Week 3 Fantasy Football Priority Pickups: Trying to overcome rash of NFL injuries

Andy Behrens
·9 mins read

The NFL injury landscape was already pretty terrible entering Sunday's action. Today, it's a nightmare. No position was spared. It was among the worst weeks for injuries in recent memory. Week 2 almost certainly left a mark on your fantasy rosters.

We'll do our best to help repair your damaged squads. Each week throughout the regular season, we offer a group of priority pickups in advance of waiver deadlines. It's never been more necessary than it is right now. You may need to bump these recommended offers up a few dollars in your leagues, because so many managers will be competing for scarce FA resources. Every player listed below is available in a substantial majority of the Yahoo universe. Let's get to work...

Running backs who deserve our attention

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers (39% rostered)

We came into the season knowing that Austin Ekeler wouldn't have the Chargers' backfield entirely to himself, but few of us imagined there would be so many touches up for grabs. Joshua Kelley had a terrific NFL debut, receiving goal-line work in the opener (which he converted emphatically) and rushing for 60 yards on a dozen carries. He was even busier on Sunday in the overtime loss to KC, handling a team-high 25 touches and gaining 113 scrimmage yards. With a workload like that, he's an auto-add.

Kelley looked awfully comfortable as a receiving option, hauling in two balls for 49 yards, including this 35-yarder. He's actually seen one of the highest percentages of stacked boxes through two weeks (31.4% per Next Gen Stats), so it's not as if he's benefiting from friendly looks.

Ekeler isn't exactly starved for volume, having handled 20 touches in each of the Bolts' first two games. But Kelley is legit, and the team trusts him in goal-to-go situations. Justin Jackson may again enter this backfield mix when healthy, but Kelley is clearly running ahead of him. Next week's matchup is as good as it gets (Carolina), so add aggressively.

Recommended waiver offer, assuming $100 budget: $24

Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams (30%)

Yeah, OK: Another week, another Rams RB. It's possible you're just gonna wait for the Cam Akers takeover that was promised in the offseason. The only problems with that plan are A) Akers suffered a rib injury on Sunday, exiting the game, and B) Henderson was terrific in the win over Philly.

Henderson delivered 121 total yards on his 14 touches, plowing into the end zone for his team's final score...

The LA backfield is probably going to be a spin-the-wheel situation indefinitely, and next week's matchup isn't a layup (at Buffalo). You can't throw the entire acquisition budget at Henderson. But we also can't ignore him, not after a triple-digit yardage performance against a once-respectable Philly run defense.

Offer: $11

Devonta Freeman and Dion Lewis, New York Giants (15% and 7%)

By now, you’ve surely seen Saquon Barkley suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday. Here’s hoping for a smooth, full recovery for the brilliant player. In Barkley’s absence, Lewis handled 14 touches and gained 56 yards, scoring New York’s only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. The Giants had no other active options behind Lewis, so his workload was guaranteed.

Lewis, who averaged just 3.5 YPC in Tennessee over the past two seasons, is more of a rotational runner, not someone who could step right into Barkley’s projected workload. Devonta Freeman is reportedly set to join the Giants, pending the usual required testing. He’s entering a new system at mid-season and coming off an unimpressive year (3.6 YPC in 2019), but he’ll be the closest thing on this roster to an every-down back. He has three separate 50-catch seasons on his resume, so we know he’s an all-situation back.

We’re likely to see a committee arrangement featuring Freeman and Lewis, perhaps with a dash of Wayne Gallman, who was inactive on Sunday. We can’t advise you to go all-in on anyone in this backfield, but there is some flex-appeal here.

Offer for Freeman: $19

Offer for Lewis: $8

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers (24%)

McKinnon went from a feel-good story to a must-add fantasy option in a hurry. Raheem Mostert suffered a reportedly mild MCL issue on Sunday and Tevin Coleman also injured a knee, so the Niners are suddenly thin at running back. McKinnon has clearly recovered his old explosiveness following his 2018 ACL tear...

He’s off to a blazing start this season despite limited touches. He’s converted six carries into 101 yards and he’s visited the end-zone in back-to-back games. Jeff Wilson enters the fantasy conversation as well, but McKinnon is the priority. We know he’ll retain a meaningful role after Mostert’s return.

Offer: $10

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins (14%)

A few weeks ago, we were debating whether Matt Breida or Jordan Howard would be Miami's most productive back for fantasy purposes — it may not have been a particularly spirited debate, but it was happening. Turns out the team has instead leaned on a player who was having great practices when the rest of us weren't watching. Gaskin led the Dolphins in rushing on Sunday, carrying seven times for 46 yards, plus he added six catches for another 36 yards. He's produced 148 scrimmage yards over two games, essentially filling the role most of us thought Breida would own. Gaskin was a massively productive four-year player in the Pac-12, but slipped to the seventh round of the 2019 draft. He's passed the eye-test thus far, carving out a flex-worthy role.

Offer: $8

Additional RBs to add: Mike Davis (he caught eight balls on Sunday and, unfortunately, Christian McCaffrey is dealing with an ankle issue that could keep him out multiple weeks), Chase Edmonds (tough to actually play at his current workload, but the upside is significant), Frank Gore (handled 21 uneventful carries in the loss to the Niners).

Wide Receivers to plug and play

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons (21%)

There's a lot to like in Gage's profile as a receiver, but let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that he threw one of the best passes of Week 2...

Pure sabotage from Julio right there, an unbelievable drop. Alas.

Despite Gage's lack of passing touchdowns, he's putting together a pretty impressive season. He saw a dozen targets in the opener, catching nine balls for 114 yards, then snagged another six catches for 46 yards and a score on Sunday. Gage has been a short-to-intermediate specialist, averaging 7.2 air yards per target while Jones and Calvin Ridley have worked deep. He finds himself tied to a pass-heavy and high-scoring offense, with a series of appealing matchups ahead. Let's not overthink this.

It feels meaningful that Gage still saw nine targets in a week in which Hayden Hurst was seriously involved. There should be a spot for Gage on someone's roster in any 12-team league, especially for those who just lost Courtland Sutton for the season.

Offer: $12

Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars (3%)

If you saw this Cole resurgence coming ... well, wow. He hadn't actually made much fantasy noise since 2017, but he's spiked in each of the first two weeks this season. He's now up to 12 targets, 11 receptions, 105 yards and two scores. He somehow has five more targets than D.J. Chark on the year. If you can use a little of this in your fantasy life...

...then give Cole a long look. He's almost universally available at the moment, and he's a preferred target of a quarterback who's absolutely rolling (see below). Cole has definitely entered the WR3 conversation in any format. Chark led all Jaguars receivers in snaps on Sunday (59), but Cole was right behind him (51).

Offer: $8

Other notable WR/TE options: Corey Davis (he topped 100 yards in the opener and delivered a TD on Sunday), Michael Pittman Jr. (saw six targets against the Vikes and his team's receiving corps has suffered multiple injuries), Golden Tate (back in the mix and Shepard has a toe malfunction), Laviska Shenault Jr. (he was hyped here last week, then saw plenty of work as both a rusher and receiver), Tim Patrick (because, as mentioned above, the news on Sutton’s knee is awful), Dalton Schultz (stepped right into Jarwin's projected workload, catching nine balls against the Falcons), Mo Alie-Cox (delivered 111 yards, shining in relief of Jack Doyle), Tyler Eifert (another piece of the unstoppable Jaguars scoring machine).

Quarterbacks worth adding

Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars (32%)

Minshew was a recommended add last week and he's given us no reason to toss him on the discard pile. He followed up his 3-touchdown opening week performance with a 339-yard, 3-TD effort against the Titans, in a narrow loss. He's now averaging 7.9 yards per attempt and completing 75.4 percent of his throws. His receiving corps is full of talent beyond Chark and his aesthetic is unmatched. Minshew offers tangibles and intangibles.

Also, please note the Jags' upcoming schedule heading into their Week 7 bye: Miami, at Cincinnati, at Houston, Detroit. We can expect the streak of multi-touchdown games to continue into October. Add and enjoy.

Offer: $9

Also addable at QB: Philip Rivers (he gets to face the Jets, Bears, Browns and Bengals in the month ahead), Mitchell Trubisky (approved for use at Atlanta, but MUST NOT WATCH), Ryan Tannehill (coming off a 4-TD performance and a sad Vikings defense awaits).

Defense to stream

Los Angeles Chargers (30%)

Even in an overtime defeat, the Chargers defense impressed in Week 2, allowing only 23 total points to the Chiefs. Joey Bosa introduced himself (rudely) to Patrick Mahomes, finishing with one sack and a pair of QB hits. Next Sunday, the Bolts have a date with Carolina, so the degree-of-difficulty isn't nearly as severe, especially with CMC expected to be out. We're gonna use this group in Weeks 6-7 as well, when they face the Jets and Dolphins in back-to-back games.

Offer: $2

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