Our weekly Waiver Wire column covers all of the big-ticket adds, but the Deep Dive is for leagues with intensive waiver pools. In this column, we'll focus on players that are less than one-third (33 percent) owned in NFL.com leagues. Fantasy football is a forward-thinking game, and we'll strive to stay one step ahead of the competition in the weekly Deep Dive with players to add, drop, and stash on your bench.
Right now, the wire should be pretty thin in most leagues. There are only two teams, Washington and Carolina, out on a bye in Week 4. In this week's Deep Dive, I'll focus more on players to bail on in your leagues and why it's time to panic about Andrew Luck:
Players to add:
With weekly fantasy finishes of QB15 (at IND), QB8 (vs. BAL), and QB13 (at CAR) -- Andy Dalton is the quietest low-end starter in fantasy football. Dating back to when Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator in Week 3, 2017, Dalton has thrown multiple passing scores in 12 of his last 16 games. In this span, Dalton has tossed 33 total TDs (2.06 per game).
Look, Dalton isn't a "sexy" weekly starter like Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, but he's been a source of scores for two seasons running. Plus, Dalton's upcoming slate of games is mouth-wateringly appetizing for continued fantasy production. In Week 4, the Bengals travel to Atlanta to face a Falcons defense that was just waxed for 335 yards and three TDs by Cam Newton in Week 2. Drew Brees hit 396 yards and three more passing scores last week. Already down LB Deion Jones (foot) and S Keanu Neal (ACL), Atlanta just lost their other starting safety to a season-ending injury in Week 3 as Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles.
As long as A.J. Green's (hamstring) health checks out, fantasy managers that just lost Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL) for the season should strongly consider adding Dalton. After their date in Atlanta in Week 4, the Bengals get Miami, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans over their next five games. Four of the Bengals' five contests in this span are at home, too. Dalton should be viewed as a low-end weekly starter in 12-team leagues at this point.
After dealing with shoulder, ankle, knee, back, and foot problems over the last two seasons, it's nice to see Vance McDonald at 100 percent health. After whacking the Bucs for 4/112/1 (on five targets) in Week 3 on Monday Night Football, McDonald will be on everyone's waiver radar for claims this week. Since returning in Week 2, McDonald has run more pass routes (59) than teammate Jesse James (49) over the last two games, per Pro Football Focus. After his monster 75-yard stiff-arming TD, McDonald is about to receive a ton of hype ahead of Pittsburgh's Week 4 date against Baltimore.
Tight end is a wasteland in fantasy this season. Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen are out, Evan Engram (knee) is injured, Jimmy Graham hasn't scored yet, Rob Gronkowski and the Pats have been slow out of the gates, and George Kittle now has to catch passes from C.J. Beathard. It's a less than ideal landscape.
Yet, over the last two years (including post-season), McDonald has averaged 1.95 receiving yards gained per route run -- the sixth-best clip behind Gronkowski, Kelce, Ertz, Walker, and Reed (per PFF). We have to chase McDonald's upside when we see it.
Most managers are searching for a source of fantasy production at the position. At the very least, Ben Watson is attached to an elite offense, he's widely available in NFL.com fantasy leagues, and he's seen four, five, and six targets in Weeks 1-3. Watson is presently 12th among all tight ends in receiving yards (134). The Saints have big mouths to feed, but Watson is a reasonable source of floor fantasy points for those in a bind.
Alex Collins' fantasy backers don't want to hear it, but "Buck" Allen isn't going away any time soon. We're three games in, and Allen has either matched or out-snapped Collins in each game so far. Baltimore has also apparently decided to take away goal-line duties from Collins, too. Allen has four carries inside of the opponents' five-yard line (red zone) while Collins has one. Plus, per PFF, Allen has run 73 pass routes to Collins' lackluster 43. Collins leads the duo in touches per game (13.7 to 10.0), but Allen has caught three or more passes in each contest so far as the team's primary passing-down back. Allen's TD luck will eventually run out, but he's on the weekly FLEX radar in PPR formats for his receiving upside. Allen has legitimate RB2 upside if Collins were to miss time.
Players to drop:
The time to panic about Andrew Luck is now. Through three games, no quarterback has a lower average depth of throw than Luck (5.5 yards). T.Y. Hilton's average air yards per target have subsequently cratered. Finally, Luck's 5.3 Pass YPA is significantly worse than Joe Flacco's league-low last season (5.7). Luck was forced to chuck the rock 53 times in Week 1, leading to a QB11 weekly finish, but Luck has ended outside of the top-20 fantasy quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks. Quarterback fantasy scoring is largely replaceable, and Luck's low-upside peripherals knock him out of the weekly starters tier. There is no way to feel comfortable starting Luck in Week 4 against a Texans front seven that has forced a tight-window throw on 23.6 percent of attempts this season, the best clip in the NFL per Next Gen Stats.
Hopefully, Luck regains normal strength in his shoulder soon. Until then, it's clear the Colts do not want him airing it out. Luck doesn't need to be on a roster in start-one QB, 10-team fantasy leagues at this point. 22 QBs are averaging more fantasy points per game than Luck through three weeks.
While Quincy Enunwa gobbles up interior targets from Sam Darnold (32 percent target share; fourth-most among receivers), Robby Anderson's target totals have fallen off of a cliff in Weeks 1-3 (1, 5, 4). The Jets just aren't throwing deep to Anderson all that often. After seeing 25 deep targets (1.56 per game; ninth-most) in 2017, Anderson has just three targets that have traveled over 20 yards in the air this season. Now, matchups with the Jags and Broncos loom over the next two weeks. Send Anderson to the wire.
After a fantasy nightmare timeshare in Weeks 1-2, the Seahawks finally committed to a running back in Week 3. It wasn't Rashaad Penny. Carson ran well ahead of the rookie first-round pick against Dallas, dominating both snaps (72 percent) and the overwhelming majority of running back touches (89 percent). In Seattle's two prior games, Carson saw only 37 percent of team snaps and 44 percent of the 'Hawks RB touches. Carson undoubtedly deserves the work over Penny. Through Weeks 1-3, Penny is dead-last in rushing yards gained after a defender closes within one yard per Next Gen Stats (2.2 yards). Carson has averaged 4.4 YGAC, the sixth-best clip in the league among ball carriers with 20 or more attempts.
The off-season argument for Kelvin Benjamin centered around one thing: Volume. Through three games, Benjamin's target total just isn't high enough to overcome the Bills' lackluster passing offense that is fourth-from-last in passing output so far (539 yards). Benjamin leads the Bills in target share, but it's only 17 percent. 60 different running backs, receivers, and tight ends have seen a higher share of team targets than Benjamin. He shouldn't be on two-thirds of NFL.com fantasy rosters.
Players to stash:
Down Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and Mike Wallace (leg), the Eagles had to resort to using two or more tight ends on 67.5 percent of their Week 3 offensive snaps. The NFL average is around 25 percent. This led to a season-high 67 percent snap rate for Dallas Goedert against the Colts, and the rookie delivered big time (7/71/1). With Jeffery still week-to-week, Philadelphia may have to continue this tight end-heavy trend. Goedert certainly looked the part last week, and his Next Gen Stats' route chart showed a diverse route tree.
Meredith made his 2018 Saints' debut in Week 3, catching his lone target for an 11-yard score. Meredith only played on 43 percent of New Orleans' snaps in the Saints overtime win over the Falcons, but the majority of Meredith's usage came in the coveted slot role. New Orleans has moved Michael Thomas into the slot plenty this season with a great deal of success, but Meredith's presence as a full-time interior receiver in 11-personnel (3WR) would add another layer to the Saints already fantastic group of weapons. He's by no means playable in fantasy in Week 4 against the Giants, but Meredith needs to be stashed in all fantasy football leagues with 12 or more teams.