Fantasy Football Week 16 Waiver Wire: Royce Freeman and More Surprising Pickups

Alex KayContributor IDecember 20, 2022

Fantasy Football Week 16 Waiver Wire: Royce Freeman and More Surprising Pickups

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    HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Royce Freeman #26 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The first week of the 2022 fantasy football playoffs is in the books, and managers fortunate enough to still have something to play for must continue their vigilance on the waiver wire.

    While there isn't a ton of startable talent to be found in the free-agency pool right now, injuries have opened the door for a handful of backups to shine in this coming week.

    These lightly rostered talents could end up playing pivotal roles for not only their NFL clubs but also desperate fantasy managers as they try to make a championship push.

    With that in mind, here are some of the best waiver-wire pickups heading into Week 16. All suggestions are rostered in 50 percent or fewer of Yahoo leagues.

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers (20 Percent Rostered)

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 15: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on after defeating the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on December 15, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Value: $5,500

    The San Francisco 49ers offense hasn't skipped a beat since turning the keys over to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.

    The last pick in the 2022 draft has kept San Francisco atop the NFC West by winning all three contests that he's appeared in since Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a broken foot in Week 13.

    Purdy isn't just managing the game, however, as he's done a great job of executing head coach Kyle Shanahan's complex offensive schemes.

    In his last three appearances, Purdy has completed 58 of 84 passing attempts for 612 yards and six touchdowns against a single interception. He's also added a score on the ground.

    Purdy ranks No. 8 in fantasy points scored at the quarterback position since he began starting in Week 14 and could be a strong play for anyone who needs to shake things up in Week 16.

    The Niners have a matchup tap against a Washington Commanders squad that has been average against opposing signal-callers in 2022, so managers would be hard-pressed to find a better option available.

Zack Moss, RB, Indianapolis Colts (2 Percent Rostered)

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    Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) stands on the field before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
    AP Photo/Abbie Parr

    DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000

    Zack Moss was elevated to fantasy relevance Saturday after Indianapolis Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor went down with an ankle injury early in the team's eventual heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

    While Taylor's status is still a bit murky, ESPN's Adam Schefter indicated there is a chance the league's reigning rushing champion won't return to the field this season.

    Moss was Indy's preferred rushing option after Taylor went down. The third-year veteran logged 53 offensive snaps and generated 81 yards on 24 totes in Indianapolis' 39-36 overtime defeat, besting or tying his career highs in each category.

    Moss will get a chance to take over Indianapolis' backfield during the team's Week 16 meeting with the Los Angeles Chargers. The 25-year-old had success against that opponent during his stint with the Buffalo Bills, rushing nine times for 59 yards and catching two passes for nine yards back in 2020.

    Fellow backup Deon Jackson also saw his fair share of work in wake of Taylor's injury. He rushed 13 times for 55 yards and scored a touchdown on his lone catch. But he was only on the field for 32 percent of the Colts' offensive plays in comparison to Moss' 67 percent share.

    Managers in deeper leagues should try to grab both players, but Moss should be the priority pickup after his heavy usage in Week 15.

Royce Freeman, RB, Houston Texans (0 Percent Rostered)

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    Houston Texans running back Royce Freeman (26) prepares for an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
    AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

    DraftKings DFS Value: $4,800

    The Houston Texans are playing out another lost season, but fantasy managers may be able to wring some production out of the team's backfield down the stretch.

    Heading into Week 15, it wasn't apparent which of Houston's backups would serve as the lead back after breakout rookie Dameon Pierce landed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle.

    There's now some clarity after fifth-year veteran Royce Freeman earned the lion's share of the touches against the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Freeman, who was recently elevated from Houston's practice squad, made his 2022 debut Sunday by rushing 11 times for 51 yards and catching his lone target for five yards despite only seeing the field for 24 offensive snaps.

    Dare Ogunbowale, the team's No. 2 back for much of the season, only produced 14 yards on eight totes on his 27 offensive plays. Longtime veteran Rex Burkhead was just a minor factor in passing situations, reeling in two receptions for 17 yards while failing to record a single carry over 12 offensive snaps.

    Head coach Lovie Smith praised Freeman's performance in a shockingly competitive contest that saw the Texans take the heavily favored Chiefs to overtime before eventually suffering their ninth consecutive loss.

    "It is about the next guy stepping up," Smith said after the game, per Drew Dougherty of the team's official website. "Royce has waited patiently. Been on our practice squad going against the [number] one [Texans] defense each day. I thought he took advantage of his opportunity."

    While this backfield could be a tad volatile over the final three weeks, Freeman is looking like the player to roster and should have the coaching staff's trust in wake of his steady Week 15 showing.

Noah Brown, WR, Dallas Cowboys (2 Percent Rostered)

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 18: Noah Brown #85 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a touchdown during the second quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 18, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
    Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Value: $3,600

    Noah Brown got off to a promising start to the 2022 season before falling off drastically. He seems to be rebounding, however, and could be an intriguing pickup in the waning weeks of the fantasy campaign.

    After racking up 274 yards and a score on 18 catches across his first four matchups, Brown was limited to just 12 receptions for 125 yards between Weeks 5 and 13.

    The 26-year-old started turning things around in Week 14 when he posted 85 yards on four catches against the Texans. He followed that up Sunday with his best showing of the season, torching the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary for 49 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

    While Dallas ultimately suffered a 40-34 defeat against Jacksonville, fantasy managers should take advantage of Brown's increased role in the Cowboys' passing attack.

    Brown may have even usurped Michael Gallup as the team's No. 2 wideout after Gallup saw a mere two targets and caught only one pass for two yards Sunday.

    It's worth noting that Gallup still out-snapped Brown by a 68-56 margin, but Brown's surging production should put him in line for more work during Dallas' divisional battle with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.

Juwan Johnson, TE, New Orleans Saints (20 Percent Rostered)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Juwan Johnson of New Orleans Saints looks on during the NFL match between Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 2, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
    Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Value: $3,800

    Despite being the ninth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy and serving as a quality streaming option for much of the season, Juwan Johnson is still surprisingly available in most leagues.

    That could change following his latest performance, a four-catch, 67-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Atlanta Falcons. Johnson's 22.7 PPR points in Week 15 were the second-most at the position heading into Monday night and likely helped the few managers who trusted him get to the next round of the playoffs.

    With seven touchdowns in his last seven matchups, Johnson is a scoring-dependent tight end whom managers can depend on to find the end zone.

    The 26-year-old has quickly become one of Andy Dalton's favorite options and has little competition for looks in the red area on an injury-depleted New Orleans Saints squad.

    Although Johnson sat out Week 13 with an ankle injury of his own, he seems to have gotten back to 100 percent during the team's Week 14 bye and is now poised to finish the year on a high note.

    Given the dearth of usable tight ends on the waiver wire, Johnson should be considered a must-add for any manager streaming players at the position ahead of his impending Week 16 showdown with the Cleveland Browns.

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