Fantasy Football Week 15 Waiver Wire: Best Free-Agent Pickups for the Playoffs

Alex KayContributor IDecember 13, 2022

Fantasy Football Week 15 Waiver Wire: Best Free-Agent Pickups for the Playoffs

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 11: DJ Chark #4 of the Detroit Lions scores a touchdown during the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 11, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    Week 15 marks the highly anticipated start of the fantasy football playoffs in most leagues. Pat yourself on the back if you were one of the fortunate managers to make it into the field, but you still have plenty of work to do before you can take home a title.

    Shrewd managers must continue scouring the waiver wire for every advantage they can get at this time of year. Having a strong bench could be the difference between advancing to the next round or getting eliminated early if the injury bug bites.

    Even managers who earned a first-round bye will want to capitalize on opportunities to overturn the bottom of their rosters. Snagging some decent free-agent talent not only bolsters your lineup, but it also keeps those players away from rival managers who could deploy them against you in a win-or-go-home clash.

    With that in mind, here are five players you will want to land with your waiver-wire claims in Week 15. All suggestions are rostered in 50 percent or fewer of Yahoo leagues.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Atlanta Falcons (2 Percent Rostered)

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    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) throws before an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, November 27, 2022 in Landover. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)
    AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.

    DraftKings DFS Value: $5,200

    Any manager who made it this far without a stable starting quarterback has done an incredible job defying the odds. Unfortunately, there isn't a reliable waiver-wire answer to those QB woes this week.

    Those who have been forced to stream the position will want to give some consideration to Atlanta Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder in Week 15.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Falcons are finally benching Marcus Mariota in favor of the rookie signal-caller. Ridder is now set to see the field for the first time this season when the Falcons come off their bye this weekend.

    While it's a major gamble to roll with a first-year quarterback in his first professional game—especially in the first week of the fantasy playoffs—there have been some impressive debut performances in the past.

    Trevor Lawrence racked up 332 passing yards and three scores in his first game last year. Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert both eclipsed the 300-yard mark and found the end zone at least once in their debuts in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Cam Newton had one of his finest performances when he burst onto the scene over a decade ago, tallying up 440 total yards and three touchdowns.

    It remains to be seen whether Ridder can join those stars with a breakout game of his own, but the Cincinnati product has a high fantasy ceiling thanks to his dual-threat ability.

    If you have to roll the dice with a waiver option this week, the 23-year-old is likely the best dart throw available thanks to his upside.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers (33 Percent Rostered)

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 11: Chuba Hubbard #30 of the Carolina Panthers gestures to the crowd during pregame warmups prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on December 11, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)
    Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Value: $4,900

    It's been tough to find startable waiver-wire talent at running back for much of the season, but managers in need of one this week may luck out with Chuba Hubbard readily available in most leagues. The Carolina Panthers have been giving their second-year back plenty of work over the team's last two games.

    Hubbard saw a season-high 17 totes and ran for 65 yards against the Denver Broncos in Week 12. He came off a Week 13 bye to amass a season-high 74 yards and score his second touchdown of the campaign on 14 carries against the Seattle Seahawks.

    The 23-year-old got involved in the passing game again on Sunday after he failed to draw a single look in his prior outing. Hubbard reeled in all three targets thrown his way and tied his season-high with 25 receiving yards despite being on the field for only 23 offensive snaps.

    While Hubbard's upside is limited because of his low snap counts—he has yet to play more than 46 percent of the Panthers' offensive snaps in a game this season—he has been producing at a respectable level when he is on the field.

    Given the dearth of serviceable options at this position, Hubbard will likely be the best back you can find who is worthy of at least a flex play in Week 15.

DJ Chark, WR, Detroit Lions (40 Percent Rostered)

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 11: DJ Chark #4 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 11, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Value: $4,500

    The Detroit Lions' passing attack is firing on all cylinders, and DJ Chark has been one of the main beneficiaries in recent weeks. The wideout has seen a steady increase in targets over Detroit's last three games and has strung together strong fantasy performances in his last two outings.

    Chark followed up a five-catch, 98-yard showing in Week 13 with a six-catch, 94-yard, one-touchdown game against the rival Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

    It's clear that Chark is playing at full strength again after he sat out a six-game stretch between Weeks 4 and 10 with an ankle injury. He re-entered the starting lineup in Week 12 and has logged at least 84 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps in both games since Week 13.

    With quarterback Jared Goff playing lights-out right now—he has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions over the last two games—Chark should continue to thrive as a secondary pass-catching option behind rising star Amon-Ra St. Brown.

    After failing to secure his lone target in his NFL debut in Week 13, first-round pick Jameson Williams caught a 41-yard touchdown against the Vikings on Sunday. But as long as Detroit's aerial attack stays hot, there are enough targets to go around for Williams, St. Brown and Chark.

Richie James, WR, New York Giants (11 Percent Rostered)

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    New York Giants wide receiver Richie James (80) runs against the Washington Commanders during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
    AP Photo/Adam Hunger

    DraftKings DFS Value: $3,700

    The New York Giants receiving corps is a shell of what it started the 2022 season as. But there is still viable fantasy talent to be found within this unit.

    Richie James has become an unlikely source of scoring for Big Blue. He's notched three touchdowns over the past four games after failing to find the end zone at all prior to Week 11.

    The 27-year-old, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is coming off best fantasy performance of the year against the rival Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14. James reached not only reached season highs in targets (nine), catches (seven) and yardage (61), but he also caught quarterback Tyrod Taylor's lone touchdown throw after Taylor relieved starter Daniel Jones in the Giants' blowout loss.

    James is one of the few G-Men wideouts who can be trusted at this point regardless of whom is under center. He played more offensive snaps and ran more routes than any other receiver on the team this past week, per Pro Football Focus.

    While James may not have a high ceiling due to the team's limited offense, his floor is respectable. Managers who need a steady WR3 or flex option this week should give serious consideration to picking him up.

Hayden Hurst, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (41 Percent Rostered)

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    Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (88) warms up before an NFL football game between the Tennessee Titans and the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
    AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

    DraftKings DFS Value: $3,200

    Hayden Hurst could be the streaming option that tight end-needy fantasy managers need to get past the first round of the playoffs.

    While Cincinnati Bengals veteran isn't guaranteed to suit up after he missed his first game of the year in Week 14 due to a calf issue, there is a chance he will return this weekend after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma injection. If he's available, the veteran could see a bump in production since he may be one of the few trusted pass-catchers left on the field.

    Bengals wideouts Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd were limited to a mere three combined snaps in the team's Week 14 win over the Cleveland Browns. Neither one has a clear timetable for a return yet.

    Managers without a quality tight end should at least put a speculative claim in on Hurst while keeping a close eye on Cincinnati's injury report throughout the week. If the 29-year-old can return in time to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and some of the team's other pass-catchers remain sidelined, he'll have a great shot at soaking up plenty of targets.

    Hurst should turn those targets into some catches and potentially even find the end zone for the third time this year against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed 20 passing touchdowns in 13 contests.

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