Hot Pepper Pickups: Waiver Wire Week 5

October 6, 2020

The Waiver Wire has become a place where you attempt to pick which second-string option will get first-string reps. With injuries and positive COVID-19 tests flooding the league, many holes have opened up for players that are readily available. I’m here to sort out the flukes from those who can have sustainable production and let you know how spicy some pick-ups are. 

Here are my picks for waivers this week. 

Justin Jackson – Surprise, surprise, another running back was injured this week and this time it is at the expense of the LA Chargers. Coming up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Austin Ekeler suffered a grade-two hamstring injury, putting him out for at least the next three weeks, likely more. The lead beneficiary of this injury is Josh Kelley, who should be rostered in every league. But after a crucial fumble last week and with a lack of pass-catching experience, the Chargers may lean towards Justin Jackson’s veteran presence. The Chargers backfield has always been a two-headed monster: Melvin Gordon and Ekeler, Jackson and Ekeler, Kelley and Ekeler, and I do not see this changing in the slightest. Look for Jackson to step in and be a significant part of the run attack. 

Scoville Units: Cayenne Pepper- 50,000

Damien Harris- Another Patriots’ back has found his way into my waiver wire article, but this week it’s slightly different. After being drafted in the third round in 2019, Damien Harris had a very underwhelming rookie year, playing in just three games. This week coming up against the Chiefs, the Patriots had their hands full without their starting quarterback Cam Newton, who had COVID-19. With the uncertainty about whether the teams would play and the question of Brian Hoyer vs. Jarrett Stidham, Harris’ activation was an under the radar move. 

He stepped into the backfield and took over for what looked like a sustainable role, receiving 17 carries on only 22 snaps, and taking them for 100 yards. Look for Harris’ role to become more established in the offense in the coming weeks and for better chances to score with Newton at quarterback.

Scoville Units: Habanero- 275,000

D’Ernest Johnson- What do CMC, Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler and Saquon Barkley all have in common? They all were potential RB1s who unfortunately have been injured within the first four weeks. If you cannot tell by now, writing about every promising player that has gotten injured is taking a toll on me. Why can’t we just have nice things?

With that being said, Chubb’s injury opens up a spot for yet another waiver wire back with upside. On Sunday against the Cowboys, after Chubb left the game, Johnson received 13 carries for 95 yards, 7.3 yards per carry.  Everything we have seen this season points to the Browns having a second-string running back with a significant role, so Johnson is worth a bench spot and is a potential FLEX play in the future.

Scoville Units: Ghost Pepper- 1,041,000

Scotty Miller- What did I say about Tom Brady and slot receivers? He loves them. If you may recall, I included Miller in my Week 1 Hot Pepper Pick-ups and he has done nothing to disappoint. Over the past two weeks, Miller has seen plenty of work, catching eight passes on 12 targets for 166 yards and a score. With Godwin still out with a hamstring injury and Miller still available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues, he is a great plug and play this week against the Bears. 

Scoville Units: Chocolate Habanero- 577,000

Tim Patrick- Over Tim Patrick’s first two seasons in the league, he has never been a relevant fantasy option, but he has shown flashes. This year he’s trying to turn those flashes into production. In Week 4 against a subpar Jets defense and with a less than subpar QB situation, Patrick managed to catch six of seven balls for 113 yards and a touchdown. With Courtland Sutton out for the year, and Jerry Jeudy not producing as a first-string wide-out role so far, Patrick has a good chance to keep up the volume. 

Scoville Units: Poblano Pepper- 1,500

Jeff Smith- While watching Thursday Night Football this week, I found myself saying “Who’s that guy?” over and over and over. Turns out that guy is Jeff Smith. Smith is an undrafted second year player out of Boston College, and after missing the first three weeks due to injury he burst onto the scene in Week 4. Smith hauled in seven passes on nine targets for 81 yards and a score. With no other options except Jamison Crowder on the Jets, look for Smith’s significant volume to continue. The Jets may not be a good team, but in PPR Smith can be a good option. 

Scoville Units: Fatali Pepper- 325,000

Robert Tonyan- It’s not often that I put in a waiver claim for a player on bye, but Robert Tonyan is a must-have. Tonyan has emerged as the clear first string tight end for the Packers and has taken advantage of the uptick in volume. Tonyan has scored double digits and a touchdown in all of the past three weeks. Last week, due to the absence of Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, Tonyan beat up on Atlanta for six catches on six targets for 98 yards and three scores. Add to this incredible output the facts that Tonyan was once roommates with George Kittle and that Aaron Rodgers calls him “Big Dog” and he’s quite the fantasy option.

Scoville Units: Carolina Reaper- 2,200,000