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  • An emerging TE is the pickup of Week 14, but there are a wealth of other options to shore up your roster for the fantasy playoffs.
By Pat Fitzmaurice
December 05, 2016

Welcome to the Waiver Warehouse, your one-stop emporium for upgrades and Band-Aids. Each week 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 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.

Is this the dawning of the age of Ladarius? A big Week 13 performance against the Giants will make Green a popular waiver wire target as fantasy leagues across the country begin their playoffs. Who else can offer playoff-bound owners help with their championship runs? Read on ...

QUARTERBACKS

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (23% owned)

Flacco turned in his best fantasy performance of the season in Week 14, carving up the Dolphins for 381 yards and four TDs. He’s completed a remarkable 71.7% of his pass attempts over his last four games, averaging 295 passing yards and 2.3 TDs over that stretch. Passing volume is perhaps Flacco’s best selling point from a fantasy perspective, as he’s averaged 41.4 pass attempts per game this season and may have to throw often this week to keep up with the Patriots.

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

Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns (2% owned)

Out since Week 1 with a fractured shoulder, Griffin has been cleared for contact and could start for the Browns on Sunday, though head coach Hue Jackson had not committed to RG3 as of early Monday afternoon. It makes sense for the Browns to get another look at Griffin before the end of the season. As noted by Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland is likely to spend an early-round draft pick on a quarterback in the offseason and needs to determine whether RG3 is worth keeping around as a backup. RG3 loves to throw downfield, and in Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, he now has a pair of dynamic weapons capable of hitting home runs on some of those deep balls. For owners who head into the playoff with shaky QB situations, this is a flyer worth taking.

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

Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (18% owned)

There has been precious little #FitzMagic this year, but a Week 14 matchup against the 49ers could coax some fantasy owners into rolling out the bearded one for the first round of the fantasy playoffs.

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

Window shopping:

A favorable matchup with the Colts makes the oft-maligned Brock Osweiler usable this week in 2QB and super-flex leagues. Betting on the Bears’ offense is dicey these days, but Matt Barkley has acquitted himself well in two straight games and has a favorable matchup against the Lions this week, which makes him streamable. The TD production has really dried up for rookie Carson Wentz, but with at least 36 pass attempts in each of his last five games (including an astonishing 60 attempts Sunday against the Bengals), Wentz has a safe yardage floor, making him a low-level streaming option this week against Washington. With only 11 TD passes in 11 games, and operating in a run-first offense, Alex Smith has nothing more than 2QB appeal this week as he preps for a Thursday-night matchup against the Raiders. Assuming Trevor Siemian is able to return from a foot injury that kept him out of Week 13, he’d have a favorable matchup against the Titans this week, though Siemian becomes less stream-worthy if his mobility is limited.

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RUNNING BACKS

Jerick McKinnon, Adrian Peterson and Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings (44%, 47% and 47% owned)

The Minnesota backfield is as murky as Loch Ness. McKinnon out-touched Asiata 14-7 in Week 12, rushing nine times, catching five passes and compiling 55 yards from scrimmage and a TD. McKinnon had surpassed 50 yards from scrimmage in only one of his first nine games, but now he’s gained 131 yards from scrimmage over his last two. Of course, the Vikings’ woeful offensive line remains a limiting factor, and Asiata is around to vulture some work, particularly near the goal line. With decent matchups over the next three weeks, McKinnon could be playable, but he’s a dicey weekly proposition. As little more than a short-yardage TD scorer, Asiata is only a consideration in the deepest of standard-scoring leagues. The outlook remains opaque for Peterson. He might be physically ready to return from his knee injury in a week or two, but that might not be the only factor determining whether Peterson makes it back onto the field this season. As noted by PFT’s Mike Florio, the Vikings might not have any incentive to bring back Peterson is they fall below .500 and see a playoff spot slipping away, and Peterson might not want to come back and risk another injury without contract assurances (which the Vikings probably wouldn’t be anxious to provide). Even if Peterson comes back in Week 15 or 16, how many snaps and touches would he get? If you’ve got a spare roster spot, fine, but don’t expect Peterson to be a playoff savior.

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

(Peterson: Talent: A | Opportunity: D | Schedule: F | OVERALL: C)

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

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Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens (46% owned)

Just when Dixon finally seemed to be gathering fantasy momentum, he was out-snapped 39-22 on Sunday by Terrance West, who punched in a pair of touchdowns in Baltimore’s rout of Miami. Dixon gained 56 yards on only six carries against the Dolphins and added four catches for 21 yards. That’s solid per-touch production, but West’s big day is an unpleasant development for Dixon truthers. With an uncertain weekly workload and a difficult matchup against the Patriots, Dixon probably isn’t someone you can trust for plug-and-play duty in Week 14.

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

Bilal Powell, New York Jets (44% owned)

Generally more of a depth guy than someone you’re eager to put into your starting lineup, Powell is worth a long look this week against the woebegone San Francisco defense, even though he figures to be serving in his usual capacity as Robin to Matt Forte’s Batman. Powell has 555 yards from scrimmage this season, though he hasn’t reached 90 total yards in any game.

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

Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles (37% owned)

Smallwood has been a fantasy disappointment the last two weeks, but blame it largely on negative game scripts. With the Eagles quickly falling into big holes against the Packers and Bengals in Weeks 12-13, they had to abandon the running game, and a reliance on the pass means more snaps for Darren Sproles, fewer for Smallwood. The rookie played only 22 of 59 snaps in the lopsided loss to Cincinnati, rushing eight times for 19 yards and failing to catch any of his three targets. A home matchup against Washington this week could lead to a bigger snap total for Smallwood, but the potential return of Ryan Mathews could throw a wrench into things.

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

Window shopping:

Chris Ivory missed Week 13 with a hamstring injury but could be back this week to share work with T.J. Yeldon in a difficult matchup against Minnesota. As the primary backup to Jeremy Hill, the versatile Rex Burkhead could have sneaky value this week in a powder-puff matchup against the Browns. Christine Michael might attract speculators this week after getting nine carries for 19 yards Sunday against the Texans, but C-Mike is a time-share on a team that runs infrequently. Denard Robinson will only have Week 13 value if Chris Ivory remains out with a hamstring injury, but it will be low-level value indeed, since he’d share work with T.J. Yeldon and has a tough Week 14 matchup against the Vikings. Jacquizz Rodgers returned from a foot injury and saw significant action for the Buccaneers on Sunday behind Doug Martin, but Charles Sims is eligible to return from a knee injury this week, and it’s unclear if either of these backups will be able to take advantage of the Buccaneers’ two matchups against the Saints over the next three weeks. It’s still possible Ameer Abdullah will be back from the foot injury that’s shelved him since mid-September in the next week or two, but it seems far-fetched that he’d play enough snaps to help fantasy owners in the playoffs.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (28% and 15% owned)

According to snap guru Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Mitchell played 67 of the Patriots’ 79 snaps against the Rams on Sunday, and Hogan played 68 snaps. Both saw more action than even Julian Edelman. It appears that the season-ending injury to TE Rob Gronkowski will provide additional opportunities for the New England receivers. Mitchell was targeted 10 times against the Rams and had 8-82-0 receiving. He’s piled up 17-222-3 over the last three weeks. As a prominent target in one of the league’s best passing games, Mitchell should be snapped up in any league where he’s still available. Hogan had 4-23-1 on five targets in Week 13. He’s been an unpredictable this fantasy asset this season, but perhaps the absence of Gronk and Tom Brady’s greater dependence on his wide receivers will iron out some of the wrinkles in Hogan’s weekly stat lines.

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

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

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Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers (20% owned)

Inman has TD catches in each of his last two games, and over his last six outings he’s averaged 7.0 targets, 4.3 catches and 66.2 yards. With Tyrell Williams (shoulder) and Travis Benjamin (knee) both banged up, and with Antonio Gates seemingly running on fumes, Inman has become a critical contributor to the Sand Diego passing game. His matchup against Carolina this week is a good one, as is his week 16 matchup with the Browns.

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

Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (36% owned)

A two-week mini-slump in Weeks 10-11 seemed to sour a lot of people on Enunwa, but his 5-109-1 performance against the Patriots in Week 12 was a reminder that he can be a useful fantasy asset. It was Enuwa’s first 100-yard performance of the season, but he’s topped 90 yards three times and has produced 43-643-4 this season. A tasty Week 14 matchup against the 49ers gives Enunwa significant Week 14 appeal.

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

Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns (46% owned)

The possible return of Browns QB Robert Griffin III could be a boon to Coleman, a fellow Baylor product capable of benefiting from RG3’s downfield aggressiveness. Yes, he’ll have to share targets with Terrelle Pryor, who has established himself as the go-to guy in the Cleveland passing game, and Cleveland’s remaining schedule isn’t especially WR-friendly, but Coleman could be a nice addition for playoff-bound fantasy teams.

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

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Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta Falcons (39% owned)

Gabriel appears to have surpassed Mohamed Sanu to become Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver behind Julio Jones. That doesn’t necessarily equate to a lot of targets. Gabriel saw five targets in three consecutive games before getting a season-high six looks against the Chiefs in Week 14. He’s made the most of the targets he’s seen, with 15-247-3 over that four-game span, and Gabriel is now looking at an uber-favorable three-game stretch of schedule that includes games against the Rams, 49ers and Panthers.

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

Will Fuller, Houston Texans (43% owned)

Now healthy again, Fuller has seen a dozen targets in his last two games and has caught 9-119-0. The fleet-footed rookie has a nice matchup against the Colts this week and a good one against the Bengals in Week 16 (with an unattractive matchup against the Jaguars in between). The Houston passing game hasn’t exactly been a rich source of fantasy production in recent weeks, but Fuller is the kind of cat who can make his weekly quota in a single play.

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

Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals (46% owned)

Since his 101-yard performance in Week 10, Floyd has totaled only seven catches for 70 yards in his last three games, though he did have a TD catch on Sunday, his first since mid-October. Floyd’s season has been a big disappointment, but he’ll at least have a puncher’s chance to do some damage this week against a Miami pass defense that was badly scalded by Joe Flacco and the Ravens in Week 13.

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

Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati Bengals (16% owned)

Rookie Tyler Boyd is much more widely owned (53%), but it was LaFell who offered far greater value Sunday against the Eagles, with 5-95-1 on seven targets vs. Boyd’s 4-66-0 on six targets. LaFell has now seen 25 targets over the last three weeks, and with A.J. Green not expected back for a plum matchup against the Browns, LaFell is a viable Week 14 option.

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

Window shopping:

With 59-714-2 on the season, Pierre Garcon is an unsexy but efficient PPR point provider who should see plenty of targets against the Eagles this week if TE Jordan Reed remains out. Adam Thielen has 20-204-1 on 25 targets over the last three weeks, including 15 catches in his last two games. Although he has no big-gain potential whatsoever, Anquan Boldin has accumulated solid reception and TD totals and should have a fairly high floor this week if Marvin Jones remains sidelined with a thigh injury. Dorial Green-Beckham has been targeted 28 times in his last three games but Jordan Matthews is expected back this week after sitting out Week 13, and the Philly passing game has a difficult matchup against Washington this week. Any of Cam Meredith, Josh Bellamy or Marquess Wilson could potentially go off against the Lions this week, but good luck trying to figure out the Bears’ passing game these days; Meredith is probably the best bet of the three, and he and Bellamy would become more attractive one-week plays if the groin injury sustained by Wilson on Sunday keeps him out against Detroit. Marqise Lee caught only three of his nine targets in Week 13, but those targets should continue to come if Allen Hurns remains out with a hamstring injury; a Week 14 matchup with the Vikings dims Lee’s Week 14 outlook, however. Ted Ginn has weekly home run potential, though his Week 14 matchup against the Chargers is a tough one. 

TIGHT ENDS

Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (22% owned)

We finally got the long-awaited Ladarius explosion in Week 13. Green erupted for 6-110-1 against the Giants on 11 targets. It didn’t matter that Green played just under half of the Steelers’ offensive snaps against the G-men. And perhaps it won’t matter if Green gets fewer snaps than Jesse James the rest of the way. The bottom line is that ever since Green’s first game with the Steelers in Week 10, Ben Roethlisberger has sought out the athletic TE whenever he’s been on the field. In categories such as points per route run and points per snap, Green’s numbers are through the roof. So fear not the low snap counts. Grab Green if you need a tight end and roll him out with confidence this week against the Bills and (especially) next week against the Bengals.

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

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans (40% owned)

Fiedorowicz has now gone four games without a touchdown, but he’s averaged 4.8 receptions and 51.8 yards over his last nine contests, with at least five targets in each of those outings. He has a nice matchup against the Colts this week, and his Week 16 matchup against the Bengals is worth targeting if you’re streaming at the TE position

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

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Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (21% owned)

McDonald caught only two balls for nine yards Sunday, as the San Francisco passing game laid a giant pterodactyl egg in Chicago. But in the four games prior, V-Mac had caught 14-240-2 on 26 targets. He has neutral matchups the rest of the way and is a playable fantasy option for any owner hard up at tight end.

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

Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins (37% owned)

Kirk Cousins has been peppering his tight ends with ample targets all season. Jordan Reed didn’t play in Week 13 after separating his shoulder on Thanksgiving, and Davis had 5-47-0 on six targets in Reed’s absence. Davis has produced at least 47 yards in six of his last seven games, and if Reed remains out in Week 14, Davis could put up solid numbers against the Eagles, even though Philadelphia has been tough on opposing tight ends. A Week 15 matchup against Carolina could be a bonanza, as the Panthers have really struggled against TEs.

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

Window shopping: Dennis Pitta hadn’t scored a touchdown since December 2013 before catching a pair of TD passes Sunday against Miami; With 61 receptions this season, he can be a useful piece in PPR leagues. The ownership rate for Gary Barnidge has dropped to 46%, but he only had one TD catch this season, and the return of RG3 doesn’t bode especially well for Barnidge’s outlook down the stretch. After catching 6-105-1 in his first game back from an ankle injury, Jared Cook has 4-26-0 in the two games since, and he doesn’t have a single easy matchup over the next three weeks. Jermaine Gresham has become a more frequent contributor to the Cardinals’ passing game over the last month or so and could be worth adding in the deepest of leagues. 

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