What does it take to be successful in fantasy football? Back in August, I would have told you that making a few significant draft day blunders all but eliminates you from playoff contention even before the season begins. Waiver wire pickups might help a little, but ultimately it’s all about your star players staying healthy and performing at the level you expect them to perform.
I’m starting to change my tune now. I drafted Roddy White in two leagues this year, and even though he’s given me next to nothing, I’ve survived, thanks to Eric Decker, whom I grabbed off the wire following his Week 1 dud (yeah, his former owner was a little too impatient) and Jordy Nelson, whom I drafted in the other league for a mere five bucks but is giving me top-10 WR type production. But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s focus solely on the waiver wire, using NAIFFL, the league that I compete in with fellow Mastersballers Lawr, Todd and Rob, as the model. It’s a 12-team league with 16-man rosters. Could I possibly construct a team comprised entirely of undrafted players that would, at this late stage of the fantasy regular season, still be in the playoff picture? Of course. I’ve also included positional rank in terms of total points scored.
QB Ryan Tannehill (QB Rank: 14)
A popular bargain QB2 choice heading into the season, Tannehill has averaged 245 passing yards per game with 13 touchdowns in nine contests. Nothing spectacular, but certainly good enough numbers for a QB2. And if you opted to go really cheap at the position, could you get by with Tannehill as your starter? Maybe.
RB Andre Ellington (RB Rank: 20)
The explosive rookie is averaging more than seven yards per carry yet only has 54 carries through nine games and continues to split time with a washed up Rashard Mendenhall? What? Maybe head coach Bruce Arians will finally see the light and hand Ellington the feature back role, but judging from his recent remark that the 13 touches Ellington received in Week 11 were “plenty”, don’t count on it.
RB Donald Brown (RB Rank: 29)
Trent Richardson’s struggles have kept Brown relevant, and he’s certainly making the most of the opportunity. Coming off his best performance of the year (14 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Titans on Thursday night), Brown is firmly on the Flex radar.
WR Riley Cooper (WR Rank: 17)
Yeah, he’s been a boom or bust play this year, which makes it hard to trust him on a consistent basis, but it’s been boom more often than not of late. The bottom line is that Nick Foles loves to throw the ball to Cooper, which in turn has Cooper owners loving Nick Foles.
WR Terrance Williams (WR Rank: 22)
While Williams has found the end-zone in five of his last six games, the catches just haven’t been there. Starting Williams means banking on a TD, and I’m not really into that.
WR Marvin Jones (WR Rank: 23)
One game was all it took for Jones to catapult into the #23 spot among wideouts. It was a pretty good game. But owners who shelled out a boatload of FAAB bucks for Jones following that pretty good game have to be a bit disappointed now. One catch for two yards last week? Come on!
FLEX: Keenan Allen (WR Rank: 29)
My colleague Ryan Carey was all over Allen from the get-go, and I’m glad I took his advice and immediately added the rookie wide receiver to one of my keeper league squads. Allen faces a tough Dolphins pass defense this week, but at this point he’s someone you need to start regardless of the matchup.
TE Julius Thomas (TE Rank: 2)
Without question the best waiver wire pickup of the season, Thomas burst onto the scene in Week 1 (5 REC, 110 YDS, 2 TD) and he’s never looked back. The Denver tight end is on pace to finish the season with 75 catches for 972 yards and 16 touchdowns. He trails only Jimmy Graham in total points among tight ends.
K Steven Hauschka (K Rank: 1)
Example # 988 proving why the kicker position is a total crapshoot. Draft your kicker in the last round. It’s as simple as that.
DEF Chiefs (DEF Rank: 1)
Example #126 proving why you should wait on drafting your defense. The Kansas City D has allowed an average of 12.33 points per game and leads the NFL in both sacks and fumble recoveries.