It’s the end of the line. Week 16 brings with it the fantasy championship game in the vast majority of IDP leagues. By the end of this week, as families gather around their Christmas Trees, one fortunate soul in each league will be given the most glorious gift of all.
The mantle of champion.
And maybe a trophy. Some cash perhaps. Cash is good. I like cash.
With only two teams and one game left in most leagues, the waiver wire isn’t all that important this week. Odds are if you’ve gotten this far you aren’t picking through the leftovers for a Week 16 starter. However, you-know-what happens, and given the injuries that blew through the NFL in Week 15 it’s possible you’ve been thrust into scramble mode at the worst possible time.
Or, maybe you play in a dynasty IDP league. You’ve already been eliminated from the postseason, but you’re one of those savvy types who are always looking to get better. With things winding down in 2016, maybe you’re sifting through the scrap-heap for a couple of upside plays you hope will lead to bigger and better things in 2017.
We’re going to address both audiences this week by changing things up a tad for the IDP Waiver Wire – two selections at each position. One who can help you now, and one whose fantasy value could extend into next season.
Ezekiel Ansah – DE, Detroit Lions
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell recently insisted to Nate Atkins of MLive that Ansah’s long sack drought wasn’t a detriment to a Lions team fighting for a playoff spot. “I think he’s coming,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Even last (game), I think he really helped us a lot in terms of number of assists out there, even though he might not have gotten a sack. He’s getting closer and closer, he’s harassing them a little bit more, think they can sense his presence.
That coachspeak is all well and good, but here we are in December and until Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants Ansah had failed to record a single sack this season. Not one. However, now that he’s finally broken through you aren’t going to do any better on a shallow IDP league’s waiver wire than a player who entered the season considered a top-five option.
Jadeveon Clowney – DE, Houston Texans
As Greg Rajan of the Houston Chronicle wrote, Clowney thinks he may have played the best game of his career in Sunday’s comeback win over Jacksonville. “None of us panicked (when trailing 20-8),” Clowney said. “The defense knew that we had to go out there and keep making stops and try to create turnovers for the offense. We had a lot of good three-and-outs. (The offense) came out and put some drives together, and we just kept playing defense. I’m feeling great. I’m just trying to fit in where I fit on the defense. The coaches are dialing it up, and I’m just trying to make as many plays as possible. Is that my best, best game? It’s probably up there.”
Clowney has already set career highs in both tackles and sacks, but it’s 2017 where I think Clowney’s IDP value will take off. In Week 15 Clowney played at outside linebacker with Whitney Mercilus out, but for most of the season Clowney has been playing with his hand in the dirt. If that new role brings with a change in positional eligibility in IDP leagues next year, Clowney’s fantasy value will skyrocket.
Demario Davis – ILB, Cleveland Browns
To say that Davis hasn’t exactly been a home-run signing for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 would be an understatement. I had high hopes for Davis entering 2016, but he’s consistently graded as one of the worst inside linebackers in the National Football League per Pro Football Focus. His statistical production has been erratic at best. And over the last month or so Davis’ role has been scaled back to the point he was probably shown the door in many leagues.
However, in Week 15 at least Davis was back in prominent role for a Browns defense that spends a ton of time on the field – the Browns shifted Jamie Collins outside and started Davis inside next to Christian Kirksey. Davis responded with one of his best games of the season, leading the Browns with 10 total tackles (including eight solos). Whether the Browns will use that alignment on Christmas Eve against San Diego I will confess I do not know. But if they do Davis should serve as a decent IDP plug and play.
And Collins’ IDP owners did weep – as the fantasy Grinch has stolen Christmas.
Edwin Jackson – ILB, Indianapolis Colts
As Kevin Bowen of the Colts’ website wrote, Jackson felt he’d be up for the increased role brought about by D’Qwell Jackson’s four-game suspension. “We have to have great communication,” Jackson said. “(D’Qwell) takes authority when he’s on the field and we have to emulate that when we get out there. I’m really going to focus even more in stepping up in that leadership role throughout practice and making sure that everything is kind of the same when he was here in the meeting rooms, making sure that everyone as that same focus throughout the week.”
Jackson hasn’t posted huge numbers over the past couple of games, but he’s been decent – averaging eight total tackles per contest over the last three weeks. More importantly, the rookie linebacker has played well enough to believe that in 2017 it will be a double Jackson dup at inside linebacker for the Colts. That makes Edwin worth a roster stash even if your 2016 campaign has drawn to a close already.
Steven Nelson – CB, Kansas City Chiefs
I’m not generally inclined to include cornerbacks in the IDP waiver wire. But with Jason McCourty of the Tennessee Titans sitting out Week 15 and Janoris Jenkins of the New York Giants suffering an injury that casts his availability for Thursday night’s tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles into doubt, IDP owners in leagues that require the position are suddenly in scramble mode at the worst possible time.
Enter Steven Nelson of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nelson hasn’t been a worldbeater for fantasy owners in 2016, but he’s had his moments – including four starts with seven or more solo stops. Playing opposite Marcus Peters Nelson has been targeted 89 times this season, good for fourth in the NFL. Add in a Week 16 matchup with a Denver team that can’t run the ball a lick right now, and you have the recipe for saving some bacon.
Jaquiski Tartt – S, San Francisco 49ers
When the San Francisco 49ers selected Tartt in the second round of the 2015 draft more than a few eyebrows went up. But general manager Trent Baalke told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that the team knew exactly what it was doing. “Best player on our board at the time,” Baalke said. “I’ve maintained for a long time we’re going to go with the board and he was the best player on the board. It just had everything to do with the quality of player that we thought we were getting at that pick. And it’s never a bad thing to get better at a position you feel you’re good at.”
Tartt will be receiving his mail in this spot at this rate – this marks the third time in as many weeks he’s been featured here. The first was after Eric Reid was lost for the season. The second was after his big Week 14. And the third is because the 49ers are so short on inside linebackers that both safety Antoine Bethea and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks manned the spot in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Bethea isn’t getting any younger, and if the team moves on from him in the offseason that will open up a starting role for Tartt that many expected him to grab in 2016. Eliminated or not, IDP owners in deeper dynasty formats should make room for Tartt on their rosters.