Week 15 Waiver Wire: Top Pickups
The days are shorter, the nights are colder and the competition for fantasy waiver-wire pickups has dwindled down to a handful. Week 15 is the fantasy football equivalent of the Final Four, so feel fortunate you are even picking through the leftovers at this point.
We break down fantasy's top options off waivers every Tuesday of the season. Josh McCown, Toby Gerhart, Daniel Thomas, Marlon Brown and Dennis Pitta are the circumstantial adds we trumpet in this six-part, position-by-position slideshow.
Quarterbacks: Josh McCown Has Earned Must-Have Fantasy Status Amid Hot Streak
Quarterbacks to Add
Josh McCown, Chicago Bears
Clearly, the Bears' passing attack under West Coast offense guru Marc Trestman is clicking on all cylinders. They abused the worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks, the Dallas Cowboys, Monday night and have wiggled their way into postseason contention in the NFC North.
Assuming Jay Cutler still isn't medically cleared to play, McCown will be facing shutdown corner Joe Haden this weekend—but he has two elite fantasy wideouts to target in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Haden cannot cover them both. McCown, available in 28 percent of CBS Sports leagues, is a borderline must-start fantasy option right now.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
If you have missed out on McCown already or project to because you lack waiver priority, Flacco is the next best option for you this week. The Detroit Lions are coming off a loss, but we should expect the Ravens at Lions game to be wide open with the postseason hopes of both teams on the line Sunday. Flacco has Dennis Pitta back in the fold, so he can put up 250 yards and a few touchdowns, especially if Matthew Stafford plays much better at home than he did in the snow last week.
Quarterback to Monitor
Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns
As much as we would like to believe we have the guts to advise you to do something bold, we cannot be so bold as to suggest Campbell as a fantasy starter in your Week 15 fantasy football semifinals. Sure, Campbell has elite fantasy targets in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron and will be playing the Bears on a short week at home, but you likely have a safer fantasy quarterback to play in such a crucial week. Campbell can't possibly be good for 391 yards passing and three touchdowns again.
Quarterback to Ignore
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been bad on defense, so fantasy owners might consider Manuel coming off a four-interception performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They probably shouldn't, especially since the Jags have been playing much better of late. Manuel has a future and some good targets, but the rookie is far too difficult to trust in fantasy crunch time.
Running Backs: Adrian Peterson's Status Leaves Toby Gerhart's Up in the Air
Running Backs to Add
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings
It would have been a lot more academic in waivers Tuesday night if Adrian Peterson (foot) was ruled out and Gerhart didn't have a hamstring issue of his own to worry about. Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Peterson still expects to play Sunday after scans ruled out a Lisfranc injury. Also, Murphy reported Gerhart might be limited. The Vikings might have to turn to third-stringer Matt Asiata.
"If Toby is limited, and Adrian, for whatever reason, is not able to play, definitely Matt would have to step in, for sure," Leslie Frazier told Murphy.
ESPN's Ben Goessling tweeted Peterson is unlikely to play, perhaps because the Vikings are eliminated from postseason contention. As Frazier told Murphy, "You can't ignore that fact" when determining Peterson's availability. The Philadelphia Eagles are middle-of-the-pack against the run and fantasy running backs.
In the end, Gerhart is a decent pickup, but not the home run certainty he could have been this week.
Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins
He was supposed to be all but out for the season. Instead, thrust into duty Sunday, Thomas was at his season's best, rushing for 105 yards and a touchdown. Assuming his ankle doesn't swell up too much this week, Thomas should be busy Sunday against the New England Patriots, as the Dolphins hunt for the final postseason spot.
Running Backs to Monitor
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
You can like Greene as the goal-line back and touchdown vulture for Chris Johnson and the Titans, but they will be facing the Arizona Cardinals. That is the No. 1 team in fantasy against running backs and the third-best team against the run. The matchup makes Greene a desperation play.
Jordan Todman, Jacksonville Jaguars
Todman would be the Jags' starter against the Bills on Sunday if Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) doesn't return to practice by Friday like he hopes. Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union calls MJD "very questionable." Todman would be a flex option against a Bills defense that was ripped by Bobby Rainey in Week 14. Denard Robinson would be the backup.
Running Backs to Ignore
Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders
Reece moved from fullback to halfback Sunday when Rashad Jennings (concussion) and Darren McFadden (ankle) were inactive. The problem with jumping on Reece for Sunday's game against Kansas City—in addition to the Chiefs being a top-10 team against fantasy backs—is Jennings has passed his concussion test, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jennings would be the play in crunch time, assuming he will be active.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
He got a garbage-time, short-yardage touchdown late Monday night once the game was decided. There is nothing wrong with DeMarco Murray getting a full workload against the Packers this Sunday. Consider Randle too far down the fantasy radar to trust in lineups or off waivers.
Wide Receivers: Marlon Brown Tops This List Coming off a Clutch Performance
Wide Receivers to Add
Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens
The lanky rookie had been quiet for a month, but he returned to fantasy prominence with seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, which gave him six on the season. You could make a case for Brown to be Joe Flacco's weapon of choice downfield, particularly in the red zone. The Ravens draw the Detroit Lions in Week 15, a team that has been the third worst in fantasy against wide receivers.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Golden Tate is Russell Wilson's No. 1 receiver, but Baldwin is a close second with Percy Harvin (hip) unlikely to impact fantasy the rest of the season. The New York Giants have played better against wide receivers in the second half of the season, but Keenan Allen did burn them for two touchdowns Sunday. Baldwin is a sleeper play, especially because Wilson is hot and certain to get someone in the end zone in an expected blowout.
Wide Receivers to Monitor
LaVon Brazill, Indianapolis Colts
If you are going to trust any Colts receivers at this point, it probably should be Brazill. T.Y. Hilton has been a bust for fantasy owners after Reggie Wayne (knee) went down, but Brazill is finally emerging after a slow start to the season. The problem is the Texans still have the second-best secondary in football against the pass.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
He enjoyed a breakthrough performance Sunday, reeling in five catches for a career-high 141 yards and a touchdown, but you still should not trust the raw rookie in fantasy crunch time, particularly with the shakiness of the Vikings' quarterback situation. Patterson at least looks like a future star now, but fantasy owners should still consider Greg Jennings and perhaps even Jerome Simpson as the more frequently targeted Vikings fantasy stopgaps down the stretch.
Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
He has quietly had a productive season for the lowly Raiders, but the matchup against the Chiefs doesn't give us much faith in him as a fantasy starter in the playoffs. Denarius Moore (shoulder) still might return to steal targets, and we cannot entirely put faith on the right arm of undrafted rookie Matt McGloin.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
Hunter reached the end zone and 100-plus yards for the second time in three games Sunday, but you cannot expect consistency out of this rookie receiver in fantasy crunch time. Sure, he is getting as many snaps as Kendall Wright and Nate Washington now, but trusting Ryan Fitzpatrick and Hunter against a Cardinals secondary that features shutdown corner Patrick Peterson is not advisable.
Ace Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguars
The rookie slot man has gotten more targets than Cecil Shorts in the past month, even if it has been Shorts getting the touchdowns. Sanders is an option in PPR formats, particularly against a Buffalo Bills defense that has been second worst in fantasy against wide receivers this season.
Wide Receivers to Ignore
Da'Rick Rogers, Indianapolis Colts
The rookie Rogers, who went undrafted and was cut by the Bills earlier this season, had the first catches of his NFL career Sunday to the tune of six for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He flashed some talent, but you have to believe the targets will go to T.Y. Hilton and even the aforementioned Brazill in future weeks. Rogers is more intriguing long-term—like 2014—than he is off waivers this week.
Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders
He followed up his surprising Thanksgiving Day performance with a solid 63 yards, but McGloin is still likely to target Streater and perhaps Moore (shoulder) over Holmes in future weeks. The matchup against the Chiefs is not favorable either. If you're not using Holmes, there is no reason to own him right now.
Tight Ends: Dennis Pitta Returns, Quickly Becomes a Solid Starter in Crunch Time
Tight End to Add
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta (hip) made his season debut a productive one, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown among his six catches for 48 yards. Joe Flacco acknowledged the importance of Pitta to the Ravens' passing attack going forward, telling ESPN's Jamison Hensley:
Obviously, he's going to get better and better as the weeks go on. He's a huge player for us. He knows how to get open, he knows how to run routes, and he catches the football. He means a lot.
Pitta is available in 82 percent of CBS Sports leagues. He is a starter in all fantasy leagues, even against a Detroit Lions defense that has been No. 4 in fantasy against tight ends, allowing a league-low one touchdown to the position.
Tight Ends to Monitor
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
He missed Week 14 coming off his concussion, but if he is active Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, you have to consider him viable for fantasy owners. The Cardinals have easily been the worst team in fantasy against tight ends, allowing a league-high 1,003 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. Walker is available in more than one-third of CBS Sports leagues.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
They went from big weeks against the Cardinals to quiet weeks against the Lions, two teams on opposite ends of the fantasy-matchup spectrum. The good news on either one of these is the Minnesota Vikings are close to being as bad as the Cardinals against fantasy tight ends. Celek and Ertz are potential Hail Mary options at the position this week.
Tight Ends to Ignore
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
After eight catches for 73 yards and a touchdown Thursday night, Graham is back on the fantasy radar. The bad news is the Colts are the seventh-best team in fantasy against tight ends. You should not trust Case Keenum or Graham unless out of necessity in crunch time.
Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers
He was once a potential fantasy sleeper, but he had been asleep for weeks until he posted six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) might return next week at Dallas, but Quarless is too far down the fantasy depth chart to be considered a trustworthy option in crunch time.
Defense/Special Teams: New Orleans Saints Are Back Among the Streaming Options
Defense/Special Teams to Add
New Orleans Saints
They survived the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers in back-to-back weeks and finally draw a favorable matchup in the St. Louis Rams, albeit on the road. The streaming defensive options are not great this week, but the Saints are No. 6 in the NFL in total yards allowed. Consider the Saints the best of our fringe waiver-wire options among defense/special teams.
No one is going to confuse the Eagles as a trustworthy fantasy option in crunch time, but the matchup against the Minnesota Vikings lines up as a favorable one, especially if Adrian Peterson (foot) cannot go. The Vikings are the sixth-worst team in fantasy against defense/special teams, so the Eagles rate as a streaming option for those who don't want their defense facing a powerful offense this week.
Defense/Special Teams to Monitor
This has been one of the worst units in fantasy this season, but it is coming off a game effort against the Green Bay Packers and now draws the fourth-worst team in fantasy against defense/special teams, the Washington Redskins. The Falcons are difficult to trust, but if you are a dice-roller, they at least have a matchup worth putting your chips on—particularly if Robert Griffin III gets benched by his lame-duck head coach.
Defense/Special Teams to Ignore
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They finally played the kind of defense they anticipated they would, but that was merely the lowly Buffalo Bills last week. A much sturdier contender comes to town this week in the San Francisco 49ers. You won't want to trust the Bucs in any formats in that matchup.
Kickers: Alex Henery Will Be Much Better in Fantasy Kicking Indoors This Weekend
Kickers to Add
Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles
He was blanked in the snow Sunday, but climate-controlled conditions in the Minnesota Vikings' dome await him this week. The Eagles should move the ball easily and give Henery ample scoring chances against the eighth-worst team in fantasy against kickers.
Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs
Succop's Chiefs have almost been too good offensively, turning the red-zone trips into touchdowns instead of field goals under coach Andy Reid. There should be plenty of scoring options, regardless, Sunday at Oakland.
Kickers to Monitor
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings and Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
Two dome kickers who have been sophomore disappointments because of subpar backup quarterback play are talented enough to consider in fantasy but probably not good enough to start in crunch time.
Kickers to Ignore
Nick Folk, New York Jets
He rebounded along with the Jets offense against the Raiders, but you cannot have any faith in Folk or the Jets at the Carolina Panthers this week, especially with the Panthers coming off a loss.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders offense might get Rashad Jennings (concussion) back, perhaps even Denarius Moore (shoulder), but the Chiefs are the second-best team in fantasy against kickers.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.