The Must Stash: Week 15
Every Friday I will list 5 players who I think, if things go their way, will wind up in those waiver articles the following Tuesday. You don’t have to stash all of them – it depends on who you have on your roster, the depth of your benches, the scoring system of your league, etc. But these are guys that should at least be on your radar.
Stashing players is only something that can occur in deeper leagues with large benches, so to make this information worthwhile, I will only be recommending guys that are under 20% owned on both Yahoo and ESPN, and in many cases, you’ll see percentages in the single digits. If you’re in a league where guys like Raheem Mostert (67% on Yahoo, 46% on ESPN) or A.J. Brown (49% Yahoo, 55% on ESPN) are on the waiver wire, you’re either in a league too shallow for stashing, or you should go pick those guys up right away.
So, Raheem Mostert. I got that call wrong. I thought Matt Breida would get more work in his first game back from injury and Tevin Coleman would maintain some sort of role in the offense. Nope, it turns out Mostert has passed those guys on the depth chart. I have to give credit to Kyle Shanahan for having the guts to replace Coleman, a free agent acquisition from the summer, and an established guy like Breida with an undrafted free agent who has mostly been a specialty teams player for the last 5 years. Mostert has earned it. He currently leads qualifying running backs with 6.0 yards per carry and a breakaway run rate of 9.8%. Visually he looks more comfortable in the offense and seems to run with more urgency than Coleman and Breida. I still think this could all change at the drop of a hat, but if you have Mostert you should ride this streak as long as you can.
A call I got right last week was the one I made on Patrick Laird. Laird played 82% of the snaps for the Dolphins and delivered 86 scrimmage yards. Myles Gaskin only received 5 touches and the Dolphins released 3rd-string running back Zach Zenner on Wednesday, so we should see Laird as the #1 guy for these last few games. He’s an RB2 in most formats, but could sneak into RB1 territory for PPR leagues because of how he’s used in the passing game. Laird had 4 catches on 5 targets last week and was frequently lining up at receiver in 4 or 5 receiver sets.
On to week 15. As always, I’m trying to find as many running back stashes as I can, but I can’t find as many opportunities this week. I thought Deandre Washington might drop below the 15% ownership threshold, but it appears there are too many Josh Jacobs owners stashing Washington as a handcuff. I’d pick up Washington if I could because I wouldn’t be surprised if Jacobs’s shoulder injury eventually lands him on injured reserve.
Boston Scott, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (4% on Yahoo, 2% on ESPN)
Am I the only one who watched last Monday’s game and came away thinking that Boston Scott looked like the best running back on the Eagles? Miles Sanders had 10 touches for just 36 yards in the first half and the Eagles trailed 17-3. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter, Sanders cramped up and had to exit the game. Scott replaced Sanders and ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, including a 25-yard touchdown on a game-winning drive in overtime. Scott also caught 6 passes for 69 yards. He was the feature back on three touchdown drives, on an offense that had lost Alshon Jeffery and Lane Johnson to injuries earlier in the game. It was a great performance by Scott which is going under the radar due to the focus on the late-game heroics of Carson Wentz and Zack Ertz. It’s also pretty damning of Sanders, who many experts had rated as the top rookie running back in this year’s draft.
I was not the biggest fan of Sanders coming into the year. I didn’t think he was a bust, I was just skeptical of the idea that he’d “take over” the Eagles’ backfield and become an RB1 by the end of the season. I thought he’d be one of two or three guys in a committee and put up RB2 or RB3 numbers, which is more or less how things have played out.
I think the issue with Sanders is that he’s not a very good between-the-tackles runner. He’s not elusive in tight spaces and he gets tackled way too easily. Sanders reminds me a bit of Reggie Bush – a guy who is great in open spaces and tremendously talented in the passing game, to the point where he could probably convert to wide receiver if he wanted, but not as impressive in a traditional running back role. I think the Eagles see this as well. Jordan Howard’s injury is serious enough to warrant placing him on the injured reserve, but they know they don’t have anyone on their roster to replace his production as a runner.
I’m not sure Boston Scott will replace Sanders as the starting running back, but I think this will become more of a 50/50 split. With Jeffery now out for the year and Nelson Agholor also injured, the Eagles are down to rookies and street free agents at wide receiver. You could easily make the case that the three best receivers on the Eagles’ roster right now are Ertz, Sanders, and Dallas Goedert. These last few games are crucial with the Eagles still alive to win the NFC East, so I would not be surprised to see them get creative and use Sanders as a wide receiver, which would allow Scott to play more backfield snaps. Regardless, I think Scott is moving into RB2 territory and has a higher upside for the rest of the year than guys like Adrian Peterson, Benny Snell, and Bo Scarbrough.
Justin Watson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6% on Yahoo, 1% on ESPN)
Mike Evans injured his hamstring in the first quarter of last week’s game against the Colts and will miss the rest of the season, which opens up 23.8% of the targets in a pass-heavy Buccaneers offense. Which player’s targets will increase as a result? Jameis Winston may choose to lean more heavily on Chris Godwin, but his target share can’t get much higher than it already is. O.J Howard could see his role increase, but people have been saying that for almost two years now and it hasn’t happened. Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller are the next men up on the depth chart, but if I had to pick one guy to see the biggest target increase it would be Justin Watson.
I’ve been waiting all year to see Watson get a chance to play, but he’s been mostly benched in favor of Perriman and Miller. Perriman is a freak athlete and has made some big plays this year, but he’s shown in his 3+ NFL seasons that he’s not capable of being more than a 3rd or 4th receiver. Miller has some potential as a slot receiver but will always be limited by his 5’9″, 174-pound frame. Watson, on the other hand, looks the part of a starting NFL receiver.
Watson has some similarities to Andy Isabella. Both guys put up big numbers at small football programs, Watson at the University of Pennsylvania and Isabella at the University of Massachusetts. Both guys were the focal point of their team’s offense by their sophomore season. Both guys ran under 4.5 at the combine and put up SPARK-x scores around 120. Both guys took time adjusting to the NFL and didn’t contribute much in their rookie season (Watson is now in his 2nd year). The only difference is that Watson is 6’2″, 215 pounds, while Isabella is 5’9″, 190 pounds.
Evans got injured at the end of the first quarter that week and Watson hadn’t received a target up until that point. Watson then had 8 targets for 5 receptions and 59 yards over the final 3 quarters. Early reports from the Buccaneers organization are that Watson is expected to be a “starter” in 3 receiver sets, along with Godwin and Perriman. I think it’s possible that Perriman more or less keeps his current role and target share and we see Watson get a chance to audition as a #2 receiver, in which case he could fill Mike Evans’s shoes better than you might think.
Drew Lock, QB, Denver Broncos (6% on yahoo, 3% on ESPN)
Two things that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with this year: the playcalling of Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and the performance of Drew Lock in his first two starts at quarterback. Considering what the Broncos have had to work with, it’s amazing that they’ve been able to put together a league-average offense. Their quarterbacks have been a washed-up Joe Flacco, journeyman backup Brandon Allen, and now the rookie Lock. Their only veteran offensive players have been Flacco, guard Ron O’Leary, and Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded away at the deadline. Scangarello has built his offense around 2nd-year players Phillip Lindsay and Courtland Sutton, both of whom have become stars. He’s developed rookie tight end Noah Fant into a unique weapon that can operate like a traditional tight end but is also a threat to get a jet sweep or screen pass on any given play. He’s also won two games with Lock at the helm, including last week’s 38-24 win over the Texans. Scangarello deserves consideration for the head coaching vacancies that open up this offseason, but he’ll likely get overlooked.
I was skeptical of Lock after his first start against the Chargers. He started out hot with two touchdown passes on his first three drives but failed to move the ball much after that. The Broncos were scoreless in the 2nd half until their final drive in regulation. I thought it might be another example of a well-designed opening script assisting a young QB and then the defense adjusting. Last week, though, Lock was able to move the ball all game. Denver scored on their first 5 drives of the game. They didn’t punt until the 4th quarter. Lock completed passes to 10 different receivers. He’ll likely need to continue to spread the ball around because teams are starting to double-team Courtland Sutton more frequently.
Lock will have a tough test playing on the road against the Chiefs this week, but the following week he’ll get to play the Lions at home. Detroit’s defense has been fading for weeks and now they’re on their 3rd string quarterback. If Lock plays another nice game against the Chiefs this weekend, you might see him ranked as a QB1 for fantasy in week 16.
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (12% on Yahoo, 11% on ESPN)
I’m putting John Ross back on this after a lackluster return to the lineup last week. Ross played 51% of the snaps for the Bengals, the third most among Bengals receivers, and caught two passes for 26 yards. As I said in last week’s article, Ross is the type of boom or bust guy that can win you a matchup on a boom week. Last week was a bust and this week against the Patriots probably will be too, but week 16 against the Dolphins could be something special.
What makes Ross even more intriguing is the fact that the Bengals just put Auden Tate on injured reserve. Tate has started 10 games for Cincinnati this year and commanded an 18.8% target share, so his absence should lead to increased targets for Ross and slot receiver Alex Erickson. Erickson is an interesting stash as well, particularly in deeper PPR leagues, but he’s a low-upside possession receiver. Ross is a weapon that could be deployed in all formats, particularly if you need a week 16 miracle.
Washington Defense (5% on Yahoo, 15% on ESPN)
Normally I wouldn’t bother to recommend stashing a defense, but sometimes its a strategy worth using in the fantasy playoffs. If you’re in a more shallow league and you have one of the top quarterbacks or tight ends, you probably don’t need to bother rostering a backup. You’re going to start your stud QB or TE every week and the waiver wire is probably full of replacement-level options in the event that your starter gets hurt. With defense, everything is matchup-based. I don’t think there’s a single defense in the league I’d start in any matchup. If you’ve already handcuffed all your crucial running backs, you can use that last roster spot on a 2nd or 3rd defense.
I bring this up because many of the top fantasy defenses have difficult week 16 matchups. The 49ers face a suddenly red-hot Rams offense. The Ravens face a Browns team that dropped 40 points on them last year. I’m not sure either defense is enticing in crucial matchups between the Patriots and Bills or the Packers and Vikings.
If you are relying on any of these teams, it might be worth stashing the Washington defense for their week 16 home game against the Giants. Washington’s defense is averaging a mediocre 6.0 fantasy points per game this year, but they’ve been much better in recent weeks. They’re averaging 8.5 points per game since firing Jay Gruden and moving to a more run-heavy approach. They’re averaging 13.0 points per game since they benched Josh Norman three weeks ago, who was getting burned constantly early in the year. Whether its Eli Manning or Daniel Jones starting for New York next week, Washington is a solid option next week. If nothing else, you can pick them up to block your opponent from using them.
That’s it for week 15. Feel free to weigh in and tell me who I missed.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)