Best fantasy football waiver wire pickups for Week 5

It’s been a weird week for fantasy football owners. Between coronavirus-related postponements (and a false alarms), injuries both new (Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler, Kenyan Drake) and old (Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin), and a complete lack of defense played by every nearly team, it was almost overwhelming. Our top Week 5 fantasy waiver wire pickups and free agent adds don’t add much reassurance, as there are mostly injury replacements (D’Ernest Johnson, Justin Jackson, Chase Edmonds, Ke’Shawn Vaughn) who have varying degrees of overall value and boom-or-bust WR3s who will have varying degrees of consistency.

Our full free agent list features even more of the these types of players (Tre’Quan Smith, Christian Kirk, Scotty Miller, Tee Higgins, Malcolm Brown, Dalton Schaultz), as well as QB, TE, and D/ST streamer suggestions. Whether you have injury issues, disappointing players, bad matchups, or bye-week problems with Packers and Lions players, we’re always here to offer one-week, matchup-based alternatives. You can find the streamer suggestions at the end of this list.

If you’re in shallow leagues, Joshua Kelley (54 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues) and Phillip Lindsay (49) are obvious top pickups and merit using relatively high waiver claims on, but none of the other players mentioned, with the possible exception of Edmonds, are worth using even using low claims on unless you’re really worried about protecting your injured starters. Johnson and Jackson are close, but both are still backups even if Chubb and Ekeler are out for extended periods. All of the WRs fall into the same category of priority free agent pickups. Generally, it’s fair to use a low waiver claim on a bye-week streamer if you’re in dire straights, but this early in the season, you probably don’t want to take the hit on your waiver position unless you’re already at the bottom. —  Matt Lutovsky

Unless otherwise noted, only players owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues considered.

Austin Ekeler suffered a first-half hamstring injury and didn’t return in the Chargers’ loss to the Buccaneers. With Ekeler out, Kelley led the Chargers backs in carries with nine, though he was only able to turn them into seven yards against a tough run defense. He also caught all three targets for 26 yards, which might be more important for future fantasy purposes. Kelley has proven to be a solid flex at times even with Ekeler healthy, so if he continues to see volume, he should be a good RB2 moving forward, especially with the Chargers taking on the Saints, Jets, Dolphins, and Jaguars in the next four weeks. Kelley is owned in 54 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he should be a priority pickup in the leagues where he’s available. —Jacob Camenker

Lindsay (toe) was nearly ready to return from a two-game absence in Week 4 against the Jets, but on the short week, the Broncos elected to hold him out. Lindsay is owned in just 49 percent of Yahoo leagues but could end up with as much as a 50-50 carry split with Melvin Gordon when he’s back and fully healthy. He may not be worth playing in a tough Week 5 matchup with the Patriots, but his next four games are against beatable run defenses (Dolphins, Chiefs, Falcons, Raiders). Stash him now. —JC

The undrafted second-year back out of South Florida had just five carries entering Sunday’s game against Dallas, but he made the most of his opportunity when Nick Chubb exited in the first half. Johnson wound up leading the Browns in carries (13) and rushing yards (95), averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per carry.. Kareem Hunt had both running back touchdowns, but it seems clear that if Chubb is forced to miss more time, Johnson will be heavily involved in the Browns offense. Cleveland’s next two matchups aren’t particularly favorable (vs. Colts, @ Steelers), but Johnson is still worth adding as a handcuff to either Chubb or Hunt, should the former miss more time or the latter aggravate the groin injury that had him listed as “questionable” coming into Week 3. —Matt Lutovsky

Smith was extremely efficient against the Lions on Sunday, as he caught all four of his targets for 54 yards and two TDs. He may see a downtick in opportunities with Michael Thomas potentially returning from a hamstring injury in Week 5, but maybe he’ll emerge as one of Drew Brees’ top-three targets with Jared Cook (groin) also banged up. The Saints will next play a Chargers pass defense that just allowed Tom Brady to throw five TDs last week, so Smith can at least be trusted in that matchup. —JC

Cardinals coaches didn’t seem overly concerned about the chest injury that knocked Kenyan Drake out of Sundaay’s game against the Panthers, but fantasy owners know that every injury is a potential worry, especially when the handcuff running back is a fairly proven veteran like Edmonds. He totalednine touches for 40 total yards and a scorein Week 4, and while the garbage-time touchdown is easy to dismiss, it all counts the same for fantasy owners. Edmonds is worth stashing, as he could see more more work with if Drake is healthy given how much he’s struggled. Arizona has some favorable matchups against the Jets andCowboys coming up in the next two weeks. —ML

Austin Ekeler appeared to suffer a serious hamstring injury in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Bucs, and while Jackson didn’t do much in his place (eight touches, 21 yards), he’s still in line for more touches as the 1B to Joshua Kelley’s 1A. Kelley is available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues, so he should be your first pickup, but Jackson could have value, too, especially if Kelley’s fumbling issues cause him to lose playing time. —ML

With Leonard Fournette (ankle) inactive and LeSean McCoy (ankle) exiting early, Vaughn took over as Ronald Jones II’s primary backup. He managed just four yards on three carries, but he caught two-of-three targets for 22 yards and a TD. Jones was used more in the receiving game, catching six-of-nine passes, but he had some bad drops, and it’s possible the third-round rookie out of Vanderbilt will continue to see more time if Fournette and McCoy continue to miss time. Tampa’s schedule becomes highly RB friendly after a Week 5 tilt with Chicago, as matchups against the Packers,Raiders, Giants, Saints, and Panthers are on deck. —ML

Just when it looked like Darrell Henderson was emerging in the Rams’ backfield Malcolm Brown came back around and was the team’s top RB in Week 4. Brown and Henderson split carries, but it was Brown that ended up catching more passes. He saw six targets (second most on the team) and reeled in five passes for 19 yards. The total numbers aren’t great, but Brown is getting opportunities, so he can be trusted as a solid flex play moving forward — or at least until Cam Akers (ribs) comes back. —JC

Miller didn’t do much in Week 2 when Chris Godwin was out, but he took advantage of his absence because of a hamstring injury in Week 4. Miller caught five-of-seven targets for 83 yards and a TD against the Chargers and looked every bit like a favorite of Tom Brady’s. It’s unclear when Godwin will return, but Miller has potential value in PPR leagues even after that happens, especially with matchups like the Packers, Raiders, Giants, and Saints coming up in the next five weeks. —ML

Kirk made his return to the Cardinals after missing a week with a groin injury and was heavily involved in the offense. He saw five targets, good for the second most among Cardinals WRs behind only DeAndre Hopkins, and managed three catches for 19 yards and a TD. The Cardinals have four great matchups in Weeks 5-8 against the Jets, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Dolphins, so Kirk can be added as a potential WR3/flex play moving forward. —JC

Shenault only saw one carry against the Bengals, but he did get six targets and caught five of them for 86 yards. All of those numbers ranked second on the Jaguars behind only DJ Chark. Shenault should only get better as the season goes along, and he gets to play the Texans and Lions the next two weeks, so he should garner flex consideration in those matchups. —JC

After catching two TDs last week, Higgins was second on the Bengals in targets (7) and receiving yards (77) against the Jaguars in Week 5. It looks like he’s becoming Joe Burrow’s second-favorite receiver and favorite outside weapon, so he can be added thanks to his role inwhat has been, so far, a high-volume passing offense. He has a couple of tough matchups upcoming against the Ravens and the Colts, but he could pay off further down the road as a top bench stash. —JC

The Broncos started Brett Rypien at QB on Thursday night, and his favorite weapon during the game was Patrick. Patrick served as the team’s top receiver after KJ Hamler went down with a hamstring injury and Noah Fant suffered a groin injury. Patrick had a team-high seven targets, six catches,113 yards, and a TD. It was the second straight week he caught a TD, and Patrick should continue to be the Broncos’ No. 2 receiver if Hamler and Fant miss time. He also has some solid upcoming matchups (Dolphins, Chiefs, Falcons, Raiders) and should benefit from the imminent return of QB Drew Lock (shoulder). —JC

Beasley had another solid game for the Bills, catching three passes for 34 yards and a nice TD that saw him make the catch while being flipped into the air by a defender. Beasley is averaging 65.5 receiving yards per game this season and should continue to be a PPR threat with 18 grabs through four games. The Bills have three solid matchups upcoming against the Titans, Chiefs, and Jets, so Beasley could be a solid flex or WR3 in those contests. —JC

At one point last week, the Eagles had just one healthy receiver at practice. It was Ward. He has good chemistry with Carson Wentz and has two games with at least seven targets this season, including an 11-target, eight-catch, 72-yard, one-TD game against the Bengals in Week 3. Ward should continue to be a PPR monster with the Eagles WR group banged up, and he can be relied on even with matchups against the Steelers and Ravens tough defenses incoming. —JC

Schultz ended up catching four-of-eight targets for 72 yards and a TD against the Browns in Week 4. That said, it’s worth noting that a lot of his production came in garbage time, so it may be hard to rely on his as a consistent top tight end option. Still, if you’re hurting at the position, he should do well against the Giants, Cardinals, and Washington the next three weeks, and he may be one of your top streaming options at the position. —JC

Hooper is owned in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues, but that number should be much higher. Cleveland finally got their high-priced free-agent acquisition more involved against the Cowboys and he was able to catch five-of-seven targets for 34 yards and a TD. The seven targets were the most notable part of his day, as that ranked second on the Browns in that category. The only downside with Hooper is that he is playing the Colts and Steelers the next two weeks, but he still has some upside. —JC

Harris (hand) is set to be activated from the IR, and with Cam Newton (COVID-19) out for likely the next two games, the Patriots will likely be heavily reliant on the run. That’ll make Harris a valuable flex option as he could eventually emerge as the Patriots’ main back after playing very well during training camp. —JC

Wilson Jr. had 15 touches and two TDs for the 49ers against the Giants and should continue to be involved in their running game as long as Raheem Mostert (knee) remains out. Mostert may return in Week 5, but even if he does, Wilson could still mix into the rotation and potentially handle goal-line duties. After all, he did have four TDs on just 27 carries last year and is in a favorable matchup against the Dolphins in Week 5. Feel free to add him as a speculative TD-based flex play or top handcuff. —JC

With Allen Lazard out indefinitely with a core muscle injury, Marquez Valdes-Scantling will serve as the No. 2 receiver in the Packers’ high-volume passing attack. MVS has a bye in Week 5, but it could be worth scooping him up before that point, as he could be a WR3 in favorable Week 7 and 8 matchups with the Texans and Vikings. —JC

Samuel continues to be a solid producer in the Panthers offense. He caught three-of-four targets for 51 yards against the Cardinals and also handled a couple of carries, though he didn’t do anything with those. Samuel should have an opportunity to put up WR3 numbers in an extremely favorable Week 5 against the Falcons, so feel free to grab him as a player with sneaky-high upside. —JC

Renfrow continues to be Derek Carr’s favorite receiver in the absence of Henry Ruggs (knee). On Sunday against the Bills, Renfrow was targeted eight times, good for second most on the team, and he caught five passes for 57 yards. Renfrow is a solid PPR flex option with WR3 upside in great matchups. The Raiders get the Chiefs next week and their secondary has been up-and-down this year, so Renfrow could put up some points in a good matchup that could be a shootout. —JC

The Jets receiving corps has been banged up all season, but it got Smith back from IR in their Week 4 matchup with the Broncos. Smith ended up logging the second-most targets on the team (9) and caught seven passes for 81 yards while looking like a solid downfield threat. Jamison Crowder is still the top receiver in New York, but until Breshad Perriman (ankle) returns, Smith can probably be trusted as Sam Darnold’s No. 2 target, and he migh even have value beyond that given that the Jets will need to pass a lot to be effective on offense. —JC

The Chiefs have a lot of weapons so it’s hard to count on Hardman week-in and week-out, but the Raiders are taking on the Raiders in Week 5 and Hardman’s speed should allow him to have a good day against the unit. Besides, he just totaled four catches for 81 yards and a TD against a solid Ravens secondary, so Hardman should be a solid flex play even if he doesn’t get a ton of targets. —JC

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Eagles aredesperatefor receiver help. Jeffery (foot) should be ready to play at some point in the not-so-distant future after returning to practice last week. He can be added as a potential volume-based WR3/flex play for fantasy owners needing some depth at the position. He probably can’t be started against the Steelers or the Ravens, but he does have upside as a TD threat thanks to his size. —JC

The Steelers will be well-rested coming off an unexpected bye week and taking on the Eagles in Week 5. The Eagles have allowed 11.1 fantasy points per game to TEs through three weeks so Ebron could end up being a solid weapon for the Steelers in that matchup which will make him a top-tier streamer. —JC

After posting back-to-back games with at least 300 passing yards and a TD to open his career, Herbert was able to log 290 yards and three TDs against a tough Tampa Bay defense in Week 5. Herbert is still just a rookie and may be prone to some rough outings, but with games coming up against the banged-up Saints, Jets, Dolphins, and Jaguars on deck, Herbert should be a top-level streamer and a potential QB1 moving forward. —JC

Any time there’s a quarterback taking on the Falcons in 2020, you take a chance on them. Bridgewater draws that matchup in Week 5, and he should get a chance to pick apart a defense that allows a league-high 34.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. He’s also coming off a 276-yard, three-TD day against the Cardinals, so he should stay hot. —JC

Jones has had a rough start to his season, but he gets to take on a Cowboys defense that was allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to QBs through the first three weeks (and then allowed two passing TDs to Baker Mayfield in Week 4) Jones could be an appealing streamer for a fantasy owner looking to temporarily replace Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, or Cam Newton (as he remains on the COVID-19 list). But if you’re scared off by his zero-TD outing against the Rams, that’s understandable. —JC

Garoppolo (ankle) is out for the 49ers’ Week 4 matchup against the Eagles, but he could be returning to action soon. With George Kittle and Deebo Samuel back and first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk stepping up, Garoppolo’s weapons look very strong, and a Week 5 matchup against the Dolphins could be a great opportunity to ease him back into action. If he’s healthy, he could end up being a QB1 in a great matchup with several normal top QBs out of action. —JC

Minshew has been efficient with some big games this season for the Jaguars. In Week 5, he gets to take on a Texans defense that entered Week 4 allowing an average of 31.7 points per game to offenses. Minshew should be a solid streamer at QB and should be rostered in most leagues as a top-tier backup. —JC

The Colts are taking on a Browns defense that has a lot of issues in the middle of the field and was just torched for over 500 yards by Dak Prescott.. Beyond that, Rivers has a stretch of games against the Browns, Bengals, and Lions coming up, so this feels like a good time to add him. —JC

The Cardinals are taking on the Jets in a Week 5 matchup where Sam Darnold (shoulder) might be questionable. The Jets are banged up at receiver, on the offensive line, and are prone to turnovers and sacks with or without Darnold. Chandler Jones could have a big day and so long as the Cardinals’ secondary holds up, they can be trusted as a defensive streamer. —JC

The Cowboys have not been good on defense so far this season and they were allowing32.3 points and 277 passing yards per game to offenses before looking even worse in Week 4. That said, they get to take on the Giants in Week 5, and Daniel Jones averaged two turnovers per game in the first three games of the season. If Dallas can continue to force Jones into some mistakes, it could be a solid streamer.– JC

The Browns are taking on the Colts in Week 5, and while Indianapolis has a solid offense, they also have Philip Rivers at quarterback and he’s prone to multi-interception games and sacks. The Browns may be worth a flier for that reason in what looks like a tough week for streaming defenses. —JC

This would be the ultimate dart-throw on defense, as the Jaguars are taking on a Texans offense that has some high-powered weapons. That said, Deshaun Watson is frequently sacked (four times per game this season). That could give Josh Allen a chance to rack up some points or pressure Watson into some mistakes, so the Jags are worth a shot as a low-level streamer or DFS value play. —JC

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