Best Fantasy Week 16 Waiver Pickups: Duke Johnson surprises, Gabriel Davis continues late-season breakout
Three of the top Week 16 fantasy waiver wire pickups and free agent adds are legit breakout wide receivers who could have major impacts on the final two rounds of the fantasy football playoffs. Those would be Gabriel Davis, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Russell Gage. Two of the other top pickups, at least based on initial glance at the box scores, are running backs who probably have little value beyond this week. Those would be Duke Johnson and Craig Reynolds. However, at this point in the season, even flash-in-the-pans can’t be overlooked because you never know who will stick in lineups, but Johnson and Reynolds won’t have as much value as Samaje Perine if Joe Mixon’s injury is serious.
Our full free agent list doesn’t feature many guys who should necessarily be picked up because of their high levels of production or talent. It’s more about opportunities and matchups. With the recent rash of players going on the reserve/COVID list, not to mention the usual amount of injuries, having capable backups in favorable matchups at every position will be key. That’s why we have a slew of Week 16 streamer suggestions at QB, WR, TE, and D/ST(and the rare RB streamer suggestion), which can be found at the end of this list.
It’s tough to single out a “top” waiver pickup at this point, as it really comes down to what you need or what you’re trying to block your opponent from getting. There’s no need to “save” waiver claims if you’re in the fantasy semifinals, so if you need a WR, grab Gage, St. Brown, or Davis. If you need an RB, Perine might be your guy. Johnson and Reynolds likely aren’t worth waiver claims (see below), but they are priority free agent pickups. Chances are, we’ll hear about a key RB injury or COVID situation on Monday or Tuesday, propelling another unsuspecting backup into the fantasy spotlight.
That’s who it always goes at this time of year, so the key is to stay alert and be ready to pounce. Also, make sure you’re maximizing every roster spot. If that means rotating streamers/handcuffs each week, then that’s what you have to do. You never want to give up a player who could have legitimate value to someone else, but with the possibility of more games getting rescheduled and your starters potentially going on the reserve/COVID list in the meantime, you have to always have pivots ready to go.
UPDATE: With Leonard Fournette injuring his hamstring on Sunday night, Ronald Jones is another potentially top pickup.
Top fantasy football waiver wire pickups for Week 16
Unless otherwise noted, only players owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues considered.
Samaje Perine, RB, Bengals. Joe Mixon was helped off the field after a suffering a left ankle injury late in Cincinnati’s game against Denver, and though he was seen jogging a few minutes later, his status for Week 16 is definitely up in the air. Few backs have received consistent volume like Mixon this season, and Perine would presumably receive the bulk of that work if he’s starting against the Ravens next week. Perine has had his moments the past couple years with the Bengals, including a 136-yard, two-TD effort in extensive playing time in Week 16 last year. Chris Evans would also be mixed in, but Perine is the back to own if Mixon can’t go.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. Davis continued his scoring streak in Week 15, catching five passes for 85 yards and two TDs. With Emmanuel Sanders (knee) dinged up, Davis should continue to see significant snaps, and his red-zone rapport with Josh Allen always makes him a candidate for a big game. Next week’s matchup against New England isn’t the best (though he did score against the Pats in Week 13 despite some of the worst weather we’ve seen all year), but his Week 17 matchup against Atlanta will make him a borderline must-start.
Russell Gage, WR, Falcons. Gage is still available in roughly half of Yahoo leagues, but after his fourth straight solid performance, his ownership numbers should really climb. Gage hauled in eight-of-11 targets for 91 yards and a TD against the 49ers, giving him either 100 yards or a TD in three of his past four games. With a highly favorable matchup against Detroit on tap, Gage will be a solid WR3, and he even has a solid PPR floor in a tougher matchup in Week 17 against Buffalo.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Lions. St. Brown continued his sizzling conclusion to the season with eight catches for 90 yards and a score against Arizona. He’s had at least eight catches and 11 targets in three straight games, totaling 259 yards and two TDs in that span. With an elite matchup against the Falcons next week, St. Brown will be a borderline must-start, at least in PPR leagues. He’ll be in play in Week 17 against a Seahawks defense that gives up a lot of passing yards, too.
Duke Johnson, RB, Dolphins. Johnson enjoyed an impressive performance as the Dolphins’ lead back in Week 15 (22 carries, 107 yards, two TDs), but his moment in the Miami sun could be short lived. It’s likely he saw the bulk of the playing time because Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed had missed the entire week of practice while on the reserve/COVID list. On top of that, Phillip Lindsay is currently on the reserve/COVID list, and Malcolm Brown (quad) is still on the IR. All four would likely be ahead of Johnson on the depth chart when active and better prepared, so while it’s possible Johnson earned more playing time next week in a tough matchup against the Saints, we wouldn’t bet on it. As such, he’s likely not worth a waiver claim, but it’s not a bad idea to grab him as a free agent just to be safe.
Craig Reynolds, RB, Lions. Like Johnson, Reynolds has taken advantage of a surprise opportunity. With his 27-touch, 117-yard performance in Week 15, he hit at least 99 total yards for the second straight week as the lead back in place of D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (reserve/COVID). Swift might be done for the year, but Williams seems likely to return in Week 16. Either way, Reynolds has earned more playing time and will be at least worth stashing with highly favorable matchups against Atlanta and Seattle coming up.
For additional waiver/free agent suggestions, including more streaming options at every position, check out our full Week 16 list.