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 nearly every 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.
Top fantasy football waiver wire pickups for Week 5
Unless otherwise noted, only players owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues considered.
D’Ernest Johnson, RB, Browns. 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.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals. Cardinals coaches didn’t seem overly concerned about the chest injury that knocked Kenyan Drake out of Sunday’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 totaled nine touches for 40 total yards and a score in 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 and Cowboys coming up in the next two weeks.
MORE WEEK 5: Top waiver pickups
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Buccaneers. 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.
Justin Jackson, RB, Chargers. 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.
Scotty Miller, WR, Buccaneers. 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.
For additional waiver/free agent suggestions, including more breakouts and potential streamers, check out our full Week 5 list.