- After four straight games with strong passing stats, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is firmly back on the fantasy radar. Andrew Luck owners, you might be in luck if Kaepernick is still available on your waiver wire.
Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week we’ll 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.
Are politics creeping into our friendly little game? I suspect that Colin Kaepernick’s suspiciously low rate of ownership is connected to his decision not to stand during the National Anthem and to his unvarnished opinions on some of our country’s most pressing social issues. Granted, Kaepernick’s statistical surge is a relatively new phenomenon, and we’re talking about someone who lost a quarterback competition to Blaine Gabbert fair and square. Still, I can’t help but think that some low-key, aw-shucks guy who posted three consecutive top-eight weeks in QB scoring wouldn’t be 77% unowned in Yahoo leagues. Hey, that’s fine with me. I picked up Kaepernick for $1 last week in a league where I was down to the felt in FAAB money and needed a replacement for Andrew Luck, and Kap carried me to a win that kept my playoff hopes alive. Kap is the top free agent available this week, but who else could help you make your playoff push? Read on ...
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (23% owned)
It’s absurd that Kaepernick is only 23% owned in Yahoo leagues when he’s putting up such prodigious fantasy numbers week after week. Kaepernick dropped nearly 40 fantasy points on the Dolphins Sunday, and he’s finished in the top eight in QB fantasy scoring in each of the last four weeks, with 1,110 passing yards, 223 rushing yards, eight TD passes and one TD run over that stretch. Kap’s remaining schedule is very manageable, with no poor matchups remaining save for a date with Seattle in Week 17, by which time most fantasy leagues are done anyway. Could the controversial Kaepernick lead you to a fantasy title? If you need QB help, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t make a play for him.
(Talent: B+ | Supporting cast: C+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B+)
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (37% owned)
Heading into Monday night’s home date against the Packers, Wentz had thrown only four TD passes in his last six games. The good news is that Doug Pederson has loosened the reins on his rookie quarterback. Wentz averaged 42.8 pass attempts in the four games leading up to the Monday-night tilt against Green Bay, which has helped him churn out 253.8 passing yards per game over that stretch. With a favorable matchup against the Bengals, Wentz is very much in play as a Week 13 streamer.
(Talent: B | Supporting cast: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (28% owned)
The Dolphins’ new emphasis on the running game seems to be turning Tannehill into a more efficient quarterback. He’s now thrown multiple TD passes in three straight games, completing 69.3% of his passes over that stretch. Tannehill has attempted more than 30 passes only once in his last five games, yet he’s still a viable streaming option. His matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore this week isn’t particularly favorable, however, and Miami’s three best offensive linemen—Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil—all sat out Week 12 due to injury.
(Talent: B- | Supporting cast: B- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: C+)
Ryan Fitzpatrick is on the table as a streaming option against the Colts and the 49ers the next two weeks—provided you can stomach the possibility of multiple turnovers. Joe Flacco continues to offer a high weekly yardage floor but minimal TD upside. Matt Barkley acquitted himself well enough in a Week 12 loss to the Titans to merit streaming consideration this week in a favorable matchup against the 49ers. Sam Bradford wasn’t able to cash in on an uber-favorable matchup against the Lions this week, so he’s not exactly a grade-A streaming option this week in a more difficult matchup against the Cowboys. Alex Smith has a good matchup against the Falcons in Week 13, but this wouldn’t be the first time in 2016 that Smith has frittered away a favorable matchup. If you buy into the value of QB garbage time, you might consider Jared Goff a viable option this week (at least in 2QB leagues, anyway) against the mighty Patriots.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (29% owned)
Has Dixon finally become the No. 1 running back in Baltimore? Terrance West got the start in Week 12, and both players had 13 carries in the Ravens’ win over the Bengals, but Dixon out-snapped West 31 to 23 and narrowly out-touched him 17 to 16. Dixon had 13-49-0 rushing and 4-31-0 receiving against Cincinnati, while West had 13-48-0 rushing and 3-16-0 receiving. To the naked eye, Dixon looks like the shiftier, more dynamic runner, and it seems pretty clear that he’s the superior pass catcher. The Ravens’ upcoming schedule isn’t especially RB-friendly, with the Dolphins up next and the Patriot and Eagles waiting in the wings, but Dixon has now established a solid usage floor and still has a chance to emerge as a feature back in the coming weeks.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: B)
Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles (48% owned)
Smallwood was a popular Week 12 addition leading up to the Eagles’ game against the Packers, but he remained 52% unowned in Yahoo leagues as of Monday morning. Demand for Mathews in leagues where he remains unowned probably won’t spike after he finished with just nine carries for 37 yards Monday night. Just realize that if Ryan Mathews is back from a knee injury from Week 13, Smallwood’s fantasy value could take a hit.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C | OVERALL: B)
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings (42% and 48% owned)
The Vikings are averaging a woeful 2.84 yards per carry, so don’t expect a cornucopia of fantasy goodness if you go Christmas shopping for RBs in Minnesota. The attraction with McKinnon is volume. He’s become the lead back in Minnesota, even if he doesn’t qualify as a workhorse. McKinnon has carried the ball 25 times in his last two games and has also had four receptions, with 117 yards from scrimmage in those two contests. He has a neutral schedule the rest of the way, with no prohibitive matchups but no plum matchups either. Asiata’s value is almost entirely TD-based. He’s run for a TD in three consecutive games and five of his last eight.
(McKinnon: Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B)
(Asiata: Talent: C- | Opportunity: C | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C-)
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (42% owned)
A solid PPR asset, Powell has 37 receptions and 555 yards from scrimmage for the year. He’s lodged squarely behind Matt Forte on the depth chart, but Powell gets enough work to have stand-alone value in PPR formats and in deeper standard-scoring leagues. Matchups against the Colts and 49ers the next two weeks look promising.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
Paul Perkins, New York Giants (18% owned)
Just when it seemed as if Rashad Jennings had seized control of the Giants’ backfield, he turned in a lackluster 15-55-0 rushing performance Sunday against a bad Cleveland run defense, leaving the door at least slightly ajar for Perkins. Granted, Perkins didn’t have a great game against the Browns either, with 9-29-0 rushing and 2-14-0 receiving. But Jennings only out-snapped Perkins 28 to 22 on Sunday, which suggests that Perkins at least has a foothold in the Giants’ offense.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C)
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions (11% owned)
Out with a foot injury since mid-September, Abdullah could conceivably return to practice this week and be activated in time for the fantasy playoffs, although that is admittedly a rosy timeline. Still, Abdullah is probably a better bet than Adrian Peterson to provide fantasy help before the year is out.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: D | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C-)
DeAndre Washington was a healthy scratch on Sunday, leaving Jalen Richard as the clear No. 2 back in Oakland behind starter Latavius Murray; Richard is not only a worthwhile handcuff but might also have some stand-alone value in deeper leagues. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported last week that Adrian Peterson had not yet been cleared to run by team doctors, which makes it increasingly unlikely that he’ll be able to give fantasy owners a postseason turbo boost. Washington passing-down back Chris Thompson has averaged 10 touches over his last five games and could be a useful spackle back in deeper PPR leagues. Charles Sims might return from a knee injury in the coming weeks, and though he won’t push Doug Martin out of the way, Sims might have some PPR value. With Chris Ivory looking questionable for Week 13 with a hamstring injury and T.J. Yeldon not far removed from an ankle injury, Denard Robinson could see significant touches this week against a shaky Denver run defense. Akeem Hunt would be worth of a Week 13 start if Lamar Miller’s ankle injury kept him sidelined against the Packers. Last call for worthwhile late-season RB handcuffs, which include, in no particular order: Alfred Morris, DeAngelo Williams (recovering from minor knee surgery), Derrick Henry, Kenneth Farrow, Mike Gillislee, Damien Williams and Andre Ellington.
Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers (4% owned)
With Travis Benjamin rendered ineffective by a knee injury, Inman has played a substantial role in the San Diego offense over the past month, with 24-412-1 receiving in his last five games. He’s been targeted at least six times in every game during that stretch, with a catch rate of 64.9%. Inman has plum matchups against the Buccaneers and Panthers over the next two weeks and is worth your while if you need a Band-Aid at the WR position. His role could grow even larger if a shoulder injury keeps Chargers WR Tyrell Williams out of action this week. It’s debatable whether Inman or Tyreek Hill is the more desirable asset right now. I suspect that most would prefer Hill, but the superior quarterback and superior short-term matchups give Inman a slight edge in my book.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: A | OVERALL: B)
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (35% owned)
The potential return of Jeremy Maclin from a groin injury could dampen the fantasy firewood here, but Hill has become a useful fantasy asset, with 415 yards from scrimmage and four non-kick-return TDs over his last six games, including a TD catch and a TD run Sunday night against the Broncos. The Chiefs are good at getting him the ball close to the line of scrimmage, which boosts his value in PPR leagues.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: C+ | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B)
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals (49% owned)
Floyd played through a hamstring injury in Week 12 and had 2-31-0 on five targets in a loss to the Falcons. Floyd hasn’t been particularly useful this season, but after his matchup against Washington this week, he’ll draw highly favorable matchups against the Dolphins and Saints in pivotal Weeks 14-15. John Brown tweaked his hamstring on Sunday, which could pad Floyd’s snap count in the weeks to come. Fantasy owners planning ahead for the postseason might want to consider this highly athletic underachiever.
(Talent: B+ | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (28% owned)
After recording only two catches in his two previous game, Enunwa bounced back in a big way Sunday, catching all five of his targets for 109 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Patriots. Enunwa now has 43-643-4 on the season and has racked up more than 90 receiving yards on three different occasions. With games against the Colts and 49ers the next two weeks, he’s a possible short-term solution to your WR problems.
(Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B)
Will Fuller, Houston Texans (44% owned)
Fuller’s ownership rate plunged as he dealt with a leg injury that caused him to miss a couple of games, but a 4-60-0 stat line Sunday in the Texans’ loss to the Chargers suggests that he’s now close to fully healthy. Fuller played more than three-quarters of Houston’s offensive snaps in Week 12 and was targeted six times. Although her hasn’t had a big game since Week 4 and is dependent on ham-handed Texans QB Brock Osweiler, a juicy Week 13 matchup against a Green Bay secondary that’s being routinely firebombed these days makes Fuller an intriguing one-week play.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C | Schedule: A- | OVERALL: B-)
Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (3% and 15% owned)
Is it crazy to think that Mitchell might now be the most valuable fantasy asset from among the New England wide receivers? Over the past two weeks he’s been targeted 12 times and has produced 9-140-3, including a pair of TDs against the Jets on Sunday. It should be noted, however, that Mitchell played only 47% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps in Week 12. Hogan’s 23 receptions this season have yielded 20.0 yards per catch and a couple of TDs. This might not be a bad time to invest in the Patriots’ receiving corps, since the Pats’ tight ends are banged up, and New England’s receivers have friendly matchups against the Rams and Ravens the next two weeks.
(Mitchell: Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B-)
(Hogan: Talent: C+ | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B | OVERALL: C)
Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati Bengals (50% and 18% owned)
We’re cheating a bit by including Boyd, since he’s owned in about half of Yahoo leagues, but it’s worth mentioning him since there’s opportunity aplenty in the Cincinnati passing game while A.J. Green is on the shelf with a hamstring injury. Boyd and LaFell were each targeted nine times in Cincinnati’s Week 12 loss to Baltimore. Boyd had five catches for 62 yards; LaFell had three catches for 38 yards. Boyd seems like the better play here despite his relative lack of experience. Actually, experience doesn’t really favor LaFell, since he’s made such a minimal impact in his six-plus NFL seasons. Over the last two weeks, Boyd has had 11-116-1 receiving on 17 targets, while LaFell has had 7-70-0 on 18 targets.
(Boyd: Talent: B- | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: B-)
(LaFell: Talent: C | Opportunity: B- | Schedule: C+ | OVERALL: C)
Adam Thielen will be startable in some leagues this week if Stefon Diggs misses another game with a knee injury, and Thielen might have some utility in PPR leagues even if Diggs is active. Kenny Stills can’t be counted on for consistent production, but he’s been targeted 15 times over the last two weeks and has three TD catches in his last five games; if the back injury sustained by DeVante Parker on Sunday causes him to miss Week 13, Stills would be an interesting play against the Ravens. Ted Ginn could hit a home run in any given week, but you can’t like his odds of connecting against Seattle this week. Save for his 70-yard TD catch against the Packers in Week 11, Pierre Garcon has provided little more than empty PPR calories (although, hey, receptions are literally the name of the game in PPR leagues). You aren’t buying Anquan Boldin for yardage, but his 48-392-6 stat line suggests PPR value with TD upside. Eli Rogers hasn’t been able to take advantage of the opening that Sammie Coates’ hand injury seemed to provide; Rogers has nothing more than low-level PPR value. The Bears’ Cameron Meredith and Marquess Wilson combined for 20 targets in Week 12 and are viable fantasy options this week thanks to a matchup against the 49ers. Taylor Gabriel has four TD catches over his last four games, but he’s done it despite getting only 18 targets over that span—not exactly bankable production.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans (35% owned)
The Rodney Dangerfield of tight ends, Fiedorowicz is unowned in nearly two-thirds of Yahoo leagues despite hauling in 37 passes over his last eight games and cranking out 429 receiving yards and three TDs thus far. He’s a solid streaming option this week against a tattered Green Bay defense.
(Talent: C+ | Opportunity: B+ | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: B)
Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (10% owned)
McDonald has been targeted no fewer than six times in any of his last five games, and he’s had 15-264-2 over that stretch. He doesn’t have a bad matchup over the next three weeks. This is sneaky TE value personified.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: B | OVERALL: B)
Ladarius Green (10% owned)
The big-play potential is exciting, but the snap counts haven’t been encouraging. Green had catches of 35 and 32 yards in the Steelers’ Thanksgiving-night win over the Colts, but he played only 14 snaps, which was 27 fewer than fellow Pittsburgh TE Jesse James (a fantasy non-entity despite consistently higher snap counts). You can claim Green and hope that the snap counts start to creep up, but it will be hard to start him with any confidence when he’s getting under 20 snaps per game.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: C- | Schedule: B+ | OVERALL: C+)
Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers (27% owned)
A perennial tease, Cook is tempting us yet again after racking up 6-105-1 in his first game back from an ankle injury that had kept him out of action since late September. For years, Cook has been the fantasy equivalent of Lucy holding the football, and many of us have taken turns playing Charlie Brown, eager to take a vigorous kick but ending up flat on our backs. That said, Cook has never played with a quarterback as good as Aaron Rodgers. If you’re thinking about teeing up Cook this week, just realize that he has an unfavorable matchup against the Texans.
(Talent: B | Opportunity: B | Schedule: C- | OVERALL: C)
Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins (9% owned)
Davis is proving himself to be fantasy-relevant even when fellow Washington TE Jordan Reed is healthy. Davis has 66 or more receiving yards in three of his last four games, and Reed played in all of those contests. But Reed isn’t healthy at the moment, having sustained a sprained AC joint in his shoulder during Washington’s Thanksgiving Day loss in Dallas. It’s an injury that could keep Reed sidelined for anywhere from zero to two games. Unfortunately, Davis has difficult matchups the next two weeks, first against the Cardinals, then against the Eagles, both of whom have been murder on opposing tight ends.
(Talent: C | Opportunity: C | Schedule: D | OVERALL: C-)
Window shopping: The Rams’ Lance Kendricks has 8-89-1 on 14 targets in Jared Goff’s first two NFL starts and is potentially useable this week in a decent matchup against the Patriots. Colts TEs Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle hinder each other’s fantasy value, but either is playable in a given week as long as Andrew Luck is healthy. With 52 catches but no TDs and an average of 8.4 yards per catch, Dennis Pitta is no more than PPR filler.