What's your goal when looking at who to add on the waiver wire? Your answer to that question will vary from week to week and team to team, but if you drill down to the core of it, it's pretty simple: You're looking for a difference maker. There are always players available who can chip in a handful of points every week, and they come in handy when you've got injuries or bye weeks, but what you ultimately want are players who can elevate your team, not just plug a hole.
Some examples this season include Justin Herbert, Mike Davis, Travis Fulgham and … well, OK, there aren't any good examples at tight end, but still! Adding any one of those players -- among several others -- helped take your Fantasy lineup to another level, and for many might be the difference between a trip to the playoffs and an early end to the season.
There will be guys who can plug holes in your lineup available in Week 11, but I want to focus on potential difference makers to kick off my early look at the waiver wire. Here's one from each position based on this week's action so far:
Potential difference maker at QB: Jameis Winston (4%)
The Saints' game plan didn't change much when Winston came in for Drew Brees, who suffered a rib injury that kept him out the entire second half and seems likely to cost him multiple weeks at this point. Of course, it didn't have to change much, because the 49ers never truly felt like a threat. We know who Winston is at this point, and while that isn't a great NFL quarterback, his aggressiveness has usually served him very well in Fantasy. If he gets to start in Week 11, expect to see him push the ball down the field more than Brees typically does, and with a matchup against the Falcons on the way next Sunday -- and again two Sundays later, if Brees does have to miss multiple weeks -- Winston might just be a top 12 Fantasy QB.
Potential difference maker at RB: Cam Akers (43%)
Coming out of the bye week, Akers led the Rams in rush attempts (10) and yards (38), which is a solid sign for someone with real second-half breakout potential. Of course, Sunday also highlighted the roadblocks in Akers' way because Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson both scored touchdowns while combining for 16 touches. Akers will need to carve out a bigger role and do so consistently, but this might have been a first step to doing so. This is more an upside stash play, but if Akers does earn a 15-touch-per-game role down the stretch, you could be very happy you have him around.
Potential difference maker at WR: Jalen Reagor (37%)
All the way back in training camp, it seemed like Reagor had established himself as the Eagles No. 1 receiver before a shoulder injury knocked him out for the start of the season. He's also had to battle through a hamstring injury since, but he seems healthy and seems to be re-establishing himself. He was second on the team with six targets in his return to the lineup in Week 8 and then followed that up with a team-high seven targets Sunday. Like the rest of the Eagles passing game, he didn't have a great game (four catches for 47 yards), but it's noteworthy that, with Alshon Jeffery and Miles Sanders back, it was Travis Fulgham, not Reagor, who took a step back. Carson Wentz has to play better for anyone to be a difference maker in this offense, but if that happens, Reagor could be a must-start guy down the stretch.
Potential difference maker at TE: Jordan Reed (31%)
And here's why you want to give guys a grace period when they are returning from injury before you judge them too harshly. Reed barely made a dent in Week 9 against the Packers, but with an extra long week to prepare for Week 10, he was ready for a bigger role Sunday, catching five of six targets for 62 yards, all of which were good for second on the team. Reed figures to remain a focal point for the 49ers with George Kittle likely done for the season, but there's just one catch: The 49ers are on bye in Week 11.
Here's who else figures to be on our radars heading into Week 11 on the waiver wire:
Early Waiver Targets
Salvon Ahmed RB
MIA Miami • #26
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Even with Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida out Sunday, the Dolphins had Jordan Howard inactive for the game against the Chargers, a sign of the faith they have in Ahmed. He got the start and dominated running back work for the Dolphins, rushing for 85 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. Ahmed wasn't involved much in the passing game (one target), however he ultimately received 21 of 29 running back touches for the Dolphins, with no other back having more than three. Breida may be back in Week 11, and Gaskin could be back shortly after that, but Ahmed should be added in case he gets the opportunity to start in Week 11 against the Broncos.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #31
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
As with Ahmed, we entered Sunday not really knowing how work would be divvied up in the Chargers backfield, and though Ballage didn't dominate rushing work like Ahmed did, he still received 23 of 30 running back touches, including six targets. Ballage has topped 80 yards in both of his games with the Chargers, and though Justin Jackson could return to take some of that work -- and Austin Ekeler will eventually take all of that work, though likely not in Week 11 -- Ballage is a lead back in a good offense, and that's worth chasing, even if it's just a short-term thing.
Nyheim Hines RB
IND Indianapolis • #21
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
It would be a mistake to think that since Hines dominated work for the Colts in Week 10 that he will do so again in Week 11 and beyond. It's clear what Frank Reich's plan is at this point: He's going to get Jonathan Taylor, Jordan Wilkins and Hines involved in the game plan early and then ride the hot hand from there. Thursday, that meant Hines, and the one thing he has going for him is a dedicated role -- we know Hines is going to get most of the receiving work. That means, if he gets double-digit carries in any given week, he's likely going to be a pretty good Fantasy option.
IND Indianapolis • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Pittman might actually be the more interesting of the Colts waiver-wire targets ahead of Week 11, because unlike Hines, Pittman has very little competition if he really has established himself as the team's top target in the passing game. He led the team with eight targets (seven catches, 101 yards) in Week 11, and had seven targets for four catches and 56 yards in Week 9, his second game back from a leg injury since late September. The Colts are always going to include their running backs and tight ends in the passing game pretty heavily, but Pittman has shown he can have value if he gets the chance.
P.J. Walker QB
CAR Carolina • #6
Age: 25 • Experience: 1 year
If you're in a two-QB league, you'll definitely want to take a look at Walker given Teddy Bridgewater's knee injury. That injury isn't considered serious right now, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the MRI taken Monday reveals that he has to miss at least one week, which would push Walker into a starting role. Walker was one of the stars of the short-lived XFL season, and his athleticism could make him a viable Fantasy option. The Panthers have decent weapons, so if Walker can just be a competent passer while making a few plays with his feet, he could be pretty useful in Week 11 against the Lions if the opportunity presents itself.