Waiver Wire: Tight end injuries make Rudolph, Miller attractive pickups
There is just one week remaining in the typical fantasy regular season, and while most owners are likely set with their rosters, there are still moves to be made in what is an absolute must-win week for many across the fantasy landscape. Injuries have once again opened the door to invest in the Arizona backfield, while other owners are looking for help at tight end after one major, and another hopefully minor, injury to two big-name players. Pair that with a few emerging receivers, and it’s clear that there remains some value on the waiver wire in advance of Week 13.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Chris Johnson (knee) and Andre Ellington (foot) went down over the course of just a few plays during the Cardinals’ win over the 49ers on Sunday. The rookie Johnson took over all the backfield duties for the rest of the game, running eight times for 21 yards and a touchdown. Johnson has been the team’s goal-line back for most of the season, but he’s now staring a much more significant role squarely in the face. If both Chris Johnson and Ellington are out in Week 13, the Northern Iowa product will be the only show in town for the Cardinals’ ground game.
What’s more, he could hold onto the starting gig for much longer than just a week. The Cardinals are 9–2, in command of the NFC West and likely to earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They have their sights set on being 100% as a team in mid-January into February, not in the first two weeks of December. That could lead to them giving Chris Johnson and Ellington more time to heal than they might under typical circumstances. Johnson could very well be in the starter’s chair for the next few weeks.
Shaun Draughn, RB, 49ers
You can say this for Draughn: The 49ers certainly aren’t shy about using him. He has had exactly 20 touches in all three of his starts and has made a significant impact as a receiver every week. Now, he hasn’t done a ton of damage with those 60 touches, totaling 146 rushing yards on 43 carries and 113 receiving yards on 17 receptions. That comes out to 8.6 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. The 49ers would be wise to box Carlos Hyde up for the off-season and get him ready for 2016, and that would make Draughn a 20-touch player for the rest of the season.
He has yet to find the end zone, but that’s just a matter of time if he keeps being the focal point of the team’s offense. So long as he’s getting that many touches, 80 yards from scrimmage is a floor. If he throws a touchdown in the mix, you’re looking at a strong fantasy performance. At the very least, he’s part of the flex discussion every week.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
Baldwin had a monster game in the win over the Steelers in Week 12, but this isn’t simply a dog-whistle reaction to his 145-yard, three-touchdown effort. Baldwin had been put together a couple of strong performances before the win over Pittsburgh, catching 13 passes for 194 yards and a score in the prior two weeks. He has now had at least six targets in each of the last four games after reaching that threshold just twice during the first seven weeks of the season.
With Jimmy Graham (knee) done for the year, Baldwin could see more targets from Russell Wilson, especially in the red zone. Seattle kicks off the fantasy playoffs with games against Baltimore and Cleveland, which rank 27th and 29th in Football Outsiders DVOA against the pass this season. Baldwin will be a WR3 in both of those games, at worst.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
We’ve been waiting all season for Parker to emerge in the Miami offense, but it appears the wait might finally be over. Parker got a season-high 10 targets in Week 12, catching four of them for 80 yards and a touchdown. To be fair, most of his production came in garbage time, but that shouldn’t remain the case for the rest of the season. The Dolphins aren’t contending for a playoff berth and need to know what they have in Parker as they get ready for 2016. They used the 14th pick of the draft to secure his services, and there’s no doubt that he has legitimate No. 1 receiver bona fides. The Dolphins would be wise to test that over their final five games this season. At 6’3” and 218 pounds, Parker can be a big-time weapon down the field and in the red zone. If he’s getting eight targets per game the rest of the way, he can turn in WR3 numbers.
Zach Miller, TE, Bears
From Oct. 4 through Nov. 1, a stretch of four games for the Bears, Miller didn’t get a target from Jay Cutler. That has certainly changed over the last four weeks. Miller has taken on a larger role in the offense, and it has paid off to the tune of 12 catches, 20 targets, 187 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s last four games.
Thanks to Martellus Bennett’s various nagging injuries, Miller could be the top tight end in Chicago for the next few weeks. Even if Bennett is able to return against the 49ers in Week 13, Miller will be on the field often with the Bears running a lot of two tight end sets in recent games. Miller clearly has the trust of Jay Cutler, and he flashed his athleticism when he took a simple screen pass 87 yards to the house against the Rams in Week 10. If you just lost Jimmy Graham for the season or are preparing to potentially play without Rob Gronkowski in the short term, Miller is one of the names you should consider.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
Rudolph is another tight end who is on the waiver wire radar this week. After catching six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Packers in Week 11, Rudolph hauled in seven of his season-high 10 targets for 53 yards in the win over the Falcons on Sunday. Rudolph now has 18 targets in his last two games, after failing to rack up eight targets in any of the team’s first nine games. Adrian Peterson is the engine of the offense, but Rudolph has made himself a reliable outlet for Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, he’s the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Stefon Diggs, comfortably ahead of Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson.
Scott Chandler, TE, Patriots
Chandler only has value if Gronkowski is out, which is why he’s third in the pecking order behind Miller and Rudolph. With the good news coming from New England suggesting that Gronkowski might miss just one game, if that, Chandler’s fantasy value might be short-lived. Having said that, he clearly had a larger role in the Patriots’ offense against the Broncos even before Gronkowski suffered his knee injury. All told, Chandler had five catches on 11 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. If Gronkowski is out on Sunday, Chandler would rate as a low-end TE1. If Gronk gets right back on the field, however, Chandler won’t have much, if any, fantasy value. Before Sunday, he had a total of 14 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Jets
Those of you who stream quarterbacks will want to take a good, long look at the 23%-owned Fitzpatrick this week. He carved up the Dolphins in Week 12, throwing for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the Jets’ 38–20 victory. He’s up to 2,476 yards and 20 touchdowns against 11 interceptions this season, and also has the benefit of playing with two top-15 fantasy wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Week 13 is the battle of New York/New Jersey, with the Jets taking on the Giants in what is an extra home game for the former. The Giants are 21st in pass defense DVOA and 27th in yards per attempt allowed. Fitzpatrick is at the low end of the QB1 spectrum this week.