The NFL season is upon us, and so is fantasy football, baby. This year will be unlike any other and we all might be forced to get real active on the waiver wire real soon as players go down with injuries due to lack of conditioning after the shortened training camp period or test positive for COVID-19. Hopefully no one does and we are faced with a regular ol' fantasy football season, but 2020 has often proven to have other plans.
Regardless, we're back for your weekly fantasy football waiver wire pickup column. Here are the five best options after Week 1's slate of rising stars and tumbling disappointments. (All stats via ESPN PPR leagues)
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (Available in 65 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
The Colts had a relatively loaded backfield coming into the season with Marlon Mack, 2020 second-round pick Jonathan Taylor, and Hines, who split duties with Mack for all of 2019. But Mack tore his Achilles in their first game of the season, thrusting Hines into the 1B spot on the depth chart next to Taylor as 1A. Taylor is a more talented runner, but Hines is a better receiver who has the trust of the coaching staff. He had 27 points in PPR formats last week and should be in line for a decent workload, even as the team names Taylor the official starter.
Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams (Available in 92 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
In a somewhat shocking development, just about everybody overlooked Brown's potential as a fantasy option. The Rams were much worse than anticipated on offense in 2019, and if they can correct the course in 2020, anybody on their team will have a decent fantasy floor. Brown is the team's No. 1 back (sorry for all you who, like me, put too much faith in Cam Akers) and showed it against the Cowboys. He might fall off a bit after putting up 26 points this week, but he's a great flex/RB2 option against the Eagles next week.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Available in 96 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
Gage is the biggest surprise on this list. He's firmly cemented in the No. 3 wideout position for the Falcons, but received a shocking 12 targets in Week 1 and caught nine of them for 114 yards to the tune of 20 fantasy points. That's as many targets as No. 2 receiver Calvin Ridley received. How sustainable his production is could be hard to parse out, given the Falcons were playing from behind all game and Pete Carroll is a fan of taking away the opposing team's best weapon and daring them to beat his team in other ways. But a potential early fantasy sleeper here.
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (Available in 71 percent of ESPN Leagues)
A wise fantasy player would not double down on Indy's offense and only choose one of Campbell and Hines. But if you're a Jody High Roller type ready to take risks, Campbell is another intriguing addition. He demonstrated good timing and chemistry with Philip Rivers as the Colts' No. 2 wideout behind T.Y. Hilton, which is more notable than normal because QBs and their targets have to work harder to develop that kind of chemistry and timing. He didn't put up ridiculous stats (six catches for 71 yards) but 14 fantasy points is a solid day. Campbell is a good pickup to store for later in the season if you can spare the roster spot and a toss-up flex next week against a usually tough Minnesota defense that was picked apart by Aaron Rodgers in Week 1.
Peyton Barber, RB, Washington Football Team (Available in 98 Percent of Fantasy Leagues)
One should not trust the Washington Football Team for anything resembling consistent fantasy production this year. Even Terry McLaurin, fantasy rookie star of last season, feels like a risk. But they do have to play offense, and they seem like they're planning on running the ball a decent amount. Someone needs to receive those carries. Antonio Gibson is getting a good number of the touches, but if you're in a bind, Barber is a decent risk to take after he stole Gibson's goalline carries against the Eagles and scored two touchdowns. Washington will face Arizona next week, which doesn't boast the deadliest defensive front in the league. Barber isn't the main back, but Week 1 suggested he'll be a big enough part of the gameplan to go with as a high-risk, medium-reward gambit.