By Matt Citak
We are officially a quarter of the way through the 2018 NFL season. And if the first 25 percent of the year has taught us anything, it’s that a deep bench is crucial to success in fantasy football.
Injuries are very common in football. While NFL teams have a depth chart in which the next player steps in when the starter goes down, the same is not necessarily true of fantasy football.
Smart fantasy owners prepare for injuries by shoring up the backend of their roster. These players may not seem like the sexiest of pickups when you snag them off the waiver wire, but they could be the difference between making or missing the fantasy postseason.
Several key players fell victim to the injury bug in Week 4, while a few others had breakout performances. That makes for an interesting week on the waiver wire.
Enough talk… let’s get to it. Here are some of the top waiver wire adds for Week 5.
QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
A lot has been said about the Raiders’ poor start, but not enough has been said about Carr’s play so far this season. A big reason is that the QB’s touchdown-to-interception ratio sits at a horrid 6:7. But through four games, Carr is averaging a very impressive 343 yards per game on a completion percentage of 71 percent. Oakland’s next six games are against the Chargers (twice), Seahawks, Colts, 49ers, and Cardinals, none of which have a daunting pass defense. Carr is a solid QB option for any owners still reeling from the injury to Jimmy Garoppolo or simply looking for a bye week fill-in.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He didn’t enter the game until it was already far out of reach, but Winston looked good in his 2018 debut. The fourth-year QB completed 80 percent of his passes (16 for 20) for 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, which was enough for Dirk Koetter to name him the team’s starting QB following their Week 5 bye. Winston will face a struggling Arizona Cardinals defense in his first start of the year. Tampa Bay has one of the most talented wide receiver groups in the league, giving Winston plenty of options to throw to. He’ll need to prove himself before he cracks your starting lineup, but Winston is a strong speculative add moving forward.
RB T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fantasy football is about volume, and Yeldon is set to receive a ton of carries over the next few weeks. Leonard Fournette left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and will likely be sidelined for at least the next two weeks (and likely longer). Yeldon will step in as Jacksonville’s starting running back, a role in which he thrived in through the first few weeks of the season. The Jaguars take on the Chiefs in Week 5, which is just about the best matchup a pass-catching back could ask for. Yeldon is the top add this week.
RB Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Chances are someone in your league dropped Cohen after he didn’t receive more than eight touches in any of the first three games. If they did, they are likely kicking themselves now. Matt Nagy finally decided to feed Cohen the ball in Week 4, and the speedy back rewarded his coach by racking up 174 yards and a touchdown on 20 total touches, including an incredible seven receptions for 121 yards. Nagy foreshadowed using Cohen as an ultimate utility player during the preseason, moving the small back around the offense, and we finally got to see what he meant against the Buccaneers. Even though Week 4 was likely his best game of the season, Cohen should be rostered in all leagues.
RB Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks
With Chris Carson inactive, most people assumed rookie Rashad Penny would take over as Seattle’s lead running back. Instead, it was Davis, the fourth-year back out of South Carolina, who received the starting nod. And he took advantage of the opportunity. Davis carried the ball 21 times for 101 yards (4.8 ypc) and two touchdowns, while adding four receptions for 23 yards. Carson’s return to the starting lineup would diminish his value, but as long as Carson remains out, Davis makes for a solid fill-in play.
WR Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville’s passing game has been difficult to predict following the injury to Marquise Lee during the preseason. Blake Bortles has seemingly decided to feature a different player as his primary receiver in each game, making it hard to rely on any of the Jaguars’ receivers. However Westbrook has managed to total at least 50 receiving yards in three of the first four games, while topping 80 yards twice. He has only found the end zone once, but the 24-year-old has a great chance to add to that number in Week 5 against the Chiefs.
WR Taylor Gabriel, Chicago Bears
Gabriel had his best outing as a Bear on Sunday, catching all seven of his targets for 104 yards and two touchdowns. But the significant takeaway from his performance was that both of his touchdowns came from just three yards out, showing that Nagy intends to get Gabriel involved in the red zone. The 27-year-old had shown signs of breaking out in the first three games, so it was nice to see him finally come through with a big game. Gabriel figures to play a large role in Chicago’s offense following the team’s Week 5 bye.
WR Taywan Taylor, Tennessee Titans
After Richard Matthews’ bizarre departure from the team, Taylor was expected to take on a bigger role in the Titans offense, which is exactly what the second-year receiver did in Week 4. Taylor caught seven passes (on nine targets) for 77 yards, including a crucial 19-yard grab on fourth and 15 in overtime. With Mariota finally looking healthy, the potential of the Tennessee offense is through the roof. Taylor is just a speculative add at this point, but could prove to be a wise pickup very soon. I’m stashing Taylor on my bench.
TE Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
You don’t need me to tell you how unreliable the tight end position has been in fantasy this year. That makes McDonald’s performance over the last few weeks much more noteworthy. The tight end, fresh off his 112-yard outing against Tampa Bay, caught five passes for 62 yards against the Ravens’ tough defense. McDonald has given the Steelers offense a bit of a boost over the last two weeks, and should continue to play a big role moving forward. McDonald has entered the TE1 conversation and should be rostered in all leagues.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.