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.

Fantasy Football 2020 Waiver Wire Pickups: Teddy Bridgewater, Boston Scott highlight Week 7 additions

Week 6 was a really weird one for fantasy football. Three of the top five fantasy quarterbacks were Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill and Carson Wentz. Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo all finished in the top 10 in scoring as well after posting duds in Week 5.

Kenyan Drake, D’Andre Swift, Ronald Jones II and Miles Gaskin were among the top-seven scoring running backs. Those seven backs were also the only ones to finish with more than 15 fantasy points in PPR scoring.

For wide receivers, Justin Jefferson leads all scorers, Julio Jones scored two touchdowns after failing to find the end zone up to that point and Christian Kirk was the fourth-best scorer with just two catches.

If that wasn’t weird enough, three of the top five tight ends for the week were on fewer than 10 percent of ESPN rosters.

Bottom line: the NFL is difficult to predict and working the waiver wire is important in fantasy football. Let’s get to my favorite players to target this week.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR
Somehow, Bridgewater has entered into QB1 consideration. He struggled against a top-tier Bears defense, but before that, he turned in two 20-plus point outings. For the third time this season, he also rushed for more than 25 yards. Now, he gets to face a Saints defense allowing the 3rd-most points to opposing quarterbacks. If you are looking for a bye-week fill-in, Bridgewater is one of the best options available.

Kyle Allen, QB, WAS
Allen still feels like a placeholder in Washington. As long as he is the starter though, he has some fantasy value. Especially going up against a Cowboys defense that cannot seem to stop a nosebleed, much less the opposing quarterback. I wouldn’t consider him a top-tier option, but given what Kyler Murray just did to this defense, I think Allen could be a fill-in for a bye week.

Carson Wentz might be second in the NFL in interceptions, but he is also seventh in fantasy points over the past four games. (Wikimedia Commons)

Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
He might be facing a tough matchup with a steadily improving Giants’ defense, but Wentz had an even worse matchup against the Ravens. He has worked magic over the past four weeks with essentially no supporting cast. It is hard to know when that magic might run out. Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders will both be out for a bit. On a short week, it might be really tough for Wentz to get this offense up to speed. If Lane Johnson returns, that should help get things back on track. Wentz is still a fringe starting option in fantasy.

Boston Scott, RB, PHI
With the aforementioned injury to Miles Sanders, Boston Scott suddenly is in line for a huge uptick in usage. He faces a Giants’ defense that has struggled to stop the run so far, ranking 22nd in fantasy point allowed to opposing running backs. Scott has not produced much, but he could be considered as a flex option.

J.D. McKissic, RB, WAS
Washington has struggled to run the ball this year, but McKissic is carving out a role as a receiver in this offense. He has registered at least six receptions in his past three games. Facing a Dallas defense that has struggled to contain opposing running backs. He also earned eight carries in Week 6. 14 total touches is more than a good enough reason to add him to your roster, even if it is just as depth at the position.

Lamical Perine, RB, NYJ
With Le’Veon Bell now in Kansas City, I expect Perine to continue to carve out a larger role in this Jets’ offense. It is not a unit I would recommend investing in heavily, but if you are in need of some running back depth with potential upside, Perine is a decent option. He faces a decent Bills defense in Week 7, but he has the potential to take over the starting job from Frank Gore as the season wears on.

Brian Hill, RB, ATL
Perhaps it was a product of having a huge lead against the Vikings, but the Falcons relied on Brian Hill a lot more in the win. He finished with 10 carries and caught a pair of passes out of the backfield. A fumble marred his day and he was not overly effective running the ball, but the usage is encouraging. I wouldn’t place a high priority on him, but with a shakeup to the coaching staff, Hill could continue to see touches if Gurley continues to be ineffective.

Keelan Cole Sr., WR, JAX
Cole benefits from being part of an offense that has to throw the ball a lot because Jacksonville is almost always trailing. Garbage-time fantasy points still count just the same. He had a huge Week 6 against Detroit, and while it is unlikely you can count on him to replicate that, Gardner Minshew is looking his way enough for Cole to stay fantasy relevant. He has earned at least five targets in every game this season, including a season-high of nine on Sunday. If you are looking for some wide receiver depth, Cole is a worthwhile option.

Demarcus Robinson finished second only to Travis Kelce for targets on the Chiefs in Week 6.

Demarcus Robinson, WR, KC
With Sammy Watkins out against his former team, Robinson stepped up to fill the void. He hauled in five catches for 69 yards facing a solid Bills defense. Robinson goes up against a Broncos defense that struggled to contain opposing receivers prior to their Week 5 bye. With Watkins likely out again in Week 7 and the Jets on the horizon for Week 8, Robinson could be a flex option for the next couple of weeks if you are hurting at receiver.

Christian Kirk, WR, ARI
I don’t usually put players who hauled in just two catches on this list. However, one of Kirk’s catches went for 80 yards and both resulted in touchdowns. I’m also not buying that Kyler Murray is going to finish too many games this season with nine completed passes. If you are looking for a boom-or-bust flex option this week, look no further than Kirk. He faces the best fantasy matchup he could in a Seahawks defense giving up 23.2 more points to opposing receivers than the league average.

Mike Williams, WR, LAC
Keenan Allen is questionable heading into Week 7’s meeting with the Jaguars. Even if Allen does suit up, I would be interested in grabbing Williams. After Allen exited against the Saints, Williams posted monster numbers. Now he gets a Jaguars secondary that has given up a ton of points to opposing receivers in recent weeks. If Allen starts, consider Williams a flex play. If Allen sits, bump Williams into the WR2.

Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL
Finding fantasy tight ends is really difficult right now. While Schultz is far from a fantasy star, he is a serviceable option for managers in need of a bye-week fill-in. Outside of a Week 5 dud vs. the Giants, he has caught at least four passes in each game since he took over as the starter. Even with the change at quarterback, it is clear Andy Dalton trust him enough to look his direction. Facing a Washington defense that has surrendered the fifth-most points to opposing tight ends, I would feel comfortable starting Schultz this week.

Anthony Firkser, TE, TEN
Frisker’s value is totally contingent on the health of Jonnu Smith. Before Week 6, the 25-year-old had accounted for just six points in PPR scoring. When Smith went down against Houston, Firkser racked up 25 fantasy points. Ryan Tannehill loves throwing to his tight ends. He might not have a great matchup against a talented Steelers defense, but if Firkser is starting, he has plenty of fantasy value to include him in your lineup.

Anthony Firkser racked up eight catches on nine targets for 113 yards and a touchdown in relief of Jonnu Smith. (Wikimedia Commons)

Trey Burton, TE, IND
Since returning from IR in Week 4, Burton has seen at least five targets in each of the Colts’ past three games. He took it to another level in Week 6 with two touchdowns. He is not going to challenge the George Kittles or Travis Kelces of the world, but Burton is some really smart depth to add at the position with the potential to be a starter down the line. He is on a bye in Week 7, but that shouldn’t stop you from stashing him on your bench.

Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI
Here is another tight end where you might want to get ahead of the curve. Goedert has yet to be activated from the IR, but he eligible to be starting this week. With Zach Ertz out for three-to-four weeks, Goedert could be a premier starting option as soon as this week, if not, in Week 8 against the Cowboys. If you are willing to gamble on his upside, Goedert is worth stashing on your bench or possibly in an IR spot on your roster if you league has any.

15 NFL free agents set for a big payday

Every year, there a number of players in contract years who make themselves a ton of money. Players like Josh Norman, Nick Foles and Olivier Vernon showed out in their final year before hitting free agency and cashed in. Raheem Mostert would have been a great candidate to be on this list, but he signed a nice deal just before the Super Bowl.

To be clear here, these are players who have yet to earn that big payday in the pro football. Obviously, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Jadeveon Clowney will land huge contracts, but they have already raked in a ton of cash. With NFL free agency just three weeks away from opening, let’s take a look at players looking to earn a big pay raise.

Cowboys logoDak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
It has been a long time coming, but Dak Prescott is going to get a massive pay increase this offseason. The former 4th-round pick made just over $2 million in 2019. He could very well be in line to land a deal that pays him close to $40 million per season. Even if Dallas decides to use the franchise tag on him, he would likely earn over $25 million in 2020.

Chiefs LogoChris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs
Meet the top defensive player not named Jadeveon Clowney in this free agent class. Jones has been nothing short of a game-wrecker in Kansas City and was an integral part of that defensive resurgence in 2019. There is some buzz about him being an option for the franchise tag. The Chiefs may also look to trade him after that, which they did last year with Dee Ford. He made roughly $1.3 million during his Super Bowl run. On the open market, he could command close to $20 million per year on his next deal.

Ravens logoMatt Judon, EDGE
There has already been some buzz about the Ravens franchise tagging Judon and looking to trade him. He has not been as prolific as Ngakoue, but he does have 29 sacks in four seasons. As a fifth-round pick, he made right around $2 million this year. The franchise tag would see him make around $16 million in 2020, but he could also sign a long-term deal for at least $14.5 million per year.

Buccaneers logoShaquille Barrett, EDGE, Buccaneers
Nobody made more money for themselves in 2019 than Barrett. The 27-year-old signed an incentive-laden deal with the Buccaneers, maxing out at $4 million. He went on to lead the NFL in sacks and now seems poised to land a contract somewhere in the range of $17 to $20 million per year. That type of leap is nothing short of incredible.

Titans logoDerrick Henry, RB, Titans
Heading into the season, I was very pessimistic about Henry’s chances of landing a long-term deal in Tennessee. After he led the NFL in rushing this season and almost carried the Titans to a Super Bowl. He made about $1.1 million this season. He will almost definitely 10 times that in 2020.

Saints logoTeddy Bridgewater, QB, Saints
Many thought Bridgewater would attempt to land a big payday in the 2019 offseason. Instead, he signed a one-year, $7.25-million deal to stay as Drew Brees’ backup. His 5-0 stint as the starter when Brees got hurt earned him a ton of money. Expect him to sign a deal north of $20 million per year in New Orleans or elsewhere.

Jaguars logoYannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars
If somehow Jacksonville lets Ngakoue walk, some team is going to hand him a monster deal in free agency. He has 38 career sacks in four seasons. As a former third-round pick, Ngakoue has well outplayed his contract. He made around $2 million in 2019. He should make upwards of $17 million per year going forward.

Chargers logoAustin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
As a former undrafted running back out of West Colorado State, Ekeler flew under the radar for a while. He is not a bellcow back, but came just shy of 1,000 yards receiving in 2019. He earned a meager $645 thousand this past season, but he should probably earn himself around 10 times that on average, in the $7 million range. At 24 years old, he is hitting free agent at a prime point for running backs.

Falcons logoAustin Hooper, TE, Falcons
He has flown under the radar a bit, but Hooper has turned into one of the top 10 tight ends in the NFL. As a 2016 3rd-round pick, he played at the final season of his rookie deal. The 25-year-old should have plenty of suitors and should more than quadruple the $2 million he made in 2019.

Vikings logoAnthony Harris, S, Vikings
People have started to learn his name, especially after he finished tied for the NFL lead in interceptions this season. As a former undrafted free agent in 2015, Harris is in line for a massive pay bump. He earned roughly $3 million this year on a one-year deal. The 28-year-old will likely land a deal four times that.

Panthers logoTre Boston, S, Panthers
Working as a mercenary the past three seasons, Boston is in line for a longer deal with some more financial guarantees. He has 11 interceptions in that time frame. He turns 28 this summer and should be looking to cash in after another good season. After earning $2.275 million last year, he should be looking into the $9 million per year range at least on his next deal.

Panthers logoJames Bradberry, CB, Panthers
Another member of the Panthers secondary in line for a big jump, Bradberry is one of the better cover corners in the NFL. Carolina will likely keep him in house and hand him a handsome raise. He made just under $1 million this season. He should be making upwards of $13 million per year by next season.

Texans logoD.J. Reader, DL, Texans
As a former 5th rounder, Reader has flown under the radar. He made just over $2 million in 2019 but he outplayed that paycheck by a wide margin. He won’t reset the market by any means as mostly a run stuffing option. I think we will likely see him land a deal worth around $10 or $11 million per year. He is due for a nice payday.

Lions LogoGraham Glasgow, G, Lions
Interior linemen don’t often move the needle, but finding a player capable of keeping your quarterback upright is invaluable. Glasgow has started 58 games out of a possible 64 over the past four seasons. He is 27 years old and should find himself making about $10 million per year after earning just $2 million in 2019.