Critical injuries to fantasy stars Robert Griffin III and Dez Bryant leave fantasy owners desperate coming into the Week 15 round of waiver-wire pickups.
By now, the playoffs have started in just about every format. That means knowing who to add could be the difference between holding your league's trophy and muttering not-so-nice words under your breath as your obnoxious friend takes home the league crown.
Luckily, we're here to help. By delving into the individual matchups and taking into account who should take over for injured stars, there are a few top-flight guys available in most leagues.
With names ranging from already-knowns like Danario Alexander all the way to Dwayne Harris, this week's set of waiver-wire pickups has something for everybody.
For that reason, here is a look at the top targets to pursue in Week 15 as you chase fantasy glory in 2012.
(All ownership percentages are courtesy of ESPN.)
Ownership: 0.2 Percent
Both in Washington and fantasy circles, this is what we like to call RG3 insurance. As it currently stands, Robert Griffin III's status for Week 15 is unclear despite a Grade 1 sprain to his LCL, according to the Redskins' official Twitter feed:
Shanahan said the sprain was Grade 1 (lowest) to the LCL, with no structural damage to the rest of the knee. #HTTR— Redskins (@Redskins) December 10, 2012
Nevertheless, this is the unquestioned 2012 Fantasy MVP we're talking about here. There's something to be said for owners being better safe than sorry.
Enter Kirk Cousins, who would start in place of RG3 if his knee injury winds up keeping him on the sidelines. The fourth-round pick came in last week following Griffin's heroic one-legged drive to connect for a touchdown to Pierre Garcon and spur the Redskins' victory in overtime.
Some may want to talk Griffin owners into picking up the Brandon Weedens, Sam Bradfords or Jake Lockers of the world. That's nonsense. All three of those players and similar performers will be available come Sunday morning.
By picking up Cousins, owners can wait until the very last second before making a roster decision. Griffin's value above any player on the waiver wire is worth picking up Cousins alone, and if he does wind up starting, there is little reason to think he'll do anything less than excel.
The Browns have a tougher-than-you-think defense, but would you really feel more comfortable with Weeden or Locker holding your fantasy life in his hands? That's what I thought.
Ownership: 0.2 Percent
Injury has a habit of dictating late-season fantasy stars, and Dwayne Harris may be the latest example of that phenomenon. Top Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant may be out for the season with a finger injury, though team blogger Nick Eatman is reporting that Jason Garrett said his return this season is "50/50:"
Just talked to Jason Garrett... he said its 50-50.. Said Bryant is going to see hand specialist right now. My gut tells me he won't be on IR— Nick Eatman (@nickeatman) December 10, 2012
Regardless, it's unlikely that Bryant plays this week, and that could mean big things for Harris. Mostly used in special teams this season, the second-year wideout will ostensibly take Bryant's place in the Cowboys offense.
Sure, it's easy to be skeptical about how well a backup will perform in place of a star. Tell that to the five-year, $32.5 million contract Laurent Robinson got from the Jaguars in the offseason based on his Miles Austin impression last season.
What's more, it seemed like Harris was already becoming more integral to the offense. Tony Romo targeted him seven times in last Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, giving Harris 16 targets over the last three weeks.
He's only caught half of those attempts, so that will need to improve. But with Dallas' playoff hopes still hanging in the balance, don't expect Romo to be shy targeting Harris against the Steelers on Sunday.
Ownership: 8.8 Percent
The waiting game for Maurice Jones-Drew owners may be one that never ends in 2012. Jacksonville's lead running back has been out of the lineup since Week 7 with a foot injury, and every week it seems like the team keeps pushing back his return date.
With the Jaguars sitting at 2-11 coming into Week 14, one has to wonder whether it's worth it to bring Jones-Drew back at all. Either way, it's highly unlikely he's back this week, and that should give Montell Owens another starter's workload.
After not receiving a carry in the first 11 games of the season, injuries have thrust Owens into fantasy relevance. Top backups Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele both went down, leaving the Jaguars' running back depth chart to read like a who's who of "who's that?"
Still, in his first start at running back, Owens proved that he's not just a special teams star. The seventh-year back gained 91 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the New York Jets and got an overwhelming majority of the snaps.
The Miami Dolphins await in Week 15, and this is still the Jaguars' offense, so Owens isn't going to ascent to top-10 status or anything. However, barring an unforeseen return from Jones-Drew, Owens should make a solid flex play in deep 10-team or 12-team leagues.
Ownership: 40.3 percent
Starter Ahmad Bradshaw may have returned to last week's drubbing of the New Orleans Saints, but that doesn't mean his knee injury is a minor blip on the radar.
According to The Star Ledger's Jenny Vrentas, Bradshaw was undergoing tests on the left knee and head coach Tom Coughlin "wouldn't speculate" on the injury's severity.
For Bradshaw's owners, that's nothing new. It seems like every week Bradshaw is listed as questionable with some type of ailment, so it's unlikely that we know for sure about his status until late in the week.
However, David Wilson's performance (13 CAR, 100 YDS, 3 Total TD) should have been enough to get him more carries. The Giants have essentially morphed into the Steelers of the NFC, looking like the best team in football one week and worst the next.
Having Wilson's penchant for explosiveness in the lineup could help trigger a late-season move to the former. For fantasy owners, though, Wilson should slide in as a nice flex play in Week 15 regardless of whether the team commits to a heavy workload.
The Falcons rank 23rd in the NFL against the run, giving up 127 yards per game, so there should be lanes available. With Bradshaw's status up in the air, grab Wilson and hope Coughlin makes a midweek commitment.
Ownership: 27.2 Percent
Danario Alexander may be one of the most obvious "should already be owned" guys in the league, but for some reason, owners in nearly three-quarters of leagues are still hesitant.
Well, if Week 14 isn't proof that Alexander is a must-own and every-week start, then 75 percent of leagues must have eight teams. Facing the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL, Alexander grabbed seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, as the Chargers blew the Steelers off the field from the opening whistle.
Sunday was Alexander's fifth-straight game with 70 or more yards receiving and he's had 10 or more fantasy points in four of those contests. Philip Rivers' season may be an unmitigated disaster from both a fantasy and real-life perspective, but his connection with Alexander is one of the few positives.
Going forward, Alexander will be (at worst) a top-tier WR2 in most leagues. With two weeks remaining in the playoffs, be sure to be the owner who picks him up. Otherwise, Alexander may be the reason you wind up in the consolation bracket.