Win the Wire
The best players to add to your fantasy rosters (based on Football Outsiders' advanced metrics).

Win the Wire: Week 14

Houston Texans WR Keke Coutee
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The fantasy playoffs have finally arrived. The need to win to keep playing motivates the aggressive FAB recommendation I have for the top option for the week. After all, you can't take your FAB with you.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

35%/53%

I think Akers has to be the No. 1 waiver choice this week because of his ceiling and the fantasy premium that exists for running backs, but I'm honestly skeptical that he will provide any return on that investment. The major reason for optimism is that Akers nearly doubled his previous season high with a 63% offensive snap share and took 21 of the Rams' 27 running back carries on Sunday. It makes sense that a second-round rookie might break out of his backfield time share at this point in his freshman season. And Akers did excel with the opportunity with 94 total yards and a touchdown. But I suspect that Akers received that workload spike because the Rams coaches wanted to be cautious, especially with a short turnaround before a critical Thursday night NFC matchup with the Bucs. Normal Rams starter Darrell Henderson left Sunday's game in the second quarter with a knee injury. And while "knee" is a scary word for running backs, Henderson was cleared to return to the game and did this with the one carry that he took in the second half.

That knee looked pretty good on that 37-yard touchdown! Meanwhile, Henderson has done nothing that suggests to me he might lose his job. For the season, he has bested Akers with 4.6 versus 4.4 yards per carry, 2.2 versus 1.9 yards after contact per carry, and a 57.7% versus 53.8% success rate.

All that said, Akers could be poised for a value bump even if Henderson maintains his previous role. Both young backs have outperformed Malcolm Brown (4.1/1.5/48.9%) on the season, and even after Henderson went down, Brown halved his previous season low (38%) with just 16% of snaps played on Sunday. But that line of thinking would put Akers in a similar fantasy class to Bills rookie Zack Moss, which in shallow formats is at best a flex consideration. And since that scenario seems likeliest to me, I recommend you offer up for Akers only if you desperately need a starting running back on your fantasy team.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 100%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

55%/71%

Davis is in an oddly similar fantasy situation to Akers. He is ostensibly the second receiver on the Titans like Akers is the second back on the Rams. But after his more-involved teammate A.J. Brown suffered an apparent knee injury in the first half of his game on Sunday, Davis emerged as his team's top receiving option with 11 catches, 182 yards, and a touchdown even after Brown successfully returned to the field. For a balanced fantasy team, I prefer Davis over Akers for two reasons. First, his role as a No. 2 receiver puts him on the field more often than a No. 2 back would be. To that end, Davis has hit the threshold of 70% of snaps played in all but one of his starts this season, and his 25.6% target share since his Week 7 return from COVID is 11th-highest among all wide receivers in football. It's even better than Brown's 24.1% rate, and while their Week 13 split flipped that stat, Davis has been consistent even when Brown has clearly been healthy -- Davis has caught five or more passes and produced 67 or more yards in five of his seven games since Week 7. Second, Davis has the matchups to thrive in the fantasy playoffs. The Browns kicked that off a week early with their 23rd-ranked DVOA pass defense. And over the next three weeks, Davis will draw the Jaguars (31st), Lions (28th), and Packers (18th) in the bottom half of pass defenses. Now that Tannehill is back rostered in most leagues, Davis is likely your one way to benefit from that well-timed schedule break.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 100%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

J.D. McKissic, RB, Washington Football Team

61%/48%

Over his previous four games, McKissic followed a marked split where he averaged 14.5 targets in the two games Washington lost and the game script promoted passing and 3.0 targets in the two games they won. That establishes a baseline where you can comfortably play McKissic in PPR formats against superior opponents. However, after Antonio Gibson suffered a toe injury on Monday evening, McKissic saw 10 targets in a game where the margin never demanded excessive passing. We may not learn Gibson's prognosis before the Week 14 waiver deadline, but with so few appealing running back options, I think McKissic is a worthwhile stash. Peyton Barber is more the direct skills replacement for Gibson, but Barber has been one of the least effective backs in football with -12.4%, -29.8% and -18.6% rushing DVOA rates the last three seasons. McKissic should see more touches for as long as Gibson is sidelined as Washington plays to the relative strengths of its healthy roster.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 41%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

77%/65%

In the earlier bye weeks, there were a few productive players such as Brandin Cooks who slipped back below the 80% rostered threshold on their off weeks. I don't know if that's what happened here for Brown or whether some fantasy managers gave up on him after he failed to reach 60 yards or score in his four games with the Buccaneers. Either way, I recommend that you pick him up now. The Bucs are loaded in skill talent, and I expect that explains more of his 17.9% target share -- outside the top 50 among wide receivers since Week 9 -- than Brown's inexperience in the offense. But even that modest share can make him productive for fantasy in such a pass-leaning offense. To wit, Brown has averaged 7.3 targets per game over the last month, which is more than accepted fantasy assets Jakobi Meyers, Brandin Cooks, and Amari Cooper can claim. And Brown has been unlucky to not score a touchdown with his 0.45 opportunity-adjusted ones in that time. I think he would be poised to break out independent of other factors. But Brown seems a virtual lock to do so as the Bucs' schedule flips from a month with the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs in the top 13 of DVOA pass defenses to one in the fantasy playoffs with the Vikings, Falcons, and Lions, the latter two of which are in the bottom half of defenses in defending the pass.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 36%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

64%/73%

Because of various Covid issues, Aiyuk's last four starts stretch back to Week 7 in October. But despite the lack of continuity, Aiyuk has started to tease a breakout similar to that of his teammate Deebo Samuel in the second half of his rookie season. In those most recent four games, Aiyuk has a 30.8% target share that is top five at the position. He also has 75 or more yards in all four games and three total touchdowns. Samuel could not match his production on Monday but did tie him for the team lead with nine targets, and I still view him as the better fantasy option. But Aiyuk might be a WR2 as well.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 31%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans

12%/26%

Obscured by the Texans' schedule-aided 0-4 start and Bill O'Brien firing, Deshaun Watson has been as exceptional as ever this season. His 28.2% passing DVOA is third-best of regular starters, and he has managed that behind another poor Texans offensive line -- their 8.3% adjusted sack rate is third-worst in football. Watson already proved himself a star-maker when he propped Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks up to fantasy success after O'Brien traded away DeAndre Hopkins. So it was little surprise to see Watson do the same for Coutee after Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills were hurt and Fuller was suspended for the rest of the season.

Coutee owes close to half of his 141-yard breakout to an uncovered 64-yard catch that Watson created entirely on his own by evading an all-out blitz.

But I still thought Coutee showed promise in a diverse skill set. He demonstrated great concentration and toughness to catch and hold a 19-yard pass despite a big hit from safety Julian Blackmon.

And he snagged an 18-yarder on a diving catch.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Coutee could face competition from the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cobb if the latter can return from his toe injury. But Cobb won't be eligible to return from injured reserve before Week 15, and it's unclear if he will even be ready by that point. On the eve of the fantasy playoffs, Coutee should provide fantasy value now, and that makes him worthy of a heavy FAB offer even if it won't necessarily last you through championship week. That said, consider that the Texans face the Bears and Colts (again) in the top eight of DVOA pass defenses the next two weeks. Coutee may cap out as a flex option in shallow formats despite his expanded role.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 31%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Chad Hansen, WR, Houston Texans

0%/0%

Hansen started Week 13 on the practice squad. So even if he had traded his 28-yard scramble drill for Coutee's 64-yard play and bested his teammate in yardage for the week, I'd still recommend Coutee as the first choice for a Texans pick-up. That said, Hansen was remarkably impressive for a Jets castoff who hadn't played an NFL snap since 2017. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he's bigger than the other Texans wideouts, and he routinely demonstrated his toughness, first with a 14-yard catch as he elevated and collided with Colts linebacker Anthony Walker.

And then with a 16-yard grab that he held despite an immediate big hit from the safety Blackmon.

A game script that called for Watson to throw 38 passes likely inflated Hansen's total of seven targets. By rate, Hansen's 18.9% target share was just 31st among wide receivers for the week. But Hansen led both Coutee (75%) and Cooks (83%) in playing 92% of the Texans' snaps, and Coutee is far from assured of the team's No. 2 role. He spent most of the year as a healthy inactive despite his status as a former fourth-round pick of the team. Hansen a bit of a long shot, but he has a WR2 ceiling that he could hit in the fantasy playoffs.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 16%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

63%/62%

The Eagles' offensive pecking order was a mystery even before the team benched quarterback Carson Wentz for rookie Jalen Hurts -- a player I will discuss later in this article -- on Sunday. As such, I'm unsure whether Ertz's modest 44% offensive snap share and four targets established a new baseline or was more of a soft opening in his first game back from a major ankle injury. I thought Ertz demonstrated his health with some sharp cuts, like on this 20-yard catch-and-run.

And so I'm willing to recommend a heavy FAB offer on the chance of the latter case for the once-and-possibly-future elite fantasy tight end. Fantasy managers were frustrated by his lack of production even before his ankle injury, but Ertz did play at least 85% of the team's offensive snaps the first five weeks and had an 18.5% target share that was top-10 at the position. That suggested a positive regression in his future productivity even while tight end teammate Dallas Goedert had success -- the Eagles led all teams in percentage of two-tight end formations in both 2018 and 2019.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 16%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots

58%/78%

The Patriots' box score may suggest a 60-40 carry split between Harris and the newly healthy Sony Michel, but that is a product of a game script that got out of hand. In the first half, Harris out-carried Michel 12 to two. It was only after the Pats went up by four touchdowns that Michel saw the bulk of his work on Sunday. Harris is not a complete fantasy player. He has just five targets on the season. And even if he weren't sporting a 1.17-touchdown shortfall from his 3.17 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns, he'd still only account for about a quarter of the team's rushing scores. But Harris has had a consistent rushing workload since he returned from injured reserve in Week 4 -- his 126 carries in that time are tied for sixth-most at the position. And since his 12.1% rushing DVOA is 11th-best among regular backs and dramatically better than Michel's -2.7% and -6.4% rates from his first two seasons, I am confident that Harris will maintain that workload the rest of this year.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 12%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers

63%/78%

Tonyan has defied the regression suggested by his position-leading 4.89-touchdown surplus over his 3.11 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns with a touchdown catch in each of his last three games. At this point, I trust him to consistently beat those expectations given how Aaron Rodgers is playing this season. And now that Tonyan has cleared the final hurdle of maintaining his 58%-plus offensive snap share in three games with teammate Allen Lazard back in the lineup, Tonyan makes a compelling case for TE1 status. He is tied with Travis Kelce for the touchdown lead at the position, and his 13.2% target share since Week 2 is 16th-best at the position.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

65%/72%

Gesicki does not share Tonyan's season-long success. But there are a couple of reasons to suspect he could continue his recent uptick in productivity highlighted by his nine catches, 88 yards, and a touchdown from Week 13. First, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appears to rely more heavily on his tight ends than veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick did. The former player has targeted the position on 26.5% of his passes, 4.5% more than Fitzpatrick has this year. And second, Gesicki seems to have a more prominent offensive role with big wide receiver Preston Williams out of the lineup. In the month prior to Williams' Week 9 foot injury, Gesicki had a 10.4% target share. But since Week 10, that has ballooned to 18.8%, eighth-highest among tight ends. Williams' injury is serious and could keep him out the rest of the season. And if that is the case, Gesicki could ride a role as the Dolphins' de facto No. 2 receiver to a TE1 finish in the fantasy playoffs

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

1%/3%

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson benched Carson Wentz last week, and while Pederson hasn't committed to a starter for Week 14, Hurts demands fantasy attention on the chance that it is him. Really, that's mostly about Hurts' rushing ability. He averaged 11 carries and 58 rushing yards per game in college, and he ran five times for 29 yards on Sunday despite playing just 42% of the team's snaps. But Hurts showed some potential as a passer in his sort-of debut as well. In particular, I liked how he altered the velocity and trajectory of his throws to fit the situation, like on this 34-yard completion that he lobbed so he could release it before a blitz arrived…

… and on this 32-yard touchdown pass where a Russell Wilson-like arch helped him find Greg Ward in the end zone behind a pair of shallower defenders.

That said, Hurts was far from perfect. He rarely set his feet before he threw. And while he was on target frequently even on the run, he also made some inaccurate passes, like this third-and-9 overthrow of a wide-open Ward.

Meanwhile, Hurts appears to lack top-end arm strength, which likely cost him some yards after the catch on this 17-yard Ward completion and motivated his fall to the second round of the draft in the first place.

I would certainly understand the rationale if the Eagles stuck with Wentz. Athleticism aside, he clearly has the greater real-world potential and would devastate the team's salary cap if he couldn't produce for them. But Wentz also trails all regular starters with -836 passing DYAR this season and has played poorly for months. If the Eagles want to reach the playoffs, then Hurts seems like the better bet. And that could pay major dividends in the fantasy playoffs for the managers who preemptively pick him up.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints

69%/61%

I expect fantasy players would be thrilled if Hurts did over the next three weeks what Hill has done the last three weeks. In that sense, Hill is the safer fantasy choice. He threw his first two touchdowns of the year on Sunday, but his -13.9% passing DVOA is passable and in range with other dual-threat quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson (-8.3%) and Cam Newton (-14.9%). Meanwhile, Hill has done his best fantasy work on the ground. And while his four rushing touchdowns are a surplus over his 2.22 opportunity-adjusted ones, that latter number is still eighth-highest of all players over the last three weeks. All told, Hill has been the sixth-best fantasy quarterback the last three weeks. And that level of production would likely continue if it weren't for Drew Brees, who could return from his fractured ribs as soon as this weekend against the Eagles. I'll list Hill as an add until Brees returns to the field, but suddenly, Hill seems like a longer shot to help players in the fantasy playoffs than Hurts does.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills

58%/58%

Beasley has followed a J.D. McKissic sort of roller coaster with target totals of 12, two, three, 13, four, and 11 in his last six games. And unlike for McKissic, there is no obvious pattern to Beasley's highs and lows that would help you play the matchups. That said, Beasley still has an 18.6% target share for the season that is top 30 at the position. He's a decent flex option in even shallow PPR formats.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 4%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Ty Johnson, RB, New York Jets

0%/1%

After La'Mical Perine landed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, I thought the Jets might feature Johnson or Josh Adams over Frank Gore since the latter player is 37 years old and seems unlikely to be a part of their future core. Instead, Gore took 21 of the Jets' 25 running back touches in Week 12, and I suspect he would have done the same in Week 13 if he hadn't suffered an apparent concussion on his third snap of the game. The silver lining of that early injury for fantasy is that it made it clear that Johnson is the next man up. He more than doubled Adams' snap share 63% to 31% and out-touched his teammate 24 to eight. But that only matters if Gore is unable to return in Week 14, and I would argue that it may not matter in any case. After benefiting from a plus Raiders matchup on Sunday, the Jets are poised to face the Seahawks and Rams the next two weeks. Both opponents deploy top-12 DVOA run defenses, and the former is the No. 1 cutter of opposing rushing attempts at 28%. Even if he starts, Johnson will be an unattractive flex option in shallow formats.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 3%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No


Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (98%/98%)
Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys (97%/97%)
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (97%/95%)
Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals (96%/96%)
Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (96%/92%)
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (95%/95%)
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (95%/92%)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (93%/96%)
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (93%/95%)
D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions (93%/92%)
Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions (93%/91%)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (91%/91%)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (91%/91%)
Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos (90%/93%)
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (90%/93%)
David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans (87%/86%)
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (85%/88%)
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins (82%/82%)
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers (82%/81%)
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (80%/87%)
Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (74%/81%)
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (68%/81%)
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (65%/85%)

 


Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (90%/86%)
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (60%/41%)
Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (56%/44%)
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (53%/40%)
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (41%/41%)
Henry Ruggs, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (34%/32%)
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (32%/32%)
Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland Browns (28%/23%)
Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (25%/17%)
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (24%/24%)
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (24%/24%)
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (24%/21%)
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (23%/18%)
Matt Breida, RB, Miami Dolphins (23%/17%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (22%/15%)
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants (18%/27%)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers (12%/22%)

Comments

3 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2020, 10:20am

1 Desperation!

Hi there, I have been reading your work and find your capacity to analyze fantasy football to be incredibly informative and well researched. With the news that Christian McCaffrey will be out again, my team, which would otherwise have been projected to be the best in the league, has fallen off a bit, and unfortunately I am matched up with the point total leader this week, who just started Cam Akers. Consequently, this is a very tenuous week for me so I was wondering what you think about the following lineup conundrum. The league is 0.5 PPR and replaces the kicker spot with an additional FLEX spot.

 

My roster for context:

 

QB: Tannehill

RB: Ekeler

RB: Swift

WR: Thielen

WR: AJ Brown

TE: Hockenson

FLEX: McLaurin

FLEX: Davis

D/ST: Seahawks

Bench: Miles Sanders, Big Ben, Gronk, Antonio Brown, Pittman Jr., Golladay, Chargers D/ST

 

My Opponents roster for context:

 

QB: Russell Wilson

RB: Dalvin Cook

RB: J Connor

WR: DK

WR: Justin Jefferson:

TE: Darren Waller

FLEX: Cam Akers

FLEX: Diontae Johnson

D/ST: Washington

 

I see that you project Thielen to have a substandard week. I essentially am wondering what lineup configuration would be most optimal considering my opponent's overall strength that has been bolstered by a career day by Akers.

 

Any and all advice would be immensely helpful and appreciated.

 

Best,

Jon

3 Re: Lineup

In reply to by jonshemano

Hey, Jon.  Thanks for the compliment.  I just ran an update this morning to remove McCaffrey and Golladay, who look like they're trending to a doubtful tag today.  That probably solves some of your lineup questions.  Meanwhile, I'm relatively optimistic for Swift because my read of things is that he missed last week because of an illness rather than lingering concussion symptoms.  Assuming he plays, I have him and Mike Davis ranked back to back at 6th and 7th in my half-PPR RB rankings.  I would start both players over Miles Sanders.  And while I think Adam Thielen has a difficult matchup, I still have him projected for about two more fantasy points than Sanders.  I think you've made the right lineup decisions as things stand now.  Best of luck.