If you’re reading this, then odds are congratulations are in order. Unless, that is, you are really dedicated to the idea of playing spoiler. As a matter of fact, even then congratulations are in order.
IDP owners still looking to improve their rosters in the second week of December generally fall into two camps. Those who have either already sewn up a playoff berth or who are playing for one this week, and folks who are by-golly determined to prove the old adage that misery loves company by making sure their opponent gets no closer to the postseason than they did.
In either event, well played.
Now, the cold hard truth is that finding game-changers on the waiver wire this late in the season aren’t especially good. In fact, if you’re looking to find a player off the waiver wire you can start this week then either you’re in that second camp or your team is trending in the wrong direction.
However, there are exceptions. Sometimes events conspire to suddenly thrust a lesser-known defender into a prominent role. Maybe a team sees one starter at inside linebacker get suspended and the other tear up his knee, forcing them to roll out a Day 3 rookie as their defensive play-caller.
In situations like that it’s possible to find a late-season diamond in the rough, and it’s just such a nugget that kicks off our Week 14 look at IDP waiver wire recommendations.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Nick Kwiatkoski – ILB, Chicago Bears
The Bears moved up in Round 4 of the 2016 NFL Draft to select Kwiatkoski, and general manager Ryan Pace expressed confidence in the former West Virginia standout’s ability to pick up the slack from Danny Trevathan’s injury and Jerrell Freeman’s suspension. “We had a lot of conviction in him,” Pace told Larry Mayer of the team’s website. “He’s a guy we liked; three-year starter, a team captain, very instinctive, tough hard-nosed player, plays downhill, very productive. He’s a guy that we valued obviously to go up and get him and a guy that we’re real excited to have.”
For one week at least, Kwiatkoski appears to have justified the Bears faith in him, pacing the team with nine solos in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. It’s going to be two more weeks before Freeman is eligible to return to the team, and over those two weeks it isn’t unreasonable to think Kwiatkoski will be the leading tackler for a Bears defense that’s spent a lot of time on the field this season.
WEEK 14 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Sheldon Rankins – DT, New Orleans Saints
Rankins admitted to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that his injury-marred start to the 2016 season was a frustrating way to kick off his NFL career. “For me, I always have high expectations for myself, so just not being able to go out there and achieve those expectations early on was the hardest part,” he said. “I love competing; I love going out there and going against the best. Not being able to go out here and go against top O-linemen like (Kelechi) Osemele from Oakland and (D.J.) Fluker from San Diego, just top guys at their position — that I wasn’t able to compete against those guys — that’s what really bothered me.”
Since making it back into the starting lineup, however, the rookie first-round pick from Louisville has been making up for lost time. Rankins amassed three solos and a sack in Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, his second straight game with a sack. The youngster has shown just the kind of pass-rushing promise that led the Saints to spend an early pick on him, and if your IDP league requires the tackle spot then Rankins is absolutely worth a long look.
Derek Wolfe – DE, Denver Broncos
Wolfe admitted to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post that after last week’s overtime loss to Kansas City, that the Broncos are fresh out of margin for error. “We’re the type of team where we don’t feel pressure, we try to apply it,” he said. “That’s something that we’re going to have to emphasize. … It happened last year. We were in the same type of situation. The margin for error is not there. We can’t be messing up. We can’t be making mistakes.”
In Week 13, I advised sitting Wolfe heading into a bad matchup at Jacksonville. Wolfe didn’t get a sack, but his six solos in a Denver victory isn’t a bad day at the office for a DL2. Over his last two games, Wolfe’s tackle numbers (14 stops, 11 solos) have been very impressive, and IDP owners in a bind on the line could do a lot worse than that sort of high fantasy floor.
Perry Riley – ILB, Oakland Raiders
As ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez wrote, Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton has been impressed by Riley’s ability to make an impact from Day 1 for the Raiders. “Just his work ethic, his passion for the game, his hunger for knowledge in coming here,” Norton said, when asked what impressed him most about Riley. “You can tell that his years of experience have really helped him with the ability to come out here and play right away. You can tell he’s paying attention.”
Riley had certainly helped shore up the Oakland linebackers, but of late his statistical production was nothing to get excited about. That is, until Riley posted 10 total tackles (including eight solos) against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. That’s an appealing stat line heading into Thursday’s big AFC West showdown with Kansas City.
Ramik Wilson – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs
After being let go by the Chiefs earlier this season only to be brought back again, Wilson told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star that he has every intention of making the most of his second stint with the team. “They don’t always come along in the league,” Wilson said. “I was blessed to have this second chance and I have to make the most of it. I’ve made sure I’m physically and mentally ready.”
Both Wilson’s playing time and productivity have increased of late. This isn’t to say Wilson’s a full-time guy – he was on the field for only 40 of a possible 73 snaps in Kansas City’s wild Week 13 win over the Atlanta Falcons. But Wilson crams a lot of tackling into those snaps. Back in Week 11, Wilson piled up eight tackles, and he went that one better against the Falcons. Consider him a poor man’s version of Danny Trevathan circa 2015 – a guy whose per-snap productivity compensated for a lack of playing time.
Isa Abdul-Quddus – S, Miami Dolphins
Stephen White of SB Nation wrote a while back that he was impressed by what he saw from Abdul-Quddus on tape. “Having a well-rounded safety is such a luxury for just about any defense,” he said. “When you don’t have to match up with a nickel back every time a team goes to three wides or against teams with a really good pass-catching tight end, it just makes your defensive coordinator’s job that much easier. You don’t have to worry about being more vulnerable against the run because you had to take a linebacker off the field, and you can still feel comfortable calling all kinds of coverages no matter what kind of formations they come out in.”
It didn’t take long for Abdul-Quddus to go from luxury to necessity for the Dolphins, complements of the season-ending injury suffered by Reshad Jones. After tallying 10 total tackles in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Abdul Quddus now has five or more solos in three of his past four games. He’s also averaging 7.5 stops a game over that same span.
Jahleel Addae – S, San Diego Chargers
As Addae told Ricky Henne of the team’s website, it felt good to be back on the field after missing the better part of two months. “It’s been tough,” Addae said. “I’m the type of guy that plays with energy. I love the game, I love my teammates and the only thing I could do was be a third coach in the secondary. Let the guys know what I’m seeing, pointing out tips and pointers. Being out there today, it’s a blessing and I thank God for allowing me to get back from the injury that I had and being able to contribute to a win.”
In his two games since returning to the lineup, Addae has been making up for lost time. In those two contests, the 26-year-old has piled up 18 total tackles – including eight solos and 10 total stops in San Diego’s Week 13 loss to Tampa Bay. That production puts Addae among the top 15 fantasy defensive backs over that admittedly small stretch, which is more than enough to place his squarely on the IDP radar.