With the first round of Fantasy playoffs beginning this week, my mind traces back to perhaps the greatest Week 14 waiver wire pickup of all time.
It’s 2009. Tiger Woods’ image has just been shot to shreds after his prolific infidelity comes to light, Brett Favre still has QB1 value with an explosive Vikings offense and my team needed a Week 13 win in order to become potential first round fodder with a 7-6 record and a date with an 11-2 top seed. At this point, you can envision my reckless nature is even more intimate with the razor’s edge, which led to an “it can’t hurt” decision to pick up Browns’ running back Jerome Harrison.
Why Harrison? After all, he had just four starts at this point and was coming off a seven-carry, nine-yard outing against the Steelers the week before. However, with Jamal Lewis done for the season, Harrison was set to get the start against a so-so Chiefs run defense. Again, at 7-6, there’s absolutely no risk.
That risk paid off huge in Week 14, as Harrison rushed for 286 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries and the Browns surprised the Chiefs 41-34, an effort that led to my toppling of the number one seed. Lightning struck twice the following week when Harrison followed up with 148 yards and a score in a win over the Raiders, while propelling me to the championship game, where Harrison and Frank Gore did the work to lead the Authors of Anarchy to an improbable league championship.
(Note: My team wasn’t that bad. I had Drew Brees, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch, Hakeem Nicks and LeSean McCoy as key contributors. Harrison just happened to the push the Authors needed to defy the odds and let me ring in 2010 with an unsuspected payday).
Each year at this time, I ponder about which player can come out of nowhere and make a Harrison-like sprint for a Fantasy squad. This season doesn’t present such a player, but there are a handful of players that can be a factor in your postseason success. At this point in the year, the pickings get very, very slim, so peruse very carefully.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins: Why a receiver that leads a playoff contender in receptions is available in nearly 60 percent of polled leagues is beyond me, yet Landry is sitting out there despite having three games of 11 targets in the last four weeks. The rookie from LSU isn’t going to offer much in yardage (he averages a mere 9.1 yards per catch), but he’s a darling in PPR formats, particularly in the last four weeks in which he’s caught 25 passes. Oh, how he’s a must-grab this week, as the Ravens have allowed the most Fantasy points to wide receivers. Landry is a good low-end WR2 and should be strongly considered as a Flex option.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns: Yes, that guy. Cleveland finally got its first extensive taste of Johnny Football last week, and while 63 yards passing isn’t ringing bells, owners are quite excited about the rushing touchdown Manziel scored on his opening drive. Owned in 14 percent of polled leagues; all signs point toward Manziel getting his first start against the Colts on Sunday, making him more intriguing. He has a game-breaking wideout in Josh Gordon and his ability to create plays with his legs is an asset the Indy defense must respect. I’m not suggesting you go out and acquire Manziel for the purposes of starting him immediately, but he does have favorable matchups against the Panthers, Bengals and Ravens the last three weeks of the season. A high-risk, high-reward option, yet it’s not hard to envision Manziel catching fire and playing as a Top-15 caliber Fantasy quarterback. Problem is, you’ll have to wait at least another week since the Browns chose to go with slumping Brian Hoyer versus the Colts.
Stedman Bailey, WR, Rams: Hey, look….the Rams remembered they had Bailey on their roster, and they’ve rewarded him with 18 of his 29 targets in the last three weeks, including six in last week’s glorified scrimmage against the Raiders. Bailey pulled in five passes for 100 yards and appears to be thriving with Shaun Hill under center. The Rams have a Bailey clone in Tavon Austin, yet I like the recent commitment to getting Bailey involved. Owned in two percent of polled leagues, Bailey is a mixed bag at WR3/Flex in the last four weeks; while he gets good matchups against the Redskins and Giants, the Rams will be challenged to move the ball against the Cardinals and Seahawks. Bailey is a poor man’s Kenny Stills, especially for owners who missed out on the Saints deep threat.
Marion Grice, RB, Cardinals: Andre Ellington is on fumes at this point and is so injured that the Cards have kept him out of practice this week. Chances are Ellington will go against the Chiefs, yet Grice is going to be more of a factor. He’s only rushed 11 times for 29 yards and a touchdown, but those numbers will take a steady climb, as the Cardinals will look to reduce Ellington’s work load. Grice was one of the nation’s best all-purpose backs while at Arizona State last season and would be a plus in PPR formats. He’s owned in just one percent of polled leagues, but Ellington owners would be wise to handcuff him for their playoff run. If Ellington doesn’t go, Grice has the makings of a stealth Flex option, especially in deeper leagues. The drawback with Grice is that the Cards could go RBBC with Stephan Taylor and the possibility of Michael Bush. Ugh.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans: Relegated to WR3 status in Tennessee for much of the season, Washington will start opposite Kendall Wright in the wake of Justin Hunter’s spleen injury (just typing that made me wince in pain) that placed him on IR. Washington is still the same, steady yet unspectacular wideout he’s been during his ten years in the league and should now be able to finish 2014 with his seventh straight season of at least 40 catches. The Titans will probably air it out the rest of the way, which makes Washington (owned in six percent of polled leagues) a low-end WR3 option, who has the potential to have that one bust out game that either makes his owner breakdance in the middle of the room or the owner opposing him drop more F-bombs than an NWA album (kids, albums were….oh, what the hell. Go look it up).
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars: I suggested him last week, and he responded with six catches, 75 yards and his first NFL touchdown. He’s caught nine of his 22 receptions over the last two weeks and gets a favorable matchup against a Texans secondary that can be had. Lee is also the type of wideout the Texans have struggled with in recent years (see Hilton, T.Y.) in that he can be lined up in the slot and cause havoc in the middle of the field. With Allen Hurns still banged up, Lee and Cecil Shorts are getting the bulk of attention from the arm of Blake Bortles, which makes him a nice low-end WR3 this week.