Hurts so good to win


Welcome to the Week 16 edition of Waiver Wired for the 2020 season. With Championship Week finally upon us, we’ll pass on prioritizing stashes altogether and focus on winning the most important matchup of the season. We’ll also discuss injury situations to monitor ahead of Sunday. A section highlighting plus matchups for Week 17 has also been added for each position.

Before we jump in, it’s important to take a second and discuss team motivations for the final two weeks of the season. It’s that time of the year when franchises are still trying to punch their tickets to the postseason, leaving some contestants out to dry (and thus nothing to play for). This will obviously become an even bigger issue in the season finale with so many players resting and/or playing limited snaps, but as you’ll see below, we can at least get a glimpse of the landscape ahead of time in order to prioritize waivers (or just stop worrying) accordingly.

Browns can clinch a postseason berth by winning out

And a shot at the AFC North title that has slipped through Pittsburgh’s hands (literally) with a Steelers loss to the Colts on Sunday. With Cleveland still competing to snap the league’s longest playoff drought, we can easily project Baker Mayfield — the NFL’s leader in Expected Points Added per attempt over the last month — and coach Kevin Stefanski to continue scheming a gameplan that has allowed the former Heisman winner to complete 40-of-55 passes for seven touchdowns and 10.3 YPA from play-action in Cleveland’s last four games. And if the division were to be decided in Week 17, America’s most underrated city, which includes everything from the sausage platter at Butcher and The Brewer to overlooking Lake Erie at Bar 32 and the unrelenting die-hard fans at Nick’s Sports Corner, deserve to be flexed under the lights in primetime for the world to see. But that destiny begins with Mayfield (rostered in only 47% of Yahoo leagues), Rashard Higgins (25%), and the rest of Stefanski’s bunch first taking down the Jets, which have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

Story continues

Chiefs earn No. 1 seed and bye with win

There admittedly aren’t many viable Chiefs players hanging out on waiver wires these days. (Mecole Hardman was targeted a season-high nine times on Sunday but even so, ran the fourth-most routes among Kansas City’s receivers.) But this scenario does foreshadow Patrick Mahomes keeping his foot on the gas and continuing the league’s second-highest pass play rate in neutral game script since Week 8, inevitably affording Ito Smith an abundance of receiving-game opportunity after interim coach Raheem Morris openly declared him the team’s starter to media on Monday. It would obviously help Smith if Todd Gurley is outright healthy-scratched Sunday morning, but you don’t have to squint to see the former coming away with 15-20 touches even in negative game script for the Fantasy Championship.

Bill still playing to secure No. 2 seed

Stefon Diggs’ initial diagnosis “doesn’t seem very worrisome,” but the Bills are still jockeying for a home playoff game no matter his status for Sunday. That could force John Brown, currently available in 60% of Yahoo leagues, into Buffalo’s and manager’s starting lineups since he had his 21-day practice window opened prior to Saturday’s bullying in Denver. Gabriel Davis’ 14.7% target share over the last month without Brown would also presumably increase if Diggs can’t go.

Washington takes NFC East crown with win and Giants loss to Baltimore

Only worth noting since J.D. McKissic leads the team with a 23.1% target share from Alex Smith (calf) while Terry McLaurin has seen a 24.8% share from Dwayne Haskins. With Washington on the verge of putting the NFC East pretenders to rest, it would not be shocking if Haskins’ recent foray into the champagne room forces the team to hurry Smith along for a cush (and important) matchup against the Panthers on Sunday.

Ravens looking for help

We should assume both J.K. Dobbins (15 touches Sunday) and Gus Edwards (11) stay relevant to close the year since Baltimore put all feelings aside in healthy-scratching Mark Ingram against Jacksonville. Dobbins ultimately out-snapped Edwards 35-27 (and likely isn’t available in your league), but the latter continued emerging as a playmaker with a 26-yard catch and sterling 4.6 yards per attempt on the ground. Both continue to be strong RB2s with standalone value for as long as Ingram is out the picture. The Ravens also have no choice but to continue competing down the stretch since Sunday’s matchup against the Giants is out of conference, which can’t bring Baltimore any closer to the Dolphins for a Wild Card seed.

Packers win one of next two to lock up home-field advantage

Saturday was actually the first time Allen Lazard out-snapped Marquez Valdes-Scantling (48-40) since the former returned from injury, leading to his most targets (6) and highest target share (23%) since Week 12. We should expect Lazard’s role to increase further since he’ll be another week removed from injured reserve as Green Bay continues competing for homefield advantage throughout the postseason.

Cardinals need back-to-back wins

Arizona’s offense isn’t exactly mysterious — Kyler Murray has reverted to targeting DeAndre Hopkins at a 32% clip the past two games while Dan Arnold (available in 98% of Yahoo leagues) has quietly emerged as Murray’s second favorite threat. But the Cardinals needing a win over the 49ers (and a Bears loss to Baltimore) ensures that nothing stops this train.

Eagles, Cowboys, Giants still slap fighting for the NFC East Divisional crown

Washington’s potential playoff-clinching game against Carolina overlaps with the Cowboys-Eagles showdown, forcing all to play as if the division is still up in the air on Sunday. That means Jalen Hurts, Tony Pollard, Alshon Jeffery, and a handful of others discussed below will keep to the same roles they were afforded (and initially made them standout) in Week 15.

As for a refresher, The Drop List consists of players who are rostered in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and are no longer must-have assets, recommended additions are available in over 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, the Watch List contains in-depth notes on fringe waiver adds, and Deep Cuts includes player notes on those rostered in five percent or fewer of Yahoo leagues.

The Drop List

Shed weight like you’re going to the beach. If you have two viable starting tight ends, for example, but your opponent is already stacked at that spot, it’s in your best interest to separate from whichever player isn’t making the cut in order to block your opponent from picking up someone of need. This week’s ‘Drop List’ is truly a case-by-case scenario since it varies depending on your matchup. If a player on your bench isn’t starting, though, consider him on the outside looking in.

Overall Top 5

1. Jalen Hurts2. Tony Pollard3. Keke Coutee4. Salvon Ahmed5. Gus Edwards

For those looking to roster the best available player(s) regardless of position, the rankings above take into account every factor from the positional lists minus players’ actual positions. These are listed in the precise order I would prioritize waiver claims in Week 16. Adjust accordingly for what you need on your roster — touches, high-upside bench stashes, targets, one-week spot-starters, etc.

Week 17 Top Five

1. Tony Pollard2. Gus Edwards3. Alexander Mattison4. Carlos Hyde5. Phillip Lindsay

Previously the ‘End-of-Roster Top 10,’ it’s obviously time to stop rostering backups to our own starters and instead become forward-thinking with our stashes for the final week. That’s why the above list was carefully assembled to highlight league-winners in the event your league plays into Week 17. Presumed snaps, carries, targets, play-calling, and playoff scenarios for each have been factored in. They’re chronologically listed in the precise order I would stash them for the finale, though fantasy players should obviously feel free to adjust accordingly.

Quarterbacks

1. Jalen Hurts2. Baker Mayfield3. Tua Tagovailoa

Running Backs

1. Tony Pollard2. Salvon Ahmed3. Gus Edwards4. Ito Smith5. Malcolm Brown6. Benny Snell7. Devine Ozigbo

Wide Receivers

1. Keke Coutee2. Chad Hansen3. Rashard Higgins4. Alshon Jeffery5. Lynn Bowden

Tight Ends

1. Irv Smith2. Cole Kmet3. Dan Arnold4. Jordan Reed

Defense/Special Teams

1. Houston Texans2. Carolina Panthers3. Los Angeles Chargers4. Arizona Cardinals

Kickers

1. Tyler Bass2. Greg Zuerlein3. Ka’imi Fairbairn

QUARTERBACKS

1. Jalen Hurts, Eagles — What’s left to say? Hurts continued his dominance on Sunday, joining Eric Hipple (42.7) and Matt Flynn (39.2) as the only quarterbacks with at least 37 fantasy points in one of their first two career starts. With 29 carries and 169 yards on the ground through two games to boot, it’s not a question of whether fantasy players will start Hurts in their Championship game; it boils down to who he should start over. And as it stands, managers can’t possibly consider Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, or even Josh Allen over Hurts in the last must-win game of the year.

2. Baker Mayfield, Browns — As noted earlier, the Jets have ceded the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and remain bottom-four in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. With the Browns competing to clinch a playoff berth, we should expect Mayfield’s ongoing streak of 300 yards and/or multiple touchdowns over the last four games to continue for one more week.

3. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins — A lot of moving pieces here, but if both DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Mike Gesicki (shoulder) are able to return on Sunday against Las Vegas, Miami’s offense will likely revert to leaning on Tua and an increased rate of no-huddle, as it did in two games prior to Sunday, as opposed to its recent scheme of 37 running back carries to Tagovailoa’s 26 attempts. The Raiders of course don’t offer a single threat on defense, getting scalped for 36 points per game in its last five contests.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Tony Pollard, Cowboys – Pollard averaged 2.4 yards per carry before pinwheeling his way to a 40-yard touchdown run and, in turn, more fantasy points (31.2) than Ezekiel Elliott had scored at any point this year. Pollard’s 90% snap rate and nine targets behind the scenes, however, are why you’re chasing him even if Elliott (calf) is available for Sunday. The former is obviously a league winner if Elliott is ruled out but still relevant as a low-end RB2 on half the touches even if Zeke reclaims his usual inefficient load.

2. Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins – Throw this one aside if Myles Gaskin (COVID) is cleared. Ahmed did handle 24 of Miami’s 40 backfield touches on Sunday, though, ensuring he’s deployed in a similar role against Las Vegas if DeVante Parker (hamstring), Mike Gesicki (shoulder), and Gaskin all remain out.

3. Gus Edwards, Ravens – As much as fantasy players want J.K. Dobbins to be #freed, Edwards continues sticking around because he deserves to do so; he proved as much with another splash play on limited touches against the Jaguars, exploding for a 26-reception. Both will continue to have standalone value as middle/low-end RB2s for as long as Mark Ingram stays inactive.

4. Ito Smith, Falcons – It’s not ideal to roll out Smith for the Championship game, but if you’re reading to this point, you probably don’t have a choice. The good news is interim coach Raheem Morris openly declared Smith the starter to media moving forward, at least lending the latter a high receiving floor since the Falcons immediately turn around and attempt to match the Chiefs point-for-point on Sunday. Any negative game script, which should be assumed, is only a plus as long as Todd Gurley continues trending towards being healthy scratched for the Falcons’ last two games.

5. Malcolm Brown, Rams – Darrell Henderson, who isn’t available in a majority of leagues, is the obvious replacement for Cam Akers (ankle) on Sunday. With the Seahawks eyeing a division crown and the No. 2 seed in the NFC, though, Brown would be the pivot if the Rams flop for the second straight week against a hungrier team.

6. Benny Snell, Steelers – Snell handled 21-of-25 backfield touches in place of James Conner (quad) Monday night. Can be glossed over completely if Conner continues trending towards playing Sunday.

7. Devine Ozigbo, Jaguars – James Robison’s (ankle) 20.6 touches per game would fall to Ozigbo in a horrible matchup against Chicago if the former is officially ruled out.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Keke Coutee, Texans — 16/218/2 on 6.3 targets per game as Deshaun Watson’s go-to option since Week 13. 19 targets (and a team-high three end zone looks) to Chad Hansen’s 17 and Brandin Cooks’ 15 in that span.

2. Chad Hansen, Texans – Houston’s leader in air yards (207) since Will Fuller was suspended. The WR21 behind Coutee (WR16) in the team’s last three games sans Fuller.

3. Rashard Higgins, Browns – Second on the team behind Jarvis Landry in target share (19.8%), red zone opportunities (6) and end zone looks (4) in Cleveland’s last four games. Jets have unsurprisingly ceded the fifth-most receiving yards to enemy wideouts.

4. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles – Jeffery at least deserves a mention since he led all of Philadelphia’s wideouts in routes run (38) Sunday. Jalen Reagor’s (ankle) pending availability would vacate 5.3 targets and a team-high in air yards per game (66.6) since Week 10.

5. Lynn Bowden, Dolphins – Bowden led the Dolphins with seven targets (28%) on Sunday, finishing as the overall RB29 and WR43 due to his dual-eligibility in ESPN and Yahoo leagues. He’s the direct beneficiary of an uptempo approach considering he’s led Miami in routes run in back-to-back games.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Irv Smith, Vikings — Smith’s box score would’ve been much more appealing had he not dropped a wide open touchdown inside the end zone. His usage — 82% of the team’s snaps, route run on 86% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks — was still that of someone we should trust if Kyle Rudolph (foot) remains sidelined for Week 16.

2. Cole Kmet, Bears — Kmet again ran far more routes than Jimmy Graham (20-10) despite seeing just two targets from Mitchell Trubisky against Minnesota. Jacksonville’s stone-worst pass defense DVOA lies ahead.

3. Dan Arnold, Cardinals — As mentioned above, Arnold has quietly emerged as Kyler Murray’s second-favorite target since Week 13, exceeding 50 receiving yards in 2-of-3 games in that stint. His 140 air yards the past two weeks are also second on the team behind Hopkins’ (244).

4. Jordan Reed, 49ers — At least four targets in every game since being activated from injured reserve. George Kittle will undoubtedly stay sidelined with the 49ers being dealt a loss in Dallas.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Houston Texans – Don’t be fooled by Ryan Finley’s performance on Monday night. He’s still taken 20 sacks and tossed four picks on 147 career dropbacks.

2. Carolina Panthers – Less of a priority if Alex Smith (calf) is given the nod. But Dwayne Haskins’ presence afforded the Seahawks a top-five score among D/STs last week.

3. Los Angeles Chargers – The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was allowing Drew Lock to average 10.3 YPA against Carolina’s crumbling secondary. The Chargers’ floor is safe in this one.

4. Arizona Cardinals – It’s either C.J. Beathard or Jimmy Garoppolo under center Saturday.

KICKERS

1. Tyler Bass, Bills – Bass remains the top option for Fantasy Championships since he’s now notched double-digit points in three of his last four (and 5-of-6) games.

2. Greg Zuerlein, Cowboys – Philadelphia has permitted the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. Zuerlein has also notched at least two field goals in three of his last four games for Dallas.

3. Ka’imi Fairbairn, TexansMultiple (successful) field goals in eight of Houston’s last 11 games. The Bengals have also allowed the fifth-most fantasy points at his position this year.



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