Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is on fire. The Harvard alum has tossed four touchdowns in each of the first two games of the season yet is still available in 69 percent of fantasy football leagues. Normally, a player this hot would be No. 1 on any waiver wire ranking, but there is an issue relegating Fitzpatrick to the sidelines rather than front and center on your roster: the uncertainty of his future once starting quarterback Jameis Winston, serving a three-game suspension, returns to the team.
Winston finished the 2017 campaign as the 18th most-valuable quarterback per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, performing well enough to win 52 percent of games in a season. Perhaps Fitzpatrick’s production to date is enough to earn him the starting nod once Winston returns, but that is no sure thing.
There are still a number of attractive options on the waiver wire, players who made the most of opportunities in Week 1 or who appear will occupy larger roles than we anticipated on draft day. To help you prioritize your waiver targets, we’re updating our top free agents after every round of games every Sunday this season. What follows are the top early targets from the 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. games, as well as the Thursday night game.
Most of these players should be available in at least 30 percent of leagues utilizing a 12-team, point-per-reception, or PPR, scoring format. So if you see one of these guys on your wire, you are going to want to put in a claim for this week.
Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers (available in 38 percent of leagues)
Breida’s season got off to a slow start, and he rushed just 11 times for 46 yards in San Francisco’s Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That’s no slight on Breida — Minnesota has one of the best defenses in the NFL. In Week 2 against the Detroit Lions, he showed more of what he is capable of: 11 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown on the ground plus three catches for 21 yards out of the backfield. His 66-yard rushing touchdown in Week 2 is the longest rushing touchdown by a 49ers running back since Frank Gore ran for an 80-yard score in 2009.
He still finds himself in a running back by committee situation with Alfred Morris, but after today it is clear Breida should be the main focus of the team’s rushing attack. Plus, he garnered four targets in the passing game Sunday, the same as wideouts Pierre Garcon and tight end George Kittle, which will help raise his floor in PPR leagues even when the team finds itself working from behind.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (available in 40 percent of leagues)
After Week 2’s early games, Jackson led all receivers with 204 yards and three touchdowns on passes traveling at least 20 yards in the air. John Brown and Julio Jones were second and third, respectively, with 95 and 91 yards. In Week 2 he recorded a 75-yard touchdown, a scoring catch off the first pass of the game, ending the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles with four catches for 129 yards and the touchdown.
It’s unlikely Jackson will be able to maintain his robust yards per route run throughout the season — he’s been prone to boom-or-bust showings throughout his fantasy career — but it is clear that the chemistry developed between him and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is worth taking a flier on if you need depth at wideout.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (available in 57 percent of leagues)
Ekeler had five carries for 39 yards and caught all five of his targets for 87 yards with a touchdown in the Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, putting him on many people’s radar as a potential waiver wire pick up. In Week 2 the second-year pro touched the ball 14 times for 98 yards, a majority of those (77) on the ground. Also worth noting, Melvin Gordon was attended to by trainers early in the fourth quarter, resulting in Ekeler outworking Gordon 11 to 9 in the rushing game.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts (available in 64 percent of leagues)
Teammate Jack Doyle got 10 targets in Week 1, double that of Ebron. However, Ebron has touchdowns in both games of the season, giving him an edge in fantasy football scoring, not to mention superiority in yards per route run. Plus, the target gap between the two has narrowed, with Doyle getting five targets and Ebron four in the victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
After the Colts passing game finishes up with the Philadelphia Eagles next week, quarterback Andrew Luck and his receivers could be big fantasy producers for the remainder of 2018. And given that the defense hasn’t traditionally been too daunting, Luck could be slinging the ball a lot this season.
John Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (available in 76 percent of leagues)
Brown’s skill level has never been in doubt, yet injuries have hampered his ability to produce on the field. So far, that hasn’t been a problem this year. The 28-year-old wideout has caught 7 of 14 targets for 136 yards and two touchdowns in 2018, including all three deep pass attempts by QB Joe Flacco for 95 yards and a score, in addition to leading the team in yards per route run (1.6). Brown averaged less than a yard per route run for the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Quincy Enunwa, WR, New York Jets (available in 44 percent of leagues)
Enunwa led the team in Week 1 targets with 10, seven more than teammates Terrelle Pryor and Neal Sterling, and followed that up with 11 targets for 92 yards in Week 2, another team high.
Operating primarily out of the slot, Enunwa also averaged 2.7 yards per route run with a 107.7 passer rating when split wide in 2016; he missed the 2017 campaign with a neck injury. Next week’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, have the third-worst secondary per Pro Football Focus, which ranked all 32 teams before the season.