With the fantasy regular season ending, round one of the fantasy playoffs is finally here. Congratulations if you made it! I’ll still be here to do the waiver wire digging so you don’t have to. Just to reiterate it is always best to lock up handcuffs for your star players before an injury occurs and everyone is scrambling to pick that player up. Best of luck to all of your teams as you make your championship run. Without further ado let’s get to the players.
Bye week teams: No teams on bye.
For our on-going waiver wire exclusive* we will be breaking skill players down into 3 categories and then concluding by recommending some likely free-agent Defenses and Kickers:
- Game Changers: Game changers are exactly what they sound like. Players that through injury or opportunity rise up and become real impact players immediately. They may not be the best or most well-known players, but they are in a position to impact fantasy scores on a weekly basis.
- Depth with upside: Again, the name is fairly self-explanatory. These are players that are just waiting for that opportunity to excel along with one or two quarterback streaming options. Often they possess a solid talent, and elite measurables, but they just have not had the opportunity to “break out” yet. This often includes handcuffs of underwhelming players or players that have started slow at deep positions, i.e. a QB or TE, that still have you believing in their talent.
- Hail Mary’s: This section is easily going to be the highest turnover section of your roster. And in some cases, the players will literally change from day-to-day. They are often role players that flash, or deeper roster players that may have moved up due to injury, trade, or just plain old ineffectiveness.
Malcolm Mitchell | Wide Receiver | New England Patriots
I know I just mentioned Mitchell two week ago, but he’s been playing great and is only owned in 18.4 percent of ESPN leagues. Over the weekend New England placed, tight end, Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve bringing his season to an end. Tom Brady will now have a weapon to fill in the void of Gronk. In the past 3 games Mitchell has seen at least 4 targets and either went over 80 receiving yards or scored a touchdown.
Ladarius Green | Tight End | Pittsburgh Steelers
All of the offseason think pieces are being dusted off as we speak. Green finally is looking healthy and back to the athletic freak Pittsburgh thought they signed. Ladarius Green set a season high in all major receiving statistics. The absence of Matavis Bryant is felt by this Steeler offense every week. Green will hopefully be the mismatch Pittsburgh needs to free Antonio Brown.
Mike Gillislee | Running Back | Buffalo Bills
Possibly the vulture performance of the year by Gillislee in week 13. While LeSean McCoy did the heavy lifting with 15 carries for 127 yards, it was Gillislee who got the goal line work and scored 2 touchdowns. We saw in this game that McCoy left for an injury concern. Not too many situations in the NFL have as clear a backup as Gillislee is to McCoy. With the regular season over, depth is of no use on your bench. Lock up clear handcuffs to your studs before they go down.
Jalen Richard | Running Back | Oakland Raiders
Latavius Murray had his first multiple touchdown day since rushing for 3 against Denver back in week 9. In the first half the Raiders were trying to get Richard involved but Murray had the hot hand for the day. In Oakland’s last 5 games Richard has seen at least 6 touches. The Raiders are happy riding with Richard as their primary backup as Deandre Washington was inactive for the week 13 matchup with Buffalo—Sorry Editor. After this upcoming tilt in Arrowhead the Raiders will face San Diego and Indianapolis to round out the fantasy playoffs. Richard is the clear handcuff for Murray and is available in 88 percent of ESPN leagues.
Depth With Upside
Jerick McKinnon | Running Back | Minnesota Vikings
A recall to the Thursday night game against Dallas, McKinnon scores just his second touchdown of the season this time through the air. While McKinnon has struggled to get going this year, Minnesota is in need of a starter and continue to feed him as such—at least 12 touches in 3 straight games. Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Green Bay are the Vikings remaining games which set McKinnon up to at least score double digit fantasy points.
Dennis Pitta | Tight End | Baltimore Ravens
In an amazing comeback story Pitta scored his first touchdown since 2013, and it felt so good he doubled down and added 90 yards. While this performance may be an outlier for the year TE has been a disaster all year long and Pitta is available in over 50 percent of ESPN leagues. Pitta is better in a PPR format but if he can find the endzone again he could hit value in standard leagues as well.
Jacquizz Rodgers | Running Back | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin led the team with 17 carries, but after being “bent back” late in the game it was Rodgers Tampa turned to in need of a big first down. Martin has missed 6 games this season alone. Rodgers carried the load in 3 of those games with either a touchdown or over 100 yards rushing. Jacquizz Rodgers is available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues and is the clear handcuff to Doug Martin.
Anquan Boldin | Wide Receiver | Detroit Lions
The Lions strolled into New Orleans and throttled the Saints, without Marvin Jones. Although Boldin did not have a great game he amassed 6 targets and hauled in 4 of those for 40 yards. In four of his last six Boldin has found the endzone, serving as the tight end in this offense. Upcoming games with Chicago then a road trip to face the Giants after that are interesting matchups for the NFC North leading Lions. Matthew Stafford is playing out of his mind, and if Jones continues to miss games Boldin’s value is increased dramatically.
Breshad Perriman | Wide Receiver | Baltimore Ravens
Back to back games with a touchdown for the second year deep threat. Perriman is still behind Mike Wallace in terms of targets. Perriman was the only Baltimore WR to get in on the scoring today as I talked about Dennis Pitta earlier and his resurgence. Perriman is a boom-or-bust play cut from the same cloth as Wallace, it comes down to which one will score each week.
Joshua Bellamy | Wide Receiver | Chicago Bears
In the ugliest game of the day, Jordan Howard was the beacon of hope for Chicago. In the passing game Bellamy led all receivers in targets, receptions, and yardage. With all of the injuries and suspensions to the receiving corps, Cameron Meredith leads the team in targets with 64. Bellamy has seen an uptick in production since the entry of Matt Barkley to the lineup with 9 targets in week 12 and 6 in week 13. Bellamy is a deeper league add but can fill out the back end of a roster as an upside flier.
Alfred Blue | Running Back | Houston Texans
In snowy Lambeau, Blue out gained Lamar Miller both receiving and rushing. Miller throughout his career has been injury prone, and in this game he left for a brief stint which was later cited as a rib injury—the same injury he had earlier in the week. Blue is a handcuff that has a clear role and if Miller does go down for an extended period of time he will be the RB1 in Houston. Alfred Blue is currently available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues and should definitely be picked up by the Miller owner.
Defense and Special Teams:
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
After a week where I couldn’t target the Browns offense because they were on bye they come back this week against a division opponent. The Bengals enter the week 14 coming off of their second best fantasy performance of the season, intercepting Carson Wentz 3 times. Quarterback concerns remain for Cleveland so this defense should be able to take advantage of whichever turnover machine they have throwing the ball this week.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Thursday night games are always a crap shoot when it comes to which team will actually show up. The Raiders are coming off an impressive come from behind victory against Buffalo. They head into Arrowhead with the chance to expand their lead in the AFC West. If Oakland can minimize the effectiveness of Travis Kelce they have an opportunity to blow the Chiefs out with the nation watching.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams
2 of the 12 games the Falcons have put up double digit fantasy points—those games coming against Denver and San Diego. In week 14 Atlanta heads to Los Angeles to face the no. 1 overall pick in Jared Goff. It is still too early to evaluate how Goff has performed given his lack of playmakers and offensive line. The Falcons defense has been playing better as of late and Dan Quinn will look to use the blueprint laid by the Patriots in week 13 to pressure the rookie QB.