Now that the fantasy playoffs are here, owners should be using the waiver wire differently than they did during the regular season. Over the first 13 weeks of the season, fantasy owners should look for both long- and short-term value on the waiver wire. In the playoffs, however, it’s all about what a waiver wire target can do for you the very next week. With that in mind, our look at the Week 15 Waiver Wire focuses on players who can help you get a win in the fantasy semifinals.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers
Goodwin delivered again in Week 14, catching six passes on 12 targets for 106 yards in the 49ers’ 26–16 win over the Texans. In five games since Pierre Garcon went on IR, Goodwin has turned into a legitimate WR1—he leads the San Francisco offense with 36 targets in that timeframe, hauling in 21 of those for 434 yards and one touchdown. Prorated over 16 games, Goodwin’s per-game averages over the last five weeks come out to a 67-catch, 1,388-yard, three-touchdown season, all rounded down to the nearest whole number. Put another way, Goodwin has played like the No. 13 receiver in standard-scoring leagues and No. 20 receiver in PPR formats since ascending to the top of the 49ers depth chart. With Jimmy Garoppolo already looking the part of, at worst, a league-average quarterback, Goodwin should continue to thrive. In Week 15, San Francisco hosts the Titans, a defense ranked in the middle of the league against the pass. You may not want to play Goodwin against the Jaguars in Week 16 if you make it to your league’s championship, but he should help you get there next week.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
Bortles is in a great spot to lift quarterback streamers who are on the doorstep of their league’s championship game—the Jacksonville QB gets a matchup in Week 15 with the Texans, a defense ranked 30th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). Bortles didn’t have a great game against them the first time the teams met, throwing for 125 yards, 5.95 yards per attempt and one touchdown, but that was back in Week 1, when J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were both still on the field for Houston. Jacksonville also took a 19–0 lead into halftime in that contest, which effectively ended the game and led to them packing in the passing attack in the second half. Bortles didn’t have Dede Westbrook’s services in that game either, and the rookie out of Oklahoma has been one of his favorite receivers since he made his debut last month. All of it adds up to Bortles bringing a legitimate weekly QB1 ceiling into the fantasy playoff semifinals.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
If Bortles isn’t your guy, how about Garoppolo? He, too, is a worthy streamer in a plus matchup with the Titans in Week 15. Garoppolo was great in his second start with the 49ers, throwing for 334 yards, 10.12 YPA, one touchdown and one interception in the 26-16 win over the Texans. He has 627 yards and 8.96 YPA in his two starts, bringing an efficiency to the San Francisco offense that had been lacking all season. Garoppolo will be on the QB1 radar in Week 15, making him an attractive stream candidate, and an excellent target for Carson Wentz owners.
Buffalo Bills Defense
The Bills will be one of the best streaming defenses in Week 15 when they host the Dolphins. Buffalo has struggled against the run since trading Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars, but, even as effective as Kenyan Drake has been, Miami isn’t equipped to take advantage of that deficiency as are some of their recent opponents. The Bills should be favorites and will be playing at home, both of which are factors that generally work in favor of a defense from a fantasy perspective. Jay Cutler remains one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league, helping make this one of the better matchups on the board for any widely available defense.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars
Westbrook turned in another strong game in Week 14, catching five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. He has slowly but surely built on his performance every week, climbing from 35 yards in his NFL debut three weeks ago to the 81-yard, one-touchdown outing on Sunday. Even with Marqise Lee shining opposite him, Westbrook has turned himself into a vital part of the Jacksonville offense. He’s an easy add for any owner looking for wide receiver help heading into the fantasy semifinals. Just as the Texans are a great matchup for Blake Bortles, so, too, are they for his receivers. The Texans rank 28th in the NFL in wide receiver aFPA and were the defense on the opposing side of Marquise Goodwin’s 106-yard game in Week 14.
Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers
We don’t want to draw ironclad conclusions from just a couple of games, but it sure looks like Barber is the best back on the Buccaneers roster. Doug Martin returned from his concussion and got the start in Week 14, but he ran for just 26 yards on 10 carries. He hogged most of the work out of the backfield, until a fumble opened the door to Barber. The second-year player out of Auburn took advantage of his opportunity again, racking up 58 yards on 12 carries. Dirk Koetter may be painfully slow to change, but even he likely has to acknowledge that Barber deserves more playing time. It’s hard to imagine Koetter turning completely away from Martin, but Barber can be in the flex discussion if he’s able to secure 15 or more combined carries and targets next week.
Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks
Davis ran the ball well again on Sunday, picking up 66 yards on 15 carries against a strong Jacksonville defense. He left the game with a rib injury, but that shouldn’t change the motivation to grab him off the wire. The possibility of him missing the Seahawks Week 15 game with the Rams is something his new owners will deal with later in the week. For now, he’s a player worth targeting, given that he has looked like the answer to the Seahawks season-long backfield woes. If he can play on Sunday, he’ll have a matchup with a Rams defense that is ranked 22nd in running back aFPA.
Kerwynn Williams, RB, Cardinals
Williams was back in a feature role with Adrian Peterson out again in Week 14, and he ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and added a 15-yard reception. In two games without Peterson, Williams has totaled 185 yards from scrimmage, and has racked up 36 carries. Should Peterson miss a third straight game, there’s little reason to expect Williams’s volume to change. That would have him in the low-end RB2 and flex pictures for the fantasy semifinals. The Cardinals in Week 15 visit the Redskins, a defense ranked 25th in running back aFPA.
Theo Riddick, RB, Lions
Riddick made the most of Ameer Abdullah’s absence in Week 14, totaling 93 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 16 touches. He wasn’t very effective as a rusher, picking up 29 yards on 10 carries, but both of his touchdowns came on the ground. Just as importantly, rookie Tion Green got just five carries in the game one week after creating a boomlet of fantasy value. It’s safe to say that the backfield is largely in Riddick’s hands with Abdullah out. He’ll be a solid play in PPR formats, and at least part of the discussion in standard leagues, should Abdullah miss another game in Week 15. The Lions host the Bears, a defense that just surrendered 130 total yards to Giovani Bernard. Riddick would bring that same ceiling into that contest, especially with the injuries mounting for the Bears defense.
Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants
Orleans Darkwa was limited in Week 14 because of an illness, giving more opportunity to Gallman. He ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and caught seven passes for 40 yards, easily the most productive game of his rookie year. Darkwa is likely to be back in the driver’s seat in Week 15, but the 2-11 Giants would be wise to see as much as they can of the talented rookie out of Clemson. Gallman would be a risky play with a fully healthy Darkwa alongside him in Week 15, but if the Giants do decide to give him more run down the stretch, he could be an intriguing play in Week 16 when they visit the Cardinals and their league-average defense against running backs for fantasy purposes.
James Conner, RB, Steelers; Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers; Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars; Aaron Jones, RB, Packers; Rod Smith, RB, Cowboys
It’s handcuff season in fantasy leagues, and these 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 five, however, are clear handcuffs. Smith might seem like he’s worthy of an add outside of being a handcuff to Alfred Morris after his big game in Week 14, but I’m not so sure. Yes, he scored two touchdowns, one of which came on an 81-yard pass play, and he has now scored in three straight games. Still, he had 11 total touches, which matched his high mark of the season. Morris, meanwhile, had 19 carries and three receptions, and has dominated the carry share during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. It’s hard to trust any back whose touch ceiling is in the low double-digits.
Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens
Wallace turned in another decent game, catching three passes for 72 yards. He has been firmly on the low-end WR3 radar for the better part of a month, turning into the closest thing the Ravens have to a No. 1 receiver. Your needs for a starting receiver would have to be particularly acute to make a run at Wallace, but that may describe a fair share of fantasy owners headed to the semifinals. For what it’s worth, he does have a good matchup against a Cleveland defense ranked 22nd in quarterback aFPA. The Browns did do a good job against Packers receivers for most of Week 14, but Davante Adams finally got to them in the fourth quarter and overtime. Wallace can once again deliver WR3 value in this contest.
Corey Coleman, WR, Browns
Coleman receded from the spotlight in Josh Gordon’s return, but he was back in a big way in Week 14. He got six targets from DeShone Kizer, catching five of them for 62 yards. Take away the goose egg in Week 13, and Coleman is averaging 68.7 yards per game since returning from his broken hand. The Ravens will be a tough matchup for Coleman in Week 15, and his short run as the team’s WR1 is over, but there’s still value in a guy who was the 15th overall pick in last year’s draft and is a good bet for six-plus targets per game the rest of the way.
Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers
Williams has been surprisingly quiet all season, but he finally showed up in Week 14. He rode a 75-yard touchdown to his best game of the season, totaling four grabs for 132 yards and the score. His opportunities are limited with Keenan Allen healthy and the team finally committing to Hunter Henry, but he showed how dangerous he can be on the long touchdown. That’s an element that the Chargers offense has lacked for most of the year, and something it may need to emerge as the AFC West champions this season. The division could be decided in Week 15 when the Chargers visit the Chiefs. The Chiefs took the first meeting between the two back in Week 3, but they were vastly different teams that early in the year. Williams can be a difference maker against a Chiefs defense ranked 31st in wide receiver aFPA.
Kendall Wright, WR, Bears
Strange what happens for the Bears offense when they open it up a little bit and let the second overall pick in this year’s draft show what he can do. It works. Wright was one of the main beneficiaries of the souped-up scheme in the Bears 33–7 win over the Bengals in week 14. The veteran receiver got 11 targets, catching 10 of them for 107 yards. It was easily his best game of the season, and the first 100-yard game for a Bears receiver all year. He’ll be on the low-end WR3 radar in Week 15 in a matchup with the Lions, a defense ranked 19th in wide receiver aFPA.
Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins
All the injuries in the Washington offense are finally proving too much to handle, as well, and everyone is worse off for it, as was on display in the 30-13 loss to the Chargers in Week 14. With all that said, Doctson has enough touchdown upside to be a potential starter for an owner who is particularly needy at wide receiver. He could, however, see a heavy dose of Patrick Peterson with the Cardinals in town in Week 15.