The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 15 2020
One and done. Win and you're in - lose and go home. Simple, short and sweet explanation for the remainder of the 2020 Fantasy Football season. Week 14 is now officially in the books following the conclusion of the Baltimore vs. Cleveland game where no player could stay upright due to slippery conditions on the field. Just as the players made adjustment at halftime and grabbed different cleats to fit the conditions, so must players take a step back to assess their rosters, injury situations and waiver claims. Time to take a deep breath and prepare for the battle ahead.
Similar to last week, the focus of this article will be sticking to the game plan. If you've made it this far than the roster which you have assembled is clearly strong enough to contend - fine tuning is the major key moving forward, rather than dramatic or wholesale changes. Even in a frustrating week where plenty of touchdowns were scored by tertiary players of no relevance, the majority (not all, but the majority) of big-name players were able to come through for their teams.
Yes, injury situations cropped up with Deebo Samuel playing one snap and then leaving the San Francisco game with a hamstring injury. Noah Fant managed to be active for the Denver game, then promptly left with a stomach bug after giving his managers a big fat zero. Devante Parker also posted a goose egg after suffering a leg injury. Frustrating circumstances to be sure, and hopefully readers of this column were able to dodge their mishaps. Don't get me wrong - I get it. Unfortunately, bad breaks happen every week, they just happen to be magnified during the playoffs when the situation is make-or-break. I was listening to Jeff Ratcliffe on Sirius XM Radio this morning and he summed up the situation nicely - he would rather be blown out in a playoff loss while putting forth the best lineup possible with the players that led him this far, than tinker too much with a lineup and overthink matchups and have that be the catalyst for a one- or two-point loss. Losing stinks either way, don't get me wrong. But place yourself in the best position possible to succeed, and let the chips fall. Once kickoffs start, we have zero control on outcomes, we are simply playing probabilities!
As alluded to earlier, no player really stands out as a "plug and play" option in all but the deepest of formats on the waiver wire. I'll briefly review some folks below who can be considered in 12-team formats or larger, but I'd be hesitant to grab any and feel like they should take the place of a more consistent, proven option.
Jeff Wilson Jr. (San Francisco 49ers) - Anyone who has played roulette with the Kyle Shanahan wheel of pain should know exactly how this one is going to proceed - owners will pick up Wilson Jr. and start him in the hopes of a 50/50 timeshare with Raheem Mostert (or coming into more snaps due to an injury), and then Mostert will promptly see 80 percent of the backfield touches, score two touchdowns and laugh in everyone's face. We all know that this is coming, right? Regardless, Wilson Jr. has 30 rushing attempts over the last three games, and has clearly vaulted himself ahead of Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman for the backup role on this team. San Francisco is also playing the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15, and that unit bleeds points to running backs like crazy, especially those who are adept at catching the ball. His efficiency as a runner remains low, but Wilson Jr. has the off-chance of a goal line carry that will vault him into relevance yet again.
Lynn Bowden Jr. (Miami Dolphins) - Bowden is a unique player that holds dual-eligibility on several providers between RB/WR, and his ability to generate total touches as a weapon in space lands him on this short list. Injuries to both DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki thrust him into prominence in Week 14, and Bowden Jr. caught seven of nine targets in the passing game for 82 yards. Tua Tagovailoa trusts him as an outlet option, and if any of those aforementioned players remain out in Week 15, Bowden will have upside in PPR formats as a possible FLEX option. You better believe that the New England Patriots will play their hearts out against a bitter division rival, and Bowden is owned in just 0.6 percent of leagues.
Chad Hansen (Houston Texans) - Since being promoted to the active roster following the PED-related suspension of Will Fuller, Hansen has seen 14 targets over the last two weeks, and is an eyebrow-raising option in PPR leagues. With Houston's defense unable to stop anything and a lack of a competent running game, DeShaun Watson will need to look Hansen's way yet again as an alternative to Keke Coutee. Hansen was Adam Schefter's "Longshot of the Week" to produce for owners, and he spoke glowingly of his talent and how Houston seems enamored with him. Similar to Bowden Jr., Hansen is universally unowned and could plug-in as a FLEX for desperate owners.
Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys) - Yes, I know in your ultra-competitive, super-deep league Pollard is not only owned, but was drafted and kept on a team ever since. No need to tell me on Twitter! That said, his ownership on both major sites is only at 20 percent, meaning there is a number of leagues where he's available to be picked up. Pollard has seen a sharp uptick in total snaps over the last three weeks with Ezekiel Elliott struggling to get going, and he is an adept enough pass catcher that he will reel in a ball or two each week. Elliott continues to nurse and play through a calf injury that owners should keep an eye on - if he were to miss time with Dallas on the outside of the playoff bubble, Pollard could be considered a league-winner. The following two matchups against San Francisco and Philadelphia are brutal on paper, but the upside is tantalizing.
Cole Kmet (Chicago Bears)- Kmet doesn't have the same name recognition of these other players, but given the status of the tight end position, anyone who doesn't own Travis Kelce, Darren Waller or T.J. Hockenson is likely looking for upside. Kmet has been running ahead of Jimmy Graham in total routes the last several weeks, and Mitchell Trubisky clearly enjoys looking his way when Allen Robinson is quintuple-covered. Chicago takes on Minnesota and Jacksonville the next two weeks, and neither defense is adept at covering tight ends. Upside is here, folks.
Alright, now that the obvious waiver pickups are out of the way and covered, we should take a look at some injury situations and determine which players stand to benefit from them.
" Alex Smith went down with a calf injury last week on the same leg that he suffered the horrific injuries to. Early reports suggest that he will be back for Week 15, but if he's unable to go and Dwayne Haskins were to start, all receiving threats on this team would be downgraded.
" Deebo Samuel was brought down with a major hamstring injury, and he's doubtful to play in Week 15. Brandon Aiyuk went absolutely BONKERS in his absence, and I'd expect another double-digit week in targets for Aiyuk.
" Matthew Stafford was drilled in the ribs on a baseball slide during a scoring drive, and despite being one of the toughest players in the NFL, he was unable to come back into the game. Chase Daniel will start in his absence, meaning that all pass catchers will be knocked down a peg or two. A reliance upon the ground game would be a slight boost to DeAndre Swift and Adrian Peterson.
" DeVante Parker injured his leg, leading to Lynn Bowden stepping up as the main chain-moving option for Tua Tagovailoa. I've touched on this one before - if Parker is out or limited, Bowden has my interest.
Hearkening back to what I stated earlier - please, please trust the players who brought you this far when possible. For any difficult start/sit challenges that come your way, send me a message @Roto_Wizard on Twitter and I'll be happy to give my opinion. Best of luck to everyone in their Week 15 playoff matchups!