Most fantasy football leagues are in the middle of playoffs. If you missed the cut this season and happen to be in a keeper or dynasty league, keep an eye out Ryan McDowell‘s dynasty content to help you build for 2019.
As for those of you battling for a league championship, this piece is for you. The time for hoarding potential is over. Now it’s all about winning.
As a result, I’m recommending only select players at each position who I would feel comfortable starting this week. There are many players — such as Elijah McGuire, Dede Westbrook, DaeSean Hamilton or Tim Patrick — who offer excellent upside in the waning weeks of the fantasy season. However, these players must also contend with difficult matchups in Week 15, which demotes them to the Watch List for now.
Below are the best streaming options, handcuffs and upside plays to help you take home your office’s plastic gold trophy. Every player is owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN fantasy leagues. I also recommend an auction price (in parentheses) for leagues using a Free Agent Acquisition Budget system. All recommendations are made based on a $100 FAAB budget.
Top Streaming Quarterback
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills ($5)
Allen once again rushed for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in a 23-27 loss to the Jets. He scored 18.3 PPR fantasy points, which ranked 14th among quarterbacks heading into Monday Night Football. He achieved this despite failing to throw a passing touchdown, instead throwing two interceptions.
Over the past three weeks, Allen ranks as the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy and the No. 3 fantasy player overall in terms of total points scored. Over that span, he’s rushed 31 times for 335 yards and two touchdowns. His 45.5 combined PPR points from rushing alone would rank him eighth among running backs since Week 12.
This week he faces the Lions, who rank 29th in Football Outsiders’ defense DVOA. Are you really willing to bet it’s the Lions who finally stop his momentum? Because I’m not.
It’s shocking through all this production that he remains owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues. If he’s available in yours, what are you waiting for?
Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers ($15)
As I discussed last week, Melvin Gordon (knee) remains questionable for the Chargers’ Thursday night bout against the Chiefs. Los Angeles could choose to take its time easing Gordon back into the offense to ensure he’s 100% healthy for the playoffs. As a result, Austin Ekeler and Jackson should continue to see increased usage over the coming weeks.
The problem for L.A. is that Ekeler is wearing down, according to head coach Anthony Lynn. Ekeler also re-aggravated a stinger in Week 14, and his availability this week is in doubt.
Jackson put up a 35-yard, scoreless dud last week but his projection still looks strong due to Ekeler’s poor health in particular. Jackson is once again a strong flex candidate if you need it.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens ($9)
Dixon rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown while snaring one reception for 21 yards against the Chiefs. He once again split time with Gus Edwards, who rushed 16 times for 67 yards and failed to score.
Dixon has proven himself as an efficient ball-carrier this season, boasting 4.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns in three games played. Perhaps more importantly: Dixon could benefit greatly from Joe Flacco’s return.
When Flacco missed time with his hip injury, Lamar Jackson stepped in and has managed the offense admirably. From the outset, Edwards and Jackson seemed to be tied at the hip, presumably due in part to their rapport on the practice squad and familiarity with the Ravens’ options packages.
However, if Flacco earns the starting job once again, it’s hard to project Edwards’ usage in Baltimore’s “standard” offense. Instead, it could be Dixon who becomes the Ravens’ No. 1 running back in that scenario.
Due to Dixon’s production this season and the uncertainty surrounding the Ravens’ quarterback situation, Dixon is a guy I want on my roster for the remainder of the playoffs.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers ($16)
In a difficult matchup against an excellent Browns secondary, Samuel still came through with a four-reception, 80-yard performance on eight passing targets. Over the past two weeks, he’s averaged 9.5 targets, five receptions and 84 receiving yards per game. And since Week 9, he ranks 15th among wide receivers with 13.3 PPR points per game.
Also of note is that Samuel has averaged 60.3 offensive snaps over his past three games, which is a substantial increase from his previous seven games, in which he averaged only 16 offensive snaps and was being more heavily utilized on special teams. This marks a kind of changing of the guard in Carolina. It also correlates with the loss of Greg Olsen and the decline of Devin Funchess in recent weeks.
Samuel draws an excellent matchup this week against the Saints, who rank 22nd in pass defense DVOA and 32nd against No. 2 wide receivers. Weeks 16 and 17 feature matchups against the Falcons and Saints, both of whom boast soft secondaries.
Samuel’s current production, target volume and advantageous schedule make him my No. 1 waiver target at any position. He’s the ultimate playoff flex play.
Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins ($10)
Stills went off for eight receptions, 135 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. Interestingly, he was the only Dolphins player with more than one reception in the game.
But let’s not get too caught up in recency bias here.
Stills is as boom-or-bust as it comes in fantasy football — but that potential boom is precisely what you need during the fantasy playoffs.
There’s also reason to believe he could have an elevated floor with Ryan Tannehill back. With Tannehill as his quarterback during Weeks 1 through 5 and Weeks 12 through 14, Stills has averaged 5.4 targets, 3.4 receptions, 52.4 receiving yards and 13.11 DraftKings points per game. He’s also hauled in five receiving touchdowns over those time frames.
In four games without Tannehill as his quarterback, Stills’ averages drop to 2.3 targets, 1.3 receptions, 21.3 receiving yards and 4.75 DraftKings points per game. He only has one touchdown to his credit during those four games.
Stills’ 15% target share is on par with the rest of the Dolphins receivers, but he still leads the team in air yards market share (32%) and average depth of target (16.3). Both of those metrics project favorably for the Dolphins remaining schedule.
Moreover, Stills benefits from playing on a team that’s actively in the playoff hunt. Miami has everything to play for down the stretch, which should maintain Stills’ involvement and productivity over the next several weeks.
Top Streaming Tight End
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers ($6)
Thomas posted a 9-77-0 receiving line on 11 targets in a loss to the Browns this past week. His 16.7 PPR points ranks fifth among tight ends as of writing.
There was well-placed skepticism regarding Thomas’ ability to be a fantasy starter in Greg Olsen’s absence. But Thomas’ Week 14 performance proved that Week 13 was no fluke, and he indeed can be an important component of the Panthers offense.
While he still has not found the end zone this season, he does have five red-zone targets in very limited action, which is encouraging for his future red-zone target volume.
The Watch List
The following players could be worthy of consideration in deeper leagues. Many of these players have inconsistent usage but could boast above-average matchups.
Current ESPN ownership percentage for each player is in parentheses:
- Anthony Firkser, TE, Tennessee Titans (0.4%)
- Chris Ivory, RB, Buffalo Bills (4.9%)
- DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos (5.5%)
- Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (14.0%)
- Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers (19.6%)
- Dede Westbrook, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (27.9%)
- Elijah McGuire, RB, New York Jets (11.3%)
- Frank Gore, RB, Miami Dolphins (32.1%)
- Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders (32.7%)
- Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (8.1%)
- Tim Patrick, WR, Denver Broncos (0.6%)
- Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (4.9%)
Pictured above: Kenneth Dixon
Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports