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Fantasy Football: Tyler Boyd, Wendell Smallwood are top waiver wire targets
2:26 | Fantasy
Fantasy Football: Tyler Boyd, Wendell Smallwood are top waiver wire targets
Monday November 21st, 2016

Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. We list the best widely available free agents for fantasy football. (We define “widely available” as being owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues.) We’ll also list a few more names in the “window shopping” category—players worth monitoring or perhaps worth rostering in deeper leagues. In addition to a brief overview of each player, we’ll grade each player on talent, opportunity and schedule (with an emphasis on near-term schedule), then provide a composite grade. Please note that for quarterbacks, we replace the opportunity grade with a grade for the QB’s supporting cast.

Week 11 was a bloodbath, with a number of prominent fantasy contributors going down with injuries. As we enter the final weeks of the regular season, it’s time for owners to replace the wounded. Which free agents can provide a tourniquet? Read on ...

QUARTERBACKS

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (18% owned)

Is Kaepernick’s controversial National Anthem protest holding down his ownership rate? It doesn’t seem far-fetched to think so, since Kaepernick has emerged as a somewhat bankable source of fantasy scoring. In his last three games, he’s cranked out 814 passing yards and five TD passes, along with 110 rushing yards and one TD run. Kaepernick has been a top-10 QB in fantasy scoring in each of those weeks. He’s not a particularly good or efficient passer, but Chip Kelly’s offense brings passing volume, and Kap adds fantasy value with his legs. None of his next four matchups (against the Dolphins, Bears, Jets and Falcons) are prohibitive.

(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (32% owned)

The rookie started fast this season, then hit the doldrums. Is now the time to get back aboard the Wentz bandwagon? Wentz has been a high-volume chucker lately, averaging 42.8 passing attempts over his last four games. That’s led to respectable yardage totals (253.8 passing yards per game over that four-game stretch). Wentz’s TD production had slowed to a crawl, but after throwing only two TD passes over a five-game span, he threw for two scores on Sunday against a tough Seattle pass defense and had another called back by an illegal-formation penalty. Wentz won’t have much defensive resistance this week when he faces an injury-plagued Green Bay secondary that’s been getting routinely firebombed. The Packers have allowed 153 points in their last four games.

(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)

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Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (26% owned)

Flacco’s TD production has been unsatisfactory (10 TD passes), but he’s reliably churned out yardage, averaging 264.3 passing yards per game. With a nice matchup this week against a beleaguered Bengals pass defense, Flacco has streaming appeal.

(Talent: C+ | Supporting cast: B | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (12% owned)

Bradford threw for a season-low 169 yards Sunday in the Vikings’ win over the Cardinals, but he’s averaged 243.4 passing yards in his nine starts this season and has thrown at least one TD pass in every game (though no more than two in any contest). The limitations of the Minnesota offense don’t make Bradford an attractive long-term play. He is, however, a nice streaming option this week against a Detroit defense that has the highest opponent passer rating in the league.

(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B-)

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (13% owned)

If you’re looking for an enthusiastic Cutler endorsement, you’ve come to the wrong place. In lieu of enthusiasm, I’ll note that Cutler has good matchups in each of the next three weeks: Titans, 49ers, Lions. The problem is that he won’t have the suspended Alshon Jeffery for any of those games, and now he’ll also be without trusty TE Zach Miller, who’s out for the year with a broken foot.

(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: D | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C)

Window shopping:

As the Dolphins have grown increasingly run-heavy, Ryan Tannehill has averaged only 26.6 passing attempts over his past seven games, but he does have a favorable home matchup against the 49ers this week. Robert Griffin III could be back from a shoulder injury as early as Week 14, and it’s fun to think of a Browns offense that has RG3 throwing to Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman. Say what you will about Brock Osweiler, but he has no difficult matchups remaining on his schedule, which makes him a weekly streaming option for the truly desperate. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the Jets’ starter for Week 12, and while he’s been awful this season, he has some garbage-stat potential this week in a matchup against the Patriots. It’s hard to trust Jared Goff in your lineup after he threw for 134 yards and zero TDs in his first NFL start, but his matchup against the Saints makes him potentially usable in 2QB leagues. Trevor Siemian is a bad quarterback who nevertheless has a palatable home matchup against a Chiefs defense that could be without ace CB Marcus Peters. And by the way, I suspect that the Broncos may be close to a QB change, so fantasy owners who are streaming quarterbacks shouldn’t forget about toolsy rookie Paxton Lynch.

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RUNNING BACKS

Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars (48% owned)

The ankle injury sustained by T.J. Yeldon in Sunday’s loss to the Lions could substantially boost Ivory’s short-term prospects. With Yeldon knocked out, Ivory received a season-high 23 touches in Week 11, include an uncharacteristic six receptions for 75 yards. If Yeldon is out this week against the Bills, Ivory figures to get somewhere between 15 and 25 touches, which gives him immense one-week value. A few words of caution, however: Ivory is averaging just 3.64 yards per carry this season (well below career norms), he rarely contributes in the passing game, and he lost his fourth fumble of the season on Sunday. Obviously, he will have tremendous appeal to anyone who needs RB help in Week 12, so be prepared to pay accordingly.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B+)

Bilal Powell, New York Jets (41% owned)

The Jets’ heavy usage of Matt Forte has been vexing to Powell truthers, some of whom believe Powell is the better player. Whether or not you buy that, Powell is a useful fantasy asset. He hasn’t had more than six carries in a game this season, but he’s compiled 36 receptions, 512 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. After a challenging matchup against the Patriots this week, Powell will get highly favorable matchups against the Colts and 49ers.

(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B)

Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata (38% and 49% owned)

The Vikings’ division of labor in Week 11 suggests that McKinnon is the man to own in the Minnesota backfield, and the field was trimmed from three to two on Monday with the Vikings’ release of Ronnie Hillman. McKinnon out-snapped Asiata 31-21 on Sunday and out-touched him 17-6. McKinnon had only 16-44-0 rushing against the Cardinals, but he’s far and away the most athletic of the Vikings’ backs, and I believe that his modest stats this season belie his potential value. Asiata is only worth consideration in standard leagues. He’s a sluggish banger who has little more to offer than some short-yardage TD potential.

(McKinnon: Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B)

(Asiata: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C-)

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Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (26% owned)

We may have to come to grips with the possibility that Dixon won’t pass Terrance West on the depth chart this season and will have to settle for a value-sapping time-share role. Dixon played 38% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps on Sunday, which was a season high for him. But West played three more snaps and had three more touches. Dixon was productive in limited work, rushing six times for 40 yards, including a 20-yard run. He’s looked sharp so far, but it’s hard to feel confident putting him in your starting lineup when the touch volume simply isn’t there.

(Talent: A- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B-)

Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles (3% owned)

With Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews both sustaining injuries in Week 11—a rib injury for Sproles and a knee injury for Mathews—Smallwood could get a short-term workload spike. That depends largely on the medical status of Sproles and Mathews. Sproles fractured a rib, but early reports suggest that it probably won’t cause him to miss the Eagles’ Week 12 game against the Packers. Mathews is being called “day to day” with a sprained MCL. Unfortunately, we may not know who’s in and who’s out by the time Sunday’s early games begin, since the Eagles don’t play until Monday night. Smallwood had 13 carries for 49 yards in Sunday’s loss to Seattle and also had four catches for 31 yards. For the season, the rookie from West Virginia has rushed 57-253-1 for an average of 4.4 yards per carry.

(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C)

Paul Perkins, New York Giants (21% owned)

If there was a brief window of opportunity for Perkins to carve out a significant role in the Giants’ offense, it seems to have closed over the past two weeks, as Rashad Jennings has tightened his grip on the lead-back role by rolling up 238 yards from scrimmage over the last two weeks. Perkins played only 20 of the Giants’ 67 offensive snaps in Week 11, while Jennings played 47. Still, Perkins has shown some sizzle in the passing game and offers slightly more than just handcuff value.

(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C)

Window shopping:

Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter says he expects Charles Simms to return from a knee injury this season, though with Doug Martin now back, Sims’ path to fantasy value is a winding one. Dwayne Washington has gotten 23 carries for the Lions over the past two weeks but has run for just 32 yards; he’s viable only in deep leagues that use standard scoring. Ameer Abdullah, who’s been on injured reserve since September, will see a doctor on Tuesday to see if he can resume practicing, and if the news is good, he could be back in time for the fantasy playoffs. After raising eyebrows with a 69-yard touchdown on a dump-off pass in Week 9, Kapri Bibbs disappointed speculators with a 7-22-0 rushing performance against the Saints in Week 10; he’s a lottery ticket but not much more. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are both talented rookies who might merit a sniff in deeper leagues with sparse waiver-wire inventory, but the unfortunate fact is that they damage each other’s fantasy value. Worthwhile RB handcuffs include: Andre Ellington, Kenneth Farrow, Mike Gillislee, Derrick Henry, Alfred Morris, Damien Williams and DeAngelo Williams.

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WIDE RECEIVERS

Michael Floyd and John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (49% and 28% owned)

The good news for Floyd is that he’s most likely out of the dog house. The bad news is that Carson Palmer is playing some of the worst football of his career. That makes Floyd no more than a matchup play going forward. He’s an iffy bet against Atlanta this week and Washington next week. He’s an interesting play against Miami in Week 14, and he could be a great play against the 49ers in Week 15. With Floyd back in Arians’ good graces, Nelson’s value takes a hit. Nelson played 30 of 74 snaps in the Cardinals’ loss to the Vikings on Sunday and had one reception for zero yards. He’s only worth a look in the deepest of leagues.

(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)

(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: D | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C-)

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (41% owned)

Over the last five weeks, Hill has averaged 72 yards from scrimmage and has scored two TDs. He’s racked up 22 receptions in his last four games, becoming a worthy starter in flex leagues. Hill played 66% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps in Week 11, which was a season high for him. It’s possible that Hill’s value could slip when Jeremy Maclin returns from a groin injury, but it’s not clear when that will be. One drawback: a tough Week 12 matchup against the Broncos.

(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B)

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (41% owned)

Out with a foot injury since mid-September, Watkins was eligible to return to practice last week, but the Bills’ medical staff wouldn’t clear him. However, there still seems to be a great deal of optimism that Watkins will be back soon. Now is the time to get him.

(Talent: A | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: D | OVERALL: B-)

Eli Rogers, Pittsburgh Steelers (23% owned)

More attractive in PPR leagues than in standard leagues, Rogers has the potential to vacuum up a lot of receptions while Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey mend injuries. Of course, Antonio Brown is the resident target hog in Pittsburgh, and Le’Veon Bell gets a boatload of touches, too, so Rogers has seen more than seven targets in a game only once this season. Still, he’s had four or more receptions in four consecutive games and could be useful this week in what looks like a potential shootout against the Colts on Thanksgiving night.

(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B-)

Kendall Wright and Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans (13% and 12% owned)

Wright and Sharpe have both been occasional contributors in the Titans’ egalitarian passing attack. Rishard Matthews has emerged as the Titans’ clear WR1, but Wright has averaged 58.8 receiving yards over his last six games and has scored three TDs over that span, and Sharpe has accumulated 11-194-2 on 19 targets over the last three weeks. The Tennessee receivers have a favorable matchup against Chicago this week before going on bye in Week 13.

(Wright: Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: B-)

Sharpe: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: C+)

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (23% owned)

A sturdy PPR pillar, Garcon has 48-593-2 receiving and is on pace for 77 receptions. The return of DeSean Jackson complicates the passing distribution in Washington, but it wasn’t a problem Sunday in the win over Green Bay, where Garcon racked up 6-116-1, including a 70-yard TD catch.

(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)

Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (11% and 5% owned)

With A.J. Green tearing his hamstring in Week 11, LaFell and Boyd figure to see considerably more targets in the weeks to come. As noted by Rotoworld’s Ray Summerlin, Green had accounted for 31.6% of Andy Dalton’s completions, 37.8% of his yardage and 40% of his TD throws entering Week 11. LaFell has caught 33-419-4 on the season. With Green going down early Sunday, LaFell saw nine targets, though he had just four catches for 32 yards. Boyd, a rookie second-rounder from the University of Pittsburgh, tied season highs in Week 11 with six catches on eight targets, and he scored his first NFL touchdown. His role was gradually increasing even before the injury to Green.

(Boyd: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)

(LaFell: Talent: C | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C+)

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Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers (4% owned)

With Travis Benjamin dealing with a knee injury, Inman has ramped up his production over the last month, with 18-229-0 on 31 targets over his last four games. Inman’s usefulness is tethered to Benjamin’s health: If Benjamin continues to be hindered by the knee problem, Inman will be usable, particularly in PPR leagues. A tough matchup against the Texans this week is followed by a favorable one against the Buccaneers.

(Talent: C | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: B- | OVERALL: C)

Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers (12% and 20% owned)

Interest in Ginn will be rekindled in some quarters this week after his spectacular back-of-the-end-zone TD grab Thursday night against the Saints. Ginn is the sort of home-run hitter who can make his weekly fantasy quote on a single play. But after averaging 16.8 yards per catch and hauling in 10 TD passes last year, Ginn is averaging just 11.7 yards per catch this year, and he hadn’t scored a touchdown before Week 11. I’m slightly more interested in Funchess, who was targeted only 13 times in the Panthers’ first five games but has been targeted 26 times in their last five. Funchess hasn’t had more than 56 yards in any game this season, but he has three TD catches this season. He could be a useful depth guy, though it should be noted that Carolina’s remaining schedule isn’t especially WR-friendly.

(Funchess: Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)

(Ginn: Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)

Window shopping:

Marqise Lee has 42-544-1 receiving this season and seems to check in with a few catches every week, giving him a solid PPR floor, but with just the one touchdown and with 50 yards or fewer in six of his 10 games, the ceiling is low. Will Fuller’s ownership rate in Yahoo leagues has plummeted to 48% due to both the knee injury that’s kept him sidelined in recent weeks and the waning effectiveness of the Houston passing game, but Fuller might be useful in Week 13 thanks to a favorable matchup against the Packers. Minnesota’s Adam Thielen quietly has 37-518-3 receiving this season and has become a viable matchup play. With 34-309-2 receiving on the season, Thielen’s teammate, Cordarrelle Patterson, has some low-level PPR value, but his lack of big-play production in the passing game is frustrating in light of his skill set.  Quincy Enunwa has just two catches over his last two games, but it might be too early to give up on a young, king-sized receiver who was on a 72-1,004-6 pace halfway through the regular season. Eddie Royal, who has an association with Jay Cutler that dates back to their days in Denver, has some PPR appeal while Alshon Jeffery serves a PED suspension. With 41-323-5, Anquan Boldin doesn’t offer much in terms of yardage but has some PPR appeal. New England’s Malcolm Mitchell caught 4-98-1 Sunday on five targets and might have some Week 12 value if Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan remain out another week. The knee injury sustained by Robert Woods on Sunday derails his rising PPR value, though he could be back quickly if he’s diagnosed with a mild sprain. The Bills’ Marquise Goodwin and Percy Harvin could have some minimal appeal if Woods misses time.

TIGHT ENDS

Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (8% owned)

Showing a knack for making the most of limited looks, McDonald has been targeted exactly six times in each of his last four games and has 11-204-2 over that span for an average of 18.5 yards per catch. The yardage per catch isn’t sustainable, but McDonald has shown TD potential, and on a team bereft of talent at wide receiver, the targets should keep coming McDonald’s way.

(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)

Will Tye, New York Giants (2% owned)

Larry Donnell was a healthy scratch for the Giants Sunday, leaving Tye as the undisputed top tight end, ahead of Jerell Adams. Tye has 29 receptions this season and scored his first TD of the year Sunday against the Bears. He has a fantastic matchup this week against the Browns, and some other favorable matchups on the horizon. He is by no means a future star, but in this case, a favorable situation might outweigh modest talent.

(Talent: C- | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B-)

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Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens (36% owned)

Pitta simply doesn’t score touchdowns, but he does have 49 catches for 405 yards, and he has a fantastic matchup this week against a Bengals defense that’s been hemorrhaging points to opposing tight ends. Pitta is a worthy Week 12 streamer.

(Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)

Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (12% owned)

Green is a fascinating piece in the Steelers’ jet-propelled offense, but we’re basically dealing in theory at this point. He played 12 snaps in his Week 10 debut and had three catches. Against Cleveland in Week 11, he played eight snaps and had zero catches (albeit in windy conditions). The schedule is favorable down the stretch, but will the snap counts cooperate?

(Talent: B | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (35% owned)

When Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen played together on the Colts the last few years, they typically squelched each other’s value when they were healthy, but when one of them was hurt, the other often excelled as a solo act. Fleener has moved on, but Doyle and Allen have displayed a similar dynamic this season. Doyle had his best game of the season (a 10-78-1 performance against the Titans in Week 7) in one of the two games Allen missed with an ankle injury. Upon Allen’s return, Doyle produced 5-61-0 in Week 9 but then had a 1-7-0 whiff on Sunday following the Colts’ Week 10 bye. Allen’s return takes a bite out of Doyle’s value, but the Colts’ opponent this week is Tennessee, which yielded that big game by Doyle back in Week 7.

(Doyle: Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)

Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers (12% owned)

Sidelined by an ankle injury since late September, Cook returned Sunday night and had 6-105-1 receiving in the Packers’ loss to the Redskins, leading the team in targets (11), catches and receiving yardage. On the other hand, he blew what should have been an easy TD catch and also coughed up a costly second-half fumble. Cook has long been a fantasy tease, but a pairing with Aaron Rodgers has the potential to be lucrative. Note, however, that Cook has poor matchups in each of the next two weeks.

(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C)

Window shopping: Charles Clay has been held under 30 yards in each of his last four games and hasn’t scored a TD all season, but he might produce decent numbers by default now that Bills WR Robert Woods is likely to miss time. TE streamers in deeper leagues might want to consider Oakland’s Clive Walford, who has a favorable matchup against a Carolina defense that has been poor against tight ends. The Rams’ Lance Kendricks had four receptions and was targeted seven times in rookie QB Jared Goff’s first start, and his Week 12 matchup against the Saints is favorable. Jacob Tamme’s trip to injured reserve boosts the value of Falcons rookie Austin Hooper, but Hooper is in matchup hell against the Cardinals and Chiefs the next two weeks. Antonio Gates’ return to prominence has sapped the value of Chargers rookie Hunter Henry, who’s rosterable only in large, deep leagues.

 

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