Week 5 of the NFL season is in the books. It’s time to start planning for your fantasy playoff run…
That’s right, playoffs! By now you’re getting a pretty good idea whose production you can count on down the stretch, given a healthy sample size from the first 5 weeks of the season. Particularly, which players are the real deal, and who to start thinking about kicking to the curb. You should now also have a good indication of what matchups will be favorable for the guys on your roster, and perhaps just as importantly, for those who are not on your team. Given the multitude of injuries incurred thus far, there’s no doubt in mind that most of you have had to hit the waiver wire. Those of you who haven’t, the odds are that you will…soon. Furthermore, those who’ve had the misfortune of relying on the wire have likely been let down by the boom-or-bust players that have popped up from week to week. Now’s the time to start transitioning your thinking when you’re looking at available wire options, from short-term production (Who can help me now?) to a more long-term approach (Who can help me down the stretch, in the playoffs?).
Now, this thinking does not necessarily apply to everyone. If you’re 0-5, obviously, your focus needs to be on the short-term. You need to get a win and get it now. If you have a mid-range record close to .500, yes, you still need to have a short-term focus, but also realize that you’re still in the playoff hunt, and you may just want to start thinking about long-term options. Finally, if you’re 4-1 or 5-0, now’s the time to get focused and look towards the playoffs, it’s likely that your team will be making an appearance.
One position that often has appealing options available, given that is highly streamable, is DST. When looking at the waiver wire with a long-term eye, try to find defenses have good matchups during the playoffs, weeks 14-16. For example, we’ve seen thus far, that the offenses for Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis haven’t been exactly stellar this season. In fact, they’ve been pretty bad. Enter the Baltimore Ravens defense. Other than Week 3 vs. a potent Jacksonville running game behind Leonard Fournette (in London), Baltimore has been strong defensively, putting up double-digit fantasy points in 3 of the first 5 weeks this season. They will have the upper hand for the playoff matchups, squaring off against Pittsburgh (Big Ben Roethlisberger had five interceptions this week… five!), Cleveland (the sentiment for DST streamers at this point is to start any defense against the Browns), and Indianapolis (who has given up big double-digit points to the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals so far). Take the Indianapolis argument with a grain of salt; they’ve been without Andrew Luck thus far. He’ll be back (maybe), and of course that will lead to better offensive efficiency, but will the chemistry return to 100%? Will they be firing on all cylinders? It’s likely, but is still a pretty big question mark. In the interim, Baltimore has some favorable matchups against Chicago, Miami, Tennessee, and Detroit. The Ravens could be a grab and hold play for the rest of the season. They are currently 64% owned on the wire this week (in Yahoo Fantasy leagues), and keep in mind, since it is an often-streamed position, their availability will be sure to fluctuate. Keep your eyes peeled and consider grabbing them when you can.
The same idea goes for quarterbacks. If you’ve already got a stud QB, no worries – you’re good. If not (whether your QB is struggling or you’re streaming), look at future matchups as well as recent trends. Andy Dalton is a good example of a QB that should be available on the wire. He struggled in weeks 1 and 2 but has recently turned it around vs. Green Bay, Cleveland, and Buffalo. He’s only 51% owned in Yahoo leagues, could be a great rest-of-season QB, and has a couple of good matchups in the playoffs vs. Chicago and Detroit. Grab him now if your QB situation is in question whatsoever. He may not be startable for every game the rest of the way, but he could be the one that carries you for most weeks. Contrarily, if you’re a Deshaun Watson owner, and your team’s banged up due to injury losses, consider trading Watson away at a high price. He’s absolutely killing it, boosting his worth for someone who wants to chase the production or needs QB help. You could get a quality two-for-one trade for Watson to replace your weak positional depth and grab a QB off the wire, like the aforementioned Dalton. Use your asset to fill in your gaps. The QB position is so deep, this type of trade will only benefit your roster. The QB points are out there for the taking. Don’t focus on what you’re losing, look at what you’re gaining. It’s a win-win situation.
There are other smart trade options to be made that will help you prep for your playoff run. Look at some players on your roster that have performed well, but have a tough upcoming schedule (Todd Gurley – vs. Jacksonville, Arizona, Houston, Minnesota, and Philly/Seattle in the playoffs) and sell for someone with more potential. Go after someone who has favorable matchups moving forward, or has been struggling due to injury, a bad schedule, or has just been an underperformer thus far. As ugly as it may sound, Jay Ajayi might be someone to look at long-term. He faces the NY Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New England Patriots (twice) in the coming weeks. I’m not suggesting that you trade Gurley for Ajayi straight up, but you should be able to take advantage of a two-for-one deal for Ajayi and a serviceable, stable player (maybe a WR) that has some high upside in his future. Remember, Ajayi didn’t start out as a top-performer last season either. He did, however, turn on the afterburners in week 6. There might just be a déjà vu situation in the works here. It’s definitely an opportunity to be proactive and take a calculated risk.
OK, you get the picture. There are lots of diamonds in the rough out there in your league. My point is not to tell you who to specifically target. Just remember, from this point in the season moving forward, “He who hesitates is lost.” Be forward thinking. Don’t sit and watch your league-mates make all the moves. Get in the game, evaluate your roster, look at rest-of-season schedules, and be smart. Make your waiver moves with your long-term game plan in mind, while everyone else scrambles for that ‘right-now’ kind of guy. Make those smart trades that will have your competition all starry-eyed now, but when the dust settles, and you’re rolling to a championship, they won’t even realize what hit ‘em.
For more fantasy content and advice, or if you have questions/comments about this article, follow me on Twitter: @DFF_JerWyman.