The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 14 2020
My wife pulled me aside on Sunday and whispered in my ear "I think that it would be healthier to pick up yoga than watch football right now". I was fuming, once again. My once insurmountable lead created by both Darren Waller and Corey Davis had evaporated during the Philadelphia vs. Green Bay game, thanks to my opponent starting Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and the Packers DST (coupled with Doug Pederson being an idiot). Clearly this is what getting punched in the mouth feels like, I repeatedly said when feeding my infant son baby food.
Maybe I should opt for that instead. A little peace and serenity rather than allowing my blood pressure to spike to catastrophic levels once more - it'd be what the doctor ordered, literally (my wife is a surgeon).
But… where is the fun in that? Yes, Fantasy Football drives me absolutely bonkers. It is a game where players simply bet on what will happen, having zero control of any actual outcome. We have no ability to change horrific play calling (here is looking straight at you, Doug Pederson), players snaps being limited (Clyde Edwards-Helaire situation), injuries that occur on the field or the dreaded COVID. There is literally nothing we can do - yet we try repeatedly to convince ourselves otherwise.
The bottom line for Fantasy owners now that we have reached the conclusion of the regular season? Place yourself in the best possible position to succeed. Can things happen each and every week that are beyond your control that are maddening? Of course. But control what you can - set your lineup with players that are either must-start options, or FLEX considerations that have a matchup to exploit. In this week's column I'll focus not only on waiver wire candidates to add that are coming off of big games, but players who are taking on weaker defenses that are largely unowned.
Generally speaking, I don't want to make a switch at quarterback this late in the season unless it is absolutely necessary. All of the bye weeks are now behind us so there is little excuse to make a change. Arguably the most important position in one's lineup, it would be a major surprise to see a team make the playoffs while rotating at this position. If you are in the minority and happen to have an either/or question than feel free to send it my way, but this is really a "trust what brought you here" spot. That aside, there are some matchups that I wanted to point out that are primed to pay off.
Justin Herbert has a phenomenal chance for a bounce-back effort against the Atlanta Falcons, who have surrendered the second-most passing yards in the league. One would have to imagine that Los Angeles isn't particularly thrilled with the beatdown suffered at the hands of New England, so Herbert along with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry have a chance to explode.
Going back to the "taking advantage of a plus matchup against a weak defense" narrative, I fully expect for Russell Wilson to go bananas against the New York Jets. Seattle suffered a stunning defeat against the New York Giants, and head coach Pete Carroll isn't one to let that slide. Not that they weren't already atop the receiver projections, but D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett each could top the century mark with touchdowns between them. Listen, the Jets have proven to be scrappy and competitive for sure, but I can't envision them putting up might of a fight in this one.
Honestly? It would be an easy recommendation to mention Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee is going against Jacksonville, who has been nearly as inept as Atlanta and New York. That said? The Titans haven't been stellar at guarding anyone either - take a look at the game tape against Baker Mayfield last week as an example. Not only will Tannehill see a bump in my rankings, but Mike Glennon would actually see relevance in two-quarterback formats. I do envision a good day for D.J. Charka and Laviska Shenault, and don't be surprised to see rookie standout Collin Johnson make a few big catches as well.
Okay, so at this point we need to examine what size league you're in and what sort of holes you need to fill.
Ty Johnson (New York Jets) - Frank Gore exited Week 13 due to a concussion, and La'Mical Perine remains on the IR. In their absence it was a one-man show in the backfield for New York, with Johnson seeing 24 total touches, racking up 104 rushing yards and a score on the ground while catching two passes for 13 yards. Johnson might not be the most exciting pickup that you've ever seen, but given the expected workload, the fact that the Jets will be playing from behind and Seattle will gladly allow this team to take time off the clock voluntarily, Johnson will pile up junk time statistics.
Adrian Peterson (Detroit Lions) - Peterson's inclusion as a mention here is entirely (and obviously) dependent upon the health status of star rookie back DeAndre Swift. Swift missed multiple games with a concussion around Thanksgiving, and was out this past week due to an illness that has since been confirmed as not related to his injury. Even if Swift is active, I'd have a difficult time envisioning the Detroit Lions at least splitting the workload, with Peterson being heavily involved around short-yardage and goal line situations.
Ito Smith (Atlanta Falcons) - Yes, I know that I'm continuing to go back to games that I previously mentioned. The Falcons are expected to get smoked in this game, aren't playing for a playoff position and have major personnel changes coming in the offseason. Todd Gurley is playing like a shell of his former self, and lacks any semblance of explosiveness. Even though Brian Hill was presumed to be the starter when Gurley was absent in weeks past, it was Smith that was clearly the better player of the two. Gurley is technically atop the depth chart still and will see a handful of touches, but take the upside here. Atlanta needs to figure out what they have in Smith with an important draft ahead of them.
Keke Coutee (Houston Texans) - This is the "gee, no kidding" recommendation of the week. A suspension to Will Fuller led to Brandin Cooks drawing top-tier coverage, allowing Coutee to catch eight passes on nine targets for 141 yards. He has always had an incredible rapport with DeShaun Watson, and the major question about Coutee has been his ability to stay on the field. Coutee has a slight build and isn't afraid to catch "hospital balls" over the middle of the field, so we shall see how long he stays upright this time. We know that Houston will be playing from behind thanks to their porous defense, so the targets will be there.
Tim Patrick (Denver Broncos) - I was mind blown to see Patrick only owned in 15 percent of ESPN leagues - I figured that it would be much closer to 50 percent at a minimum. This may seem like a knee-jerk recommendation given the two-touchdown performance that he had on Sunday, but Patrick is a perfect combination of size and speed for Drew Lock to target. Especially around the end zone, Patrick is the top receiving threat for Denver to utilize against smaller cornerbacks. Outside of the multitude of tight ends that Denver strolls out, Patrick is the lone "big body" wideout on the team. When Lock looks his way he is a physical mismatch that creates issues.
Denzel Mims (New York Jets) - Man, it feels dirty recommending multiple Jets in the same column. That said, Week 14 is very light across the waiver wire and options are limited this late in the season that have any sort of promised impact. Other analysts will point to Breshad Perriman being the player to pick up as the receiving threat in this offense, but I think Mims is a more complete overall player, and his increased usage of late is promising. Mims has three straight games with eight targets and 60-plus yards - his floor alone makes him a viable FLEX option in 12 or 14-team leagues. It is evident that the Jets will be playing from behind (a theme of this column, in case you haven't realized it by now), leading to opportunities galore.
Laviska Shenault Jr. (Jacksonville Jaguars) - By now hopefully you are seeing a pattern of the same five or six teams being mentioned. I said earlier that the Jaguars have a plus-matchup against the Titans, and if they want to remain competitive, Shenault will be a major reason why. Yes, the touchdown catch that he had in Week 13 as a ricochet was incredibly fluky - but his mentioning in this column comes from his ability as both a receiving threat and capable runner, when called upon. This past week was his first double-digit effort in PPR formats since Week 5, but don't forget how explosive he was earlier in the year.
::Grimaces before making recommendations and takes a deep breath::
Okay, here goes. Caveat? Outside of Travis Kelce and Darren Waller, this position is both difficult to predict and has a very low floor of production. Owners be warned.
Cole Kmet (Chicago Bears) - When one thinks of the Chicago Bears, warm fuzzy thoughts of Fantasy production don't immediately rush to mind. I get it. And yes, before we begin - Jimmy Graham is still the starter, technically speaking. All that aside - Kmet has seen a drastic increase of snaps and targets the last several weeks, culminating last game when he was tied with Allen Robinson for the team-lead. He's athletic, a willing blocker and a large mismatch against smaller cornerbacks and safeties. Consistency is an issue (as is the case with this entire position) but the upside is there. Chicago also takes on Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville the next three weeks - prime matchups galore.
Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys) - My recommendations pivoted from a red-zone mismatch and physical freak Schultz, a PPR play who is a major contributor in this offense with Andy Dalton under center. Struggles along the offensive line have forced Dallas to focus on shorter routes that can exploit zone coverage, leading to Schultz's mention here. He has at least four receptions in every game dating back to Week 7, and his 8-10 point floor is enticing enough to gravitate towards. Again, he's a PPR play based upon volume, not red zone looks.
Once again, don't overthink things when setting your lineup this week. For many of you, we are entering "one and done" territory, and benching someone who has brought you this far in favor of a one-week-wonder will be your death knell. Don't slave over site projections - use matchup data and recent usage coupled with history against opponents and team schematics to guide your decisions. And when all else fails? Shoot me your dilemma on Twitter, I'd be happy to lend my two cents if requested to do so.