By: Zach Haugen @zhaugenfootball
Late Week Free Agency
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. It is especially hard to find those guys later in the season when teams begin to solidify game plans. But 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. We are also at the time of year where guys can be activated off of IR, so there will be a few guys on this list who you might not be able to use for a few weeks, but could be solid contributors down the stretch. It is important at this time of year, to plan ahead. Envision your entire path to the championship. 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.
Corey Coleman (Yahoo-31% owned ESPN-20% owned) Corey Coleman looked explosive in the first game of the year with 5 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown and was heavily involved. He is a first round talent with elite athleticism and competitiveness. Josh Gordon is coming back around the same time, and it’s not like there is a lot of fantasy relevance to go around in Cleveland. But if I have to bet on someone to take over the number 1 receiving role in Cleveland it’s the first round pick who hasn’t been away from football for a few years.
Eddie Lacy (Yahoo-15% owned ESPN-19% owned) Eddie Lacy has not been efficient this year averaging under 3 yards per carry and missing a handful of games. The Seahawks run blocking has been atrocious, and the Seahawks have become an extremely pass heavy offense. So Eddie Lacy is not necessarily a priority pick up. However, teams need running back depth at this time of year, and Lacy could provide that. He was operating as the clear lead back against Washington a couple weeks ago before he got hurt, and while the numbers weren’t great, there were flashes of good running. With the addition of Duane Brown the Seahawk’s line should also be slightly less horrifying, which can only help Lacy. If he starts getting 12-15 touches a game, Lacy should be owned in most leagues.
Bruce Ellington (Yahoo-5% owned ESPN- 3% owned) Bruce Ellington had a lot of fans in draft twitter that thought his strong route running and good hands would make him a successful NFL wide receiver. He hasn’t done much to this point in his career, but he also hasn’t had much opportunity to. He certainly has that opportunity now. With Will Fuller getting hurt and likely missing some time, Ellington will step into the Wr2 role for Houston. He has seen 8 targets each of the last 2 games, and his coach has said they want to get him more involved. Ellington could develop into a usable option for fantasy, particularly for ppr leagues.
Dontrelle Inman (Yahoo-13% owned ESPN- 6% owned) Inman was sent to the Bears a couple weeks back in a move that got very little publicity. But with the Bears injury ravaged wide receiver corps, he instantly become the best receiver on their team. He stepped in right away versus the Packers and led the Bears with 8 targets, 6 catches, and 88 yards. Inman has had fantasy success in the past, accumulating 810 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Chargers a couple years ago. Don’t expect very many blow up games in this Bears offense, but Inman seems to be a safe floor play as the number 1 receiver for the Bears.
Austin Ekeler (Yahoo-35% owned ESPN-20% owned) For the last few weeks leading up to the Chargers game against the Jaguars, Ekeler had quietly been cutting into Melvin Gordon’s snaps, especially on passing downs. Last week he took it to a whole new level when he saw 15 touches and totaled 119 total yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. Ekeler is extremely unlikely to see that kind of usage again. This is still Gordon’s backfield. But Ekeler is a legitimate passing catching option now that could be a desperation flex play. More importantly, he is an elite handcuff if anything were to happen to Melvin Gordon. He is a decent pickup for any running back needy owner, and is a must have for Gordon owners.
Danny Woodhead (Yahoo-43% owned ESPN- 47% owned) Danny Woodhead is a small, 32 year old, pass catching running back coming off an injury. There are plenty of reasons to keep him on the waiver wire. But the truth is that the Ravens need him badly, and the running back market for fantasy purposes right now is barren. Woodhead had 3 catches in 1 drive as a Raven before getting hurt. Alex Collins has played well as a bruiser, but the team could still use a weapon to catch short passes out of the backfield as a safety blanket for Flacco. Woodhead fills that role perfectly, and has a chance to be an Rb2 in ppr leagues the rest of the way.
Chris Ivory (Yahoo-18% owned ESPN- 28% owned) Chris Ivory is a pretty straightforward fantasy asset. He is essentially useless as long as Fournette is playing. But when Fournette doesn’t play, Ivory is likely to see around 20 touches on a run heavy offense. He isn’t playable now, but with Fournette’s injury seeming to cause problems, he could see heavy snaps sooner rather than later. He is worth a bench stash, especially for Fournette owners coming down the stretch. Welcome to handcuff season.
Rex Burkhead (Yahoo-55% owned ESPN- 41% owned) When the Patriot’s signed Rex Burkhead, fantasy twitter fell in love with the match made in heaven. Burkhead is a versatile back that can run between the tackles and has solid hands out of the backfield. He is also a very good special teams player. He is Bill Belichick’s dream. He has disappointed most of his supporters so far this season though, until the last couple games. His role is finally starting to take shape. He has had double digit touches each of the last two weeks including a 10 carry 3 catch game last week. His usage in both the run and pass game, while playing on one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, makes him an interesting pick up and play option. This is still the unpredictable Patriot’s backfield, so he is a risky play, but the upside is there.