Week 14 tends to be a heartbreaker for teams. Guys that you’ve banked on all year to carry you to the dance up and abandon you when you need them most. Be it injury, weather affecting the game or simply a rough outing, there were many sets of horns to be distributed this past week. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Melvin Gordon left fantasy owners high and dry for various reasons in week 14 and on the IDP side, Lawrence Timmons, Derrick Johnson and Rodney McLeod were very conspicuous in there lack of production that fantasy owners have come to expect. Regardless of let-downs, the hope is that you survived week 14 and are hungry to keep your season alive in week 15. For those who joined the sidelines waiting for next year, I’ll do my best to provide some value in the form of keepers for next year where it presents itself.
Nick Kwiatkoski remained a quality option for those who started him again last week. His 8 total tackles and 1 sack performance against the Lions was one of the better performances to be had. Lions LBs Josh Bynes (5 solo tackles, 1 assist and 1 PD) and Tahir Whitehead (5 solo tackles, 1 assist) both had solid outings despite a return of DeAndre Levy (3 solo tackles, 1 assist) to the Lions lineup. The Lions LB situation may be in flux as they figure out snap counts going into the playoffs. Nick Bellore had a decent day (5 solo tackles, 1 assist) but was overshadowed by the wildly unpredictable Gerald Hodges who continued his hot and cold ways with 9 total tackles and a sack against the Jets in overtime. Sneaky play Corey Nelson became the fourth LB recommendation to score 5 solo tackles and an assist with a good outing against the Titans. Keenan Robinson chipped in with 7 total tackles but only 2 of those tackles were solo. Running mate Jonathan Casillas logged 5 total tackles and a sack of Dak Prescott in a Giants wins over the Cowboys in Sunday night football.
Ramik Wilson KCC LB – ILB 3-4
Ramik Wilson has had a bit of a tumultuous year. A 2015 4th round pick of the Chiefs, Wilson was cut prior to the start of his sophomore year and resigned to the Chiefs practice squad. Wilson was getting some quality snaps towards the end of last year but his spot on the team looked to be usurped by undrafted free agent Justin March. With March going onto injured reserve with a hand injury prior to week 7, the door was open for Wilson’s return to the starting lineup. Wilson received part-time snaps ranging from 25 to 95% depending on the situation and always taking a back seat to every-down LB Derrick Johnson. Wilson’s value went from spot start to potential LB2 with the news that Derrick Johnson’s season is over with a ruptured Achilles tendon on his left foot. Johnson ruptured the tendon on his right foot two year earlier. The Chiefs aren’t the juggernaut defense that they’ve put on display with Johnson out of the lineup. Wilson, who took the green dot snaps as playcaller of the defense after Johnson went down early in week 14 against the Oakland Raiders, is likely the only player of value but deep leaguers or dynasty leagues might want to pay attention to the fact that Derrick Johnson is currently 34 years old and needs to rehab a major injury suffered in December. He currently has two years left on his deal after signing a three year extension effective at the start of this season. The dead money for 2017 is $6.5 million which likely means that Johnson won’t be cut but it’s certainly questionable whether he will be able to be ready to go for the start of next year with an Achilles tendon having a timeframe of 9-12 months to heal up completely from. What we may see over the next few weeks is not only a battle for 2016 snaps, but also who will get the first crack at 2017 snaps as well. Andy Reid has stated that Justin March (broken hand) could return from IR but doing so would preclude Jamaal Charles from doing so. Josh Mauga will not return from IR (torn labrum). March was deemed worthy of the Chiefs starting job from week 1 and might threaten Wilson from his current perch if activated. Also slated to play a part-time role that Wilson was previously playing is DJ Alexander, another 2015 Chiefs draft pick, who has logged 12 total tackles in sparse snaps and special teams duty. Long story short, Ramik Wilson is a virtual lock for every down LB duty for the Chiefs unless the Chiefs make a change personnel-wise and he and a handful of other Chiefs LBs carry some potential to do so as well next year if Derrick Johnson is unable to return to the lineup to start 2017.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3; plus Keeper value
Edwin Jackson/Antonio Morrison IND LB – ILB 3-4
Edwin Jackson has appeared on this list before but not in terms of an every down LB for the Colts. Starting the year as a special teamer, the sophomore undrafted free agent has steadily increased his playing time after week 7 where he saw his first time on defense. With every-down starter D’Qwell Jackson out of the lineup for the remainder of 2016 with a PED suspension, Edwin Jackson is primed to make the most of his promotion to every-down status. Over his last six games, Edwin Jackson has averaged 6.5 tackles per game and has added 2 sacks including a 10 total tackle performance against the Texans in week 14. The Vikings in Minnesota aren’t the greatest matchup in week 15 but Paul Poslusnzy posted 10 total tackles against them in week 14 so potential is there. Deeper leagues might look to 2016 4th round pick Antonio Morrison to get a few more snaps as Edwin is pushed into every-down territory. the rookie out of Florida chipped in with 9 total tackles on XX% of snaps in week 14. He remains a riskier option this year with part-time duty but possesses a bit more upside for the future. Similar to Derrick Johnson, it is worth mentioning that D’Qwell Jackson will be 34 in the first month of the 2017 season and only has one year remaining on his deal. The final year has a very small sum of dead money in $250,000 which makes D’Qwell Jackson cuttable for the Colts should they opt to do so. Both Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison possess 2017 value if this were to happen.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3; plus Keeper value
Stephone Anthony NOS LB – MLB 4-3
Stephone Anthony is a bit of a sore spot for dynasty fantasy leaguers. The 2015 first round pick logged 111 total tackles, 6 splash plays to go with a defensive touchdown and a league’s first defensive two-point conversion. He was a solid LB2 on a team that had a bad defense which yielded even more tackle opportunity. Unfortunately, as many bad defenses tend to do, things changed in New Orleans. Anthony was moved to the strong-side, a position rarely used by the newly installed New Orleans defense and James Laurinaitis was brought in to man the middle; an experiement that failed miserably. Former Cleveland Brown Craig Robertson replaced Laurinaitis mid-way through the year and did fairly well doing so but was unable to start in week 14 with a shoulder problem, giving way to Anthony in the middle once again. The sophomore LB logged a team high 9 total tackles (7 solo) in a loss to the Buccaneers. Robertson declared myself good after week 13 where he suffered the injury and failed to practice at all prior to week 14’s contest. Anthony is likely only an option if Robertson is once again unable to go. The Saints travel to Arizona for week 15 in a juicy matchup for would-be Saints LB owners. One final point on Anthony, while I think that simply being a second year guy gives Anthony some keeper value, his path of significant playing time has many bumps in the road. It wouldn’t surprise if Anthony’s long-term value doesn’t come back until after he leaves the Saints.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Mike Hull MIA LB – News about Kiko Alonso’s surgery to repair a broken thumb was a big deal on Tuesday last week but it was likely his hamstring that was the major factor behind being declared out on Saturday, leading to the first start of undrafted free agent Mike Hull’s career. A sophomore LB from Penn State, Mike Hull played remarkably well in a messy game against the Cardinals in week 14 logging 8 total tackles and nabbing an interception. Alonso is on the last year of his rookie deal and likely won’t want to risk major injury playing hurt and while the Dolphins are in the mix for a wildcard spot at 8-5, they have likely lost their quarterback for the year with a major knee injury. They may not push for Alonso to play until he is ready. Watch the injury report to see if Alonso plays. If he doesn’t expect Hull to sneak into the lineup again for the injury-depleted Dolphins against the Jets in week 15.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Akiem Hicks posted another quality outing in week 14 against the Lions with 6 total tackles (4 solo), 1 PD and a sack. The Packers in week 15 isn’t the greatest matchup but maybe a hobbled Aaron Rodgers presents an easier sack opportunity than he would otherwise. Hicks’ game put him among the top 6 DEs in balanced leagues. Muhammad Wilkerson failed to score a sack in week 14 against the San Francisco but he managed to score 4 solo tackles to salvage a decent fantasy day. Leonard Williams scored 2 assists and a half sack but left fantasy owners wanting a bit given the matchup. The Broncos ends I recommended struggled to make much impact against a Titans team very committed to the run. Derek Wolfe’s 3 total tackles wasn’t awful but failed to meet expectations.
Romeo Okwara NYG DE – DE 4-3
With Jason Pierre-Paul likely done for the regular season with a sports hernia, the Giants turned to undrafted free agent Romeo Okwara to rush the passer opposite Olivier Vernon. I didn’t expect the Giants to give Okwara 91% of the defensive snaps and the former Notre Dame end responded with 8 total tackles (3 solo), 1 PD and a sack. The Lions visit the Giants in week 15 and they are a decent matchup for a defensive end. It is a small smaple set for sure but if the rookie continues to impress, he might be a great cheap pickup for a defensive lineman down the stretch. With JPP’s future with the Giants up in the air after this season, Okwara has some future value also. The New York Giants have a long history of quality IPD production from the defensive line and Okwara might be the next in line.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Mid DL3
Mario Addison CAR DE – DE 4-3
Mario Addison was on a tear in week 9 through 11 with 5 sacks and 2 splash plays. Then unfortunately, he went down with a foot injury. After missing two weeks, the six year veteran returned to the lineup in week 14 after a Friday practice. Against the Chargers, he returned to his previous ways with a sack for a safety of Philip Rivers. The Panthers visit the Redskins in week 15. The Redskins have allowed a pair of sacks in each of their last two games. Depending on which defense hits the field in week 15, Addison has as good of a shot as any to add a sack.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL2
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Benson Mayowa DAL DE – Mayowa’s recommendation comes instead of the sneaky play this week. Mayowa isn’t sneaky given his last two weeks of production nor the team he plays for. Dallas has long needed a dominant pass rusher and while I’m not sure if Mayowa is that guy, he is doing his best to fill that role. The former Raider is coming off of two straight weeks with a sack and Sunday night showed up that he can pile up some tackles where he logged 6 total tackles (5 solo). The Bucs and Lions in weeks 15 and 16 respectively face the Cowboys and I like both matchups. Give him a look if you are struggling at defensive line.
Defensive Back Plays
Keith Tandy led the way among defensive back recommendations with 9 total tackles (8 solo), 3 PDs and an interception against the Saints. Bradley McDougald also had a decent game with 5 total tackles (4 solo) and a PD. Michael Griffin didn’t play as Kurt Coleman drew back into the lineup. Coleman logged 8 total tackles (4 solo), 3 PDs and an interception. Steve Terrell scored 3 solo tackles in a mess of a game against the Packers. Sneaky play Ladarius Webb scored 7 total tackles (5 solo) but took a back seat to Eric Weddle.
Roman Harper NOS S – SS 4-3
Roman Harper is into his second stint with the Saints but into his first stint as a reserve safety. With Kenny Vaccaro serving a PED suspension for the remainder of the regular season, Roman Harper figures to draw into starter’s snaps as part of the Saints three safety defense. Harper scored 8 total tackles (7 solo) against the Buccaneers in week 14 and with the Cardinals and those same Buccaneers on deck for the Saints in weeks 15 and 16 respectively, I like Roman Harper to continue to score tackles in the fantasy playoffs. Odds are that Harper is unowned in alomst every format as well.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Anthony Harris MIN S – FS 4-3
All-Pro Harrison Smith is unlikely to play again in the regular season with a high ankle sprain. Anthony Harris, in his sophomore NFL season out of Virginia, drew into the lineup for the Vikings and he logged 7 solo tackles against the Jaguars. The Vikings host the Colts in week 15 and visit the Packers in week 16. Those are among the best matchups for opposing safeties in the NFL and I like Harris to pile up a few tackles in those games.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3
Jaquiski Tartt SFO S – FS 3-4
Jaquiski Tartt drew into starter’s snaps in week 13 with a season ending biceps injury to Eric Reid opening up a spot. Against the Bears in a messy game, Tartt only logged 4 total tackles but against the Jets, Tartt posted a monstrous 12 total tackles (10 solo) and a sack. A second round pick in 2015 out of Samford, Tartt has been known as a hitter in his college career rather than a cover guy and that showed in his play in his rookie season covering for Antoine Bethea where he logged 65 total tackles. The 49ers visit the Falcons in week 15 which could be a great matchup for Tartt.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Nate Allen OAK S – Rookie Karl Joseph has been a great option for both fantasy defense as well as the Raiders defense but he was unable to make his start against the Chiefs on Thursday night football with a toe injury suffered in week 13. With reports that Joseph was still in a walking boot, he may not make his start in week 15 against the Chargers. Nate Allen drew into the lineup against the Chiefs and scored 8 total tackles (6 solo) along with 3 more special teams tackles. The Chargers are a good matchup for any opposing fantasy safety. Check the injury report to see if Joseph is still out and if he is, Allen is a good sneaky play.