Fantasy Football: Week-Ahead Stash Candidates for Week 6

Fantasy football is all about being a step ahead of your competition, and this weekly column aims to help you achieve just that.

The following offers suggestions for players to pick up now (who are currently under 50% rostered) so that that you won’t need to use a high waiver claim or spend a significant amount of free agent acquisition budget (FAB) on them next week.

Andy Dalton, QB, Dallas Cowboys

ESPN Roster Percentage: 17.6%

With Dak Prescott suffering a saddening foot injury last week that will sideline him for the remainder of the season, free agent acquisition Andy Dalton will step in as the new Dallas Cowboys starter.

Dalton had a middling fantasy resume as a Cincinnati Bengal, as he’s finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback just twice since he was drafted in 2011. But the veteran may be in the best offensive environment of his career, from both a personnel and schematic standpoint.

The Cowboys rank in the top 13 in Pro Football Focus' pass block, receiving and rushing grades, and Dallas’ top-two receiving weapons in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb both rank among the top-20 receivers by numberFire’s Reception Net Expected Points (NEP). The Cowboys also rank first in neutral-situation pace of play (per Football Outsiders), second in one-score game pass rate (per Sharp Football Stats), and 28th in defense, according to numberFire.

Dallas is likely to shift to a slightly run-heavier attack without Prescott, but given its personnel and system, Dalton should still have plenty of opportunity to be a fantasy-viable quarterback in an offense that leads the league in total offensive yards. And considering his game-winning drive against the New York Giants last week, it doesn’t seem like he’s washed quite yet.

Dalton is likely to drop back plenty this week against the similarly fast-paced Arizona Cardinals, but he will be also be exciting option the following week against a Washington Football Team that ranks 26th in opposing pass attempts but sixth in FanDuel points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Dalton should be considered as a streaming option for those with Russell Wilson (Week 7 bye), Lamar Jackson (Week 8 bye) or lacking quarterback depth.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Carolina Panthers

ESPN Roster Percentage: 40.3%

For those looking for a safer quarterback option than Dalton (albeit an arguably lower-ceiling option), look no further than Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy has back-to-back games of 20-plus fantasy points and is clearly getting more and more comfortable in a Carolina offense that ranks ninth in offensive efficiency through the first five weeks of the season.

The Panthers will play the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Chicago has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, so Teddy isn't a good play this week. But he will play the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons in the following two weeks, each of which rank in the top-four for most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Saints and Falcons have each allowed a league-high 15 passing touchdowns, which is three more than any other team this season.

Bridgewater has attempted at least 34 passes in four of five games this year, including 36 attempts last week when he accumulated 313 yards and two touchdowns through the air against Atlanta. He isn’t adding as much production on the ground, as he’s averaging just three carries and 15 rushing yards this season, and he's averaging just 6.6 air yards per pass attempt -- but as the point guard of an offense with Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis, Bridgewater is a solid option to stash this week before two plus-matchups in Weeks 8 and 9.

Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers

ESPN Roster Percentage: 1.1%

Ian Thomas is inarguably one of the biggest tight end busts of the 2020 fantasy season. After being dubbed an upside-TE2 this past summer in his first full season without former Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Thomas currently ranks 46th among tight ends in FanDuel points.

Thomas ranks no better than 40th at the position in any of targets, receptions and receiving yards -- though he does rank 20th in offensive snaps and 12th in routes run.

Week 7 will be a tough week for tight end byes, as Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki and the Colts' and Vikings' tight ends will all have an off week. Thomas certainly isn’t a very appealing option considering his lack of production so far-- but the fact that he’s seen solid playing time and will face the Saints in Week 7 (a team that ranks last in targets and fantasy points allowed to tight ends this season) makes him a viable hold-your-nose, plug-and-play for those in deeper leagues juggling tight end byes.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST

ESPN Roster Percentage: 43.2%

For those who stream defenses and have an extra roster spot available, the Kansas City D/ST is a smart look-ahead acquisition. The Chiefs will play the Buffalo Bills this week, and the Bills' offense ranks top-10 points scored, yards per play and NEP per play. But starting in Week 7, KC will face the Denver Broncos and New York Jets the following two weeks.

The Broncos and Jets rank 32nd and 30th, respectively, in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. Each team has had a carousel of quarterbacks, as Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien have all started a game for Denver while Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco have each started for New York. None of those players rank better than 33rd in Passing NEP per drop back among 46 qualifying quarterbacks, and they have combined for 10 interceptions and 28 sacks so far this season.

Kansas City ranks ninth in time of possession when leading this season (per Football Outsiders) and figures to hold a lead for the majority of time against both the 1-3 Broncos and 0-5 Jets, which would mean more drop backs, which offer valuable opportunities for interceptions and sacks. Kansas City D/ST is a no-brainer stash play that is almost guaranteed to pay off in Week 8 and 9.