Welcome to the final edition of Waiver Wired for the 2019 season. With so many touch-and-go situations and player injuries still to monitor, allow this week to serve as a reminder to never decide fantasy championships in the regular season finale. Having said that, we’ll do our best sifting through tea leaves and identifying players (ideally with motivation) worth rostering for any pivotal Week 17 matchup.
Before we do that, though, I wanted to quickly reflect on those who helped get us here in the first place. Tis the season for friends and family, after all, so it only makes sense to appreciate those who helped us get to this point.
1. DeVante Parker — Fantasy’s WR8 following Week 16, it’s hard to admit Parker as anything short of an absolute stud after he closed 2017 with 60 targets (7.5 per) over his last eight games, flopped the following year with 24/309/1 from the non-Titans version of Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler, then buoyed Preston Williams’ absence into 9.3 targets per game and a total 36/665/5 from Week 10 on. Parker was astonishingly rostered in just 36 percent of Yahoo leagues prior to that Week 10 contest despite ranking as the WR37 to that point. With a new four-year, $40 million deal under his belt heading into 2020, one would imagine Parker comes off draft boards as a top-20 option from Ryan Fitzpatrick (and fill-in-the-blank rookie behind him) as the Dolphins continue building towards eventually trumping the AFC.
2. D.J. Chark — Chark was underwhelming in his rookie year (14/174) with the Jaguars but gifted an opportunity once Donte Moncrief left for Pittsburgh via the open market. Rather than flocking to the 23-year-old as a late-round flier, though, most fantasy players paid premium for Dede Westbrook in the middle of drafts. Chark has recently ‘tumbled’ to a WR12 ranking ahead of Jacksonville’s regular season finale but was an unequivocal top-eight waiver steal on 8.2 targets (and 98.3 air yards) per game prior to injury. Given his proven rapport from sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew, Chark will undoubtedly be valued accordingly in the first three rounds of fantasy drafts next year.
3. Darren Waller — Hunter Renfrow’s sudden uptick in usage (when healthy) mid-season hemorrhaged Waller’s involvement as Oakland’s only reliable target underneath, but the 27-year-old breakout will still astonishingly finish the year as a 1,000-yard receiver with a new four-year, $29.8 million contract to boot. He’s the poster child of why we keep an ear to the ground throughout the offseason as his every-down opportunity was foreseeable any time coach Jon Gruden and/or OC Greg Olson were asked to speak about the offense. Barring a seismic jockeying in position, Waller will reward those who took a shot on him as the TE5 in ’19.
4. John Brown – Many overlooked Brown since he was an afterthought from Lamar Jackson over the second half of 2018, but the signs were always there — especially after he ran ahead of Robert Foster, Cole Beasley, and Zay Jones in every preseason game. Reminder Brown leveraged his 4.34 40-speed into the league’s third-most air yards (1,160) and WR22 production with Joe Flacco under center, unsurprisingly meshing with Josh Allen’s big arm the moment 'Smokey' signed in Buffalo. He may not finish the year in the top-15 since the Bills have nothing to play for on Sunday, but Brown will inarguably return in 2020 as a high-upside WR2 in early rounds.
5. A.J. Brown — Perhaps we should’ve known Brown was bound to breakout following a 3/100 performance against Cleveland in his regular season debut. The No. 51 overall pick struggled to produce consistently beyond that since Marcus Mariota dragged Tennessee’s offense through the mud, but the former has since buoyed a team-high 24 percent target share from Ryan Tannehill into 21/481/4 receiving as a fantasy playoff savior from Week 12 on. Assuming Tannehill signs the franchise tag heading into 2020, we should expect Brown to be a highly coveted option and avoid waivers altogether in his sophomore follow-up.
6. Tyler Higbee — Higbee’s four-year, $31 million extension from September is suddenly undervalued given his rise to elite company over the last month of the season. No tight end had accomplished four consecutive 100-yard performances prior to Week 16, and Higbee changed that despite Gerald Everett’s return to Los Angeles’ lineup Saturday night. The former’s 35/438/1 since Week 13 obviously paints him as the TE1 in that span, but it’s also skyrocketed him to TE9 aplomb with one more game left to play (which says more about the position itself). Higbee didn’t get many teams here, but he did help solidify loads in the stretch run as the gold star late-season pickup.
7. Terry McLaurin — It’s been a rollercoaster year (58/919/7) for the third-round Ohio State product, but his highs have been just that as he’s tied DeAndre Hopkins in touchdowns (7) through Week 16 despite playing with Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, and rookie Dwayne Haskins under center the entire way. McLaurin has a real crack at finishing among the top-20 wideouts after criminally being valued behind Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, and even Kelvin Harmon in fantasy drafts this offseason.
8. Latavius Murray — Murray’s short-lived stint as New Orleans’ bell-cow was well received given the landmine of handcuffs 2019 had to offer. His run only lasted for two games but resulted in finishes as the overall RB2 and RB3 in Weeks 7-8 due to his monster 48/221/3 rushing and 14/86/1 receiving lines in place of Alvin Kamara. Similar matchup-proof production should be expected if Kamara misses any more time down the road.
9. Jamison Crowder — Crowder notably showed for every phase of New York’s offseason activities (even the involuntary portion) to build a rapport with Sam Darnold then recorded 2/31/1 from the latter during the team’s opening possession of the preseason. Crowder and the Jets’ offense as a whole certainly had their fair share of ups and downs over the course of the year, but Crowder will likely finish with 100-plus targets and a team-high target share from Darnold in just their first year together. The fact he was universally available on waivers ahead of Week 1 was an egregious oversight by most.
10. DK Metcalf — It’s hard to believe now, but Metcalf actually started the year behind David Moore and Jaron Brown in three-wide sets. His August knee surgery further complicated matters, sinking his roster percentage to the single digits. Those who took a chance and stashed the rookie ahead of time were clearly rewarded an explosive WR4/FLEX and at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in 6-of-8 games from Week 8 on. Week 16’s dud in the most important weekend of the season obviously hurts.
Alternate: San Francisco 49ers — Rostered in just 5 percent of Yahoo leagues prior to Week 1, San Francisco’s display of power is a lesson for all to simply weigh early season scheduling when drafting defenses (preferably in the very last round) rather than banking on year-to-year consistency. This dominating front-seven could’ve easily been had for pennies as a one-week flier out the gates against the Bucs, then leveraged as a matchup-proof asset in every game henceforth. The same can be said for all forward-thinking fantasy players that nabbed New England’s D/ST for their first-half schedule.
Honorable Mentions: The entire point of rostering Dallas Goedert was to leverage the numerous 'outs' he had, and DeSean Jackson's season-ending injury coupled with Alshon Jeffery's injury-riddled campaign thrusted the 24-year-old onto the field for a whopping 74.4 percent of Philadelphia's offensive snaps (as the team had no choice but to inject a heavy dose of 12 personnel into their play-calling) from Week 4 on. Barring one or the other falling off entirely, both Zach Ertz and Goedert will likely finish the year as top-eight options at their respective position...Chase Edmonds' 27/126/3 against the Giants was as impressive, if not more than Murray's run as starter. The only issue is that it will go down in history as the infamous David Johnson "active" game. Edmonds totaled 13 yards on nine touches the following week, because of course he did...Perhaps Raheem Mostert should be listed among the priorities since he's impressively scored in five consecutive games. It took awhile to get here, though, as he did total just 33/146/1 rushing behind Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida from Weeks 5-11. Still, there's no doubt Mostert has saved fantasy seasons over the past month...Golden Tate's averaged 7.7 targets per game since initially re-joining the team following his four-game suspension out the gates. Evan Engram's (foot, IR), Sterling Shepard's (concussion), and Saquon Barkley's (ankle) elongated absences obviously played a vital part in Tate' success...Preston Williams' first season as an undrafted rookie was not without its flaws, but the 6'5/218 mammoth prospect showcased more than enough to solidify his role across from DeVante Parker when Miami opens the season in 2020...Speaking of standout rookies, fifth-rounder Darius Slayton came from nowhere to spike three multiple-touchdown games from both Daniel Jones and Eli Manning. Even if he's unable to play in New York's regular season finale, Slayton's 44/690/8 in just 13 appearances is truly something special...Marquise Brown's oft-injured rookie season was not without its fair share of headaches, but did ultimately include seven receiving scores and a week-winning 33.7 fantasy points in his regular season debut. He'll be valued as a WR3/4 with a full offseason to get right for next year.
As for waivers, friendly reminder that this list includes team motivations and potential milestones to account for in the finale. Cole Beasley, for example, would have been listed but obviously can't be trusted to play anything more than one half of football with the Bills locked into the No. 5 seed.
1. Daniel Jones, Giants — Philadelphia’s defense was pillaged by Ryan Fitzpatrick (365 yards, three scores), Eli Manning (203, 2), and Dwayne Haskins (261, 2) before fortuitously getting teed up Dak Prescott’s zombie arm in Week 16.
2. Andy Dalton, Bengals — Cleveland’s defense obviously isn’t as giving as Miami’s, but this is likely Dalton’s last hurrah before the team opts to bring in Athens’ own Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in April.
3. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears — Averaged 298.5 passing yards and 6.3 scrambles per game in his four starts prior to running into Kansas City’s No. 6 pass defense DVOA on Sunday night.
4. Drew Lock, Broncos — Upside clearly a plus against Oakland’s lackluster secondary if still swinging for the fences with streaming options in Week 17.
1. Dion Lewis, Titans – Got 16 touches on a nice 69 percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps without Derrick Henry (hamstring) Sunday. Obviously a plug-and-play RB2 against the Texans if Henry’s out.
5. Rex Burkhead, Patriots – 97 total yards and a touchdown on 19 snaps against the Bills. Will continue to be involved since one more win clinches a first-round bye.
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – No telling what shape he’s in, but busting a homerun touchdown against the Bay Area under the lights at home is obviously in Lynch’s range of outcomes immediately.
1. Breshad Perriman, Buccaneers — Somehow still available in a majority of leagues, Perriman’s every-down role without Mike Evans (hamstring) and Chris Godwin (hamstring) is obviously worth chasing as Jameis Winston continues to play for an extension in Tampa’s regular season finale.
2. John Ross, Dolphins — 13 targets and a league-high 283 air yards against the Dolphins as Ross was clearly unleashed with a clean bill of health. His 79 percent snap rate was his highest mark since Week 3.
3. Justin Watson, Buccaneers — Spiked 5/43/1 on 10 targets without Scotty Miller (hamstring, IR) available. Worth chasing his production across from Perriman’s in the Bucs’ Week 17 matchup against the Falcons.
5. Chris Conley, Jaguars — D.J. Chark’s return didn’t stunt Conley’s involvement (2/56/1) against the Falcons last week. Conley has a real shot at erupting against Indianapolis’ struggling secondary in Week 17.
6. Kenny Stills, Texans — Will Fuller (groin) has already been ruled out, planting Stills on the perimeter for Houston’s meaning regular season finale against the Titans. Coach Bill O’Brien claims their starters will “play to win.”
7. Anthony Miller, Bears — Although his two-target dud from Sunday night wasn’t pleasing, reminder Miller averaged 10.4 looks per game in the five games leading up to that letdown.
8. Albert Wilson, Dolphins — 15 targets on 76.5 percent of the team’s snaps the past two weeks ensures Wilson’s healthy for Miami’s season-ender against the Patriots.
9. Hunter Renfrow, Raiders — His team-high nine targets (and 7/107/1 receiving) against the Chargers was coupled with punt return duties for the first time all year. Obviously Derek Carr’s preferred target when healthy.
10. Steven Sims, Washington — 21 targets the past two weeks. Default No. 1 wideout for Washington if Terry McLaurin (concussion) is ruled out.
11. DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos — Hard to trust, but 15 targets the past two weeks — and, more recently, 6/65/1 in Week 16 against the Lions — spells a potential end-of-year breakout for Hamilton from Drew Lock.
1. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers — First game without both Mike Evans (hamstring) and Chris Godwin (hamstring) resulted in a 14 percent target share and 130 air yards from Jameis Winston. Meat still clearly on the bone since he walked away with just 3/46 in the box score.
2. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins — Upside has always been there, but 6/82/2 against the Bengals could lead to a true renaissance to build on ahead of 2020.
3. Jonnu Smith, Titans — Has turned 13 targets into 11/152/2 on 81 percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps the past three weeks. Will clearly stay involved as the Titans have to knock off the Texans to make the postseason.
1. Atlanta Falcons — Next in line to receive Jameis Winston’s gifts of interceptions on Sunday.
2. Dallas Cowboys — Case Keenum tossed four interceptions and lost three fumbles in just seven starts the begin the year.
3. Indianapolis Colts — Would benefit if the Jaguars have truly packed it in for the regular season finale.
1. Kai Forbath, Cowboys — Jason Garrett’s gutless play-calling allowed Forbath to notch three field goal tries in a must-win divisional game. Expect more of the same as the team continues settling for three points against Washington.
2. Matt Gay, Buccaneers — An under-the-radar way to gain exposure to the Bucs’ prolific high-flying offense.
3. Jason Sanders, Dolphins — 10-of-13 on field goal attempts over the past three weeks as Miami’s offense continues to battle and prove valuable in the homestretch.