With the Fantasy Football season in the books – or at least it should be – we’ll look back at the top waiver wire pickups of the year. Don’t worry, if you’re insane enough to play in Week 17, I’ll still give you a few options at the end. Just learn your lesson and don’t let Week 17 happen to you again. With four playoffs team locked into their playoffs spot and nothing to play for, owners of Steelers, Giants, Cowboys and Texans have to worry about players resting. Don’t do this to yourself. In any case, on to the top waiver wire players of 2016!
Waiver Wire Honorable Mentions
Dak Prescott, DAL; Marcus Mariota, TEN and Colin Kaepernick, SF – For as great as Prescott was this year, two big letdowns during the important Weeks 13 and 14 knock him down… No one scored more points and only Drew Brees had a higher FPPG mark from Weeks 5-12 than Mariota did. Mariota had 23 touchdowns in that span but then fell apart in Weeks 14-15 before breaking his leg in Week 16… Kaepernick likely saved some seasons, but the benching in Chicago and two mediocre games after had many owners looking elsewhere during their championship game (if they made it) while Kaepernick rebounded with 25.1 points.
Tevin Coleman, ATL; Ty Montgomery, GB; Darren Sproles, PHI; Bilal Powell, NYJ and Seahawks RBs – Coleman was valuable, but predicting when that value came was a fruitless endeavor… Montgomery was terrific, then not, then terrific, then not… Sproles helped quite a bit in PPR leagues… Powell likely helped playoff teams survive, but his value was rarely there or reliable until Week 14 and then disappeared for the championship… Christine Michael, C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls (once so many dropped him that he became a waiver pickup) all had value at some point, but no one lasted more than a few games.
Tyreek Hill, KC; Taylor Gabriel, ATL; Marqise Lee, JAX; Adam Thielen, MIN; Malcolm Mitchell, NE; Robby Anderson, NYJ; J.J. Nelson, ARI; Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin, SD – Hill was a terrific find for the Chiefs and Fantasy owners alike… Gabriel, like Hill, came on late and dropped six double-digit games in the second half of the season… Lee turned into the Jaguars most consistent receiver, especially in PPR leagues… Thielen became the Vikings best receiver and led owners to a title with one of the best games for any receiver this year in Week 16… Mitchell showed great chemistry with Tom Brady when it came to scoring touchdowns… Anderson was Bryce Petty’s favorite option. Too bad his value tied directly to him… Nelson had a few nice games to finish out the season after the numerous Cardinals injuries and the Michael Floyd mess… Both Chargers receivers helped owners at time, but there was zero consistency with them and Benjamin became a disappointment before hitting the waiver wire and providing a few decent games.
Jimmy Graham, SEA and C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU – Despite Graham being a Top 10 tight end that came for free, he misses the overall Top 10 due to too many weeks of subpar performances… Fiedorowicz was a good find but injuries and up-and-down games hurt his value.
Top 10 Waiver Wire Pickups of the Year
10 (tie). Terrelle Pryor, CLE and Tyrell Williams, SD – I’m grouping Pryor and Williams together because they’re all too similar and hard to separate for 10th place. If absolutely forced, I’d give the slight edge to Williams over Pryor, as he had eight weeks of double-digit points to Pryor’s six. On top of that, while both have over 900 yards, Pryor has just four touchdowns to Williams’ seven. The problem with both receivers and what keeps them from ranking higher is their late season collapses. Pryor’s was worse with 0.3, 1.9 and 3.6 over the last three games, but he did almost singlehandedly win weeks earlier in the year. As for Williams, his 6.8 and 2.0 scores before his championship week 12.4 likely left some owners unable to reap the final week reward. The more I write about them, the more I feel as though I’d boot Pryor from the list, but it’s just hard to leave him off with the impact he had for much of the year.
9. Jamison Crowder, WSH – Crowder edges out Pryor and Williams… barely. After all, just as with Pryor, Crowder ghosted us when it mattered most. In fact, it’s likely more owners were hurt by Crowder’s performances than Pryor’s scores due to Pryor’s team and quarterback situation. For that reason, many were already benching Pryor before he could cost owners games. Nevertheless, Crowder turned in a terrific seven-game stretch with at least 8.8 points in each game and an average of 11.9 FPPG, which jumps to 17.2 in PPR with a low score of 13.2. However, Crowder managed just 4.4 in standard and 13.4 in PPR over the last three games, which included a one-catch, three-yard effort in Week 16. Ouch.
8. Spencer Ware, KC – Ware was supposed to be a Top 10 running back in place of Jamaal Charles. That didn’t happen. Ware isn’t even going to crack RB1 status with two names higher up this list ahead of him in less starts, and with Melvin Gordon still 49 points ahead despite being out the last three games (essentially). Ware has just four double-digit scores heading into the final week with five games of eight points or less. Ware turned out to be a decent RB2, but that’s not what owners were expecting. While Ware is a disappointment compared to expectations, the fact that he never left you completely dry with 11 double-digit PPR games put him inside the Top 10.
7. Robert Kelley, WSH – Like Ware, Kelley was good, just not great. The only reason I give Kelley the slight edge is because he outscored Ware a tad over the last three games and had that monster Week 11, which nearly guaranteed a win for his owners. As with Ware again, Kelley had some down games, never anything soul crushing, but was a mid-level RB2 and not quite a season-changer. In PPR leagues, Ware gets the edge for the seventh spot.
6. Michael Thomas, NO – Thomas never had fewer than 40 receiving yards and posted seven double-digit scores, including two games of 19.3 and 22.8 points. Not only is Thomas on the verge of cracking 1,000 receiving yards, but only five receivers have more touchdowns and only teammate Brandin Cooks has more yards for receivers with eight touchdowns. Thomas’ consistency is a big factor in his value, as he was able to help every week. That’s rare for a rookie receiver, and owners were able to scoop up a WR2 early this year and keep Thomas in the lineup each week.
5. Cameron Brate, TB – A tight end? Definitely! Since Week 3, only two tight ends have more Fantasy points than Brate. Since Week 9, only Travis Kelce outscored Brate, and that wasn’t the case until Kelce’s blowup against the Broncos last week. Remember, Brate barely played the first two weeks before the Bucs shipped off Austin Seferian-Jenkins. In a year where we lost Rob Gronkowski, had Jordan Reed miss games, saw Kelce and Greg Olsen only catch four and three touchdowns, respectively, and had Delanie Walker and others take a step back, Brate was a godsend at the position. Brate leads all tight ends with eight touchdowns and has more double-digit scores than Olsen.
4. Davante Adams, GB – This is the Adams owners expected to see last year when they took him in the first five rounds after Jordy Nelson’s injury. Adams clearly worked hard to improve his route running and hands, and it paid dividends. If not for his inconsistency, Adams would have contended for the best pickup of the year. In fact, you could argue for Thomas over Adams due to consistency, and I wouldn’t bat an eye. However, Adams edged Thomas out with one more double-digit game, two of which came in Weeks 14 and 16. As mentioned, the inconsistency hurts Adams, as seen in Week 15 with 2.5 points, but that’s why there is a big jump from Adams to the Top 3 waiver wire pickups of 2016.
3. Jay Ajayi, MIA – If not for the Dolphins failing to commit to their best running back fully (again), Ajayi might have contended for the top spot. After all, how many players can boast three games of 200-plus rushing yards? The answer? None. In fact, there was only one other game where a running back topped 200 rushing yards, and that was by Le’Veon Bell. As mentioned, the problem with Ajayi is his usage. Along with those matchup-changing performances, Ajayi also had five games with fewer than nine Fantasy points, including 6.3 and 5.1 in Weeks 14-15. The Week 16 26.9-point effort won owners titles, but some may not have made it that far thanks to the two prior weeks. Nevertheless, getting a running back with this type of impact and that ranks inside the Top 10 at the position is a gift worth celebrating. Too bad many of those who drafted Ajayi had to drop him early in the year while the Dolphins tried to keep making Arian Foster a thing.
2. Jordan Howard, CHI – While Ajayi had the higher ceiling, Howard came through more frequently and didn’t disappoint late in the season. In fact, Howard rattled off five straight games of 11 or more points to close out the Fantasy season with a 29.7 score in Week 13 and 17.3 in Week 15. Since taking over in Week 4, only five running backs had more Fantasy points than Howard, and it would have been even less if not for John Fox being John Fox in Week 7. As mentioned, those final five games marked the difference between Howard and Ajayi with 16.7 FPPG for Ajayi. Howard became a Top 10 running back and a many owners top running back, as they rode Howard to a title.
1. Matt Ryan, ATL – Apologies to the running backs and receivers, but we simply can’t ignore what Ryan did this year. Not only did owners get a QB1 off the wire, they got a Top 3 quarterback that ranked among the best. Ryan is only behind Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in Fantasy points and FPPG. What’s more important though is that Ryan hit QB1 status in 12 of his 16 games. Only Rodgers matched that number with Ryan having an average rank of 8.7 this year. Rodgers’ average rank was higher at 7.4, but scored less FPPG in his four non-QB1 games than Ryan did (14.4 for Rodgers, Ryan for 15.7). That means even at his worse, Ryan was still better than Rodgers at his worse and better than several quarterbacks in those down weeks (average finish of 17 in those four games). As for Brees, he actually had six non-QB1 games with an average rank of 21 and FPPG of 11.6. Ryan was a true “set it and forget it” quarterback that is not only in the conversation for NFL MVP but Fantasy MVP as well. Fantasy players would expect a running back to be the waiver pickup of the year, but you can’t ignore the season Ryan had.
Week 17 Waiver Wire Pickups
Alex Collins, SEA; Zach Zenner, DET; Alfred Blue, HOU; Jacquizz Rodgers, TB; Mike Gillislee, BUF – There is talk that Thomas Rawls could miss Week 17, which would leave Collins as one of the only running backs left in Seattle, and they face the 49ers!… Zenner looked impressive against the Cowboys on Monday night, and Theo Riddick could sit out again… The Texans are locked into their playoff spot, and Lamar Miller sat out Week 16. Look for Blue to lead the way again… Doug Martin was a surprise healthy scratch last week, but even if Rodgers leads the way again, Charles Sims is in the mix and the Panthers run defense is tough… With the Bills having nothing to play for, the team could rest LeSean McCoy a decent amount or even sit him altogether.
Adam Thielen, MIN; Cameron Meredith, CHI; J.J. Nelson, ARI; Brandon LaFell, CIN; Marqise Lee, JAX – Nothing needs to be said about Thielen after last week, and he’ll be on the other side of the ball of Meredith, who has done quite well when healthy… As mentioned, Nelson has stepped up for the Cardinals… LaFell led the way for the Bengals last week, and the Ravens defense gives up the second most touchdowns to receivers… If you’re in PPR leagues, Lee has been the most consistent Jaguars receiver for some time.