Our weekly Waiver Wire column covers all of the big-ticket adds for casual leagues, but the Deep Dive is for leagues with intensive waiver pools. For this column, we'll try to 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.
Obviously, the top waiver claim for Week 5 is T.J. Yeldon. If he was dropped in your league after Leonard Fournette's brief return in Week 4, make sure you place your claim early or get aggressive with your waiver wire bid. After re-tweaking his hammy against the Jets, Fournette's timetable for return is wide open. Getting caught up in Injury Optimism is a sure-fire way to ruin your fantasy season, and it's clear Fournette's bum hamstring is, once again, turning into a multi-week affair. When Fournette has missed entirely or has been ruled out in-game, T.J. Yeldon has handled 73 percent of Jags' RB snaps and 74 percent of their RB touches this season.
Enough evident adds. Let's hit the deep dive:
Players to add:
If your question after last week was, "Can the tight end position get any worse?" ... the answer is yes.
Tyler Eifert (ankle) is done for the season while possible 2018 breakout candidate, O.J. Howard, will miss multiple weeks with a knee injury. This news comes after Hunter Henry (ACL), Delanie Walker (ankle), Greg Olsen (foot), Evan Engram (knee), Jack Doyle (hip), Will Dissly (knee), Jake Butt (ACL), and Hayden Hurst (foot) have sustained significant injuries for the 2018 season. It's a stone disaster.
However, the litany of injuries has opened up an opportunity for three widely available tight ends in particular:
Brate's production with and without Jameis Winston in the lineup over the last two years is stark. With Winston at the controls during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Brate has seen 14 percent of the Bucs' targets and averaged 10.7 fantasy points per game (low-end TE1 in PPR). With Fitzpatrick under center, Brate's target share plummets to just 7.5 percent and he's averaged only 3.6 fantasy points per game. Now, O.J. Howard (sprained MCL) is out multiple weeks, Jameis Winston is starting, and Tampa's schedule could not be any more gorgeous when the Bucs return from their Week 5 bye (Atlanta, Cleveland, and Cincinnati). The Falcons (sixth-most), Browns (seventh-most), and Bengals (fourth-most) are all top-eight in passing yards allowed through the opening month.
After Tyler Eifert (ankle) suffered another tough-luck, gruesome injury in Week 4 -- the Bengals are back to their tight end by committee of previous years. Tyler Kroft led the committee without Eifert in 2017 and put up 8.9 FPG (TE14 in PPR), but C.J. Uzomah has run ahead of Kroft as the Bengals' No. 2 tight end so far. Per PFF, Uzomah has run 75 pass routes to Kroft's minuscule 25 routes in Weeks 1-4. If you're going to throw a waiver wire dart at a Bengals tight end, make it Uzomah.
Without Will Dissly for much of Week 4 -- he tore his patella tendon (knee) after eight snaps -- Nick Vannett dominated Seattle's tight end usage. After Dissly went down, Vannett ran a pass route on 26 of Russell Wilson's 32 dropbacks, per PFF. Vannett only saw two targets, but his full-time usage mixed with the Seahawks' continued convoluted target tree could open up a stream-worthy role for Vannett. Before going down, Will Dissly saw 13.5 percent of Russell Wilson's targets in Weeks 1-3.
Players to drop:
Despite head coach Hue Jackson promising more touches, Duke Johnson just isn't as involved in the Browns offense this year. In 2017, Duke was in on 53 percent of Cleveland's snaps. This year, Johnson's snap rate is down to 39 percent. Predictably, Johnson's target share (11 percent) is lower (16 percent in 2017) as are his touches per game (5.3 this year versus 9.8 in 2017). The Browns are also playing from behind significantly less (48 percent trail rate) compared to last year (76 percent; highest in NFL), leading to fewer passing-down snaps for Johnson, too. Johnson doesn't need to be on 10-team league rosters at this point.
The Rashaad Penny dream is over. Chris Carson (hip) somewhat surprisingly missed Week 4, and it was Mike Davis -- not the rookie Penny -- who dominated Seattle's backfield. Penny only played 16 (of 66) snaps and took nine carries against the Cardinals. On the flip side, Mike Davis played on 71 percent of snaps and took 23 handoffs. Apparently, Penny is now Seattle's No. 3 back. Per Next Gen Stats, Penny is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry despite facing 6.3 defenders in the box per carry, third-fewest among qualified backs. It's not happening for Penny in 2018.
If you're waiting on Anderson to get back to his 2017 deep-ball form, you are going to be sitting around for a while. Sam Darnold and Anderson just haven't linked up deep this season. Per Next Gen Stats, Anderson has seen just four deep targets (20-plus yards downfield) after seeing 1.6 deep targets per game in 2017 (ninth-most). After leading the league in touchdowns on targets 20-plus yards downfield last season (7), Anderson will have a tough time getting to half that number in 2018 given his lack of opportunity with Sam Darnold under center.
This is the most predictable stat of the season: Among all receivers with at least 20 passing looks, Kelvin Benjamin is dead last (159th-of-159) in yards of separation at the catch point, per Next Gen Stats. Last year, Benjamin was also dead last in yards of separation among receivers (129th-of-129). A black hole for passing production at this point, Benjamin has caught just 7 of his 21 targets -- 10 of which have been "catchable" (per PFF).
Player to stash:
Randall Cobb (hamstring) reportedly wasn't close to playing in Week 4, forcing the rookie Valdes-Scantling into a near full-time role. Scantling played on 71 percent of Packers' snaps and ran a pass route on 37 of Aaron Rodgers' 47 dropbacks in place of Cobb in Week 4, per PFF. Scantling only collected three targets, but he split out in the slot on 52 percent of his routes (per Next Gen Stats). If Cobb misses more time, Scantling will continue to be the Packers third receiver and a near full-time player. Per Next Gen, Green Bay has run '11' personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) on 74 percent of their offensive plays this season.