- The fantasy football playoffs are just around the corner, so owners should be approaching the Week 13 waiver wire with different strategies based on your current playoff status. Already locked up a spot? Look a few weeks ahead. In contention? Look to next week only.
Week 13 marks the final week of the regular season in most fantasy leagues, which means owners will be looking for very different types of players on the waiver wire, depending on where they are in the standings. Owners who already have already clinched a spot in the playoffs should be on the hunt for players—including defenses—who can help them over the next month, while owners who need a win in Week 13 to get into the postseason need to focus simply on the game ahead of them. Either way, the wire can still satisfy all fantasy owners. Except for those who are already looking ahead to 2019.
Michael Beller: John, we know Austin Ekeler is the big prize in leagues where he's available, but he's about 70% owned across the three major sites, so chances are he isn't out there in any competitive leagues. Let's instead turn our attention to a couple of other guys who could pay big dividends in the fantasy playoffs. Adam Humphries had another big game with Jameis Winston under center, catching all six of his targets for 54 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 27-9 win over the 49ers. Where do you peg his value for the rest of the season
John Paulsen: This season, Humphries has been targeted on 18.1% of Winston’s 204 pass attempts and has accounted for 19.0% of his completions, 17.1% of his yards and 20.0% of his touchdowns. Assuming Winston continues to average 25.2 completions on 39.0 attempts for 315 yards and 1.73 touchdowns per game—his averages over his last 16 games that he started and finished—Humphries would average 4.8 receptions for 53.9 yards and 0.35 touchdowns on 7.1 targets per game. This equates to 9.9 points per game in half-PPR leagues, which is about what Allen Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Jarvis Landry and Corey Davis are averaging this season as low-end WR3s. He’ll definitely be startable in the next couple of games against the Panthers and Saints.
Beller: Over his last five games, Humphries has 26 receptions for 325 yards and four scores, good for 11.3 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 16.5 points per game in PPR formats. Meanwhile, Doug Martin continued his quietly productive season in Week 12, running for 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while catching three passes for 21 yards. Martin has been the Raiders’ primary back for five weeks since the team placed Marshawn Lynch on IR. In those five games he has 285 yards on 60 carries, 10 receptions for 95 yards, and the one score he put on the Ravens on Sunday. He’s had at least 70 yards from scrimmage in three of those games, and double-digit touches in all of them. In my estimation, he’s on the low-end RB2 radar every single week, even in a substandard offense. Do you agree?
Paulsen: Just a few days after Jon Gruden compared him to Charlie Garner and suggested that he might be the MVP of the team, Jalen Richard only saw three touches against the Ravens even though he played his usual complement of snaps. I’m bringing up Richard because it seems like Oakland isn’t in any hurry to expand his workload despite Gruden’s gushing about his skill set. Martin ran well in a very tough matchup against the Ravens and has now averaged at least 4.07 YPC in five straight games. His schedule is setting up nicely (KC, PIT, CIN and DEN). I agree that he’s in the RB2 conversation, though I do worry about how much he’ll play if/when the Raiders get down big against the Chiefs and Steelers.
Beller: The waiver wire may be thinning out, but Humphries and Martin prove there is still value to be found. With that, let’s get to the rest of our look at the wire heading into Week 13. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
The necessary handcuffs: Malcolm Brown, Rams; Spencer Ware, Chiefs; Giovani Bernard, Bengals; Chase Edmonds, Cardinals; Jamaal Williams, Packers; Jaylen Samuels, Steelers; Carlos Hyde, Jaguars
To be a true handcuff at this point of the season, a back must be behind a clear workhorse, be under our 40% ownership rate threshold, and stand to inherit the lion’s share of the touches should the starter go down. If you are invested in Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon or David Johnson, Aaron Jones, James Conner or Leonard Fournette, you must go get their handcuffs while you still can.
Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
Hyde isn't just a handcuff this week. With Leonard Fournette suspended after his ejection in Week 12, Hyde is expected to handle the early-down work for the Jaguars against the Colts. Yeldon could be in for more work, as well, but he's a better bet in PPR leagues. Hyde can be a worthy starter in all formats, and he was summarily dropped across the fantasy landscape after the Browns sent him to Jacksonville.
Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, Colts
Marlon Mack left the Colts’ 27-24 win over the Dolphins in Week 12 and was placed in concussion protocol. Should he miss time, Hines and Wilkins would split the work out of the backfield. While Wilkins got the first shot at early-down work when Mack was out previously this season, Hines got nine carries on Sunday, while Wilkins’ only touches came through the air. The Colts may go back to the split we saw earlier in the season, but the preference here is for Hines. Should Mack play in Week 13, neither Hines nor Wilkins would have fantasy value.
Frank Gore, Dolphins
Gore remains in command of the early-down work for the Dolphins, carrying the ball 14 times for 67 yards in the team’s Week 12 loss to the Colts. Kenyan Drake touched the ball 13 times and scored two touchdowns, but Adam Gase clearly prefers Gore as his primary runner. The veteran is getting enough work to warrant being on a fantasy team in most leagues, even with byes in the rear-view mirror. His owners may not play him the rest of the season, but the best-laid plans have a way of going awry. He represents great depth with the fantasy playoffs on the horizon.
Rex Burkhead, Patriots
The Patriots activated Burkhead off IR on Monday, and he could play as soon as the team's Week 13 meeting with the Vikings. Burkhead was huge for the Patriots and fantasy owners alike down the stretch last season, though it's hard to see that happening again this year. For one thing, he has been on IR for nearly the entire season because of a neck injury. For another, the team seems set in the backfield with Sony Michel and James White entrenched in their roles. Still, there's enough potential value here to make Burkhead worth adding in most leagues. If Michel or White were to suffer an injury, Burkhead could be in for a role similar to what he enjoyed last year.
Justin Jackson, Chargers
The Chargers stubbornly let Melvin Gordon play in Week 12, despite pre-existing knee and hamstring injuries, in a game they ended up winning by 35 points. Gordon played well, but the knee injury got worse, and he will now miss at least a few weeks with a sprained MCL. It’s entirely possible Gordon will be out for the rest of the fantasy season, especially if the Chargers win a few more games to solidify their playoff standing. Austin Ekeler will lead the backfield in Gordon’s absence, but he’s already owned in competitive leagues. Jackson, the rookie out of Northwestern, will have a role in the offense, as well. He had 57 yards on seven carries in the win over the Cardinals in Week 12.
LeGarrette Blount, Lions
Blount filled in admirably for the injured Kerryon Johnson on Thanksgiving, picking up 88 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in the Lions’ 23-16 loss to the Bears. Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner combined for four carries, making it clear who will lead Detroit’s backfield so long as Johnson is on the shelf. Should he miss another game, Blount would be on the flex radar in Week 13 with the Lions hosting the Rams.
Elijah McGuire, Jets
McGuire was a non-factor in the Jets’ 27-13 loss to the Patriots, rushing six times for 19 yards and catching one of three targets for seven yards. McGuire is still on the waiver radar because he’s occupying the Bilal Powell role in the Jets offense, but he hasn’t turned it into much. In three games this season, he has 150 yards and zero scores on 26 touches.
Josh Reynolds, Rams
Reynolds is now the No. 3 receiver for the Rams with Cooper Kupp out for the season. He looked good on last week, catching six of eight targets for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' thrilling 54-51 win over the Chiefs. Tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee could see more targets, as well, but Reynolds will step right into the role vacated by Kupp. Even if he isn’t as equipped to make that role what Kupp has, he’ll be on the fantasy radar in most leagues for the rest of the season.
Quincy Enunwa, Jets
Enunwa got four targets in the Jets’ 27-13 loss to the Patriots in Week 12, catching all of them for 73 yards. Jermaine Kearse and Chris Herndon got more looks from Josh McCown, but Enunwa led the team in receiving yards, thanks in large part to a 41-yard reception. He was starting to emerge as a fantasy weapon before getting hurt in October, and has 11 catches on 16 targets for 131 yards in three games since returning to the field. He’s no more than depth, but can still help fantasy owners who are headed to the playoffs.
Antonio Callaway, Browns
Callaway caught four of five targets for 62 yards and a touchdown in the Browns’ 35-20 win over the Bengals in Week 12. Callaway generated some buzz early in the season, but that quieted down when the Browns went into their familiar midseason slide. After a few necessary coaching changes, there is once again life in Cleveland. Should the team put together a strong finish to the season, Callaway will likely play a big part in it. There’s enough plausible upside here to justify grabbing Callaway in any competitive league, even if you never end up starting him.
John Ross, Bengals
Ross also scored a touchdown on the other side of the Browns’ win over the Bengals, his third straight game with a touchdown. He has found paydirt in all three games that A.J. Green has missed, catching seven of 20 targets for 97 yards in that span. Should Green return in Week 13, Ross would have no fantasy value, but he’d be on the low-end WR3 radar if Green is out again.
Josh Doctson, Redskins
Doctson had arguably his best game of the year in the 31-23 loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, setting season-highs in catches (six), targets (10) and yards (66). Doctson has been maddeningly inconsistent and beset by injury his entire NFL career, but he has a chance over Washington’s final five games to turn himself into a go-to receiver in the offense. Like most receivers we’re looking at this week, he’s no more than depth for a fantasy owner in a good place going into the postseason, but you never know when you might need that depth.
Bruce Ellington, Lions
Ellington caught six passes for 28 yards in the Lions’ 23-16 loss to the Bears on Thanksgiving. In two games without Marvin Jones, Ellington has caught 12 balls for 80 yards. Should Jones miss the Lions’ game with the Rams in Week 13, Ellington would be on the radar in full PPR leagues.
Marcell Ateman, Raiders
Ateman didn’t do much damage in the Raiders’ 34-17 loss to the Ravens in Week 12, but he did lead the team with 10 targets. That’s enough to land him on the fantasy radar going into the final week of the regular season. The rookie out of Oklahoma State played his first career game in Week 11, hauling in four of five targets for 50 yards. The Raiders’ passing game is a mess, but Ateman could be in line for enough work the rest of the year to make him playable in deeper leagues.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson delivered for those who have already bought into him in fantasy leagues for the second straight week while leading the Ravens to a 34-17 win over the Raiders. Jackson’s numbers as a passer don’t exactly jump off the page. He threw for 178 yards, 7.12 yards per attempt, one touchdown and two picks in the win. He got it done on the ground again, though, racking up 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. That comes out to 22.22 points in standard-scoring leagues, meaning he more than paid off for fantasy owners who bought into his upside in the matchup with the Raiders. There’s no telling what the Ravens will do when Joe Flacco is ready to return from his hip injury, but Jackson has earned himself a longer look as a starter. Complicating matters is that the Ravens are 6-5, firmly in the AFC playoff hunt. It’s entirely possible that John Harbaugh and the Baltimore coaching staff decides the team has a better shot at making the postseason with Flacco under center, though that’s purely speculation on our part. What isn’t speculation, though, is that there’s no guarantee that Jackson will remain the starter when Flacco is healthy. Still, Jackson is well worth the gamble after what he has showed in his first two starts.
Chris Herndon, Jets
Herndon had a productive game in the Jets’ 27-13 loss to the Patriots, catching seven of eight targets for 57 yards. As we’ve said for a few weeks in this space, he’s better cast as a streamer, but with so few reliable fantasy tight ends, there’s nothing wrong with trusting Herndon as your starter for the rest of the season. Over his last six games, he has 21 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Gerald Everett, Rams
In the Rams’ first game after losing Cooper Kupp to a torn ACL, Everett caught three of four targets for 49 yards and two touchdowns. That suggests a clear touchdown dependency, but the game marked just the third time this season that Everett had at least four targets. One of the two previous games was one in which Kupp left early because of an injury. If Everett can muster up four targets per game the rest of the season in this offense, he’ll be worth considering as a streamer in all leagues.