Offensive Deep League Gems: Week 14
In the football world, it’s getting down to crunch time. Both NFL teams and fantasy football GMs are getting prepared for the late-season pushes that may result in playoff wins—or at the very least, better draft positioning. If you’re on the bubble of the fantasy football postseason, you may just be on the lookout for players who can push you over the edge; and if you’re in this situation while at the helm of a team in a deeper league, there are seemingly never too many roster moves you can make at this critical point in the season.
Luckily, players are still becoming relevant though the season creeps to a close—players who could make an immediate and significant impact on your fantasy football bottom line. Here are my three Week 14 waiver wire gems for those of you in charge of rosters in 14, 16, 18 or more-team leagues.
Mike Thomas, WR, Detroit Lions (Yahoo! 1% Owned; ESPN .2% Owned)
Wide receiver Mike Thomas has been with the Detroit Lions for five weeks, and over that span he’s seen his responsibilities increase. First was the insubordination of fellow receiver Titus Young that has Young essentially off the team, and now, rookie Ryan Broyles’ season has ended with an ACL tear. The tear, which occurred early in Detroit’s Week 13 loss against the Indianapolis Colts immediately caused Thomas’ snap count to increase from 59 in Week 12 to 71; the only problem is, it didn’t increase his receiving productivity.
Thomas saw only four targets—down from six in Week 12—and caught just one of those passes, for an unimpressive -1 yards. It wasn’t a great showing, considering how much playing time he had, but with the Lions having few other options at receiver at the moment, his snaps will remain high and his targets should increase. As long as he can pull down the passes, he should be a productive fantasy starter. He’ll be the primary benefactor of Calvin Johnson being blanketed in coverage, and that goes doubly so this week with the Green Bay Packers the Lions’ next opponent. Thomas’ inconsistency is unsettling, but he’s all of a sudden Detroit’s No. 2 receiver, which gives him instant fantasy value in deeper leagues.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (Yahoo! 9% Owned; ESPN 1.8% Owned)
Jets running back Bilal Powell was starter in name only in Week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals, playing just 33 of a possible 78 offensive snaps. However, the carries he did get weren’t inconsequential, rushing 12 times for 58 yards. In the latter part of the season, Powell has been getting around 12 carries per game, though he has just 70 total on the year, for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Powell is, however, averaging four yards per carry and 1.8 yards after contact per rush and provides a much-needed change-of-pace for Shonn Greene, even if he’s not a big part of the passing offense (he has 19 targets, nine catches and 76 receiving yards this season).
Powell could be an even more integral part of the Jets offense in the remainder of the season if head coach Rex Ryan decides to keep quarterback Mark Sanchez benched, opting instead for Greg McElroy under center. Expect more handoffs while McElroy gets more comfortable in his new role—and even if Sanchez regains his starting job, it may just be smarter for the Jets to run more as the season winds down, again upping Powell’s fantasy value. This time of year, beggars cannot be choosers when it comes to fantasy GMs in need of a running back, especially in deeper leagues. At the very least, the likelihood is low for Powell to provide you with zero points, even if he isn’t getting most of the snaps nor is a receiving threat.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Yahoo! 4% Owned; ESPN 1.8% Owned)
Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin has been battling an ankle injury this season but appears now to be close to 100 percent. That, combined with the ever-increasing effectiveness of the Seahawks’ passing offense puts Baldwin back onto the fantasy football radar in deeper leagues.
With his health improving and the Seahawks passing better, expect to see a steady increase in offensive snaps for Baldwin in the remaining weeks of the season. He played 37 of 74 possible snaps in Seattle’s Week 13 win over the Chicago Bears, his most since 51 in Week 1. He had four catches on four targets in that game, for a total of 46 yards, including 11 yards after the catch. In total, Baldwin has been targeted 32 times this season, catching 20 of those passes for 257—an average of 12.9 yards per reception—plus one lone touchdown. He also has four drops to his name so far, though with better health and improved play out of rookie Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, he should become more reliable.
With an average of 2.4 yards after the catch, Baldwin isn’t going to streak down the field, making defenders miss. However, he’s a valuable middle-of-the-field possession receiver for a Seattle passing game that keeps heating up. As long as he can make the most of the five or six targets he’ll likely see from here on out, he should be of very real help for your fantasy team or at least provide some backup in case one of your more reliable players gets bitten by the injury bug.