By Will Mirrer 

Weekly recommended fantasy football free agent pickups.  The fantasy semi-finals are upon us.


  • Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
    • You know your getting your 11-13 point floor tossing Alex Smith out there.  The question is, if you’re streaming quarterbacks in the playoffs, does Smith have enough upside, given his hyper-conservative playing style, to win you a championship?  I vote yes, given that the Chiefs face the Ravens’ porous pass defense week 15, and the Browns all-around dismal “stop” unit Week 16. The matchups are almost too good to mess up, and it has to give one a bit of extra confidence to see Smith and free-agent signee wide receiver Jeremy Maclin developing a rapport lately.  Finally, the Chiefs need to keep winning to make the playoffs, and at least it can’t hurt to rely on a team that actually needs to win.
  • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • You probably don’t want to be relying on a rookie who’s been inconsistent the last few weeks (though pretty darn good for a rookie) in your fantasy football championship.  Nevertheless, famous Jameis is still putting up points most weeks, and Winston and the Bucs have the Chicago Bears defense during the week 16 championship matchup.  The floor is low, but the ceiling is quite high.


  • Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints
    • With RB Mark Ingram out for the year, it was Tim Hightower who stepped up for the Saints with 85 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs.  Granted, it took 28 carries, more than he’ll likely see again this year. But an every-down starter for the Saints, facing the Jaguars defense week 16 in the fantasy championship? That’s at least worth a pickup.
  • Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
    • The Jaguars starting running back, T.J. Yeldon, is doubtful week 15 with a sprained knee.  Denard “Shoelace” Robinson will pick up most, if not all, of the carries while Yeldon is out.  It looks like Yeldon may be back next week, but if not, feel free to fire up Denard against the hapless Saints defense week 16.
  • Bryce Brown and Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
    • With Thomas Rawls out for the rest of the fantasy season, the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere for a spark out of the backfield.  They’ve picked up two high-upside running backs who’ve never translated their athleticism into consistent production in Bryce Brown and Christine Michael.  Look for the back who plays better week 15 to get a handle on the job for championship week.  I’d avoid playing either until the pecking order is determined if you have regular starting options at running back.
  • Brandon Bolden and James White, New England Patriots
    • With LeGarrette Blount also done for the fantasy season, Belichick will be needing to look elsewhere for early down running production.  Look for Brandon Bolden to pick up some carries, as well as 3rd down specialist James White.  Bolden is the better early down fit; White is likely the better talent with more upside.  Like the Seahawks’ potential committee, either play is a gamble until we know how the carry distribution will shake out.
  • Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
    • OK, so you’ve learned not to trust the Lions’ offensive line to produce running lanes by now.  Fine.  But hear me out – Abdullah has the Saints defense week 15, and the 49ers pitiful unit week 16.  If you need to hit a homerun this week or next, and have been bitten with injuries at running back, Abdullah is a high risk/high reward play to do something special.


  • Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
    • The electric Seattle rookie has garnered a larger role in the offense since Jimmy Graham went down for the season and Russell Wilson caught fire this past month.  With Rawls out as well, Wilson should need to continue to air out, leaving plenty of points to go around for both Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.
  • Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers
    • Ginn has caught 2 touchdowns in each of the last two games, yet only had two catches in week 15 total.  Thus is the life of a Ginn owner.  You’ll have to sweat out the nonexistent floor, but Ginn can hit one out of the park for you if you need a new flex and are an underdog in your playoff matchup.
  • Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins
    • Matthews may return from his rib injury this week, and could supplant Devante Parker in the number 2 wide receiver role again, at least for this season.


  • Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
    • 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.  He’s been scoring touchdowns almost every game since becoming a relevant asset for the Bears just over a month ago.
  • Will Tye, New York Giants
    • Larry Donnell, the Giants’ regular starting tight end, was 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.
  • DEF:

(This list only includes defenses owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues in order to limit it to likely streaming candidates)

  • Minnesota Vikings (vs. Chicago Bears)
    • The formerly strong Vikings defense has been beat up recently and not been performing quite as well lately, so keep tabs on the Sunday statuses of Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith.  Most of their key defensive personnel should be back week 15, however, and face a decent, but not great, Chicago offense in a big divisional showdown with the Vikings’ playoff life on the line.

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