Have Lions Found Star in St. Brown?

Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 17 - In its expansion to an 18-week regular season, the NFL risked more early playoff clinches that could remove the incentive for teams to try to win and thus wreak havoc on the fantasy playoffs. So good news for fantasy fans: pretty much every AFC team has either seven or eight wins, and it should be a wild final two weeks. The waiver wire remains wild as well, especially with the recent explosion of positive COVID tests. And while those will undoubtedly create some value opportunities later this week, there are already a handful of potential waiver additions that could hopefully secure your fantasy titles.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions


St. Brown had an impressive streak of at least 11 targets and eight catches in three straight games from Weeks 13 to 15, but that seemed poised to end in Week 16 with Tim Boyle at quarterback. Boyle managed just 77 yards and threw two interceptions in a spot start in Week 11, and he was forced back into action on Sunday after Jared Goff landed on the COVID list. But against a Falcons defense ranked 30th in pass defense DVOA, Boyle fared dramatically better in his second effort and St. Brown turned in another 11-target, nine-catch gem. That performance landed the Lions receiver in some impressive company, and not just among rookies. St. Brown's 11.5 targets per game since Week 13 are the fourth-most among wide receivers with two or more games played, behind exclusively WR1s in Chris Godwin, Justin Jefferson, and Cooper Kupp. The Lions face another bottom five-pass defense in Seattle in Week 17. And with Goff likely to return and raise the team's passing floor to passable, I'm comfortable starting St. Brown as a mid-tier WR2 if not better. There's no point in hoarding FAB in the final week of the fantasy playoffs, but I would prioritize St. Brown over even the soon-to-be-discussed running back handcuffs.

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

Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers


In terms of performance, Wilson is the running back version of Amon-Ra St. Brown. He once again dominated the 49ers backfield with a 75% snap share on Thursday and now has a 63.2% carry share since Week 14 that is ninth-highest of all running backs. And while de facto running back teammate Deebo Samuel has outscored him with fewer carries, Wilson would likely narrow that gap with more time. The traditional runner has nearly matched his two rushing scores with 1.3 expected touchdowns since Week 14. He has five red zone carries in that time. In contrast, Samuel has run in the bulk of his recent touchdowns from 10 or more yards away from the end zone and has enjoyed a massive surplus of 4.1 touchdowns over his expected total of 1.9 scores since he transitioned to the backfield in Week 10. Really, the only reservation I have for Wilson is normal starter Elijah Mitchell. Because while he has yet to practice since he re-aggravated his knee injury in Week 13, Mitchell has 10 days to continue his rehab after a Thursday night game. If I had one of the 49ers backs, I'd like to have both to protect myself for a late-afternoon Week 17 game time against the Texans.

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

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks


If you look in the aggregate, Penny has matched Jeff Wilson for production the last three weeks. The former first-round back has a 61.1% carry share since Week 14 that is 10th-highest among backs and has 314 total yards and three touchdowns in those last three games. For me, the major difference is an unevenness that suggests matchups played a bigger part. Penny victimized the Texans and Bears defenses ranked 27th and 22nd in run defense DVOA for 273 of those yards and all three touchdowns, but had just 44 yards on 13 touches against a Rams defense ranked fourth in run defense. I would be extremely skeptical that Penny could maintain his current 5.5 yards per attempt over a larger sample running behind an offensive line ranked 21st with 4.13 adjusted line yards. But as it's Week 17, that broader concern is less important. What matters more is how Penny will fare this weekend for the end of the fantasy playoffs, and I'm optimistic because the Seahawks draw another plus rushing matchup in a Lions defense ranked 29th in run defense DVOA. Penny should be a high-end flex option in that spot and seems safer after a second standout performance and with Alex Collins made inactive in Week 16 even after clearing the COVID list.

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

Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs


Williams will likely join Jeff Wilson as a handcuff-turned-RB2 in Week 17 after teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire injured his collarbone on Sunday. Third-string runner Derrick Gore may have out-touched him 15 to 14, but Williams out-played Gore with a 42% versus 28% snap share and will likely enjoy a more extreme advantage if the Chiefs win by less than their 26-point margin from Sunday. That said, I wouldn't call the Bengals a plus running matchup. Their defense is better against the run (10th in DVOA) than the pass (17th) and correspondingly cut opponent run plays by 12% per game. Still, the Chiefs produce a lot of scoring opportunities for their backs via their passing game, and Williams has averaged a flex-worthy 3.8 targets per game even in his typical committee with Edwards-Helaire.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 50%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Dare Ogunbowale, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars


James Robinson had finally shed former head coach Urban Meyer's workload restrictions when he tore his Achilles on Sunday. Now, Robinson will miss the final games of 2021 and likely the start of 2022 as well. Football can stink sometimes. Undersized at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, Ogunbowale is unlikely to match his injured predecessor for productivity, especially in Week 17 against a Patriots defense that ranks sixth in run defense DVOA and cuts rushing touchdown rate by 61%. But Ogunbowale will likely see a flex-worthy volume of touches. The Jaguars simply lack other options. With Carlos Hyde already on injured reserve, the team is left with just Ryquell Armstead and Nathan Cottrell behind their handcuff starter. Armstead hasn't played since 2019 after suffering severe complications after a bout with COVID; Cottrell has played just two offensive snaps in his two-year career.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 50%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Boston Scott, RB, Philadelphia Eagles


The Eagles have had a carousel at running back in recent weeks, but Week 17 could prove much easier for fantasy players to diagnose. Miles Sanders broke his hand and Jordan Howard suffered a stinger in Week 16, and those injuries could leave the team with just Boston Scott and rookie receiving back Kenneth Gainwell as options for your fantasy title games. The Eagles had 33 running back carries in a comfortable win over Washington just two weeks ago. And while their division rival will likely fare better with Taylor Heinicke instead of Garrett Gilbert at quarterback in Week 17, the Eagles have jumped dramatically from just 13.7 running back carries per game in Weeks 1 to 7 to 30.6 from Weeks 8 to 16. Philadelphia has settled into one of the premiere rushing teams in football with the third-best rushing offense by DVOA. If it's clear which Eagles runner will start in real life, you can confidently start him in fantasy this weekend.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 50%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers


There aren't many waiver quarterbacks with plus matchups in Week 17—I know I don't want to watch the Raiders-Colts matchup with a fantasy title on the line. But with Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with a torn thumb ligament on his throwing hand, fantasy players have an option in the 49ers rookie Lance, albeit a risky one. Lance famously attempted just 318 passes in a little more than one season as a starter at North Dakota State. But he has a soft Week 17 opponent in the Texans and suggested a likely greater fantasy than real-world value with 23 carries in a game and a half at quarterback in Weeks 4 and 5 this season. You probably have a better option if you're still alive at this point of the fantasy postseason. But if you have scraped by since losing Lamar Jackson or are playing matchups, Lance is a high-ceiling, low-floor fantasy option.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 50%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Joshua Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers


The recent flood of COVID absences has made the waiver wire difficult to parse in the fantasy playoffs. But Palmer is an easier bet for a Week 17 workload bump than most players since his teammate Mike Williams is unvaccinated. That means the veteran must sit for at least 10 days after his recent positive test, which knocked him out for both last Sunday and for Week 17. Palmer has enjoyed a pair of spot starts with Williams' recent absence and with Keenan Allen out in Week 14, and he has seen a steady volume of 87% and 97% snap shares and seven and six targets. Palmer also scored in both starts and should have a decent chance to do so on Sunday. The Broncos are not exactly a pushover with their 20th-ranked pass defense, but Justin Herbert is so talented that he would likely make any capable receiver with a starter volume of snaps a flex option.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 50%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers


Jackson was the more valuable Chargers substitute in Week 16 thanks to 64 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and an Austin Ekeler-esque eight catches and 98 yards through the air. After dominating teammate Josh Kelley in workload and with a 73% versus 27% snap share, Jackson secured his status as a top-tier running back handcuff. But unlike his receiver teammate Joshua Palmer, Jackson seems likely to see his time as a starter end this Sunday. Despite some weirdness with the timing of his positive COVID test last week, Ekeler is reportedly not seeing any symptoms. That makes him a strong bet to return in Week 17 assuming he is vaccinated, which would render Jackson a backup again.

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

K.J. Osborn, WR, Minnesota Vikings


Adam Thielen attempted a return in Week 16, but the veteran receiver made it just 37% of snaps before he re-aggravated his ankle injury. That setback seems likely to foreshadow another extended absence, and the team's normal slot receiver Osborn has so far excelled with a step up to the No. 2 receiver role. Osborn has a 20.2% target share since Thielen's initial Week 13 injury that ranks 31st among receivers with two or more games played. And while the 5-foot-11 and 203-pound receiver is unlikely to mirror Thielen's typical top-five touchdown rates, Osborn has scored in three of his last four games and has supported that total with 2.2 expected touchdowns, tied for 10th-most at his position in that time.

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

Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans (93%/93%)
Odell Beckham, WR, Los Angeles Rams (90%/91%)
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (90%/89%)
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills (90%/85%)
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (88%/93%)
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (88%/89%)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (81%/88%)
Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals (81%/82%)
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (80%/76%)
Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (79%/86%)
Sony Michel, RB, Los Angeles Rams (71%/82%)


2 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2021, 8:37am

1 Lance FTW?

Thanks for all the articles this year.

In a standard scoring league, would you start Trey Lance over Russell Wilson in the championship? 

2 Re: Lance

In reply to by Mojo Risin'

I have Lance projected significantly ahead with 18.8 versus 15.9 fantasy points for Wilson. So yeah, I guess I would start Lance, as weird as that seems.