Welcome back to another season of our free agent column. Keeping in format from years past, I'm gong to discuss the 10 best pickups for this week: 2 QBs; 3 each RBs and WRs, a TE and a Team Defense.
Beginning with bye weeks in Week 4 the picks are going to be of the “pick up and play” variety. Until then, these are picks of the “grab and stash” variety, although if you have injuries or a hole in your roster playing them is certainly an option. So here goes...
Ryan Fitzpatrick, TB: what's not to like about a bearded, smarmy guy? Well, a lot actually but Fitzpatrick certainly doesn't come of as smarmy, he comes off as PREPARED. Really, how can you not like this guy? A real underdog story that only gets better with each team. He looked great, and this is pure conjecture but consider this: Koetter is on everyone's hot seat list, and there is validity to that. If this FitzMagic show makes it to the Bye Week (week 5) at 2-2 or better, then I don't see how Koetter benches him to go back to the volatile Winston at that point. And if he does make the change, they'll use the bye to prep. So Fitz is here until week 4 as a starter.
Ownership: Yahoo 3%; NFL 1% & ESPN 2%.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF: in 2015 & 2016, Taylor was a top ten fantasy QB on the strength of two things: his lack of turnovers, and his rushing ability. It's hard not to make this sound like hyperbole, but Taylor apparently IS in a very good situation in Cleveland, surrounded by a strong supporting set of weapons. People clearly held back on him because of the drafting of Mayfield, and he is widely available. Long term he does have a tough schedule, but his next 3 games are against the Saints, Jets & Raiders. Chances are, he is already better than your backup QB, and I guarantee you your backup QB hasn't averaged 500+ rushing yards per season for 3 straight years coming into this one. Is he in danger of losing his job? Not for the foreseeable future I'd say. And if you want to stream at this position all season, I'd say he's a great corner piece for that.
Ownership: Yahoo 4%; NFL 6% & ESPN 40%.
CJ Anderson, CAR: he was overlooked in a lot of places as McCaffrey shot up the boards leading into week 1. The problem for McCaffrey, however, is that Anderson is a better rusher than he is. Two things strike me about the CAR/DAL box score is that Newton had 13 carries, and McCaffrey had 10 carries and 9 targets in the passing game. I don't think that's sustainable all season. Newton should probably be averaging around 8 per game. Last year was his career hi and it was 8.7 per game. Did they sign CJ Anderson so Newton could carry 13 times per game? No. That number comes down and most of those rushes will go to Anderson so as not to overwork McCaffrey who you DO want at 20 touches per game. In short, Anderson is going to have a consistent touch count every week, and absolutely could fill in very well should McCaffrey get injured.
Ownership: Yahoo 49%; NFL 80% & ESPN 30%.
T.J. Yeldon, JAX: he is, on average available in 90% of online leagues. He backs up a guy who is an RB1 and likely someone's late first or early second round pick. If you're one of those people in that 90% who didn't roster him, shame on you. You take a guy high, you have to have insurance. And this is one of those few spots where the actual backup is at least 85% as good as the starter, making him a logical draft pick, even in the final round. If you have a chance, roster him now.
Ownership: Yahoo 15%; NFL 4% & ESPN 8%.
Austin Ekeler, LAC – I'd say pick him up and see where it goes. The carry split between Gordon and him was 15/5, and he caught 5 passes on 5 targets and had a touchdown. So the question is: is this his best game of the year? Well, he's probably in line for 5-6 scores on the year, so it surely makes the short list. But if you have Gordon and didn't draft Ekeler (and given his low ownership few of you did), you should 10000% grab him now. Similarly, if you don't like your RB bench, you could do alright by adding his 8-10 touches a week since the offense will likely be prolific. Consider this: I'm a Bears fan, but would much prefer Ekeler over Tarik Cohen, who was widely drafted. Ekeler could fill in for Melvin Gordon the way Cohen cannot for Jordan Howard, and barring injuries they are both going to have similar stat lines each week – around 10 touches each. I'd give a clear edge to the Ekeler because of Rivers' experience and time in their system.
Ownership: Yahoo 17%; NFL 14% & ESPN 11%.
Phillip Dorsett, NEP: the guy to have until Edelman returns in 3 weeks. Tom Brady throws to him. 'Nuff said! But seriously, the one thread that runs through all of the Pats' roster decisions is the level of trust the staff and Brady have in you. Brady looked pretty secure with Dorsett yesterday. Honestly, this is a great pickup for the next month: you know he's got 3 weeks of volume, and the way this team works someone like Chris Hogan could be eclipsed by Dorsett if the trust shifts permanently to him. Sure, that's a long shot but you take that gamble with 3 weeks of production as a return just for taking that bet.
Ownership: Yahoo 4%; NFL 14% & ESPN 1%.
Ted Ginn Jr., NOS: while everyone was fretting over the status of Cameron Meredith, Ted Ginn Jr was there all along. If you look at the box score you have to wonder who Meredith displaces. Well, he won't displace Ginn, and why would he? So I'd expect that this year you'll see more of Ginn, at least this first month until Meredith gets back up to full steam.
Ownership: Yahoo 17%; NFL 36% & ESPN 17%.
Tyler Lockett, SEA: with Doug Baldwin down, Lockett stepped up big time making him an easy add at this position. Yes he's inconsistent typically, but if Baldwin does not play he is the #1 WR for Russel Wilson. That makes him more than a dart throw, which is what he is otherwise.
Ownership: Yahoo 51%; NFL 11% & ESPN 54%.
Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI: I'm a bit surprised at his level of availability. After Larry Fitzgerald, the WR corps in Arizona leaves a bit to be desired. Much is being made of Jones being on the field for 92% of offensive snaps this past weekend. And...he dropped a touchdown. If you have a top TE, he would be a good early addition as a backup because he will have considerable upside all season long.
Ownership: Yahoo 30%; NFL 5% & ESPN 7%.
Chicago Bears: yes, this unit was a part of the Sunday Night Collapse, but if you watched the whole game you also saw they were a larger part of staking that 20-0 lead. Chicago always has above average special teams, and they can really get after the QB as seen Sunday Night. What wasn't seen Sunday Night (by and large) was Roquan Smith (their overall 8th pick this year) being a part of that mix with Kalil Mack. Once he's in shape after his holdout, you going to see some crazy stuff from this unit in terms of sacks, hurries and interceptions. Trust me. :)
Ownership: Yahoo 48%; NFL 24% & ESPN 40%.