Fantasy Football Week 3 Early Waiver Wire: Drew Brees, James Conner replacements
Another week, another round of injuries for Fantasy players to deal with. Dave Richard takes a look at the ramifications of Drew Brees' injury before looking ahead to the waiver wire.
When Drew Brees tried and failed to grip a football on the sidelines during Sunday's game against the Rams, we assumed the injury was going to cost him some time. That was confirmed Monday, as multiple reports indicate Brees is expected to undergo surgery on his thumb in the coming days and will likely need around six weeks to recover.
Brees still has to determine how extensive the procedure will be and when it will occur, while the Saints will have to determine whether they wish to wait Brees out or put him on Injured Reserve. If they follow the latter route, they can designate him to return, but it would require him to sit out six weeks of practice, and he would not be able to return until Week 12 against the Panthers.
So, we'll call it a six- to nine-week timetable for Brees to return to action. Either way, we're looking at a significant absence, one that makes Brees droppable heading into Week 3. And while Brees himself hasn't been much of a Fantasy superstar over the last couple of seasons, his impact on the Saints overall offense cannot be overstated.
We might have seen a preview of that Sunday, with Teddy Bridgewater taking over for Brees. Bridgewater, who figures to start in Brees' place, completed just 17 of 30 passes for 165 yards, a 5.5 Y/A, with no touchdowns. Bridgewater should fare better than that moving forward — the Rams are a pretty tough matchup to be thrown into — but it's fair to wonder at this point how much better he can be; we haven't seen him as a starter since 2015, and while he was a solid game-manager type then, we just haven't seen much of him since suffering a catastrophic knee injury.
In fairness, the Saints do believe in Bridgewater, as they gave him a $7.5 million deal to be the highest-paid backup in the NFL for situations just like this. However, he averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt this preseason as well. There just isn't a ton of evidence that Bridgewater can make an impact at this point, though it's fair to say that preseason action and a handful of meaningless snaps may not exactly tell the whole story here.
Still, Bridgewater figures to be a downgrade on Brees, at the very least. We should expect to see more from Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray in the running game, and Bridgewater will likely figure to lean on both in the short passing game as well. Kamara remains a sure-fire No. 1 running back. However, with just 11 carries in two games, you'll want to avoid Murray as a starter in the short term.
Michael Thomas should remain the top target in the passing game, of course, and while Bridgewater is no Brees, he is an accurate passer who should be able to maintain relatively high volume with Thomas. Bridgewater still looked Thomas' way 11 times on his 30 pass attempts Sunday. Thomas won't be as efficient, and touchdowns will be tougher to come by, but you're still going to be starting him in nearly all circumstances. Bridgewater should be at least competent, and that should be all Thomas needs.
However, that might be it on this offense. Jared Cook is the only player on the Saints besides Thomas and Kamara with 10 targets this season, and with Bridgewater in instead of Brees, that probably isn't going to be enough to make him much more than a low-end, coin-flip kind of tight end. Breakout hopes for Tre'Quan Smith and Ted Ginn have to be put on hold for the time being, too.
Brees' injury doesn't just hurt the Saints' Fantasy outlook, of course; it also directly impacts the outlook of Fantasy players who were using him. And, since he was started in 70% of leagues in Week 2, that's a pretty big number of you. Here are some quarterbacks to consider adding for Week 3 and beyond:
- Jimmy Garoppolo (70%), vs. PIT in Week 3 — A couple of touchdowns called back in Week 1 would have made his line look a lot better, and he showed that with a masterful performance in Week 2. The 49ers are still figuring out who they trust at the skill positions, but it's clear they have talent, and Kyle Shanahan has done a good job scheming them open. That should continue.
- Josh Allen (62%), vs. CIN in Week 3 — Allen gets to face that Cincy defense Garoppolo just torched, and with two rushing touchdowns in as many weeks, it's clear he's still a big threat in that part of the game. Allen will leave points on the board every week with errant throws — he could have had a massive Week 2 if he hadn't overthrown John Brown on a long bomb — but he's been productive enough to trust against this matchup.
- Andy Dalton (30%), vs. BUF in Week 3 — Dalton's weapons aren't as bad as we thought without A.J. Green, and early returns on new coach Zac Taylor have been very promising. Buffalo can be a tough matchup, but Dalton is worth a look, especially if Green makes an earlier-than-expected return.
- Jacoby Brissett (26%), vs. ATL in Week 3 — The Colts would prefer if Brissett didn't have to throw much, and they've mostly been able to avoid that early on. That might not be possible against the Falcons in Week 3, and with a better-than-you-think receiving corps, Brissett (5 TD, 1 INT this season) could be passable in a potential shootout.
Early Waiver Targets
PIT Pittsburgh • #38
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
It goes without saying that Samuels would be an incredibly good Fantasy option if James Conner were to miss playing time. Samuels admirably replaced Conner last season, notching at least 8 non-PPR/15 PPR Fantasy points in each of three starts. There's not quite as much upside to Samuels if Mason Rudolph is in charge of the Steelers offense, but he'd still be a starting running back with 15-touch potential.
Frank Gore RB
BUF Buffalo • #20
Age: 36 • Experience: 15 yrs.
A week ago this time, we were anticipating Devin Singletary's takeover of the Bills backfield. But toward the end of Week 2, Singletary limped off across the length of the field and Gore, who started the game, finished things up for the Bills. And he wasn't bad — the 83 total yards he had are his fourth-highest since the start of last season. Better yet, he's got a home date with the Bengals in Week 3. Gore is the best band-aid running back a Fantasy manager could grab, with T.J. Yeldon also a low-end consideration, provided Singletary misses the game.
KC Kansas City • #34
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Damien Williams left Week 2 with a right knee contusion, and LeSean McCoy left with an ankle injury late. If either player misses Week 3, then rookie Darwin Thompson will scoot right back into the Fantasy spotlight. I loved what I saw from Thompson during the preseason — he's a smaller speed back with good hands, and is better in pass protection than anyone expected. If Williams and McCoy BOTH miss Week 3, then Thompson is at the forefront of a nice dose of touches (as would be Darrel Williams — 1% owned). It'll be against a tough Ravens run defense, but one that can't afford to stack the box and risk Mahomes firing off cannonballs downfield.
KC Kansas City • #11
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
It's pretty simple, really: If you catch passes from Patrick Mahomes, you have a shot to be a Fantasy hero. That was the case this week as Robinson and Mecole Hardman (48%) reaped big numbers while the Raiders looked to take Sammy Watkins away. Robinson has been toiling as a role player for the Chiefs but exploded for four pass plays of 25 plus yards, three of them in the second quarter and two of them for touchdowns. Hardman continued to play a lot of snaps and came through for 61 yards on four catches and six targets, with a 42-yard touchdown and a 72-yard touchdown wiped off the board by a holding penalty. There could be a lot of volatility in both of their numbers for however long Tyreek Hill is sidelined, but both are worth locking into lineups as No. 3 options in what should be a shootout with the Ravens in Week 3.
SF San Francisco • #31
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Tevin Coleman picked the wrong time to get hurt. The 49ers run offense completely overwhelmed the Bengals defense, creating room for three different players to earn 10-plus Fantasy points in non-PPR. Matt Breida had the most yards, but Mostert had the most touches; Jeff Wilson (0%), fresh off the practice squad, had the most touchdowns. Interestingly enough, it was Mostert who played the most snaps with 34, followed by Breida with 21 and Wilson with 15 (10 in the fourth quarter). San Francisco gets the Steelers at home next week — not an easy matchup, but if Pittsburgh's offense can't move without Ben Roethlisberger, there will be carries to be had. Mostert should be considered a usable flex; Wilson's more of a bench stash and desperation option for lineups.
More names to know
- Deebo Samuel (available in 75% of CBS Sports leagues): Samuel led the 49ers receivers, George Kittle included, in targets, catches and yards on Sunday along with a 2-yard touchdown. He played 29 snaps, fewer than Dante Pettis (35 snaps, no targets) and Marquise Goodwin (38 snaps, three targets caught for 77 yards and a wide-open touchdown), but he clearly showed off a capable skill-set that the Niners could use now. Samuel could replace A.J. Brown, Danny Amendola, Donte Moncrief, Anthony Miller, James Washington or even Pettis on your bench.
- Marquise Goodwin (available in 63% of CBS Sports leagues): See above.
- Terry McLaurin (available in 50% of CBS Sports leagues): The rookie looks like Washington's No. 1 receiver. He's scored in consecutive weeks and come away with nice yardage each time on heavy snap usage. Look, someone's going to have to catch the football in Washington when they're playing from behind. This speedy, tall receiver seems prepared to be that guy. You might want to grab him and bench him, though — the Bears come to D.C. in Week 3.
- D.J. Chark (available in 79% of CBS Sports leagues): It's OK if you didn't buy into Chark last week — almost no one did. But that's going to change after he came down with a Gardner Minshew touchdown late in the Jaguars' loss to the Texans. He also led the Jaguars in targets with nine, catching seven for a modest 55 yards. He's a giant at 6-foot-4 and has made plays in each of two games so far. There's a lot of risk — he's not a very refined receiver, his quarterback doesn't exactly come with a strong pedigree, and his team could really stink. Their schedule moving forward also suggests some struggles (Tennessee this Thursday, then at Denver, then at Carolina, then home versus New Orleans). It wouldn't hurt to have him as a back-up plan if you miss on one of the Chiefs' breakout receivers off waivers.
- Will Dissly (available in 94% of CBS Sports leagues): It's encouraging that Dissly caught all five of his targets for 50 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn't mean he'll do it every week. We've seen Seahawks tight ends play well one week and fall off the next. Dissly himself has struggled to stay healthy (he started this week as a question mark to play). The Saints visit the Seahawks next, not a favorable matchup for Dissly.
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