The final week of the typical fantasy football regular season is on the horizon, and while there’s always value on the waiver wire, it is as barren as it has been at any point this year. The wire doesn’t look like it’s going to be much help for owners trying to prolong their seasons, but there is some value available at wide receiver, though that owes mostly to the depth of the position more than anything else. One player who could jump straight from the wire to starting lineups is, believe it or not, in Cleveland. That’s where we start our look at the Week 13 Waiver Wire.
Corey Coleman, WR, Browns
Coleman delivered another solid game in Week 12, catching three of his eight targets for 64 yards. In two games since returning from a broken hand, he has nine grabs on 19 targets for 144 yards. Coleman is up to 31 targets in just four games this season, good for 7.75 per game. That has him on par with the likes of Alshon Jeffery and Golden Tate in targets per game. The fantasy community has exhibited some token enthusiasm for a few different receivers who looked like the de facto No. 1 in Cleveland this year. Remember the glorious Rashard Higgins era? What makes Coleman different, though, is that he’s actually good. He was the 15th overall pick in the draft a year ago, and has fought through a pair of hand injuries, one in both of his seasons, to post impressive numbers in a hapless Browns offense. The volume should be there for Coleman every week, as is the case for any team’s top playmaker. He’s never going to carry a high ceiling because of the limitations of his offense, but his expected opportunity will have him in the WR3 discussion, at worst, every week. Coleman is a good bet to be a top-35 receiver the rest of the way, which translates to a regular starter in all but the shallowest, and least competitive, of fantasy leagues.
Zay Jones, WR, Bills
It took until November, but the Jones rookie year breakout may finally be upon us. Over his last three games, he has 13 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He has been consistently productive across those three games, too, going 6-53-1, 4-68-0, and 3-33-1. He has also increased his target share in that time, getting seven, seven and 10 targets in the three games. Jones, the 37th overall pick in this year’s draft, was supposed to be one of the big new weapons for Tyrod Taylor this season, but he never could find a rhythm over the first two months of the season. His opportunities were inconsistent—he had five or fewer targets in three of his first four games—and when he did get chances he didn’t capitalize on them. He and Taylor are finally developing that rapport, with all seven of Jones’s targets in Week 7 coming after the Bills mercifully removed Nathan Peterman from the game. The Bills have been desperate for consistent firepower outside the numbers all season, and Jones is the one guy who can provide it.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots
Don’t get this twisted. I’m not buying into Burkhead as a reliable fantasy option after his strong Week 12 performance. The bottom line is that the waiver wire looks like it’s going to be quite thin heading into the final week of the regular season, making anyone with a notable role in the Patriots offense one of the most attractive available players. Burkhead turned 13 carries—a season-high for the RB—and two targets into 53 total yards and two touchdowns. At the same time, Dion Lewis was great again, running for 112 yards on 15 totes. Burkhead is not going to unseat Lewis, which means he’s going to be dependent on touchdowns for his fantasy value. On a team with Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks, he’s never going to be one of the primary touchdown scorers. There’s also the chance that his role decreases significantly when Chris Hogan returns from his shoulder injury. Still, Burkhead is in a spot to regularly get double-digit touches on one of the best offenses in the league. That makes him a worthy add on this waiver wire landscape.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Buccaneers
Doug Martin suffered a concussion in the Buccaneers Week 12 loss to the Falcons, and he has already been placed into concussion protocol, putting his availability for Week 13 in doubt. If he sits, Rodgers will assume the role he had the first three games of the season, when Martin was suspended. Rodgers was productive in two of those games, running for 67 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Bears, and totaling 108 yards from scrimmage in a victory against the Giants. He hasn’t had any role in the offense since then, but did get eight carries after Martin suffered his concussion. The Buccaneers visit the Packers, which, at worst, is a neutral matchup for Rodgers. The Packers entered Week 12 ranked 20th against running backs in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA).
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos
Booker led all Broncos backs in carries and touches in Week 12. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all it took to do so was six carries and eight touches, and that he turned those opportunities into 33 yards from scrimmage. Booker’s rise in the Denver offense is undeniable, and that makes him worthy of an add heading into the final week of the fantasy regular season. At the same time, he hasn’t done a whole lot in his increased role. Going back to Week 8, the first game in which Booker started to take significant work away from C.J. Anderson, he has a total of 244 yards and one score on 53 touches. That comes out to 0.57 points per touch in standard-scoring leagues. Booker isn’t likely to be a factor for fantasy owners in the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. Even at this late stage of the season, you need fallback options sitting on your bench.
Rod Smith, RB, Cowboys
Smith got the same number of carries (nine) as Alfred Morris in the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day loss to the Chargers. He ran for 41 yards and a touchdown on those nine carries, and caught two passes for seven yards. Smith was slightly more productive than Morris, and got the opportunity to run at the goal line, which he turned into the first rushing touchdown of his career. With Darren McFadden gone, the Dallas backfield is down to Morris and Smith until Ezekiel Elliott returns from his suspension. The Cowboys offense is out of sorts without Elliott, but Smith has enough of a role, even in a middling offense, to jump onto the backend of a roster in most fantasy leagues.
James Conner, RB, Steelers; Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers; Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals; Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
It’s handcuff season in fantasy leagues, and these four are the only sure insurance policies on the market. No one can afford to lose a starting running back heading into the playoffs, but not every team has a clear handcuff who would take over most, if not all, of the starter’s workload should he get injured. These four comprise that minority. If you own Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Joe Mixon or Leonard Fournette, you must get his backup before the playoffs begin. You’d still be in trouble if the starter suffered an injury, but you can soften the blow by securing the position, regardless of who’s on the field.
Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins
Doctson was quiet on Thanksgiving Day until the Redskins final drive of the game, which he ended with a 14-yard touchdown reception. He had just one catch before that, and those were his only two catches of the game. Still, Doctson is one of the top-three pass catchers on a pass-happy offense, and Kirk Cousins is playing excellent quarterback for the third straight season. In short, there’s value for any receiver who’s likely to average about six targets per game in an offense led by Cousins. Even with Samaje Perine increasing the rushing share of the Washington offense over the last two games, this is a team that is going to live and die with its passing attack.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars
Westbrook got 10 targets in the Jaguars 27-24 loss to the Cardinals in Week 12, catching six of them for 41 yards. In two games, he has nine catches on 16 targets for 76 yards. The reception and yardage numbers may not jump out at fantasy owners, but the target number should. If Westbrook is going to average eight targets per game the rest of the season, he’s going to be in the WR3 and flex discussions every week. That doesn’t mean his owners will definitely want to start him, but he will at least give them another palatable option during the fantasy playoffs. The Jaguars four remaning games during the fantasy season are against the Colts, Seahawks, Texans and 49ers, the first and last of which are ranked 23rd and 32nd, respectively, in wide receiver aFPA.
Dontrelle Inman, WR, Bears
Inman has been played three games with the Bears and led the team’s receivers in receptions, targets and yards in all of them, In Week 12, that translated to four catches on nine looks for 64 yards. In three games with the team, he has nine receptions, 22 targets and 195 yards. Like every other receiver in this column, the stats aren’t begging fantasy owners to grab Inman off the wire, but they are intriguing enough to make him a potential desperation play in the fantasy playoffs. No one will want to start Inman in the playoffs, but some owners might have to depending on what happens the next few weeks. If you’re forced to mine this deep in the wide receiver ranks, finding a player who’s his team’s No. 1 option and is likely to average seven-plus targets per game can turn into the WR3 version of gold.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets
Kearse had his best game of the season in Week 12, catching seven of 11 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. Robby Anderson may be the Jets clear WR1, but Anderson is still putting up decent per-game numbers. His 42 receptions for 520 yards and five scores have him ranked 34th< among receivers in standard-scoring leagues, and 36th in PPR formats, on a per-game basis. In other words, over the balance of the season, he has been a low-end WR3 in 12-team leagues, no matter if it’s standard or PPR. There’s no reason to expect the Jets offense to stop supporting two fantasy-relevant receivers now, given how Josh McCown has performed this season. Kearse isn’t likely to give you better than WR3 numbers the rest of the season, but it’s just as unlikely that he’d fall short of that threshold, too.
Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Raiders
Seth Roberts, WR, Raiders
Michael Crabtree was ejected from the Raiders Week 12 win over the Broncos for fighting with Aqib Talib, and Amari Cooper left the game after a scary hit that resulted in a concussion. Cooper is likely to miss the Raiders Week 13 game with the Giants, and Crabtree could be looking at a suspension. If both are out, Patterson and Roberts will have big roles against a Giants defense that entered Week 12 20th in wide receiver aFPA and 27th in quarterback aFPA. Both Patterson’s and Roberts’s fantasy value is dependent on Crabtree being suspended. If the league does force him to sit a game, both could enter the WR3 discussion.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
First and foremost, do not get too excited about Gordon. He hasn’t played in an NFL game since December 2014, and he’s now four years removed from his breakout 2013 campaign. We always say in these parts that injury optimism is dangerous. This is injury optimism amplified to the nth degree. With that out of the way, Gordon is likely to play for the first time in nearly three years in Week 13, when the Browns visit the Chargers. He’s still just 26 years old, and four years ago he looked like he was a sure thing to be the league’s next elite receiver. There’s clearly enough upside here worthy of making a claim on Gordon if you have a roster spot to accommodate him. I wouldn’t be starting him in Week 13, but if he even comes close to resembling his old self, he could factor into the WR3 or flex picture during the fantasy playoffs. Even that, however, is a stretch. He should be the last receiver in waiver priority this week.
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
Howard turned in another productive game in Week 12, catching three passes for 52 yards. What’s more, Cameron Brate got just two targets, catching one of them for six yards. Howard’s role has been growing all season, especially over the last month. At this point, it’s safe to say he’s now the primary tight end in the Buccaneers offense. Take that status for what it’s worth. Howard has had five targets in one game this season, which places him comfortably behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson in total targets and targets per game. He’s unlikely to flip that script over the season’s final few weeks, meaning he’s looking at no more than five targets per game. Like everyone who factors into the low-end TE1 mix, Howard is largely touchdown-dependent. He has more upside than most of those players, however, which makes him an attractive add for any fantasy owner struggling to find consistency at the position.
Charles Clay, TE, Bills
Week 12 was quite possibly Clay’s first fully healthy game after missing more than a month with a knee injury. It was his third game back from the injury, but the first in which he was a guarantee to play all week. He and Tyrod Taylor fell into their old rhythm, hooking up four times for 60 yards. In five healthy games with Taylor under center, Clay has 22 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns. That comes out to 8.14 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 12.54 points per game in PPR formats. By comparison, Jimmy Graham is putting up 8.43 and 12.88 points per game in the two styles of fantasy football, respectively. With Clay healthy and Taylor’s position hopefully unquestioned, the tight end should be owned across the board.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
This one is for owners in superflex and two-quarterback leagues. There was always an expectation that Garoppolo would get a few starts this season. Even though Kyle Shanahan never indicated that would happen, it seemed unlikely that the 49ers would go into the 2018 season without giving their assumed franchise quarterback some significant run. That expectation was made more likely with C.J. Beathard’s leg injury at the end of the 49ers loss to the Seahawks in Week 12. Garoppolo should start in Week 13 when the 49ers visit Chicago to take on the 3-8 Bears. Garoppolo, who grew up about 30 miles from Soldier Field, would instantly pop up on the QB2 radar, should he start this week. He should be claimed in all superflex and two-quarterback leagues.