“Family, Football & This Adventure We Call Life” is a year-round column by Nate Polvogt that shares a Colorado dad’s outlook on life and his weekly advice for fantasy football waiver wire pickups. Nate enters the Week 4 waiver wire run in his third season of writing and with the pride of being hot on 2021 league-winner Rashaad Penny early.
“Sometimes, it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” – Drake
It all started in 2014.
Jen and I had always been casual football fans and fantasy managers. We had our home league of standing with family and friends and occasionally played a random league on Yahoo! with nameless, faceless strangers. We watched every Broncos game and the primetime games if it was an intriguing matchup.
But that was it. We didn’t follow the league much outside of important news. We made draft picks based chiefly on Average Draft Position (ADP)and quick, last-minute research. Start/sits derived on points projections within whatever platform we were using, and trading wasn’t something anyone in our leagues did.
Football was a relaxed affair in our house. We both worked full-time jobs we didn’t love, and HGTV and Food Network hijacked our weekends. That was our life. We wanted to let our brains relax, and toiling over stats didn’t seem to fit.
Then, everything changed.
Necessity Breeds Invention
Jen’s sister, Christina, and her husband, Matt, are both rabid Broncos fans. However, living in California, it wasn’t easy for them to watch Broncos games. They usually ended up at a local steakhouse where they had the full slate of games at their disposal, including Denver. After a few years, they both tired of sitting in crowded bars every Sunday. Naturally, they did what any rational person would; They got a Sunday ticket subscription.
Our brother-in-law Matt is a pretty handy and resourceful guy, and they wanted to replicate the bar set-up without the crowd, so he made it happen. Every Sunday, he would convert their living room to a mess of wires, remotes, and televisions, watching four different games at any given moment.
Naturally, we were inspired. We had just signed up for DirecTV and had Sunday Ticket as well. So we mimicked their set-up with three TVs in our living room and one game on our old iPad. We were instantly addicted.
The following season found Matt and Christina back in Colorado (if only for a brief time), so we took turns hosting our Sunday Football Extravaganza. For two seasons, the four of us watched football and feasted together. Both Matt and I have extensive cooking backgrounds, so we did not only surround ourselves with football; we usually cooked up some pretty killer gameday food.
All Good Things Must End (Kind Of)
At the beginning of 2017, our Sunday football buddies decided to make their way back to the green hills of Napa Valley, Calif. The damage, however, had been done. We could never go back to regular football. Even with a kiddo on the way, we knew we would find a way to continue our tradition, just as they would back in California. So we sent each other pictures of us doing our ritual pre-Broncos game shots (we recently retired that tradition for obvious reasons) and still text back and forth about the games all day.
We both look back fondly on those early, far-more-carefree Sundays that started our year-round obsession with all things football. They got us playing more Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and more interested in the game’s finer details. They made it an afterthought to sit down and watch seven straight hours of football like we did this past weekend.
And What a Weekend It Was
This season we added a new twist to our football-watching routine, putting NFL RedZone on our main TV. With the eloquent Scott Hanson narrating it all, we took in the madness that was Week 3.
• We saw quarterback Trevor Lawrence lead the Jaguars to victory in a shocking upset of the Chargers.
• Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed the world he’s for real in a victory over the Bills.
• The New York Giants lost wide receiver Sterling Shepard for the season in a disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
• Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson continued to microwave in an uninspiring victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Many of our fantasy rosters will be limping into Week 4, thanks to injuries and underperformance. However, if you listened to me ahead of Week 2, you’re just fine at running back because you snagged Bears standout, Khalil Herbert, before he was the talk of Chicago in Week 3.
I’m coming to the table ahead of Week 4 with two waiver wire targets that have been on my radar since the offseason and one that’s probably never been on my radar at all. Let’s get to it in this week’s edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild!”
Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 4 Waiver Wire
It’s a long NFL season; every week is as important as the next in your push to glory. Seasons are won and lost in the trenches.
Our Week 4 waiver wire targets has a budding wide receiver, an up-and-coming tight end with upside moving forward and a running back that likely doesn’t.
HOT — White Habanero Pepper
Isaiah McKenzie (WR, Buffalo Bills)
As a long-time Denver Broncos fan, I have loved watching Bills’ wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie shake off a rough, fumble-laden rookie season with the Broncos and enjoy some success in Buffalo. He hasn’t been flashy like Buffalo WR1 Stefon Diggs, but he has been quietly efficient, catching 73.6 percent of his passes.
With the offseason addition of fellow slot receiver Jameson Crowder, it looked more of the same in 2022 for the sixth-year receiver. McKenzie, whose career-high for targets is 39 in a season, saw only six targets from quarterback Josh Allen through the Bills’ first two games. However, Week 3 saw him targeted nine times – the second most single-game targets of his career. The speedster turned that opportunity into seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
It looks as though McKenzie has taken control of the slot role for the Bills ahead of Crowder. Of course, his usage was propped up by the injury to fellow pass-catcher Gabe Davis this past week, but we’ve seen how valuable the Bills’ slot receivers can be in fantasy. For example, Cole Beasley had over 100 targets three straight seasons in Buffalo, playing primarily slot (651 of his 739 offensive snaps in 2021 came in the slot).
What To Do
There will be some competition on this one, but he could be worth it. We’ve seen some big names injured the last few weeks, and your leaguemates are likely affected. If you are needy at wideout, don’t be afraid to drop 10 to 15 percent of your Free Agency Acquisition Budget (FAAB) or use a higher waiver wire priority to get McKenzie rostered.
MEDIUM —Serrano Pepper
Daniel Bellinger (TE, New York Giants)
Nothing about this New York Giants team is exciting outside of running back Saquon Barkley. Quarterback Daniel Jones spends most of his time on the field looking overmatched, outwitted and generally confused. To make matters even worse, wide receiver Shepard tore his ACL this past Monday night, ending his season. Jones’s available targets are few and far between in this offense, with receiver Kenny Golladay being a massive disappointment and Kadarius Toney still nursing a hamstring injury. Fifth-year free veteran Richie James figures to be more involved moving forward and may have fantasy value. However, rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger could be the biggest beneficiary of the shaky receiving corps.
Bellinger didn’t see his first NFL action until Week 2, having one target for one catch and a touchdown. Week 3 involved Bellinger more, seeing five targets and converting four catches for 40 yards. With Shepard done and Golladay likely on his way out, the fourth-round pick out of San Diego State could be the second receiving option for Jones. Think of him as a slightly more reliable, better-blocking Evan Engram.
Early in the season, we’re going on a gut feeling alongside a minimal work sample. Between camp, preseason and two games, I like what I’ve seen out of Bellinger thus far. Head coach Brian Daboll wants to use tight ends in red zone situations. As we saw with Dawson Knox last season when Daboll was the signal caller in Buffalo, Bellinger could get high-quality opportunities in and around the end zone. He may not be a volume hog on a squad that will likely lean on Barkley for the rest of the season. That said, he could have touchdown upside at a meager price.
What To Do
Bellinger should be available after waivers run in most leagues this week. I think he’s worth a free stash to see what happens over the next few games. Best-case scenario, we see him turn into a red zone beast and help you make a playoff push. Worst case, he doesn’t pan out, and you can drop him in a few weeks. No harm, no foul.
MILD — Sweet Orange Snacking Pepper
Samaje Perine (RB, Cincinnati Bengals)
It’s not easy finding a needle in a haystack, precisely what we analysts are trying to do when bringing you sleeper waiver wire candidates. Sometimes, that flash in the pile of dry grass you think is the needle is merely an illusion. This is the case with Bengals’ running back Samaje Perine.
This Cincinnati Bengals team looks like a far cry from the team that won the AFC just a year ago. After defeating a so-far-decent New York Jets team in Week 3, the team is sitting at 1-2. RB1 Joe Mixon was largely ineffective against the Jets, but the team didn’t need him to be this week. Perine got most of his work late in the game in junk time when the outcome was clear.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Perine has seen mostly change-of-pace work in relief of Mixon. 11 carries and eight targets is a solid workload for a player like him through three games. He managed to turn one of his catches last week into a touchdown, something unlikely to happen often.
What To Do
Perine could be a streaming candidate if you drafted thin at RB. However, this wouldn’t be the week to roster him with a Thursday night contest against the Dolphins looming and Mixon”good to go” according to head coach Zac Taylor. If you’re not desperately streaming backup RBs and not handcuffing him to Mixon, you shouldn’t have Perine on your roster.
I hope you find my spicy and not-so-spicy waiver wire pickups and notes useful. Until next time!
The best part about having a kid is they laugh at everything, including dumb jokes. I’ve tested this one out on Jackson, and I’m happy to report he certified it #DadJoke worthy.
I read that by law, you must turn on your headlights when it’s raining in Sweden.
How am I supposed to know when it’s raining in Sweden?
As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @NatePolvogt.