The first two weeks of the NFL season were defined as much by who was unable to play as who was, and the same was true when looking at the waiver wire for Fantasy football. Week 2 saw a historic combination of injuries strike a slew of big names, so you simply couldn't talk about anything else.
That wasn't the case in Week 3, thankfully. That's not to say there weren't injuries -- Tarik Cohen likely tore his ACL, Chris Carson left with what could be a serious knee injury, and Jordan Reed (knee), Dallas Goedert (ankle), Diontae Johnson (concussion) and Russell Gage (concussion) all had early exits -- but they weren't the defining story of the day. No, Sunday's biggest story was finally about what guys did on the field, and it was the performance of a group of rookie pass catchers that drew my attention.
By the end of the 1:00 p.m. games Sunday, three rookie receivers ranked among the top seven in Fantasy: Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, and Brandon Aiyuk. All did so in different ways -- Higgins was a red-zone monster, Aiyuk ran the ball three times and had a touchdown on the ground, while Justin Jefferson was nothing less than the best player on the field in his game -- and all three are going to be hot commodities on the wire this week. Here's how I'm prioritizing them:
The Vikings wanted to get someone besides Adam Thielen going, and they moved Jefferson into the starting lineup over Bisi Johnson in Week 3. In most offenses in 2020, the distinction between the No. 2 and 3 wide receiver doesn't matter much, but for the Vikings and their two-WR-heavy offense, it means quite a bit. And Jefferson made the most of his opportunity, emerging for at least one week, as the top target in the offense. He had four catches in one first-half drive and finished the first half with six for 103 yards on seven targets; Adam Thielen had just three targets. Jefferson added just one more catch, but it was a big one, a 71-yard touchdown on a play-action fake that saw him beat one-on-one coverage and then outrun two defenders on the way to the end zone.
Jefferson is unlikely to be the team's No. 1 option moving forward, which makes it sort of difficult to project a huge workload, because Kirk Cousins' 27 pass attempts Sunday were a season high. However, he showed exactly the skills that made him the Vikings first-round pick this year -- and could make him the No. 1 option down the road. For now, he's worth viewing as a must-add player on waivers this week, possibly the must-add player if Myles Gaskin isn't available in your league.
Aiyuk was on pace to be the team's top wide receiver before a hamstring injury in training camp forced him to the sidelines and kept him out of the lineup in Week 1. He worked his way back in Week 2 and then was fully unleashed Sunday, as we saw the multiple ways Kyle Shanahan is going to use him. Aiyuk led the team with five catches for 70 yards on eight targets and he found the end zone on one of his three carries for 31 yards. The 49ers are going to find ways to get the ball into his hands, like the Rams do with Robert Woods, and that skill set and the creative way Shanahan uses his offense could lead to big things. If you want to make Aiyuk the top priority over Jefferson, I won't argue -- they're 1a and 1b for me this week. Both have questions -- "Will the Vikings throw enough for both Jefferson and Thielen to thrive" and, "Does the looming return of Deebo Samuel interfere with Aiyuk's role?" -- but both also have huge upside.
Higgins' upside isn't quite as high in my eyes -- or the path to seeing that upside come to fruition has a few more roadblocks. However, he played a significant role Sunday, coming in second on the team with nine targets and actually ranking first in snaps, per TruMedia. But it was the trust Joe Burrow showed in him near the goal line that really makes Higgins look so enticing. The 33rd overall pick in this year's draft scored from 1 and 4 yards out, scoring both of Burrow's touchdowns in the game. The problem is, Tyler Boyd saw 13 targets in a huge game of his own and A.J. Green isn't just going away either. So Higgins has some competition for targets to deal with. However, Green has really struggled, so if the Bengals decide to lean more on the young guys as the season moves along, Higgins could really break out.
Here's who else we'll be chasing on the wire this week:
Early Waiver Targets
Jeff Wilson RB
SF San Francisco • #30
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
It's hard to know how the 49ers would have used their running backs if Sunday's game had been a bit more competitive, but I imagine it may not have been much different. Jerick McKinnon led the way with 14 carries and three catches, while Wilson had 12 carries and three targets of his own and actually outscored McKinnon in Fantasy. McKinnon dominated work early, so it may have been because the 49ers were up so easily, but with McKinnon's injury history, a role like this always seemed possible for Wilson. Even as the No. 2 back in San Fran, Shanahan's offense is going to create opportunities for him to be a viable Fantasy option, albeit a relatively low-end one.
Carlos Hyde RB
SEA Seattle • #30
Age: 30 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Chris Carson went down awkwardly late in Sunday's game and was in quite a bit of pain while grabbing at his knee, so it certainly didn't look good. We'll have to see if Carson truly suffered a serious injury, but it could make Hyde and Travis Homer worth adding. Hyde would be the priority, though as we saw last season, he's hardly the kind of player to get excited about at this point in his career thanks to his lack of pass-catching skills. Homer would be the third-down back while Hyde should handle early downs and the goal line, but neither would likely be much more than a flex starter unless the matchup is right. Fortunately, the matchup against the Dolphins in Week 4 should be right.
Rex Burkhead RB
NE New England • #34
Age: 30 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Things will likely change when James White returns to the team, but we're seeing why the addition of Cam Newton was so good for the Patriots running backs. Sure, he'll steal the occasional TD (or four in two weeks), but his rushing abilities also make life so much easier for everyone else. The Patriots rushed for 250 yards on Sunday and Burkhead was Newton's primary target in the game, too. The latter is a continuation of a trend we saw in training camp, and makes Burkhead the better add among this group, which also includes Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor coming off solid games Sunday. When White returns it could get too crowded for any of them to be more than low-end Fantasy starters, but given the potential loss of two more running backs this week, you probably can't afford to ignore them.. After all, there were 13 targets and 26 carries to go around between three backs Sunday, and that's plenty even split between three guys.
LV Las Vegas • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Renfrow could have had an even bigger game, but a touchdown just before halftime was overturned as he was ruled down just short of the end zone. I'm not sure I agreed with that ruling, but Renfrow still had a plenty impressive game without it, leading the team in every receiving category. The absence of Henry Ruggs and the Patriots determination to take Darren Waller out of the game (two catches, 9 yards) surely influenced his role, but Renfrow proved he was a reliable option as a rookie, and with Bryan Edwards foot seeming to bother him Sunday, this might have been the start of a larger role for Renfrow.
Jimmy Graham TE
CHI Chicago • #80
Age: 33 • Experience: 11 year
The Bears raved about Graham in training camp, especially about his ability to make plays near the goal line, and that was on display Sunday. He scored from 2 and 3 yards out, with one each coming from Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. Foles' entrance into the game did seem to spark him — he caught four of seven targets for 48 yards after Foles took over for Trubisky. Yeah, yeah, roll your eyes, but he had seven targets in Week 1 too. Graham is a significant part of this offense, don't ignore him just because he has been a bust the last few years.
Eric Ebron TE
PIT Pittsburgh • #85
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Ebron is a lot like Graham in that it's the role near the end zone that makes them look interesting for Fantasy, primarily. That leads to some frustrating stretches — Ebron had just 10.1 Fantasy points in the first two weeks of the season — but it should be enough to make him Fantasy relevant most weeks. I would rather have Graham than Ebron because he faces less competition in his own offense, but both are worth a look if you need a tight end.
ARI Arizona • #17
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
We're still waiting for a truly massive passing game from Kyler Murray, because the high concentration of targets going to DeAndre Hopkins every week makes it hard for anyone else to stand out. But Isabella is starting to do just that. He's a super-quick receiver who was very productive in college, but he failed to make an impact as a rookie. He did Sunday, however, catching two touchdowns, one for 13 and the other for 4 yards. He saw more of a role Sunday after hitting on a long catch in Week 2, and if Christian Kirk's groin injury lingers, Isabella could work his way into the mix as a starting Fantasy option before long.