December gets weird.
Names that you haven’t thought about since preseason, if ever, will lurch out of the muck because teams out of playoff contention are either trying out young players or trotting out gimmicks and bench fillers as counter moves to defensive game plans (see Akiem Hicks’ turn as Refrigerator Perry).
And if you’re wondering why Chiefs running back Spencer Ware isn’t included in this column, the Ware opportunities are bare. When fantasy fans learned that Chiefs released Kareem Hunt after video of him pushing and kicking a woman went public three days ago, a Black Friday scrum for Ware’s services ensued.
Waiver claims on NFL.com rose by 98.1 percent to reach capacity across all leagues. Yahoo and ESPN ownership each jumped by about 80 percent, though there a handful of leagues where he’s still available.
For the fake-football GMs who missed out, they’ll need to lower there expectations here.
1. Justin Jackson, RB, Chargers
Jackson is new Ekeler.
As in Austin Ekeler. He shined as a backup to Melvin Gordon, now Jackson is doing it as Ekeler’s backup. Apparently, Chargers running backs always come in pairs, like the Sith.
Gordon sat out with a knee injury Sunday against the Steelers, giving Jackson a chance to top 80 scrimmage yards and take his first trip to the end zone. Even if Gordon can play against the Bengals next week, which is no guarantee, Jackson could see plenty of garbage-time work.
2. Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders
Richard has been able to co-exist with Doug Martin (both had nearly identical fantasy points against the Chiefs; 10.6 for Richard and 19.7 for Martin). But while Martin has become close to matchup-proof in recent weeks, Richard should be reserved for favorable scenarios: at the Bengals in Week 15 and (maybe) home against the Broncos the following week.
3. Jaylen Samuels, RB, Steelers
Samuels took a fourth-quarter pass from Ben Roethlisberger into the end zone when James Conner went out a lower leg contusion. If Monday sheds any light about Conner’s injury and it becomes a long-term issue, then Samuels’ stock shoots to the top of the waiver wire market.
Before the draft, WalterFootball.com compared him to Eagles dual-threat Brian Westbrook.
4. Adam Humphries, WR, Buccaneers
You could easily make a case for Chris Godwin here, too. Is there a quarterback more fickle with attention than Jameis Winston? Maybe Drew Brees?
Good luck predicting which Bucs receivers will lead in fantasy points in any given week. At least Winston has hooked up with Humphries for 6 in three straight games. Godwin has the higher upside in standard formats, but Humphries has been steadier in PPR: at least 11 points in six of his last eight games.
5. Josh Allen, QB, Bills
How many times can Allen put up some gaudy stats before it’s not just brushed off as some garbage-time fluke? Talk about Lamar Jackson’s rushing ability all you want, but Allen just toted the rock for 135 yards against the Dolphins after running for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.
And then there’s the three passing touchdowns over those two games. All told, that’s at least 26 fantasy points over the past two weeks. The Bills host the Jets and then Lions, making Allen a good streaming or DFS play during a couple of critical weeks.
6. Dante Pettis, WR, 49ers
Pettis popped out of TV (or smartphone) screens when he outran the Seahawks secondary on a 75-yard touchdown catch. Now, based on the fact the Niners have nothing to play for – and that Pierre Garcon and Marqise Goodwin are banged up, anyway – they may want to take along their second-round draft pick.
Pettis had 129 yards (his first career 100-yarder) and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, making three scores over the last two games. His 29.7 points led all receivers in PPR for Week 13.
7. Zay Jones, WR, Bills
Ditto for Jones, who’s not a rookie like Pettis, but hasn’t shown much in his second year until recently. He caught four passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins. Josh Allen also looked to Jones on a successful 2-point conversion. More importantly, he saw nine targets, his most since 11 against the Jets Nov. 11. With his 24.7 effort Sunday, he has two 20-point PPR efforts in his last two games. Home games against Jets and Lions position him as a daily fantasy bargain.
8. Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals
The rookie paced his team with 10.6 yards per carry. Edmonds got two red zone touchdown rushes (and had a third reversed on review), much to the consternation of fantasy fans who roster David Johnson.
As I mentioned before, this is the time losing teams test-drive their young talent, though Edmonds likely won’t threaten Johnson’s starter’s share of touches. Coach Steve Wilks is high on him: “I’ve been bragging about Chase all year, going back to training camp. The guy is phenomenal. I think he is a dynamic pro, even at a young age.”
9. Nick Mullens, QB, 49ers
Mullens was overlooked – dropped from some teams – after he blew a golden opportunity against the Buccaneers. But anyone who can tag the Seahawks for 414 and two scores in Seattle shouldn’t be dismissed. Home games against the Broncos and Seahawks (again) don’t seem ideal, even as streaming option like Mullens, but both defenses have ranked in the top 10 in points allowed to quarterbacks in the last four weeks.
10. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions
Since returning to action in Week 9, Riddick has had three double-digit days (PPR format) and no fewer than 8 fantasy points. It helps that both Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones has been on the shelf, especially with Jones out for the season. Even if the Lions activate Johnson, Riddick figures to see a good amount of work against the Cardinals.