Nothing is ever easy in fantasy football, and that's what makes it fun. Whether it be injuries, poor matchups or underperformance, it's rare that we can count on starting the same players week-in-and-week-out. Sometimes we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for options in good spots that given week for a desperation play.
Here we will look at five candidates each week, one or two from each of the four fantasy-relevant positions that make good spot starts in their upcoming games. These players are widely available on league waiver wires or sitting on the end of your beach, but whether by newfound opportunity or a good matchup, present sneaky value for the coming week.
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (20.9 percent owned)
We've watched as the Packers defense has slowly begun to crumble further to the ground with each passing week of the regular season. The situation came to a dire head in Week 11 when they fell to Washington on Sunday Night Football. Kirk Cousinsripped apart Green Bay in the middle of the field, attempting 50 percent of his passes there for 291 yards and all three of his touchdowns with a 157.9 passer rating.
The Eagles should be able to exploit Green Bay in a similar fashion as the strength of their aerial weapons lie in the middle of the field. Their exterior pass catchers are in flux at the moment, as it looks like Nelson Agholor may finally be benched for his poor play as an outside receiver. Jordan Matthews should have a favorlable matchup in the slot and offer steady production. Tight end Zach Ertz's usage has ticked up the last three weeks, playing on 82 percent of the team snaps with target totals of eight, seven and 11. Ertz has 187 yards and a score in that span, with 36.4 percent of the yardage and the touchdown coming when he lined up in the slot.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings (31.5 percent owned)
NeverVikings has been a winning strategy when choosing which running backs to deploy. While Matt Asiata is an easy punching bag, the talented Jerick McKinnon hasn't been much help either behind a moribund offensive line. However, he may finally be starting to trend up. Since missing Week 8 with an injury, McKinnon's snap rate has gone up in each of the last three weeks with 38, 49 and 53 percent from Weeks 9 to 11. It wasn't exactly a big game, but at least Week 11 saw him handle 16 carries, his highest total since Week 5.
The Vikings travel to Detroit on Thanksgiving to take on the Lions. On the year Detroit carries the 25th ranked run defense DVOA, and their defense is one of the few that actually performs worse in their own building, at least statistically. Detroit allows 4.4 yards per carry on the fast track of their dome compared to 3.9 on the road.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (10.3 percent owned)
Everyone will think they're the savvy one when they pick up rookie Tyler Boyd off waivers. People often just mistake unknown for upside. The thought goes, "This player is a rookie, I've never seen him before, therefore he has upside," and the fact that Boyd scored a touchdown after Green got hurt will only exacerbate that. Oftentimes that can be a trap. In fact, from a usage standpoint, it is Brandon LaFell, not Boyd who has more upside for fantasy.
In Week 11 when A.J. Green went down, LaFell garnered a 29.6 percent share of Andy Dalton's intended air yards, whereas Boyd owned just a 19 percent share. Boyd collected 93 percent of his yards from the slot this season, which limits the amount of downfield targets he gets. LaFell might not be all that skilled, but we've seen him be productive in the NFL before back in 2014 when he saw a career-high 119 targets. He'll be first in line for that volume the rest of the way, and already out-targeted (nine to eight) and out-snapped (95 to 74 percent) Boyd in Week 11.
LaFell is actually in a prime spot this week against Baltimore. He takes 47 percent of his snaps at right wide receiver, a spot that has given the Ravens trouble all year. On the season, they've allowed 44 receptions, 570 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns to wide receivers lined up on the right side of the field. Only the 49ers have allowed more touchdowns to the position.
Tajae Sharpe (2.1 percent owned) and Kendall Wright (2.8 percent owned), WR, Tennessee Titans
After a painfully slow start to the season Tajae Sharpe is finally starting to come on with 68 yards and a touchdown in back-to-back games. Sharpe has target totals of eight, four and seven the last three weeks. The sledding has been much easier for Sharpe since Rishard Matthews has taken over the No. 1 receiver role, and simultaneously bringing Kendall Wright back into the fold, as he saw 54 percent of the snaps last week. The coverage that duo has seen of late is much more favorable then what Sharpe saw as the top target early in the season.
The Bears have struggled against specific types of receivers the past four weeks. Last week they allowed five catches for 50 yards and a touchdown to rookie slot receiver Sterling Shepard. The week before they gave up five catches for 46 yards to Bucs slot receiver Adam Humphries and a long touchdown to Freddie Martino out of the slot. In the game before the bye they got stung by Stefon Diggs for 76 yards and a score on eight catches, the most of which came from the flanker spot. Lastly, we know Chicago got worked over by Randall Cobb (11-95-TD) and Davante Adams (13-132-2 TDs).
Will Tye, TE, New York Giants (2.6 percent owned)
Since the Giants Week 8 bye Will Tye has played on 76 percent of the team's snaps. Over that span he has target totals of seven, eight and five. His usage is on an upward trend and now the Giants face the Browns in Week 12. Cleveland still far and away leads the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns allowed to the tight end positon.