By Matt Cott, Matt Schwimmer, & Moe Koltun of RotoAnalysis.com
We’re reaching the most important matchups of the season with fantasy teams on the bubble of playoffs making their moves. What we’re going to focus on this week is a few guys who can help out your team with some good matchups that you should definitely try to acquire for these last few key weeks.
Shane Vereen, Patriots RB:
This isn’t really a playoff pickup, but a championship pickup. I’ve never been one to do things half way, so if I do happen to make it into the playoffs, I often try to load up on good matchups in the week of the championship game. That is not only because I want to supplement my team’s depth and versatility, but also because it takes away a player that your opponent can pick up. So when the Pats face the putrid Jacksonville defense in week 16 with nothing to play for and give Shane Vereen 15+ touches, I’d rather not take the chance that one of those goes for a 60 yard TD run while he’s in my championship opponent’s line up. Grab Vereen if you need future running back help or just want to block another member of your league from having that chance in the future.
Ryan Broyles, Lions WR:
When given the opportunity, Broyles has displayed the talent that made him the all-time NCAA receptions leader in college. Using ProFootballFocus’s advanced stats, we can see that in terms of fantasy points per snap on the field, Broyles is elite with a rate of 0.18 – that’s the same as studs Reggie Wayne and Roddy White. With Titus Young in the doghouse of Jim Schwartz, Broyles should get more and more snaps towards the end of the season. The Lions love to throw the ball, and he could be in for a few breakout games.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos RB:
It kills me to have to recommend Moreno where I would love to be recommending a high upside rookie like Hillman but Peyton Manning and John Fox trust the veteran especially in pass protection. While I don’t expect Moreno to put up sexy fantasy numbers, he did get 20 carries for 85 yards last week. The next few weeks will show us how Fox intends to use Moreno going forward. If he gets consistent workload going into the fantasy playoffs, matchups against the Browns and the Chiefs, looking to lock in the first pick, should be very helpful for fantasy owners looking to lock up a win.
Brandon LaFell, Panthers WR:
LaFell is a player who appeared on a ton of preseason ‘sleeper’ lists (including ours at RotoAnalysis), and while he certainly hasn’t excelled or blown analysts out of the water, he has more than lived up to his preseason average 13th round draft slot. Despite garnering only 58 targets from Cam Newton so far this season (the 68th most in the NFL), LaFell has done very well in his limited usage, being one of less than 25 players in the league with double-digit 20+ yard receptions (he’s tied for 10th with 13), grabbing 4 touchdowns, and already racking up 563 yards. Cam Newton has looked much better in recent weeks and the Panthers seem to be slowly phasing an aged Steve Smith out, leaving an opening at the team’s #1 WR slot. Carolina faces the Chargers in week 15, the Raiders in week 16, and even if you’re in a league that counts week 17, the team finishes the season by playing the Saints in the superdome. This really couldn’t have worked out better for LaFell, and he’s still available in 47% of CBS leagues.
Davone Bess, Dolphins WR:
While Brian Hartline got a ton of hype after his 31 fantasy point game in week 4, he has just 29 points since. Over the same time frame Davone Bess has 44, while displaying a consistent glut of targets from Ryan Tannehill. This longtime PPR-stud has just one game with less than 40 yards all year, and just picked up his first TD. If he can get a couple more red zone looks, he goes from waiver wire fodder to a legitimate flex option. With the Jaguars and Bills on tap for weeks 15 and 16, why not go for it?
Brandon Stokley, Broncos WR:
Coming into the season, there was a lot of speculation about Jacob Tammer becoming one of Peyton’s favorite targets in Denver due to their prior history. Stokley has turned out to be the much better option, and although he ranks as just the 45th WR this season, that still puts him over disappointments like Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Lloyd, and Anquan Boldin. He also closes the season with some juicy matchups against the Raiders, Browns, and Chiefs. Stokley’s not going to put up any huge games, but if you’re in need of a consistent option for 40-60 yards and a chance at a TD, Stokley is worth a long look.
Bernard Pierce, Ravens RB:
For a long shot in a deeper league, usually one backup running back runs wild in week 17 helping many owners win their championship. The two most likely teams to roster this back this season are the Texans and Ravens. With the Texans, I think any week 17 carries would be split by Ben Tate and Justin Forsett — that leaves the Ravens and Bernard Pierce. With an impressive offensive line already in place, Pierce has shown an ability to play in the league. Despite minimal workload, Pierce has a carry for over 10 yards in 7 weeks already this season. Pierce is a worthwhile replacement on all rosters for a bye-week replacement you were holding onto and especially if you own Ray Rice on your team.