Every week during the NFL season, Arthur Arkush shares his top nine waiver targets for fantasy owners. This will focus exclusively on players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and this season there's a twist: we're sharing the top nine targets at each position, in addition to our top nine overall regardless of position.
We may ultimately look back on Week 4 as a fantasy flashpoint — both in terms of the injuries sustained Sunday (Marcus Mariota, Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones, to name a few) and the opportunists who may be poised to shake up not only this week's wire but league standings.
9. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor — Taylor and the first place Bills this week head to Cincinnati, where the Bengals have permitted the most rushing yards to quarterbacks in the NFL. From there, he welcomes the Buccaneers and Raiders — the seventh- and fourth-most vulnerable defenses against fantasy passers. Taylor lost Jordan Matthews (thumb) for a month, a tough pill to swallow for arguably the league's thinnest WR corps, but the QB16 overall continues to protect the ball (5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio) and maximize pass-catching TE Charles Clay and his biggest days as a runner lie ahead.
8. Jets RB Elijah McGuire — McGuire, the sixth-rounder out of Lousiana-Lafayette, flashed on Sunday the kind of juice that's been missing from the Jets backfield for eons. In racking up 131 scrimmage yards on 12 touches, he also gave New York a true complement to Bilal Powell, unlike Matt Forte, with his playmaking ability. Yes, the Jets' game flow concerns are real. But quietly Todd Bowles' 'D' has held Miami and Jacksonville to two combined offensive touchdowns and 5-of-27 on third downs. They won't see Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler every week. But with DeShone Kizer up to bat, the ghost of the Patriots 'D' on deck and Cutler in the hole, with Matt Forte week to week with a toe injury, McGuire will have flex appeal into late October.
7. Cardinals RB Andre Ellington — Arizona may have saved its season — at least temporarily — Sunday, and Ellington played a pivotal role with 104 scrimmage yards on a team-high 14 touches. He's taken nearly 59 percent of the backfield snaps over the past two weeks, and after a Week 5 trip to Philadelphia, Ellington gets a prime matchup with a Rams 'D' bleeding points to fantasy backs.
6. Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls — From Week 1 starter to Week 4 healthy scratch to Week 5 starter, Rawls' long strange 2017 trip may come full circle following Chris Carson's ankle injury Monday night. This Seattle backfield is crowded, to be sure. But understand this: Carson's fast ascent proves Pete Carroll loaded up on backs with the hope that one would emerge as his heavy lifter, like Rawls late in 2015 and Marshawn Lynch for several seasons before him. Seattle's offensive arrow suddenly points up. Rawls was the first name mentioned by Carroll when asked about the Carson contingency plan. Out of the three Seahawks backs that fail to inspire confidence, plus one intriguing flier, JD McKissic, whom we're hard-pressed to see as anything more than a C.J. Prosise-like changeup, Rawls again finds himself at the top of the pecking order.
5. Panthers WR Devin Funchess — Somewhere, David Gettleman must have been smiling as he watched his 2015 second-round wideout put it all together in Foxboro with Funchess' first two-TD game. Funchess also tied a career-high with seven grabs (on a team-high 10 targets) and the 70 receiving yards was his second-highest career output. With Kelvin Benjamin avoiding injury in Week 3, Funchess will avoid the opposition's best cover man, starting with Darius Slay on Sunday in Detroit. No. 2 CB Nevin Lawson has been picked on and cedes nearly seven inches to Funchess.
4. Giants TE Evan Engram — Last chance to grab the first-round Mississippi product at 46 percent ownership. But Engram's chances to contribute continue to increase — the TE5 overall has seen his targets go from 5 to 7 to 7 to 11 last week, when he hauled in a career-high 6-62 receiving. New York's motivation to feature its rookies should also continue to increase as Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese begin looking toward 2018. Engram's upcoming schedule is challenging — if you're looking for a one-week streamer, consider New York's Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Cleveland — but the Giants rookie has weekly starting appeal solely based on his significant role.
3. Texans WR Will Fuller — The 2016 first-round wideout certainly knows how to make an entrance. In his first game in the NFL, he went 5-107-1. To begin his second season, in Week 4 following a broken collarbone, he caught four of six targets, including a pair of touchdowns, and turned one of the misses into a 45-yard pass interference penalty. Although Fuller's rookie campaign began promisingly before injuries and inconsistent hands and separating set in, throw it out the window because Houston's offense is an entirely different animal when triggered by Deshaun Watson and not Brock Osweiler. Watson is consistently looking for downfield success, unlike Osweiler, and that's Fuller's calling card. Plus he has WR2 upside in three of the next four weeks — vs. Kansas City, vs. Cleveland, vs. Indy and at the Rams.
2. Vikings RB Latavius Murray — Redemption running back row, indeed. Murray, like Rawls, entered the spring as the unquestioned starter before Dalvin Cook made him an afterthought. But it's not like Murray doesn't have a fantasy track record — he was RB10 in 2015 and RB13 a year ago in Oakland — and the Vikings paid him starter's money in March. Murray also has a history of exploding in primetime, with 35 percent of his touchdowns and nearly 20 percent of his rushing yards coming in six games — 12 percent of his career outings. Murray's Vikings visit the Bears and first-time rookie starter Mitch Trubisky on Monday night. Minnesota's offensive improvements stem from better blocking, run-pass balance and utilizing the whole field through the air. Murray, though unlikely to slide seamlessly into Cook's workhorse role, just inherited a starting gig in a top-10 offense.
1. Texans QB Deshaun Watson — Can Watson be this year's Dak Prescott? The question would've been a lot more preposterous a few weeks ago. Prescott averaged 17.9 points per week en route to a QB6 finish overall. Watson has averaged 23.9 points in his first three starts, including Sunday's rookie record-breaking five total touchdowns. Prescott had a better offensive line, but Watson has a superior 'D' and pass-catching corps. As we alluded to with Fuller, the Texans' schedule appears to leave Watson with a QB1 floor in four of the next five games. Watson has shown marked improvement in every outing and appears poised to run away from his peers as this season's most explosive rushing QB.