Each week of the NFL season, we will identify fantasy football waiver-wire pickups specifically for those of you looking for streaming options in deeper formats (including IDP leagues). These are players available in a majority of ESPN Fantasy leagues (or close) who have enticing matchups in the week ahead that make them worthy of consideration for your lineups.
While you might notice some overlap with Field Yates' pickup column that publishes on Mondays, an important distinction is that the options mentioned in this column are focused solely on this week's matchup and not the players' values for the remainder of the season.
Roster percentages are updated on Friday each week. Players from Thursday night's Buccaneers-Eagles game have been taken out of this column.
Darnold was dreadful for the Panthers in last week's loss against the Eagles. He held onto the football too long, didn't read Philadelphia's defense well, was erratic in the pocket, and flat-out missed open receivers. So Darnold has had one less-than-stellar game? There's no need to panic.
From Week 1-4 he has averaged 27 fantasy points per game. Darnold is in a better position to bounce back at home against the Vikings this week and the return of running back Christian McCaffrey will help tremendously. Darnold can be viewed as a QB2 with upside this week against a Vikings defense (368.8) that's allowed the 16th most yards per game.
The Jaguars are winless and coach Urban Meyer is making headlines for the wrong reasons, but Lawrence has quietly improved with each game this season. Last week's 273 passing yards was his most since Week 1 (332). Lawrence is also being used more as a runner. He has accumulated 21 rushing attempts over the past three games. The Jaguars' defense (109.62) has allowed the seventh most fantasy points per game. Lawrence will continue to find himself in neutral-to-negative game scripts that only strengthen his fantasy viability. He's on the streaming radar this week against a Dolphins defense that's allowed the sixth most point per game to quarterbacks (22.03).
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team (39.0%; vs. Chiefs)
Last week's performance against the Saints paints a crystal-clear picture that Heinicke cannot be relied upon every week as a starter. He's a matchup-based streamer and the last time I recommended him in this column, Heinicke threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns against the Falcons. Heinicke has another exploitable matchup against the Chiefs in Week 6.
No other team allows the most points to quarterbacks on a per-game basis than Kansas City (28). Heinicke's rushing ability is also understated as he has stockpiled 22 rushing attempts in four starts and has averaged 5.17 yards per attempt. The Chiefs' defense (141) has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game. Kansas City presents a perfect bounce-back opportunity.
Unfortunately, Clyde Edwards-Helaire will miss a few weeks with an MCL sprain. "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity," was mentioned by Sun-Tzu and rings true to Williams' situation. He led the Chiefs with 37 snaps and five rushing attempts against the Bills on Sunday Night Football, and is expected to be Kansas City's lead back, while Jerick McKinnon is used as a receiver out of the backfield. Williams provided us with a glimpse of what he's capable of last season in the playoffs when Edwards-Helaire was injured. In the Chiefs' two playoff games, he stockpiled 155 total yards and a touchdown on 31 touches. He's an excellent plug-and-play RB2 against a Washington defense (120.24) that's surrendered the most points per game this season in fantasy. He's the second-most-added player this week, so he may be gone in your league by now. But if not, opportunity awaits.
Herbert finished last week's game against the Raiders with 18 rushing attempts compared to Damien Williams' 16, and Herbert played more snaps. Williams was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier this week, so if he's unable to go, the backfield should belong solely to Herbert. Even if Williams is activated in time to play on Sunday, there should be enough touches for both in the Bears' run-heavy offense. For those unfamiliar with Herbert, he played his collegiate career at Kansas and Virginia Tech. In 46 college games, Herbert rushed for 2,918 yards and 22 touchdowns on 475 attempts and had 34 receptions for 297 yards and another score. From a film perspective, Herbert has solid balance, play speed and identifies running lanes well. Herbert is a solid RB2, if he has the backfield to himself, and an RB3 or flex option if he has to share against the Packers in Week 6.
Moore was marvelous in the Cardinals' Week 5 win over the 49ers. He displayed his catching ability, play speed, and tackle-breaking ability. Moore was deployed as not only a runner, but also as a receiver and it's worth noting that this is the first time this season that Moore ran more routes than Christian Kirk in a game. He's an excellent flex option or WR3 especially if you are looking for upside.
Bateman's return is imminent and it's coming at a perfect time for the Ravens offense. Quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to develop nicely as a passer. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he's the first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 50 rushing yards in a single game. The Ravens could use another receiving option. Tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise Brown combined for 23 targets. Bateman offers them the versatility to play both on the outside and from the slot. He finished his 31-game collegiate career at Minnesota with 147 receptions, 2,395 receiving yards (sixth in school history) and 19 touchdowns (fifth). You should consider starting Bateman in his first regular-season game.
The window has likely closed on grabbing Gesicki in your league, as he's among the most-added players this week. If somehow he's still there, though, act now. Gesicki has amassed 25 targets over the Dolphins' past three games. His targets per snap is on par with Darren Waller. Although Gesicki has played only 60.8% of Miami's offensive snaps, that paints a picture of how often he has been involved in the Dolphins' passing game. This usage trend is likely to continue against the Jaguars as Jacksonville's defense has allowed the ninth-most points per game to tight ends. Gesicki has TE1 potential you shouldn't overlook.
Henry has caught 10 of 13 targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games and quarterback Mac Jones has a passer rating of 110.4 when targeting him this season. Henry is starting to heat up and should continue to be provided targets. The rapport between Henry and Jones should only strengthen as the season progresses. He's a TE1 against the Dallas Cowboys' defense that has allowed the 10th-most points per game to tight ends entering Week 6.
Alie-Cox is operating as the Colts No. 1 tight end ahead of Jack Doyle. Over the past two games, he has caught 6 of 9 targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns. You can feel comfortable playing Alie-Cox against a Texans defense (20.8) that's allowed the most points per game to his position.
Indianapolis Colts (73.5% rostered; vs. Texans)
You might be shocked to see the Colts as a recommendation after their defensive implosion on Monday Night Football against the Ravens. Indianapolis will be motivated to bounce back defensively against the Texans. Davis Mills threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but don't allow that to blind you from two things. First, Mills is a rookie leading a Texans team with very few playmakers. Second, Houston has allowed 10 sacks, 6 takeaways, and averages a dismal 18 points per game. This is a great recipe for streaming success. Many fantasy managers have already scooped them up to stream this week, but it's worth looking to see if this defense is still available in your league.
Green Bay Packers (44.9% rostered; at Bears)
The Bears are a disaster on offense right now. They rank last in total yards (240) per game and average only 16.8 points per game as an offensive unit that is also near the bottom of the league. On top of that, the Bears have limited the pass attempts of Justin Fields. He has had 24 pass attempts or fewer in four consecutive games. The Bears offensive line has given up 18 sacks. The Packers are in a good spot at home against Chicago's suboptimal offense.
Cincinnati Bengals (44.2% rostered; at Lions)
The Bengals defense wasn't strong enough to subdue Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams last week. However, Cincinnati should have more luck against Jared Goff and the Lions offense. Detroit has averaged 339.6 total yards and 19.6 points per game. The Lions rank near the bottom of the league in both statistical categories. If you're in a bind at the D/ST position, look no further than the Bengals.
Evan McPherson, Cincinnati Bengals (8.3%; at Lions)
McPherson is tied to a Bengals offense that has scored 24 or more points in each of their past three games. Cincinnati's offense shouldn't have trouble accumulating yards against the Lions defense. No other team allows more fantasy points per game to kickers than Detroit.
Zane Gonzalez, Carolina Panthers (0.6%; vs. Vikings)
Darnold and the Panthers look to bounce back at home against the Vikings. Gonzalez made all three of his field goal attempts and an extra point against the Eagles last week. He's in a great position to replicate that performance against the Vikings, who are tied with the Texans for allowing the fourth most points to kickers.
Individual Defensive Players (IDP)
Allen's matchup against the Dolphins becomes even more appetizing now that Tua Tagovailoa is expected to return after fracturing his ribs. Miami throws the football at the second-highest rate in the NFL and their offensive line has allowed the third-most sacks this season. Allen has one of the best matchups of this week if you need a DL streamer.
Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals (37.6%, at Browns)
Simmons has been the most consistent tackle producer on the Cardinals. He's delivering on the hype after Arizona selected him eighth overall in the 2020 NFL draft. He should be busy against a Browns offense that leans heavily on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Johnson was able to get retribution against the Chiefs after getting embarrassed by them during the regular season and playoffs last year. He led the Bills with 12 tackles against Kansas City. Johnson has become one of the most important players on the Buffalo defense. He's in a good spot against the Titans and on the streaming radar.