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Many fantasy football seasons are over but some leagues play the season out all the way to the end, even though some NFL teams have already sealed their fate. For better or worse. In Week 17, coaches use their players differently. Banged up players for losing teams no longer have to gut it out while studs on a team like the Chiefs, who can’t improve or hurt their position in the standings, may rest the entire game or see a lot fewer snaps to prevent injury heading into the playoffs.
For the most part, however, it looks like most teams with opt to play their guys the same way they’ve played them all season so let’s take a look at which deep league running backs and wide receivers make for the best waiver wire targets heading into the final week of the season.
Nate Burleson (Owned in 29 percent of Yahoo leagues): The Lions were eliminated from the playoffs in their embarrassing loss to the Giants on Sunday and rumors are swirling that Calvin Johnson has been playing through a partially torn knee ligament. If that is the case, or even if Megatron has a less serious knee injury, there’s a good chance that he doesn’t play in the Lions’ final meaningless game. Enter Lions’ number two receiver and world’s worst pizza delivery man Nate Burleson. Burleson hasn’t seen a whole lot of targets since returning from his broken forearm but that’s likely to change if Detroit’s top receiver is out. Look for him to see double-digit targets on Sunday against a weak Vikings defense if Calvin can’t go.
Jeremy Kerley (5 percent): Fun fact: The Jets are 7-4 when Jeremy Kerley is in the lineup, 0-4 when he’s out. With Santonio Holmes struggling to rein in passes, Kerley has established himself as the Jets’ top receiver and saw a season-high 11 targets on Sunday against the Browns. The Jets are fighting for .500 and head coach Rex Ryan might be fighting for a job so expect the Jets and Geno Smith to lean heavily on Kerley in the passing game once again against Miami.
Mike Brown (2 percent): With Cecil Shorts out, Brown has clearly been Chad Henne’s go-to guy with 20 targets over the last three games to Ace Sanders’ 13. On Sunday, he caught five balls on six targets for 71 yards and a touchdown against a tough Titans defense. He’s now been targeted at least six times in three straight games and has a good chance for a similar day against Indy this week.
Jerrel Jernigan (0 percent): With Victor Cruz out, Jernigan led the Giants in receptions, targets, yards, and scoring. Jernigan caught six passes on 12 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown. He’s been targeted 20 times over his last two games and should see a ton of targets against the terrible Redskins defense this week.
LeGarrette Blount (10 percent): Blount continues to be the Pats’ leading runner and carried the ball 16 times for 76 yards and two scores on Sunday against a tough Baltimore defense. This week, he’s expected to get the start against a Bills defense that has allowed 15+ fantasy points to Jordan Todman, Bobby Rainey, Steven Jackson, Chis Ivory, and Le’Veon Bell over their last six games. He’ll be touchdown dependent but the Bills gave up 158 rushing yards to the Pats the last time they played and he has a good chance to put up a solid game.
Knile Davis (3 percent): The Chiefs are the only team that can’t improve or hurt their playoff standing so they are liable to give Jamaal Charles rest on Sunday as they head into the postseason. Davis, a third-round pick in this year’s draft, has 43 carries on the season for 161 yards and two touchdowns, along with nine receptions for 70 yards. He’ll need the Chiefs to give him plenty of looks though as he’ll face a Chargers defense that has been stingy against the run. He also fumbled the ball twice on Sunday against the Colts, losing one of those, so he’s a somewhat risky pickup.
Edwin Baker (1 percent): He’s only played two NFL games but he’s quickly emerged as the Browns’ leading back and will surely get a long look on Sunday as the Browns finish out yet another disappointing season. After rushing eight times for 38 yards and a touchdown (and adding four receptions for 46 yards) against the Bears in Week 15, he looked solid against a tough Jets run defense with 17 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown and two receptions for 12 yards. Look for Baker to get plenty of touches against a Pittsburgh defense that has given up at least one touchdown to opposing backs in three straight games and a combined 172 yards and three touchdowns to Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and John Kuhn on Sunday.
Jonathan Grimes (0 percent): Although Dennis Johnson still has a chance to play, Grimes has been named the Texans’ starting running back with DJ nursing a hip injury and backup Deji Karim out for the season with a broken collarbone. Grimes saw his first carries of the season on Sunday and ran the ball five times for 23 yards. His first NFL start will come against a Titans defense that has been shredded by running backs and has given up 14+ standard league fantasy points to Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, Knowshon Moreno, and Montee Ball over their last three weeks.
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