This week will see the high-octane New Orleans Saints offense on a bye, putting quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Michael Thomas and potential MVP running back Alvin Kamara on the shelf. Same for quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.
Kamara’s production will be especially missed. Heading into Week 5 the 23-year-old led the league in rushing touchdowns (five), yards from scrimmage (611) and total touchdowns (tied, with six). Replacing numbers like that is next to impossible, but there are a few diamonds in the rough on the waiver wire you could slot in at running back for a week.
To help you prioritize your waiver targets, we’re updating our top free agents after each round of games every Sunday this season. What follows are the top early targets from the 1 p.m. games, as well as the Thursday night game.
Most of these players should be available in at least 30 percent of leagues using 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.
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (available in 58 percent of fantasy leagues)
Anderson struggled during the first four games of the season, yet we should not have expected much from the third-year pro. In Week 1 Anderson had to face Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay. In Week 2 he lined up opposite Xavien Howard, the league leader in interceptions with three. In Week 3 it was Denzel Ward, the fourth-best corner in 2018 per the game charters at Pro Football Focus. And in Week 4 it was Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey. It would be hard for any wideout to have success running that gantlet.
In Week 5, however, Anderson torched Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby and others for 123 yards and two touchdowns on just three catches. The Colts — allowing a 96.6 passer rating against this season, the 13th worst in the NFL — are up next in Week 6. Anderson may be a boom-or-bust type given his limited targets, but you should like his potential against Indy.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (available in 53 percent of fantasy leagues)
Hines continues to shine in both the Colts' rushing and passing games. He had 15 carries for 45 yards and also caught 7 of 9 targets for 45 yards against the New England Patriots on Thursday night. His 35 targets this season are the third-most on the team, only tight end Eric Ebron and injured wideout T.Y. Hilton are ahead of him, and quarterback Andrew Luck has a 93.3 passer rating on those targets to Hines this season, slightly higher than his season-long passer rating (90.3) in 2018.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings (available in 54 percent of fantasy leagues)
Dalvin Cook is having a hard time staying on the field, opening the door for Murray to produce some fantasy points.
In Week 6 he and the Vikings will face the Arizona Cardinals, which benefits him in two ways. The first is through the team’s game script. Arizona isn’t very good this year, making it likely Minnesota leads on the scoreboard. Since 2014, Mike Zimmer’s first year as head coach, the Vikings run the ball 52 percent of the time when leading by seven or more points. By comparison, Minnesota runs just 30 percent of the time when trailing by seven or more. The second benefit for Murray owners is the Cardinals' abysmal run defense — they rank 18th at stopping the run in 2018 per Football Outsiders and dead last per Pro Football Focus.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (available in 47 percent of fantasy leagues)
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan averages over 40 pass attempts per game, so there is plenty of volume to go around when the Falcons decide to throw the ball. Tight end Austin Hooper, Julio Jones and Sanu all were featured in the passing attack on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Sanu catching 4 of 7 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he has seen his target share hover between seven and nine over the past three weeks.
His good fortunes could continue in the short term: Atlanta plays Tampa Bay in Week 6, one of the worst pass-coverage units in 2018 per Pro Football Focus (26th) and Football Outsiders (31st).
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (available in 85 percent of fantasy leagues)
Davis was mentioned in our Week 5 waiver wire forecast and appears again for Week 6 after carrying the ball 12 times for 68 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks' loss to the Rams. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had almost as many broken tackles (six) as starting running back Chris Carson (seven) despite slightly more than half the carries. Davis also has as many big runs (15 yards or more) as Carson. Eventually, Pete Carroll will believe in Davis as the No. 1 back as much as the numbers do.
One more thing: according to Sharp Football Stats, Seattle has the fifth-easiest schedule over the next six games, all against teams that rank 22nd or worse against the run in 2018.
Buffalo Bills defense/special teams (available in 97 percent of fantasy leagues)
Heading into Week 5, Buffalo’s defense ranked No. 10 per Pro Football Focus thanks in large part to linebackers Matt Milano and Lorenzo Alexander plus defensive lineman Jerry Hughes. On Sunday, the Bills held the Tennessee Titans to 12 points and 221 total yards. Hughes and Trent Murphy each had a sack, and five other Buffalo defenders tipped a pass from Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Buffalo gets to play against the Houston Texans in Week 6, a team that has allowed the third-most pressures on its quarterback through the first four weeks of the season (69). Pressure can lead to sacks but also poor decision-making, which means potential for turnovers.
David Moore, WR, Seattle Seahawks (available in 99 percent of fantasy leagues)
Moore is going to get a lot of attention after catching two touchdown passes against the Rams defense. Understand, though, that he is a boom-or-bust player with a floor of zero, meaning he could have a big game or get nothing. After all, Moore had been targeted three times all season before Sunday’s outburst.
Yet if Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and the coaching staff do decide to get Moore more involved, there is some upside. Next week’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders, has allowed a 9-to-3 touchdown ratio to opposing quarterbacks this season. And in Week 8 (Week 7 is a bye) the Seahawks will face the Detroit Lions, the fifth-worst pass defense per passer rating allowed (105.1).
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