Working the Waiver Wire, Week 14: On the eve of the Johnny Manziel Era

johnny manziel

Yes, it’s likely time for Johnny Manziel to lead an NFL offense.  What can he do for your make-believe one?

PRIORITY WAIVER-WIRE ADDS FOR WEEK 14

QUARTERBACKS

Johnny Manziel, Browns

The era probably began in Sunday’s second half.  For all of the talk about Brian Hoyer’s semi-competence through the season’s first 13 weeks, the fact remains that he’s a backup talent with no on-field upside to speak of.  His inaccuracy hampers the Cleveland offense – which has some very real weapons – and Manziel looks like the much more attractive option for the Browns.  It’s hard to imagine him showing worse precision and decision-making than Hoyer has, so the veteran-to-rookie trade-off shouldn’t be as bumpy as the clichés suggest.  A subpar completion rate and a few ugly turnovers will be nothing new.  And considering the downfield success Hoyer’s weak arm found, it’s fair to expect Johnny Football to connect on some deep balls to Josh Gordon and Taylor Gabriel.

It’s important to bear in mind that Manziel was not merely a solid nor gimmicky college passer; he was a great one.  When you factor in his anticipated rushing production – Manziel ran for 2,169 yards and 30 scores in two years at A&M – you likely have the makings of a legit QB2 off the bat.  Consider the degree to which a typical scoring system favors running QBs: 40 rushing yards is equivalent to 100 passing, and a ground TD equals 1.5 through the air.  So a 175-yard, one-TD dud becomes, in essence, a 275-yard, 2.5-TD line that will score right alongside the Staffords and the Riverses.  My overall forecast?  Think 2013 Geno Smith: dynamically up-and-down, with smatterings of QB1 play and three-INT duds together in the mix.

So how do you approach Manziel from a waiver wire standpoint?  Well, if you’re still competing in your league, you almost certainly have a pretty solid QB foundation already.  But streamers (and Colin Kaepernick survivors) remain in the QB hunt, so for you, Manziel is a priority pickup.  Especially with two burnable secondaries on the docket during the fantasy playoffs.  If you have any interest/need in supplementing your QB play, go ahead and bid 15-18% of your budget.  That may not be enough to reel in Manziel’s name value, and I wouldn’t go much higher; there’s still a very, very low floor here.  Still, potential QB1/2 types come available only once or twice a season, and remember: we’re going for lottery tickets here.  This is the playoffs.  And Jaromir Jagr recognizes the significance of that.

RUNNING BACKS

Andre Williams, Giants

I’m not spilling any more ink on this guy.  But if he was cut loose, scoop him up, as the fragile Rashad Jennings may be sidelined again.  (Even if he’s not, Williams makes for a borderline lottery ticket, as he’s already cut sharply into Jennings’ workload – particularly near the goal line.)  Williams is an interesting developmental talent due to his college productivity, but hasn’t yet shown near the consistency to merit RB2 consideration while splitting reps.  Interested parties should monitor the status of Jennings’ ankle this week: if Jennings is out awhile, you’ll need to spend 18-20% of your cap space on Williams as a solid, if unspectacular RB3 stab.  Otherwise, don’t cough up any waiver resources, but consider him if you’re still holding onto deadweight like Steven Jackson or Ben Tate.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Nah, I’m not interested.  And if you’re doing what you should be at this point – chasing lottery tickets – you’re not either.  Even if we assume Martin is back in the Lead Dog role, it’s important we remember something key about volume: it doesn’t guarantee you anything.  Volume without talent/opportunity doesn’t translate to starting production OR down-the-road potential.  And Martin is simply not a very talented back.  His numbers since his breakout rookie campaign:

 GmsRuRuYdYPCRuTDRecRcYdRcTDFP*
Raw numbers132147073.303231270100.5
Per game16.554.380.231.779.7707.73

* Using a 0.5-PPR scoring system and including fumbles

Yikes.  Now factor in the Bucs’ overall crappiness and difficult schedule, and even Lead Dog Martin just doesn’t look like an asset.  At all.  I mean, when could you use him?  When will the Bucs be able to give him the massive volume he’d need to be fantasy-relevant?  And what’s his ceiling if you ever have to plug him in?  I know you could use help at RB, but you’re not going to get it from just any Joe Schmoe who’s getting 15 carries.  In the playoffs, you don’t need RB4s on your bench; you need potential RB2s.  And I don’t think Martin is it.  Those incredibly hard-up at RB can put in a 10% claim, but Martin is simply not worth blowing a huge chunk – or your waiver priority – over.

Roy Helu, Washington

Standard leaguers, go make a sandwich.  PPR folk, take note: Helu has recorded five double-digit weeks this year, including two (plusa nine-point effort) over his last four games.  With Alfred Morris still a liability in the passing game (a -2.3 rating from Pro Football Focus), Helu is a real part of the Washington offense, on pace for 51 receptions and 45 rushes.  In all leagues, he’s a high-quality handcuff.  In full PPR leagues, Helu is an asset as a boom-or-bust RB3/flex option, and can be had cheaply.  It shouldn’t take more than about 5% of your budget to reel him in.

Robert Turbin, Seahawks

Here’s an interesting handcuff/lotto ticket.  Turbin (and mythical half man, half god, half possible centaur Christine Michael) have no startability whatsoever at the moment, but this situation becomes a league-tilter should Beast Mode go down.  The Seahawks are a definitively run-first team, rooted in ball control and devoid of dynamic weapons in the pass game.  So with or without Lynch, There Will Be Volume for the running backs; I’d imagine the Turbin/Michael combo would see about 75% of the current RB volume.  While Michael is the more gifted and coveted back, Turbin is the far more trusted and versatile option at this point, and I think he’d see 18 touches/game in a Lynch-free backfield down the stretch.  Turbin doesn’t warrant a waiver claim, but owners with bench space should make room for a handcuff who could win you a playoff game in the right scenario.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Stedman Bailey, Rams

I’ve already presented my case for Bailey as the next Johnnie Morton.  He’s athletic and fresh off a monstrously productive West Virginia career spent inside Tavon Austin’s shadow, but beyond Austin’s pedigree.  Bailey’s NFL breakout continued in Sunday’s desecration of the Raiders, and he’s posted a 12-189-1 over the last two weeks.  He projects best as an NFL #2 and your WR3/4 down the stretch; while I like the talent and the opportunity, I’m nervous about his QB situation.  In the fantasy postseason, there are very few WRs you should be starting with QBs like Shaun Hill.  Shaky quarterbacking lowers your WR’s floor regardless of talent and opportunity.  Don’t break the bank on Bailey, but offer up 15-18% of your allowance.  He’s the far preferable WR4 option to someone like James Jones or the benched Rueben Randle.

Charles Johnson, Vikings

You should have already picked him up.  He’s a certified freak who has finally seized not just a roster spot, but the dominant share of an NFL passing game (25.6% of Viking targets over the last three weeks).  It’s a bit concerning that he has yet to see a red zone target; Johnson has a lower floor than most WRs with that much usage and is really more of an upside play than solid WR3 option.  But he needs to be rostered, so bid 15-18% of the FAAB you’ve got left.

Donte Moncrief, Colts

Yes, you want him.  You don’t want to rely on his usage, but you want this lotto ticket as your WR4/5.  Moncrief crushed the washed-up Hakeem Nicks in snaps on Sunday, 28-11, and while that distribution has teetered all year, Moncrief offers infinitely more upside to both the Colts’ and your depth chart.  His big-play blowup may price him out of your range – some inexperienced owner will see the numbers and the QB and bid aggressively – but if you’ve been hoarding your FAAB bucks, go as high as 15-18%.

Marqise Lee, Jaguars

After an underwhelming NFL start riddled with injuries and depth chart tumbles, Lee has usurped Cecil Shorts and paced the Jags with a 9-127-1 line over the last two weeks.  I’m very hot-and-cold on Lee as a prospect; I’m encouraged by his route-running and college productivity, but put off by his injury history and lack of great deep speed.  In any event, he has a tantalizing postseason schedule (vHOU, @BAL, vTEN) and looks like an interesting – though certainly not essential – WR4 stab.  Bid about 8-10% of your budget, and don’t expect much victorious laughter or bitter sobbing.

TIGHT ENDS

Jordan Reed, Washington

If he was cut loose following his injury du jour, go scoop him back up.  Reed surprisingly bounced back quickly from his hamstring ailment and posted a huge line.  That makes him 2/2 with Colt McCoy under center; teamed with the Longhorn legend, he’s caught 16 of 18 targets for 163 yards.  McCoy is likely to close out the season as Washington’s starter, which could make Reed the TE1 we all expected for the stretch run.  Owners without a weekly top-three option are advised to make a play of about 15% for Reed.

DUMPSVILLE, POPULATION: YOU

Which healthy guys are being dropped?  And should they be?

RB Jonas Gray, Patriots – It’s hard to trust any Patriot RBs for anything resembling consistency, and despite his outburst from three weeks ago, Gray is no exception.  He appears to be simply a member of the pecking order, running clearly behind LeGarrette Blount and possibly Brandon Bolden as well.  Barring an injury, you’d never use the guy, so I say dump him.  The floor is ultra-low; he may settle into a groove of about 4-5 carries/game and never break free.

WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers – While his four-game explosion has pretty much ended, and he’s back to situational status with nine targets over the last two games (with a rough 3-34 line), it would be silly to cut bait.  A receiver seeing 4.5 targets per game isn’t exactly bottoming out when he has Bryant’s skillset (four catches of 20+ on 17 catches) and scoring opportunity (seven red zone targets, with double digits in half of his games).  He’s the epitome of boom-or-bust, but certainly not valueless as your WR4/5.

RB Terrance West, Browns – I’d strongly consider ditching West.  Not only has Isaiah Crowell pretty much claimed that backfield as his own, but head coach Mike Pettine unleashed a torrent of public criticism on West this week.

“You can’t be that loose with the football, it’s inexcusable,” Pettine said. “West really changed the whole flow of the game.  It would have been a one-score game, and that’s the frustrating thing.  Close games are going to come down to turnovers. Like I said, the West fumble changed everything. It’s inexcusable.”

Yeesh.  Harsh words for a rookie.  In any event, West looks droppable; he’s seen 42% of RB carries over the last two weeks, a pie likely to shrink a bit  West isn’t untalented, but your playoff roster doesn’t have room for a low-impact, 10-carry backup.

WEEK 14 QUARTERBACK STREAMERS

Andy DaltonThey all throw on the Steelers.  More on Dalton in Thursday’s DFS column.

Eli Manning You may have been burned last week by Eli’s ho-hum, mistake-filled performance in Jacksonville, but the Titans are actually a worse team (and certainly a worse defense) than the Jaguars.  They’re simply a mess, and their long semi-strength this season – defending the pass – has come apart at the seams at the hands of Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Eli strikes me as a high-end QB2 this week, at worst.

Teddy BridgewaterWhile this still isn’t a passing game you want to target, Teddy Throwsevelt & Co. have shown noticeable fantasy improvement over the last two games.  Now armed with a mismatch-making wideout (Charles Johnson) and a true red zone presence (Kyle Rudolph), Bridgewater looks like an acceptable QB2 going forward – and a high-end one this week hosting the talentless Jet secondary.

Lead photo credit: “Johnny Manziel” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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