Waiver Wire Week 14: Final Playoff Preparation
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Before you cement your roster for the fantasy playoffs -- for those blessed with a postseason berth -- you should know which players have the most favorable Week 14-17 schedules.
Strength of schedule should hardly be the only factor in determining who to roster for the season’s stretch run. It should be a consideration though. Thirteen weeks of data telling us which defenses can’t stop the run or the pass -- or very much can stop one of both -- is needed to enter the decision-making laboratory that is your frazzled mind. It is a crucial input.
Below are four teams with the softest passing game rest-of-season schedule.
Week 14: BUF
Week 15: DET
Week 16: JAC
Week 17: SEA
Mike White, if he remains upright and plays well enough to hold off the yip-ridden Zach Wilson, could be a critical pick up for those who don’t have a top-end fantasy signal caller. And Garrett Wilson, after being dropped in many leagues during the horrors of the short-lived Wilson era, could lead fantasy managers to the promised land if the Jets continue passing at a high rate against these porous coverage units.
Week 14: Bye
Week 15: PHI
Week 16: BUF
Week 17: DET
The Eagles are technically a tough matchup for opposing passing attacks, allowing the second lowest pass EPA through Week 13. Philly should, however, force Justin Fields and the Bears to stomp on the proverbial gas. Sure to be heavy favorites, the Bills will also force Fields to drop back more than usual unless things go sideways for Buffalo. And the Week 17 Lions-Bears game features two of the NFL’s most hopeless defenses. Such a juicy schedule should be a boon for Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, and, of course, Fields.
Week 14: Bye
Week 15: LAR
Week 16: MIA
Week 17: MIN
Almost eliminated from postseason contention, the Packers could -- maybe -- give Jordan Love a few late-season starts as a showcase for what he can do for another team in 2023. For some reason the Packers have decided to ride an utterly washed Aaron Rodgers until the wheels come off. Love, who was spectacular in relief of Rodgers in Week 12 against the Eagles, would be a savvy add in deep leagues. Christian Watson, meanwhile, has a real chance to continue his late-season explosion against a series of pass-funnel defenses. Watson could wind up being the most important player in fantasy this season.
Week 14: ARI
Week 15: LV
Week 16: CIN
Week 17: MIA
The Bengals in Week 16 is a tough spot for anyone, especially a struggling (to put it kindly) Patriots offense. Besides that, it’s fairly smooth sailing for Mac Jones and his pass catchers against defenses that have forced opponents to take to the air throughout 2022. This is good news for both Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry. Jones, I suppose, will have some streaming appeal in the fantasy playoffs. The Raiders are a particularly solid matchup for Jones and company. Only the Bears allow a higher drop back EPA than Vegas.
Below are Week 14 waiver priorities, along with crowdsourced free agent budget data from fantasy football researcher Freeman Smith. Hopefully Smith’s data (from his FAAB Lab) helps you wrap your head around how your league mates will value waiver wire players this week.
Tyler Huntley (BAL)
Rostership: 0 percent
We’ve reached the point in the season where Lamar Jackson suffers a fairly serious injury and Tyler Huntley becomes a deeply interesting fantasy option. It happened in 2021, you may recall, when Huntley stepped in for four games and averaged 9.5 rushing attempts -- a critical factor in his fantasy relevance in the coming weeks. Against the Broncos in Week 13, Huntley had 41 yards and a touchdown on ten rushes. Five of those were designed runs.
He was good as a passer too, posting an adjusted completion rate of 84.3 percent, the fourth highest of the week, per PFF. No quarterback had a higher completion rate over expected than Huntley in Week 13.
Huntley’s 5.75 adjusted yards per attempt in 2021 (his Week 13 AY/A was 5.8) suggest he’s comfortable checking down to Mark Andrews and other short-area targets, and won’t chuck it deep in the Ravens’ hyper-conservative offense. In his four 2021 starts, Huntley targeted Andrews on 27.5 percent of his throws. He knows how this Baltimore offense operates and should be a borderline QB1 option even though he won’t light it up through the air.
If you have a top-10 fantasy quarterback, leave Huntley for the desperate streamers. If you’re scraping by with the Kenny Picketts of the world, get aggressive on Huntley ahead of Week 14.
Mike White (NYJ)
Rostership: 18 percent
Only Geno Smith has more passing yards and only Justin Herbert has more pass attempts than Mike White over the past two weeks. He hasn’t been accurate (25th in completion rate over expected) and he hasn’t been aggressive (20th in average depth of target). In other words, White is getting it done based exclusively on volume.
White and the Jets should be in for another high-volume passing day in Week 13 against Buffalo, the league’s fourth most extreme pass funnel defense. White is seeing the kind of drop back volume that doesn’t require any kind of efficiency. White is a compiler. And we love him for it.
Mac Jones (NE)
Rostership: 13 percent
Even the Patriots might open up the offense and pass a bunch in Week 13 against a Cardinals defense that ranks as the league’s most extreme pass funnel. Every team turns dramatically toward the pass against Arizona. The Patriots, constantly playing from behind with a dysfunctional offense coached by a failed defensive coordinator, should be no different. That should make Jones playable in deeper formats.
Ryan Tannehill (TEN)
Rostership: 18 percent
Tannehill this week goes against a faltering Jacksonville secondary giving up the second highest drop back EPA since Week 9. Quarterbacks, in short, have been extraordinarily efficient against the Jaguars over the past month.
The Titans have made me question my grip on reality by operating a balanced -- if not pass first -- offense over the past three weeks. No one will mistake the Titans for the Chiefs, but a bump in pass volume has been excellent for Tannehill. He’s in a good spot against the Jaguars, who allow more fantasy points per game to QBs than all but seven teams.
Other quarterbacks to roster
Brock Purdy (0 percent): Mr. Irrelevant -- my nickname on my college volleyball team, weirdly enough -- was quite good in Week 13 in place of Jimmy Garoppolo, who was lost for the season with a broken foot. Purdy completed 67 percent of his passes for 210 yards and two scores against Miami. He checked down time and again; no quarterback had a lower air yards per attempt in Week 13. Purdy rushed four times for 26 yards. Even a little rushing ability (or willingness) would boost Purdy’s fantasy prospects. You can bet on Kyle Shanahan getting wildly conservative in the coming weeks with Purdy under center for his Super Bowl contending Niners. Like Jimmy G, Purdy will never be a ceiling option, but rather a fairly safe floor play surrounded by a lot of pass-catching talent and yards after the catch dynamos. Purdy is a must-get in superflex leagues and an OK last-ditch streamer in one-QB formats.
Josh Johnson (0 percent): The 49ers signEd Johnson, a veteran of Kyle Shanahan‘s offense, following Jimmy Garoppolo‘s season-ending foot injury. While Brock Purdy will certainly get first crack at the team’s starting gig, Johnson could see playing time if the rookie falls apart. Johnson was weirdly excellent in two 2021 starts -- one for the Ravens, one for the Jets. He completed 67.6 percent of his throws for 621 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions while rushing for 28 yards on nine carries. Johnson should be rostered in 12-team superflex formats.
James Cook (BUF)
Rostership: 24 percent
Your fourth favorite waiver wire columnist (me) may have mentioned Cook in last week’s write-up as a must-stash running back for the season’s final stretch. The rookie has excelled in every facet. Very few backs have been as efficient on the ground and through the air this season.
Some are saying Buffalo coaches read my column, because in Week 13 against the Patriots, Cook had a team-high 14 rushes for 64 yards and led the Bills backfield in routes and targets. Cook totaled 20 touches against New England -- an incredibly valuable workload in the high-flying Buffalo offense.
Devin Singletary isn’t going to be benched in favor of Cook. The two backs split goal line snaps and Singletary dominated early-down snaps last week against the Pats. That doesn’t mean Cook can carve out a pass-catching role that could make him a decent PPR floor option. His upside, of course, would come with a bigger share of early-down carries or a Singletary injury.
Zonovan Knight (NYJ)
Rostership: 47 percent
I can’t help but notice this space fills up with Jets players anytime Zach Wilson is not under center for Gang Green. Wonder why that is? My interns are looking into it very strongly.
Knight handled a rock solid workload as New York’s lead back in Week 13. For the second straight week, the rookie eclipsed 100 total yards and saw enough passing game work to keep him fantasy viable even when the Jets fall behind. Knight ran one less route than Ty Johnson and caught all five of his targets (Johnson saw seven). He split third down snaps with Johnson.
That Michael Carter (ankle) didn’t practice at all last week suggests he’ll be iffy for Week 14 against Buffalo. Knight should maintain RB2 status. And touchdowns might be coming for Knight: He took every goal line snap for the Jets in Week 13’s loss to Minnesota.
Cam Akers (LAR)
Rostership: 46 percent
Akers did the unimaginable in Week 13 against the Seahawks and scored not one, but two touchdowns. His 17 rushes were a season high. Kyren Williams, who appeared to be taking over the LA backfield, was held to three touches against Seattle.
Akers, like any early-down banger with no pass-game involvement, is reliant on positive game script. If the Rams don’t have it -- if they fall behind and have to abandon the run -- Akers is out of luck. I like the Rams’ chances of keeping pace with the Raiders this week. That could lead to another 15 to 20 touches for Akers, who has the NFL’s second lowest rush yards over expected per attempt. He’s … not good.
DeeJay Dallas (SEA)
Rostership: 3 percent
It’s tough to get excited about any Seahawks back if Ken Walker (ankle) misses time. I suppose Dallas would be the priority add, if I were compelled by the Supreme Court to choose one. He saw ten carries and led the backfield in snaps and pass routes after Walker’s injury in Week 13.
Travis Homer, a pass catching specialist who would surely take on most, if not all, of the team’s backfield route running, missed Week 13 with an illness. Dallas would be little more than a highly touchdown dependent RB3 if Homer is back for Week 14.
Other running backs to roster
Jerick McKinnon (41 percent): McKinnon isn’t just a pass catcher in the KC backfield. He has at least six carries in two of the past three weeks and in Week 13 against the Bengals, he scored a touchdown on ten touches (only two targets). McKinnon regularly leads the team in backfield pass routes and should be treated as a low-end flex in deeper formats as long as Clyde Edwards-Helaire is sidelined.
Alexander Mattison (35 percent): Get Mattison this week. You know his role if and when Dalvin Cook misses time. Mattison could be something of a league winner if Cook misses any of the next four games.
Kenyan Drake (45 percent): Drake sorta kinda took over the Baltimore backfield again in Week 13. After being relegated to two touches in Week 12, Drake played most of the second half in the Ravens two-minute offense. He, along with Gus Edwards, will be game script dependent. Drake’s usage could vanish completely if the Ravens play from ahead in Week 14. No one in the Ravens backfield is reliable.
Dontrell Hilliard (14 percent): Hilliard is purely a contingency option, but a valuable one. An injury to Derrick Henry would likely lead to a full workload for Hilliard, who has been efficient in (very) limited usage this year.
Jaylen Warren (23 percent): That Warren, coming off a hamstring injury, was relegated to 13 snaps and one carry in Week 13 against Atlanta shouldn’t stop you from scooping up the explosive rookie this week. He’s one Najee Harris injury away from being a tantalizing plug-and-play RB2. Pro Football Focus rates Warren as the seventh most elusive running back this season.
Mike Boone (5 percent): Returning to the lineup after a month on IR, Boone was second in backfield snaps for Denver last week against the Ravens. He had six rushes to 17 for Latavius Murray. He would presumably be the team’s lead back if Murray were to get dinged up.
Nico Collins (HOU)
Rostership: 19 percent
The de facto No. 1 wideout in Houston thanks to Brandin Cooks quiet quitting on an abomination of a franchise, Collins has 26 targets over the past three weeks. He managed a mere three grabs on ten targets for 35 yards and a touchdown last week against the Browns. Collins’ quarterback situation means he’ll need sustained target volume to suffice as a reliable WR3. I think he’ll continue to get that in a Texans offense with no target competition outside a (healthy) Cooks.
Collins enjoyed a 29.7 percent target share in Week 13 and led the team in air yards. Constant negative game script should prevent the Texans from establishing the run and shortening the game, therefore fueling routes and targets for Collins (and Phillip Dorsett, who led the Texans in pass routes against the Browns).
Alec Pierce (IND)
Rostership: 14 percent
Pierce has a few things going for him right now: He’s coming off a strong 75 percent routes rate on Sunday night against Dallas (catching four of eight targets for 84 yards and a score), his playing time is increasing, and Jeff Saturday and the beautiful disaster that is the Colts franchise is ready and willing “to evaluate every position this week and try to make sure they’ve got the best 11 on the field,” according to beat writer George Bremer.
Such a philosophical shift -- playing the best plays -- should put Pierce in position to operate as something close to an every-down receiver for the next month. More playing time would make sense for a rookie wideout who’s a close second -- behind only Michael Pittman -- in yards per route run among Indy pass catchers.
D.J. Chark (DET)
Rostership: 16 percent
An air yards hog as long as Jameson Williams is eased into the Detroit offense, Chark will continue as a volatile fantasy option thanks to the downfield nature of his targets (he notched 16.5 yards per target against the Jaguars). Fantasy managers can certainly justify playing Chark as a WR4 with more weekly upside than some WR3s.
Isaiah McKenzie (BUF)
Rostership: 37 percent
McKenzie followed up his Turkey Day eruption with a slightly more humble stat line in Week 13 against the Patriots. He had a 70 percent route rate against the Pats and caught all five of his targets for 44 yards.
Mostly excelling against defenses that play a heavy dose of man coverage, McKenzie is not going to be anything close to a fantasy difference maker down the stretch. He can pass as a PPR WR3 though thanks to Josh Allen’s passing production and his role as Buffalo’s primary slot guy. I’m surprised McKenzie’s rostership isn’t well above 50 percent.
Rashid Shaheed (NO)
Rostership: 0 percent
It’s actually been a couple weeks since Shaheed -- an undrafted rookie -- became the Saints’ No. 2 wideout, supplant both Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway. Running a full complement of pass routes in a balanced New Orleans offense, Shaheed has six catches for 129 yards over the team’s past two games. He secured all four of his targets for 76 yards in Monday night’s loss to Tampa.
A speedy downfield threat getting zero attention from opposing secondaries focused on Chris Olave, Shaheed is seeing enough playing time and getting enough looks to be a boom-bust WR4 at worst. I might be underselling his fantasy outlook though. Shaheed has clearly earned the trust of Saints coaches and, importantly, Andy Dalton.
DeVante Parker (NE)
Rostership: 14 percent
Parker’s 15.7 average depth of target over the past three weeks tells us he has some upside potential even though he’s not being peppered with targets in New England’s horrid offense. Parker leads the Patriots in yards per target and yards per reception. Jakobi Meyers remains a far superior fantasy option as an underneath compiler, but Parker should get a look in 14-team leagues this week against a pass-funnel Cardinals defense.
Elijah Moore (NYJ)
Rostership: 31 percent
At long last, Moore saw a reasonably high route rate in Week 13. He was out there on 75 percent of Mike White‘s drop backs. Moore was targeted on a meager 13.3 percent of those routes. Nevertheless.
The Jets are back to a balanced offense now that they don’t have to hide their quarterback, and they’re playing an incredibly high number of offensive snaps with White under center. That kind of play volume should make Moore live in 14-team formats, at the very least. Running as the Jets primary slot receiver over the next month could make Moore interesting if he’s able to return to his 2021 form.
More receivers to roster
Rondale Moore (53 percent): After suffering a groin injury in Week 11, Moore should have a chance to play in the next couple weeks. He would presumably resume his every-down slot duties in the Arizona offense. Moore’s 22 percent target per route run rate is second on the team behind DeAndre Hopkins (31 percent) since Hopkins’ Week 6 return to the Cardinals lineup.
Chase Claypool (52 percent): In the Bears’ first game without Darnell Mooney -- lost for the season with a knee injury -- Claypool was the team’s No. 2 pass catcher behind Cole Kmet. His route rate jumped to 80 percent in Week 13 against Green Bay despite missing most of the third quarter with a knee issue. The Bears have mercifully moved Claypool out of the slot, where he’s been dreadful for more than a calendar year. Chicago has an extremely fantasy friendly schedule down the stretch -- one that could make Claypool and Kmet key fantasy players if Justin Fields remains healthy.
Demarcus Robinson (12 percent): Robinson followed up his Week 12 dud with a team-high eight targets against the Broncos in Week 13. He caught seven balls for 41 yards. Tyler Huntley under center likely hurts Robinson since Huntley is far less willing to throw to the boundary than Lamar Jackson. Robinson will be reliant on negative game script in Baltimore’s run-first offense.
Jahan Dotson (15 percent): Those old enough to remember when Dotson was last fantasy relevant got a pleasant Week 13 surprise from the rookie. He ran a full complement of routes and had eight targets, catching five for 54 yards and a score against the Giants. Keep in mind that Washington’s offensive play volume (85 snaps) was way higher than it usually is (67 snaps). One of the run heaviest teams in the NFL, the Commanders are not going to air it out unless they absolutely have to. Dotson’s floor remains nonexistent in such an environment.
Van Jefferson (29 percent): The Rams offense is a destroyer of fantasy production. There’s really not much to see here except for Jefferson seeing a 28.6 percent target share and functioning as the sole every-down receiver.
Kendall Hinton (2 percent): if Sutton is out for Week 13, Hinton should operate as the Broncos’ No. 2 receiver behind Jerry Jeudy. When Jeudy missed three weeks with an ankle injury, Hinton was second on the team in targets and ran basically every route in the Denver offense. The Broncos have one of the best passing game schedules from Week 14 to Week 18.
Greg Dulcich (DEN)
Rostership: 37 percent
Useless for fantasy purposes since Week 8, Dulcich functioned as the Broncos’ lead pass catcher in Week 13 against Baltimore, drawing a team-high five first-read targets and leading Denver in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Fifty-five percent of his routes against the Ravens originated from the slot, and after the game, head coach Nathaniel Hackett said the team had used more two and three tight end formations and deployed Dulcich as a wideout.
Cortland Sutton (hamstring) possibly missing Week 14 should open up even more targets for Dulcich in the Denver offense. Dulcich isn’t T.J. Hockenson or Zach Ertz, limited to dink-and-dunk targets as the QB’s safety blanket. Only two tight ends -- Travis Kelce and Kyle Pitts -- have more air yards than Dulcich since he debuted in Week 6. His 12.3 air yards per target trails only Pitts over that span. Dulcich is seeing high-value looks despite the myriad shortcomings of the nightmarish Denver offense. That matters.
A real commitment to deploying Dulcich as a receiver -- perhaps the team’s default WR1 -- could make the highly athletic rookie quite the fantasy option in the season’s final month. Most importantly: Dulcich is never asked to block.
Hunter Henry (NE)
Rostership: 35 percent
Sixth among all tight ends in pass routes over the past three weeks, Henry has some fantasy life with the Patriots chasing points week in and week out. He has ten targets over his past two games.
This week Henry gets the sweetest matchup in the game, taking on an Arizona defense that has allowed nine more tight end receptions than any other defense this year. Tight ends are averaging a hearty 73.5 yards and 0.75 touchdowns per game against the Cardinals. It is Henry szn.
Tyler Conklin (NYJ)
Rostership: 32 percent
Conklin is among the many beneficiaries of Zach Wilson‘s benching. The Jets’ play volume has gone through the roof since Mike White took over; Conklin is ninth among all tight ends in pass routes over White’s two starts. He’s seen nine targets in those contests, while C.J. Uzomah has taken some routes and targets. White, an all-time check down artist, should keep Conklin afloat for fantasy purposes.
Evan Engram (JAC)
Rostership: 42 percent
Engram’s rostership spiked ahead of the Jaguars’ Week 12 game against Detroit. The move paid off nicely, as Engram turned seven targets into five catches, 30 yards, and a touchdown -- far less depressing than his usual stat line.
If the Jags are going to circle the proverbial drain in the season’s final stretch, snap and route and target volume will likely increase for every Jacksonville pass catcher, including Engram, who’s run more routes than almost any tight end in the NFL this season. He’s a reasonable streamer in Week 13 against Tennessee’s pass-funnel defense.
Other tight ends to roster
Jordan Akins (1 percent): Akins ran the most routes among Texans tight ends in Week 13 and saw five targets. Brevin Jordan, active for the first time in a while, also saw five targets on just 12 routes. I guess Akins is fine since he’s out there on a good number of drop backs. I’m tired of talking about Houston players. You figure it out. Leave me alone.
Noah Fant (13 percent): Fant now has at least three receptions in five straight games. Seattle should throw a ticker tape parade. He’s seeing a decent amount of slot routes and has been targeted on a decent 20 percent of his routes over the past month. You could barely do worse.
Daniel Bellinger (2 percent): Bellinger returned from his horror movie-worthy eye injury to catch all five of his targets for a whopping 24 yards in Week 13. No one in the Giants passing offense is going to provide much production, much less a tight end. Still, Bellinger is viable in 24-team leagues.
Mitchell Wilcox (0 percent): I promise I’m not making up names to see if you’re paying attention. Wilcox should be the Bengals’ primary pass-catching tight end if Hayden Hurst misses time with a calf injury. Hurst had seen 14 percent of the team’s targets before suffering the injury Sunday against the Chiefs.
Jason Sanders (MIA)
Rostership: 16 percent
We like our kickers in high-scoring game environments, don’t we folks? Yes, we do, the readers chanted in unison. Ah yes, my people, they are mine.
The Dolphins are one-point favorites over the Chargers in a game featuring a 51.5 point total. While Sanders hasn’t exactly been a field goal machine in Miami wins -- he’s averaging 1.5 attempts in victories this season -- he fits the kicker process perfectly in Week 14. The Chargers have given up the third most field goal tries (30), with every kicker to face LA logging at least two attempts.
Randy Bullock (TEN)
Rostership: 2 percent
I love to recommend a kicker with five field goal tries over his past four games. It makes me feel alive. I’m tingling.
We follow the process, however, and the process leads us straight to Big Boy Bullock in Week 14 against the Jaguars. The Titans enter this game as four-point favorites against a Jacksonville team that has given up nine field goals over the past two weeks, and multiple field goal attempts in six of their past eight outings. Game script should be firmly on Bullock’s side as Derrick Henry once again humiliates the Jaguars and their fans.
Greg Joseph (MIN)
Rostership: 18 percent
Joseph has been less terrible of late, making his past nine field goal tries after early-season struggles that embarrassed fantasy analysts who touted him in the preseason (we’re looking very strongly into who may have done this).
This week Joseph gets a plus matchup against the Lions. Minnesota enters as three-point favorites in a game featuring a sky-high 51-point total. The last time these teams squared off -- a Week 3 shootout -- the Vikings scored 28 points and Joseph had two field goal attempts, both of which he missed. Nevertheless, we persist. Only three teams average more red zone possessions than the Vikings through Week 13. Joseph should have a nice, sturdy floor here.