Is it just me, or is the injury bug ruthlessly targeting the fantasy community this year? A week after losing Justin Jefferson, James Conner and rookie stars De'Von Achane and Anthony Richardson to health issues, we saw more big-name playmakers go down in Week 6. Christian McCaffrey (oblique), David Montgomery (ribs), Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and a recently resurgent Justin Fields (thumb) all left their respective games.
It's been rough. And to make matters worse, there are SIX teams on bye in Week 7.
But there is hope to be culled from the waiver wire. This is a week of quantity over quality, but that's to be expected this far into the season.
As always, these are the most intriguing players who are rostered in less than 60 percent of NFL.com leagues. If you have questions, my DMs are open: @MattOkada on Twitter ... or X ... or whatever it is.
Howell is commanding more and more attention as a legitimate fantasy quarterback in his first year as the Washington starter. He’s now hit 18-plus fantasy points in four of the last five games and has averaged 276 yards and two touchdowns per game since Week 4. He has a relatively soft schedule in the coming weeks, including the Giants next Sunday, and has a sneaky-good receiving corps (frustrating as the target distribution may be for fantasy purposes). Howell will likely have a couple more dud games through the course of the season, but those have been few and far between so far. He’s an every-week starter in two-QB leagues and a viable streamer in most matchups otherwise.
I’m not excited about this, and you shouldn’t be either. But it feels like most of the best streaming matchups fall to quarterbacks available on approximately zero waiver wires. If you’re in desperate need, Dobbs has some upside against a beatable Seahawks defense. The raw numbers don’t look great for QBs against Seattle, but the 'Hawks have faced a very soft schedule -- and Jared Goff and Joe Burrow each tagged them for multiple passing touchdowns. Dobbs has been a letdown in back-to-back weeks, but don’t let that wipe his excellent stretch in Weeks 2-4 (21.9 fantasy PPG) from your memory. He's had 40-plus rushing yards in four of his last five contests and threw 41 passes on Sunday (matching his season/career-high) with James Conner out. You could do worse ... a little bit worse.
GUY TO 'STACHE: This sleeper 'stache is so deep, you're going to need some spelunking gear to get down to it. Malik Willis brings some mildly intriguing rushing upside if Ryan Tannehill's ankle injury lingers past Tennessee's Week 7 bye. Worth a flier if you're in a two-QB league and there's nothing else. Like, literally nothing else.
Let’s start with the good news: In his first opportunity this season as the full-time lead back, Hubbard was both busy and impressive. He shouldered 19 carries and totaled 88 rushing yards (including a 6-yard score). Both those numbers were better than Miles Sanders’ season highs through the first five weeks. Most importantly, Hubbard was on the field for 76.5 percent of Carolina’s offensive snaps with Sanders out. Now, briefly, the bad news: Carolina’s on bye this week, and it seems likely Sanders could be back by Week 8. Still, Hubbard’s a solid add-and-'stache this week, given his effectiveness throughout the season. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hubbard just earns the lead role moving forward, but in a worst-case scenario, he’s a locked-and-loaded handcuff.
If Christian McCaffrey misses significant time with the oblique injury he suffered on Sunday, I think fantasy managers may just riot. But, in that horrific reality, someone in Santa Clara could become a fantasy super stud. The big question is whether that someone is more likely to be Mitchell or Mason. Mason was busier on Sunday and managed to score the team’s only rushing touchdown of the day, but he also plays a lot of special teams snaps and has never been a starter in this league. Mitchell, on the other hand, started 10 games and averaged 15.0 fantasy points per game as a rookie in 2021 (finishing as a top-15 RB in PPG that season). He’s my preferred add by a decent margin. Monitor Niners news early this week: If the reports on CMC are negative, Mitchell becomes a top-tier pickup.
Last week, I listed Johnson as my preferred add but noted that his progression through concussion protocol could make Foreman the necessary consolation. Indeed, Johnson was ultimately inactive in Week 6, and Foreman had a decent performance as Chicago’s lead runner (15 carries, 65 yards). I would expect Johnson to be back this coming Sunday against the Raiders, and if that’s the case, I’d add, rank and start him ahead of Foreman. That said, both guys should be rostered, given the ongoing uncertainty. There are a lot of moving parts here (including the status of Justin Fields, who dislocated the thumb on his right hand in Week 6), so check in with your favorite NFL Fantasy analyst throughout the week to assess the situation.
Let’s not get too excited here. This is not the return of an old fantasy star in Hunt … at least not yet. But in a shocking upset against the 49ers, the Browns gave Hunt his first significant chunk of snaps (37 percent, to be exact) and touches (15). Both still trailed Jerome Ford, who was impressively efficient in his own right. But Hunt also made good use of his opportunities, particularly catching all three of his targets for 24 yards and scoring a 16-yard rushing touchdown. In all likelihood, Hunt is a change-of-pace back with a low weekly floor, so don’t break the bank to acquire him. That said, given the crumbling nature of the RB landscape in fantasy, change-of-pace backs with proven talent are becoming valuable commodities. Throw him into a bench spot if you have one.
I’ll keep this brief. David Montgomery suffered a rib injury in Week 6, and with Jahmyr Gibbs already inactive (hamstring), Reynolds suddenly became the lead back. If Montgomery misses time, Detroit is not going to abandon the ground game, which means it will run at least partially through Reynolds. He’s not an exciting player and will not be a fantasy RB1 like Montgomery was. But he could have a good chance at double-digit touches in one of the best offenses in football. Yayyyyy.
After clocking in as the fourth-most added player in NFL.com leagues last week, Demercado vanished. Obviously, we should have known that plodding backup Ingram and straight-off-the-streets veteran Williams would split the meaningful workload instead. (I hope you sense my sarcasm.) For evidence of how inexplicable this was: Williams didn’t even exist in the NFL.com fantasy system last week. And to make matters worse, Demercado actually led the crew in snaps (45 percent), while Williams and Ingram essentially split the relevant touches right down the middle. If you want my professional opinion on who to trust in Week 7, the answer is no one. But there’s likely value to be had here somewhere once we get a skosh of clarity. I’ll take Demercado (given the snap share), followed closely by Williams (impressive in his first game since September of 2022), followed even more closely by Ingram. Good luck.
That's right, we have another backfield thrown into disarray by injuries. Both Kyren Williams (the RB4 so far in 2023) and Ronnie Rivers (Williams' only relevant backup in recent weeks) got hurt on Sunday, creating a void at the position before this week's favorable RB matchup against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game this season. (Remember when Browns RB Jerome Ford came in after Nick Chubb's injury and ran wild on Pittsburgh back in Week 2?) It's tough to predict whether sixth-round rookie Zach Evans or practice squad veteran Royce Freeman will get more work, but one of them could be an RB1 in Week 7. Until we get some clarity (if we do), I'd lean Evans for the unknown upside.
GUYS TO 'STACHE: With the Steelers on bye in Week 6, most of you probably haven't been thinking about Jaylen Warren. He's available in just under half of NFL.com leagues. If yours is one of them, pick him up. Also, while Rhamondre Stevenson did return to action on Sunday after exiting with head and ankle injuries, Ezekiel Elliott continues to look shockingly good as the change-of-pace back in New England (4.9 yards per carry and a touchdown in Week 6). The Patriots' offense is terrible, and Stevenson should be fine, but Elliott is still an intriguing 'stache. Texans RB Devin Singletary outplayed Dameon Pierce in Sunday's 20-13 win over the Saints before this week's bye. It's not impossible there's a changing of the guard in Houston.
NOTE: Diontae Johnson is only available in 35 percent of NFL.com leagues, which makes him technically ineligible for this column. But it also means a third of you might have a shot at adding the Steelers' No. 1 wideout, who's expected to return from IR as Pittsburgh comes out of their bye. If he's on the wire, snatch him up NOW.
I’ve been touting Josh Palmer since Mike Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury, but instead of adding him through the Chargers’ bye, around 10 percent of leagues sent him to the waiver wire. He is now widely available coming off a double-digit fantasy performance on Monday Night Football (which also featured some superb plays called back due to penalties). All in all, Palmer saw seven targets and caught four for 60 yards, but most importantly, he ran the most routes on the team, solidifying that rookie Quentin Johnston is less than an afterthought (at least for now). Palmer is absolutely the No. 2 target behind Keenan Allen and will have higher upside in softer matchups. He is a must-add and a decent WR3 start.
I’ve been striving to put Robinson on your radar for roughly a month now. Sadly, only half of one percent of you joined me in the ‘stacheing the second-year jitterbug of a wideout. I expect that number will finally change after Robinson snagged eight catches on eight targets (both team highs) for 62 yards on Sunday Night Football. (That’s a healthy 14.2 fantasy points, by the way.) Since returning from his 2022 knee injury in Week 3, Robinson has drawn a target on a studly 28.7 percent of his routes. Darius Slayton seems to be the established deep threat in Gotham, but Robinson has shown all the makings of a target-vacuum, PPR-friendly asset (a la Victor Cruz of old). He just needs a full complement of routes -- something we can expect sooner than later, in my opinion.
After highlighting Rice in last week’s column, we’re back again with a bit more confidence. Thursday Night Football was arguably the flashiest game of the rookie’s young career -- he ran a season-high 22 routes, caught all four of his targets for 72 yards and looked extremely explosive on just about every touch. Meanwhile, Kadarius Toney spent more time going sideways than forward (four total yards on five touches), and no other K.C. wideout topped two catches. This Chiefs offense has looked uncharacteristically troubled at times this season, and it’s not tough to assign some blame to the lack of No. 1 wideout (Travis Kelce notwithstanding). I think it’s becoming more and more apparent that Andy Reid should (and will?) elevate his second-round pick into that role. Get Rice on your rosters before that happens.
Through about a quarter and a half of Sunday’s 19-13 win over the Bears, it looked like Osborn was on track for an excellent post-Justin-Jefferson debut to justify his 39 percent rostership bump last week. He had four catches for 48 yards in the first third of the game ... and finished with four catches for 48 yards. It was incredibly frustrating for anyone who started him, but it also made some degree of sense in a low-scoring, slow-paced slugfest with Chicago. I assign much of the game script to the fact that this was a divisional bout. Moving forward, I expect far more high-scoring affairs featuring far more Kirk Cousins pass attempts. Given Osborn's 100 percent route participation, volume for Minnesota will mean volume for this wideout in the future. Take advantage of the mediocre fantasy output in Week 6 to add him on the cheap.
A glance at the yardage output for Downs in Sunday’s 37-20 loss to the Jaguars would be highly discouraging (21 yards) if it weren't for the 11 PPR fantasy points he tallied on five catches and a touchdown. It still wasn’t an amazing fantasy day, especially considering how much of the game the Colts spent in catch-up mode -- but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to fantasy points, and Downs did tally eight targets in the game (second only to Michael Pittman Jr.). Indianapolis has a couple of incredibly difficult defenses on tap over the next two weeks (Cleveland and New Orleans), so Downs might be more of a high-profile ‘stache than a must-add or certainly a must-start. Still, he’s now recorded 13-plus fantasy points in three of the last four games and is the clear-cut No. 2 in Indy's passing game.
GUYS TO 'STACHE: Take a deep breath. We have a LOT to get to here ... Kendrick Bourne enjoyed a superb day (19.3 fantasy points) after failing to do so since Week 1. And while the Patriots lost, their offense looked as functional as it has since that season opener -- maybe they'll make a connection and start featuring Bourne more often. I might just start calling this section "Curtis Samuel to 'stache" at this point. While Samuel wasn't heavily utilized in Sunday's 24-16 win over the Falcons, he did catch all four of the targets he got to total 42 yards and a touchdown. It feels a bit presumptuous to call Jaxon Smith-Njigba's 8.8 fantasy points in Week 6 a "breakout," but it was the best game of his fledgling career. Many of us expected more from the 20th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft -- maybe his season-high 37 routes, four catches and 48 yards are a sign of things to come. While Tee Higgins returned to action in Week 6, he played third fiddle behind Tyler Boyd, who caught all seven of his targets for 38 yards and a touchdown. That said, the Bengals are on a bye this week and get the Niners in Week 8, by which time Boyd will likely be back to the No. 3 spot. Still not a bad 'stache in deep leagues. In the off chance that Jerry Jeudy is traded in the coming weeks, feel free to 'stache Marvin Mims Jr. where you can. He is good (and just needs a chance).
NOTE: I'm not sure why you're all so insistent on leaving Jonnu Smith on the wire. Stop it. He's the TE9 on the season and is ultra-consistent. He should be started weekly in every 12-team league.
“But, Okada, you told me to add Thomas last week and he laid a 1.2-point dud in my starting lineup!” Listen here, reader ... This is a fantasy tight end we’re talking about. Unless his last name is Kelce or Andrews (or, apparently, LaPorta), you’re going to deal with dud weeks. Don’t let it phase you. Sam Howell threw a season-low 23 pass attempts in this turtle race of a game. That’s not going to happen often (if ever again). And Howell knows where his bread is buttered: he’s had a 118.3 passer rating when targeting Thomas this season (highest among all Commander WRs and TEs). I’m rolling Thomas right back out against the Giants this week.
After doing next to nothing through the first four weeks of the season, Mayer has shown up in consecutive weeks, culminating in a five-catch, 75-yard performance in Sunday’s 21-17 win over the Patriots. If you expected more earlier from the 35th overall pick in the draft, you’ve been watching too much Sam LaPorta. Tight ends take time to develop. And while that usually means more than a year, I’ll it say again: Beggars can’t be choosers. Vegas seems intent on getting Mayer involved, and he’s been a first-down machine on those growing opportunities -- six of his eight catches this season have moved the chains. He’s a speculative add, but an intriguing one.
IF YOU NEED A STREAMER:
Second-year tight end Cade Otton has been alternating productive weeks over the last month, so he’s due for a double-digit game against Atlanta in Week 7. (For legal reasons, that’s a joke, fantasy points don’t actually work that way). In all seriousness, Otton has hit 10 fantasy points twice in his last four games and gets the Falcons next Sunday. While the Atlanta defense has been relatively stout across the board, the Falcons have been extremely kind to tight ends. Sam LaPorta, Dalton Schultz, Hayden Hurst and Evan Engram all hit 12-plus fantasy points in their respective matchups against Atlanta -- maybe Otton can do the same.
More rookie tight ends, huh? Yes. This is where we’re at. Musgrave and the Packers are coming off a bye and face the absolute disaster of a Broncos defense this coming Sunday. Yes, Denver held the (division opponent) Chiefs to 19 points last Thursday … Travis Kelce also demolished Denver for 21.4 fantasy points. Obviously, Musgrave isn’t Kelce, but Cole Kmet, the aforementioned Logan Thomas and even Jets TE Tyler Conklin all had productive games against the Broncos, as well. It’s risky, but you already know that -- after all, you’re reading about tight end streamers.
GUY TO 'STACHE: If you're reading this before Monday Night Football, Jake Ferguson has yet to play against the Chargers' defense. (Spoiler alert: I'm excited.) Regardless, Ferguson entered Week 6 averaging 10.1 fantasy PPG over the prior month. He's only down here because Dallas is on bye in Week 7. He should be tucked away regardless.
UPDATE: Jake Ferguson did absolutely nothing on Monday Night Football (OK, technically he had one catch for 15 yards). Such is life. See the "necessary duds" note on Logan Thomas above.
This is not a great week for streaming defenses. (Is it just me, or has it felt like that an awful lot lately?) That said, I do like the Commanders, who’ve hit double-digit fantasy points in three games this season (with the other three being stinkers against the Bills, Eagles and Bears). Their Week 7 opponents, the New York Football Giants, are quite a bit softer than that trio. Even after a heroic effort against the Bills on Sunday Night Football, the G-Men are a defensive line’s best friend and have scored fewer than 20 points in all but one game this season.
I’m not even going to try to defend the Colts' defense here. This one is purely about the matchup. The Browns have been one of the most lucrative teams to stream D/STs against all season. We don’t yet know who will get the start at QB for Cleveland in Week 7, but I don’t think it matters all that much. If you need six-to-eight fantasy points and can’t find a better option on the wire, Indy is in play.