Fantasy football last-minute pickups for Week 5: Sam Darnold, A.J. Green and more

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Each week of the NFL season, we will identify fantasy football waiver-wire pickups specifically for those of you looking for streaming options in deeper formats (including IDP leagues). These are players available in a majority of ESPN Fantasy leagues (or close) who have enticing matchups in the week ahead that make them worthy of consideration for your lineups.

While you might notice some overlap with Field Yates' pickup column that publishes on Mondays, an important distinction is that the options mentioned in this column are focused solely on this week's matchup and not the players' values for the remainder of the season.

The roster percentages for this column are updated every Friday morning, and any players from Thursday's Rams-Seahawks game have been taken out.


Mac Jones, New England Patriots (13.7% rostered; vs. Texans)
Jones stood toe-to-toe against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, his 19 straight completions Sunday night tied Brady for the most in a single game by a Patriots player since 1978 (first season of the 16-game schedule). Jones has at least 18 fantasy points in half of his four games with a suboptimal group of receivers that includes Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor. This week the rookie faces a Texans defense that has allowed the seventh-most points to quarterbacks (22.3 per game).

Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers (40.1% rostered; vs. Eagles)
Darnold is another great example of how situation and landing spot are two underrated factors in projecting success for young quarterbacks. He has had three consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards and a combined 10 touchdowns this season. Darnold has averaged 27.0 points per game and the positive momentum should continue against the Eagles' defense, which has allowed 19.7 points per game to quarterbacks this season, including 31.7 to Patrick Mahomes in Week 4 (best among QBs).

Jacoby Brissett, Miami Dolphins (2.1% rostered; at Buccaneers)
Brissett is an intriguing streamer in two-quarterback or superflex formats if you are in a bind. Over the past two weeks, he's averaged only 17.5 points per game and a dismal 4.9 yards per pass attempt. However, Brissett's matchup against the Buccaneers isn't as daunting as it seems. Tampa Bay's defense has allowed the sixth-most points per game to quarterbacks (22.5) and 7.0 yards per pass attempt. Brissett could be an under-the-radar option this week. He still has DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki to throw to and this is a great matchup for Brissett to aggressively push the football downfield.

Running Back

Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots (7.0% rostered; at Texans)
The thought of having a Patriots running back on your roster has historically made many fantasy managers nauseous, although many aren't showing symptoms with Damien Harris this season. Bolden appears to have inherited James White's role after playing 32% of the Patriots' offensive snaps against the Bucs. From Week 1 of the 2019 season to Week 2 of 2021, White averaged 9.0 opportunities per game. New England seems to be against using Harris in the passing game. That makes Bolden a solid flex option with upside against a Texans' defense that has allowed the 14th-most points per game to running backs (25.0).

Wide Receiver

A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals (rostered 37.1%; vs. 49ers)
Has Green found the fountain of youth in Arizona? He's averaged an impressive 6.0 targets, 62.0 receiving yards and 11.4 points per game. Green continues to play a high number of snaps, he's prospering with Kyler Murray, and faces the 49ers' exploitable secondary.

Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints (rostered 40.4%; vs. Washington)
I understand it's difficult to get excited about the Saints' passing game. Callaway has been targeted only 13 times this season, but this week it would be wise for New Orleans to use him to attack Washington's secondary on Sunday. The Football Team has allowed 45.4 points per game to receivers. The only other teams to allow more are the Titans (51.3) and Buccaneers (53.8).

Tight End

Evan Engram, New York Giants (29.3% rostered; at Cowboys)
At the moment, Engram is a polarizing player in fantasy circles. Still, he's accumulated 12 targets in his two games and is another week removed from his calf injury. While Engram has turned those targets into just seven catches for 48 yards, he has the talent and draft pedigree to perform better. He will have a perfect opportunity to do that against the Cowboys' defense, which has allowed the seventh-most points per game to tight ends, including big games from Rob Gronkowski (29.0) and Zach Ertz (15.3). With Daniel Jones playing some of the best football of his young career, it's worth rolling the dice with Engram this week if you are in need of a TE streamer.

Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings (20.7% rostered; vs. Lions)
Conklin is averaging a respectable 5.5 targets per game as the fourth receiving option in the Vikings' offense. He has an every-down role and has three red zone targets so far. Conklin is the epitome of a matchups-based TE streamer. The Lions, this week's opponent, have allowed an average of 4.8 targets, 3.2 receptions, 57.0 receiving yards and 10.0 fantasy points per game to tight ends in their past five games. If you're wondering why I included Week 17 of the 2020 season in this sample, it's because Conklin had six targets, three receptions, and 40 receiving yards in that game.

Defense/special teams

Arizona Cardinals (54.1% rostered; vs. 49ers)
The only other D/ST with more points than the Cardinals (42) is the Bills (54). Arizona has one of the most formidable pass rushes in the NFL and will most likely face Trey Lance, who would be making his first career start in Arizona. The Cardinals are top five in blitz rate and I anticipate Vance Joseph will make him uncomfortable with a barrage of pressure.

Las Vegas Raiders (42.8% rostered; vs. Bears)
Many were impressed by Justin Fields' performance in Week 4, albeit against an atrocious Lions defense. Now Fields travels to face a Raiders defense that will be looking for retribution after losing to the Chargers on Monday Night Football. The rookie may not be able to lean heavily on the running game, with David Montgomery out indefinitely, so the Raiders could force Fields out of his comfort zone.


Greg Joseph, Minnesota Vikings (16.7% rostered; vs. Lions)
Joseph and the Vikings should rebound with a better offensive effort this week against the Lions. Only the Jets (11.0) and Washington (12.0) have given up more fantasy points per game to kickers this season than the Lions (10.3).

Nick Folk, New England Patriots (8.8% rostered; at Texans)
Before missing his 56-yard, game-winning attempt against the Buccaneers on Sunday night, Folk had made 36 consecutive field goal attempts. He's in a great position to bounce back against a Texans team that has allowed the fifth-most points per game in the NFL this season (29.0).

Individual Defensive Players (IDP)

Defensive Line

Matt Judon, New England Patriots (18.0% rostered; at Texans)
Judon terrorized the Buccaneers' offensive line all night on Sunday, finishing with a 7 total tackles, a sack, 3 hurries, and 2 tackles for loss. Now Judon faces the Texans' middle-of-the-road offensive line. He has been the Patriots' best defensive player this season and should be busy as a pass rusher and run stopper.


Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns (3.9% rostered; at Chargers)
The Browns haven't had a linebacker quite like Owusu-Koramoah in a long time. JOK played a season-high 35 snaps in Week 4 against the Vikings and his role should continue to grow.

Defensive Back

Chuck Clark, Baltimore Ravens (13.1% rostered; vs. Colts)
Clark continues to be underrated. He's the Ravens' best blitzer, tackler and smartest player on defense. Clark will be busy against the Colts.