As the fantasy playoffs begin in most every league in week 14, priorities of who is added change markedly. Around half of your league is out of it and is either adding only players with future potential in keeper leagues or not adding players at all. Fewer teams overall chasing potential free agent adds makes life easier when it comes to competition but given that quality free agents are fewer and farther between this time of year, you still need to come with a contingency plan if your top guy is picked. Owners lucky enough to have a first-round bye in their playoffs should look ahead to week 15 and get the scoop on any free agents with advantageous matchups before the remainder of the league has the chance to worry about them. For the rest of the teams playing in the playoffs, understand that it’s win or go home. The best team you can field should be your lineup and if a free agent needs to be part of your plan, then spare no expense to ensure their inclusion.
Deone Bucannon (ankle) failed to suit up for the Cardinals in their week 13 matchup against the Rams and as expected, Josh Bynes drew the start in his stead. Bynes scored 8 solo tackles and a pass defensed on 100% usage. AJ Klein led all Saints linebackers in tackles with 5 total and added a sack for a decent output in a win against the Panthers. His running mate Craig Robertson also made for a decent play with 3 total tackles, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery. Klein and Robertson had 100% and 82% usage respectively. The most impactful potential addition you could have made was Paul Poslusnzy. The former LB1 drew 99% usage as Telvin Smith (concussion) failed to start the game against the Colts in week 13. With that increased utilization, Poslusnzy scored the second-most total tackles in the league in week 13 with 14 total (10 solo). He also added 1.5 sacks to boost his fantasy value to the top of almost every fantasy IDP leaderboard regardless of scoring system. His value is sky-high as long as Smith remains out.
Zach Vigil WAS LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Don’t confuse Zach Vigil with younger brother Nick, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. Zach Vigil came into the league as an undrafted free agent with Miami. Now with the Redskins, the senior Vigil finds himself taking significant snaps to backfill the plethora of injuries that have taken hold in the middle of Washington’s defense. Over Washington’s last two games, Vigil has been used at 71% and 78% with the latter game yielding 6 total tackles including one for loss. The Redskins face the Chargers in Los Angeles in week 14. The secondary linebacker against the Chargers has averaged 13 fantasy points per game over their last three games. Vigil isn’t a sexy pickup but he is likely to see action as injuries continue to affect the Redskins’ ILBs.
Danny Trevathan CHI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB1 – LB2
The unfortunate reality of fantasy free agency at this stage of the season is that the majority of impact free agents are players returning from injury rather than an emerging talent. Danny Trevathan is one of those guys. Trevathan was able to return to practice and eventually play in week 13 against the 49ers after a calf injury led to him missing the Bears’ previous three games. The former Bronco wasted no time in making an impact as he scored 11 total tackles (10 solo) in the game on 88% usage. Trevathan is a top 10 LB when healthy and needs to be in your lineup as long as he remains in the Bears’ lineup. The fantasy playoff schedule of the Bengals on the road, Lions on the road and Browns at home isn’t the best schedule admittedly but Trevathan is almost matchup-proof. I’m taking him as a high-end LB2 over that stretch.
Jalen Maybin-Reeves DET LB – 4-3 WLB Value: Dynasty Stash
Another dynasty stash for owners in leagues with future value, Jalen Maybin-Reeves was drafted in the 4th round this year by the Lions. While he isn’t being featured over 1st round rookie MLB Jarrad Davis given his 14.3% usage and 16 total tackles, the opportunity that might present itself next year given the Lions contract situation with their linebackers is certainly worth monitoring. Tahir Whitehead, Nick Bellore and Paul Worrilow are all UFAs after this season which represents potentially 1000 snaps to replace if all of them leave. I saw Maybin-Reeves as a decent coverage LB coming out of Tennessee and as such, I don’t think it’s a stretch to see him take over the WLB position for the Lions if Whitehead leaves for greener pastures.
Sneaky play of the week – Bryce Hager LAR LB
Alec Ogletree had a big game against the Cardinals in week 13 with 1 solo tackles and a pick six but only managed 36% of the snaps as he left the game with what is being described as a hyperextended elbow. 2015 7th round pick Bryce Hager replaced him in the lineup for the remaining 64% of snaps. Hager’s impact was limited with only 1 solo tackle and a pass defensed but it’s worth mentioning that the Cardinals were trying to throw themselves back into the game. With the Eagles visiting Los Angeles in week 14, there’s a chance that an improved running game and fulltime usage translates into a passable game for the former Baylor standout. Watch the injury report to see if Ogletree remains out though.
Defensive linemen plays
Sheldon Richardson had himself a solid day against the Eagles with 4 total tackles and a critical forced fumble of Carson Wentz right at the goal line that likely saved a score. Richardson’s usage was at 61% of the Seahawks’ snaps. The Jaguars sacked Jacoby Brissett four time but surprisingly needed the blitz to get half of those as linebackers made up two of those sacks. Calais Campbell continued to stake his claim as 2017’s DL1 with another 4 solo tackles and a sack. Malik Jackson chipped in with 2 total tackles, a sack and a pass defensed. Yannick Ngakoue (2 solo tackles) and Dante Fowler (no stats) disappointed would-be fantasy owners who expected more in a juicy matchup.
Eric Lee/Deatrich Wise NEP DE – 4-3 DL Value: DL2 – DL3
With Trey Flowers missing week 13 against the Bills with a rib injury, Eric Lee and Deatrich Wise drew heavy usage at 85% and 87% respectively. While Wise’s stat line of 4 total tackles is fairly pedestrian, Lee’s stat line of 4 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed and an interception was enough to get him in the DL1 conversation. Have a look at Lee’s position designation in your league as he is listed as a linebacker in some leagues. Miami, and their 2.2 sacks per week given up, host the Patriots in week 14. While that sack rate doesn’t make for a great matchup versus the majority of the league, both Lee and Wise tackle decently well so their scoring floor is higher than many other options you might have this week.
Will Clarke TBB DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Injuries have really hurt Tampa Bay’s defensive line with Noah Spence on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and Robert Ayers missing the last two games with a concussion. Former Bengal Will Clarke drew 62% usage and turned that into 3 solo tackles, 2 sacks and a pass defensed against the Packers in week 13. Clarke is the most accomplished pass rushers that is healthy for the Buccaneers right now with a career high of 4 sacks last season. Pickings are slim but that describes this time of year. Tampa Bay hosts Detroit in week 14. Detroit is tied for third worst in the NFL with 3.2 sacks given up per game so the matchup isn’t going to be much better.
Defensive back plays
Bradley McDougald proved to be the best option of the week as he scored 13 total tackles and a pass defensed on 100% usage in the Sunday night game against the Eagles. Those 13 total tackles led the NFL in week 13 among defensive backs and tied him for 3rd amongst all IDPs. Sneaky play DeShazor Everett scored well in relief of DeAngelo Hall on the Thursday night game with 6 total tackles and a pass defensed on 97% usage against the Cowboys. I’d hoped for more than the 4 solo tackles that Patrick Chung got against the Bills but I suppose it could have been worse. Finally, Justin Evans was a quality option against the Packers with 6 total tackles and an interception. With TJ Ward out, Chris Conte was primed to step into more snaps but gave way to Keith Tandy enough to ruin the fantasy output of both of them. Conte and Tandy finished with 3 and 5 total tackles on 45% and 55% usage respectively. Patrick Chung scored 4 solo tackles against the Bills on 90% usage. Keep an eye on Patriot safety usage as no Patriot IDP received 100% usage last week.
Quandre Diggs DET S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3 (CB1 – CB2)
With Tavon Wilson out for the remainder of the year needing shoulder surgery, Miles Killebrew was expected to draw significant snaps in replacement. I didn’t recommend him as the Ravens haven’t been the best matchup for opposing safeties. What I didn’t expect was for CB Quandre Diggs to draw the start at strong safety over Killebrew and rack up 5 solo tackles and a pass defensed on 92% usage. The Lions visit Tampa Bay in week 14 and the Buccaneers are affording over 22 fantasy points per game to opposing safeties. Owners in CB-required leagues need to get all over this pickup as Diggs likely hangs onto CB designation for the remainder of the year despite playing at strong safety.
Ricardo Allen ATL S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Ricardo Allen posted a big day for almost no one as the 4th year Purdue man has been very hit and miss for fantasy owners. However, in week 13 against the Minnesota, Allen logged 10 total tackles (8 solo). Despite being the strong safety for Atlanta, Keanu Neal is more of the attacking, in-the-box safety whereas Ricardo Allen makes more plays in the passing game as evidenced by 9 of his 10 tackles coming on pass completions. New Orleans visits Atlanta in week 14 in a critical game for both teams. New Orleans has morphed into more of a short passing game to complement a vastly improved rushing attack. Those short passes might be what allows Allen another opportunity to turn in a quality performance. Minnesota’s passing line in week 13: 25 completions on 30 attempts for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns. New Orleans’ passing line in week 13: 25 completions on 34 attempts for 269 yards and 1 score. Looks pretty similar to me as far as opportunity goes and that stat line afforded 12 total tackles of opportunity for Carolina safeties.
Sneaky play of the week – Desmond King LAC CB
The Chargers 2017 5th round pick out of Iowa, Desmond King has steadily increased in usage recently with 81% usage over his last three weeks and 66% usage over the course of the year. In his last five games, he has 23 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 2 passes defensed and a pick six. Only one of those teams had a top 10 passing attack (Patriots). Washington visits Los Angeles in week 14 and the Redskins are 6th in the NFL incompletions.