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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 2

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Tue, 12 Sep 2023 . 9:39 PM EDT



Waiver Wire Pickups

These guys are available in at least 70% of ESPN leagues and ranked in order of priority, by position.

Your bid should vary by format and situation. Need help at RB? Prioritize that position. All set there? Then you probably don’t need to chase the top guys.


Running Backs

1. Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

Blind-bid recommendation: 20-45%

Yes, that’s a wide range on the recommended bid. And it’s purposeful.

If you head toward Week 2 not sure how you’re going to manage RB, then you should go hard after Gainwell this week.

If you’re sitting on three solid-to-good starters, you shouldn’t pay up too much – but you also shouldn’t just ignore Gainwell and let a league mate steal him for a miniscule bid.

Gainwell dominated backfield work in the win over New England, handling:

  • 14 of Philly’s 16 RB carries
  • and four of seven RB targets

We’re not betting on the gap remaining that wide all season. But that usage makes Gainwell the best bet to remain Philly’s lead back.

Miles Sanders parlayed that into top-24 scoring averages across fantasy formats last year, and he did so despite trailing Gainwell in receiving work.

It’s also worth noting that Philly worked Gainwell as its backfield leader through last season’s playoffs, when he averaged 14 opportunities across three games.

Gainwell did sit out Monday's walkthrough with a rib issue, ahead of the Thursday night game against Minnesota. We'll see whether that's anything to worry about.

2. Kyren Williams, Los Angeles Rams

Blind-bid recommendation: 15-25%

Camp buzz indicated that Williams was performing well as a receiver and would have a significant role. Week 1, however, said he might be the top back.

Williams dominated Cam Akers in playing time, 53 snaps to 28. That gap primarily came via receiving work, where Williams ran 29 routes to Akers’ 3, according to Pro Football Focus.

But Williams also scored the team’s first two TDs: on the ground, from 7 yards and 1 yard out. And he led Akers 15-14 in carries until the final drive. Akers then handled the final 8 attempts, with L.A. up 27-14.

Williams managed just 3.5 yards per attempt vs. Seattle, but even that easily beat Akers’ 1.3. And NFL Next Gen Stats had Williams 14th among 33 qualifying RBs with 0.15 rush yards over expected per attempt in Week 1; Akers ranked 32nd (minus-1.94).

It’s just one game.

But we have to treat Williams as the likely Week 2 touch leader – and potentially the Rams’ top back for the year.

At the least, his superior receiving role gives Williams more flexibility across matchups and game scripts.

A Week 2 meeting with the 49ers will be tough on the run and finds L.A. an 8-point underdog as of this writing.

A Week 3 visit to Cincinnati figures to position the Rams as heavy underdogs as well.

3. Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

Blind-bid recommendation: 12-17%

Kelley probably would have ranked lower on this list before Monday’s revelation that Austin Ekeler is dealing with an ankle injury.

HC Brandon Staley deemed Ekeler uncertain for Wednesday’s practice. We’ll see about the outlook for Sunday’s visit to Tennessee. But there’s at least potential for Kelley to start as soon as Week 2.

The Chargers’ No. 2 back worked early and often in a surprisingly run-leaning game plan against the Dolphins. He ended up matching Ekeler with 16 carries, totaling 91 yards and a score. 

Kelley saw just one target and will never approach Ekeler on that front. We also don’t expect the Chargers to run anywhere near as much going forward.

But Kelley at least stands as Ekeler’s clear handcuff and could be a standalone fantasy-starting option for RB-needy teams – and especially when bye weeks start.

4. Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens

Blind-bid recommendation: 10-15%

We’ll slot Hill just ahead of Gus Edwards here, but there’s not much separation between them.

Hill looks more attractive right now because he scored 2 TDs after J.K. Dobbins went down against Houston. But he and Edwards split work evenly. Hill did get a carry before Dobbins left. He also edged Edwards 19-15 in total snaps and 7-5 in pass routes.

They each finished with 8 carries, though. And that doesn’t count the 2-point conversion run Edwards added after Hill’s first TD.

Hill worked ahead of Edwards in preseason and holds the slight lead in career receptions per game (0.6 to 0.3). 

Just keep in mind that neither of these guys has held down a large role through multiple NFL seasons. And even if it’s just Melvin Gordon returning from the practice squad, we’re betting on Baltimore adding at least one more game-day contributor.

Don’t be afraid to let someone else overpay for Hill’s Week 1 TDs.

5. Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

Blind-bid recommendation: 10-15%

If you compare Edwards’ 238-pound frame to Justice Hill’s 197, then it’s easy to jump to conclusions …

Edwards must be the goal-line back and Hill the receiver – right?

Well, Hill ran for a pair of short-yardage TDs after J.K. Dobbins when down in Week 1. And he managed just a 7-5 edge over Edwards in routes run for the game.

These guys look ready to split the job evenly. 

And that probably makes Edwards the better market value this week.

Hill worked ahead of Edwards this preseason and got the only non-Dobbins RB carry before the starter’s injury. But Edwards leads 8.9 carries per game to Hill’s 4.4 across the time they’ve shared in Baltimore. (Both missed 2021 with injuries.)

The split makes this a potentially frustrating situation for weekly lineup decisions. But the expected strength of the offense also keeps it an upside spot for RB scoring.

A Week 2 visit to Cincinnati could prove challenging. A Week 3 home date with the Colts looks more inviting.

6. Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears

Blind-bid recommendation: 8-10%

Chicago used three RBs in the Week 1 loss to Green Bay. Johnson’s five carries tied D’Onta Foreman for second behind Khalil Herbert’s nine. But Johnson led the backfield with 7 targets and 6 catches.

In fact, those numbers tied for the team target lead and led in receptions. Johnson also edged Herbert and Foreman in yards per carry, albeit on small samples for each player.

This might remain an ugly committee all season. But Johnson’s biggest edge appeared to be in the passing game from the start. To see him lead the backfield in snaps, routes, and targets right away is encouraging – especially for a team that still doesn’t appear to be very good.

Beware of context

Although the overall playing-time and touch numbers look good for the rookie, note that he didn’t get a single touch in the first half.

Herbert had 6 carries and a team-high-tying 3 targets at the break; Foreman 4 carries and 1 target.

Green Bay led 17-6 by the time Johnson garnered his first touch in the third quarter; 24-6 by his second touch. We’ll see if that means anything going forward.

Johnson shouldn't be in your Week 2 plans, but he’s a solid stash if you don’t have an immediate need.


Our Free Agent Finder will highlight the top waiver wire options available in YOUR specific league, with lots of different sorting options to fit what you need.


Wide Receivers

1. Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

Blind-bid recommendation: 10-15%

The rookie ran a lot of the Cooper Kupp routes in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks and finished with a Kupp-esque line of 10 catches for 119 yards on 15 targets. Does that make him an instant stud? We’re not quite there. 

For one thing: Nacua ranked third among Rams WRs in playing time against Seattle. His 63 snaps sat marginally behind Tutu Atwell’s 64 and Van Jefferson’s 75. And all three ran exactly 35 routes, tying for the team lead.

But that slight difference – plus his role – could point to Nacua leaving the field first when Kupp returns. And we’re not betting any other Rams wideout gets near Nacua’s Week 1 target share when Kupp’s in the lineup.

That said, we don’t yet know when Kupp will return. 

And the hamstring injury has already recurred once. It just might continue to nag the veteran wideout.

The next two weeks bring tougher tests vs. the 49ers and Bengals. But the Rams also figure to be heavy underdogs in both games. (San Francisco is favored by 8 as of this writing.)

That kind of game flow would only help passing volume, which would obviously be good for Nacua.

2. Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars

Blind-bid recommendation: 6-8%

Jones made an impressive TD catch as part of a 5-55-1 receiving line in Sunday’s win over the Colts. 

Jones’ 7 targets ranked second on the team – four behind WR Calvin Ridley but four ahead of WR Christian Kirk. Jones also led the trio in total snaps and ran eight more routes than Kirk (two fewer than Ridley).

The target distribution could vary week to week. But Jones is set to remain a significant piece of what we expect to be a top-notch passing game.

Week 2 brings potential shootout conditions at home against Kansas City (if the Chiefs are up to it). The following two weeks carry home dates with the lackluster defenses of Houston and Atlanta.

3. Tutu Atwell, Los Angeles Rams

Blind-bid recommendation: 4-5%

If not for teammate Puka Nacua, Atwell would be one of the biggest stories from Week 1. 

He caught six balls and matched Nacua with 119 receiving yards in the win over Seattle. Atwell sits lower in priority here because he garnered eight targets compared to Nacua’s 15.

It’s worth noting, though, that both ran 35 routes (matching WR Van Jefferson). Both also split their time between slot and outside positions.

We might not know until Cooper Kupp returns who will leave the field in 3-WR sets. But that uncertainty adds upside to Atwell at what’s sure to be a lower bid price than Nacua this week.

Nacua looks like the better fantasy bet in Week 2, but Atwell is worth rostering as well.

4. Robert Woods, Houston Texans

Blind-bid recommendation: 2-3%

QB C.J. Stroud’s 44 pass attempts in the Week 1 loss to Baltimore helped boost Woods’ volume. But his 10 targets accounted for 22.7% of Stroud’s attempts. Woods trailed Nico Collins’ team lead by just one and sat 6 targets ahead of any other Texan.

Woods turned that into just 6 catches for 57 yards. That won’t win you fantasy matchups, but it’s a useful PPR line. And this probably won’t be the last time Houston is trailing.

You shouldn’t be going hard after Woods on waivers this week. But he’s stashable in a PPR league if you lost someone to injury or have a dud you want to swap out.


Tight End

1. Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers

Blind-bid recommendation: 5-8%

Plenty of Draft Sharks Insiders already own Hurst. Yet he remains available in 95% of ESPN leagues. 

Hurst opened his Panthers career by catching five balls for 41 yards and a score. His 7 targets led the team and constituted 18.4% of the team’s total pass attempts. 

Throw in that Carolina lost by 14 to a Falcons squad that went 7-10 last year, and there could be plenty more passing volume on the way.

Hurst has a shot to remain a top-12 fantasy TE all season.

2. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

Blind-bid recommendation: 4-6%

Henry’s 5-56-1 receiving line made him the highest-scoring TE of Week 1. Don’t expect him to remain quite that high going forward.

QB Mac Jones threw 54 passes in the loss to the Eagles. Henry’s 6 targets made up just an 11.1% share of those attempts. Four teammates beat that number, and another tied him.

Henry did rank third among Patriots in routes, according to PFF. His 42 trailed only WR Kendrick Bourne (54) and rookie WR Kayshon Boutte (43), neither of whom is a lock to retain such a role going forward.

Henry’s not quite a comfy TE starter yet. But he’s at least an option or as long as injuries persist among the top guys. And New England’s Week 1 passing success helps Henry’s chances of staying useful – much more than last year’s offensive debacle.


Top Streaming Defense for Week 2

Denver Broncos

The Broncos ranked among the bottom half in Week 1 fantasy scoring but fared pretty well in a loss to the Raiders.

Denver’s 261 yards allowed ranked 11th for the week. The 17 points the Broncos allowed were fewer than in either meeting with Las Vegas last season.

This week brings a Washington offense that wasn’t great against Arizona. The Commanders allowed 6 sacks and turned the ball over three times, while producing just 248 total yards.

The Denver defense sits available in 92% of ESPN leagues as of this writing.


Drop These Guys

If you’re going to pick someone up, then you probably need to drop a player as well. That’s who we’ll highlight in this section each week.

Injury Drops

Aaron Rodgers
J.K. Dobbins
Greg Dulcich

D.J. Chark, WR, Carolina Panthers

Nothing about this Carolina offense says Chark can’t claim a significant role when healthy. But nothing about his career makes him a stronger bet than Adam Thielen or Round 2 rookie Jonathan Mingo to lead the WR corps.

And the Panthers followed a mediocre preseason by doing nothing special against a weak Falcons defense.

There’s simply no need to cling to Chark through his hamstring injury.

Evan Hull, RB, Indianapolis Colts

The rookie has always been a speculative add. Even at full health, he opened Sunday’s game behind Deon Jackson. And Jonathan Taylor might (will probably?) be back as soon as Week 5.

So the knee injury that knocked Hull out of the opener and appears likely to cost him further time is enough to make him droppable in nearly all cases this week.

Skyy Moore, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Did we like the potential upside on the second-year WR heading into the season? Yes. But then he made no impact in a game the Chiefs played without TE Travis Kelce and with limited playing time for WR Kadarius Toney.

Moore’s career hopes aren’t dead. But there’s no reason to believe something special lies ahead of him.

Feel free to quit on him this week.

Allen Lazard, WR, New York Jets

The biggest reason to bet on Lazard with the Jets was that he arrived as an Aaron Rodgers favorite. The end of the QB’s season leaves an enormous drop-off to Zach Wilson … and little reason to believe Lazard will help our fantasy teams in 2023.


Grab This Guy

This weekly section will highlight a lower-level player who's more of a speculative add ... with significant upside.

DeVante Parker, WR, New England Patriots 

Blind-bid recommendation: $1

Step 1 for any fantasy contributor is opportunity. And if Parker can return soon from the knee issue that sidelined him for Week 1, he should have plenty of it.

New England signed him to a three-year extension over the summer. He’ll earn $14 million guaranteed – easily starter-level money.

The Pats might already have buyer's remorse on JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose knee might prove troublesome all season. Tyquan Thornton is currently on IR.

Kendrick Bourne went off in the opener (6-64-2). But he’s never been the offensive focal point. Bourne averaged only 2.7 receptions per game across his first two New England seasons.

Parker's probably not going to help you right away. But there's room for him to lead the receiving for a pass offense that looked much more promising in Week 1 than at any point last season.


Deep-League Waiver Wire Pickups

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Blind-bid recommendation: 5-8%

Purdy had no trouble vs. the Steelers, completing 19 of 29 passes (65.5%) for 220 yards (7.6 YPA), 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. 

Despite limited offseason reps, the second-year QB proved surgical. Per Next Gen Stats, he completed 9 of 10 passes for 151 yards and 2 TDs in the intermediate range (10-19 air yards). His +28.5 completion rate over expected on intermediate throws leads all QBs since Week 16 of 2020 (min. 10 attempts).

He’s now tossed multiple scores in eight of his nine full games as a pro. Purdy’s next three opponents – the Rams, Giants, and Cardinals – each look favorable on paper.

Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers

Blind-bid recommendation: 5-8%

Despite no Christian Watson (hamstring) and a limited Romeo Doubs (hamstring), Love threw for 245 yards and three TDs in a win over Chicago. 

He needs to get Watson back before we can start considering Love an option in 1-QB leagues. (As of Tuesday, Watson looks no better than 50-50 to suit up for Week 2.) Even then, it’s tough to expect consistent fantasy production given Green Bay’s young pass catching corps.

Still, Love has plus matchups coming up vs. the Falcons (Week 2), Lions (Week 4), and Raiders (Week 5). 

Jerome Ford, RB, Cleveland Browns

Blind-bid recommendation: 10-12%

Ford carried 15 times for 36 yards in Sunday’s win over the Bengals. Eleven of those carries came with the Browns nursing a big lead in the fourth quarter. 

Ford wasn’t targeted in the passing game, but he did match Nick Chubb in routes run (12).

Ford isn’t a fantasy option as long as Chubb is healthy, but the former is clearly the No. 2 RB in Cleveland and would be the guy to use in fantasy lineups should Chubb miss time. Recent backfield addition Pierre Strong failed to register a snap.

Rashee Rice, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Blind-bid recommendation: 12-15%

The rookie was Kansas City’s best WR in Thursday night’s opener vs. the Lions. While WRs Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney combined to catch just one of eight targets, Rice hauled in three of five targets for 29 yards and a TD. 

The Chiefs aren't giving up on either guy after one game. HC Andy Reid even took the blame for Toney’s disastrous opener.

"I thought him getting in the game was important, but to be fair I've got to kind of look in the mirror on that one,'' Reid said via ESPN. "I probably didn't put him in the best position there because he doesn't drop the ball. That's just not his deal. He's a very, very secure catcher ... I thought it was important that he got in the game, got caught up on the speed, but I probably put him in bad positions there, especially later in the game. He's still getting his legs back and all that.''

Note: Rice ranked fifth among Chiefs WRs with a 27% route rate, so he's not a viable Week 2 fantasy option. But his playing time could grow quickly. And the targets could become more reliable if Travis Kelce (knee) misses more time.

Rice is worth stashing in fantasy leagues of 12+ teams.

Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints

Blind-bid recommendation: 10-12%

Shaheed caught five balls for 89 yards and a score in the win over Tennessee, adding another 11 yards on two carries. 

Predictably, he remained a prominent factor on downfield attempts. His average depth of target was 16.5 yards. His six targets ranked third on the team and were 18.2% of the total. 

If Shaheed can maintain that type of target share, he could be a useful spot starter in deeper fantasy leagues.

Josh Downs, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Blind-bid recommendation: 8-10%

Downs finished with just three catches for 30 yards in the loss to Jacksonville. But his seven targets ranked second on the team and were 18.9% of QB Anthony Richardson’s total. 

The rookie QB went down late in Sunday’s loss, but he’ll be fine following a left knee bruise.

This Colts passing game might be more voluminous than we initially thought, making Downs a potential asset in deeper PPR leagues. Indy’s defense projects as a bottom-10 unit this year, which should only help push pass volume toward the rookie.

Allen Robinson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Blind-bid recommendation: 5-8%

We hesitate to mention Robinson here because he’s been one of the least efficient WRs in the NFL over the past two seasons. Just look at last year, when he talled 0.93 yards per route run – 81st among 84 WRs with 50+ targets.

But WR Diontae Johnson left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury that is expected to cost him a few weeks. And Robinson led the Steelers with eight targets and 64 receiving yards in the opener.

We certainly wouldn’t want to start him vs. Cleveland in Week 2. But Robinson might be worth a spot-start for matchups with Vegas and Houston over the following two weeks.

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Commanders

Blind-bid recommendation: 5-8%

His 4-catch, 43-yard outing certainly didn’t win any fantasy matchups. But it’s a solid stat line with so many TEs disappointing across the league. More importantly, Thomas led Washington with eight targets – 25.8% of the team total. 

We heard multiple times this summer how the TEs would play a big role in new OC Eric Bieniemy’s offense. That further makes the lead guy here interesting – even more so if Sam Howell improves with experience.


More Waiver Wire Talk 

Matt and Jared talk through the top 5 waiver wire pickups for Week 2 at RB ...

Matt Schauf Author Image
Matt Schauf, Editor
Matt has earned two Fantasy Pros accuracy awards for IDP rankings and won thousands of dollars as a player across best ball, dynasty, and high-stakes fantasy formats. He has been creating fantasy football content for more than 20 years, with work featured by Sporting News, Rotoworld, Athlon, Sirius XM, and others. He's been with Draft Sharks since 2011.
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