Each week we discuss the best waiver moves to make on teams that need a leg up, positional depth or just to pick up that guy that fell through the cracks for no apparent reason. Now that we're in the midst of the 2014 fantasy playoffs, every point counts. This week's edition of waiver wire pickups will offer up a few of the players that have the most upside possible while hoping to avoid any fantasy fool's gold.
Johnny Manziel (vs. CIN, 23% owned)
Once again, it is really only in deep leagues, 2 QB leagues and/or dynasty/keeper leagues that we need to talk about picking up QBs on the wire - and in order to get to this point, you must have had at least a serviceable QB for most of the way. Anyway, Manziel finally looks to be getting a crack at the starting QB gig in Cleveland and for what could be a very tough divisional game with the Bengals no less. Normally I would avoid playing a QB against the Cincy defense here, who have not given up many points to opposing signal callers this year.. I love new, unpredictable QBs, however.. and the Bengals have not had much success keeping opposing RBs under control. The gameplan here will probably be to maintain a run-heavy offense and keep the defense on their toes with a mobile QB and Josh Gordon, to boot. I can see the Bengals winning this game, but not without getting burned 2 or 3 times by JFF.
Alex Smith (vs. OAK, 36% owned)
I was wrong about Fitzpatrick last week, I'll admit - sometimes it's too easy to get caught up in the implied momentum that a player may have.. generally I'll call that Fantasy Fool's Gold - that is, where a player performs very well for 1 or 2 games in a row and then falls flat on their face. Andre Holmes, Allen Hurns and in some respects Branden Oliver all belong to that category of player this year as well as many others. There's a reason why we talk about and dig into trends on the show - and that is players are much less likely to disappoint when you need them to perform if they are on a longer trajectory of successful production. Alex Smith has put up consistent, above average points over the past 3 weeks and the Chiefs visit to Oakland should provide more of the same. That's right, Alex Smith is officially above the Andy Dalton line (which is about 15 points, I think. Jason?) for the remainder of the season.
Charles Johnson (@DET, 20% owned)
We recommended Johnson last week and he certainly paid off for those of you that may have slotted him into Week 14 lineups. 4 receptions for 103 yards and 1 TD on 8 targets tells us that Johnson is going to stay the WR1 on the Vikings (over Jennings and Patterson), and enjoy the lion's share of the work each week. Here's a guy who has great measurables and would have had his breakout game last week but fumbled a 2nd possible TD at the goal-line. The tough question becomes, do you play him against the Lions? Minnesota has looked better recently but even far more prepared NFL clubs have been made to look silly by the Detroit defense. That said, he's still going to get the most targets in this game, and is still playable as a WR3 or FLEX against the Lions.
Marqise Lee (@BAL, 4% owned)
With Cecil Shorts generally unproductive and the impressive rookie Allen Robinson on injured reserve, the bright spots in the Jags' receiving core are some combination of Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Of those two, Lee has been more productive recently. Over the past 3 games, he has put up 14 receptions for 194 yards and 1 TD. The Ravens are actually giving up the most points of any team to opposing WRs due to some major injuries in their secondary, so I would advise Lee as the sneakiest play out there this week. Almost guaranteed to be available in redraft leagues, Lee could easily put up great numbers in garbage time.
Donte Moncrief, Stedman Bailey
Chris Johnson (@TEN, 48% owned)
What is this, 2009? With Jonathan Stewart and Chris Johnson both performing at a higher level than normal, it's easy to forget that they have too often been a fantasy wasteland in the past. Still, all that matters in these last few games of the season is their production NOW. Johnson meets back up with his previous team and may have a little more motivation than normal to perform well. We've been watching him climb back up to a full split with Chris Ivory and a couple of his runs over the past two weeks looked really nice. I'm tempted to call Fool's Gold on Johnson but I won't - I think he continues his recent production for one more game against the Titans' awful rushing defense. Mark him down this week for what will only be his 3rd TD of 2014.
Jonathan Stewart (@TB, 41% owned)
Talk about trending up - Stewart is one guy (along with Daniel "Boom" Herron) that we were really pushing in Week 14. Really the only thing that could get in his way at this point is if DeAngelo Williams does end up playing - Rivera doesn't care what Stewart's statline looks like and [as we all should know by now] you don't play a RB if they're part of an active 3-headed monster. But they do play Tampa Bay this week and Cam Newton may or may not be playing depending on the speed of his recovery from a car accident earlier today.. both things that slightly tilt the scale in Stewart's favor.
James Starks, Montee Ball
Mychal Rivera (@KC, 24% owned)
After the top few tight ends, it just gets messy. At this point, you really need to take a look at the scheme that you're going up against in order to pick the right guy. Guys like Coby Fleener, Delanie Walker and Travis Kelce have really taken a step up in consistency but if you're reading this section of the waiver wire pickups.. you probably can't get one of those guys from the wire. Mychal Rivera has not been consistent but the Raiders play the Chiefs in Week 15, who have one of the league's best passing defenses. What does this mean? Derek Carr is going to dink and dunk his way to a good game this week for Rivera. Definitely more valuable in PPR leagues, though.
Defense / Special Teams:
BAL (vs. JAX), KC (vs. OAK), CAR (vs. TAM), NYG (vs. WAS), NYJ (@TEN)