Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 17
Every Tuesday I will be bringing you the NFL players who have somehow flown under the fantasy radar and are owned in far too few leagues given their production and/or ceiling. Injuries and byes are inevitable, too.
Here are some players that are on quite a few waiver wires out there that simply shouldn’t be.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (Yahoo 56% owned; ESPN 60.4%)
Laugh all you want, but I’ve got Cutler as not only the best quarterback option on his team, but as a QB1 in most leagues. Listen, I understand that he has been bad, but does last week’s 222 yard one touchdown one interception game get nearly as much negative attention if Chicago doesn’t lose that game by 43 points? Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall,Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte still create a lethal attack, and given his success at home this season (higher completion percentage, more yards, more touchdowns, and less interceptions), the Bears signal caller has reasonable upside. He gets to face a divisional opponent that he has seen before and a defense that allowed 38 points to Pittsburgh in the snow. The Packers give up 249 yards and roughly three touchdowns for every interception, numbers that Cutler could approach in a must win contest.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (Yahoo 59% owned; ESPN 79%)
While Cutler will be playing with everything on the line, Manning is playing for pride. It’s been an awful year for the youngest Manning (not to mention his fantasy owners), but ending the year on a high note is very much in play when the equally disappointing Redskins come to town. Among current starting quarterbacks, Manning ranks second in aDOT, an encouraging statistic when you consider that Washington’s defense is giving up the most yards per attempt in the NFL. In addition to the long ball potential, Manning has actually taken better care of the ball lately.
Yeah, there was the five interception game only one week ago, but after throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in four of his first six games, he has only done so twice in his last nine. I’m not betting the house on him, but a quarterback going against a porous divisional opponent whom he completed 79% of his passes against earlier this month has some appeal in deeper formats.
Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs (Yahoo 2% owned; ESPN 1.3%)
The 22-year old power back might have a nice window of opportunity to show fantasy owners that he is a name to remember. Davis has looked the part of an NFL running back lately (late 17 yard touchdown runs in two of his last three games) and should see an extended workload this weekend as the Chiefs are locked into the five seed and have nothing to play for in San Diego. The Chargers are the third worst run defense in the league in terms of yards per carry (4.7), making Davis a low-end RB2 should word come out that Jamaal Charles will see limited work.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers (Yahoo 16% owned; ESPN 17.5%)
Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect Eddie Lacy to suit up and carry the mail for the Packers in a do-or-die game. That being said, he has been battling various injuries of late (a tweaked ankle being the most recent/prominent) and the Packers are likely to run the ball due to their quarterback situation (regardless of the starter). If you watched even a second of Monday Night Football, your eyes tell you more than I can about the Bears run defense. It’s simply not good. They are allowing 5.4 yards per carry (12.5% more than the next worst defense) and have allowed 21 rushing touchdowns in 15 weeks of action. Lacy figures to give it a go, but if you’re desperate, Starks has the potential to walk into a heavy workload against a soft defense.
Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (Yahoo 0% owned; ESPN 0.1%)
I mentioned that I like the upside of Eli Manning this week and part of it was based on how good Jernigan looked against the Lions (six catches on 12 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown). The 5’8” playmaker offers up a different set of skills than the bigger Hakeem Nicks or the possession oriented Brandon Myers, giving him a well defined role with the absence of Victor Cruz. He’s a young player who is likely to use this game as an opportunity to impress, a mindset that many receivers on losing teams will lack in this final week.
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (Yahoo 8% owned; ESPN 4.8%)
I’ll say it again: Woods is going to be a receiver to watch down the road. I’m buying his talent, and with Stevie Johnson not overly interested in playing these days (one catch for four yards last week), Woods is the number one target of E.J. Manuel, a trend that I expect to continue not only this week, but into next season. He’s caught a pass of at least 20 yards in three of his last four, proving to me that he has overcome his injury plagued middle portion of the season. The Bills showed some life last week and typically come to play against the Patriots, so look for Woods’ upward trending fantasy stock to stay on the rise.
Mike Brown, Jacksonville Jaguars (Yahoo 2% owned; ESPN 0.2%)
With Cecil Shorts out for the year, Brown stepped up in a big way (five catches on six targets for 71 yards and a touchdown) and displayed a nice connection with Chad Henne. It was the third consecutive week in which the second-year receiver was targeted at least six times, and with Jacksonville a little banged up at running back, I expect that trend to continue. The Colts defense is a physical group, but we have seen their aggression occasionally backfire (allowed 161 points, including nine touchdown passes to less than stellar offenses, in a one month stretch). The Colts will probably win this game, but look for Jacksonville to go down swinging, a sentence that should have fantasy owners excited about sleeper options on the Jags.
Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders (Yahoo 5% owned; ESPN 0.5%)
The Raiders have lost five straight, but to no fault of Holmes (41 targets over that stretch, including four straight with at least seven looks). Given it is in limited action, but Holmes is averaging more yards per catch than Josh Gordon this season and has flashed remarkable playmaking ability with the ball in the air. Matt McGloin has thrown 71 passes over the past two weeks, displaying more and more comfort with each passing week. The Raiders host the high-scoring Broncos in a game that figures to feature the forward pass in a big way. At 6’4”, Holmes has the frame it takes to be a threat to make plays on a consistent basis in this league and I expect him to continue to prove that this week.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions (Yahoo 7% owned; ESPN 2.1%)
The Lions featured Fauria with Brandon Pettigrew injured (26% of his season’s targets came last week) and given his ability to find the endzone (seven scores on 15 receptions), that makes him a tight end worth starting in most leagues. He stands 6’7” and plays in a pass heavy offense, more than enough to lend him fantasy value. Weather won’t be an issue as this game is being played indoors and scoring shouldn’t be an issue against the Vikings, giving Fauria a chance to end his rookie season on a high note.