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The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 15 2021
They refer to today as "Loser Tuesday" - the day where the vast majority of Fantasy leagues have decided who has made the playoffs, and who is cursing under their breath in anticipation of 2022. As a generality, Week 14 did little favors to teams that were banking on star assets carrying them. Left, right and center there were duds galore on a very underwhelming slate of performances. I'm hopeful that the bulk of readers viewing this column had already clinched a spot for the playoffs and didn't sweat out a Monday Night miracle, between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
Rather than dwell on one particular game or performance, I'll simply state the following about the 2021 Fantasy season - this was a very, very difficult one that boiled down to avoiding major injuries and catching a lucky break here and there. More than I can ever recall in my 16 years of playing the game, players who were put into "smash" matchups routinely underwhelmed, and entire positions (most notably running back) came down to a war of attrition.
To those participants who live to fight another day and moved on, congratulations and stellar work. Your preparation and roster savviness are noted! To those who failed to make the cut, I'd recommend shifting over to DFS for the remainder of the year, in an effort to scratch the Fantasy itch. On this site we have a number of award-winning writers that cover all aspects and angles, from cash games to tournament plays. Check out their work and dabble to your hearts content!
Before I begin to cover any waiver-wire recommendations below, I'd highly encourage players who have come this far to not dramatically alter their lineup for the playoffs. Generally speaking, sticking with the formula that carried you to this point is a much more advised strategy than inserting a variable option. Sure, there are a few injuries that present opportunities. I'll get to those, have no fear. That said, just because I have a running back who is taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New Orleans Saints doesn't automatically make them a sit candidate.
Stick. With. The. Plan.
Those who are looking at an uphill battle or an insurance play would do wise considering Taysom Hill, if he is available in your league. This is especially true for Josh Allen owners, as his status is very murky given the turf-toe injury that he picked up on Sunday. Hill takes on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15, and this is another matchup where New Orleans will be putting up garbage-time production in the second half. I fully expect the Bucs to steamroll the Saints early, forcing Hill to utilize his best asset - his legs. Hill has rushed for 174 yards and two scores on the ground since inheriting the starting role in Week 13, and I foresee that trend continuing. His finger injury limits his passing abilities, but let's be honest here - outside of Alvin Kamara this team doesn't have very many threats that scare the opposition. Hill will continue to dump off the ball when needed, and his rushing ability will keep him inside my top-10 projections at the position.
Tua Tagovailoa would be the other natural pivot -play, if I was in search of help at the position. Players leaning on Lamar Jackson will need to look elsewhere in the playoffs, assuming they didn't have a capable backup play. Tua has a stellar matchup against the New York Jets, and due to his bye week occurring in Week 14, his ownership took a significant decrease. Tagovailoa has tossed five touchdowns over his last three games, and will benefit not only from a week of rest, but from the return of DeVante Parker as well. Miami's backfield is in shambles due to COVID-19 issues, which should make the Dolphins extra-reliant upon the passing game.
For those in two quarterback leagues or facing a desperate situation, Jimmy Garoppolo is another name to consider. "Jimmy G" has reached the 290 passing yard mark with multiple touchdown passes in consecutive weeks, largely in part due to George Kittle's dominant play. San Francisco squares off against the pitiful Atlanta Falcons, who are tied for the second-most passing touchdowns surrendered in 2021. Additionally, Atlanta has allowed the third-most receptions for a first down this season. Simply put? You can pass on this team. San Francisco is needing to win-out for the remainder of the year to make the playoffs, and I expect them to have their way with the Falcons.
Rashaad Penny - oh boy, where do I even start with him. In a nutshell, his big game on Sunday was validation for my constant endorsements and support since he entered the league several years ago. I've always been high on his talent, and when on the field (though he hardly was), Penny has looked the part of a starting running back in the NFL. All that said, why did he need to go off on me in EVERY LEAGUE last week? Ugh! Detractors will be quick to point out that his big day was artificially inflated by Houston not even bothering to play defense - their linebackers and cornerbacks missed several tackles in the open field that would have rendered Penny a footnote in this column. He is also a major injury risk, and he has shown an inability in the past to remain on the field for 20-plus total touches per week. That aside, he has earned the starting role in Seattle, he has gained the trust of the coaching staff, and he will be given plenty of opportunities in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Rams. It is a much harder task than what he faced previously, but volume leads to points.
New England took the Buffalo Bills to task in Week 13, running the ball repeatedly down their throat during the middle of a blizzard. The Patriots stout offensive line has given Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson plenty of gaping holes to exploit this season, and (generally speaking) they have capitalized when given the chance. Harris suffered a hamstring injury right before halftime in Week 13, and aggravated it when attempting to come back with his lone rush attempt in the third quarter. His status is murky at best. If Harris is unable to go, Stevenson would make for an excellent addition, especially with his ownership floating below the 40 percent mark. The Indianapolis Colts allow 4.5 YPC to running backs, and Stevenson would receive plenty of volume to inflate his statistics.
D'Onta Foreman still appears to be the running back to trust in Tennessee, if there is such a thing. I've had multiple conversations with ESPN's Turron Davenport regarding the Titans split in the backfield, and he confirmed simply that it is a hot-hand and game-script approach. Foreman will continue to fend off Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols for touches, especially with each of the other backs being superior receiving threats. Foreman remains the goal line and short-yardage option for Tennessee, and that role alone makes him viable in most formats. Foreman comes off of consecutive double-digit games in a PPR format, and he makes an upside RB3 or FLEX play for players in need of assistance at the position.
I'll include a footnote here on Craig Reynolds from Detroit. Reynolds really impressed me with his touches against a very difficult Denver Broncos defense in Week 14. Thrust into action due to Jamaal Williams being in the COVID-19 protocol and D'Andre Swift still nursing a sprained shoulder, Reynolds had 99 total yards on 13 touches. There is a chance that Swift returns in Week 15 (and that Williams clears the league's protocols) which would render him obsolete, but if he is given the start should things change, he is virtually unowned.
Speaking of Detroit, both Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds make interesting fliers for FLEX spots, should the need arise. It is fully expected that the Lions will be playing from behind against Arizona, forcing the team to get into a pass-first scenario. St. Brown led the team in receptions, receiving yards and targets in Week 14, and he represents the chain-moving option for quarterback Jared Goff. Reynolds is more of a homerun threat and downfield speedster, a skillset that better suits standard formats. Reynolds has seen at least five targets each game since Week 12, and his rapport with Goff is notable. Detroit has little to lose in another rough season, so why not take some shots down the field in an effort to stay competitive.
Before I dive into the numbers on Donovan Peoples-Jones, let me get this off my chest. Cleveland's play calling has been atrocious of late, and it is befuddling why a team that was built to run the ball behind an elite offensive line would choose to throw so often. Cleveland (for whatever reason) has been trying to place their faith in Baker Mayfield's ragdoll arm, rather than the legs of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this decision has been "DPJ", who has seen at least five targets in every game started since Week 10. Even though he normally works downfield as the big-play option with Jarvis Landry running the "under" routes, DPJ's size and speed makes him a threat whenever he's targeted. Cleveland squares off against Las Vegas on Sunday, in what is expected to be a high-scoring affair for two teams scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs.
A.J. Green making this list is a surprise to even myself. Yet, injuries, a stellar matchup and upside dictate that I mention his name. DeAndre Hopkins limped off of the field in Week 14, and his status is currently unknown. Given the time that he missed earlier this year and Arizona almost certainly making the playoffs, one has to wonder if the team gives him the option to rest if he isn't 100 percent. As mentioned previously, Arizona is also facing Detroit, one of the softest secondaries in the league. This marks a true "get right" game for Kyler Murray, who appeared off against Los Angeles. Should Hopkins miss time or be limited, Green would be in line for a heavy workload in an easy matchup. He is owned in less than 28 percent of ESPN leagues at the time.
Before I shift to tight end, in shallower leagues I'd strongly recommend checking to see if Russell Gage is available. Somehow rostered in less than 45 percent of formats despite operating at Atlanta's top wideout since Week 8, Gage is a must-add if available. Gage has 33 targets over the last four weeks, and represents Atlanta's top option when looking to pass. Though the team doesn't have anything to play for, they could spoil San Francisco's hopes of a wildcard.
That tumbleweed you just saw rolling past represents the barren wasteland that is this position.
Streaming options have been tricky to recommend for a slot that is so dependent on touchdowns for relevance. Outside of Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski and Dawson Knox, I don't have a particularly great feeling at tight end for Week 15. Darren Waller remains unlikely to play as he just transitioned to a treadmill for his IT band strain. T.J. Hockenson is questionable to play with a hand injury. Tyler Higbee is currently in the league's COVID-19 protocol. The list goes on and on.
Austin Hooper is worth bringing up, but his relevance is dictated upon the health of Harrison Bryant (ankle) and David Njoku (COVID-19). If both Bryant and Njoku were to miss time again, Hooper would be a worthwhile streaming choice on a team that frequently targets the position. Should either Bryant or Njoku return, Hooper is irrelevant.
Fool me once, Ricky Seals-Jones, shame on you. Fool me twice? I guess we shall see. "RSJ" fell flat on his face after being promoted to the TE1 spot for Washington on Sunday, following Logan Thomas tearing his ACL. The entire offense sputtered behind Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, and trusting either quarterback to right the ship is difficult. All that said, Washington takes on Philadelphia in Week 15, and the Eagles have allowed a bevy of points to the position while getting burned up the seam. RSJ is a desperation play for Waller owners.
By no means will I say that Seattle has fixed their issues on offense, but the team did appear slightly more competent against Houston in Week 14 than the last 10 games. If Russell Wilson continues to improve, one of the biggest beneficiaries will be Gerald Everett, who is only rostered in 13 percent of ESPN leagues. In order to keep up with the high-flying offense of the Los Angeles Rams, Everett will need to be involved as a short-yardage and red zone threat. He's worth a chance for desperate owners.