Bjorn Yang-Vaernet examines which players on the waiver wire are worth prioritizing for Week 14 and highlights others to preemptively stash.
Week 13 was brutal for injuries. The following list captures just a few of the starters who went down with injuries and did not return:
- Trevor Lawrence (ankle)
- Kenny Pickett (ankle)
- Derek Carr (concussion/shoulder)
- Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle)
- Brian Robinson (hamstring)
- Derrick Henry (concussion)
- Tank Dell (ankle)
- Christian Watson (hamstring)
- Amari Cooper (concussion)
- Marquise Brown (foot)
- Tyler Higbee (head)
With many leagues either starting playoffs next week or in the final regular season week, the stakes are becoming larger and larger. The waiver wire will play a significant role in many leagues, as managers who can either replace players they lost or block an opposing team from acquiring a specific player should benefit greatly. Let’s dive right in.
The waiver wire is one of the most important pieces of season-long draft leagues. It is the easiest way to acquire new players and every year there are gems to be found. The goal of this article will not only be to highlight which weekly breakout players to prioritize but find others to preemptively pick up before the breakout happens.
This article will only reference players that are less than 50% owned in ESPN leagues. The players are categorized by position group and within each group is the order of how I would prioritize them.
Joe Flacco (Available in 98% of ESPN leagues)
Every week more and more starting QBs fall to the injury bug — this week it was Trevor Lawrence, Derek Carr, and Kenny Pickett. The waiver wire is full of backup QBs and none of them inspire much confidence. As ugly as it sounds, Joe Flacco is my waiver wire QB streamer of the week.
In this week’s game (Week 13) against the Rams, even though the Browns played within one possession for the majority of the game, Flacco was trusted to throw the ball 44 times compared with just 23 team rush attempts. While it is not reasonable to expect Flacco to throw that many times each week, Week 14 may provide a stronger-than-usual chance to repeat that volume. The Browns play the Jaguars, a team that funnels opposing offenses to the air. The Jaguars have faced the highest neutral situation pass rate in 2023, according to the RotoViz Pace app. In addition, I think there is a chance (dependent on the status of Trevor Lawrence) that the Browns could trail throughout much of the game, increasing the chance that Flacco may need to pass more.
Looking at Flacco’s starts with the Jets in 2022 can provide a range of expected outcomes. Similar to the Browns in 2023, the Jets team had a couple of offensive playmakers to throw to and a fairly strong defense.
Unsurprisingly, there is a fairly wide range of outcomes, from under 10 points to more than 30 points. While I prefer to first look for QBs that have more of a floor when streaming, if all the available QBs have shaky floors, I will then look for ceiling. As explored above, the matchup and the Browns’ willingness to pass give Flacco enough of a ceiling on this particular week.
I wouldn’t call Flacco a confident start, but there are much worse players on the majority of waiver wires.
Tyjae Spears (Available in 68% of ESPN leagues)
Tyjae Spears has been on the “stash” portion of the article for many weeks and for managers patient enough to wait, Week 14 may finally be the week where Spears gets his chance at a full workload. Derrick Henry left Week 13 early in the fourth quarter because of a possible concussion. After Henry exited the game, Spears took all 13 of the Titans’ RB opportunities — 11 rush attempts and two targets, and turned them into 48 total yards.
If there is one negative about Spears, it would be his boom-and-bust style of rushing. On the season, Spears has a 33% rushing success rate according to Next Gen Stats, one of the worst RBs that qualify for the metric. This metric defines success as gaining more yards than expected based on where the offensive blockers and defenders are at the time of the handoff. This dynamic is common among RBs just out of college because they tend to want to make the big play all the time.
However, what is missed in consistency is made up for in explosiveness and agility. Through Week 12, among the 81 RBs with at least 20 carries on the season, Spears ranks:
- No. 8 – yards after contact
- No. 11 – broken tackle percentage
- No. 12 – missed tackle percentage
Overall, Spears is the top pickup of the week, regardless of position, in the event that Henry misses next week. Besides being a near lock for plenty of volume, Spears has a great combination of being game-script independent from his passing role and possessing the athleticism to rip off chunk gains. If Henry ends up sitting out Week 14, Spears is an easy start.