After three weeks of dusting off cobwebs, the feeling-out portion of the 2020 fantasy slate is officially behind us. We’re in the meat of the season now with patterns developing, depth charts and pecking orders beginning to crystallize and rookies finding their identities. The fog may be clearing but don’t get comfortable—the fantasy gods always have a few tricks up their sleeves.
While I have you here, here are seven worthy pickups I’m targeting on waivers this week:
Rex Burkhead (21% rostered on ESPN, 11% on Yahoo)
Burkhead balled all the way out in Week 3, steamrolling the visiting Raiders for 98 yards (49 rushing, 49 receiving) and three touchdowns in a 36-20 Patriots rout. Remarkably, Burkhead compiled those impressive totals while logging fewer carries (six) than teammates Sony Michel, Cam Newton and JJ Taylor. How’s that for efficiency? If you’ve ever had the privilege of owning a Patriots running back in fantasy, you know how volatile they can be and Burkhead, who has seen double-digit carries on just seven occasions (playoffs included) over his four-year New England tenure, is no different. In fact, Burkhead’s current pass-catching role will probably evaporate once James White returns (he’s missed the past two games following his father’s death) to the Patriots’ backfield mix. But until that day comes, Burkhead’s chemistry with Newton (his 96 receiving yards rank fifth among NFL running backs) can’t be dismissed.
Myles Gaskin (45.8% ESPN, 47% Yahoo)
After getting his beak wet with a modest 16 carries over his first two contests, Gaskin saw his workload expand dramatically in Thursday night’s triumph over Jacksonville, turning a career-high 27 touches into 95 yards from scrimmage (66 rushing, 29 receiving). There are still hurdles for the seventh-round sophomore to clear in his ongoing quest for fantasy relevance. His upside is capped by Jordan Howard’s continued goal-line presence (he’s already vultured three touchdowns) and last week’s run-heavy game script against the Jags (the Fins raced out to an early lead and never looked back) likely won’t be a frequent occurrence. That said, Gaskin’s receiving contributions (15-91-0 on 16 targets) make him a worthy stash in PPR formats.
Jimmy Graham (13.3% ESPN, 9% Yahoo)
Once a perennial threat for double-digit touchdowns, Graham’s star has faded considerably in recent years. A decade of wear and tear will have that effect, though the 33-year-old has experienced a surprising resurgence (however fleeting it may be), tying for the league-lead among tight ends with three receiving scores. He made two of those end-zone visits in Week 3 while also soaking up a season-high nine targets in Chicago’s come-from-behind win over Atlanta. Four of his six catches against the Falcons came after underachiever Mitchell Trubisky passed the quarterback baton to Nick Foles, who figures to be the Bears’ starter going forward. Foles’ promotion to QB1 is good news for all Chicago skill players, especially Graham, who already has as many touchdowns this year as he did all of last season in Green Bay. Along with increased scoring opportunities, the 6’7” veteran could also see more involvement in the short passing game with receiving back Tarik Cohen now lost to a season-ending ACL tear.
Tee Higgins (7% ESPN, 5% Yahoo)
Last week turned out to be quite the showcase for rookie receivers with Brandon Aiyuk, Justin Jefferson (who we’ll discuss later) and Higgins each displaying what made them such coveted selections in April’s draft. Arguably a first-round talent, Higgins fell to the first pick of Round 2 after testing poorly at his Pro Day. But what the 21-year-old lacks in downfield burst, he more than makes up for with size (6’4”/215) and his ability to win in traffic. With A.J. Green (who many considered Higgins’ closest NFL comp) showing noticeable rust after losing all of last year to ankle surgery, the former Clemson standout has already emerged as a favorite of Joe Burrow, corralling five of his nine targets for 40 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s tie with Philadelphia. With Higgins now working ahead of both Auden Tate and John Ross (the latter a healthy scratch in Week 3), volume shouldn’t be a problem for the talented 21-year-old. Cincinnati’s anemic defense has forced the Bengals into weekly shootouts (only the Giants have passed on a higher percentage of plays), which should also work to Higgins’ advantage.
Carlos Hyde (9.8% ESPN, 19% Yahoo)
The Seahawks have been letting Russ cook of late, but don’t forget who coaches them. Pete Carroll loves to #EstablishIt (only the Ravens and 49ers registered more carries in 2019) with bell-cow Chris Carson, who was lost to a knee injury late in Sunday’s victory over Dallas. It looks like Carson escaped with just a sprain but with Seattle’s Week 6 bye on the horizon, it makes sense to slow-play it, particularly with the relatively tepid likes of Miami (1-2) and Minnesota (0-3) next up on the Seahawks’ schedule. Carson’s past injury struggles (he spent much of the offseason recovering from hip surgery) may also be a factor in how much time he misses. Luckily the Seahawks were prepared for this, adding depth this offseason in the form of one-time 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde. The high-octane Seahawks should provide plenty of goal-line opportunities for Hyde, a 229-pound enforcer with 36 touchdowns on his NFL resume. There’s a reason Hyde is on his sixth team in four seasons—he’s a lousy receiver and won’t win many foot races with his lackluster 4.6 wheels. But as the defecto RB1 for one of football’s top offenses, the 30-year-old bruiser is more than deserving of plug-and-play status.
Justin Jefferson (33.5% ESPN, 31% Yahoo)
It was only a matter of time until Jefferson, who led college football in catches as an LSU Tiger last year, ripped the NFL to shreds. Precisely on cue, Jefferson went ballistic in Sunday’s loss to Tennessee, demolishing the Titans’ listless secondary for 175 yards on seven catches. After leaving Week 1 starter Olabisi Johnson in the dust, sky looks like the limit for Jefferson, who reached a top speed of 20.13 miles per hour on his 71-yard touchdown romp against Tennessee. We know Minnesota prefers to keep it on the ground, but that’s hard to do when the Vikings are playing from behind every week. Largely confined to the slot (he’s lined up inside on nearly 80 percent of his snaps), Jefferson is a good match for conservative Kirk Cousins, who has never been one to let it rip downfield. Remember how fond Cousins was of Jamison Crowder, also primarily a slot receiver, during his Washington tenure. No one was expecting Jefferson to come in and immediately replicate the production of Stefon Diggs (predictably off to a blistering start with his new team in Buffalo), but that’s essentially what he’s done through three weeks. It’s a small sample size, but in the little we’ve seen of him, Jefferson definitely passes the eye test.
Jeff Wilson (14.5% ESPN, 22% Yahoo)
Wilson didn’t wow by any stretch Sunday—he averaged a pedestrian 1.3 yards on 12 rushing attempts—but he still proved plenty useful in the fantasy realm, finding the end zone twice to push his final tally to 21.9 PPR points. Not known for his receiving prowess—he entered Week 3 with a career 15-132-1 receiving line—Wilson made the most of his three targets against the Giants, securing all three for 54 receiving yards, which is more than he posted all of last season (34). The undrafted 24-year-old is no Christian McCaffrey, but based on Sunday’s workload (15 touches), he should remain a factor while Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are both hobbled. Jerick McKinnon has looked spry in the early going (6.9 yards per carry), but he’ll most certainly be on a pitch count after missing the previous two seasons due to injury. I wouldn’t spend my FAAB life savings on him, but if your fantasy team is one of the many that’s been decimated by a biblical rash of early-season injuries, Wilson might be worth the squeeze.