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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Ronald Jones, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Justin Jackson (2021)

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Dec 21, 2021

Fantasy football managers want to believe they control their own destiny. Sure, luck can help out some other people, but not us. We’re the true champions winning solely on skillful maneuvering.

Of course, that’s not always the case. As witnessed in bulk Sunday, sometimes stars lay an egg at the worst time. Fantasy playoff success also often boils down to drawing the right opponent.

This year, however, we’re all facing a formidable enemy. Like it or not, COVID-19 will play a heavy hand in determining fantasy championships this year. While fantasy football is way down the bottom of the list of essential things impacted by the pandemic, there’s no use covering our eyes to reality during the semifinals week.

This article was published Tuesday, but the top waiver-wire pickups may differ by Friday. Managers must monitor the news all week and be ready for anything. That may include finding a new flex player hours before game time. That might mean pivoting off a game that gets rescheduled.

Your family probably won’t mind you spending the holidays scrolling news feeds and attacking the waiver wire to punch a ticket to the championship.

Note: Rostered percentages provided via Yahoo leagues.

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Top 5 Waiver Targets of Week 16

Ronald Jones II (RB – TB): 35% Rostered
Oh yeah, injuries are also going to destroy your fantasy football dreams. Leonard Fournette, who was questionable leading up to Sunday night’s game, left early with a hamstring injury. He looks likely to miss at least a game or two:

With Fournette sidelined, Jones emerged from the bench to gain a season-high 71 yards on eight carries and two catches. He only played three more snaps (22) than Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but that’s likely because Tampa preferred the latter in passing situations while trailing. Jones, who tallied 1,143 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 14 games last season, should shoulder most of the running workload for a team that still leads the NFL in scoring after getting shut out by the Saints.

Fournette was the season’s RB5 (half-PPR) through Week 14, so his replacement is a must-add. Consider Jones a solid RB2 against the Panthers if Fournette sits this week. If he draws the Week 16 start against the Jets, Jones will swing many fantasy championships.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET): 30% Rostered
It’s a surefire sign of the apocalypse when multiple Lions players make a waiver-wire column. Brown would have already skyrocketed to a higher rostered rate on most other teams, but managers weren’t sold when he secured Detroit’s first win of the season on a last-second touchdown. Some, but not nearly enough gamers acted when he then saw 12 targets for the second consecutive game.

Surely nobody can ignore St. Brown after yet another high-volume gem. The rookie caught eight of 11 targets for 90 yards and a touchdown in yet another Detroit triumph. That gives him 26 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games, each of which netted 15 or more PPR points. He has a 33.0% target share during this torrid stretch.

St. Brown is a must-add to roster in all leagues, especially PPR or half-PPR formats. If his recent consistency as a top target isn’t compelling enough, the fourth-round pick will combat susceptible Atlanta and Seattle secondaries during the fantasy postseason’s next two weeks. He’s a strong WR3 for each matchup if Jared Goff returns from the COVID-19 list in time. Without Goff, Brown might return to more of an empty volume role where you’re hoping for six catches and 60 yards. Again, a lot is going to change by this weekend.

Justin Jackson (RB – LAC): 6% Rostered
An ankle injury didn’t sideline Austin Ekeler on Thursday night, but it limited him to a season-low 27 snaps. Somewhat surprisingly, the Chargers didn’t split the remaining reps evenly between Jackson (43 snaps) and Joshua Kelley (13). Jackson transferred his 14 touches — including a team-high 13 carries — into 99 total yards.

While he hasn’t scored a touchdown all season, Jackson has received nine red-zone handoffs (four inside the 10) during the last two games. The Chargers should earn several scoring opportunities against the Texans, who possess the NFL’s worst rushing defense. In addition to his injury, Ekeler went on the COVID-19 list Monday. If he sits, Jackson is a must-add and start. Even with Ekeler active, the golden matchup presents the perfect situation to curtail Ekeler’s workload again and foster enough work for Jackson to contribute as an intriguing flex option.

Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF): 19% Rostered
Davis made the most of his extra screen time with Emmanuel Sanders out of action. The second-year pro caught five of seven targets for 85 yards and two touchdowns, giving him six touchdowns this season and four in his last three games. He hadn’t played more than 32 snaps in a game since Week 1 before seeing the field for 65 and 63 plays in the past two weeks, respectively. Despite often receiving mitigated reps as Buffalo’s fourth receiving option, Davis has found the end zone more often than Keenan Allen, Tyer Lockett, Chris Godwin, and Terry McLaurin.

Sanders mustered 108 receiving yards in his last five games, so the 34-year-old may not return to find his starting job waiting. Davis has earned more opportunities, and though he’ll draw a tough Week 16 tilt at New England, the Bills close the season with two mouth-watering matchups against the Falcons and Jets.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – GB): 41% Rostered
The Packers seemed to trick us again when Valdes-Scantling followed a Week 11 breakthrough and solid Week 12 with just 20 yards in Week 14. Alas, maybe this streak will stick. In Sunday’s bounce-back outing, the 27-year-old secured five of seven targets for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Green Bay limited him to a 66% snap rate for the second consecutive game, but MVS has Aaron Rodgers‘ attention when on the field. Valdes-Scantling has 31 targets in his last four games after receiving just 20 in five prior contests. That’s not bad for a player averaging 8.4 yards per target with 32.5% of Green Bay’s air yards. Although he might burn us again, a brave manager could swing for the fences and hope he torches a short-handed Cleveland defense that will play Saturday afternoon’s game on just four days’ rest.

Notable Players 36-50% Rostered

Philadelphia Eagles (D/ST): 49%
The Eagles still have to host Washington on Tuesday night before preparing for the Giants on a short week. Still, it’s the Giants. While the Eagles didn’t produce any takeovers in Week 12’s 13-7 loss to the G-Men, they limited their NFC East adversary to a measly 264 total yards. The matchup is too tasty not to bite, especially now that New York officially shut down Daniel Jones for the season.

Matt Ryan (QB – ATL): 41%
There aren’t many nice things to say about Ryan’s season. He hasn’t finished any of the last five weeks higher than QB22 and has just two top-10 placements (QB3 in Weeks 4 and 9) all year. But Ryan is facing the Lions this week. Perhaps he turns back the clock for old times’ sakes

Gerald Everett (TE – SEA): 37%
As Travis Kelce’s managers will soon discover, there’s nobody out there at tight end. So let’s highlight Everett before seeing how he fares Tuesday night. He’s scored two touchdowns in his last three games and has received 29 targets — five inside the 10 — in five games since Russell Wilson‘s return from a finger injury. Everett is more of a high-end TE2, but he’s an acceptable touchdown-dependent streamer.

Notable Players 10-35% Rostered

Seattle Seahawks (D/ST): 35%
The second-best streaming option (unless the Chargers are still available) has also yet to play its Week 15 matchup. Before facing the Rams, the Seahawks have submitted at least one sack every game this season with 50 fantasy points in their past seven games. They’re a high-floor play against the Bears, who’ve surrendered 3.2 sacks and 1.8 giveaways per game.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB – PIT): 25%
Kansas City ranks 28th in passing defense with the second-most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Even after going 16-of-25 for a season-low 148 passing yards in Week 15’s win over Tennessee, Roethlisberger has attempted 36.9 passes per game. Sunday marked his first game without a passing touchdown, but he instead registered his first rushing score. The 39-year-old quarterback will likely have to throw often as road underdogs against a Kansas City squad that’s righted the ship with seven straight wins.

Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): 25%
Kmet still hasn’t scored a touchdown all season, but no other available tight end is drawing as many opportunities. Last year’s second-round pick has received 32 targets in his last four games, and he turned nine into a solid six catches for 71 yards Monday night. Kmet has drawn a red-zone target in each of the last three contests, including an end-zone look in Chicago’s 17-3 loss to Minnesota. That’s the missing ingredient to a TE1 over the closing weeks.

Kadarius Toney (WR – NYG): 24%
The Giants, who just lost Sterling Shepard to a season-ending Achilles tear, hope to welcome Toney back from an oblique injury this week if he clears COVID protocols.

The dynamic rookie receiver put his name on the map by stockpiling 189 receiving yards in Week 5, and he saw a dozen targets in his last appearance Week 11. Toney was a top waiver grab earlier in the season, but his outlook takes a hit without Jones. He could still prove a worthwhile gambit for a daring underdog.

Devontae Booker (RB – NYG): 23%
Even with Saquon Barkley back in the fold, Booker hasn’t vanished from the Giants’ backfield. While Barkley needed 15 carries just to hit 50 rushing yards, Booker stretched his eight handoffs into 74 rushing yards. He’s amassed double-digit touches in each of the last three games, gaining 220 yards to Barkley’s 227. Most managers won’t want to start a second-string running back on a team that can’t string together two touchdowns, but Booker at least remains a valuable handcuff to an injury-prone starter on a team with nothing but draft positioning at stake.

Craig Reynolds (RB – DET): 13%
With D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams both sidelined, Craig Reynolds rose into a bell-cow role in a stunning upset over Arizona. A week after starring in a timeshare with Godwin Igwebuike, Reynolds received more carries (26) than all running backs besides some Jonathan Taylor guy. He turned them into 112 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. Of course, this featured role will shrink if Swift or Williams returns. However, Reynolds might stick around in some capacity if only one — more likely Williams — comes back this weekend.

Samaje Perine (RB – CIN): 13%
This may sound familiar, but Joe Mixon‘s status is unclear after leaving Sunday’s game. Cincinnati’s star running back suffered an ankle sprain that’s minor enough for head coach Zac Taylor to describe as “encouraging.” We’ve played this game more than enough times to grab Perine as insurance. Perine accumulated 75 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches when a banged-up Mixon played a reduced role in Week 5.

Josh Reynolds (WR – DET): 10%
While St. Brown has emerged as a target monster, Josh Reynolds has recorded 259 receiving yards and two touchdowns in four games alongside Goff. He’s recorded over 50 yards in each contest — including 68-70 in three of them — despite a mundane 16 catches on 23 targets. Consider Reynolds a sneaky-solid WR4 in advantageous matchups at Atlanta and Seattle, but only if Goff is active. For full discrepancy, Goff was also slated to appear in the next section as a QB2 or Superflex play before going on the COVID-19 list Monday.

Notable Players <10% Rostered

Tyler Huntley (QB – BAL): 4%
Numerous fantasy teams advanced or got eliminated because of a backup quarterback. In place of Lamar Jackson, Huntley played the role to perfection. Along with 215 passing yards and 73 rushing yards, the rookie threw and ran for two touchdowns apiece. His 35.9 fantasy points led all quarterbacks in Week 15 and were six more than Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, and Dak Prescott combined.

Handcuffs are usually reserved for running backs, but Jackson’s fantasy managers should add Huntley and play whichever Baltimore quarterback starts this Sunday at Cincinnati.

Duke Johnson (RB – MIA): 2%
The Dolphins activated Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed from the COVID-19 reserve list in time to squeak out a too-close-for-comfort victory over the Jets. Johnson nevertheless emerged from the practice squad to garner 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Some managers might instinctively look at his Week 15 line and make Johnson their top-priority add. Be careful, as Miami’s backfield could get more crowded if Phillip Lindsay and/or Mark Ingram also clear COVID protocols. The Dolphins will also go from facing a Jets defense allowing the most fantasy points to running backs to a Saints squad surrendering the least points.

Laquon Treadwell (WR – JAC): 2%
Treadwell remained a steady presence in Jacksonville’s offense when leading the team in targets (nine) and receptions (six) Sunday. He’s totaled 240 yards in the last four games while matching Laviska Sheanult Jr. for a club-high 28 targets. The 2016 first-round pick is a solid deep-league floor play against a bleak Jets secondary that’s yielded an NFL-high 8.3 yards per pass attempt.

James O’Shaughnessy (TE – JAC): 2%
You try finding a good tight end on the waiver wire. O’Shaughnessy recorded a season-high 60 yards in four targets, his lowest tally in the past four games without Dan Arnold. He’s a deep-league dart throw against a Jets defense allowing 65.9 receiving yards per game to the position.

Tyler Johnson (WR – TB): 1%
Breshad Perriman (WR – TB): 1%
Tampa Bay’s injury woes weren’t limited to Fournette. The Buccaneers also lost Mike Evans and Chris Godwin during Sunday night’s 9-0 debacle. While Evans has a chance to play this weekend, Godwin is out for the season with a torn ACL. Antonio Brown is also eligible to return from a three-game suspension for submitting a fake vaccination card.

Even if Evans and Brown play at Carolina, Godwin vacates a team-high 21.2% target share. Based on Sunday night, Johnson is the clear benefactor. Lining up for 70 of 74 offensive plays, the second-year wideout caught four of seven targets for 41 yards. He nearly made the top targets section, where Johnson belongs if Evans misses time.

But before coronating Johnson, Perriman also has a chance to return from the COVID-19 list. He played 84% of the team’s snaps in Week 13 and scored a 58-yard touchdown in overtime to beat the Bills in Week 14. When playing for Tampa Bay two years ago, Perriman carried fantasy managers to glory with 419 receiving yards and five touchdowns during the final four weeks. Perhaps magic could strike twice with a slight quarterback upgrade this winter.

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Andrew Gould is a featured writer and editor at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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