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Cleveland Brown running back D'Ernest Johnson has an All-NFL name, and he's an RB3/4 while Nick Chubb sits out with asprained MCL. (Michael Ainsworth/AP)

Fantasy Football: Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

Fantasy football is getting tricky with the rash of injuries and COVID outbreaks through four weeks. Here are a handful of guys to help your roster.

Week 4 has been a weird one. And with so much uncertainty surrounding every game, working the waiver wire each week is crucial if you’re going to make it in your fantasy football league. Guys rise up depth charts because of injuries or benchings, some have mid-season breakouts, and others are still available just because they’re flying under the radar. Whatever the case, there are always valuable contributors waiting for you to claim them. I’m giving you guys who are owned in under 50% of ESPN leagues as of writing. Yeah, last week’s post was hit-or-miss, but this week has six winners. So, check your waiver wire right after reading this and pick up a difference-maker for your fantasy squad for Week 5.

Justin Herbert (15.8% owned)

After Week 2, the Chargers’ Head Coach Anthony Lynn said Tyrod Taylor would be the starting QB once he recovered from his freak injury. There’s no way that’s the case now.

Herbert has blown away expectations over his first three career starts. And even if it hasn’t translated to any wins so far, his ranking 13th in QBR says those losses have little to do with his play. More importantly, he averaged 20 fantasy points over those games, which ranks 11th among QBs after Sunday’s games. And those aren’t Joe Burrow “throw the ball 50 times a game and only get nine yards per completion” points. Herbert’s playing big-boy football.

Off his back foot. As he was taking a hit. 40 yards downfield. Hits his receiver in stride. But tYrOD TaYlOR iS ThE StArtINg qUarTeRbACk.

There are going to be bad weeks along the way, make no mistake. Since the Chargers are struggling to find ways to win though, and with lead running back Austin Ekeler slated to miss some time, Herbert is going to keep airing the ball out regardless of how pretty it looks at times. He’ll be a top-15 or -20 QB for fantasy the rest of the season and a borderline QB1 over his next three games against the Saints, Jets, and Dolphins. If QB is a weak point on your roster, this is a must-add.

Justin Jackson (9.8% owned)

We’re loading up on Chargers this waiver round. Ekeler went down with what looked like a bad hamstring injury on Sunday, and reports are that he’ll miss at least a month. That means Jackson will join Joshua Kelley in L.A.’s running back rotation. The Chargers have had a very run-heavy offense thus far. And even though they may lean a little more on the passing game while their lead back sits, Jackson’s going to get some opportunities backing up Kelley.

He’s probably just going to end up a short-term rental, and he’s really only valuable for someone who has Kelley or Ekeler, but I think he has some good upside. Jackson has had double-digit touches just once in his career, but he’s good when he actually gets a shot! I’m intrigued by what he can do in an increased role, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps Kelley on the depth chart by the time Ekeler returns. Like I mentioned above, the Chargers don’t have any stout defenses coming up on the schedule, so don’t worry that Tampa Bay’s brick-wall run defense held Jackson in check on Sunday.

You have to wait to see how Lynn will dole out touches, but Jackson’s a good low-risk/high-reward stash to target in the Week 5 waiver wire.

Tim Patrick (1.0% owned)

No-name guys have big games every week, and it’s not too hard to torch the Jets’ defense. For Patrick though, this feels more like a breakout performance than an aberration. He’s started all four of Denver’s games so far, and he’s firmly entrenched as one of the Broncos’ top-three receiving options, along with Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant. For a team that’s struggling to put points on the board, and with a bottom-tier run game, being at the top of the pecking order for passes will earn Patrick a healthy share of the offense.

Drew Lock won’t be back from his strained rotator cuff for a couple more weeks, but when does return, some stronger QB play down the stretch of the season will only serve Patrick and the rest of this receiving core better. Even though one of Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel, or Blake Bortles (no word yet on who’ll get the start in Week 5) will be throwing the passes, Week 4 showed that Patrick has some decent potential. There are also some favorable matchups against Miami and Atlanta coming up in the next few weeks. In deeper leagues, if injuries and/or COVID has hit your team hard, take a flyer on him in the Week 5 waiver wire.

D’Ernest Johnson (0.4% owned)

I figured more than 0.4% of leagues would have enough teams and roster spots to warrant having Cleveland’s third-string running back buried on a bench. That’s about to change though after Johnson went for 95 yards on 13 carries in Week 4.

Johnson came in as a replacement for Nick Chubb, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of the Browns’ shootout with the Cowboys. There was initial optimism that the injury wasn’t too bad, but an MRI revealed a sprained MCL that will keep him out for roughly six weeks. If the second-year back can keep running the way he did on Sunday though, the Browns’ powerhouse run game won’t suffer too much.

As far as Johnson’s fantasy prospects go, the Browns are putting up 31 points a game on their league-best run offense, and I can’t imagine Head Coach Kevin Stefanski will want to change things up too drastically. Johnson’s absolutely worth rostering, and he could garner weekly flex consideration if he gets a workload similar to what he saw on Sunday.

Scotty Miller (15.4% owned)

Death, taxes, and Tom Brady turning a white slot receiver into a stud. Miller got lost in the shuffle of the Buccaneers’ preseason hype behind names like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski, but he’s a great player in his own right. And I don’t want to hear any “well, he’s only getting work because Godwin missed two games” nonsense. In weeks one and three, when Tampa had both Godwin and Evans in the starting lineup, the sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green saw a combined 11 targets, which he turned into eight catches for 156 yards.

A real grinder. Has a blue-collar work ethic. A real coach’s son-type. Scrappy. Quick, even though he’s not fast. Leave any additional stereotypes for white wide receivers in the comment section. (Cliff Welch/Getty Images)

If you want him on your team, you need to get him on the Week 5 waiver wire, because Tampa’s Head Coach Bruce Arians has already ruled out Godwin for Thursday night’s game against the Bears and Mike Evans is questionable with an ankle injury. On top of that, tight end O.J. Howard and running backs LeSean McCoy and Kenjon Barner may have to sit out this game, as well. I like Miller to see double-digit targets in Week 5, and he’s going to be a WR4/5 from here on out. Pick him up.

Dalton Schultz (46.0% owned)

Are there really enough targets to go around for a fifth option in the passing game to warrant rostering in fantasy? In the NFL’s entire 100-year history, the answer has always been a resounding “no.”

Then the 2020 Cowboys happened.

Schultz was probably an afterthought on everyone’s draft day since this offense already had enough mouths to feed. But with Dallas’ defense doing everything in its power to make sure this team doesn’t win the NFC East, Dak Prescott took this passing game into overdrive, and it’s been all-hands-on-deck at the skill positions.

Realistically, Prescott isn’t going to throw the ball 804 times for 6760 passing yards this season (those are actual, honest-to-God numbers Dak is on pace for this season), but then again, Schultz doesn’t need to keep seeing seven targets a game to be a viable fantasy option. Dak’s going to keep putting up big enough for Schultz to feast on a regular basis. I’m also liking the red zone work he’s getting—a team-high five targets inside the 20-year-line. He probably won’t finish the season as a TE1 like he is now, but this is a solid TE2 who ought to be rostered in every league.