More than half of the 2020 fantasy football season is in the books for most leagues, which means it’s time to start looking further ahead.
Week 7 demonstrated how easily backup running backs can slide into starting roles after injuries. Before spending too much FAAB on speculative adds this week, take a look around the waiver wire for any high-upside handcuffs who have been dropped along the way.
Week 7: Top 15 PPR RBs
Seven of the top 15 PPR fantasy RBs in Week 7 were straight-up backups in Week 6. There's no shame in speculating on these players considering the type of turnover we're seeing in 2020.
Edmonds is the clear priority anywhere he's available, with Scott, Williams, Bernard and Hyde all worthy options pending their teammates’ early-week injury news.
Now, on to the Week 8 FAAB report. The first player at each position will be a more widely available player to consider in standard 12-team leagues, with deep-league targets to follow. FAAB ranges will cover the following general guidelines:
- 0-1% FAAB: Can't hurt to roster if you have an open bench spot
- 2-10% FAAB: Immediate standalone value unlikely, but upside underrated
- 11-20% FAAB: Situation is great, and the player is trending up
- 21-35% FAAB: Player will be started in majority of leagues
- 36-50%+ FAAB: Serious change in workload that could lead to immediate high-end fantasy value
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield (33%) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Mayfield turned in the QB6 performance in Week 7, exploding for a career-high five touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that featured five second-half lead changes. The competitive game script clearly helped, as Mayfield and Joe Burrow (406 passing yards, 3 TDs) went back and forth until the Browns’ third-year quarterback hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for the game-winning score with 15 seconds remaining.
Mayfield isn’t going to continue throwing four or five TDs per week, considering he’s only ever thrown as many as four touchdowns one time (in 2018, also against the Bengals). But there’s no debating how well the Browns’ offense played on Sunday. Mayfield earned the week's second-best PFF passing grade (90.4) and managed a season-high 10.2 yards per attempt while getting the ball out in an average of 2.21 seconds, a season-low. Mayfield had three big-time throws, just one turnover-worthy play and wasn’t sacked.
This is all to say that Mayfield and the Cleveland offense can apparently rack up fantasy points through the air. This week’s opponent, the Las Vegas Raiders, were just torched by Tom Brady for 369 yards and four passing touchdowns. The Raiders are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, including eight passing TDs and three QB rushing touchdowns over the past three weeks. Granted, this was against Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Brees and Cam Newton started out the season with just one passing TD each against Las Vegas.
Still, both of these teams are bottom-four in scoring defense — this could look a lot like the Browns’ two battles with the Bengals this year, which averaged 73 total points. Mayfield has the fourth-best matchup for quarterbacks this week and the No. 1 rest-of-season schedule, according to PFF’s strength of schedule tool. He can only be fired up in the best matchups, but this week qualifies.
FAAB Recommendation: 2-4%
Arizona Cardinals RBs Chase Edmonds (63%) and Eno Benjamin (0%)
Public service announcement: Kenyan Drake suffered what appeared to be a pretty bad ankle injury and left the Cardinals’ Sunday afternoon game on a cart. The team is awaiting MRI results, but the early news is that Arizona’s starting RB will miss “a few weeks,” so this is a post-bye-week code red.
The Cardinals are off this week, but the dynamic Chase Edmonds is likely to command a significant workload come Week 9. Edmonds had already been eating into Drake’s volume recently and looked great doing it. The third-year back is averaging a robust 6.1 yards per carry on 29 attempts and has earned PFF’s 10th-best receiving grade among RBs with at least 10 targets. Drake has been awful in the passing game, grading third-worst out of 56 running backs, though he’s only seen 10 targets compared to Edmonds’ 31.
It is clown-in-a-sewer type of scary to project Edmonds’ efficiency across a full workload. The 24-year-old has only carried the ball between three and six times in every game this season, yet he ranks as the RB30 in PPR points per game on the year. Drake is currently RB29 on four times the carries.
We could go on. But we don’t need to. Edmonds should not be available in 37% of Yahoo leagues. Benjamin is now worth a spec play in deeper leagues — Kliff Kingsbury says the team will use “a group effort” to replace Drake. Benjamin is a seventh-round rookie out of Arizona State who has yet to see the field but was on the preseason dynasty radar.
FAAB Recommendation: 50-70%
Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (10%)
Hyde’s roster rate has fallen in recent weeks with the veteran RB out with a shoulder injury since Week 3. The ball found him early in Week 7 when Chris Carson checked out with a second-quarter foot injury, and Hyde proceeded to do what RB1s on league-leading scoring offenses do: score a rushing touchdown and casually run up 76 total yards on 18 touches.
Hyde played 41 total snaps compared to 16 for Travis Homer and 12 for DeeJay Dallas. The 29-year-old showed last season that there’s plenty left in the tank, having earned PFF’s 16th-best rushing grade among running backs with 25 or more carries. Last year’s 245 carries and 1,070 rushing yards for Houston were both career highs.
Hyde certainly won’t be able to keep pace with Carson’s receiving volume, which means Homer and/or Dallas will eat into third-down snaps for as long as Carson is out. PFF injury expert Mario Pilato says a Grade 1 sprain would cost the Seahawks’ starter a week, a Grade 2 sprain up to five.
As with Boston Scott last week, it’s last call for anyone still hoarding FAAB bucks and in need of immediate running back help.
FAAB Recommendation: 15-25%
New York Jets RB La’Mical Perine (16%)
Another running back who has bounced around waiver wires in deep leagues, Perine saw his most extensive use this week, dominating the snaps over Frank Gore, 40-16. It would have been nice if this happened before the team activated and then released Le’Veon Bell, but here we are.
Perine and Gore actually split the team’s carries down the middle, with Gore’s 60 yards on the ground topping Perine’s 39, though it was the rookie who punched in an impressive touchdown, diving for the pylon from 5 yards out. Perine’s red-zone and passing usage were both great signs, as the rookie handled all three of the team’s red-zone carries and caught both of his targets for 16 yards, while Gore was not targeted.
Perine’s 3.73 yards after contact per attempt led all Week 7 RBs who handled at least a 25% snap share, and he earned a first down or touchdown on six of his 11 carries.
The 0-7 Jets are scoring a league-low — and somewhat tragic — 12.1 points per game. Perine could take on a Marshall Faulk role here and still struggle to put up RB1 performances most weeks. But, as we saw in the Week 7 top-15 RBs list above, opportunity is king in fantasy football in 2020. Perine is inching toward fantasy relevance.
FAAB Recommendation: 10-15%
San Francisco 49ers RB Jamycal Hasty (21%)
Hasty earned a spot on this list last week after handling Week 6 clock-killing duties in relief of Raheem Mostert, who landed on IR with a high-ankle sprain. Unfortunately for those who scooped up San Francisco’s undrafted rookie, Jeff Wilson popped back into our lives for his biannual fantasy points smorgasbord. Unfortunately for Wilson, he badly twisted his ankle during his third rushing TD of the game.
With Wilson likely out of the picture for Week 8, we’re back to some combination of Jerick McKinnon and Hasty in the 49ers backfield. Hasty out-carried McKinnon nine to three on the day and racked up the majority of his 57 yards after Wilson’s departure.
All we can really say is that Hasty looks the part at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds — he’s carried the ball 18 times over two weeks for 98 yards and forced four missed tackles. He caught at least 25 passes in each of his final three seasons at Baylor, averaging 5.8 a carry his senior year.
There are clearly some moving parts here, but this is one of the league’s best running games with yet another open door for someone to take charge. Kyle Shanahan said this week that there’s an outside chance Tevin Coleman returns in Week 8.
Hasty’s roster rate in NFFC Online Championship leagues shot up to 97% last week, though the 31% of fantasy managers who fired him up didn’t quite get their money’s worth. This is probably still a wait-and-see situation, but the upside remains as high as ever.
FAAB Recommendation: 8-12%
New York Giants RB Wayne Gallman (2%)
The Week 3 waiver wire articles said to add Devonta Freeman, but something in the brain’s amygdala suggested that we flee fantasy football land altogether instead.
Fifty-four carries at 3.2 yards per tote later, and Wayne Gallman has re-entered the Giants’ running back mix. Freeman checked out of Thursday night’s game against the Eagles with an ankle injury in the third quarter. In his absence, Gallman managed usable lines of 10-34-1 and 5-20-0.
The Giants are obviously no fantasy juggernaut, but 10 carries and five targets will play in a FLEX spot in a pinch. Gallman is clearly worth a cheap add for those rostering, and for some reason relying on, Freeman, whose PFF grades have torpedoed since 2017.
The Giants face PFF’s third-toughest schedule for running backs over the rest of the fantasy season (10th-best during the fantasy playoffs), though the team’s regularly scheduled negative game scripts offer anyone with a modest pass-catching role and goal-line work a semblance of a floor as a lead dog.
FAAB Recommendation: 2-4%
Cleveland Browns WR Rashard Higgins (1%)
Higgins was in the secret “snap share increasing/TDs happening” FAAB file heading into Week 7. The fifth-year player out of Colorado State scored in Weeks 5 and 6 before stepping up in place of Odell Beckham Jr. this week with six catches on as many targets for 110 yards. Baker Mayfield trusted him with a crucial 30-yard pass with 39 seconds remaining that set up the game-winning touchdown in Cincinnati.
With Beckham reportedly out for the season with a torn ACL, Higgins has a clear path to snaps and targets within a fairly narrow passing offense. Rookie tight end Harrison Bryant has emerged as a red-zone threat, and fellow rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones saw a season-high 36 snaps in Week 7. But neither is a potential target-hog or deep threat.
With Jarvis Landry largely manning the slot, Higgins will function as the team’s top outside receiver — he has already lined up outside for more than 70% of his snaps this season. Higgins’ aDOT has spiked over the past two weeks (16.0 and 17.5), and he broke off four explosive pass plays in Week 7 alone.
At some point, the Browns could go back to a run-first offense behind PFF’s highest-graded run-blocking unit and a bottom-third passing attack. But Nick Chubb is still at least three weeks from returning, and the Browns’ bottom-four defense isn’t going to allow Kareem Hunt and the big dudes to run out the clock on anyone anytime soon.
Higgins isn’t the flashiest name off the wire this season, but there’s real opportunity here for a fifth-year player who was making the most of his opportunities. It took a while for the fantasy community to fully accept Travis Fulgham’s fantasy viability — perhaps a similar story is unfolding in Cleveland.
FAAB Recommendation: 8-12%
New York Jets WR Denzel Mims (4%)
The New York Jets wasted no time getting their second-round rookie involved in the offense, as Mims saw a 26% target share in his first taste of NFL action. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver brought down four catches on six targets for 42 yards — a solid day for the 23-year-old.
Mims couldn’t haul in his only contested catch, but he saw an end-zone target. His expected fantasy points total ranked 29th on the week, though he underperformed by 4.3 points.
La’Mical Perine caveats apply here: The Jets have PFF’s lowest-graded overall offense, passing grade and receiving grade in 2020. Jamison Crowder is the only Jets player who has maintained fantasy relevance (PPR WR7 per game) this season, although it’s largely due to an average of 11.5 targets per game and an 8.12 aDOT that ranks 97th in the league.
Mims will likely be running further down the field than Crowder, though he averaged an 8.0 aDOT himself in Week 7. During his senior season at Baylor, Mims’ 15.4 yards per reception ranked 33rd in college football, and he saw the 22nd-most deep targets. The guy scored 20 TDs over his final two college seasons and ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. If the Jets don’t scheme him some deep looks and/or end-zone targets then Adam Gase is probably in the CIA.
Let us once again revisit this piece by PFF’s Andrew Erickson on Week 1 rookie WR breakouts. Mims’ 42-yard, zero-touchdown day certainly doesn’t qualify as a breakout, but the point remains: When early-round rookies flash quickly — with opportunity and production — they often sustain fantasy production throughout their rookie seasons and beyond.
Mims’ expectations have to be tempered in this offense. And he might be a better FAAB grab after the team’s Week 10 bye with a couple tough games ahead. The Jets’ schedule is more palatable for WRs after Week 11.
FAAB Recommendation: 1-3%
New Orleans Saints WR Marquez Callaway (1%)
With Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both out, the undrafted rookie out of Tennessee leapfrogged Tre’Quan Smith, at least for one Sunday. Callaway out-targeted Smith 10-4, and his eight receptions tied Alvin Kamara for the team lead.
Callaway checked in as WR23 in terms of expected fantasy points and as the WR27 in PPR leagues. He brought down his only contested catch, forced a missed tackle and notched one explosive pass play. The aDOT was a little low at 7.6, but that might just be reality for a kick-returning specialist in a Sean Payton offense. Callaway only saw press coverage on five of 38 receiving snaps, so he had room to operate.
Thomas will undoubtedly retake all the targets he likes if he ever returns from his various injuries and random punishments. Callaway, like Mims, is someone we need to see more of before deploying, but the time to acquire on the cheap is now.
FAAB Recommendation: 2-4%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Scotty Miller (9%)
Antonio Brown is signing with the Bucs, yes. But he can’t play in Week 8 and it would probably be hard to find even-odds on him even finishing the season in Tampa.
Either way, Miller just popped off (again), landing as WR9 on the week after a 6-109-1 performance against the Las Vegas Raiders. The nine targets were a surprise after Tom Brady looked Miller’s way only twice over the past two weeks.
Brady put up five total TDs and 36.9 fantasy points in Week 7 — there’s enough volume to support two and three pass-catchers in Tampa more weeks than not. Mike Evans was left out of the party this week, and that’s not likely to continue. But, lest we forget, Miller is a legit deep threat in his own right: He scored this week on a 33-yard bomb, and his 19.3 aDOT and 18.73 yards per reception rank fifth and 12th, respectively.
Pick him up as a potential one-week rental, then see what happens.
FAAB Recommendation: 1-3%
Los Angeles Chargers WR Jalen Guyton (0%)
Speaking of bombs, only four wide receivers have broken off multiple 40-yard touchdown receptions this season: Justin Jefferson, D.J. Moore, Tyler Lockett and Jalen Guyton. Only Guyton and Henry Ruggs III have three 40-plus yard receptions.
The Los Angeles Chargers’ second-year man out of North Texas added to his tally on Sunday with a 70-yarder from Justin Herbert that tied things up against Jacksonville in the third quarter. Guyton only has eight receptions on the season, but he's being targeted 20.1 yards down the field on average and his quarterbacks (mostly Herbert) still have a 149.3 passer rating when targeting him.
Guyton is clearly a boom-or-bust player at this point, but he’s worth monitoring with Herbert looking ever more comfortable throwing deep.
FAAB Recommendation: 2-4%
We don’t typically advocate for picking up every fantasy option who goes nuts against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the rookie out of Florida Atlantic deserves to be monitored with Austin Hooper recovering from an appendectomy.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught the second and third touchdowns of his young career on Sunday en route to the TE1 spot for the week. Bryant hasn’t seen consistent volume thus far, with just 18 targets compared to Hooper’s 33, but he out-snapped David Njoku this week 40-31 and out-targeted the former first-rounder 5-3.
Bryant hasn’t exactly been a fixture in the red zone, with just four red-zone targets overall, but three were in the end zone and all went for scores.
Touchdowns on end-zone targets | TEs
We only have a small sample to work with, but Bryant has graded well as both a pass-catcher and pass-blocker as a 22-year-old rookie. With Odell Beckham out for the season, the Browns could turn toward more 12 personnel, allowing Bryant significantly more playing time. Njoku is the clear-cut No. 3 tight end here.
Rookie tight ends rarely help our fake teams over an entire season, but red-zone roles can lead to spike weeks like we saw against Cincinnati.
FAAB Recommendation: 2-4%