The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 16 2020
"We're leaving together, but still, it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back to Earth, who can tell?"
Yes, my friends, according to both Europe and myself - this is truly the Final Countdown. Week 15 has come and passed, and the vast majority of Fantasy leagues are now entering their championship, and final week. Before we get started, a big congratulations if you've managed to make it this far. More than any other season in Fantasy history, 2020 was littered with potential landmines as we played in the midst of a pandemic, causing owners to make last-second adjustments and pivots. Anyone who managed a winning record, let alone a championship run, should be commended.
Not only did COVID wreak havoc on starting lineup situations, but the number of first-round busts this year was epic, to say the least:
Christian McCaffrey (injured)
Saquon Barkley (injured)
Ezekiel Elliott (injured/ineffective without Dak Prescott)
Michael Thomas (injured/suspended)
Joe Mixon (injured)
Josh Jacobs (injured/ineffective)
In most formats that is literally half of the first-round underperforming (or not performing at all, in Barkley and McCaffrey's case). Overcoming those odds proved to be a difficult endeavor indeed for many, leading to waiver-wire claims seeing expanded usage on a weekly basis. Here are a few players that were largely unowned when they came into relevance that helped vault teams into the playoffs:
Justin Herbert - I wrote in my rookie write-up prior to the season starting that Herbert would be eased into action with Tyrod Taylor seeing the initial work under center. So much for that. One punctured lung and two phenomenal games later, Herbert had solidified himself as the team's starter, and they haven't looked back since. I noted "Having the options of Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams rivals the best in the league - Herbert's upside is massive if he can work out the kinks." Kinks, referring to his footwork and leadership capabilities. Check, and check. Herbert currently ranks ninth in points at the position, and he didn't play one snap in Week 1.
Baker Mayfield - Mayfield makes this list from his initial play, overall improvements and recent developments. Yes, in the middle of the season he struggled for owners, but he has dramatically cut down on turnovers and settled into a nice groove of contributing around 300 passing yards, two touchdowns and a few rushing yards. Mayfield currently ranks 13th at the position, and I've been very impressed with his ability to play well even in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. - both Rashad Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones have made significant strides.
James Robinson - Without a doubt, the most valuable player for owners from a "return on investment" angle. Scheduled to initially be third or fourth at best on the Jacksonville depth chart, Robinson has proven to be a workhorse capable of handling 20-25 touches per week, and has really shined in the passing game. He currently ranks fourth in total points at the position in PPR leagues, and owners who grabbed him early came away with an RB1. He has been one of the few bright spots for the Jaguars in 2020. It will be curious to see how much further (if possible) he will be valued if the team opts to draft Trevor Lawrence in the first round.
Mike Davis - Don't handcuff your starters, you say? What is the point of owning someone who will burn a roster spot, you say? There you have it. Especially in systems where total touches for running backs is funneled through one primary option, it really benefits Fantasy players to invest in the clear-cut backup, should a team have one. Christian McCaffrey's litany of injuries this year propelled Davis into Fantasy relevance, and he responded with a top-10 season for the team, single-handedly keeping them in playoff contention.
Antonio Gibson - Jonathan Taylor and Clyde Edwards-Helaire were the most touted rookie running options entering 2020, yet Gibson (prior to his injury) outplayed both. The jury was out on his initial usage since there was limited tape to fall back upon from his college days at Memphis. Especially with J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber already there, what sort of workload would Gibson actually see, and how fast would Ron Rivera be comfortable trusting him with a larger workload? Gibson responded by scoring 11 rushing touchdowns from Weeks 2-12, giving his owners a great plug-and-play RB2 that came at a discount.
Justin Jefferson - I discussed Jefferson on air with Mike Dempsey and Bob Harris during my last "7 at 11" segment on Sirius XM Radio - he has been the most impressive rookie player out of this class for me, hands down. It was speculated that Jefferson's ability to work both in the slot and outside, coupled with Stefon Diggs leaving the team would give him an outside chance at Fantasy relevance out of the gate. Check. Jefferson currently ranks 8th at the position, and has 73 receptions on 103 targets for 1,182 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is a nightmare to tackle after he has the ball in his hands, and is a top-10 option at the position for the next decade.
Cole Beasley - The definition of consistency, Beasley has very quietly been the 14th ranked wideout in PPR leagues this year, catching 79 passes for 950 yards and four touchdowns for Buffalo. Josh Allen's significant progress has been the primary variable that led to this ascension, coupled with Beasley's fantastic hands and fearless nature in traffic. Diggs demands double-coverage, and Beasley has roasted both linebackers and cornerbacks in zone coverage, converting first down after first down. Tip of the cap to this underappreciated wideout.
Robby Anderson - Anderson is a one-trick pony deep threat who will lose targets to D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel up and down the field - right? Wrong. Carolina made the bold move of switching Anderson to a volume-based option, which has paid off tremendously. Rather than running nothing but "go routes" up sidelines, Anderson has caught at least five passes in 10 of the 15 games he's played, and has been remarkably consistent. With Moore back and healthy, Anderson will continue to draw single-coverage, and it can be argued that this is one of the top one-two punches at the position in the league.
T.J. Hockenson - This position is a true dumpster fire outside of the top-5, and having an option who can consistently rack up double-digit points is a true godsend. For a team that struggled as much as Detroit did in 2020, Hockenson took a leap forward in his development as an overall player, and became a reliable option for Matthew Stafford to rely upon when targeted. One can argue that part of his statistical boost is due to Kenny Golladay's lingering absence, but Hockenson was commanding five or more targets each week earlier this season as well.
Robert Tonyan - Wait a minute, does Aaron Rodgers FINALLY have a reliable tight end? Yes! Even though his volume isn't the same as a Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, Rodgers looks to Tonyan around the red zone frequently - leading to consecutive weekly scores since Week 10. It is difficult to rely on touchdowns, but Tonyan's brilliant play has led to him becoming the 1B option behind Davante Adams in this potent passing attack.
Before we conclude things, I'd also like to give a round of applause to the 2020 Fantasy Football rookie class. Talking about overcoming adversity. Learning a playbook remotely rather than on the field, experiencing fewer snaps in practices due to facilities being closed or cleaned due to COVID concerns, trying to develop relationships with teammates and (in some cases) being exposed to a brand-new part of the country after being drafted. Talk about hurdle after hurdle. This draft class was labeled as deep, and it has lived up to the hype.
Regarding players that I'd endorse/recommend for start/sit purposes this week, I'll echo what I said in the last edition of this column. Start the players who are no-brainer options that have carried you this far. For FLEX decisions that come down to matchups, please send me a message on Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) and I'll be happy to give you personal analysis, rather than endorsing someone here specifically. Matchups are important, but don't forget about volume of total touches and snaps.
Briefly, here are a few players at each position that I'd move either up or down slightly due to matchups:
Cooper Kupp/Robert Woods (@SEA), Tyreek Hill/Sammy Watkins/Mecole Hardman (ATL), Davante Adams/Allen Lazard/Marquez Valdes-Scantling (TEN), Mike Evans/Chris Godwin/Antonio Brown (@DET), Jarvis Landry (@NYJ)