Fantasy Football 2020 Waiver Wire Pickups: Jared Goff and Justin Jefferson highlight this week’s top adds

The importance of the waiver wire showed up big time in Week 3. If you were like me and started James Robinson, you are probably pretty happy with how your week went. If you are also like me and dropped Justin Jefferson to add Russell Gage, you were probably a bit frustrated.

Not every player you add from the waiver wire is going to be a winner and sometimes, you have to take the risk that it will be a complete dud. That’s what anyone who started Gardner Minshew this week found out. You can also hit it big and win your matchup as a result, as anyone who started Rex Burkhead found out. It’s not an exact science, but there is a usually a bit of a method to the madness.

Goff came up big with 321 yards and three total touchdowns against the Bills. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jared Goff, QB, LAR
After a lackluster Week 1, Jared Goff has stepped up in back-to-back weeks. He went over 23 fantasy points for the second straight week. He now gets matchups against the Giants and Washington over the next two weeks. It is unlikely that he scores three touchdowns each week, but his efficiency has picked up and he seems to be in a groove with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee. If you need a streaming option at quarterback, Goff is my top choice for the week.

Nick Foles, QB, CHI
Welcome back to fantasy relevance Nick Foles! He took the starting job from Mitch Trubisky and led the Bears to a comeback over the Falcons. Now, Foles won’t benefit from facing the worst fantasy (and potentially real life) defense in the league every week, but he looked comfortable in the starting role. He has to face an improving Colts defense and the Buccaneers in the next two weeks. It is probably worth stashing Foles on your roster as a bye week fill in.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, MIA
If you haven’t hopped on the Fitzmagic train, it’s not too late. Fitzpatrick has scored 24 points in back-to-back weeks. Week 1’s dud against the Patriots aside, he has been one of the top five quarterbacks in scoring these past two weeks. He now faces a Seattle defense that is allowing the second most points to opposing quarterbacks through three games. The Seahawks will unquestionably be the favorite in that contest, but don’t be shocked if Fizpatrick puts up big numbers in a losing effort.

Jeff Wilson Jr., RB, SF
No one can stay healthy on the 49ers. Jeff Wilson Jr. is likely to be the latest beneficiary of taking the starting role. It is not a guarantee that Jerick McKinnon misses Week 4 against the Eagles, but Wilson got plenty of usage even with McKinnon in action this past week. Assuming McKinnon is limited, Wilson will suddenly be a top option. Now the Eagles defense is good against the run, but Wilson got involved in the passing game as well. It is unlikely he scores two touchdowns again, but Wilson could be a flex play if you are suffering from injuries.

Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA
The preseason hype of the Miami backfield centered on Matt Breida and Jordan Howard. Myles Gaskin has emerged as the lead back in the Dolphins running back by committee approach. His usage went to the next level against Jacksonville as he finished with 27 touches. That feels unsustainable and now he faces two tough run defenses in Seattle and San Francisco up next. I would not recommend starting him any time soon, but he is worth adding to your roster for running back depth. He won’t be available for too much longer.

Carlos Hyde, RB, SEA
Another potential injury fill in here. Chris Carson’s status is up in the air against the Dolphins. He suffered a knee injury on a questionable play from Trysten Hill and could be out for a week or two. Hyde has not been fantasy relevant up to this point, but he could be thrust in the starting role on a high-scoring offense. Seattle has moved away from running the ball as much this season, but Hyde was a 1,000 yard rusher a year ago for the Texans. He is about as good of a fill in the Seahawks can hope to have if Carson misses time.

Jefferson flashed the potential that made him a first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
There is the breakout we have all been waiting for. Justin Jefferson had five catches on six targets for 70 yards in his first two games. In Week 3, he came up with seven catches on nine targets for 175 yards and a touchdown. Now 71 of those yards came on his touchdown catch, but even if you remove that, a six-catch, 104-yard performance is more than impressive. If this is a sign of things to come, Jefferson is absolutely worth having on your roster. Maybe you were smarter than me and didn’t drop him in the first place. Either way, put in the waiver claim.

Allen Lazard, WR, GB
Maybe the Packers really didn’t need to draft a receiver. Allen Lazard stepped up big time with Davante Adams out. He torched the Saints secondary for 146 yards and a score on six catches. He might not see eight targets every week with Adams back in the fold, but he has emerged as the clear No. 2 receiver in this offense. It is unlikely he posts the same gaudy numbers he had against New Orleans every week, but he is worth grabbing if he is still available in your league.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SF
Even with Jimmy Garoppolo out, Aiyuk had a big week. He had five catches and 70 yards receiving. That alone would be a solid performance. He also added three carries for 31 yards and a touchdown due to all of San Francisco’s running back injuries. His versatility makes him an interesting prospect going forward. Deebo Samuel will eventually return, as soon as this week in fact, but Aiyuk looks to still have value in this offense as the number two receiver. Expect him to grow into this role as the season rolls on.

Cole Beasley, WR, BUF
I can’t believe I am writing this, but it might be worth picking up Cole Beasley in fantasy this week. He has quietly earned at least six targets in each of his first three games and took it to the next level against the Rams by hitting the century mark in receiving yards. With John Brown out, it is hard to imagine his target share shrinking in an offense that is putting up a lot of points. He faces a solid Raiders defense in Week 4, but gets a disappointing Titans secondary the week after that. As long as Brown is out, Beasley seems like he will be worth grabbing.

Jimmy Graham, TE, CHI
It still seems like the Bears overpaid Jimmy Graham, but he has a real connection with Nick Foles. Graham caught a pair of touchdown passes and earned a solid seven targets after Foles took over at quarterback. It is no secret that Foles likes to rely on his tight ends. Zach Ertz put up good numbers still whenever Foles filled in on the Eagles. It is unlikely Graham becomes an elite tight end option, but he should be viewed as a solid streaming option, even if he is playing against a Colts defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

Eric Ebron, TE, PIT
Slowly but surely, Eric Ebron is carving out a role for himself in this offense. He actually led the Steelers in receptions, receiving yards and shared the team lead in targets. Not to mention he added a touchdown to his statline to complete a really impressive week of scoring. The tight end position has been one of the most frustrating to predict in fantasy this season. Outside of Travis Kelce, is is hard to find a consistent producer at the position. He is far from a slam dunk, but you could do a lot worse than Ebron going forward, especially if Diontae Johnson misses any time due to injury.

Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL
It was not the same type of dominant performance we saw in Week 2, but Dalton Schultz clearly has earned the trust of Dak Prescott. He had four more catches for 48 yards on six targets. That won’t win you your fantasy matchup, but Schultz is deservedly in the conversation as a fringe TE1. With both the 49ers’ Jordan Reed and Eagles’ Dallas Goedert going on IR, this would be a good time to snag him off waivers to hold down the position for a few weeks.

The NFL’s New MVP: Backup Quarterbacks

The NFL changes over time. Before Lawrence Taylor, left tackles did not hold the same value as they did after Taylor battered just about every quarterback he faced. General managers adjusted based on what they were seeing. It seems like it is changing again now regrading the league values backup quarterbacks.

It feels like backup quarterback has become an infinitely more valuable position in the last few years in the NFL. With the rate of injury to starting quarterbacks, it is becoming a necessity to have a good backup. They are quickly becoming a valuable commodity across the league.

nick_foles_calling_play_in_2012
Entering the season, Foles was the second-highest paid backup in the league, behind only Teddy Bridgewater. (Wikimedia Commons)

Think about how many backup quarterbacks you can name during Peyton Manning’s career. Go back further to Dan Marino. Or Roger Staubach. Maybe some of the ones for Marino or Staubach have faded with time, but I grew up during the Peyton Manning-era. Off the top of my head, the only name that comes up is Curtis Painter, and that is mostly because the Colts started him for their final two games of the 2009 season. One of those games was against a Jets team starting Mark Sanchez and needing a win to keep postseason hopes alive. I will forever be thankful for Curtis Painter.

I digress. The point is, most of these backup quarterbacks are pretty much unknown. There wasn’t much value in them unless you were grooming a young quarterback and he needed some guidance. Now, teams are trading for backup quarterbacks, or even notably not giving them up.

The best example is Nick Foles. The backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles had to step in after Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury late in the 2017 season. No doubt, you know what happened by now as Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory and was named the game’s MVP.

Over the offseason, several teams tried to trade for Foles, seeing as Wentz would come back and take over the starting job as soon as he was healthy. Reportedly, Cleveland offered up its second round pick, the 35th overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft in exchange for Foles. That is exception value to receive for your backup quarterback, who you hope won’t have to play all season. The Eagles declined the offer though. While yes, Philly did need Foles to start the season as Wentz was not cleared for contact by week 1, there were plenty of other free agent quarterbacks that could have stepped to start for those two weeks and the Eagles would have some extra ammo in the draft. It also would have cleared a ton of cap space off the books for Philadelphia. Foles will count for $13.6 million against the cap in 2018. However, the Eagles felt they needed a strong enough backup to have in their back pocket, just in case.

42274775080_dfcf903d5c_b
Teddy Bridgewater (right) has not started a game since 2015, but the Saints traded a third-round pick for him to back up Drew Brees. (Wikimedia Commons)

Philly is far from the only team. Several clubs moved to bolster their backup quarterback situation. The Colts refused to move Jacoby Brissett after he stepped in last season to start for Andrew Luck. Minnesota traded for Trevor Siemian in the offseason, despite breaking the bank to sign Kirk Cousins from Washington. The Seahawks traded a sixth round pick in 2019 for Brett Hundley, formerly a backup in Green Bay. The Packers felt comfortable letting go of Hundley because they already had their backup quarterback of the future in Deshone Kizer. The Packers traded for Kizer after he struggled during his rookie season with the Browns. The Saints joined the fun as well, sending a third round draft pick to New York in exchange for Teddy Bridgewater.  Now Kizer did see some action already due to an Aaron Rodgers injury, but without injury, none of these players would see the field in 2018. Their value exists due to the what if.

This whole trend might actually go back a bit further Nick Foles. It likely originates with Matt Cassel back in 2008. He stepped in after Tom Brady was lost for the season with a knee injury. Cassel, never anywhere as close to as good as Brady, led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. He signed a big 4-year deal with the Chiefs the following offseason and proceeded to look way out of his depth. Even though he flamed out of Kansas City, Cassel has made the roster of five different teams in the past six seasons.

Perhaps the best example of the value teams place in having an experienced backup quarterback is the bearded one himself, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Harvard grad has toured the NFL as the consummate backup quarterback and spot-starter. Fitzpatrick is not a very good passer. In his career, he has completed just under 60 percent of his passes and thrown 43 more interceptions than he has touchdowns. Usually, that would mean you are out of the league, not playing in your 14th NFL season. Fitz has made a living as a journeyman backup. Spotrac puts his career earning at just over $58 million. The fact that teams still sign him is a testament to the value he still holds in the league.

In a similar boat is Josh McCown. Now a backup on the Jets as the franchise puts its faith in Sam Darnold, McCown has a made a career circling the league as a backup. He has made just shy of $50 million for his efforts despite never starting all 16 games in a single season.

30967597455_cc1ab58ced_b
Bradford has made about $14.4 million on average over his nine NFL seasons. (Wikimedia Commons)

Another interesting study is Sam Bradford. He has never been a great quarterback. In his career he is a 62.5 percent passer who averages about 234 yards per game. His career record as a starter is 34-48-1. Sam Bradford is also the 17th highest paid player in NFL history. Yes, you read that right. Now, that stat is a bit skewed. 15 of the 20 highest paid players in league history are currently playing. Four of the five that have retired did so in the last three years. Brett Favre is the only one in the top 20 to retire more than three years ago.

There are some other qualifiers for Bradford’s status. He is the last player selected first overall to negotiate outside of the rookie wage scale, meaning he signed a six-year, $78 million deal before ever taking an NFL snap. For reference, Cam Newton, who was the first overall pick the following year, signed a four-year, $22 million deal for his rookie contract.

Just this year, Bradford signed a one-year deal with Arizona for $20 million. Bradford has not played a full season of football since 2012. He has never made the playoffs as a starter. Yet, he somehow still manages to command money. The Cardinals also drafted Josh Rosen 10th overall this year, so they have a quarterback of the future. They also have Mike Glennon on the roster. With Rosen taking over the starting job, Bradford is now the most expensive backup in the NFL.

They aren’t the first team to do this either. The Bears did it in 2017 with Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky took over right around the same time as Rosen did. I just mentioned that Glennon is also in Arizona. Experience is key for NFL teams looking to find the solution at quarterback.

Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Colt McCoy, Drew Stanton, Robert Griffin III, Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler. The list goes on and on of players we know do not have what it takes to be starters in this league. Most of them aren’t even that young anymore and don’t represent future prospects looking for their chance. They all have jobs though due to the fact teams are valuing backup quarterbacks more than ever before.

This isn’t to say there weren’t career backups who made the occasional start for an injured quarterback. Before Nick Foles, there was Jeff Hostetler. Hostetler stepped in for an injured Phil Simms late in the 1990 season and did just enough to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl victory. Hostetler went on to start for a few seasons with the Raiders, even making the Pro Bowl in 1994. He was never a great quarterback.

Hostetler never really returned to his backup role, unlike what so many of these current quarterbacks are doing. There are some great backup quarterbacks in NFL history, but they are few and far between.

Earl Morrall backed up Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas and Bob Griese during his career. He played 21 years in the NFL and started fewer than five games per year on average. Steve DeBerg was replaced by Joe Montana, John Elway and Steve Young during his long NFL career. He finished with more interceptions than touchdowns thrown, but lasted 17 seasons in the league.

Most notable backup quarterbacks are few and far between. Perhaps it’s easier to name all of the current backup quarterbacks now because they are still current players. Still, it is hard to dismiss the fact that general managers and fans alike are paying more attention to the depth chart at the quarterback position than ever before.