Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Dare Ogunbowale, Boston Scott, Rex Burkhead (2021)
The fantasy football semifinals were every bit as chaotic as expected. As feeble as it currently feels to navigate the frenzy to take home a title during a COVID-19 outbreak, the record books won’t attach an asterisk to any 2021 championships.
Also as anticipated, the pandemic forced managers to change course throughout the week. Four players highlighted in Week 16’s waiver-wire column went on the COVID-19 list before the weekend. Particular apologies are in order to those who added Tyler Huntley as insurance for Lamar Jackson, only to spend Saturday conducting some last-minute holiday shopping on the wavier wire.
An armada of inactives makes it more necessary than usual to monitor the waiver wire for impact adds capable of swinging a title matchup. Yet the same caveats apply heading into Week 17. Things could change drastically by kickoff, and some late-week news could reveal a top pickup currently in hiding.
Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.
Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 17
Dare Ogunbowale (RB – JAC): 1% Rostered
James Robinson went down early with a gruesome Achilles tear that will end his season. All the work promptly transferred to Ogunbowale, who played 60 snaps and received 17 of Jacksonville’s 18 ensuing handoffs to running backs. He submitted 57 rushing yards and a touchdown while adding 15 receiving yards on four targets.
Before shouting “league-winner,” that’s a tame line for a running back playing nearly an entire game against the Jets as the bell-cow. Ogunbowale will have a decisively tougher Week 17 draw against the Patriots, who have permitted just eight rushing touchdowns all year. The volume is nevertheless too tantalizing to ignore, especially since New England also surrenders 4.5 yards per carry. If this matchup is as lopsided as expected, Ogunbowale could also turn pass-catching activity into a decent flex day.
Boston Scott (RB – PHI): 15% Rostered
Jordan Howard (RB – PHI): 16% Rostered
We’re so close to no longer having to stress over Philadelphia’s backfield. Miles Sanders enjoyed a massive workload in wins over the Jets and Washington, but he left Sunday’s game with a broken hand. Jordan Howard also exited the game with a stinger. That left the keys to Scott, who submitted 41 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 26, 2021
The Eagles will look to maintain hold of a playoff spot against Washington, which surrendered 200 combined rushing yards to Sanders and Howard before self-combusting in Sunday night’s 56-14 debacle at Dallas. They’ll do so without Sanders, already ruled out for Week 17. Philadelphia always finds a way to make us guess wrong, but Scott and Howard are both flex options in store for double-digit touches and red-zone usage. Scott is a more comfortable RB2 if Howard is also inactive.
K.J. Osborn (WR – MIN): 34%
Adam Thielen re-injured his ankle in his return, leading Osborn to re-emerge with 68 yards and a score. He’s posted a touchdown and at least seven targets in three of the last four games without Thielen, only faltering in a 17-9 victory that saw Kirk Cousins attempt just 24 passes.
When Minnesota last played Green Bay, Thielen caught eight of 10 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. Justin Jefferson added 169 yards and two scores on as many receptions and targets. No other Vikings receiver beyond those two and Osborn has double-digit catches this season. As a result, Osborn is a must-add and locked-in WR3 (potentially selling him short) if Thielen can’t play.
Rex Burkhead (RB – HOU): 14%
An unlikely Week 16 hero, Burkhead ran for 149 yards — his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 17 of 2016 — and two touchdowns in a 41-29 upset over the Chargers. Before this outburst, the 31-year-old had one touchdown all season without even reaching 49 rushing yards in a single game. Although the production is likely an anomaly, Burkhead is Houston’s clear featured back. He’s received 102 touches over his last six games, including 41 in unprecedented back-to-back wins.
Realign Week 17 expectations closer to 50-60 total yards against a tough (and heavily favored) 49ers’ defense. The touches at least won’t wane dramatically with Houston placing David Johnson (previously out with a quad injury) on the COVID-19 reserve list. Every manager needs a Plan B, C, and D, so grab Burkhead as a contingency flex play.
Notable Players 36-50% Rostered
Seattle Seahawks (D/ST): 50%
Many managers added Seattle’s defense for a friendly matchup against the Bears. Although they didn’t take full advantage in a 25-24 loss, double down in Week 17, as the Seahawks get another feeble NFC North adversary in the Lions. Jared Goff was cleared to return from the COVID-19 list, but the Seahawks are a solid streamer regardless.
Gerald Everett (TE – SEA): 42%
Along with scoring his third touchdown in the last five games, Everett bested Week 15’s 60 yards with a season-high 68 in Sunday’s loss to Chicago. He’s the TE11 (half-PPR) since Russell Wilson came off the IR in Week 10, so starting him is more than justifiable against a Lions defense that has surrendered 423 receiving yards to opposing tight ends in their last five games.
Robby Anderson (WR – CAR): 37%
Anderson remains a non-starter for heartbroken drafters, but don’t cheesy holiday movies tell us that this time of the year is about forgiveness? While still not registering tangible results on a weekly basis, he’s drawn 30 targets in his last three games since Carolina’s bye. The Panthers will stay in their division to play the Saints, who entered Week 16 allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Notable Players 10-35% Rostered
Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): 33%
Kmet continues to receive tremendous volume for a tight end available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. He’s caught 24 of 37 targets for 243 receiving yards in the last five games, making him the TE11 in full-PPR scoring during that span without a single touchdown. Of course, that lack of end-zone activity remains a major problem, especially since Jimmy Graham scored his third touchdown Sunday.
Allen Lazard (WR – GB): 24%
The targets remain scarce, but Lazard has scored five touchdowns in his last eight games. He’s also played at least 79% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps in eight of the previous 10 games. Lazard will again receive starting work alongside Davante Adams if Marquez Valdes-Scantling remains on the COVID list against Minnesota’s 27th-ranked passing defense. Since they play Sunday night, Lazard is also a noteworthy last-second pivot if any of the contest’s premier skill-position players are a late scratch. Valdes-Scantling (40% rostered) is a higher-priority add if he clears COVID protocols.
Kadarius Toney (WR – NYG): 22%
Toney immediately received a team-high nine targets in his return from an ankle injury, but it only yielded 28 yards. Fantasy managers would have to be desperate to trust any Giants pass-catcher, especially against Chicago’s fourth-ranked passing defense. But a first-round pick with a high target share and a 189-yard game this season at least warrants a quick shout-out.
Chicago Bears (D/ST): 16%
The Giants have thrown seven interceptions and scored 46 points in their last four games without Daniel Jones. While the Bears only have 12 takeaways this season, they tie the Rams with the NFL’s fourth-most sacks (42). They’re the best widely available streamer on the table.
Trey Lance (QB – SF): 12%
Jimmy Garoppolo had the makings of a decent streamer against Houston before news broke of him suffering a chipped bone and torn ligament in his right thumb. While Garoppolo presented a high-floor, low-ceiling option, Lance represents a giant swing for the fences. When making his first career start in Week 5, the No. 2 pick threw for 192 yards and didn’t account for a single touchdown. He still registered 15.6 fantasy points on the strength of 89 rushing yards.
The rookie could leverage his rushing prowess into a monster fantasy showcase against a defense allowing the third-most yards and fourth-most points. However, streaming him in single-quarterback leagues requires a massive leap of faith with a title on the line. Consider Lance a high-end, high-upside QB2 if given the call.
Kenneth Gainwell (RB – PHI): 11%
Gainwell hasn’t received a handoff since Week 13, when he registered 87 total yards and a touchdown on 17 touches (12 carries, five catches). He was serving as Philadelphia’s No. 2 back behind Sanders with Scott and Howard both sidelined, so the rookie would likely return to the rotation if Sanders and Howard miss Week 17’s game against Washington.
Notable Players <10% Rostered
Joshua Palmer (WR – LAC): 5%
With Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton among the many Chargers on the COVID-19 reserve list, Palmer once again flourished. Two weeks after registering 66 yards and a touchdown with Keenan Allen sidelined, Palmer caught five of six targets for 43 yards and a score. He was on the field for 60 of 62 plays, accounting for five more snaps than Allen. The Chargers will remain short-handed in Week 17 since Williams is unvaccinated, so Palmer remains in play as a WR3/4.
Derrick Gore (RB – KC): 2%
Kansas City kept Gore busy, feeding him the ball on 15 of his 19 snaps. He turned those opportunities into 43 rushing and 61 receiving yards Gore now has 193 total yards in his last two games, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s status for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati is uncertain due to a shoulder injury. Gore could still play second fiddle to Darrel Williams if Edwards-Helaire sits, but Kansas City’s high-octane should create plenty of scoring chances in an anticipated shootout.
Josh Johnson (QB – BAL): 2%
Tyler Huntley went on the COVID-19 list a week after leading all quarterbacks in fantasy points. With Lamar Jackson also still sidelined, the journeyman Johnson threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns en route to a QB4 finish. Early in the week, this situation remains a complete mystery. Since Baltimore’s offense keeps chugging along despite the revolving door, Johnson merits QB2 or Superflex consideration if given another start. Huntley is still preferable to most streamers if back under center. And you’re starting Jackson if he returns.
Byron Pringle (WR – KC): 2%
With Travis Kelce out of the lineup and Tyreek Hill playing only 29 snaps, Pringle led Kansas City in targets (seven), catches (six), and receiving yards (75). Oh yeah, he also caught two touchdowns. Although he was already playing more than Mecole Hardman, Pringle probably won’t pop again if Kelce returns from the COVID-19 reserve list. Consider stashing him in deeper leagues anyway in case he needs to play a prominent role.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – TB): 1%
As expected, Ronald Jones assumed the bulk of Tampa Bay’s backfield work in place of the injured Leonard Fournette. Vaughn, however, only needed seven handoffs to lead the team in rushing. That’s because he recorded 55 of his 70 yards on a touchdown in the first quarter. Jones is still the superior play, but there could be ample opportunities for both to prosper against a Jets defense that’s permitted the third-most rushing yards and an astronomical 27 rushing touchdowns. Vaughn could get considerable work in garbage time, or throughout the game if Jones misses a block or looks at Bruce Arians the wrong way.
Isaiah McKenzie (WR – BUF): 1%
Even with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis on the COVID-19 reserve list, Josh Allen targeted a returning Emmanuel Sanders four times. He instead developed an instant rapport with McKenzie; the duo connected on 11 of 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown. McKenzie entered the game with 73 total yards (38 receiving, 35 rushing) on 13 touches this season.
The unvaccinated Davis can’t return until 10 days after testing positive December 24, making him ineligible for Week 17’s contest at Atlanta. Since Beasley tested positive on December 21, he can return Sunday. Yet just how Davis earned an expanded role, Buffalo shouldn’t push McKenzie back to the side. For those playing out Week 18, the Bills will close the season fighting for a playoff spot against the Jets.
Zay Jones (WR – LV): 1%
Jones has quietly become much busier with Darren Waller out of the lineup, reeling in 17 of 24 targets for 142 yards over the Raiders’ last three games. He’s settling into a deep PPR volume play, almost how Hunter Renfrow looked earlier this year.
Cyril Grayson (WR – TB): 0%
Tyler Johnson was supposed to be the guy with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Breshad Perriman all inactive. He didn’t receive a single target. A returning Antonio Brown saw 15 of 29 targets in a run-heavy victory, but Grayson turned his three looks into 81 yards. It was the first time he touched the ball since scoring a 50-yard touchdown on Halloween. There’s a good chance some wide receiver besides Brown makes a Week 17 impact against the Jets, but picking the right one will be the hard part.
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