By Will Mirrer

Weekly recommended fantasy football free agent pickups, all under 50% ownership in ESPN leagues. The fantasy playoffs are upon us.


  • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (40.5% ownership)
    • Winston has exceeded expectations all season after an embarrassing opening week as a rookie starter for the Bucs.  This recommendation, however, is mostly matchup-based: Winston faces the comically awful New Orleans Saints defense at home this week (week 14), and gets the (not as) awful Chicago defense week 16 – championship week.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (26.3% ownership)
    • I can’t say I’d be thrilled about my season coming down to conjuring some FitzMagic, but he did finally look healthy week 12 against the Dolphins and threw for 4 touchdowns.  This past week, Fitzpatrick lit up the Giants in the second half and finished with 390(!) yards passing and 2 touchdowns, tossing the pigskin up there to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and having the big fellas go get it with regularity.  If you need a plug-in quarterback, Fitzpatrick does have the Titans week 14, a somewhat appetizing quarterback fantasy matchup.  The Cowboys in week 15 won’t scare you or the Jets offense away, but look for help from someone other than the Crimson man week 16 when the Jets face defensive mastermind Bill Belichick and the Pats.


  • James White, New England Patriots (38.6% ownership)
    • White caught 10 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown week 13 against the Eagles, with the Patriots passing nearly every down while playing catch-up in the second half.  I wouldn’t expect this kind of production again, given the unlikelihood of the Patriots falling far behind in any given contest.  Still, it’s clear now that White has a firm grasp on the Dion Lewis role in New England’s passing attack.
  • Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions (47.9% ownership)
    • Finally, belatedly, the Lions are giving lightning quick rookie Ameer Abdullah the primary workload in the Detroit backfield, presumably for the rest of the season.  Sure, it’s been near impossible to trust the Lions ground game all season, but Abdullah’s quicks and open field moves provide greater upside.  More importantly, the Lions’ offensive line has improved (somewhat) since their mid-season change at offensive coordinator, and the Lions face these two delectably soft defenses during the all-important weeks 15 and 16 matchups: the Saints and the 49ers.


  • Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins (34% ownership)
    • Devante Parker, a first round draft pick out of Louisville, has been a disappointment his rookie year, alternately hurt and unable to get on the field much at all for the Dolphins.  With Rishard Matthews hurt with multiple fractured ribs, Devante Parker has been finally serving in the number 2 wide receiver role, having scored his first career touchdown week 12.  In week 13, Parker followed that up with another touchdown to make that two straight weeks. It’s still a speculative start for the fantasy playoffs, but expect Parker’s talent to keep making noise.
  • Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans (13.7% ownership)
    • DGB is another rookie who has struggled to make an impact until late in the season.  The raw second-rounder with well-publicized first round talent, DGB came through for the first time in a big way week 13 with 5 catches, 119 yards and a touchdown, the latter of which included a sick broken tackle through several would-be tacklers.  His floor is still as low as can be, but his upside is enormous, and you can start to expect more of it to materialize these next few weeks as the Titans look to develop the Mariota-DGB connection, and with Kendall Wright seemingly constantly injured in 2015.
  • Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints (2.0% ownership)
    • Coleman stepped up with a touchdown with Willie Snead out with a calf injury last week, and though Snead could return week 14, Coleman is worth a speculative add with Snead’s status uncertain and with Marques Colston a nonfactor at his advanced age.
  •  TE:
    • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26.1% ownership)
      • ASJ only played 21 snaps week 13 in his first game back from a seemingly never-ending injury that saw ASJ miss every game since week 2.  However, expect his snaps to increase this week, just as the Bucs get to face the inviting Saints defense.  Even with likely another week of less than a full snap count, ASJ makes for a solid streaming decision this week against the Saints.
    • Will Tye, New York Giants (7.1% ownership)
      • Larry Donnell, the Giants’ regular starting tight end, has been added to injured reserve and will therefore miss the rest of the season.  Tye has been arguably a better receiver since taking over, and as the third option in the Giants’ passing attack, will continue to see a moderate diet of targets in the fantasy playoffs.  You could probably do better, but you could certainly do worse.
    • Zach Miller, Chicago Bears (18% ownership)
      • The Zach Miller revolution some (few) expected after he took an electrifying screen to the house a few weeks ago never materialized.  Nevertheless, Martellus Bennett is headed to injured reserve, and with Bennett unlikely to return to the Bears next year, expect John Fox and co. to feed decent target levels Miller’s direction, in case he could be an answer to the question of next season’s starter at TE for Chicago.


(Remember, this list only includes defenses owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues and thus applies only to those who stream defenses weekly)

  • Detroit Lions (@ St. Louis; 49.7%)
    • The Lions defense has been better and better in recent weeks, including two strong performances against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and a demolition of Derek Carr and the Raiders.  It starts with Ziggy Ansah upfront, and ends with Darius Slay in the defensive backfield.  While it’s reasonable to expect something of a letdown after the Lions saw Rodgers’ Hail Mary blow up their dim playoff hopes, Detroit still gets to face Case Keenum and the offensively challenged St. Louis Rams in Week 14.  Facing the (albeit, improved) Blaine Gabbert week 16 for the fantasy championship is just icing on the cake.

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