This late in the season, the last thing fantasy owners want to be doing as the playoffs get underway is to even think about the waiver wire.
But sometimes the fantasy gods can be cruel – leaving you picking yourself up off the mat right when you should be celebrating a postseason berth.
In just the past week we’ve seen it happen repeatedly at the linebacker position in IDP leagues. Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals missed Week 13 and is out indefinitely after re-aggravating his surgically-repaired ankle (hopefully you followed my advice last week and picked up reserve Josh Bynes, who had a nice game against the Los Angeles Rams in Bucannon’s stead).
In New York, Darrin Lee was a surprise scratch in Week 13 after a reported violation of team rules, leaving the Week 14 playing status of the Jets second-leading tackler in doubt. Ditto for Alec Ogletree of the Rams, who left last week’s win in Arizona with an elbow injury.
Yes, Ogletree told ESPN’s Aiden Gonzalez that he expects to play in Week 14 against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Ogletree’s IDP owners had better have a Plan B at the ready just in case.
That’s one of the themes of this week’s waiver wire adds – Plan B. Unless you’re playing in a shallow IDP league where players like Danny Trevathan of the Chicago Bears (who is back in the lineup after missing several games with a calf injury) are available, the wire is pretty picked over by this late juncture. If you’re sifting through slim pickings looking for a starter, it’s probably because you don’t have a choice.
If Trevathan was dropped by an impatient owner and is somehow available in your league, stop reading this and go get him – NOW.
However, with the fantasy playoffs underway there are also IDP owners searching for options available in shallower formats whose matchup could make them a sneaky-good play in Week 14. I’m not a fan of getting cute in the playoffs, but sometimes if you’re an underdog you have to be willing to go a little nuts.
Desperation as the mother of invention – or something.
So, this week, it’s one of each at each position. Shallow and deep. Yin and yang.
Let’s get down to it.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
L.J. Fort – ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has every confidence that Tyler Matkevich could step up if called on. “I knew Tyler was going to be good,” Shazier said. “You can’t win that award if you’re not a good football player. The last few years, you see how active he is in the passing game and the running game. He’s just a very effective player and always in the right position.”
Well, that time was Monday night against the Bengals. Shazier was carried off the field in Cincinnati with a scary-looking neck injury after appearing to lose the feeling in his legs after making a hit with his head down early in the game. It feels almost callous to talk about it in fantasy terms – that’s how bad it looked. I hope Shazier will be A-OK soon, but there’s next to no chance he’ll be playing Sunday night in Pittsburgh’s big NFC North tilt with the Baltimore Ravens.
Then Matakevich went down in the third quarter with an arm/shoulder injury that also appeared serious – serious enough that he was helped to the locker room with a doctor holding the arm and did not return.
As things stand right now he looks unlikely to play in Week 14 either, leaving little-used third-year pro L.J. Fort as the last man standing next to Vince Williams at inside linebacker heading into a pivotal game (and fantastic fantasy matchup for linebackers).
WEEK 14 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Denico Autry – DE, Oakland Raiders
As Levi Damien reported for SB Nation, Autry’s been on quite the roll of late – a roll that earned the fourth-year pro more playing time in Oakland’s Week 13 win over the New York Giants. “(A) notable detail,” Damien said, “was Denico Autry (39) getting more snaps than Mario Edwards Jr (35). And when you see the numbers Autry has been putting up of late, you can see why. It was Edwards who got out to a great start to the season, but lately Autry has been a holy terror, including getting three sacks in the past two games.”
Over the first 11 weeks of the 2017 season, Autry had one sack. Over his last two games the 27-year-old has three, to go with six total tackles and a pass defensed. Autry has already set a career high in sacks this season, and his next tackle will tie a career-best in that category. That’s the sort of positive momentum deep-league IDP owners should be looking for late in the season.
Jerry Hughes– DE, Buffalo Bills
As has been the case far too often this season, Hughes was shut out of the sack column last week against the Patriots. But before that game Tom Brady admitted (via Robert Quinn of Bills Wire) that Hughes was a player the Pats were keying on in Week 13. “I think he’s got a really good burst off the ball. So, he gets off really well and I think he’s very savvy as a rusher, Brady said. “He’s definitely got a variety of moves. He plays very hard and he’s got a lot of length so he can finish at the quarterback. So, whether he gets an arm in there, strips the ball out, kind of grabs the back of a jersey and can yank you down, I think he does such a good job ultimately making a play on the ball.”
Hughes has been a massive IDP disappointment in 2017 – he was drafted as a high-end DL2 but has only three sacks this season and none since Week 4 – but it’s time to shake off that disappointment and believe in the 29-year-old again. The reason why is simple – this week Hughes and the Bills play host to an Indianapolis Colts team that has given up a staggering 51 sacks in 12 games so far this year.
Bryce Hager – ILB, Los Angeles Rams
Hager told Kristen Lago of the team’s website that he’s been preparing for just the sort of occasion that Ogletree’s injury presented last week. “You kind of prepare every week like you are going to play,” Hager said. “You do that in practice and that translates to the game… I’ve been backing up for a while now so just getting the opportunity to play like that, you have to prepare. That’s been my approach since I got here so getting the opportunity to come here and play and just showing up prepared has been good.”
Granted, Ogletree has insisted that he will be ready for the Rams huge battle with the Eagles on Sunday. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a player has been overly optimistic about his chances of a quick return from injury. Or the fifth. And if Ogletree can’t go the Rams have shown enough faith in Hager as an every-down player that he made the defensive play-calls while Ogletree sat a week ago.