Our Waiver Wire column covers all of the big-ticket adds, 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.
Before we get to the Deep Dive, we should note that Gio Bernard is undisputedly the No. 1 waiver wire claim for Week 3. Joe Mixon is out "at least" two weeks with a knee injury that required a cleanup. In Weeks 14-15 last year, Joe Mixon missed two games -- and Gio Bernard was a workhorse. In those contests, Bernard played on 87 percent of Bengals' snaps, he handled 78 percent of the RB carries, and saw 20 percent of team targets. With that workload, Bernard finished as a weekly top-20 PPR back in both spot starts. Bernard is still available on about 40 percent of fantasy leagues.
Let's hit the rest of your Week 3 deep claims:
Players to add:
One of the most surprising inactives of Week 2 was Steelers' receiver Justin Hunter. After playing on 61 percent of Pittsburgh's snaps and running a pass route on 76 percent of Ben Roethlisberger's drop backs on Opening Day, Hunter did not suit up in Week 2 even though he was not on the injury report. Instead, head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner decided it's James Washington's time. In his first career start, Washington played on a robust 80 percent of Steelers snaps, he collected five targets (1/14/1 receiving), and is Pittsburgh's starting boundary receiver in 11-personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR). Against the Chiefs, Washington lined up outside on 93 percent of his snaps while JuJu Smith-Schuster is now a full-time slot receiver (88 percent of routes inside).
Without Josh Gordon in Week 2, the Browns predictably elevated rookie fourth-round pick, Antonio Callaway, to a full-time role. Callaway played on 81 percent of Browns' snaps against the Saints, parlaying his four targets into 3/81/1 receiving. Callaway saw 29 percent of Browns' air yards and ran 93 percent of his routes on the boundary while Jarvis Landry kicked into the slot on 70 percent of his routes. Obviously, most of Callaway's Week 2 output came on the would-be game-winning 47-yard TD pass from Tyrod Taylor. On that play, Callaway reached a top speed of 21.5mph, the third-fastest top speed for all WRs this year behind Tyreek Hill (who owns the No. 1 and No. 2 top speed recordings). As Cleveland's new deep threat sans Josh Gordon, the Browns new No. 2 receiver should be added in all 12-team leagues.
Since Devonta Freeman (knee) is out multiple weeks and doesn't really have timetable for return, rookie Ito Smith is the Falcons new No. 2 back by default. Smith isn't on the starting fantasy radar yet, but he played 30 percent of Atlanta's snaps in Week 2 against Carolina, parlaying his ten touches into 54 yards of offense. Tevin Coleman is a low-end RB1 when Freeman is on the sideline, but Ito Smith will have significant weekly upside should anything happen to Coleman in the next few weeks. Per Next Gen Stats, Smith gained 6.9 yards after a defender closed within one-yard, the second-best clip for RBs behind Matt Breida (11.7) in Week 2. Smith certainly deserves a speculative add in deep-bench formats.
The Ravens first two games have been bizarre to say the least. In Week 1, Baltimore beat the lifeless Bills early and often, putting up 26 points while Buffalo goose-egged the first half. Then, in Week 2, the Bengals hung 28 first-half points and buried any potential positive game-script for rushing output for the Ravens. Through two games, Allen has marginally out-snapped Collins (44 percent to 42 percent), the duo has split touches (20 to 20), and Allen has out-targeted Collins sharply (13 to 5). Make no mistake: Collins is still the Baltimore back to have on your fantasy squad. Over the last two years, Collins has averaged 3.0 yards after contact and 0.17 missed tackles per carry compared to Allen's paltry 2.2 YAC and 0.11 missed tackles/carry. Regardless of his poor year-over-year efficiency, Buck Allen may be a thorn in Collins' side all season. Baltimore's coaching staff gave Allen the NFL's quietest 199 carries in 2017, and early 2018 usage shows us Buck is here to stay again.
Players to drop:
Once again, Parker tops the Drop List. He's still rostered in far too many fantasy leagues. Parker was "supposed" to be active in Week 2 after a finger injury sidelined him for most of the preseason and on Opening Day, but Parker still did not play. Asked after the game if he was all right with being inactive in Week 2, Parker responded, "Of course not... I felt pretty good." Welp. Miami has four receivers they can roll with over Parker. Even if he plays next week, it's clear Parker has fallen out of favor with the Dolphins.
Even though he was active in Week 2, Mariota did not play against the Texans while he continued nursing an elbow injury. At press-time on Monday, Mariota's status has not changed. Titans' head coach Mike Vrabel said Mariota still can't make "certain throws" and that he remains day-to-day. Even if Mariota can suit up in Week 3, he'll have to face the Jags' vaunted secondary. Then, in Weeks 4-7, the Titans have a precarious schedule ahead of their Week 8 bye (vs. Eagles, at Bills, vs. Ravens, at Chargers). Even if he were 100 percent healthy, it would be tough to trust Mariota over the next month of games.
Once again a healthy scratch in Week 2, the No. 38 overall pick in the 2018 Draft has zero fantasy value. Ronald Jones carried the ball 28 times for 22 yards and only played on 18 percent of Bucs' first-team snaps in the preseason. Now, he can't make the Bucs' active roster over undrafted free agent Shaun Wilson from Duke. If you haven't already, it's time to bail on Jones in your re-draft fantasy leagues.
Even though the disappointment has not been to the extent of fellow rookie back Ronald Jones, the No. 35 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Nick Chubb, has barely seen the field in Weeks 1-2. Through two games, Chubb has played only seven snaps and touched the ball five times. That's it. Meanwhile, Carlos Hyde (56 percent) and Duke Johnson (41 percent) are soaking up all of the Browns' snaps. Unless there is an injury in front of him, Chubb has zero standalone value in fantasy.
Hurns was a bit of a trendy 11th round pick in re-draft leagues this year, but it's clear that the Cowboys receiver rotation is going to be a pit of despair in 2018. Dallas has installed a WR-by-committee, running Cole Beasley as the "lead receiver" on 97 percent of snaps. The Cowboys' target share through two games is a disaster for fantasy football. Shield your eyes: Beasley (21 percent target share), Deonte Thompson (19 percent), Ezekiel Elliott (19 percent), Allen Hurns (10 percent), Geoff Swaim (8 percent), Michael Gallup (6 percent), and Terrance Williams (6 percent).
Players to stash:
With Leonard Fournette (hamstring) sidelined in Week 2, Corey Grant forced a near time-share with TJ Yeldon against the Patriots. Yeldon led the way in snaps (57 percent to 43 percent) and touches (12 to 10) over Grant last week, but we've seen enough small-sample success to warrant stashing Grant in deep-bench formats. If Fournette's pulled hammy proves cumbersome, Grant has Week 3 FLEX appeal against the Titans. Yeldon only ran two more pass routes than Grant without Fournette in Week 2. Grant turned his 22 routes into 6/57 receiving (on seven targets).
This is Smith's second-straight week as a deep stash, and for good reason! With Delanie Walker (ankle) done for the year, second-year man Jonnu Smith made his first career start in Week 2. Blaine Gabbert only attempted 20 passes in relief of Marcus Mariota (elbow) against the Texans, and he targeted Smith zero times on those throws. Still, despite not seeing any passing looks, Smith's full-time usage was encouraging. In place of the injured Walker, Jonnu Smith played on 100 percent of Titans' snaps and ran a pass route on 18-of-23 pass drop backs.
Look, the Cardinals offense has been an abject disaster so far this year. Through two games, the Cards' have been on the field for just 47 offensive plays per game and gained just 3.70 yards per play. Last year, the average NFL team ran 63.3 plays per game and gained 5.27 yards per play. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford has struggled mightily in Weeks 1-2, owning a 4.0 Pass YPA and 55.6 Passer Rating. At the very least, Seals-Jones' usage has been promising in Weeks 1-2. He's played on 95 percent of Arizona's snaps, ran a pass route on 93 percent of Bradford's drop backs, and Seals-Jones is second on the team in both target share (20 percent) and Cards' share of air yards (24 percent). Hopefully, rookie Josh Rosen starts sooner rather than later.