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Fantasy waiver wire targets for Week 3 of 2021 NFL season

The waiver wire is different every week. Some weeks have a clear-cut top option who you should be willing to use your top claim or a good portion of your waiver budget on. Last week for instance was like that when Elijah Mitchell appeared as the Niners' top running back. But then there are other weeks where there is not that slam dunk pick up, but there are several players who can still make an impact. This is one of those weeks.

While there is no league-altering option on the waiver wire this week, that doesn't mean you still can't find some players who can make a difference for your fantasy team. The top option this week is Cowboys running back Tony Pollard. In Week 2, he played 35 percent of the snaps, with 13 carries and three targets, going for 140 total yards and a touchdown. That was good enough to make him a top-five running back in Week 2. But the numbers do not tell the whole story. Pollard was explosive, having three rushes go for over 10-yards (Ezekiel Elliott had two), and four times reaching 15 miles per hour, more than all the other Cowboys rushers combined. He outgained Elliott in yards gained before contact (4.3 per carry to 1.1) and in yards gained after contact (4.3 per carry to 3.3 per carry). Pollard already carved a larger role for himself than he did in Week 1 when he played 26 percent of the snaps, had just three carries and four targets. This is now two games in a row he has out targeted Elliott. He is carving out a role for himself to keep him as a weekly flex option and has the possibility of carving a larger role as the season progresses. Plus, if Zeke was ever to miss time, Pollard would catapult into the RB1 range. Add him now, as the upside is immense.

Check if available: Devin Singletary, Michael Pittman Jr., Jaylen Waddle.

Quarterbacks

Giants QB Daniel Jones: Jones exploded on Thursday Night Football for nearly 30 fantasy points after rushing for 95 yards and a touchdown, to go with 249 passing yards and a score. It could have been an even bigger day though as he had lost about 20 yards and a touchdown on a long run. That would have been the difference between him being a top five QB this week and the overall QB1. But Jones is blossoming into one of those cheat codes running QBs. In Week 1, he led the Giants in rushing with 27 yards and a touchdown. That was clearly implemented more into his game in Week 2 and should continue moving forward. Jones has QB1 upside and should be the top quarterback add this week.

Bears QB Justin Fields: If Jones is the top QB add, Fields is a very close second. Just like Jones, he has QB1 upside due to what he can do with his legs. Fields got extensive playing time in Week 2 when Andy Dalton left with a knee injury. Fields struggled completing just 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and an interception, while rushing 10 times for 31 yards. It wasn't his best showing, but we have seen him play well already in his young career. He got a small taste in Week 1, completing both of his pass attempts for 10 yards, while rushing for a 3-yard score. In preseason he showed off both his rushing ability and his touch on the deep ball. Both aspects of his game make the Bears offense more dynamic. Dalton's knee injury will determine a lot, but Fields could be starting for the immediate future and there's a good chance the first-round pick never gives the job back. This could be your last chance to pick him up.

Raiders QB Derek Carr: Carr continues to exceed expectations on a weekly basis. In a tough matchup against a Steelers defense that had just shut down Josh Allen the week prior. Carr threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns, good for 24.18 fantasy points. That is the most any QB has scored against the Steelers since the start of the 2020 season -- in fact none reached 19 against this defense. Carr also put-up numbers in Week 1, when he threw for 435 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He has finished each week as a top 10 QB. He can be picked up and played over Trevor Lawrence, Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield. 

Panthers QB Sam Darnold: Darnold had a strong showing in Week 1, but a tough matchup in Week 2 was enough for me to keep him on the bench where I had him. Well, all he did was go out against a Saints defense that had just shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and throw for 305 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He has now scored 19.1 and 18.9 fantasy points in his two starts with the Panthers. Its not enough to make him a league-winner, but he is looking like a very reliable, high-end QB2, with upside to get better as he gets more comfortable in the Panthers' system. This week he faces the Texans on Thursday Night, meaning he will once again be a streaming option.

Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater threw for 328 yards and two scores against the Jaguars in Week 2. Yes, it was against the Jaguars but QBs are supposed to take advantage of these matchups and that is exactly what Bridgewater did. He ended the day with 21.22 fantasy points just a week after scoring 20.46 fantasy points against the Giants. Two 20-point games in a row are enough to make Bridgewater a high-end QB2 who can be streamed in the right matchups, like Darnold. He is in play in Week 3 against the Jets.

Running backs

Rams RB Sony Michel: Darrell Henderson exited Week 2 early with a rib injury, paving the way for Sony Michel to see volume. Michel played 27 percent of the snaps and had 10 carries for 46 yards. He did not see a target in the passing game, but Henderson did have five, along with 13 carries, showing the type of volume the lead back for the Rams can see. Henderson's injury will determine a lot, but if he was to miss time, Michel would likely come in as an RB2 most weeks. But Week 3 may not be one of those weeks, as the Rams face the Bucs and their best run defense in the NFL.

Jets RB Michael Carter: Carter got off to a slow start in Week 1, but that started to change in Week 2. In that game he played 46 percent of the snaps, had 11 carries and was the only Jets RB to be featured in the passing game, with three targets. He had to split work with Ty Johnson (46% snaps, 12 carries), but Tevin Coleman already appears to be fazed out (9 percent snaps, five carries). Carter is the most explosive of the Jets options and can carve out a larger role as the season progresses. Grab the rookie now and be patient. He has already worked his way into the flex range, but he has higher upside than that.

Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson played 35 percent of the snaps while having seven carries for 11 yards and a touchdown and adding five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on six targets in the passing game. Patterson had the bigger day of the Atlanta backs as Mike Davis rushed nine times for 38 yards and caught all seven of his targets for 25 yards. What is most interesting about Patterson is how he was used. He lined up in the backfield for 67 percent of his snaps but was used out wide on 25 percent of them. Patterson's production may be inconsistent, but he has now touched the ball at least nine times in both games and is the next man up should anything happen to Davis. He is worthy of being rostered as a backup with upside for now.

Patriots RB James White: James White is never going away. In Week 2, he played 49 percent of the snaps with five carries and six targets, going for 65 total yards and a touchdown. He led the Patriots with six targets, six catches and 45 receiving yards. Mac Jones is looking like he has some Tom Brady in him, at least when it comes to dumping the ball off to White. He does not have the highest ceiling, but he has a very safe floor that will keep him as a weekly flex option.

Football Team RB J.D. McKissic: I will take the 'L' here. Last week I had McKissic as a player you can drop after Antonio Gibson out targeted him five to two. Yet, in Week 2, McKissic was the one stealing the passing volume away from Gibson. He ended up seeing six targets, catching five of them for 83 yards. Gibson had just two catches for four yards on two targets. McKissic added in four carries for 10 yards and a goal-line TD. Much of McKissic's usage came in the 2-minute drill, but that is a very valuable role in fantasy football. The first two weeks are likely a microcosm of McKissic's season. He will be up and down dependent on game script, but the highs are enough to roster him and make him a flex option, especially once byes come into play.

Vikings RB Alexander Mattison: Dalvin Cook leads the NFL in near injuries. It feels like at least twice a game Cook takes a big hit and the fantasy community all holds its breath. Then like two plays later he is back out there toting the rock. Be fortunate that Cook has remained on the field, but take it as a lesson that Mattison is one of the top backups in the NFL and is an injury away from seeing a huge workload. If Cook was to miss time Mattison would shoot up in value to an RB2, with more upside. He would also go from being a cheap pickup, to the most expensive waiver add of the week. Add him before that occurs.

Eagles RB Kenneth Gainwell: Gainwell appears here for a second straight week. In Week 2, he played 33 percent of the snaps, with six carries and three targets. All in all, he finished with just 32 yards, which isn't all that impressive, but the usage is what matters. His three targets were more than Miles Sanders (two). This is Gainwell's second straight game with three targets, showing he clearly has a set role, but the opportunity for him to steal more work from Sanders is there. He is purely an upside stash right now, but one worth taking if you're diving deeper on the waiver wire.

Wide receivers

Miami WR DeVante Parker: Parker may seem like a surprise on a waiver wire list, but he only rostered in 29 percent of NFL.com leagues, and that is just simply too low. Parker led the Dolphins with seven targets in Week 1, going for four catches and a team-high 81 yards. Then in Week 2, he once again led them in targets with nine. He caught five for 42 yards, but that was mostly with Jacoby Brissett, not Tua Tagovailoa, whose availability this week is unclear (bruised ribs). Adding to Parker's fantasy value is that Will Fuller is up in the air right now. After missing Week 1 due to suspension, he missed Week 2 due to a personal issue and while the team expects him to be available for Week 3, he is likely behind Parker and Waddle at least for the foreseeable future while he gets acclimated in this offense. We all hope everything is OK for Fuller, but in the meantime, it means the Dolphins will need Jaylen Waddle and Parker to step up. Both should be rostered in 12-team fantasy leagues.

Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III: The narrative after the Raiders Week 1 Monday Night Football game was that Ruggs had never seen more than five targets in a game. Well, that changed in Week 2 as Ruggs went off for five catches for 113 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. It came against a tough Steelers defense too that was able to take away Darren Waller and Bryan Edwards. The Raiders have incentive to get Ruggs going after taking him as the top wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is not someone to pick up and start weekly, but he has the upside to blossom into an every week contributor, if not better.

Cardinals WR Rondale Moore: Moore saw a team-high eight targets in Week 2, catching seven of them for 114 yards and a touchdown. He either led or tied for the team-lead in every category. Moore played just 47 percent of the snaps in Week 2, but that was up from the 30 percent he played in Week 1. The Cardinals have run four wide receiver sets on 19 percent of their plays, the second most in the NFL. That means that Moore will get opportunities weekly. The three Cards receivers behind DeAndre Hopkinsmay be inconsistent, but they will put up numbers in the Cards' high powered offense. Plus, Moore will carve out a larger role if he keeps having games like this.

Jets WR Jamison Crowder: Crowder has not played yet this season, so his name being added here may seem strange. Allow me to explain. So far this season, Zach Wilson has thrown 30 percent of his passes to the slot. It has led to fantasy value for the top slot option on the Jets, too. Braxton Berrios has led the Jets in slot routes and in Week 2 he had seven catches for 73 yards on a team-high 11 targets. In Week 1, he tied for the team lead with seven targets, catching five for 51 yards. Crowder will take over this role when active, likely in Week 3. Grab him while the cost is cheap.

Cardinals WR A.J. Green: I know I talked up Moore earlier, and he is the preferred option for the Cardinals, but Green still has a role in this high-powered offense. He has played the second-most snaps in each of their games and has six targets in each. He was able to find the end zone in Week 2 as well. He is more of a safe floor play, while Christian Kirk and Moore are the upside plays here, but there is value for Green in this role, especially in deeper formats.

Vikings WR K.J. Osborn: Osborn finished Week 2 with six targets, five catches, 91 yards and a touchdown. That's after he saw nine targets in Week 1, going for 76 yards on seven catches. He has clearly been the Vikings' third option in the passing game behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. While I like the other names on this list more, the production has been there for Osborn and it's time for fantasy players to take note.

Deeper Options: Zach Pascal found the end zone again in Week 2. He now has scored three times this season. He has seen five and six targets in the two games, which is why he is not higher on the list of free agent receivers, but if you play in anything deeper than 12 teams he should be rostered. Dyami Brown and Adam Humphries stood out on the national stage on Thursday night. Humphries had eight targets, the second-most on Washington, catching seven for 44 yards. Brown had six targets, catching three for 34 yards, including a 22-yarder. Humphries has the safer floor, but low ceiling. Brown is the upside play, but the floor in inconsistent. Both are in play in deeper leagues if Curtis Samuel is sidelined. Anthony Schwartz was held catch less in Week 2, but he did have five targets and showed off his speed in Week 1. If Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are sidelined in Week 3, he will be a sneaky option.

Tight ends

Chargers TE Jared Cook: Cook was held to just three catches for 28 yards on five targets, but he had a touchdown that was taken away due to penalty. That was after being targeted eight times in Week 1. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler are the top options in the passing game for the Chargers, but Cook looks next in line on a team that will throw a lot. Consistent targets and some usage in the red zone are enough to keep him in play as a top 15 tight end.

Colts TE Jack Doyle: Doyle saw eight targets in Week 2, the second most on the Colts. He caught five of them for 64 yards, and had a 2-point conversion, good for more than 13 fantasy points and enough to make him a top five tight end on the week. Doyle will never blow you away, but after the top tight ends you are just searching for someone who can give you double-digit fantasy points and Doyle fits that bill. Although you do have to monitor Carson Wentz status going forward.

Cardinals TE Maxx Williams: The Cardinals have not had a fantasy relevant tight end in sometime, but Williams is looking to change that. He was targeted seven times, the second most on the Cards. He caught all seven for 94 yards, scoring 16.4 fantasy points -- enough to make him the TE3 heading into Monday Night Football. His usage is particularly interesting since the Cards use a good number of four-receiver sets, but usage like this from a tight end cannot be ignored. There is a chance that Williams is thrown back onto the waiver wire after Week 3 but given what he did this week he is worthy of a flier on a tight end needy team.

Make sure to follow Michael F. Florio onTwitterandInstagram.

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