THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 13
November 29, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Did you head out to the mall on midnight after Thanksgiving to get in line for Black Friday deals? Did you spend all day yesterday shopping online while trying to forget what “cybering” used to mean? If so, then you are going to love this week’s waiver wire. We’ve got a bunch of retread commodities you could’ve bought earlier this year, but now get to fight over as everyone rushes to dump the rest of their FAAB in one last playoff push. On the other hand, with many teams eliminated from playoff contention and thus no longer free agent shopping, you can find some great bargains on the lower-end pickups. And in the last week of the regular season, short-sighted impulse buys may actually be good! ‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year.
As always, the focus is on players owned in under 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, ranked roughly in order of preference.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
(Pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
Colin Kaepernick (24% Yahoo, 23% ESPN)
My wife spends less time nagging me to do routine housework than I’ve spent nagging you to pick up Kaepernick. He had another monster game against Miami, throwing for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding 113 yards (i.e., 11.3 fantasy points) on the ground. QB1 on the week. Add. Him.
Tyreek Hill (37% Yahoo, 27% ESPN)
I’ve been a slow adopter to Hill, more because of the situation than talent. It showed on Sunday—he scored three touchdowns against Denver, but none of them through the air. Purely as a receiver, Hill looked like a guy trapped with Alex Smith, catching 9 of 10 targets but gaining just 52 yards. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change, as Smith sits at 6.6 YPA (29th in the league), and per Nathan Jahnke, tallied a whole 0.0 yards on throws >1 yard against Denver. I’m still not convinced Hill’s production is sustainable, but he was a 1st round talent who’s flashed big-play ability throughout the year, and he gets a great matchup this week against Atlanta. He’s at least startable as long as Maclin is out, especially in PPR.
Check your wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Sammy Watkins played limited snaps and had only 3 catches, but made a big play and should be good to go moving forward… Tyrod Taylor bounced back from a brutal performance for his 3rd 20-point game in his last 5; he gets a banged-up Oakland defense next…DeSean Jackson was quiet as a mouse in the middle of the year, but now has double digits in back-to-back games. More coming with Kirk Cousins rolling
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Kenneth Dixon (29% Yahoo, 25% ESPN)
Dixon and starter Terrance West split the workload evenly against Cincinnati, with each getting 17 touches and putting up similar yardage. But for the first time in forever, Dixon out-snapped West, 31-23, an upward trend several weeks in the making. Dixon’s an upside play, worth a shot this time of year. If he fizzles, he’ll do it on your bench, no harm done. If he gets hot, he could take over the lion’s share of the Ravens’ backfield and work his way into your championship lineup. I like his upcoming schedule, with two very good matchups (against Miami and Philadelphia, allowing the 3rd and 6th most YPC to opposing running backs, respectively) and two decent matchups (at New England and Pittsburgh, middle-of-the-pack run defenses).
Ted Ginn (21% Yahoo, 10% ESPN)
I talked about Ginn last week. The TL;DR version is he was getting a ton of targets, and was due to start hitting some big plays. I’ve said plenty of stupid things in this space, but that wasn’t one of them—Ginn had 4 catches for 115 yards (including an 88 yard touchdown) on a team-high 10 targets on Sunday. He’s always hard to trust, especially as we enter the win-or-go-home portion of the season, but Ginn looks like he’s back to his 2015 form.
Charles Sims (10% Yahoo, 9% ESPN)
Sims returned to practice last week and could be activated as soon as next week. The RB22 in 2015 despite limited touches, Sims had scored double digits in 2 of his 4 games this year while showing off his dual-threat abilities as a runner and receiver. In Tampa’s run-heavy scheme (4th most rushing attempts in the NFL), Sims could be a late-season league winner if Doug Martin gets hurt again. If not, Sims may still end up playable as an RB2 or flex in PPR leagues. Need more enticing? Tampa plays New Orleans twice in the fantasy playoffs.
Jalen Richard (14% Yahoo, 10% ESPN)
I spent a lot of time earlier this season trying to make sense of the Raiders’ backfield before finally giving up. Now that we’re in a post-truth world, it doesn’t matter if I get this right anyway, so let’s dive back into the quagmire.
Rookie DeAndre Washington was a healthy scratch on Sunday, while Richard received 7 carries backing up Latavius Murray. Speaking of Murray, he faded badly in the 2nd half of 2015, and has now managed only 78 yards on 31 carries since his monster Sunday night performance against Denver. I’ve liked Richard every time I’ve seen him play, and I’m taking Sunday as a sign he’s the clear-cut #2. If he can get this closer to a 50/50 split behind Oakland’s offensive line, he’d be a startable RB2. If not, he’s still a valuable handcuff to Murray.
Rex Burkhead (4% Yahoo, 5% ESPN)
Another guy I talked up last week, and hey, not a bad first game. His 5 carries for 29 yards was much more efficient than Jeremy Hill’s 12 for 21, and while Hill’s involvement in the passing game (6 catches, 61 yards) was disappointing, Burkhead did add a couple of catches for 19 yards. There’s room for an expanded role as the Bengals stumble to the finish line, especially since Hill isn’t the type of back to run behind Cincy’s overmatched offensive line.
Vernon Davis (9% Yahoo, 22% ESPN)
Davis had another strong game on Thanksgiving, catching 5 of 7 targets for 68 yards while playing 60% of Washington’s snaps. He’s remained surprisingly viable even with Jordan Reed in the lineup… speaking of which, is Reed going to be in the lineup next week? He was miraculously able to finish the Thanksgiving game with a separated shoulder, but was in pain afterward and was held out of practice Monday. Davis would be a strong TE1 if Reed is limited or can’t go, but is a viable TE play regardless.
Dontrelle Inman (5% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
You know that feeling you get the Monday before Thanksgiving when you look at your schedule and realize “damn, this week’s going to be easy”? That’s how Inman is feeling right now. His next 4 games come against Tampa Bay (allowing the 12th most points to opposing WR), Carolina (7th), Oakland (5th), and Cleveland (6th). He’ll start that walk in the park coming off another good game, catching all 6 of his targets for 119 yards and a score against Houston.
Vance McDonald (10% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
After catching 4 of 8 targets for 60 yards on Sunday, McDonald is now the TE12 in points per game. McDonald was a low-volume player under Blaine Gabbert when the 49ers couldn’t complete a pass, but now has at least 6 targets in each of his last 5 games in a rejuvinatedish 49ers passing attack. Garrett Celek got the touchdown on Sunday (capped by an awesome 2-handed spike), but with Kaepernick throwing for multiple TDs in 3 of last 4 games, McDonald will have his turn. His upcoming slate (Bears, Jets, Falcons) looks good to me.
Ladarius Green (10% Yahoo, 11% ESPN)
The glass-half-empty folks will point out that Green played just 26% of the snaps (compared to Jesse James’ 76%) and received just 3 targets. I’m not too concerned by the low volume; Pittsburgh threw just 20 times in a blowout win, and Green’s solid day (2 catches, 67 yards) should garner more work moving forward. They need him to be a receiving threat.
Brandon LaFell (18% Yahoo, 21% ESPN)
Last week I speculated that although LaFell might be in line for increased usage with A.J. Green out, he miiiiiiiight just suck. Did his 3 catch, 38 yard performance against Baltimore (missing its top CB) sway my opinion? No. No it did not.
You should stay far away from LaFell this week against the Eagles, one of the top passing defenses in the NFL (though I’m typing this as Davante “Where Was This Last Year” Adams is just shredding Philly). So why am I wasting time you could be online shopping to talk about LaFell? Because he starts the fantasy playoffs with a great matchup at Cleveland, then a pretty good one against Pittsburgh. In those matchups, especially against the Browns, I’m very interested in LaFell’s volume (18 targets over the past two weeks with Green out), making him a good pickup for forward thinkers.
Malcolm Mitchell (3% Yahoo, 3% ESPN)
Normally I wouldn’t be interested in a rookie wide receiver with just 16 catches on the year, coming off a game where he played only 43% of his team’s snaps. But Rob Gronkowski came into the game with a punctured lung and left with a back injury, which opened up the red zone for two short Mitchell TDs.
Mitchell was a top prospect until injuries piled up at Georgia, and while it’s been a slow burn to start the year, over his last two games he’s amassed 9 catches for 140 yards on 12 targets. Oh, and 3 touchdowns. Mitchell’s outburst has come in great matchups (49ers and Jets), but the way Brady’s playing there aren’t many matchups I’m afraid of. The Pats will still spread it around, but their other skill players are hobbled, and Mitchell has tremendous upside playing with the best quarterback in the league.
Check your wire (owned in <75% of leagues): In the first game without A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell both earned 9 targets. Boyd was much more effective, catching 5 for 62 yards. He’ll also benefit from the Bengals’ aforementioned playoff schedule, and I still like him more than LaFell… While Kenny Britt needs to be owned, you don’t want to be the guy who does it. I get it. But he’s going to finish as a top-30 WR… Cameron Brate had two bad matchups in a row, but the schedule picks up with San Diego and two games against New Orleans coming up… James Starks continues to get nice workloads, even if he’s not producing much with it. A fill-in RB2 if you’re desperate… Wendell Smallwood was in on just 37% of Philadelphia’s snaps, but out-touched Darren Sproles 10 to 8.
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
Julio Jones was kept in check, but that left an openings for Mohamed Sanu (8-8-65-0 targets-receptions-yards-TDs) and Taylor Gabriel (5-4-75-2). Gabriel has double digit points in 4 straight games, but hasn’t surpassed 5 targets in that span. In addition to low volume, I’m skeptical that his recent touchdown explosion (scoring in 3 of his last 4 games) will continue. He has just 1 red zone target, and the Falcons are leaning primarily on their running backs when they get in close. Still, he’s a talented player in a good offense.
Anquan Boldin has seen 9 targets in back-to-back games, but even with volume he’s been a low-upside player. Never a great athlete, he’s slowed down considerably in his old age, averaging just 8.2 YPR this year (3 yards below his previous career low). He’s been a good red zone threat (ranking 2nd among wide receivers with 12 red zone receptions, leading to 5 of his 6 scores), but you need that to play him, as he’s averaged just 3.1 points per game in the 5 games he didn’t find the end zone.
I mentioned Denard Robinson last week, but didn’t expect him to lead the Jaguars in carries. Robinson didn’t light the world on fire (13 carries, 39 yards), and Ivory remained the goal line back, but if you’re in a league where carries are hard to find then Robinson can be added. On that note, Marquise Lee had another good game (6-4-37-1).
Alex Smith has been really bad, but his matchup against Atlanta (sans Desmond Trufant) is as good as it gets.
September darlings Quincy Enunwa and Will Fuller each produced on Sunday, but their quarterback issues haven’t been fixed by one good game, so I’m generally looking elsewhere.
I’ll mention Marquess Wilson’s big game (11-8-125-1), but know that he played only 59% of the Bears’ snaps and Matt Barkely was forced to throw 54 times playing in comeback mode (for comparison, Jay Cutler had been averaging 30 attempts per game) . Incredible schedule coming up (49ers, @ Lions, Packers), but this feels like a 1-week wonder. I’d still roll with Cam Meredith first, if I must.
Actually, Matt Barkley wasn’t half bad! A good game against the 49ers would make him very interesting with that cupcake schedule to start the fantasy playoffs.
Another heavy usage game for Lance Kendricks, who reached 7 targets for the 5th time in 6 games. Still, just his first double-digit game this year.
I might be dumb enough to recommend Ryan Fitzpatrick against Indianapolis when I guest write the start/sit column later this week… stay tuned.
I suppose Phillip Dorsett would be addable if T.Y. Hilton can’t go on Monday Night Football, and it’s a great matchup against the Jets, but he already blew a golden opportunity with Moncrief out earlier this year.
It’s not hard to make Jeff Fisher look stupid. It’s also not hard to throw on the Saints. But give Jared Goff some credit for doing both on Sunday in a pretty decent 2nd start. After facing New England this week (allowing the 11th most points per game to opposing QBs), he gets great matchups against Atlanta and San Francisco in Week 14 and 16 (allowing the most and 4th most points to opposing QBs, respectively).
The Patriots sent athletic QB-turned-TE A.J. Derby to Denver last month to clear up a glut of tight ends on its roster (oops). If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably from Derby’s stellar preseason where he led all tight ends in fantasy points with a 21-15-189-1 line. Although fellow TE Virgil Green out-snapped Derby 53-40, Green didn’t register a target while Derby caught all 4 of his for 43 yards on Sunday night. Tight ends in Kubiak offenses…
Jermaine Gresham has touchdowns in 2 straight games, and was 2nd on the Cardinals with 10 targets on Sunday. This all feels very, very fluky, but if you’re desperate and didn’t like any of the 10 tight ends already discussed, the Cardinals have plenty of targets with John Brown hurt again and Michael Floyd disappointing again.
Any questions, hit me up on Twitter, @scedar015. Be sure to check out Chris Manni’s Streaming Spotlight and Adam Cook’s Field of Streams for weekly quarterback, tight end, and defense pickups.