Every Tuesday across fantasy football leagues, owners rush to the waiver wire to see who are the highest projected free agents for the upcoming week. Whether it was because of an injury to a starter or a breakout performance the week before, there’s always free agents that are worth dropping your last bench player for.
After another exciting Sunday full of NFL action, Week Two was no different. I’ll highlight each position and showcase one player that has surpassed expectations so far and is owned in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues. Keep on reading to find out who your top Week 2 fantasy football waiver wire targets should be and why.
QB: Andy Dalton, CIN
After a disastrous start to the 2017 NFL season last year, Andy Dalton is doing the exact opposite this year. While guiding the Cincinnati Bengals to a 2-0 start, he is picking apart defenses and putting up fantasy points to go along with it. Owned in only 18.2 percent of ESPN leagues, Dalton should be near the top of the list when it comes to waiver wire targets this week. He started off the season by tossing two touchdowns to go along with 243 passing yards and a total of 18.8 fantasy points in a win over the Indianapolis Colts. However, he did even better in week two.
Facing a Baltimore Ravens defense that is highly touted as one of the best in the league, Dalton proved his doubters wrong by tossing four touchdowns, three of them to AJ Green, as well as throwing for 265 yards. This gave him a total of 29 fantasy points. In the coming weeks, Dalton faces defenses that all rank near the middle of the league, so there is no reason to believe his hot start will fade. At this moment, he is outplaying fantasy quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson and Alex Smith. He won’t always put up 20+ fantasy points, but he is a solid quarterback to fill in during your regular starter’s bye week or a player to keep on your bench and start if the matchup is favorable. He is even a better waiver claim in leagues that start two quarterbacks.
RB: Austin Ekeler, LAC
Austin Ekeler was a name many fantasy owners knew of as he is one of the most valuable fantasy handcuffs in the leagues and has big-play abilities. He even became more popular after he saw his ownership percentage jump 31.9 percent after his week one performance. While rushing for 39 yards, Ekeler also caught 5 passes for 87 yards, one of those going for a touchdown. This amounted to 21.1 fantasy points and Ekeler saw himself become one of the hottest fantasy running back pickups.
However, Ekeler is still only owned in 42.9 percent of ESPN leagues, yet his week two performance gave owners reason to believe he needs to be owned in every league. Serving as Melvin Gordon’s backup, Ekeler has individual value. In Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills, Ekeler actually outgained Gordon in rushing yards, 77 compared to Gordon’s 28. Also, Ekeler received more carries. This may have been because the game quickly became a blowout in the Los Angeles Chargers‘ favor, but this is still a statistic fantasy owners need to be aware of. Gordon salvaged his day by scoring three touchdowns.
With an injury to Gordon, Ekeler would instantly become a top-15 running back from a fantasy perspective, but his value now is enough to be added this week. He’s worthy of being started in the flex position for teams that may be dealing with injuries or suspended players.
WR: Keelan Cole, JAX
After Marqise Lee suffered an injury that will keep him out for the entire season, many fantasy owners wondered if Keelan Cole would become the top wide receiver on the Jacksonville Jaguars. After only catching three passes for a total of 54 yards in week one, it didn’t seem like that was the case. He was dropped in a number of leagues as owners thought that Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief were taking up too many targets for Cole to be the top guy they were hoping for. He saw his ownership percentage in ESPN leagues drop to 48.4 percent.
In week two, Cole definitely changed their perspective and showed that he can be the wide receiver worthy of being started in fantasy lineups. He led the team in catches and yards on Sunday, hauling in seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. He scored 21.1 fantasy points. He saw eight targets from his quarterback Blake Bortles, one behind the amount Donte Moncrief saw. Cole made the most of his opportunities and showed that he can be a consistent wide receiver in both the NFL and in fantasy leagues.
His schedule in the coming weeks is not too bad, as he does not face a defense that ranks in the top-10 of the league. After his performance Sunday, Cole should be the top wide receiver target for fantasy owners when making waiver claims this week. He will continue to be a solid flex option for teams.
TE: OJ Howard, TB
Drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Howard became a tight end that fantasy owners believed would produce week-in and week-out. After an up and down rookie season, toughened by the fact that Cameron Brate developed into a solid tight end for the Bucs, Howard wasn’t drafted in many redraft fantasy leagues. He caught two passes for 54 yards in week one, but outshined Brate, who failed to bring in either of his two targets to begin the season.
Furthermore, Howard increased his per-target production on Sunday when he caught three passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. This performance was highlighted by a 75-yard catch and run where Howard showed the athleticism the Buccaneers knew he had when they drafted him. Brate saw no targets in this game, further showing that this may be the season where Howard becomes the featured tight end on the team. He’s caught five of his six targets on the year and is averaging an impressive 30 yards per catch.
Although that statistic may not continue, Howard is an intriguing option to pick up for teams that find themselves struggling at the tight end position, whether that is due to injuries or purely lack of production.
D/ST: Miami Dolphins
Owned in only 18.9 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, the Miami Dolphins are a defense and special teams unit that should be picked up this week. After coming off a performance in which they picked off Tennessee Titans‘ quarterbacks three times and returned a kickoff for a touchdown, the Dolphins had another strong showing in week two. Facing a New York Jets offense that put up 48 points in week one, the Dolphins forced three more turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery) and held the Jets to just 12 points.
These back to back double-digit fantasy point performances will definitely have owners wondering if the Dolphins D/ST is legit. Although they are right in the middle of league by giving up 349 yards per game, they rank fourth in points allowed per game at 16. This defense steps up when they have to. Facing an Oakland Raiders offense in week three that is only putting up 16 points per game so far, the Miami Dolphins may continue their hot streak with another noteworthy performance. That possibility is worthy of a spot in starting lineups.
Bonus Risk: Antonio Callaway, CLE
After the news broke that the Cleveland Browns planned to trade or release Josh Gordon, fantasy owners started to wonder who would see his targets. It came down to the realization that it would be Rashard Higgins or rookie Antonio Callaway. After being drafted with the 105thpick, the Florida-product was seen as a first round talent by many, but his off the field issues caused concerns among NFL teams. After drawing one target in week one, his role was bound to increase in week two.
On Sunday, Callaway was named the starter alongside Jarvis Landry and saw four targets on the day, hauling in three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. However, Callaway was targeted less than Higgins, who saw seven targets come his way. This waiver claim would definitely be a risk/reward situation.
Owned in only 3.7 percent of ESPN leagues, it is yet to be seen whether or not Callaway can step in and be the no. 2 wide receiver the Browns need or not. No matter the case, Callaway’s high ceiling makes him a great option to pick up and stash on your bench until his role is clearly defined in the coming weeks. It could pay off big time for fantasy owners, and if it doesn’t, only a bench player was lost in the process.
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