Top 5 Fantasy Waiver Pickups for Week 17

Running backs populate the waiver pickups, but you'll also need to keep an eye on the injury report for full value too.

It's Christmas Eve/Day. You're supposed to be lazy today. You're supposed to eat your ham/turkey/broiled goose/turducken/Chinese food and not think about anything at all. It's the most timeless of holiday traditions.

We here at numberFire support that holiday tradition of not thinking at all. We like to do all the thinking for you. It's kind of what we do around here.

And in that holiday spirit, if you're still playing fantasy football into Week 17 (I know my two main leagues still are - curses to two-week playoff rounds!), we'll do all the thinking for you once again. We've looked to the North Pole and back, and we have five guys that we think could help you tremendously this week, with a big look at their matchups as well considering that it's the last week of the season.

RB Kahlil Bell - Chicago Bears

Week 16 Fantasy Points: 3
Leagues Owned: 0.1%
Week 17 Opponent: at Detroit Lions

Matt Forte looks a little banged up after last week with an ankle injury, and the early word is that he's questionable for Sunday's game against the Lions. Sure, you could take Forte at his word when he says he'll be ready for the game. But me, I'd much rather have a backup plan in place, just in case he can't go against numberFire's No. 27 opponent-adjusted defense. And that backup plan is Kahlil Bell.

After Forte was knocked out in Week 16, Bell came in and ran the ball 13 times, more than doubling his previous season total and seeing his first action since early October. With Michael Bush out, though, it was a necessity. The only other back on the team is Armando Allen, and he only saw five carries on the game. That could be important if Forte can't go - it's clear who the lead back in this offense is after him.

And against the Lions defense, in a game that Chicago has to win with a 1 PM start (i.e. they won't know the results of the other games), I want as many starting Bears offensive players as I can. Detroit has given up only 14.06 Net Expected Points (NEP) under expectation against opposing rushing games this season. That's less than one expected point per game, in case you're too holiday'd up to do the math. That 24th in the NFL figure isn't close to enough to scare me. If I can fight off holiday shopping crowds (and I have), then I have no fear starting Bell... as long as Forte is out.

Seeing as how it's Week 17 and you can simply drop any player that's not a starting consideration, Bell's worth the chance this week.

RB Montario Hardesty - Cleveland Browns

Week 16 Fantasy Points: 1
Leagues Owned: 1.8%
Week 17 Opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers

But he's not the only one operating on a hope and a prayer this week; Trent Richardson left his afternoon game with a nice little ankle injury of his own. It might make the holidays a little difficult, but it's the best present that he could ever give Montario Hardesty, who may just be Cleveland's lead back for the first time all season.

Just like Bell, there isn't much data that we have to gone on with Hardesty; his -0.09 NEP per rush in 51 attempts this season is solid enough. But the main draw here would be an increased carries figure. Richardson as the lead back has averaged 17.8 rushing attempts per game so far this year. His 267 total attempts are ninth in the NFL, despite the Browns rushing the ball on only 41 percent of their offensive plays. As an offense, the Browns are extremely lead-back heavy, and for once, Hardesty may be the beneficiary.

The Steelers may not be the easiest defense to overcome, especially sitting at No. 8 of numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. This season, the Steelers rank 12th in the NFL at -44.72 NEP on the season against opponents' running attacks. Against opposing passing attacks, meanwhile, they're at No. 11. There's not much difference between the two rankings, so there's no reason to expect the Browns to change up their offensive strategy because of their opponent.

I expect Bell to have the better game than Hardesty if they both start, especially considering Chicago's easier opponent. But with Cleveland far out of the playoff race and the need to keep Richardson healthy a priority, Hardesty may just have a better chance of the two of actually starting. Pick your back by your own methods.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers - Atlanta Falcons

Week 16 Fantasy Points: 2
Leagues Owned: 24.3%
Week 17 Opponent: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Looking for a sneaky play in the "backup on a team that is probably going to play all of their backups" category? Well, because of home field advantage, byes, and a general hatred for all things dealing with sitting for two weeks, the Atlanta Falcons are likely the only team that falls into Backup Patrol. Enter Jacquizz Rodgers.

Rodgers hasn't been particularly effective this year at a rough -0.20 NEP per rush rate and a 24 percent success rate increasing Atlanta's scoring chances, but his contributions go far beyond rushing the ball. Rodgers' 51 targets are tied for fourth on the Falcons, and our early Week 17 projections see him snagging 2.61 receptions in Week 17. Even as Turner's backup, Rodgers has snagged at least one reception in every Falcons game since Week 2.

The Buccaneers are much stronger against the run (-51.94 NEP, eighth in the NFL) than against the pass (+107.21 NEP, 25th in the NFL), but Rodgers stands to benefit from that weakness as well. He's owned in almost a quarter of ESPN leagues but absolutely worth the look, especially as the Falcons have a 1 PM game, and you will learn whether he or Turner will be starting early.

WR Jordan Shipley - Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 16 Fantasy Points: 8
Leagues Owned: 0.0%
Week 17 Opponent: at Tennessee Titans

I know the holidays are supposed to be a happy time, but I would to take a moment of silence for the potentially season-ending injury of one of my favorite-named players ever, Cecil Shorts The ThirdTM. You will be missed in my heart... until next August, at least.

But that doesn't mean the fun stops with the Jaguars receivers. With Chad Henne at quarterback and MJD not-quite-fully-healthy, the Jags are chucking the ball around more than ever. They haven't had a game where less than 60 percent of their plays were passes since Week 12. And that's just consistent with what they've put up all season, at a 61.9 percent ratio passing the ball.

With Shorts so sadly sidelined, it will fall to the next guy in line, Jordan Shipley, to get those targets from Henne. Shipley's ten targets on Sunday were the most of any player owned in less than half of ESPN leagues, and he's owned in less than one in 1,000. Those targets finished two behind Blackmon for first on the team and one behind Shorts for second, showing that Henne's willing to spread the ball around to him when needed.

Against a Titans defense that seems tailor-made for a sad country song to be created for them, Shipley should have plenty of opportunity to go off. The Titans secondary has allowed 112.96 points above expectation to opposing passing games this season, the third-highest total in the NFL.

WR Braylon Edwards - New York Jets

Week 16 Fantasy Points: 3
Leagues Owned: 3.4%
Week 17 Opponent: at Buffalo Bills

Not a name you expected to see? Not one that I expected to see either. But if the Jets have such a thing as a trusted receiver with Greg "Really? Me?" McElroy playing QB, Edwards may just be it.

Despite only having five targets in each of his first two games in a Jets uni, those five targets actually placed him second on the team both times. In Week 15, he was behind tight end Jeff Cumberland. In Week 16, he was behind receiver Clyde Gates, who has 18 catches in his career. I'd argue he's more reliable than either of those two guys.

The Jets showed last week they aren't afraid to throw with McElroy, either. 25 of the Jets' 48 plays were passing attempts (24 by McElroy, one by WR Jeremy Kerley) on Sunday, while they ran only 23 rushing plays. That's actually a bit better than their season average, which is exactly 50 percent passing - 458 passing plays and 458 running plays on the year.

None of that would normally matter, though, considering the Jets offense. But against the porous Bills defense, it has to matter. Buffalo comes into the final week of the season as the single-worst opponent-adjusted defense in the NFL according to numberFire's rankings, giving up 155 points over expectation. While their main weakness is run defense (easily the worst in the league), their pass defense isn't good either, allowing 101.29 points over expectation on the season.

The Results

Guys You Won't See:
Ryan Grant: If Alex Green comes back - and he was a late scratch against Tennessee - then there might not be enough rushing attempts to go around against a decent Vikings run defense.
Doug Baldwin: Two touchdowns are pretty. Too bad it tripled his season total from one to three.
Greg Little: I would only trust Hardesty if his carries are guaranteed with Richardson out. Any other Browns offensive players against PIT? No thanks.

Who I would pick up this week, in order (No waiver cash suggestion this week, just spend the rest)
1. Rodgers
2. Bell
3. Shipley
4. Hardesty
5. Edwards