Top 6 Fantasy Waiver Pickups for Week 15
Survive to live another week in the fantasy playoffs? Don't let up on the gas pedal.
Imagine you're Tom Brady. Yeah, it's not so bad being married to Gisele, is it? You just beat the Texans on Monday Night Football to move your team to 10-3, those cool numberFire guys give your team a 63.6% chance of getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and you're a legitimate MVP candidate. And then you head into Sunday against the Niners... and lose because you thought you had everything wrapped up. And it's a bad one - Colin Kaepernick outplays you en route to a 28-3 victory. Doesn't feel so good when the Boston media calls you out now, does it?
And trust me, you will get called out. Never think you have something wrapped up. Just like the Patriots season, your fantasy playoffs are not over yet.
For the 15th straight week (and even before that really), we're here to help. This week's waiver article is heavy on the running backs, including a player or two who may look more like a receiver than a running back but still give you top-notch value.
Top 6 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups for Week 15
RB David Wilson - New York Giants
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 28
Leagues Owned: 40.3%
Week 15 Opponent: at Atlanta Falcons
Let's get this out of the way first: a big portion of David Wilson's fantasy value depends on Ahmad Bradshaw's health. Coach Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw underwent an MRI on Monday, and his health status for Monday's game is uncertain.
But if Bradshaw is indeed out for Week 15 and David Wilson is thrust into the starting back role, man did that Week 14 bulldozing of the New Orleans defense look pretty. Wilson gained the Giants 4.01 Net Expected Points (NEP) rushing on Sunday, meaning that by rushing the ball, the Giants were expected to score four more points than the league-average play in the same situation would have given them. Considering rushing is generally less efficient than passing, that's impressive; less than 10 starting NFL RBs have positive NEP marks for the season. Wilson's 28 FP also tied with Adrian Peterson for the second-most for RBs in the league, and he had 18 less carries than the Vikings back.
Granted, New Orleans is numberFire's No. 28 opponent-adjusted defense, and the Atlanta Falcons are just a tick better. As in, numberFire's No. 13 opponent-adjusted defense better. But without Andre Brown in the fold to further vulture carries, Wilson would be a must-start running back this week if (there's that bad word again, Mommy) Ahmad Bradshaw can't go. If Bradshaw does, Wilson might be relegated to flex status at best, but those Baltimore and Philadelphia games in Weeks 16 and 17 don't look too bad either.
RB Montell Owens - Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 16
Leagues Owned: 8.8%
Week 15 Opponent: at Miami Dolphins
Wilmington, DE, stand up! Due to James Starks', well, unfortunate circumstances, Owens should have been the top pick up on last week's list. But as of this writing, he still only remains owned in 8.8 percent of leagues. To be fair, I didn't expect a 16 FP day out of him either, but as the NBC saying goes, "The more you know."
So here he is again, and this is your friendly reminder to put him on your roster if you haven't already. The Jaguars have been a pass-heavy team as of late; this past week, 64.2% of their offensive plays were throws. But when they did run, it was Owens. He remains clear #1 back so long as MJD remains on the injury report, as evidenced by Owens rushing the ball on 58% of the Jags' rushing plays and getting 10 more carries than any other single option.
This week will be one of the worst matchups possible for Owens, as the Miami Dolphins have the league's eighth-best run defense in terms of points allowed under expectation (44.24 NEP against the run). But looming in Weeks 16 and 17 - fantasy finals time - are New England and Tennessee, two bottom ten defenses against the run. With the Jaguars sitting at only two or three wins at that point, it may not even matter if MJD is healthy enough to play or not; they may not want to see their franchise guy hurt once again. That should mean plenty of Owens down the stretch.
RB Joique Bell - Detroit Lions
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 8
Leagues Owned: 10.2%
Week 15 Opponent: at Arizona Cardinals
Move over Darren Sproles, there's a new premier pass-catching back in town. And unlike Sproles, this guy actually gets some carries along with it.
With the Lions receiving corps an absolute mess and Matthew Stafford left with few other options to throw to, Joique Bell might just be the #2 receiver that Calvin Johnson wished for as an early Christmas present. Bell received seven targets in Sunday's loss to Green Bay and finished fourth on the team in looks. That's not out of the ordinary, either: Bell has been in the Lions' top four in targets in each of Detroit's past three games and in five of their last six contests. He's been a PPR darling for a while.
But with his increased carries in the running game, Bell might just be a standard league darling starting this week as well. He nearly split carries with Mikel LeShoure this past week, with Bell's 12 only slightly falling short of LeShoure's 14. And that's not just in garbage time, either; Bell and LeShoure each had four carries in the first quarter. It simply continues a trend upward for Bell, who had five carries in Week 12 and seven carries in Week 13.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that he tied or beat LeShoure in rushing yards in each of those past three games? Yes, even the Week 13 contest where LeShoure had three times as many carries as him. I feel this is important to mention. Arizona has been excellent against the pass but only slightly above-average against the run, and I expect the Lions to focus heavily on the run - and using Bell - this week.
RB Bilal Powell - New York Jets
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 13
Leagues Owned: 3.1%
Week 15 Opponent: at Tennessee Titans
Vultures are the bane of the fantasy owner's existence. Need a Vick Ballard touchdown? Hah, that's funny, let's run Delone Carter instead. All set to cash in on Frank Gore after a long drive? Anthony Dixon would like to have a word with you. And Alex Green owners may be screaming DeJuan Harris's name in their sleep for the next four months (it's recommended you see a doctor about that).
So if you're frustrated, why not make the vultures work for you?
Bilal Powell has been the ultimate vulture the past four weeks, never leading his team in carries but scoring four rushing touchdowns while Shonn Greene has one. But that's only part of the equation; Bilal Powell is a SuperVulture (aka the worst superhero since Aquaman). With double-digit carries over each of his past four weeks, Powell has not been the "lead back", but he's been certainly visible enough to be fantasy-worthy. Last week, the Jets ran the ball on an incredible 68.9% of their offensive plays; Greene got 20 carries while Powell got 19. And that method worked for them, as the Jets won the game 17-10.
I don't see that particular type of split going away any time soon. Last week, the Jets played numberFire's No. 31 opponent-adjusted defense in Jacksonville, but the No. 25 Titans aren't much better. So far this season, the Titans have allowed 9.61 points under expectation to opposing running games, the 10th-worst mark in the league. You know the Jets, and specifically Powell, are licking their chops this week.
RB/WR Dexter McCluster - Kansas City Chiefs
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 0
Leagues Owned: 6.2%
Week 15 Opponent: at Oakland Raiders
Well. Dwayne Bowe may just be out for the season with broken ribs. That's not good for Kansas City, but it's not necessarily bad either; Bowe had been fantasy poison for nearly two months. But as the old saying goes, the quarterback (even if it's Brady Quinn) needs to throw to somebody, right? Let's look at our options here out of the players who received at least two targets on Sunday against Cleveland.
Jamar Newsome: His team-leading five targets are inspiring. The fact that he only caught one of them is not. His three career catches is even less so. I'll pass.
Terrance Copper: At least he has an 80% catch rate this season and has been around the league for a while, but of course, that high catch rate is only because he's had 10 targets all season. No thanks.
Shaun Draughn: The third running back on the team, who can't even be counted on to get carries to supplement his pass-catching? Nah.
Jon Baldwin: Was technically the starter opposite Dwayne Bowe, but I like my starting receivers to have more than two catches in a game at least once since September.
Tony Moaeki: Getting closer, especially with his four receptions and a TD reception in Week 13. But he's not fooling anybody for Tony Gonzalez any time soon.
Dexter McCluster: Already second on the team in targets, has three games this season with at least eight targets, and has had at least two looks in all but one (Week 4) game this season? I think we can finally end our search.
Against the Raiders' dead-last (for emphasis, dead-last) opponent-adjusted secondary so far this season, Brady Quinn's going to have his chances to throw the ball. And out of everybody in the Chiefs' receiving corps, McCluster's looks like the best option to break out. If you're feeling a bit risky and are in dire need of a wide receiver this week, Dexter McCluster could be your surprise special of the fantasy playoffs.
WR Alshon Jeffery - Chicago Bears
Week 14 Fantasy Points: 11
Leagues Owned: 5.5%
Week 15 Opponent: vs. Green Bay Packers
Let's be honest, Bears fans: what's the adjective you'd most like to use to describe your feelings about heading into a potential division-deciding game against the Packers with Devin Hester as your number two receiver? Petrified? Mortified? Vomit-inducing? Right, now figure that the Bears coaching staff likely figures the same way.
Enter Alshon Jeffery. Injury-prone for much of the season, Jeffery saw his first action since Week 11 (and second action since Week 5) this past Sunday against the Vikings. What did he do, you ask? Oh, only catch half of his targets for 57 yards and a touchdown, finishing the game with more receiving yards and FP than any player on either team not named Brandon Marshall. That's not half bad.
Yes, Jeffery finished fifth on the team in targets with six, but for some of his competitors for those looks, the game was an aberration. Both Hester and Kellen Davis, for example, finished with a season-high eight looks and aren't likely to get that type of production again. Instead, look for Jeffery to be the one to pick up the slack and those extra looks that both players leave on the table.
And it's likely the Bears will need it against the Packers on the Frozen Tundra. Green Bay's defense has been surprisingly decent this year, especially against the pass where they have only allowed 35.70 points over expectation. But with Green Bay's strong offense of their own, it's likely they will need to throw to succeed. Chicago threw on 54% of their offensive plays against Green Bay back in Week 2.
Guys You Won't See:
Robert Turbin: The garbage time stats looked nice, but they were just that: garbage time. Lynch is obviously the lead back, and Seattle won't win 58-0 every week.
DuJuan Harris: Don't see a split in Green Bay quite yet without more evidence, and I'm not sure the Packers run the ball enough to make a split worth your time, anyhow.
Tashard Choice: Just because Fred Jackson is out doesn't mean Choice has value. C.J. Spiller is the clear lead back.
Jason Avant: Argued with Chief Analyst Keith Goldner for a while, but the important thing to remember is that he's not even seeing a majority of the snaps. Riley Cooper is. Avant only has value if he starts and Maclin doesn't play Thursday (Maclin's currently questionable, but a likely questionable).
Rod Streater: I'm fine without playing Raiders receiver Russian roulette. It's way too tough to predict who's going to catch Palmer's eye in a given week.
Tony Scheffler: The Lions might not have many other targets, but a healthy Pettigrew is surely one that takes too much value away from Scheffler.
Who I would pick up this week, in order (with auction waiver $, assuming a $100 spending limit)
1. Owens ($23)
2. Wilson ($21)
3. Bell ($13)
4. Powell ($12)
5. McCluster ($10)
6. Jeffery ($7)