By Matt Citak
As we get closer and closer to the end of the 2017 NFL regular season, the stakes continue to rise in the fantasy football world. Week 15 represents the semifinals for most fantasy leagues, which means if you are reading this article, you probably made your league’s final four. Now that you have made it this far, let’s try to help get you into the championship. While you likely aren’t going to bench any of the starters you’ve been playing all season, it’s vital to have some guys on your bench that you’d feel comfortable plugging into your lineup just in case. As we see every year in the NFL, and just witnessed with Carson Wentz, injuries happen. It’s best to be safe and have a solid backup ready to go, in case of an emergency.
With that in mind, here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 15 top waiver wire pickups.
QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
If you were one of the unfortunate fantasy owners to lose Carson Wentz on Sunday, the thought of having to start Bortles in your league’s semifinals is probably your worst nightmare. But looking at his stats over the last three weeks, the Jaguars quarterback has actually been a very viable fantasy option. Bortles has picked up at least 18 fantasy points in each of his last three games, and is coming off a performance against the Seahawks where he completed 18-of-27 passes (66.7 percent) for 268 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. While Seattle’s defense took a hit with the injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, that’s still a noteworthy outing. Jacksonville takes on Houston this week, with the Texans ranking in the top 5 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks this season. You might not want to trust Bortles in such an important matchup, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Bortles is certainly a streaming option in Week 15.
RB Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Williams has taken advantage of his two recent starts, carrying the ball 36 times for 170 yards (4.7 yards per carry) while filing in for the injured Adrian Peterson. Those numbers aren’t out of this world, but how many other running backs on the waiver wire do you see averaging 18 carries a game over the last two weeks? Exactly. Peterson is still recovering from a neck injury that has forced him to miss the last two games, and as we have seen in the past, teams are often extra cautious when it comes to neck injuries. This could mean at least one more start for Williams in Week 15 against Washington, and potentially a fourth consecutive start in Week 16 against the Giants. Of course you should keep an eye on the injury report to see how Peterson is progressing, but if he remains sidelined, Williams will be a solid play.
RB Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks
I spoke about snagging Davis off of the waiver wire last week, so hopefully you followed my advice. If not, fingers crossed that he’s still available. For the second straight game, Davis got at least 15 carries and ran for over 60 yards, finishing with 66 yards and an average of 4.4 yards per carry. Davis has shown the most consistency from the running back position since Seattle lost rookie back Chris Carson in Week 4, and seems to have solidified his role in the Seahawks offense with three games left on the season. Davis could provide you with some much-needed running back depth, and with Seattle’s next two matchups against the Rams and Cowboys, could prove to be quite valuable for the final stretch of the fantasy season. While Davis suffered a rib injury during the team’s Week 14 loss to Jacksonville, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Monday that the back was “moving around pretty good today.” Be sure to monitor the injury this week.
WR Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Westbrook is another player that found his way onto this list last week, and after his strong performance on Sunday, he’s even more of a priority add this week. The rookie wide receiver caught 5-of-8 targets for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, marking the second week in a row that he finished the game with at least five catches for 75 yards. Westbrook looked like Jacksonville’s most talented wide receiver in the preseason, and through his first four regular season games, his stellar play has carried over to the contests that actually count. The rookie has been targeted 33 times in four games, with at least eight in each of the last three. Bortles’ improved play has certainly helped Westbrook a ton, and with Jacksonville facing Houston and San Francisco in their next two games, the pair has a good chance of keeping the good times rolling in the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. Westbrook should be one of the top adds for anyone in need of a wide receiver.
RB Wayne Gallman, New York Giants
Talk about a team that’s hard to trust. New York has had a miserable season, and while some players like Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard had plenty of fantasy value earlier in the season, they haven’t provided us with a solid fantasy performance in weeks. In fact, no one on the Giants has recently, except for Gallman. In the first game since Ben McAdoo’s firing, New York gave their rookie running back an extended look in their loss to the Cowboys, and Gallman came out of the game as one of the lone bright spots for the struggling Giants. The rookie out of Clemson took 12 carries for 49 yards while adding seven receptions for 40 yards, easily one of the most promising games we’ve seen from a Giants’ running back all season. New York’s season is over, but the only thing they have left to do over these last three weeks is evaluate their young players. This could lead to a few more high-volume games for the rookie, which makes him a smart add for anyone wanting to take a flier on a running back.
TE Trey Burton, Philadelphia Eagles
Burton’s fantasy value relies squarely on whether or not Zach Ertz returns from a concussion this week. In the two games that Ertz has sat out, Burton has caught 9-of-12 targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns, making it easy for Eagles fans to forget that they have been playing without their starting tight end. The injury to Carson Wentz obviously affects all of Philadelphia’s pass-catchers, as the second-year quarterback seemed to be on his way to an MVP season. But backup quarterback Nick Foles has always loved targeting his tight ends, with 25 percent of his career touchdowns going to the tight end position. Philadelphia will travel to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants in Week 15. New York has been atrocious against opposing tight ends this season, making Burton a great play if Ertz is unable to make it back on the field. This is another situation where you must be checking the injury report every day for updates on Ertz.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.