Week 5 is here for fantasy football enthusiasts. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of what our teams look like, what the strengths are, and where improvement is needed lest you miss out on the playoffs. Things have gotten dicey for the NFL over the last seven days with coronavirus protocols being put to the test, but as of now the season marches on.
So, too, does our quest to field the best team possible every given fantasy Sunday. Here are the five best fantasy football waiver wire pickups for Week 5. (All stats via ESPN PPR leagues)
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (Available in 76 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
Harris played in his first regular-season game last night against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was fine. He ran the ball 17 times for 100 yards on the nose, a deceiving number because he had a 41-yard carry as the third quarter expired that upped his yardage total significantly. His vision was suspect and he didn't show a lot of elusiveness or an ability to make a man miss.
But! Sony Michel hit the IR and is out of commission for at least three weeks. The Patriots like to use running back by committee, but they usually have one guy whose only job is to run between the tackles when he's on the field. That will be Harris until Michel gets back. In games where New England doesn't play from behind, he'll get enough touches to justify a FLEX start with decent upside.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (Available in 64 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
Shenault, like the Jaguars offense, is a hit-or-miss proposition. But he's a uniquely talented player with the ball in his hands, and his team recognizes that as they make it a point to get him in open space with room to run. That can lead to good fantasy output; he had five catches for 86 yards and a carry for another five yards to total 14 points against Cincinnati this week. He has notched at least five touches in the first four games of his career. Those aren't crazy big numbers, but it shows that Jacksonville wants him to get the ball. He'll be facing off against a bad Texans secondary next week and a team thrown into disarray after Bill O'Brien got canned. He could be in line for a big week, but right now Shenault is a high-floor option with WR2 potential.
Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (Available in 84 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
Hoho! A QB! We're getting crazy with it! This unusual entry is for all of you who had Cam Newton as a starter in a deep league (or *gulp* a dual-QB league) and need a temporary replacement on the fly. Herbert is your guy if that's the case. He's shown why he was a top-10 pick over his first three starts. He's exceeded the 20-point mark in two of three games so far, and tossed three touchdowns while completing 20 of 25 passes this past week. Next week, his Chargers will be going up against the New Orleans Saints. This means Herbert will probably be playing from behind all day, giving us those delicious garbage-time stats that often make or break a game in any given week. Rookie quarterbacks are a risky proposition, but Herbert is by far the best bet given how widely available he is and the numbers he's put up so far.
Tre'Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (Available in 71 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
Speaking of the Saints, Michael Thomas *could* be back this week. But a high ankle sprain is nothing to sneeze at, and the 1-3 Chargers don't represent a huge challenge. So even if Thomas is back, he'll play limited snaps, which means Smith's fantasy value is worth considering. Drew Brees woke up this week against the Lions and Smith was a big beneficiary, catching four passes for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns for 21.4 fantasy points. It helps that the Chargers' secondary is one of the weaker units in the NFL. Smith is in line for another good week, even with a potential Thomas return.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals (Available in 66 Percent of ESPN Leagues)
The Cardinals have been a surprisingly unproductive fantasy roster outside of Kyler Murray. But Kenyan Drake left Sunday's game against the Panthers with an injury, and if he's hobbled in any way, Edmonds is worth considering. The former Fordham Rams great is Kliff Kingsbury's preferred running back in the passing game (he caught five passes this past week) and will be in line for a heavier workload between the tackles if Drake is less than 100 percent. He is a risky play, don't get me wrong, but on the other hand, the Cardinals are playing the Jets. The same Jets who gave up over 30 points to the Brett Rypien-led Broncos last Thursday. If you were going to take a leap of faith, picking up the guy who's playing the Jets has generally been a good strategy this year. And last year. As a desperation FLEX option, you could do worse than Edmonds.