However, for those of you degenerates ... err I mean "die-hards," in more intense leagues, my weekly "Deep Dive" column is the one for you. As the season progresses, this is where I'll highlight the players you want to be a week early on, as opposed to trying to get in on the waiver-wire bidding war post-breakout. Many of these players will hopefully graduate to the main waiver wire column, and if you're smart they'll already be on your roster. Of course, I can't promise anything. Fantasy is far from a guaranteed game, as we all know all too well.
Any way, enough blathering. On to the "Deep Dive" waiver wire targets for Week 5.
Last night in a good matchup against the Saints, the combination of Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combined for 21 carries and 57 yards (2.7 ypc average). The team could be without the services of Lance Dunbar for awhile as well, as he suffered what looked like a pretty serious non-contact injury to his knee. All of this could pave the way for perennial offseason darling Christine Michael to see more work in the backfield. Michael was a second-round pick in 2013, but almost never saw the field behind Marshawn Lynch, leading the team to trade him earlier this year. Michael is a gifted runner, who could shine given the chance behind the Dallas offensive line. He was buried on the depth chart for the first few weeks, but was finally active last night (one carry, -1 yards). If he starts seeing more carries, there's a chance he could end up being one of the waiver-wire adds of the year.
Coming off of the Titans' bye week, many have probably already forgotten about Andrews. But back in Week 3, he was the most productive and frequently used back in the Tennessee committee. Andrews played the second most snaps (23), but saw a target or touch on 61 percent of his offensive plays, compared to just 38 percent for Bishop Sankey and 20 percent for Dexter McCluster. With no true lead candidate of the bunch, Andrews is worth an add for teams in need of a running back. Next up for the Titans is a date with the Bills, who have been up-and-down against the run thus far in 2015.
With the Joique Bell struggle bus plodding along still (20 carries, 22 yards), the team needs to find more answers in the backfield. My hope is that they just turn Ameer Abdullah loose, as he's the most talented player of the bunch. However, with Bell potentially dealing with more injuries, that could open the door for a bigger workload for Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner. Riddick's role as the pass-catching back (15 receptions, 144 yards, one TD already in 2015) is pretty set, as the team uses him in hurry-up and two-minute situations. Zenner on the other hand, has barely seen the field, but could come in as the thunder to Abdullah's lightning if Bell continues to be slow ... I mean, slowed down by injuries. Both have yet to play in Week 4, and will be playing in front of the national audience on Monday Night Football. Hopefully, the Lions keep both under wraps this week so you can add them for free off of the waiver wire before Week 5.
Helu was inactive in Week 1, and then only saw 11 offensive snaps the next two weeks. The Raiders finally featured him more in Week 4 (22 percent of the offensive plays), and gave him seven touches. Helu turned one of those touches -- a short pass in the red zone -- into a touchdown. Most fantasy owners will remember Helu from his vulturing role from back in Washington, when he routinely sniped touchdowns away from Alfred Morris. Here's the hard truth some need to come to grips with, though: Helu is just a good player. The proof is in the pudding ... err, game tape. He offers the Raiders a nice option out of the backfield, as he's a gifted, elusive runner. Helu should definitely be rostered in PPR formats, but could potentially build himself a Danny Woodhead-type of workload here in Oakland. Give Helu a look on waivers this week.
C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are the 1a and 1b for the Broncos offense, but that ranking isn't set in stone. Both backs have been inconsistent so far this year, and if neither is able to provide a spark for the offense, Juwan Thompson could hear his number called again. He's a bruising runner, whose value right now is likely just as a goal-line vulture. Still, he's worth a speculative add in deeper leagues on the off chance he is able to command a bigger part of the backfield pie in Denver.
Ahmad Bradshaw, free agent (0.3 percent owned)
I mentioned Bradshaw in this space a few weeks back, but he's finally set to meet with the Colts this week, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Bradshaw was a fantasy stud with the Colts last season before injuries stole the rest of his season away. He's worth a look in deeper leagues, even before he (potentially) signs with the team. Frank Gore has gotten back on track lately, but the team needs depth behind him. If Bradshaw joins the team, he and Gore would likely both see a healthy amount of work in the backfield.
Diggs, a fifth-round pick out of Maryland, has been earning high praise from the Vikings staff for much of the offseason. On Sunday, we learned why. With Charles Johnson inactive battling a rib injury, Diggs saw much more play time against the tough Broncos defense, and performed extremely well. He caught six passes on 10 targets, showing strong hands and a knack for running tight routes. Just watch him spin Aqib Talib right out of the stadium for an example. Even if Johnson comes back soon, it might be hard for the Vikings to put the genie back in the bottle after Diggs looked so impressive.
Inman was an undrafted free agent in 2011, who bounced up to the CFL before finding his way onto the Chargers' roster in 2014, seeing limited work in the regular season (12 rec, 158 yards). Inman was forced into duty again on Sunday when injuries sidelined Steve Johnson and Malcom Floyd, and he responded with three catches for 88 yards on five targets. Inman merits a speculative add, as the injuries to Johnson (hamstring) and Floyd (concussion) could keep them out for some time if they're serious. The Chargers offense faces the Steelers and their porous secondary next week, which would make Inman an intriguing play if Johnson/Floyd are forced to sit out.
Being a Ravens pass-catcher this year has been about as tenuous of a job as being the drummer for Spinal Tap. With Michael Campanaro on IR, Breshad Perriman out indefinitely, and Steve Smith suffering broken ribs last Thursday, the Ravens will need someone to step up. That could either be Waller (a sixth-round rookie) or Givens (a recent trade acquisition). Waller is a 6-foot-6, raw athlete who needs to develop all of the nuance of being a professional receiver. Case in point, he'd played all of two offensive snaps before injuries forced him into action against the Steelers, where he played 15 more snaps and hauled in one pass for 17 yards. In four seasons with the Rams, Givens never really developed much beyond a deep threat, which could suit the Ravens well as they've been unable to stretch the field with Perriman injured all year. We have no idea what sort of snaps/targets either of these wideouts will receive in the coming weeks, but they're worth a look in deeper leagues. Someone has to catch passes in Baltimore, right?
With Jay Cutler healthy again, Royal saw 10 targets on Sunday, bringing in seven of them for 54 yards and a touchdown. He has a surprisingly low ownership percentage after so many fantasy players jumped ship with him and Cutler suffering early-season injuries. Cutler and Royal had a connection together in Denver, and we could finally see that relationship blossom once again. With the Chiefs generous secondary next up on the schedule, and Alshon Jeffery potentially returning as well, Royal will have some deeper league appeal as a WR3 or flex option in Week 5. Grab him if you need help at wide receiver or play in a PPR league.
The Giants have been searching for an answer at wide receiver after Odell Beckham Jr. with Victor Cruz still on the shelf battling injury. Harris might be that answer. While Rueben Randle garnered six targets, so too did Harris -- and the fifth-year man out of East Carolina did more with his. Harris will likely have an unpredictable, and potentially low, ceiling in the coming weeks, but with Cruz's injury probably taking weeks to heal, Harris could find a nice niche in this offense if he proves more consistent than Randle.
The Packers don't seem to be in any rush to put Davante Adams back on the field until his ankle is fully healed, which means Montgomery will remain the third wide receiver in the Packers' high-octane offense for the foreseeable future. Montgomery didn't see a ton of work in Week 4 as the Packers offense was held "in check" by the 49ers, but the team is high on the youngster and he's showed a knack for understanding the offense, as well as some nice after-the-catch ability. Having one of Aaron Rodgers' targets is never a bad thing, which is why Montgomery is absolutely worth an add in deeper leagues. He also played the most snaps of any Packers wide receiver in Week 4.
Don't look now, but the leading receiver on the Saints isn't Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston or even Mark Ingram. It's Willie Snead, who's quietly racked up 240 yards through four games, thanks to never posting fewer than 44 in a game this season. He's received 19 targets the last three weeks, and caught all six of his looks on Sunday for 89 yards. Snead has surpassed both Colston and offseason sleeper Brandon Coleman in this offense, and that won't change as long as Snead keeps producing. He's definitely worth a roster spot as this offense could be turning the corner with Drew Brees back under center and C.J. Spiller finally looking healthy.
Smith has received 15 targets over the past two weeks, but only managed to turn them into 5 catches for 63 yards. The Jets passing attack struggled in Week 4, but when they get back to action in Week 6 after their bye, Eric Decker and Smith will both be even healthier. It's tough to assume that there will be enough volume for Brandon Marshall, Decker and Smith to all eat in the same offense, but Smith provides a deep threat that the veterans lack. He'll be a boom or bust candidate moving forward until he shows signs of being a more consistent contributor.
Roberts was a toe away from scoring a touchdown in three straight weeks. He only received one other target aside from his near touchdown, though, as his role in the offense is far from regular. However, Michael Crabtree suffered a leg injury in Week 4, but did his best to play through it. If he is forced to miss any time later, or his role diminishes as a result of the injury, Roberts could see his share of the targets increase. He's worth monitoring in deeper leagues, or potentially stashing just in case.
The Barn Yard Dog did well last week for fantasy owners in a spot start against the Raiders, who have been lost trying to cover tight ends in 2015. However, he posted another solid stat line this week against the Chargers, and now merits our attention as more than just a one-week streaming option. Barnidge's 16 targets over the last two weeks rank behind only Travis Benjamin (20) and Duke Johnson (17) on the Browns, but Barndige leads the team with 180 yards and two touchdowns over that span. It's clear that Josh McCown has eyes for Barnidge, so the time is now to make a move for him on the waiver wire. A matchup against the Ravens' secondary looms, and if Barnidge gets it done three weeks in a row he'll be a lot harder to claim off of waivers.
Poor Jordan Reed. He is such a talented player, but just cannot stay healthy. Reed suffered a concussion on Sunday, which has been an issue for him since college. Washington has been decimated by injuries at the tight end position, which led for them to trade for Carrier earlier this year. Carrier is solid athlete, who was buried behind Vernon Davis on the 49ers depth chart earlier in his career. If Reed is forced to miss any time, Carrier will be on the fantasy radar, as Kirk Cousins has been targeting Reed a ton this year. Carrier won't likely inherit all of Reed's targets, but even a sizeable chunk of that volume would make him worth a start in the right matchups.
Rodgers' value in fantasy is entirely touchdown-dependent, but Aaron Rodgers has targeted his big tight end three times in the red zone so far, leading to two touchdowns (including one on Sunday). As is the case above with Montgomery, having a target of Aaron Rodgers on your team is never a bad thing. The Packers face the Rams next week, who have been middle-of-the-pack when it comes to defending tight ends.
Green didn't even see a target in Week 4, but he and Owen Daniels take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 5, who thus far have allowed 388 receiving yards and six touchdowns to opposing tight ends. You could convince yourself into streaming Green in deeper leagues, especially given the tight ends who are on a bye this week (Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, Jordan Cameron). Just remember he is clearly behind Owen Daniels in the target pecking order.
Bortles hasn't exactly set the fantasy world on fire in his sophomore season, but he has averaged just over 19 fantasy points per game over the last three weeks. The UCF product represents a nice streaming or bye-week fill-in option for Week 5, as he will head into a plus-matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa has only allowed 15.91 fantasy points to opposing signal-callers so far this year, but that number is depressed thanks to games against the Texans and an injured Drew Brees. Bortles should be able to put together a solid stat line with his talented young wide receiving duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
I'd normally never advise rostering, let alone starting a Texans quarterback, but Hoyer performed well enough against the Falcons prevent-ish defense on Sunday
that my guess is that he'll win back the starting gig in Houston ... for now
. However, head coach Bill O'Brien announced on Monday that Mallett will remain the starter for Week 5. For deeper two-QB leagues, Hoyer could be on your radar this week, in case he wins the job back from Mallett ... again. There aren't too many other options out there.
-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer and editor for NFL.com, and the producer of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. He has no idea if this Nicolas Cage-inspired couch is real or not, but if you have more information about it, please let him know. And you can always hit him up on Twitter @AlexGelhar for movie recommendations or fantasy advice.