The Ticker, Week 15: Desperation time on the waiver wire
Maybe you had a great team all year. Things still might have fallen apart, like it did for my buddy. But you still have a shot.
Jess needed help.
He had the best team most of the season in our league — drafted Steve Smith Sr. at the end of the draft, picked up Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, had Aaron Rodgers as a keeper — but things fell apart late in the year. Desperate for a keeper because of my own season’s disaster, I threw all my middling parts at Jess, sending two of my top three running backs and my starting quarterback his way and getting Rodgers and the extra guys Jess would drop back.
At the time, Nate, our commissioner, said he was surprised Jess was willing to part with Rodgers, but when he saw the return, it made sense. Jess was setting himself for a playoff run, and that solidified his whole roster, Nate thought.
Those three guys I sent Jess’ way? The quarterback was Colin Kaepernick; the running backs were Andre Ellington and Denard Robinson. The extra pieces he sent back my way as “whatever” roster fillers? Well, one was Dwayne Bowe, so whatever, but the other — Tre Mason.
It took a few weeks to realize, but yeah, that ends up being the worst doggone trade ever. Jess had built up enough of a cushion that he still got a first-round playoff bye, but he was looking at a Week 15 playoff matchup with a bunch of garbage to surround his two superstar Steelers.
So Jess had a mission, and he worked it hard. In the last week, Jess has add/dropped seven times. He also pulled off a trade (we don’t have a trade deadline, because as long as you can trust your leaguemates to be fair, trade deadlines are silly) to get Ben Roethlisberger.
The end result is that Jess, who despite a No. 1-seed, looked dead in the water a week ago. And now — well, he’s not in good shape necessarily, but “dead in the water” certainly doesn’t apply. So long as that Steelers trio of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown can produce, he’s surrounded them with just enough that he still has a shot.
And that’s all you can ask for. There was no real reason to think Kaepernick would go in the tank this much. Ellington’s end-of-season schedule was scary, but had he stayed healthy, he made sense as an RB2. Even Robinson had shown enough to think he’d be a worthwhile roster spot. But when the unexpected happens, even a great team has to turn to the waiver wire.
A week ago in this space, I talked about how the playoffs mean you can’t use the waiver wire the same way as you did in the regular season, just finding guys who might get touches or what-have-you. That’s usually true. But as Jess’ week shows, sometimes you do just have to look for a guy to fill a role. Pierre Thomas. Bernard Pierce. Johnny Manziel, who Jess has now added, dropped and added again.
Which brings me to The Ticker, my weekly stock-minded trip through the waiver wire. As always, there are six categories:
Stocks I’m buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I believe it
Stocks I’m not buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I don’t believe it
Stocks I’m selling: high-owned players who struggled, and I’m bailing on them a bit
Stocks I’m not selling: high-owned players who struggled, but I still trust them
Hedges: handcuffs; low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them, but injuries or starter awfulness could change things
Futures market: low-owned guys without an obvious line to fantasy productivity yet, but there are things that could change in that department
(All ownership percentages are as of Monday morning.)
Jess might still lose next week. Nate, who he happens to be playing, has a really good team. But the waiver wire took him from “probably done” to only “maybe done.” And probably-to-maybe might be all you can ask. You do that, and you cross your fingers.
Stocks I’m buying
Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS (31 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
I don’t care what Jay Gruden says, I don’t care what happened in that one game against Indianapolis, I don’t care what Jeff Fisher did (though that was hilarious). Robert Griffin III is the best quarterback on Washington’s roster, and it’s not close. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s good, and I understand that, but he’s better than Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. It’s possible McCoy will prove to be healthy and retain the starting job for Week 15 (which would be a mistake, but whatever), but I bet good money Griffin gets another start this season. If you’re in bad shape, look there. If you’re in a dynasty and can grab him cheaply, definitely do that, because Griffin, once he leaves Washington, will be a star again.
Tavon Austin, WR, STL (9 percent)
Austin is not a compiler — the last five weeks, he has 30, 21, 38, 35 and 60 yards from scrimmage, respectively. But he’s tricky. In both Week 12 and 13, he had a touchdown run, and in Week 14, it was a punt return for a score. Remember late last season, when he did the same sort of nonsense, scoring in all sorts of weird ways down the stretch? I’m not saying Austin is going to be a strong fantasy play. I am saying that, Tre Mason aside, Austin is the most likely member of the Rams to offer fantasy production on a week-to-week basis, by versatility alone. You probably want to avoid St. Louis, but if you do have to look that way, pass by Jared Cook, Stedman Bailey and Kenny Britt, and look to Austin.
Kerwynn Williams, RB, ARI (2 percent)
The rest of the way, the Cardinals face the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers. As of, what, five days ago, I had never heard of Kerwynn Williams. And the roster does still include Marion Grice, Stepfan Taylor and even Michael Bush. All these things are true. But the dude ran well Sunday, against a perfectly strong Kansas City run defense. There wasn’t any random big play to gum up the works, it was just a productive five-plus yards a carry. It was enough to warrant an extended shot at the job for Williams, with Andre Ellington on IR and no one else likely to pop. It’s a desperation play, but a starting running back with only two-percent ownership is at least interesting.
Stocks I’m not buying
Derek Carr, QB, OAK (7 percent)
In the War Room chat yesterday, one of the commenters told me he was worried about Mark Sanchez down the stretch, and wanted to know if there was a better option for him. He gave me a list of names, Carr included, and basically, the answer was no. “Really?” he asked. “Carr’s been solid lately.” I pointed out that, before his good game against the falling-apart-at-the-seams 49ers Sunday, Carr’s last five games, reading backward, have produced 2-10-4-11-11 fantasy points. The reason we think he’s done well is that the Raiders have won two of three, that no one pays attention to Oakland, that expectations are insanely low. But Carr has been patently terrible for fantasy — whether his fault or the team’s, no matter — and should barely be a starter in a three-quarterback, 10-team league.
Kamar Aiken, WR, BAL (0 percent)
I’m not in any dynasty leagues this year — my one full dynasty disbanded after last season. If I were, though, I’d be investing in Aiken. With Torrey Smith entering free agency, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones just not very good, and Steve Smith Sr. approximately 1,000 years old, Aiken could very well be the team’s No. 1 receiver next year. But this year, Aiken — who went for 65 yards and a score Sunday after 51 yards in Week 13 — isn’t likely to keep up any level of productivity. You’d have to assume Torrey Smith will be healthier for next week, and Steve Smith is still doing stuff. On top of that, Owen Daniels‘ numbers ought to rise, and Justin Forsett will be healthier. I like Aiken in 2015. I don’t in 2014.
Jaron Brown, WR, ARI (0 percent)
This is more of an “I don’t like any pass-catcher in Arizona” entry than it is a Jaron Brown-specific one. But through 13 games, Larry Fitzgerald has led the team’s receivers in fantasy points four times. Michael Floyd and John Brown have done so three times each. Jaron Brown has done so twice (he and Fitzgerald tied for another lead). As for point totals, the best of that group — John Brown — is barely top-40 in wide receiver fantasy scoring this year. Maybe it’s good for the team that any of the four could put up numbers in a specific game, but for fantasy players, it’s awful.
Stocks I’m selling
Mark Ingram, RB, NO (93 percent)
First off, Ingram was never as good as he looked in Weeks 8-10, when he put up 59 fantasy points in three weeks. If he were that good, we’d have seen it at some point before the middle of his fourth season. And, while I don’t want to judge running backs’ total stats based on their “one long play”, you do want to see some penchant for big plays — Ingram’s long play on the season is 31 yards. And now Pierre Thomas is back, and Khiry Robinson basically is as well. Ingram is a flex play going forward.
Josh Gordon, WR, CLE (90 percent)
I’m the wrong person to look for a bright side on Gordon — I thought he was a silly player to draft before the season, and thought he was a silly player to hold onto from Week 1 to, say, Week 9. I worried about him even avoiding further punishment — which he did, to his credit — but also rush, conditioning, all the stuff the Browns have actually been complaining about regarding Gordon after his last two, underwhelming games. I mean, at this point, he can’t possibly be dropped, but I have no issue benching him. The lesson: Never invest in guys who will go 10 months between games.
Stocks I’m not selling
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU (91 percent)
It’s been one of my favorite stats this season, but I’m running it back: Through 13 games, DeAndre Hopkins has been outscored by Andre Johnson in fantasy points exactly once, and that was back in Week 6. Both of them were quiet Sunday, as Ryan Fitzpatrick did basically nothing. And sure, “basically nothing” is always on the table with Fitzpatrick. But with Johnson dealing with a concussion, the pass-catching in Houston is now Hopkins’ to work with, and even a struggling Fitzpatrick should get him the ball enough to continue to make good.
Peyton Manning, QB (100 percent)
Demaryius Thomas, WR (100 percent)
Julius Thomas, WR (100 percent)
Emmanuel Sanders, WR (98 percent)
Sunday wasn’t the first sign that Peyton Manning’s numbers were on a downturn — his passing yardage has now dropped for four weeks, and he masked it with six touchdowns in Weeks 12 and 13 combined. As good as C.J. Anderson has been doing, the Broncos just haven’t had to work the pass as much, and while it’s worrying from a fantasy perspective, it’s working for them in a real football sense. Still, it’s Peyton Manning, and it’s the Denver Broncos. You have to think they’ll be fine. At the very least, you have to ride with them and hope.
Marquess Wilson, WR, CHI (1 percent)
If I had to bet, I’d say that the Bears, with Brandon Marshall done for the year, will just lean more heavily on Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, rather than incorporating Wilson or Josh Morgan heavily into the offense. That’s what I think will happen. But if I’m in a super-deep league, I’m at least looking at Wilson. He’s likely to get the first shot at whatever bleed-off targets the Bears have, and, while the team overall is terrible, the fantasy offense is usually helpful. He’s worth a look.
Dri Archer, RB/WR, PIT (0 percent)
In a 10-team league, there are nine teams I think should completely ignore Archer. In a 12, there are 11. In a 14 — you get the picture. As long as Le’Veon Bell is healthy, Archer is going to be irrelevant. But with LeGarrette Blount long gone, were something to happen to Bell, the Steelers have little beyond Archer to go to. If I own Bell (and I own him in exactly zero leagues *sob*), I’m handcuffing him with Archer. It’s not one of the obvious handcuffs like Alfred Blue, Joseph Randle, Ka’Deem Carey, but it’s just as good as those.
Futures market (aka Titans time)
Dexter McCluster, RB, TEN (1 percent)
Kris Durham, WR, TEN (0 percent)
We’re just lumping these two together, as our Tennessee representatives. I’ll just say this first: If I were ranking all 32 teams for the last three weeks, based only on who they currently have healthy, the Titans might be No. 32. This is a bad, bad football team. But even bad teams have to get production from somewhere. With Justin Hunter done for the year, Kendall Wright also injured, Shonn Greene basically done, Bishop Sankey terrible, Nate Washington well past whatever prime he ever had — the list goes on. We all had some interest in Durham during his Detroit days, and McCluster has been on the fringes of the team’s offense all year. Again, maybe not great, but someone’s got to be the offense.