By: Zach Haugen @zhaugenfootball
Best Late Week Free Agency Pickups – Week 8
Every year fantasy leagues are won, not at the draft, but by savvy owners that pick up the right guys at the right time. When these players break out, it takes their team to another level. Sure, there is luck involved. It is difficult to predict who is going to come out of nowhere. That is the reason they can come out of nowhere. The key is taking the chance on the right kind of players. If you throw enough darts in the general direction of the board, one of them is likely to stick.
So what is the right kind of player? The NFL is a hard game to dominate on a small workload. Likely these players will have to be in a good opportunity to see volume. It isn’t all about volume though. You also want to target talent. Not just talent in the player you are picking up, but it can be helpful for the player to be surrounded by talent that can prop them up into a good situation. It’s also nice to nab these guys before you have to pay big bucks for them on waivers. So it can be helpful to look for players with advantageous matchups in the upcoming weekend that would allow them to break out. So if you have the following guys on your waivers, and you are looking for an end of bench stash, feel free to pick them up and cross your fingers.
JuJu Smith Shuster (Yahoo-39% owned ESPN-25% owned)JuJu isn’t even 21 years old yet, and he is still making plays at the NFL level, which is truly amazing. It’s always good to pick up players on the rise, and Smith-Shuster is a great example of that. He has only seen 17 catches and 27 targets in his 7 games, but he has made them count averaging 13.6 yards per catch and notching 3 touchdowns. He has been playing over proven freak Martavis Bryant, seeing his snaps rise every week. That certainly isn’t going to change this week as Bryant’s antics have led to him being declared inactive for the week. The offense is starting to click now that Bell has the running game humming again, and Smith-Shuster is in a good spot as the number 2 receiver for a good offense who is being heavily utilized in the red zone. It might be hard to trust Smith-Shuster in your lineup given the volume he has been seeing, but he is clearly seen as the future in Pittsburg and is playable as a flex this week, and should be rostered everywhere moving forward.
Corey Davis (Yahoo-26% owned ESPN-24% owned)Injuries have held Corey Davis back during his rookie year, but don’t let that distract you from the fact, that he was a top 5 pick in this year’s draft, and is playing with a rising start in Marcus Mariota. In the one game Corey Davis has played so far he saw double digit targets and caught 6 passes for 69 yards. In his absence, no Titans receiver has stepped up into a lead role which should leave the door open for Davis to become the number 1 receiver on the team. I wouldn’t be throwing Davis into your lineup just yet. He will likely take 2-3 weeks to get back up to speed, and the Titans have enough weapons that they can spread out the targets. But he is the future of this team, and I expect them to look to get him rolling to finish out the year. Pick him up while you can.
Deandre Washington/Jalen Richard (Yahoo-17, 30% owned ESPN- 33, 25% owned)I am not really a big believer in the fantasy prospect of either of these prospects, considering Lynch was barely producing for fantasy, and these guys will basically split his workload. They also play a Buffalo Bills defense that has been very good and underrated this year. Nonetheless, the running back market out there is really rough right now, and week 8 is one of the biggest bye weeks of the year. If you need a guy to pick up and plug in for a week and then drop, this is where you should go. Richard to me has been the more explosive back and has been more involved in the pass game, so I tend to lean that way when deciding between the two. But Washington has been more involved at the goal line so he is a better bet for a touchdown most likely. Ultimately it’s a coin toss, and neither option is great, but given the running back situation this week I won’t fault you for sticking these guys in your lineups.
Marlon Mack (Yahoo-44% owned ESPN- 28% owned)I am not the biggest believer in Marlon Mack. He has been pretty dependent on the big play, and I am not convinced he is an every down back. Plus the Colts offense isn’t good, and their line is awful. I just don’t see Mack as the league winner he is being touted as. But I still don’t understand his ownership. He is starting to out snap Frank Gore, and is clearly much more explosive than Gore at this point in their careers. Even if he never takes over this backfield, Mack should be owned in every league as a running back that is trending up, and is a big play threat waiting to break one every play.
Dion Lewis (Yahoo-63% owned ESPN- 46.6% owned)I will be the first person to admit that you probably don’t want to start any of the Patriot’s running backs, because nobody has any idea what Belichick has planned for them. But Dion Lewis has seen his touches trending up and has led the team in rushing each of the last 3 weeks while getting goal line carries along the way. On the small sample of this season, Lewis is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and has shown the ability in the past to be an effective cog in this Patriot’s machine. He is worth a speculative add in every league, and is even worth a start at your own risk.
Josh Doctson (Yahoo-41% owned ESPN-25% owned)This is like the 3rd or 4th week Doctson has made this list. But Terelle Pryor has struggled with lead WR duties so far, and Doctson has come down with a few magnificent catches this year, including a couple touchdowns. I would caution you that him taking a step forward doesn’t mean much since he has 9 career receptions, but his upside is still worth a stash in very deep leagues to see just how much his utilization increases over the next couple of weeks, now that he has already hopped over Terelle Pryor, the target will hopefully follow the snaps.
Jordan Matthews (Yahoo-33% owned ESPN- 26% owned)Look, I get why Jordan Matthews has such low ownership. He hasn’t topped 5 targets or 3 catches yet this year, and the Bills seem to pass the ball 10 times a game to their wide receivers. But the Bills need pass catchers badly, and Jordan Matthews is the only one on the team with a history of pass catching production. His slow start can be partly blamed on a preseason injury that didn’t allow him to get the necessary practice time to get acclimated to a new offense so late in the process. Matthews is just now getting healthy, and the timing is great. The Bills have an extremely vulnerable schedule for the next month, and Matthews should be starting to settle into this offense and generate rapport with Taylor. He is worth a speculative add for wide receiver needy teams down the stretch.
DeDe Westbrook (Yahoo-8% owned ESPN- 2% owned)DeDe Westbrook is a mid-round rookie wide receiver who hasn’t played a snap all year and is on a clearly run first offense. So this add is only for deeper leagues, but it could pay dividends. Marquise Lee and Allen Hurns have played fine this year, but they could use a true big play threat, and that is exactly what Westbrook is. In 3 preseason games, the Heisman finalist had 13 catches for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s 22.2 yards per carry. Westbrook isn’t a must add, but he is a fun end of bench lottery ticket.
John Ross (Yahoo-8% owned ESPN- 2% owned)John Ross has had a pretty disappointing year for a rookie who was drafted in the top 10 of the NFL draft. He has really only played in one game and on his first touch after getting a nice gain on an end around he fumbled the ball. That combined with injury trouble has kept him off the field, but he was taken off the injury report this week, and reportedly will not be on a snap count this weekend. He certainly isn’t someone you should stick into your starting lineup, as we have no idea what his role is. But he is a talented player on a team badly in need of a secondary weapon, and he has an absolutely juicy matchup against a Colts defense that will beg him to have a breakout game.