By Matt Citak
As we have learned through the first five weeks of the NFL season, fantasy football can be rather cruel.
If you drafted Aaron Rodgers and Julio Jones, you likely thought your team would cruise to the league championship. Yet, five weeks into the season, two of the league’s biggest and most talented stars have yet to put up the numbers we’ve come to expect from them.
While several fantasy stars have underperformed, many contributors have fallen victim to the injury bug. Those injuries vary from minor ailments to season-ending blows, and team owners have been forced to turn to the waiver wire to replace our fantasy starters.
Whether you’re looking for an injury replacement or a bye-week fill-in, or being proactive and shoring up your bench just in case, I am here to guide you through the top players to target this week.
With that said, here are your top waiver wire adds heading into Week 6.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston will have to earn your trust before you throw him into your starting lineup, but his upside is hard to ignore. The Buccaneers boast one of the league’s most talented group of pass-catchers, with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate (with O.J. Howard returning in a few weeks as well). The fourth-year QB still has the potential to be one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks, and will have a chance to get his season going against a Falcons defense that would struggle to stop a JV team. Winston is a great bye week streaming option, and could quickly become a reliable QB1.
RB Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers
Morris entered Week 4 in a timeshare with Matt Breida in the 49ers offense, but a sprained ankle suffered by Breida should open the door for Morris to become the team’s featured back. The veteran managed to gain 91 yards on 21 total touches in Week 5, and should continue to receive all of the team’s goal line carries. The 49ers offense doesn’t have the highest of ceilings with C.J. Beathard under center, but Morris should see a ton of volume while Breida is out, making him a solid flex play over the next few weeks.
RB Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles
Clement has averaged a solid 4.1 yards per carry on 27 touches, adding eight receptions for 73 yards. But he should see his playing time increase significantly after Jay Ajayi suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 5. Before you attempt to add Clement, it’s important to keep in mind that Philadelphia has used a running-back-by-committee approach all season, which is unlikely to change now that Ajayi is done for the year. Clement should receive more touches, but isn’t looking at a 20+ touches per game. He should be a priority add, but keep your expectations in check when it comes to the Philly backfield.
RB Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ backfield has been just as frustrating to figure out as Philadelphia’s (if not more). As a team, Indy has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, ranking them towards the bottom in the NFL. Despite the team’s struggles to run the ball, Hines has separated himself from the rest of the pack thanks to his pass-catching abilities. The rookie back is averaging only 3.0 ypc, but has racked up 29 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns through the first five games of the season. The Colts are likely to be playing from behind in most weeks, meaning Hines should see a ton of playing time and receive ample opportunity to catch balls out of the backfield. The Colts offense is difficult to trust, but Hines is one of the more reliable options in PPR leagues.
WR Keke Coutee, Houston Texans
For the second consecutive week, Coutee played an important role in the Texans offense. Going up against the Cowboys on Sunday night, the rookie reeled in six of seven targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. That came a week after catching 11 of 15 targets for 109 yards. But what made his performance in Week 5 so significant is that, unlike in Week 4, Will Fuller was on the field for almost the entire game, and yet Coutee still put up solid numbers. DeAndre Hopkins is the Texans receiver that is likely to garner double coverage, which should help open up the field for Coutee running out of the slot. It’s only been two weeks, but it appears as if Coutee is here to stay in fantasy relevance.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers
With the Packers wide receiving core banged up, Green Bay turned to their rookie out of South Florida in Week 5 against the Lions. And to put it simply, MVS delivered. The rookie receiver caught seven of 10 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown, and looked impressive along the way. MVS only saw the field because Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were inactive, but it is not certain that either will return in time for Week 6. If either (or both) remain out, MVS has a great chance to stay active in the Packers’ passing game, which would make him an interesting add with a potentially large upside.
WR Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Kirk’s upside is limited due to the instability of Josh Rosen as the starting quarterback, but it is also his rapport with the young QB that makes him an intriguing speculative add. Both Kirk and Rosen are in their rookie campaigns, and the two have built a strong connection dating back to the preseason. Kirk has yet to top five targets with Rosen under center, but then again Rosen has only attempted 25 and 27 passes in his two starts. In Week 4, Kirk got loose for a 75-yard touchdown catch, and was easily Arizona’s most productive receiver. His fantasy upside will be determined in large part by the development of Rosen. But if the QB starts playing well, Kirk would be the receiver to own on the Cardinals.
TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brate is facing a very interesting situation in Tampa Bay. O.J. Howard suffered an MCL sprain in Week 4 and is facing a multiple-week absence, making Brate the team’s number one tight end moving forward. However, last year, with both Howard and Brate active and playing, Winston clearly favored the veteran. Winston and Brate have connected for 14 touchdowns over the previous two seasons, and even when Howard returns, Brate could remain the better fantasy play. But we’ll cross that bridge when we have to. For now, with Howard hurt, Brate should easily provide fantasy owners with top-10 tight end value.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.