For those still competing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’re here to help you identify the top waiver wire pickups, free agents, and streamers ahead of Week 16. Of course, you could be eliminated by this time next week, but plan ahead like you’re going to emerge victorious. Justin Fields, Jordan Howard, Josh Palmer, and Amon-Ra St. Brown — not to mention every handcuff RB — could all become potentially hot adds on waivers after Week 15, so if you can get them for free now, it could be a big move for late-season value. In most leagues, next week will mark the start of the semifinals, but we’re not only looking for one-week solutions in our Week 16 waiver wire watchlist but also sneaky value for the championship round in Week 17.
The waiver wire is obviously thin at this point, but as injuries mount and concerning matchups arrive, we must prepare for all scenarios. Leading up to Week 15, COVID-19 is running roughshod through NFL locker rooms, so make sure you’re adding depth to your roster, even if you think you’re fully set.
We know not all leagues have enough roster spots to really take advantage of “stashing players,” but for those in deeper leagues (or those who have players on IR or busts worth cutting), our week-ahead watchlist will be useful. We’ve talked all year long about the value of stashing players, but now is probably the time to protect yourself and cut those players who will reasonably have no value in favor of your star RBs’ handcuffs. In two-QB/superflex leagues it might be time to handcuff your quarterback. Additionally, guys Like A.J. Green and Josh Palmer can act as handcuff WRs for DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. With the season coming to an end, it’s perfectly reasonable to “insure” yourself in the case of an injury or COVID situation.
At the very least, it’s good to have a list of names of players to watch on Sunday so you can monitor snap share and targets/touches, and it’s always smart to claim matchup-based streamers at positions like TE or D/ST before there’s competition for them.
Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Watchlist
Reminder: This list was put together in the lead-in to Week 15, looking forward to the players who could be popular waiver-wire targets ahead of Week 16. If you have a roster spot to play with, these are free-agent options you could grab early to beat the waiver buzz.
All these players are below 50-percent ownership on Yahoo unless otherwise specified.
Week 16 Waiver Wire Watchlist: QB
Matt Ryan, Falcons (41 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) vs. DET
Matty Ice obviously hasn’t been consistent, but can you trust him in a matchup with Detroit? While a lot of teams can blow out Detroit without passing, that feels like the only way Atlanta can do it. Detroit can likely keep this somewhat competitive anyway, so Ryan should have plenty of opportunities for touchdowns.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (40) @ NO
New Orleans is a top-10 matchup for QBs, and Tagovailoa has proven he can produce when the matchup is right. Hopefully, his running back stable is completely free of the COVID mess, but with Jaylen Waddle playing well and DeVante Parker getting healthy, Tua should have no issue picking apart the New Orleans secondary.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (30) @ TEN
Tennessee’s secondary has been generous to streamer-level QBs, and since Week 9, Jimmy G has been the QB5. Some might be surprised by that, but it’s not too difficult to believe when you consider the strong offensive weapons he has to work with. The Titans boast a strong run defense, but it has a secondary that can be picked apart in this matchup.
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos (25) vs. LV
Las Vegas once looked like a competent defense, but it now sits as the 11th-worst unit against fantasy QBs. Other quarterbacks have higher ceilings and higher floors, but the matchup makes sense here. However, Bridgewater is probably the last resort among guys in this section.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (24) @ KC
Kansas City’s defense looks very strong right now, but it still ranks as the seventh-worst unit against fantasy QBs. Roethlisberger is top three in the league in passing attempts, so we know he can get it done with volume, as he demonstrated in his 300-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Vikings.
Justin Fields, Bears (21) @ SEA
Fields is showing signs of life with rushing upside and improved passing, so although Seattle isn’t the best matchup on paper, we have to consider him. If he continues to rush for 50-plus yards per game, he’ll have sneaky upside the rest of the way.
Week 16 Waiver Wire Watchlist: RB
Week 16 and 17 matchups listed
J.D. McKissic, Washington (47) @ DAL, vs. PHI
McKissic (concussion) might return in Week 15, but he’ll surely be back for Weeks 16 and 17. He’s tough to fully trust, but in PPR leagues, he can be a desperation play as the satellite back in Washington.
David Johnson, Texans (41); Rex Burkhead (13), Texans vs. LAC, @ SF
We’re still waiting on Johnson and/or Burkhead (groin) to deliver, but both will match up well with the Chargers, who have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to RBs thus far. Don’t sit anyone in the RB2 range for either of these guys, but stash them as potential streamers or emergency RBs for next week.
Ty Johnson (26); Tevin Coleman (25), Jets vs. JAX, @ TB
Michael Carter (ankle) might return to the lineup soon, but this will still be somewhat of a committee, and Johnson or Coleman could have some value. We’re probably not going to have much time to see how this backfield sorts out, but there are some people out there that simply need to roll the dice on a flex option.
Boston Scott (21); Kenneth Gainwell (13); Jordan Howard (8), Eagles vs. NYG, @ WAS
Miles Sanders (ankle) is dealing with lingering injuries, but your guess is as good as ours when it comes to this backfield. Jordan Howard looks to have the most upside in standard leagues, as he’ll probably be the primary red-zone back, but Gainwell or Scott could have some decent value in PPR.
Notable Handcuffs — Jeff Wilson Jr., 49ers (51); Nyheim Hines, Colts (50); Dontrell Hilliard, Titans (47); Devontae Booker (24), Giants; Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (21); Khalil Herbert, Bears (18); D’Ernest Johnson (17); Samaje Perine, Bengals, (15); Carlos Hyde, Jaguars (8); Justin Jackson, Chargers (2)
We’ve seen several guys from this section shoot up in ownership percentage, and any of these guys could be next. Ideally, you want to handcuff your RB heading into the playoffs because it might be tough to acquire your guy’s backup if he suffers an injury. Some of these handcuffs have more upside than others, but all would be thrust into primary back roles in the case of an injury or COVID situation.
Week 16 Waiver Wire Watchlist: WR
Week 16 and 17 matchups listed
DeVante Parker, Dolphins (53) @ NO, @ TEN
If Parker is available in your league, grab him as soon as you read this. He has two matchups remaining against teams that are top-seven matchups for WRs, and since he plays the Jets in Week 15, there’s a good chance he has a nice game and is tougher to acquire heading into next week. There’s rarely a more obvious free agent heading into the postseason. Seriously, get him.
Marvin Jones, (53); Laquon Treadwell, Jaguars (1), Jaguars @ NYJ, vs. NE
Trusting the Jaguars’ offense is sure to cause anxiety, but a matchup with the Jets next week could be a golden spot for either Jones or Treadwell. New England awaits in Week 17, so you’ll be able to drop either one in favor of another streamer heading into that week.
Russell Gage, Falcons (51) vs. DET, @ BUF
Gage should be considered as a PPR flex in almost any matchup since he’s the No. 1 WR in Atlanta, but he’s one of the best streamers possible heading into a matchup with Detroit.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (47) and Allen Lazard (7) vs. CLE, vs. MIN
Both are boom-or-bust plays suited perfectly for the fantasy playoffs. All your matchups in the postseason are presumably going to be against other solid fantasy teams, so why not shoot for the moon? The matchup with Cleveland in Week 16 is OK, but the matchup with Minnesota in Week 17 is as good as it gets for WRs.
A.J. Green, Cardinals (43) vs. IND, @ DAL
As mentioned earlier, Green can serve as a handcuff WR to a banged-up DeAndre Hopkins (leg), and as we saw against the Rams, he can put up 100-plus receiving yards at any point. The Colts are a fine matchup for WRs, but Dallas is a great spot for WR success.
K.J. Osborn, Vikings (41) vs. LAR, @ GB
Osborn doesn’t draw any great matchups in the next two weeks, but if Adam Thielen (ankle) is out, he’ll need to be considered anyway. Kirk Cousins is playing like at least a top-10 QB, so his No. 2 WR can certainly produce, regardless of matchup.
Rashod Bateman, Ravens (39) @ CIN, vs. LAR
Bateman came back to life against the Browns, putting up 100-plus receiving yards, and although his next two matchups aren’t great, he has upside and a decent floor when the Baltimore offense is clicking. You can’t say that about a ton of guys on waivers.
Robby Anderson, Panthers (36) vs. TB, @ NO
Anderson has been one of the biggest busts of the season, but he’s improved since Sam Darnold has been out. Tampa Bay and New Orleans aren’t shy when it comes to letting WRs feast.
Jamison Crowder, Jets (33) vs. JAX, vs. TB
Crowder was outproduced by Braxton Berrios in Week 14, but come on — that’s not going to continue to happen, right? Jacksonville and Tampa Bay present excellent matchups for Crowder, and since he did have a tough game against the Saints, he’ll be easy to acquire.
Kendrick Bourne, Patriots (31) vs. BUF, vs. JAX
Bourne is a WR2 or WR3 on the season depending on league format, so he’s always a solid play. He’ll be an especially attractive streamer in Week 17.
Kadarius Toney, (26); Sterling Shepard (26), @ PHI, vs. CHI
We’re not going to pretend we’re pounding the table for Toney (reserve/COVID) or Shepard anymore, but if Daniel Jones (neck) returns to the lineup, one or both of them should have at least some success. Philly isn’t a great matchup for WRs, but Chicago is.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (25) vs. SF, vs. MIA
If A.J. Brown (chest) comes off IR in Week 16, there’s no need to grab Westbrook-Ikhine. If he doesn’t, you can do worse than the No. 2 WR in a decent offense, especially since it’s tough to think Julio Jones will stay completely healthy. NWI’s Week 17 matchup is especially appealing.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (17); Josh Reynolds (11), Lions @ ATL, vs. SEA
St. Brown and Reynolds have made the Lions’ passing attack look somewhat competent, and a matchup with Atlanta is a perfect time to stream one of them. We prefer St. Brown, but Reynold is an OK option in deeper leagues.
Jaylen Guyton (13); Josh Palmer (2), Chargers @ HOU, vs. DEN
Consider these guys handcuffs of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. They both clearly have upside when thrust into more significant roles, so if you have room on your roster, it wouldn’t hurt to stash either one.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns (13) @ GB, vs. PIT
Jarvis Landry currently sits on the reserve/COVID list, and although he theoretically should be ready to go by Week 16, anything can happen. Either way, DPJ is a decent boom-or-bust option as the loan deep-threat for Baker Mayfield. In Week 17, the Steelers are a juicy matchup.
Gabriel Davis, Bills (9) @ NE, vs, ATL
If Emmanuel Sanders (knee) is sidelined for a few weeks, Davis is a top waiver add. He probably isn’t a great play against New England, he has true WR2 upside against Atlanta in the championship round.
Week 16 Waiver Wire Watchlist: TE
Week 16 matchups listed
Tyler Conklin, Vikings (44) vs. LAR
This isn’t the best matchup for TEs, but it’s a neutral one, and if Adam Thielen (ankle) remains out, Conklin can compete with K.J. Osborn to be Kirk Cousin’s No. 2 target. We’ve seen Conklin produce is tough matchups and bust in favorable ones, so this is more of an opportunity over matchup consideration.
Evan Engram, Giants (32) @ PHI
We’ve basically decided to stop mentioning Engram as a streamer, but since the Eagles’ are the No.1 defense in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, it’s tough to write him off completely in Week 16.
Cole Kmet, Bears (26) @ SEA
Justin Fields is playing much better, and Seattle has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Kmet’s floor is non-existent, we have to consider him since he’s been productive a few times this year.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Washington (17) @ DAL
Hopefully, RSJ will have a nice outing against the Eagles in Week 15 like we think he will and carry in some momentum into a neutral matchup with Dallas.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals (14) vs. BAL
Baltimore is the third-worst defense against fantasy TEs, so we’re on to another week of Uzomah being a high-risk/high-reward streamer. It’s the playoffs — shoot for upside.
James O’Shaughnessy (2) @ NYJ
O’Shaugnessy has drawn 17 targets in the past three weeks, and since Trevor Lawrence obviously loves throwing to tight ends, he might have one of the safest floors among all streamers. The Jets have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to TEs, so surprise your opponent with O’Shaugnessy if you need a TE.
Week 16 defense streamers and sleepers
Week 16 matchups listed
Seattle Seahawks DST (40) vs. CHI
Seattle can be viewed as a boom-or-bust D/ST against Chicago. The boom will happen if Justin Fields has another “rookie” game, but if Fields plays to his upside, Seattle will bust. The options are limited this week, but there probably won’t be a ton of people in the market for a D/ST streamer.
Philadelphia Eagles DST (30) vs. NYG
This is a top option among all D/STs, especially if Daniel Jones (neck) can’t play. Even if he does, the Eagles’ defense has enough talent to make plays and generate sacks against one of the worst offenses in football.
Cincinnati Bengals DST (16) vs. BAL
The Bengals are a fantastic option if Lamar Jackson (ankle) can’t play, but even if he does, the interceptions should keep pouring in. Cincinnati quietly has a great pass rush, and Jackson will be hobbled to some extent.