Editor's Note: Updated with information concerning James Starks' injury, the information about which came out after the initial publication of this article.
Nobody's perfect. Superman has Kryptonite. Metallica has everything that happened after 1991. Dan Marino was benched in his final game for Damon Huard. And I simply can't judge the severity of concussion injuries for the life of me.
I may have missed with my Bryce Brown suggestion last week, and it's possible that he could be a key factor this week as well if LeSean McCoy misses more time. But that's not where your focus should be, because for the next couple of weeks, you need to be perfect. It's time to move forward.
Because in playoff time, there is no more room for mistakes. That's why we do what we do: bringing you the stats behind the top decisions to make each week. Here are your top pickups for Week 14, with plenty of options at wide receiver and very little across the rest of the board.
Top 6 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups for Week 14
James Starks - Green Bay Packers
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 13
Leagues Owned: 7.0%
So James Starks is out for the year after I write this article? Thanks, Green Bay. You're awesome people. The Packers (re)signed Ryan Grant this morning, but it's likely to be Alex Green who will be the workhorse back. He's owned in 23.8% of ESPN leagues, but if he's not owned in yours, he instantly becomes the top pickup candidate this week.
Montell Owens - Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 5
Leagues Owned: 0.0%
Despite being owned in 0.0% of ESPN leagues, I can confirm that Montell Owens is a real person. Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, I know when one of our own makes it big in any field, whether that's Luke Matheny (you weren't aware of his Oscar victory?) or Trevor Cooney (played 14 minutes in #4 Syracuse's win over Arkansas just last week, I'll have you know). The list is numerous; it may even be reaching double-digits soon. And Owens is the latest to take the next step.
Maurice Jones-Drew may come back in limited time for this week, but Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele remain out with their respective injuries. So the veteran Owens appears likely to get his chance, a fact that Coach Mularkey confirmed on Monday. Owens does not have much previous NFL game experience, despite being in his seventh year in Jacksonville. In total, Owens has rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries over those seven years, with 29 yards on seven carries (and two receptions) coming last week.
In the absence of projectable stats for Owens, we instead look at the matchup, and it looks like an decent one for the Jags. The opposing Jets are numberFire's No. 16 opponent-adjusted defense so far this season (the dead middle of the order), and they have allowed 29.08 points less than expectation against run plays so far this season (also a league-average number). They held Beanie Wells to only 22 yards on 15 rushes this past week, but trying to look at that Jets-Cardinals game and gleam anything meaningful is like basing Russell Crowe's entire acting career off of The Man with the Iron Fists.But no matter whether Owens gets the quality, the quantity should still be there, making him an intriguing look for this week. I guess Jacksonville's not too bad of A Place to be Somebody either.
Chris Givens - St. Louis Rams
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 9
Leagues Owned: 3.2%
Last week, I went back and forth with numberFire Chief Analyst Keith Goldner on whether to include Chris Givens in my Week 13 waiver article. In the end, it came down to one factor: do you trust Sam Bradford to throw the ball that much? I decided to give in to Keith's thoughts and go with Jarius Wright of the Vikings instead. And guess what? Danny Amendola did not play, and Chris Givens had the third-most receptions of any receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker. That sounds about right. Thanks Keith.
It's still unclear whether Amendola's lingering foot injury will keep him out of the lineup for Week 14 as well, but regardless of whether he's the #1 or #2 receiver, I still like Givens as a top option moving forward. The connection he's gained with Bradford is unmatched; his 14 targets this past week represented 36% of Bradford's throws. That's not out of the ordinary either; he had 33% of the Rams' throws in Week 12 (with Amendola playing limited time) and 17% of Bradford's throws in Week 11 (second on the team in targets behind Amendola).
Perhaps most importantly for me, though, is that Givens has seemingly cured the pass-catching ills he faced earlier in the season. When starting during Amendola's original injury, Givens never had more than three catches in a single game. But now, Givens has averaged seven receptions per game over his last three contests with an excellent 74% catch rate over that same span. And with the non-existent Buffalo secondary next on the docket, those catch opportunities won't be disappearing any time soon.
Andrew Hawkins - Cincinnati Bengals
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 4
Leagues Owned: 10.7%
The Cincinnati Bengals like to throw. This might be the most poorly kept secret out of Cincinnati since they tried to hide Mayor Jerry Springer. 61% of their plays in Week 13 were either throws or Andy Dalton rushes; that proportion sits at 60% for the entire season. A.J. Green's the obvious #1 receiver with 126 targets, but on a team that throws this much (and accurately), more than one receiver can be fantasy relevant. Re-enter Andrew Hawkins.
An early-season fantasy darling, Hawkins became slowly irrelevant as the season progressed. And there's one guy to blame for that: Mohamed Sanu. You know, the Sanu who was my #1 WR waiver suggestion last week. The same Sanu who saw 32% of Dalton's throws in Week 12. And the same Sanu who was injured in practice last Thursday and is now out for the entire season. Whoops.
Dalton surely took notice this past week, as Hawkins finished the game with eight targets in his first game back from injury. And with the Bengals' upcoming schedule, the prospects for a breakout are off the charts. Picture Sunday night's TerribleDefensePalooza between the Cowboys and Eagles. Then figure both of those defenses facing a competent offense. Good, now keep that in mind while you realize that those two particular teams are Cincinnati's next two opponents.
Mike Thomas - Detroit Lions
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 0
Leagues Owned: 0.2%
So I could put Cleveland's Josh Gordon or San Diego's Danario Alexander on this list quite easily and call it a day, but for those of you still in leagues competitive enough to care about a waiver wire article in Week 14, chances are they're both already gone. (And if they're not, what are you doing reading this? Get them immediately!) So for my final two suggestions, there are two boom-or-bust candidates that are certainly worth a quick glance, especially as a must-win-now injury replacement.
Two of those guys who have gotten injured are Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles, with Broyles' ACL tear coming just this past weekend. Coupled with Titus Young remaining in the longest-lasting doghouse of all time (for Young to be in the doghouse while Suh remains outside, I'm scared to wonder what he did), Stafford's running out of options at wide receiver. And that's exactly what makes Mike Thomas so enticing. He did absolutely nothing with his four targets in Week 13, nabbing one catch for -1 yards. But 10 targets combined over the past two weeks indicates a greater role in the Detroit offense, and with a potential shootout in Green Bay coming, he could be needed this week.
As long as Calvin Johnson's alive, Thomas will never be the #1 target in Detroit. Based on Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, and Joique Bell's past pass-catching acumen, it's possible that he could be second through fifth on any given week. But with the amount Stafford throws the ball (107 pass attempts the past two weeks combined), it may not matter. He'll get his targets anyway.
Juron Criner - Oakland Raiders
Week 13 Fantasy Points: 2
Leagues Owned: 0.0%
Trivia question: which Raiders player has led all Oakland receivers in targets in each of the past two weeks?
A. Denarius Moore
B. Darrius Heyward-Bey
C. Tim Brown
D. Juron Criner
If you answered "D", congratulations, you know how these pop quizzes go by now. With 10 targets in Week 12, five targets in Week 11, and six targets (one behind Denarius Moore) in Week 10, Juron Criner has started to become one of the go-to targets in this offense. While much of the praise and hype will be surrounding Brandon Myers this week, Criner will likely go under the radar in most fantasy leagues.
And that's undeserved. Criner's main issue is with his catch rate; it's at 45% on the season and 48% over those last three Raiders games. However, the 6'3" rookie has showed promise, most notable with a touchdown catch in Week 10 against the Saints. The boom-or-bust candidate statement I made concerning Mike Thomas applies here as well, but his ceiling is extraordinarily high.
All of this would be moot if the Raiders had a tough remaining schedule, and indeed, the Broncos this week isn't the best matchup. But with three teams with nine combined wins following them on the schedule (Kansas City, Carolina, and San Diego) to close the year, Criner could be a cold-blooded way to win your fantasy league.
Last week in this space, "sure thing" running back pickups Ronnie Hillman, Beanie Wells, Jalen Parmele, and Bryce Brown provided some of the best late-season waiver options you'll see. Although only two of the four (Wells and Brown) hit, you were still able to make a case for each as a fantasy starter last weekend. At least, you were until the Broncos decided to revert to their ingrained Shanahan-tendencies and honor their old ball coach with a running back switcheroo at the last moment.
You won't have that luxury this week: there are very few waiver wire options out there that can come in and help you immediately.
Sure, maybe you're lucky and have Beanie Wells or Michael Bush sitting there, and you must absolutely pick them up if you do. But for the rest of us who are forced to scavenge the actual wire this week, the prospects aren't pretty. It's Moreno or bust, my friends; hop on board.
Guys You Won't See:
Joique Bell: I've recommended him in the past, but LeShoure is still the clear #1 back. PPR-leagues only still for Bell.
Donnie Avery: He would probably be next on the list, but I want to see a bit more consistency first.
Golden Tate: Putting up double-digits in three of four games is nice, but his lack of targets makes the trend appear unsustainable.
Who I would pick up this week, in order (with auction waiver $, assuming a $100 spending limit)
Starks ($23) Green ($27)
2. Owens ($20)
3. Hawkins ($16)
4. Givens ($13)
5. Criner ($6)
6. Thomas ($4)