We’re prone to hyperbole in analysis, as it’s hard not to overreact in a day and age when everyone is one 280-character Tweet away from chiming in on the topic du jour.
However, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole to suggest that Sunday of Week 2 was one of the most consequential days of injuries that we have seen in years. Maybe decades. It was carnage on Sunday, led by the devastating news that Saquon Barkley is expected to miss the rest of the 2020 season because of an ACL tear, per Adam Schefter and Jordan Raanan.
With so many injuries, this week’s waiver wire column is longer than normal. Here it goes.
Note: All players in this column are available in at least 50% of leagues on ESPN.com.
Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers (8.0%): Davis won the backup job to Christian McCaffrey with a strong training camp and was thrust into action after McCaffrey left Week 2 due to an ankle injury. Davis hauled in eight catches while the Panthers tried to play catch-up, a strength of his overall game. McCaffrey will now miss multiple games due to a high ankle sprain, and head coach Matt Rhule expressed confidence in Davis as the starter until CMC’s return. He’s the add of the week and has possible weekly value in the top 18-25 among running backs.
Dion Lewis/Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (0.8%/0.4%): Who is up next behind the injured Barkley on the New York Giants’ depth chart? It’s unlikely that Lewis will have the backfield to himself in New York, as Gallman (another waiver-wire add) will certainly be busy for the G-Men too. I’d urge you to consider either Giants running back, with the nod to Lewis, given his passing game acumen (he’s a nifty pass-catcher) and the fact that it was he who took over for Barkley post-injury in Week 2 (Gallman was a healthy scratch). Both players should be added for now.
Darrell Henderson Jr., RB, Los Angeles Rams (45.7%): Following injuries to Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown (finger, which came late in the game), Henderson’s role in the Rams’ backfield ballooned in Week 2. For now, the status of Akers (ribs) and Brown is unknown, which could lead to a sustained role for Henderson — a third-round pick in 2019 — going forward. He rushed 12 times for 81 yards and a touchdown, while adding two catches and 40 yards in Week 2. A talented player to add in all leagues.
Devonta Freeman, RB, free agent (7.5%): For the first time in my handful of years writing this column, I’m advocating for a player who doesn’t even have a team. Why? Well, Freeman just feels bound to find work soon, given the rash of running back injuries around the NFL — he’s already working out for the Eagles early this week, with a visit planned for the Giants as well. In the right spot, he could become an immediate fantasy contributor. There may be no better place now than the G-Men.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling/Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers (16.8%/33.7%): After Davante Adams left the Packers’ game due to a hamstring injury, these two young wideouts were counted on even more to step up. MVS and Lazard both had nice Week 1 efforts and posted three catches apiece on Sunday. I’ll give the edge to MVS as my preferred add due to slightly more vertical-play upside, but the reality is that if Adams has to miss time, both of these players will be involved quite a bit.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans (27.2%): Davis had three catches in Week 2, including one for a touchdown. He has strung together back-to-back double-digit fantasy points performances, and there’s still no denying how much natural talent he possesses. With A.J. Brown dealing with a knee injury, Davis figures to stay busy in a Tennessee offense with a red-hot quarterback dealing.
Jerick McKinnon RB, San Francisco 49ers (18.9%): Start by checking to see if teammate Tevin Coleman is available (at last check he was around in about 47% of leagues), as Coleman took over as the primary ball carrier after an injury to Raheem Mostert in Week 2. While Coleman was inefficient, he would figure to be a better bet to lead the team in carries over McKinnon because the team must remain smart while managing his workload. But McKinnon showed great burst in Week 2 and is such a useful pass-catcher that he’s worth the speculative add.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (20.0%): Rare is the offense that can support three wide receivers weekly in fantasy football, but the Falcons might fit the bill. Gage followed nine catches in Week 1 with another six in Week 2, good enough for 46 yards and a touchdown. Get this: Gage also nearly added another six points as a thrower, as he dropped a dime on a designed pass that Julio Jones should have caught for a nearly 50-yard touchdown. A deeper-league add who will keep finding a way.
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins (12.4%): I’m going to throw the flag on myself for not having Gaskin in the column last week — colleague Mike Clay was smart to urge me to consider this — as I wondered whether he would truly be the lead back for the Dolphins. It sure appears that is the case, as Gaskin had seven carries but more importantly six catches in Week 2. I’m not sure he’ll be a consistent top 25 play for me, but running back depth is so, so thin in fantasy football that Gaskin should be rostered in all leagues.
Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (26.4%): The Chargers have two talented backs and Kelley’s workload is impossible to miss: He handled 23 carries in Week 2 and rushed for 64 yards. While Austin Ekeler is the clear-cut top back in this backfield for fantasy purposes, there’s so much to like about Kelley’s game and role already. An add in all leagues as well.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (43.0%): Sammy Watkins left the game in Week 2 after taking a massive hit and sustaining a head injury. Hardman figures to be much more involved if Watkins is unable to play in Week 3, and many already know this: Hardman is a big play waiting to happen. He’ll likely be at best third in line for targets most weeks, but that’s certainly still good enough when you catch passes from Patrick Mahomes.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins (48.1%): I’m not sure if a Mike Gesicki fan club exists in a formal capacity, but I’ll soon be a card-carrying member if it does. Gesicki has just an absurd catch radius and is tremendous in the red zone, as was evidenced again in Week 2 with his 130-yard performance. It’s very difficult to find a reliable player at tight end, but Gesicki is a player to strongly consider if you’re struggling to find it early. Gesicki has some sincere weekly upside.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Tennessee Titans (38.4%): Another quality tight end on the waiver wire, as Smith is such a tremendous athlete and very good after the catch. He scored two touchdowns in Week 2, giving him three for the season. The Tennessee offense is once again looking sharp, so don’t be surprised if Smith’s surge continues.
Jordan Reed, TE, San Francisco 49ers (5.6%); Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (.9%); Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts (.5%): Yes, I’m listing three players at once for this blurb, as each had an awesome Week 2, but with two tight end adds above whom I feel better about, I don’t want to overdo it here. George Kittle could return soon for San Francisco — same goes for Jack Doyle in Indianapolis — and Schultz is an athletic and rising player, but Dallas does have three excellent wideouts who will get theirs too.
Monitor the quarterbacks: It’s hard for me to suggest making a move at quarterback, given how well the expected stars have been so far. No consensus top-10 quarterback is causing me major strife so far, so the names below are worth monitoring in case you’re looking ahead to bye weeks or for depth.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (34.4%): If there are naysayers left, the pool is dwindling. Tannehill is averaging close to 22.5 points per game early on this season.
Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (19.3%): This might be my favorite player in the NFL, which is reason enough to consider adding him. Oh, by the way, he has back-to-back games with 20-plus points.