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, huge news dropped on Monday afternoon: Jay Ajayi (ACL) is out for the season. Ajayi sustained a knee injury in-game during Week 5, but then he quickly returned to the lineup. An MRI on Monday apparently revealed the worst possible news.
Now, fantasy managers have the unenviable task of figuring out the Eagles upcoming running back by committee for the rest of the season. Over Doug Pederson's 39 regular and post season games as the Eagles head coach, a running back has played over 60 percent of team snaps in a single-game three times. That's 7.7 percent of the time.
At press-time, the Eagles have not added a free agent back and will likely roll into Week 6 with a rotation of Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, and Josh Adams. Of course, the caveat is that Corey Clement (quad) hasn't played since Week 3 while 35-year-old Darren Sproles (hamstring) hasn't played since Week 1. Now, Wendell Smallwood's snap rate was trending up for four-straight weeks prior to Ajayi's injury in Weeks 2-5 (30 percent, 35 percent, 47 percent, 49 percent). He's the clear add in this backfield and he's over 99 percent available in NFL.com fantasy leagues. Smallwood has caught three or more balls in each of Carson Wentz's starts this year and he leads all Eagles backs in yards gained after a defender has closed within a yard (4.8; per Next Gen Stats).
Here are the rest of the deep dive adds and drops after you pull your hair out trying to figure out the Eagles backfield:
Players to add:
Perhaps Trubisky's 354-yard, 6 touchdown thrashing of the Bucs' in Week 4 set in motion a series of ceiling weeks we expected from the Bears offense. Trubisky is learning a brand new system, he's surrounded by brand new coaches, and has brand new receivers. It was always going to take time for this offense to gel. With unimposing matchups on the upcoming docket (Dolphins, Patriots, Jets) in Weeks 6-8, Mitchell Trubisky is an intriguing mid-tier QB2 moving forward. Specifically for Trubisky's Week 6 matchup, Miami has allowed 8.3 yards per attempt (seventh-worst) over the last three weeks to Derek Carr, Tom Brady, and Andy Dalton.
Hurst only played on 24 percent of Ravens' snaps in his Week 5 debut, but any tight end with a pulse is fantasy-viable in the 2018 season. It's just where we're at. Hurst only ran 13 pass routes last week (out of 63 dropbacks, per PFF), but he's the obvious favorite to break out of Baltimore's current tight end by committee with Mark Andrews (32 routes in Week 5), Nick Boyle (13), and Maxx Williams (12). Hurst is a versatile receiver and could provide a safety blanket for Joe Flacco underneath. Per PFF, Hurst did not have a single drop in college in 2017 while 43 percent of his total receiving output (43/545/2) came split out in the slot while at South Carolina.
I'm not entirely sure what is going on with Taylor's usage. His snap rate increased for four-straight games in Weeks 1-4 (13 percent, 41 percent, 52 percent, 63 percent) and then cratered back down to 46 percent in Week 5. For whatever reason, the Titans coaching staff does not trust Taylor in a full-time role. Taylor ran behind Nick Williams and Tajae Sharpe in the preseason and, once again, Taylor (15 routes run, per PFF) was behind Sharpe (21) in Week 5. Still, the Titans' desperately need a second fiddle with Delanie Walker (ankle) done for the season and Rishard Matthews (released) on the free agent streets. Taylor is averaging 2.17 yards gained per pass route run, ranking 19th-best out of 83 receivers (PFF data). He's worth a WR5/6 stash once the Titans' schedule eases in a few weeks.
Both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp sustained concussions in Week 5, perhaps opening up a one-off, spot start opportunity for freak-athlete Josh Reynolds in Week 6. The Rams run 11-personnel (3WRs) on 97 percent of their offensive plays, by far the highest rate in the NFL. If Kupp or Cooks -- who just sustained his second known concussion in eight months -- miss Week 6 against Denver, Reynolds will assuredly be a full-time player. In his one spot start in place of an injured Robert Woods last year, Reynolds posted 4/37/1 (on six targets) against the Saints.
Players to drop:
Penny was active in Week 5 ... but that's about where the positives stop. The 2018 first-round pick didn't record a single snap last week against the Rams, sitting on the bench behind now No. 2 back Mike Davis. Last week, Davis (14 touches; 25 snaps) played the "1B" fiddle to "1A" Chris Carson (20 touches; 35 snaps). For better or worse, head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are intent on a backfield committee. That now does not include Penny.
Unfortunately, injuries have slowed Goodwin down during his career and 2018 is looking no different. Goodwin missed Week 5 nursing hamstring and quad injuries. His timetable for return is wide open. With C.J. Beathard under center, it's highly unlikely the 'Niners have multiple fantasy-relevant receivers -- if they can even manage one after George Kittle eats. Over the last two weeks with Beathard at the controls, Kittle has 6/125/1 (on eight targets) and 5/83 (on seven targets). There's just no reasonable path for Goodwin to find his way back into fantasy lineups in the next few weeks.
Even though he's handled 61 percent of Bucs' snaps this year, Barber's usage has been filled with empty calories. His 52 touches have gained a paltry 161 scoreless yards from scrimmage. Among running backs with at least 20 carries this year, Barber is 48th (of 57) in yards gained after a defender closes within a yard, per Next Gen Stats. Now, Barber's inefficiency has put him back in danger of losing touches to Ronald Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers. In Tampa's Week 4 loss in Chicago, Ronald Jones quietly played 31 percent of team snaps.