By: Madeleine Hudak (Twitter: @MaddyHudak_94)
Just as the playoff race is seeing more separation by the week, at this point in the season, you likely know if you’re out of the running for your fantasy league playoff berth or if you still have a fighting chance. If you fall into the latter camp, barring any later season desperation trades, your best shot of bolstering your lineup is through the waiver wire. With the number of injuries this season and the bye week Musical Chairs due to COVID, keeping a healthy and thorough roster hasn’t been the easiest task. Luckily, each week provides several enticing matchups – and sudden starting players due to abrupt injuries – to make the waiver wires worth a peruse. Let’s get to it.
QB Derek Carr (LV)
Derek Carr isn’t going to amass 400 yards in the air on a regular basis, but what he’s been consistent in is multiple touchdowns per game. In the Raiders 31-26 win over the Chargers in Week 9, while Carr only threw for 165 yards, he had two touchdowns and 14 rushing yards. With the exceptions of the mundane 16-6 win against the Cleveland Browns last week and their opening game against Carolina, Carr has recorded at least two touchdowns per game this season. He’s not a weekly QB1, but he’s a solid option based on Las Vegas’ Week 10 matchup against the Denver Broncos. While their passing defense is technically ranked higher, they’ve given up the 10th most fantasy points to quarterbacks up to Week 9. When you look at the Broncos stats in terms of pressuring the quarterback, it becomes that much more enticing; Denver is ranked 23rd in both quarterback hits and sacks, respectively. Carr struggled with a collapsing pocket in several games this season – their 36-20 loss to the Patriots, particularly. Accordingly, the lack of pressure by the Broncos this season makes him a solid option for at least this week’s matchup.
RB Duke Johnson (HOU)
If Duke Johnson is available in your league, this is this week’s most obvious pickup. With David Johnson – who hasn’t exactly been the most elusive – exiting Week 9’s matchup early with a concussion, Duke Johnson is the first man up in an extremely sparse running back room. Behind Duke, the Houston Texans have Greg Howell Jr. and Cullen Gillaspia, who’s a fullback. Concussion trajectories can be strange – it can sideline someone for weeks, and seemingly not affect someone with a similar hit. But even if David Johnson returns on the sooner side, Duke Johnson has high upside as a receiving back complement; similar to his role in 2019 behind Hyde, Duke Johnson was much more effective as a receiver in his four receptions. While he only averaged 2.6 yards per carry on the ground, comparatively, he averaged 8 yards per reception. This has been a consecutive trend for the past two weeks; while he only had one carry for a -1 yard loss in the Texans loss to the Packers, Duke Johnson had five receptions, averaged 8.6 yards per reception, and had a long catch for 30 yards.
If David Johnson is out, he’s a must-add for a RB2 or flex role for pure production levels alone. Regardless of David Johnson’s presence in the backfield, however, he’s likely to see a significant number of receptions in Houston’s Week 10 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. While they’re ranked 9th in rushing defense, Cleveland is 22nd in passing defense. So either way, he’s worth a pickup should you be in need of a running back.
RB Kalen Ballage (LAC)
After being elevated off the practice squad just last Saturday, Kalen Ballage made an immediate splash when Justin Jackson left the Chargers Week 9 matchup against the Raiders. In fact, he led the team in rushing with 15 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s 31-26 loss; Ballage also caught two of three targets for 15 yards. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which is a significant jump from his tenure on the Dolphins averaging 1.8 yards on 74 carries. With both Jackson and Troymaine Pope’s health up in the air, Ballage is likely to continue to see significant production while they’re on the mend. Further, this waiver wire add is bolstered by upcoming matchups. Next week, the Chargers play the Miami Dolphins, who are ranked 25th in rushing defense; comparatively, the Las Vegas Raiders are 14th, respectively. While their subsequent matchup against the Jets is technically, on paper, a more formidable rush defense at 12th, I’m not sure Los Angeles will find much trouble getting their run game going against a 0-8 team.