It is Week 13 of the NFL season and the start of the fantasy football playoffs for some leagues. Those that utilize two-week playoff matchups (and forgo Week 17 scoring altogether) play their biggest games of the year this week.
At this late stage in real life, though, so many top performers are out injured. The hardest part of succeeding in fantasy football is battling the attrition of a roster, whether through yearly injuries, week-to-week questionable designations, or even bye weeks. Sometimes it helps to have a player you know is out for the season, rather than having them hold a roster spot hostage as their questionable status turns to out game after game.
With that said, the waiver wire is a worthwhile fill-in even this late in the season. Football is a fluky enough sport where no-name performs can garner playing time and production at any point in the season. Most fantasy leagues ignore Week 17 because of its drastic fluctuations from the rest of the season, but the first 16 are sneakily pretty random to begin with.
Fill-ins can be found at any position. For purposes of this article, we will be searching for free agents available in a majority of leagues and will be referencing NFL.com ownership percentages. All fantasy leagues have different settings. One smart add for one league may not be useful or viable in another. Let’s try to split the difference.
Trevor Siemian, Quarterback – 6.8% owned
Siemian has had a wild season. After a very hot start, he cooled down enough to lose his job to two different quarterbacks. Each of those men failed around him (Paxton Lynch thanks to injury), and Siemian is back atop the depth chart. Waiting for him in Week 13 is a very weak Miami Dolphins defense. Miami ranks 31st in the league in DVOA and 31st against the pass. It is baaad. The only defense worse either overall or against the pass is Oakland, who Siemian happened to face last week. In just a portion of the game, he threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns. It is hard to imagine what QB a fantasy playoff team would have had to turn to free agency, but Siemian is a starting option and available in nearly every league.
Rex Burkhead, Running Back – 21.6% owned
Don’t bank on two touchdowns again, but Burkhead has been an important part of the New England offense whenever he’s been healthy. He is healthy heading into Week 13 and looks like both a fine receiving option, as well as a goal line back for the Patriots. With his squad facing the Buffalo Bills, we also have a good matchup in store. Prior to last week, the Bills have been getting shredded on the ground, now ranking 27th in the league against the run even after stifling Kansas City.
Austin Ekeler, RB – 11.6% owned
Devontae Booker, RB – 4.4%
Tarik Cohen, RB – 25.5%
These three backs have been moving in different directions, but they all offer huge boom potential for a desperate owner. Ekeler has carved out a substantial role in the Los Angeles backfield the past three weeks. Booker is becoming an even larger part of Denver’s plan as C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles get fazed out. While Cohen’s usage is going in the other direction for Chicago, he has shown the most in the past. There are worse options for a third RB or FLEX spot this weekend.
Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver – 42.1% owned
Very quietly, Coleman is developing into a real weapon at wide receiver. Most folks forget about him because of the injuries, but the former first-round pick has 18 targets over the past two games. The return of Josh Gordon should shift defenses away from Coleman even further, opening the door for him to have his best game of the season
Sterling Shepard, WR – 31.9% owned
Shepard is finally returning to the lineup after missing a few games with migraines. Eli Manning won’t be throwing him passes this week, but with no other NFL-caliber wide receivers around him, the sheer volume of targets going his way makes him valuable.
Mohamed Sanu, WR – 32.7% owned
Zay Jones, WR – 10.6%
Sanu is heating up along with the Atlanta offense. Jones is even hotter for an unpredictable Buffalo offense. Sanu is the safer play because of his history, but Jones possesses the higher upside, at least for one week. This is what people were hoping for from him when he became a fantasy darling out of the preseason.
Vernon Davis, Tight End – 36.1% owned
Pull the trigger quick on Davis. His Redskins play Thursday night, and Jordan Reed has already been marked as out for this game. Though Davis was invisible last week, he has been a legitimate fantasy starter whenever Reed falls out of the lineup.
Chargers, D/ST – 37.9% owned
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are facing the Browns.
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