Injuries or benchings, pick your poison. There were plenty of each in Week 13 of the NFL. Brian Hoyer was ditched in favor of Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III was sidelined for Colt McCoy, and Michael Vick was relegated to watch more of the Geno Smith Experience. Bangs, bruises, and fractures affected others. Zach Mettenberger, Andre Ellington, DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith, and Justin Hunter joined the injured likes of Julius Thomas, Montee Ball, Nick Foles, Victor Cruz, and C.J. Spiller. Stay with it; depth wins fantasy championships. Now is when the full breadth of your roster will reach its greatest test on this most critical final stage. Occasionally, a team can win with a two or three studs. More often than not, it’s those better insulated to absorb these late, continual blows who may come out on top.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Colt McCoy (owned in 2.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
Colt McCoy has started two games for Washington, and played in three. His numbers are staggering. In Sunday’s loss to the Colts (insert hilarious joke about his name), McCoy completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 392 yards, three scores, and no interceptions. That brings his season averages to 75.3 percent for 273.0 yards, 1.3 touchdowns, and 0.3 picks. Washington has matchups upcoming with the Rams, Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys, who own the 21st, 19th, 26th, and 20th ranked pass defenses, respectively. A little luck never hurt.
Johnny Manziel (owned in 2.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Pro Football Reference apparently sells sponsorships for individual pages, and the one for Johnny Manziel is pretty interesting. Mike Valera, proclaimed President of the Brian Hoyer Fan Club, paid for this one, with a message touting, “It’s the O line not the QB. [Manziel] would have been far worse.” The announcement is due Wednesday, whether head coach Mike Pettine opts for the rookie or a return to Unfrozen Caveman Hoyer. Indianapolis just drove through a backup passer last week, and their 25th ranked pass defense may get another next. The Colts have allowed 257.0 passing yards each week. In Buffalo Sunday, Johnny Football led two Browns drives during the final 12 minutes of action. His first possession went for 80 yards, capped off with his own 10-yard rushing touchdown that was reminiscent of vintage 2011 Tim Tebow. Manziel completed 5-of-8 throws for 63 yards, and ran twice for 13 yards, including the score.
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Ray Rice (owned in 27.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
On Friday, Ray Rice won his appeal and was immediately reinstated to the NFL, eligible to sign with any team. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, at least four teams are considering him, including Indianapolis and New Orleans. Prior to this year, Rice had not seen his average draft position drop below sixth overall since 2009. For four straight seasons, he was fourth (2010), third (2011), third (2012), and sixth (2013), before dropping this year to the 59th overall player taken in live drafts. Each of these first round seasons followed a 1,000 yard campaign by Rice. Through those four years, he averaged 1,266.5 rushing yards and 1,876.5 total yards of offense. Rice’s 2,068 offensive yards led the NFL in 2011. Should a team like Arizona drop a dime to make the call, the fantasy upside is certainly worth clearing a bench spot on your team.
Marion Grice (owned in 0.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Andre Ellington left Sunday’s game in the first half with an apparent hip pointer. The sting is not considered serious, and the starter could return this week or next week, according to Fox Sports 910 Phoenix talk show host and reporter, Mike Jurecki. Playing against Atlanta’s 21st ranked run defense, Arizona was able to put up only 35 rushing yards. That’s 35 yards in an entire game. Ellington left with only five carries for 12 yards, before Marion Grice stepped up with five attempts for 16 yards. The longest rush of the day was for seven yards, leading the Cardinals to throw 39 times en route to Drew Stanton‘s 72.0 passers’ rating. For the team that entered Week 13 standing alone with the league’s best record, the time is now to solve a serious problem. Arizona owns the 13th best passing offense and 31st ranked run attack, creating just 74.8 yards on the ground each week. At least for the time being, Grice is the next man up, and could be heavily involved this week versus Kansas City’s 30th ranked run defense.
Michael Bush (owned in 0.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Tuesday, November 26, the Cardinals signed veteran Michael Bush for a backfield in disarray. And that was before Andre Ellington went down with a hip pointer in Week 13. Bush spent his first four seasons in Oakland before doing two years of service with the Bears in 2012 and 2013. The 30-year-old rusher gets a new opportunity, and having been signed three days before Ray Rice‘s reinstatement, the timing couldn’t have been better for his pocketbook. Bush has only started 20 games in six seasons, and just one since 2011. His best year was 2011, when he started nine games as a Raider, producing 977 yards on the ground, and 1,395 total offensive yards. He scored eight total touchdowns and ran for 3.8 yards per carry that season. On the day of the signing, head coach Bruce Arians said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “We need a guy who’s gonna pound it in there and close out games for us.”
Bush has only 809 career carries, which is light wear for a 30-year-old back. Marshawn Lynch, by contrast, is 22 months younger but has 1,965 runs to his name. In NFL history, 193 players have run 1,000 times, while 77 have broken 1,500 carries, and just 36 have eclipsed 2,000 rush attempts. Only 17 times has a 30-year-old running back surpassed 1,250 yards, and just six men of that age have hit 1,500 yards. “[Bush has] got really light feet for a big man, so he can jump and cut a little bit and get it north,” Arians said. “Whether it’s a major addition or just a minor one, we’ll wait and see.”
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Davante Adams (owned in 6.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since Week 5, Davante Adams has scored a touchdown or surpassed 70 yards in all but two games. This has led to at least seven standard fantasy points in six of those eight contests. While Adams remains the third receiving option on a team with Jordy Nelson (averaging 5.8 catches for 93.3 yards and 0.8 touchdowns) and Randall Cobb (5.4 receptions, 76.8 yards, 0.8 scores per game), opportunities abound on the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL. The Packers average 31.7 points per week, and next face the Falcons, Bills, and Buccaneers, and their respective 32nd, fifth, and 22nd ranked pass defenses. On Sunday, when the Patriots secondary aimed to shut down Nelson and Cobb, Adams caught six of 11 targets for 121 yards.
Kenny Stills (owned in 17.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
In the last three weeks, Kenny Stills ranks ninth among all wideouts with 41.0 standard fantasy points. During these games, he has averaged 6.3 targets for 5.7 catches, 97.3 yards, and 0.7 touchdowns. The Saints’ second-year receiver is on pace for 82.9 targets, 60 grabs, 942.3 yards, and 4.1 scores. Jimmy Graham was held without a single target in Sunday’s 35-32 win over the Steelers. Whether or not opponents choose to copy this strategy against New Orleans, it appears Stills has earned a high priority in Drew Brees‘ passing progression.
Kendall Wright (owned in 54.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Tennessee’s leading receiver this season has been Kendall Wright, who tops his teammates with 83 targets, 51 receptions, and five touchdown catches. Only tight end Delanie Walker has more yards (673) than Wright’s 633. Zach Mettenberger left Sunday’s loss to the Texans with a shoulder injury, but as Tennessean reporter Jim Wyatt revealed Monday, “[Head coach Ken] Whisenhunt said Zach Mettenberger shoulder injury not bad.” Jake Locker has started four games this season, Charlie Whitehurst has started three, and Mettenberger has five starts so far. In Locker’s starts, Wright averages 7.5 targets for 5.0 receptions, 42.0 yards and 0.8 scores. When Whitehurst has begun the game, Wright has gotten 6.0 targets for 4.0 catches, 43.0 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns. And during Mettenberger’s starts, the receiver has been on a clip of 7.0 targets for 3.8 receptions, 67.2 yards, and 0.2 trips to pay dirt.
Fellow wideout Justin Hunter left the game with a lacerated spleen. The team’s Twitter account released an announcement Monday that “Justin Hunter is doing well and is expected to be released from the hospital in the next day or so.” The Giants’ 19th ranked pass defense will head to town this week. Should Hunter miss any time, Wright would surely expect to see more attention, from his quarterback as well as the opposing secondary.
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Jordan Reed (owned in 24.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jordan Reed has played seven games this year, averaging 5.7 targets for 3.4 receptions, 32.7 yards and no scores. Colt McCoy has started two games for Washington, and has chosen to involve his tight end heavily. With McCoy as starter, Reed’s numbers have skyrocketed to 9.0 targets, 8.0 catches, and 81.5 yards. In Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis, Reed caught nine of 11 targets for 123 yards. Washington gets favorable matchups with the Rams’ 21st, Giants’ 19th, and Eagles’ 26th ranked pass defenses coming next.
Heath Miller (owned in 5.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last two games, Heath Miller ranks sixth among all tight ends with 7.7 standard fantasy points per game. He ranks 13th at the position this season, with 68.3 total points, or 5.7 per week. Miller ranks fifth among all tight ends with 51 receptions, seventh with 583 yards, and ninth with 68 targets. His seven red zone catches are sixth best among his peers. The Steelers are the fourth best offense through the air, and score the eighth most points. Pittsburgh’s next two games are against Cincinnati’s 17th and Atlanta’s 32nd ranked pass defenses.
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Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, fantasypros, myfantasyleague.com, and profootballfocus.com.
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