Each Thursday, we bring you a collection of potential deep league pickups, all available in at least 90 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Again, these names are purely of interest in mega-leagues. We begin in the desert this week, where rookie Josh Rosen is now (finally) at the controls of the Cardinals’ offense.
Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona (vs. Sea, then at SF, 3% owned)
It’s tough to explain the enthusiasm gap that exists within the fantasy community regarding Baker Mayfield — a player everyone absolutely loves — and Rosen, a guy we’ve largely ignored. Just yesterday, Mayfield was added in 237,269 Yahoo fantasy leagues; Rosen was stashed in only 11,514. Both passers are expected to start for their respective teams going forward. These two were widely considered the most game-ready quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class, and it’s tough to argue that Mayfield’s receiving corps (Landry, Callaway, Njoku, et al) is substantially better than Rosen’s (Fitz, DJ, Kirk). Cleveland gets an easier matchup in the week ahead (Oakland), but Arizona’s upcoming schedule is full of user-friendly defenses (SF twice, KC, Oakland).
To be clear, no one around here is trying to dim the buzz surrounding Mayfield, but there’s no reason to think Rosen can’t be equally useful for fantasy purposes, considering the quality of his supporting cast. Speaking of which…
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona (vs. Sea, 10% owned)
Kirk was among the bright spots for Arizona last Sunday, catching seven of his eight targets for 90 yards. He has obvious rapport with Rosen, a fact that’s been clear since the preseason. Note the TD reception at 0:33 in this clip:
He went 10/16 with a TD pass and a passer rating of 102.9.
Kirk is likely to emerge as a high-volume receiver and viable fantasy flex in the weeks ahead. He deserves a look in fantasy leagues of any size.
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Chicago (vs. TB, 2% owned)
We touted Gabriel in this feature last week and he’s still eligible for this week’s version, so it’s possible you guys aren’t taking our pickups advice seriously. Just so you know, Gabriel saw ten targets in Chicago’s narrow victory at Arizona, catching six balls for 34 yards. His quarterback situation isn’t the greatest, obviously, but he’s a dynamic talent who’s finally seeing significant volume. Eventually, big plays will materialize.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia (at Ten, 4% owned)
As of this writing, we can’t say for sure that Jay Ajayi will return for Philly’s matchup at Tennessee. If he can’t go, Smallwood figures to receive another dozen-or-so touches, splitting work with Corey Clement.
Smallwood delivered 91 scrimmage yards on 13 touches last week, plus he scored a late go-ahead touchdown. He’s averaging 4.9 YPC so far this season and he’s hauled in four passes for 37 yards. This week, Philly is facing a Tennessee defense that’s allowed 4.8 YPC and 118.3 rushing yards per game. If you’re an Ajayi owner searching for Plan B, Smallwood is a priority add.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis (vs. Hou, 10% owned)
The Indianapolis backfield hasn’t exactly been a source of endless fantasy joy, and Hines certainly isn’t a must-add player. But if you’re a PPR owner in need of a running back who’s likely to catch 4-6 passes in any given week, give him a look. Hines has 13 receptions so far this season on 15 targets, plus he has the team’s only rushing score. Marlon Mack’s return from injury will further complicate the distribution of touches in this backfield, but Hines’ role as a receiver seems secure.
Rhett Ellison, TE, NY Giants (vs. NO, 3% owned)
Evan Engram will be sidelined for 2-4 weeks, in all likelihood, which should lead to at least a small uptick in chances for Ellison. The seven-year vet caught a 16-yard score in last week’s win over Houston. He clearly won’t receive every target that might have gone to Engram, but we’ve already seen him emerge as a red-zone weapon. Ellison is a strong play in two-TE leagues.