We’ve all been there: you get to the fantasy playoffs and injuries hit.
Suddenly, you look down the roster, hoping to field a competitive team. You don’t find anybody you’d hang the season upon, so you get the desperate thought: I wonder if there’s someone worth starting in free agency?
You begin to scour the waiver wire, hoping against hope you’ll find a player everyone overlooked or no one’s heard about. After the second or third browse-through, you realize the talent pool is picked-over. That’s when full “desperation mode” kicks in.
If you’re feeling that now, let me give some options for those in desperation mode. Let me say that I don’t recommend starting any of these guys, unless you are backed into a corner and simpy have no other option. Find someone else, if you can. But if you can’t, start these desperation free agents.
Tim Hightower, RB, New Orleans Saints
Tim Hightower seems like ancient news, but he appears to be the New Orleans Saints’ new starting running back heading into Week 14. Playing against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense with a propensity to give up fantasy points, Hightower is an option for those desperate to add runners for the players (or who had Mark Ingram).
First, Mark Ingram went to the Injured Reserve with a rotator cuff injury, ending his year. Ingram’s shoulder has already been operated on. Next, Tim Hightower appeared to get the bulk of the carries after Ingram had to leave the game on Sunday. Most telling is the fact C.J. Spiller received only 1 carry after Mark Ingram left the game.
For those who didn’t play fantasy football back in 2008 (or who’ve slept since then), Tim Hightower was a 5th Round draft pick for the Arizona Cardinals back in 2008. He’s a 6’0″, 220-pound bruiser out of Richmond who was described coming out of college as a “three yards and a cloud of dust” type runner. He rushed for 399 yards in his rookie season, but did score the winning touchdown for the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game, sending the Cards to the Super Bowl in a thrilling 32-25 victory over the Eagles. In 2009, Hightower rushed for 598 yards and had a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, but an injury sent him to the IR and put his career in some doubt. 2010 proved to be his best year, as he rushed for 736 yards and had a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. Despite that, he was traded to the Washington Redskins for Vonnie Holiday and a 6th rounder in the offseason. Hightower was the Skins’ starting RB for the first 5 games of the 2011 season, but went out for the year with an ACL injury. Still, he was expected to compete for the Skins starting job with Roy Helu in 2012, but was waived by the team due to the emergence of Alfred Morris.
That led to a 4-year hiatus for Tim Hightower. His only football action seemed to be with the Blacktips of the Experimental Football League in 2014. He signed a futures contract with the Saints this offseason, but was cut from the team (twice). After Khiry Robinson went on IR in October, the team resigned Hightower. Now, the 29-year old is the new starting runner for the Saints. Amazing.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints
Those with the roster spots should not give up entirely on CJ Spiller. His inaction on Sunday might have had a purpose. The Saints likely wanted to see what they had in Tim Hightower, so they may have used the gametime to get him some much-needed work to shake off the rust. They know they have in CJ Spiller. That being said, the last month has not gone well for the former Bills running back.
Sean Payton did say this week that he plans on giving CJ Spiller plenty of work. Hightower is going to frighten no one on the defensive side of the ball, so the Saints are going to use Spiller here and there. The biggest drawback for Spiller is his apparent weakness at pass blocking. With an aging quarterback in the pocket, Sean Payton is going to want to protect the franchise. Tim Hightower apparently excels at pass blocking.
In other words, C.J. Spiller is the pass-catching running back whom the team fears to put in the game on passing downs. I would not start Spiller except in case of dire emergencies, but if you are absolutely desperate, he’s a big play back on a good offense playing a mediocre defense — he’ll give you a puncher’s chance.
Seth Roberts, WR, Oakland Raiders
Seth Roberts has 12 catches for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last 3 weeks for the Oakland Raiders. He’s become a nice checkdown receiver as the Raiders’ third option. Without a whole lot of effective tight end play, Seth Roberts has become a nice weapon for Derek Carr.
The trouble with playing Seth Roberts in Week 14 is the Raiders take on the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are the best in the NFL at ruining fantasy stats sheets in 2015. But one thing the Broncos do is force quarterbacks to go to their second, third, and fourth options. When Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree struggle to find daylight, Seth Roberts might get additional production. If Derek Carr has to check down all game, Roberts might improve on his two-week average of 6 targets.
Blake Bell, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Vance McDonald has been ruled out with a concussion in Week 14. Blake Bell is the Niners new-new starting tight end. Bell is an intriguing play for those desperate in Week 14. The Niners play the Cleveland Browns, which is always a good sign. Blaine Gabbert is being talked up by the Bay Area sports media. It’s being suggested he might actually be the future quarterback for the 49ers.
Blake Bell is intriguing, himself. He’s a former college quarterback two years removed from a position change. Blake Bell is a pure athlete with upside and the Niners drafted him in the 3rd round in 2015 to be the eventual replacement for Vernon Davis. And in Week 12, Blake Bell actually collected 68 yards.
How he got those yards is important: 3 catches for 67 yards. One of those catches was a 48-yard reception, which is fairly rare for a tight end. It points out that Blake Bell has speed for a tight end. He added an 8-yard and 11-yard catch, while having a 6-yard reception called back on a penalty. Blake Bell could come out of nowhere with a good game in Week 14.
If you have the option to add Zach Miller (replacing Martellus Bennett) or Luke Willson (replacing Jimmie Graham), I might prefer to add those players. Heck, I might add Will Tye before I add Blake Bell. But if you play in a deep league with most any decent option already swiped, take a chance on Blake Bell.
Jordan Tripp, ILB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Paul Posluszny has been ruled “Out” this week by the Jacksonville Jaguars, due to surgery on a broken hand. Jordan Tripp has been named his replacement. Tripp thus inherits a position which has yielded 20+ fantasy points in most IDP formats the past two weeks. Poz is a tackling machine and Jordan Tripp should be in a prime position to make some tackles against the Indianapolis Colts.
Before you dismiss this option, let me point out two factors. One, Jordan Tripp is fresh and healthy and it’s December. This is a constant mantra of mine, but owners should realize that marginal talents in September become studs in December. Jordan Tripp might have been a step slow back when the season started. After three months of wear-and-tear, the NFL game likely has slowed down for him. These are good situations to prosper. Look at C.J. Anderson last year, and a litany of marginal running backs over the seasons. Get in the game the second half of the season and look like Walter Payton. Get the starting job the next year and look awful. If you want a linebacker who’s done the same, take a look at Christian Jones with the Chicago Bears last December. He looked like Urlacher playing against tired competition and was touted as a breakout candidate in 2015. Once everyone was playing on a more even footing, Christian Jones looked average at best.
Two, Paul Posluszny has seen his better days. He’s still an IDP stud, but one Rotoworld quoted John Oehser, a writer on the Jacksonville Jaguar’s official website, saying on Twitter of Posluszny, “Truthfully, Posluszny might be an addition by subtraction. He’s been one of the worst inside linebackers in the league the past couple years. ‘Poz’ is bereft of playmaking ability and is pretty much a gang tackler. He tackles what he sees. The biggest loss will be his leadership and role as the on-field play-caller.”
Those are harsh words from an official writer for a team. I suspect Rotoworld is quoting someone who posted on Oesher’s Twitter page, instead. Whatever the case, the Poz is past 30 now and isn’t the player he once was. Jordan Tripp should do just fine, if you are in desperate need of help.
Really Desperate Starters in NFL Week 14
If your whole receiving corps is a decimated, or if you have to start a much larger compliment of players, there here are Hail Mary plays in Week 14. Good luck if you have to start these guys.
Marquise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
I feel sorry for you if you have to start Marquise Lee in a playoff game. Filling in for Allen Hurns last week, he collected 1 reception on 4 targets for 17 total yards. That being said, Marquise Lee might be the Jaguars’ starting receiver this weekend and he faces the 29th-ranked Colts pass defense. Blake Bortles is a fantasy factor now, so the Jags Offense is considered powerhouse in the fantasy world. While Allen Robinson is likely to get most of attention (46 fantasy points in my league last week), the Colts are going to watch the game film and triple-team him. Marquise Lee gets single-coverage all day. If this were the sandlot, they’d put the fat kid on him in coverage. And look at Allen Hurns’ numbers before he got hurt and it’s obvious the Jags feature the 2nd receiver in the gameplan, too. I’m not saying you should start Marquise Lee, except in the direst of situations. But he’s likely to be on the waiver wire in 99% of leagues out there.
[Note: Hurns is active and had an 80-yard TD to start the 2nd Half. It’s Allen Robinson who’s missing. He has a big fat 0 through one half of football.]
Brandon LaFell Keshawn Martin, WR, New England Patriots
Ex-Patriots linebacker Teddy Brushci says Brandon LaFell could be on thin ice with the Patriots. LaFell is being relied upon with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski out (Gronk could play this week). He’s had 6 drops and everyone knows Bill Belichick doesn’t like mistakes. Brandon LaFell looked like he had got the dropping inclination fixed, because he hadn’t dropped a ball in 6 games until last week. But he dropped the ball which ended the Patriots’ chances last week.
How does Tom Brady trust the guy? Well, he almost has to, because there is no one else. But if things get bad against the Houston Texans this week, it’s possible the team turns to Keshawn Martin. Martin played for this week’s opponent, the Houston Texans, and he suddenly got some production in Week 13 with 3 catches for 45 yards. Desperate for production, Keshawn Martin is next-up if Brandon LaFell or Danny Amendola falter any. While figuring out Bill Belichick’s next move is like reading the tea leaves, Keshawn Martin could be in a position for a game out of nowhere.
Last Ditch Free Agents in Week 14 Fantasy Playoffs
If you’re searching for last-minute, last-ditch free agents, I feel for you. I’ve been there. I started one season with Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, and Demarco Murray, thinking I had my starting running back situation covered. They got me to the fantasy playoffs, though one after another went to IR.
By the time the second week of the playoffs got there, I was starting Felix Jones. I told myself, “I know Felix Jones is fragile, but surely he can make it through 2 games.”
Nope. One game and he was “Out”. There was nobody to pick up. I ended up starting Sammy Morris in the championship game. It was disgusting to work all year and have it come to that. It didn’t end well for my team that year, but I’m hoping these desperation moves help you move on in the playoffs. Live to win another day. Good luck.