You know, a crazy thought passed through my head: What if there aren’t enough free agents to make a top 10 waiver wire list for Week 4?
And then Sunday happened. I activated one fantasy football app’s injury alerts on my phone and received a flurry of fantasy starters “ruled out for the game” or “not getting up.”
Turns out Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s hamstring injury set the tone for a troubling week of aches and pains.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown left with a hamstring injury, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster hurt his ribs and New England Patriots running back James White was carted off after injuring his hip.
New York Giants receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton left with hamstring injuries, and Kenny Golladay gutted through his bum hip. For once the New York Post wasn’t engaging in hyperbole when it called the situation an “injury nightmare.”
Now it’s up to fantasy managers to parse through the wreckage and pluck the waiver wire for quick fixes.
Here are 10 of the best candidates, otherwise known as “pick up as many Buffalo Bills as you can.”
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills
We finally may have a Bills running back making a move to cement the RB1 role. Moss totaled 91 yards and had a receiving touchdown against Washington. The week before, he scored twice on the ground against the Miami Dolphins.
Moss always has been considered the back with the higher upside, but health and lulls in his play have always gotten in his way. He was a healthy scratch in Week 1, so maybe his motor has been the problem all along.
“Zack came off being inactive that first week and was hungry. That’s a good thing,” coach Sean McDermott said via the Desert News. “Sometimes playing time is a great motivator. (You) never want to directly send that message but indirectly it happened for the reasons it happened. I think he’s come off of that making the best of every opportunity he’s gotten since that point. I’m seeing a hungry football player, and I love it.”
It’s worth stashing Moss on the chance he’s a late bloomer who finally has clicked mentally.
Moss is rostered in 54% of Yahoo leagues and 38% on NFL.com.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey will at least miss Week 4 in Dallas while his hamstring is on the mend, but Carolina coach Matt Rhule complicated the backfield picture by giving significant touches to Royce Freeman, a onetime starter in Denver.
Freeman probably will get his share, but Hubbard still looks like the top dog, getting 11 carries, five targets and 79 total yards against the Houston Texans.
“I thought Chuba was outstanding,” Rhule said, according to NBCSports.com’s Pro Football Talk. “At the end of the half, we didn’t give him a ton of chances, but I thought he got in there at the end and made some key runs.”
If you’re able to swipe Hubbard from McCaffrey’s fantasy manager, he’d make a great flex against the Cowboys.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers
Playing Valdes-Scantling at the right time sometimes feels like trying to catch a greased pig. You would think as the presumed No. 2 receiver in an Aaron Rodgers attack, he’d be a weekly set-it-and-forget-it stater, but he has caught just six of his 16 targets through three games.
Fortunately, he found the end zone against the San Francisco 49ers. And now he draws the Steelers, who have allowed at least one receiver touchdown in each game and three to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Schultz was to be a forgotten man with Blake Jarwin’s return this season but is third on the Cowboys in receptions (14), targets (15) and yards (143). His two touchdown catches Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles placed him in a tie at the top with Amari Cooper.
The Panthers haven’t given up many points to tight ends but their first opponents, the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, don’t have established tight ends. Schultz had some spot moments last season with 63 catches and four scores despite playing the majority of the season without quarterback Dak Prescott.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Buffalo Bills
Seasoned fantasy managers know not to trust Sanders on a week-to-week basis, but when you have a matchup like the Texans you can take a flier on Sanders in the flex position.
New to the Bills, he hadn’t done much in the first two weeks, but he connected with Josh Allen for 94 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Washington.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills
Speaking of Bills pass catchers, Knox has scored two weeks in a row — and he has had only eight targets in that span.
Who does he think he is, Robert Tonyan?
There has been no shortage of duds at tight end (looking at you Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts) so consider streaming someone like Knox.
Josh Gordon, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The gold rush is on for Gordon this week. His adds on NFL.com’s fantasy site jumped by 12% on the news he was reinstated by the NFL and added to the Chiefs practice squad.
I don’t have a problem with it. If you can stash Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas until he’s ready, then you can take a similar flier on Gordon.
A window of opportunity appears to be there because Tyreek Hill has scored once and is averaging 89 yards per game — a sluggish start for him — and no WR2 has established himself among Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, New England Patriots
The loss of James White (hip) could mean White’s passes get distributed elsewhere. Damien Harris isn’t a pass-catching back and Nelson Agholor faces the top cornerback.
Cincinnati Bengals defense/special teams
The Bengals started well — at least three sacks in each game — and have only gotten better each week, culminating in a double-digit fantasy day against the Steelers. The Bengals are fourth in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), according to FootballOutsiders.com, and they’re sixth in points allowed per game (18.0).
Meanwhile, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has tied fellow rookie Zach Wilson with seven interceptions.
New Orleans Saints defense/special teams
Defenses may not win fantasy championships (and that’s debatable) but they’ll win at least a game or two. That probably was the case in Weeks 1 and 3, when the Saints put up 15 and 20 points (Yahoo format), respectively.
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will have to go into the Superdome opener with doubts about his top receivers’ health.