Week 16 Waiver Wire Pickups (2020 Fantasy Football)
In most facets of life, it’s wise to take a long-term perspective. Fantasy football, on the other hand, often requires a short-term lens. Those constantly thinking miles ahead will fall short to managers maneuvering to optimize their chances of victory each week.
Of course, living entirely in the present is especially necessary for Week 16.
This slate represents the end — whether that’s the championship, third-place game, or a consolation battle — to most season-long leagues. That means all free agents are only as good as their Week 16 outlook. As a result, three teams are each represented by three players among the waiver-wire recommendations. Readers will understand why when seeing their upcoming opponents.
Even if you’re jousting for first place, don’t be afraid to tinker with your lineup before the most important matchup. The following list of potential pick-ups just might be the strongest of the season.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 16
Tony Pollard (RB – DAL): 46% Rostered
It took a while, long enough that most drafters likely dropped him ages ago, but stashing Pollard paid off massively when the Cowboys declared Ezekiel Elliott a late Week 15 inactive. Pressed into starting duty, the second-year understudy swung many fantasy matchups by accruing 69 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, as well as snagging six of nine targets for 63 yards. Elliott had one touchdown and one separate 100-yard output in eight games since Dallas lost Dak Prescott to a season-ending ankle injury.
Pollard is not only averaging far more yards per carry (4.7) than Elliott (3.9), but also delivering more yards after contact per rush (2.1) than his high-profile teammate (2.0). With their offense looking far better than it ever has without Prescott, they may not want to rush Elliott back from a calf injury. In that scenario, Pollard is a high-end RB2 in a home matchup against the Eagles. Even if Elliott returns, he could — or at least should –come back to a lesser workload.
Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI): 39% Rostered
I recommended adding Hurts last week, but didn’t express much confidence playing him in single-quarterback leagues. Hopefully you’re braver than I am. In just his second career NFL start, the No. 53 overall NFL Draft pick led the entire league with 37.8 fantasy points. He once again made huge gains on the ground, running for 63 yards and a touchdown. This time, however, Hurts also dazzled with his arm. The rookie sliced open Arizona’s secondary for 338 passing yards and three touchdowns. Carson Wentz spent most of a disastrous campaign missing key pieces, but Hurts had Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Reagor all at his disposal. He’s quickly proven himself a worthy QB1 in a cushy championship-week matchup against the Cowboys.
Rashard Higgins (WR – CLE): 25% Rostered
Since the start of Week 8, the game in which Odell Beckham Jr. suffered his season-ending injury, Higgins has registered 30 catches for 491 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Three of those eight games were played in treacherous weather. He’s shined during Cleveland’s red-hot December, collecting 16 of 24 targets for 239 yards and two touchdowns in three bouts. Higgins could win some fantasy titles against the Jets’ 30th-ranked passing defense in Week 16. For those who play Week 17 as well, he’ll likely avoid the injured Stephon Gilmore when facing New England.
Salvon Ahmed (RB – MIA): 34% Rostered
Ahmed was a waiver-wire star when replacing Myles Gaskin in Week 10, but he got hurt two weeks later. That led to Gaskin reclaiming his featured role in Week 13. His return lasted just one game because of a positive COVID-19 test. After playing without both backs in Week 14, Ahmed re-emerged to record 122 yards and a touchdown on 22 rushes. Gaskin’s status remains unclear heading into Week 16.
Got all that? If Gaskin remains unavailable, Ahmed is a strong RB2 against a Raiders defense ranked 25th against the run. That possibility is enough to pounce on the undrafted rookie without knowing any specifics about Gaskin. Matt Breida also turned 12 carries into 86 rushing yards (both season-highs) last Sunday, but he can’t be trusted beyond a deep-league dart throw before ever logging one-third of Miami’s snaps.
Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE): 47% Rostered
Mayfield failed to accumulate 300 passing yards in his third straight game Sunday night. He settled for 297, going a resoundingly efficient 27-of-32 with a pair of touchdown tosses.
Where was Baker Mayfield most effective as a passer in the #Browns win over the Giants?
➤ 9/12, 91 yards, 2 TD
10+ Air Yards
➤ 11/13, 172 yards, 2 TD
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 21, 2020
Following a three-week touchdown drought, 2018’s No. 1 pick now has 1,232 passing yards, 11 touchdowns (one rushing), and one interception over his last four games. Only Josh Allen and Ryan Tannehill have notched more fantasy points under center during that span. Jared Goff‘s 16.3 fantasy points in Week 15 was the lowest tally for any quarterback opposing the Jets since Brett Rypien (14.2) in Week 4. Their previous six opponents had each finished among that week’s top-10 fantasy passers.
Notable Players 36-50% Rostered
Austin Hooper (TE – CLE): 48%
No team has coughed up more touchdowns (13) or fantasy points to tight ends than the Jets. Even in their first win of their year, they ceded 67 yards and a touchdown to Tyler Higbee. Hooper has tallied just 122 yards in five games since returning from an appendectomy, but the matchup tosses him back into the streaming conversation anyway. He’s at least found pay dirt in two of his last three contests.
Gus Edwards (RB – BAL): 44%
After he played just one snap in Week 14, Mark Ingram II was a healthy scratch last Sunday. That led to 15 touches and an end-zone visit for J.K. Dobbins, now a solid RB2 after a mostly arduous rookie campaign. Edwards also made his presence felt in Week 15, turning nine rushes and two receptions into 42 rushing and 36 receiving yards. The Giants’ defense is far tougher than the Jaguars, but the Ravens could run early and often if establishing an early lead. That makes Edwards — who has recorded six rushing touchdowns in his last nine games — a viable RB3/deep-league flex option.
Keke Coutee (WR – HOU): 41%
Despite Houston’s diminished receiving corps. Coutee’s rostered rate actually backslid after capturing just 24 yards on three targets in Week 14. Along with scoring his third touchdown in five games last Sunday, the Texans wideout caught five of seven targets for 53 yards. He now has 170 yards and two scores in three contests without Will Fuller V, who will remain suspended for the remainder of the season. Perhaps some managers weren’t too eager to play him against the Colts, but closing matchups against Cincinnati and Tennessee are far more tantalizing. He’s a solid WR3 for the final two weeks.
John Brown (WR – BUF): 40%
Although the Bills designated Brown to come off the injured reserve, he did not play Saturday night against the Broncos. They now have little impetus to expedite his return after clinching the AFC East in Week 15. However, his upside is immense when on the field. Brown tallied 171 yards on 19 targets in his last two games. Consider stashing him if you have extra bench spots at your disposal.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Arizona Cardinals D/ST: 34%
Make this three weeks in a row for the Cardinals, who compiled a combined 14 sacks and 28 fantasy points against the Giants and Eagles. In those same slates, the 49ers led Washington and Dallas to the highest D/ST point outputs of Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. Since this game is only available on Amazon Prime, it’s fitting that Arizona’s defense is a prime streaming play.
Jakobi Meyers (WR – NE): 31%
A rough patch caused everyone to forget about Meyers, who was the toast of the fantasy town after accruing 12 catches for 169 yards against the Jets in Week 9. In hindsight, it might have merely been an outlier performance against a weak defense. Then again, he received double-digit targets for the third time this season in Week 15, catching seven of 10 looks for 111 yards at Miami. He’s averaging 67.7 yards per game since the start of Week 7, drawing at least five targets all but once. Meyers will get another crack at the Jets in Week 17 after meeting a beatable Bills secondary.
Lynn Bowden Jr. (WR/RB – MIA): 27%
Playing without DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, and Mike Gesicki, Bowden caught six of seven targets for 37 yards. With so few options available for Tua Tagovailoa, the rookie slot receiver played 66 of 73 snaps. Bowden will again provide a high floor in PPR formats if Miami remains short-handed for Saturday’s showdown against the team that drafted him (Raiders) mere months ago.
Benny Snell Jr. (RB – PIT): 26%
Maybe Snell just likes Monday Night Football. Back in Week 1, he gashed the Giants for 113 rushing yards when replacing James Conner during the game. This time, the Steelers ruled Conner out before kickoff, and Snell submitted 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He’s a volume-based flex play if Conner can’t go in Week 16 against the Colts. However, Conner’s quad injury doesn’t sound like a long-term issue. Snell is no more than a possible touchdown vulture when occupying the backup role.
Russell Gage (WR – ATL): 24%
Gage has garnered 44.7 fantasy points in the last three weeks, securing 14 of 25 targets for 201 yards and two touchdowns, as well as another passing score. With Julio Jones out of the lineup, he’s the second option in an offense attempting 39.2 passes per game. A floundering rushing offense and road matchups at Kansas City and Tampa Bay could force Matt Ryan to throw even more in high-scoring contests. If Jones stays sidelined, Gage could again draw double-digit targets. Jones had a PRP injection in hopes of returning, but the 4-10 Falcons have no logical reason to push him back.
Frank Gore (RB – NYJ): 24%
I can’t not include a running back who gets 23 carries in a game. After taking a back seat when returning from a concussion in Week 14, Gore shouldered nearly all of the Jets’ running work in a shocking upset over the Rams. Five were inside the 10-yard line, leading to his second touchdown this season. Gore had 52 touches in his last three full games before exiting Week 13 early. Volume alone puts him back in deeper flex territory, primarily in non-PPR formats.
Houston Texas D/ST: 17 %
You may not want your season to hinge on the NFL’s second-worst defense, which has exceeded five fantasy points in just two games this season. Yet it’s on the table since the Texans are facing the Bengals, who had guided opposing defenses to the second-most fantasy points per game (9.7) before stunningly manhandling the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Most of that was with Joe Burrow under center. Since losing their new franchise cornerstone, their opponents have registered 43 fantasy points in four games. For all of their troubles, the Texans have a sack in all but one game this season.
Mitchell Trubisky (QB – CHI): 12%
Trubisky disappointed daredevils who rolled the dice on him last week, going a humdrum 15-of-21 for 201 passing yards, one touchdown, one pick, and 34 rushing yards. However, anyone thinking of going back to the well can take solace in him playing well from a real-life perspective in a 33-27 victory. While the Bears could once again lean heavily on David Montgomery against Jacksonville’s 30th-ranked rushing defense, there will also be ample opportunities for big plays downfield against a unit relinquishing an NFL-worst 8.3 yards per pass attempt.
Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): 12%
Like Trubiksy, Kmet let down streamers with just 12 yards on two catches and targets apiece. Also like Trubisky, he gets a paved path for redemption against the Jaguars. The downtrodden AFC South squad has surrendered 11 touchdowns to tight ends, and the rookie played every single offensive snap last Sunday despite his lesser involvement.
Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI): 10%
Allen Robinson II is Chicago’s only truly trustworthy wide receiver, but Mooney makes for an intriguing WR4 in this mouth-watering matchup. The rookie has scored a touchdown in consecutive weeks with 22 targets in the last four games.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Tyron Johnson (WR – LAC): 7%
Jalen Guyton (WR – LAC): 1%
Johnson has tallied a touchdown in back-to-back games for the Bolts. Guyton, meanwhile, led their wide receivers in snaps (53), targets (six), and receiving yards (91) with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both playing limited reps last Thursday night. Keep an eye on Allen and Williams’ availability for a Week 16 tilt against Broncos. Johnson and Guyton, in that order, would carry some deep-league appeal if one or two of the starting wideouts are limited or inactive.
Jordan Akins (TE – HOU): 4%
It’s awfully hard to trust someone who has dropped three touchdowns in the last four games. Akins, however, is still a tight end who has drawn six targets in consecutive contests. After catching five of them for 50 yards against an Indianapolis defense typically stingy on fantasy points to tight ends, he’s set up nicely for Week 16 success. Only the Jets have allowed more fantasy points per game to the position than the Bengals.
Chad Hansen (WR – HOU): 2%
This time it was Hansen, not Coutee, whose touchdown came with just three targets. Yet that score accounted for 38 of his 55 yards, so nobody outside of PPR leagues should mind much. Hansen has performed even better than Coutee in Houston’s last three games without Fuller, catching 14 of 17 targets for 212 yards and a touchdown. One of December’s unlikeliest stars should continue to contribute to a championship push against the Bengals in Week 16.
Darrel Williams (RB – KC): 2%
Clyde Edwards-Helaire will miss the final two regular-season games with a high ankle sprain suffered Sunday. Le’Veon Bell, rostered in 54% of leagues, is a high-priority claim wherever available. For everyone else, Williams could potentially play a bigger role when moving up the ladder. Bell hadn’t accomplished much as an understudy, so consider Williams more of a desperation flyer or security stash in deep leagues.
Marcus Mariota (QB – LV): 1%
Derek Carr exited last Thursday’s game with a groin injury. Although Raiders head coach Jon Gruden described the injury as “significant“, the quarterback is reportedly motivated to play Week 16 anyway. In his absence, Mariota finished as Week 15’s QB8 behind the strength of 88 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. The former Heisman Trophy winner would still only be playable in two-quarterback leagues against a tenacious Dolphins defense.
Devine Ozigbo (RB – JAC): 0%
Jacksonville’s running backs have tallied 251 carries this season. James Robinson has 240 of them. He’s third in rushing yards (1,070) and total touches (289) among all running backs behind Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. Suffice to say, it’d be a huge deal if he’s unable to play after injuring his ankle last Sunday. It’s hard to say which running back would fill the void since nobody else has done anything for Jacksonville all year. But Ozigbo is nevertheless the leading candidate for early-down work. Although the 24-year-old certainly wouldn’t be a comfortable starting choice against Chicago, he’d have a feasible chance of snagging 15-20 touches.
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