Top fantasy football last-minute pickups for Sunday

NOTE: This column has been updated to take out players from Thursday night's Colts-Patriots game (Nyheim Hines, Ryan Grant).

Each week of the NFL campaign we sift through the deeper options at each position with an eye on identifying streaming fantasy commodities with valuable matchups to consider.

As bye weeks enter the scene and injuries mount, the need for replacement options grows. We have some choice names to consider for those seeking widely available options at each position.


Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

My selections, beginning with Baltimore's quarterback, are made from the pool of players rostered in 20 percent or fewer of ESPN leagues prior to the Tuesday waiver period. If there is one key thing different about the Ravens this season, it is the addition of John Brown, who has stretched the offensive scheme. This is obviously good for Flacco, who has benefitted not only from throwing the third-most passes of 15 yards or more, but also has thrown the 10th-highest number of passes that traveled fewer than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Flacco draws the Cleveland Browns, who allow the ninth-most passing yards. Alone, the passing yardage would be enough reason to stream Flacco, but the Browns' defense has outperformed against quarterbacks in regards to scoring, as the number of passing touchdowns they've allowed (seven) is considerably lower than the other teams that have surrendered as many passing yards (10 TDs). That type of difference typically regresses to the norm, making the Browns a desirable opponent for fantasy quarterbacks. -- Daube

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Only the Bucs and Saints have yielded more yards per dropback to enemy arms than the 7.75 the Chargers are surrendering so far this season. The Chargers also have allowed the third-highest touchdown rate and have the league's 10th-lowest sack rate. The return of Joey Bosa can't come soon enough for the Chargers, but won't come in time for Sunday's visit from Carr and his volume-driven passing attack -- he's tied for sixth in the league with 36 attempts per game. Carr's touchdown rate just spiked a bit thanks to last week's four-score outing, but he's still due for some progression in that department given the sheer number of attempts we can project for him as a road underdog, assuming game script continues to prove pass-happy for the Raiders. Until the Chargers prove consistently effective on defense, I'm comfortable streaming midlevel signal-callers, such as Carr, against them. -- McCormick

Running back

Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake is quickly moving into bust territory, as he has run for just 6 total yards his past two games. Gore, meanwhile, has been more productive with his carries, gaining almost 4 yards per carry. This deep on the waiver wire there isn't much of anything, so getting 10 carries from Gore against the Cincinnati Bengals could easily amount to 40-plus yards and a score, as the Bengals allow opposing running backs to average more than 4.2 yards per carry.

Wide receiver

Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars

For the first three weeks of the season, it was a waiting game to see which, if any, Jaguars wide receiver would emerge as their top option. Westbrook may have just claimed that role with his 13 targets for nine receptions and 130 yards from the slot against the New York Jets. For comparison, the only other wide receivers to reach those metrics in a single game so far this season are Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Corey Davis and Adam Thielen. Consider that Westbrook faces the Chiefs, who already have allowed two games in which an opposing wide receiver amassed at least 195 yards and two scores, and the potential for another monster game is very real. -- Daube

Tight end

Rhett Ellison, New York Giants

In two of their three games, the Carolina Panthers have allowed opposing tight ends to score at least 18 fantasy points. The Giants don't have much tight end depth with Evan Engram still sidelined. Enter Ellison, who has three catches in each of the past two games. Look for Ellison to see at least five targets, which has solid potential for a production level of four catches for 50 yards. That'd be solid production this deep on the waiver wire. -- Daube

Antonio Gates, Los Angeles Chargers

During the first two weeks of the season, Gates netted a catch on just 6.7 percent of his routes. The past two games, this rate has leapt to 14.7 percent, above the teamwide average of 13.1 percent during this sample. Only Mike Williams has averaged more air yards per target than the 9.7 Gates has the past two weeks from Philip Rivers, while last week saw a vintage red zone touchdown surface for the former collegiate hoopster. The Raiders have ceded 13.3 fantasy points to tight ends dating back to the start of last season, eighth most in the league, while Gates is one of the stronger candidates in the touchdown-or-bust tier of tight ends. --McCormick

Defense/special teams

Arizona Cardinals

When grabbing a streaming option at D/ST, sometimes the choice just comes down to which quarterback they will be facing. In this case, the Cardinals will square off against C.J. Beathard. While Beathard posted respectable numbers against the Chargers, the 49ers' receiving options won't scare anyone. Beathard is much more likely to post numbers comparable to last season, when he averaged less than 237 passing yards and 0.6 touchdowns per start. -- Daube

San Francisco 49ers

Streaming a defense that has allowed 67 points the past two weeks likely qualifies as bold, but bear with me. The Cardinals enter town with a raw rookie behind center and the 49ers have some encouraging defensive metrics to consider. For one, San Francisco has allowed just 6.96 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, seventh lowest in the league, and was effective in pressuring passers the first two weeks of the season (nearly 30 percent of dropbacks). As is the case with most D/ST endorsements, this is still mostly about the matchup metrics, with the Cardinals allowing opposing defenses to average 10.5 fantasy points, third most in the league this season. -- McCormick

Individual defensive players

Defensive line

Mario Addison, Carolina Panthers

We can use Addison's early bye to our advantage, as his deflated ownership offers a nice buying opportunity for a player with at least one sack in two of three appearances, who next faces a permeable Giants offensive line. -- McCormick


Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals

Projected as a top-20 fantasy contributor at the position immediately upon his return from suspension, Burfict is widely available and poised for a solid outing against the visiting Dolphins. -- McCormick

Defensive back

Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons

A series of season-ending injuries at safety in Atlanta propelled Kazee into a starting free safety role that saw him play all 73 defensive snaps, including a team-high 21 in run support this past Sunday against the Bengals. Facing another high-octane AFC North offense in Pittsburgh this week, Kazee should again prove busy. -- McCormick