Ideally, the NFL would simply turn off injuries at this stage in the season, but they refuse to do it. There’s a very good chance you’ll need to hit the fantasy football waiver wire following another messy Sunday. Each week, we identify a collection of priority fantasy pickups available in a majority of Yahoo leagues and approved for immediate use.
Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs (41% rostered)
Many of us are still reeling from the Isiah Pacheco injury news, which seemed to get worse with every update throughout the week. Here’s hoping Pacheco is back soon, because A) he’s a thrilling runner to watch, B) he’s been fantastically productive this year and C) Kansas City’s upcoming schedule is a gift (at NE, LV, Cin).
In Pacheco’s absence on Sunday, Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the Chiefs backfield in touches (13) and total yards (68) while McKinnon handled the scoring, rushing for a 7-yard TD in the second quarter. For however long Pacheco is sidelined, we can expect the workload split to look a lot like it did against Buffalo: CEH gets most (but not all) of the carries, McKinnon gets most (but not all) of the most valuable touches.
We shouldn’t need to remind you that McKinnon was one of the decisive players in fantasy in 2022 when he closed his season by scoring nine times in his final six games, despite averaging only 10 touches per week. A binge like that is occasionally possible for a player tied to an elite offense. Let’s just note that the 2023 version of KC’s offense is well behind last year’s squad in terms of both scoring (22.9 vs. 29.2 PPG) and total yardage (362.6 vs. 413.6 YPG). It would be a mistake to pretend the environment is exactly the same.
In any case, CEH and McKinnon are likely long gone in competitive leagues full of active managers, but they remain unattached in a significant number of smallish formats. Both deserve aggressive bids, if available.
Recommended FAB, assuming $100 budget: It’s a potential all-in situation at this point in the season. You can’t carry your FAB resources into 2024, people.
Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings (22%)
Minnesota pulled out a weird and horrible pyrrhic victory on Sunday at Las Vegas, benching their quarterback in the process while also losing Justin Jefferson (chest), Alexander Mattison (ankle) and various others to injuries. Not great.
After Mattison’s exit, Chandler predictably dominated carries and backfield snaps for the Vikings. He didn’t have a particularly noisy game, gaining just 42 yards on 15 touches, but he was unchallenged as his team’s featured back. Chandler has flashed his playmaking ability and 4.38 speed in earlier weeks, so we have evidence of his potential. Here’s a taste:
Didn’t end up mattering, but I’m not so sure about this Brian O’Neill holding call that wiped out a touchdown. Maybe there’s a grab. Kind of looks like the DB just runs into him and they both go down.
Also, Ty Chandler is super explosive. pic.twitter.com/j5BBoYPcdG
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) November 13, 2023
Chandler is headed for a significant workload in a favorable matchup on Saturday at Cincinnati if Mattison is out of the mix. The Bengals have allowed 4.7 YPC and 10 rushing scores to opposing backs.
FAB: Again, it’s Week 15 and your team has RB issues. Spend whatever is necessary.
Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals (7%)
Another week, another notable big play from Brown, a fifth-round rookie from Illinois. He got the scoring started for the Bengals on Sunday, turning a simple screen into a 54-yard touchdown:
Chase Brown doing Chase Brown things.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) December 10, 2023
A week ago, Brown rushed for 61 yards on nine carries in his first game back from injured reserve. He was a monster at the collegiate level, gaining 1,883 scrimmage yards for the Illini last season and reaching triple-digits in every game. His explosiveness is pretty clear in the clip above.
Brown ultimately handled 11 touches against Indy, picking up 105 total yards. He isn’t any sort of immediate threat to Joe Mixon, but he’s clearly the next man up in Cincy’s backfield and he’s emerged as a flex-worthy option.
Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders (2%)
White has held little more than a cameo role in the Raiders offense all season, but his services could be needed in Thursday night’s un-hypable matchup with the Chargers. Josh Jacobs sustained a quad injury in Sunday’s loss and, given the quick turnaround, we should probably plan for his absence. White has been a preseason hero in the past, but regular season production has eluded him. The Raiders may need to feed the former Georgia star this week against a middle-of-the-pack run defense, so he belongs in your plans if you have backfield issues.
Additional RBs on the wire
Rico Dowdle handled double-digit carries for the second time this season on Sunday night, plus he vultured a short touchdown. Tony Pollard has been unspectacularly useful over the past month, but Dowdle has definitely become a nuisance.
It’s truly a spin-the-wheel situation in Chicago’s backfield these days. On Sunday, the arrow landed on D’Onta Foreman and he delivered 72 scoreless yards on 13 touches. We can’t guarantee that Roschon Johnson or Khalil Herbert won’t reemerge this week in a challenging matchup at Cleveland.
Chris Rodriguez Jr. should have a meaningful role behind Antonio Gibson in the week ahead if Brian Robinson Jr. (hamstring) remains unavailable.
Wide receivers and tight ends
Odell Beckham Jr., Baltimore Ravens (42%)
OBJ saw a season-high 10 targets against the Rams on Sunday, converting them into 97 receiving yards, with a long score included:
ODELL BECKHAM JR. 🔥
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 10, 2023
Beckham has reached the end zone in three of his last five games and he gives us a notable highlight each week. When healthy, he’s clearly still a dangerous weapon. The Ravens are about to face a Jaguars defense that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers (and was just cooked by Joe Flacco), so OBJ is highly playable in Week 15.
Curtis Samuel, Washington Commanders (35%)
Samuel has 13 receptions for 165 yards over his last two games and his team is as pass-heavy as it gets. Washington has a series of challenging matchups upcoming, but volume definitely won’t be an issue. Sam Howell currently leads the NFL in both pass attempts and completions (and interceptions), as this team’s defense offers little resistance. Samuel is as healthy as he’s been all year and the recent results are certainly promising. He’s caught at least four balls in eight different games this season, so he offers a decent floor.
Other priority WRs and TEs
Noah Brown has been shut out in consecutive games after returning from injury, which is clearly sub-optimal. That’s why he’s down here in the bulleted also-rans. If C.J. Stroud can clear the concussion protocol ahead of Sunday’s matchup at Tennessee, Brown deserves consideration. Nico Collins checked out with a calf injury in Sunday’s loss (not his first this year) and was unable to return. Without Collins and Tank Dell, this team desperately needs Brown, Robert Woods and/or John Metchie III to produce.
Jalin Hyatt delivered the first 100-yard performance of his pro career ahead of last week’s bye and it’s been clear all season that he’s a potential big-play machine. When we reach Week 16, he gets to face the Eagles’ leaky pass defense, an obvious blow-up spot for the rookie.
Hunter Henry is the member of the Patriots receiving corps most likely to haul in a touchdown catch in any given week. Do whatever feels right with this information.
Zay Jones didn’t produce a particularly helpful fantasy line on Sunday (5-29-0), but he did see 14 targets from a hobbled Trevor Lawrence. With Christian Kirk on IR with a groin injury, Jones and rookie Parker Washington are likely to see plenty of volume.
Demarcus Robinson caught three of Matthew Stafford’s passes on Sunday, finishing with 46 yards and one score. He was targeted a whopping 10 times against the Ravens, a promising sign. The Rams have a layup matchup ahead against the Commanders, which keeps every healthy member of LA’s receiving corps on the fantasy radar.
Dawson Knox returned from IR for Buffalo, catching all three of his targets on Sunday for 36 yards. He’s obviously a Josh Allen favorite and a good bet to make at least one house call (and possibly more) before the fantasy playoffs conclude.
Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals (28%)
One week after mercilessly carving up Jacksonville’s defense, Browning passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, adding a 1-yard goal-line plunge. He’s delivered five combined TDs over the past two weeks while completing 82.0% of his attempts and generally looking like a competent NFL starter. He’s obviously surrounded by upper-tier receiving weapons with elite yards-after-catch ability, so he doesn’t need to be flawless in order to produce useful fantasy totals.
Browning gave us a brief injury scare on Sunday, but it turned out to be merely cramping in his hand/thumb. Crisis averted. If you find yourself in the QB wilderness, he’s a recommended play against Minnesota.
Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons (10%)
It’s never not a wild ride with Ridder, but his biggest games have been week-winners in fantasy. On Sunday, he filled the boxscore with 347 passing yards, one TD through the air and another on the ground, one interception, two fumbles and assorted other nuggets, both good and bad. It was a journey. In the end, he’s gonna finish near the top of the Week 14 scoring leaderboard.
The idea of starting Ridder in a can’t-lose week is somewhat terrifying, but, for what it’s worth, Atlanta’s upcoming schedule is plenty appealing (at Car, Ind, at Chi). We should also mention that he has freakishly skilled playmakers at his disposal.
Additional QB approved for use
Joe Flacco has been named Cleveland’s rest-of-season starter after yet another impressive game on Sunday. He’s passed for 565 yards and five scores over the past two weeks and he has a pair of friendly matchups ahead against Chicago and Houston.
Zach Wilson played as well as anyone could have possibly expected in his return to the starting role for New York, passing for a season-high 301 yards and two scores. He’s back on the superflex radar with matchups on deck against Miami and Washington.
Los Angeles Rams (17%)
Aaron Donald and friends face the Commanders, Saints and Giants over the next three weeks, which should yield a healthy number of sacks and takeaways. It’s as friendly a late-season stretch of opponents as you’re likely to find among the widely available D/STs. The Rams are also one of the few add-and-hold options currently on the wire, a defense you can trust for the remainder of your fantasy season. If you’ve been streaming, that grueling habit ends this week.