Chess, not Checkers

Around this time every year, hearts start to beat faster, upper lips begin to perspire, and love is in the air. Well, love – and hate – towards your fantasy football team. One week a player scores 25 fantasy points only to produce a head scratching 4.7-point fantasy performance the following week. The weekly odyssey riding the highs and lows of your team’s performance can be excruciating, but with just a few weeks left in the season, it’s time to buckle down and claim your fantasy football title.

There is one question you probably haven’t thought of yet because your playing checkers instead of chess. In order to reign supreme and have bragging rights in your league for the next nine months, you have to think three, four, and five moves ahead of your opponents. Your opponent is probably worried about who to pick up off the waiver wire to help their team this week. Amateur hour. While they do that, you can pick up Alexander Mattison, not for this week or even next week, but for Week 16 or 17 when the Vikings may be locked into their playoff stop and rest their starters, meaning Mattison will come in and get the carries Dalvin Cook (currently #2 running back in fantasy) otherwise would have gotten.

If you’re not in contention for the postseason because you aren’t a good production evaluator during draft time or you decided to try and look smart by making a dozen trades instead of sticking with your team for a few weeks, this information still matters for you. You can pick up all these players now and play spoiler in your league. You might be on your friends’ naughty list for a while, but who cares, they’ll get over it.

Now, onto the meat and potatoes: Who should you pick up? Here are the top five players you should consider adding off the waiver wire that could play a key role for you in your fantasy playoffs.

  1. Tony Pollard, running back, Dallas Cowboys

Right now, the Dallas Cowboys have plummeted back to earth after a 3-0 start, having lost four of their last six games. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier either with trips to Foxboro, Philadelphia, and Chicago still awaiting, as well as meetings with the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills at Jerry World. Tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East right now, the Cowboys likely will have something to play for in the final week of the season. However, if the team is completely out of the playoff race, Dallas may choose to sit a few starters, with starting running back and recent recipient of the largest running back contract in NFL history Ezekiel Elliot being at the top of that list. If this is the case, look for Pollard, a rookie fourth round pick with a 100-yard rushing game already under his belt, to see some significant touches in the final week or two of the season. Pollard is only rostered in 11.6% of ESPN leagues.

  1. Gus Edwards, running back, Baltimore Ravens

Edwards was the Ravens starting running back late last season when Lamar Jackson took over for an underperforming Joe Flacco. Edwards was seen as a perfect compliment to Jackson; a bigger back that could run it effectively in between the trenches, while Jackson made plays outside the tackles. However, the offseason signing of Mark Ingram reduced Edward’s role dramatically, as he has only seen double-digit carries in one game so far this season, a 59-10 thrashing of the 2-7 Miami Dolphins.

The beauty (and heartbreak) of fantasy football is none of that matters. Each week is a fresh start. Sitting at 7-2, the Ravens are a half-game back in the loss column of the Patriots, whom they beat two weeks ago. While it seems the Ravens have a decent shot at the number one seed in the AFC, their schedule is far more difficult than New England, who has the lowly AFC East to thank for essentially a guaranteed five or six wins every year. With reasonable assumption that the Ravens won’t be able to claim the number one seed from New England, they have a decent chance of having sole possession of the second seed by the final week of the season without any scenario of losing it. Therefore, Baltimore will likely rest many starters to not risk injury, with Ingram likely being one of those players. In this situation, Edwards would almost certainly step in and fill the void, and based on his effectiveness with Jackson last season, would do so admirably. Edwards is available in 95.5% of ESPN leagues.

  1. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens

In the situation outlined above, Jackson would be one of the starters sitting Week 17, meaning backup quarterback Robert Griffin III would be inserted into the starting lineup. Griffin III, also a mobile quarterback who can extend plays with his legs, would fill in the role of Jackson with Edwards in the final week of the season, potentially leading to a similar result that was seen last season with Edwards and Jackson in the backfield together. Baltimore plays their biggest contender for the second seed in the AFC, Houston, this weekend. If the Ravens win that matchup, there is a good chance Griffin III will join Edwards as starters the final week of the season as Baltimore rests some starters for a Super Bowl push. Only rostered in .1% of leagues so far, this is an addition that could pay off handsomely for you, and one you can wait a few more weeks on.

  1. Alexander Mattison, running back, Minnesota Vikings

Mattison is potentially the most intriguing player on this list, and by intriguing, I mean difficult to evaluate from a fantasy football perspective. As the clear number two running back in Minnesota, Mattison actually carries some fantasy value right now, although not trustworthy on a week-to-week basis. In order to preserve starting running back Dalvin Cook, who has had a pair of serious injuries in his young career already, the Vikings often deploy Mattison for entire series in relief of Cook. While this is good news for a backup running back, from a fantasy football perspective, it is risky because Mattison may only get eight-or-10 touches a game, meaning he has to maximize his reps in order to sustain fantasy relevance. The reason Mattison is rated so highly on this list also has to do with his potential to be inserted as the starter in the final week of the season should the Vikings be solidified in their playoff seeding. If Minnesota rests their starters, Mattison should see a ton of volume, and could even be the reason you win, or lose, your fantasy league. Mattison is currently rostered in 21.2% of leagues, so you’ll want to scoop him up now before it’s too late.

  1. Wayne Gallman, running back, New York Giants

Even though the Giants and starting running back Saquon Barkley have publicly stated that they won’t shut down Barkley for the remainder of the season, speculation has grown that they will at some point in the coming weeks. If not by their own doing, fate may play a hand. Barkley appears to be playing with an undisclosed injury, which has clearly hampered his productivity, culminating in a career worst 13 carry, 1-yard rushing performance against the New York Jets last weekend. Having dealt with an injury early in the season that many experts thought could take six-to-eight weeks to recover from, Barkley returned after just three weeks, but has amassed more than 100 scrimmage yards in a game only once since returning. Whether the 2-8 Giants decide to sit Barkley to preserve his health, or he falls victim to injury again later this season, there is a high probability that backup running back Wayne Gallman will be reinserted into the starting lineup sooner than later this season. In the one full game he started in Barkley’s absence, Gallman gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns, and 27.8 points per reception (PPR) fantasy points. This game happened to be against division rival Washington, who the Giants face in Week 16 of the regular season, or what is most people’s first of a two-week championship round in fantasy football to claim league supremacy. Only rostered in 7.2% of ESPN leagues right now, Gallman is a player you won’t want to wait to pick up.

Authored by: Joshua Konecke

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One Comment to “Chess, not Checkers”

  1. thecommvoice says:

    5 Great ideas.

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