majority of the work in the backfield. He ran the ball 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. The red flag? He did not have a single target in the passing game. Now, Sermon is likely to see some touches this week and Kyle Shanahan is notorious for rotating his running backs. JaMycal Hasty and eventually Jeff Wilson Jr. will definitely see some work. That being said, Mitchell absolutely should be rostered in every fantasy league. He will be my top waiver wire target this week.

Kenny Gainwell, RB, PHI
He didn’t light it up or see anywhere near the same volume as Mitchell, but Gainwell had a solid NFL debut. The rookie out of Memphis had 11 touches for 43 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He seems well positioned for about 10-15 touches per game. Normally, I wouldn’t feel great about him facing the 49ers in Week 2, but San Francisco gave up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in Week 1. This definitely has some risk reward potential, but if you are looking for someone to stash with upside, Gainwell is a good pick.

Mark Ingram, RB, HOU
Dare I say it: Mark Ingram looks fantasy relevant again. The former Ravens running back ran the ball a staggering 26 times against the Jaguars. He only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, but if he is going to see that much volume this season, he will be worth tracking. The Texans travel to Cleveland in Week 2. That’s not a great fantasy matchup for Ingram, but he should have a relatively high floor if he is going to see that much usage. I wouldn’t drop anyone you really like for him, but Ingram could be a great injury replacement for Mostert, Rashaad Penny or others.

Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG
We talked all offseason about the big additions to the Giants offense. They signed Kenny Golladay, drafted Kadarius Toney and brought in Kyle Rudolph. That was in addition to Evan Engram and Darius Slayton with Saquon Barkley finally back from injury. Turns out we forgot about Sterling Shepard. After a frustrating and injury-riddled 2020 season, the former Oklahoma receiver reasserted himself in New York’s offense with a seven-catch, 113-yard performance capped off by a touchdown. He scored the ninth most points of any fantasy receiver in Week 1. He might not be a weekly starter, but Shepard will definitely be a matchup-specific flex option.

K.J. Osborn, WR, MIN
Not a name I was overly familiar with heading into Week 1, Osborn showed a lot of promise against Cincinnati. He caught seven of his nine targets for 76 yards. I’m not ready to call him a breakout player yet, but with Minnesota lacking depth at tight end and struggling to run the ball, Osborn could be involved a bit more in the offense than we expected. It is tough for me to start him at this point, especially facing a Cardinals defense that just shut down the Titans, but he might be worth stashing on your bench if you have room.

Tim Patrick, WR, DEN
Injuries are a part of football. Every year players go down and that opens up new opportunities in fantasy. Unfortunately, Jerry Jeudy will miss some time with a high-ankle sprain. That opens the door for Tim Patrick to be fantasy relevant again. He only saw four targets in Week 1, but he turned them into four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. I think he will see a few more throws his way with Jeudy out. Plus, he faces an abysmal Jaguars secondary in Week 2. Patrick feels like a speculative flex play or WR3 option in PPR formats. If you are in non-PPR leagues, K.J. Hamler is definitely worth a look.

Nelson Agholor, WR, NE
I’m still a little skeptical of Agholor, but he had a solid debut for the Patriots. He caught five of his seven targets for 72 yards and a score. There is a good chance he finishes the year as New England’s top receiver. On top of that, he faces a Jets secondary that struggled to contain the big play and is overall very unproven. Agholor is worth a look as a flex option in Week 2.

Jared Cook, TE, LAC
A change of scenery seems to have worked well for the veteran Cook, at least through one week. He caught five passes for 56 yards in his debut with the Chargers. That was against a talented Washington defense as well. Cook will face a Cowboys defense that gave up eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski in Week 1. I don’t think you should expect that type of production out of Cook, but he is definitely a streaming option this week and has the potential to be a regular starter in your lineup if you need a tight end.

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