Kareem Hunt and James Conner showed the value of fantasy handcuffs this week as fantasy leagues head toward the playoffs.
Hunt’s release by the Chiefs after video surfaced of him in a scuffle with a woman at a Cleveland hotel prompted many fantasy players to flock toward Spencer Ware. And on Monday night, an injury to Conner led to Pittsburgh turning to Jaylen Samuels, who caught a late touchdown pass against the Chargers.
Fantasy players who hedged on Conner got immediate relief if they rostered Samuels ahead of time as a handcuff. If not, let the anxiety begin about whether you’ll have enough free agent acquisition dollars or waiver positioning to grab him from free agency.
Samuels is owned in only 3.4 percent of leagues, so not enough owners have been adequately prepared. The stampede for his services will come with a twist — on some fantasy platforms, Samuels actually qualifies as a tight end, a position he played at North Carolina State. That makes him even more sought after since he can be plugged into an incredibly thin TE position, a rare sight in fantasy.
It also harkens back to the unforgettable days when Saints wideout Marques Colston had TE eligibility on some sites early in his career, giving owners another unique advantage.
Mike Tomlin has said that he will employ a committee at RB in Week 14, but Samuels will surely lead the crew and should at least be viewed as a RB2 for fantasy purposes. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott owners need to grab Rod Smith and the Saquon Barkley owners must add Wayne Gallman. Injuries and other unforeseen events could push guys like Smith and Gallman into more prominent roles, as we have already seen with Ware and Samuels. The backups to Elliott and Barkley are much less talented, but could have an opportunity to produce at least decent totals if needed in plug-in roles.
In the Fantasy playoffs, you also want to play a little defense on the waiver wire, blocking your opponents from gaining the players they need. If you see that the team you are facing this week has Conner and not Samuels, you need to either outbid him for Samuels or make him your top waiver priority to prevent the other team from gaining his services.
MORE ADDS FOR WEEK 14
Jeff Wilson Jr. (0.4 percent owned) will likely start at RB for the 49ers this week as Matt Breida has already been ruled out with an ankle injury. Wilson caught eight passes for 73 yards at Seattle last week and rushed for 61 yards. He could be in line for more quality volume against Denver. He’ll be worth flex consideration.
There is a good chance that Melvin Gordon returns from a knee injury this week, but just in case, Justin Jackson (12.2) looked better than Austin Ekeler in Week 13, rushing for 63 yards on only eight carries. Jackson may usurp Ekeler as the best handcuff to Gordon.
Bills QB Josh Allen (3.7) has rushed for 234 yards and a TD in his past two games. Savvy fantasy players well know that any QB with that sort of rushing upside deserves immediate starting consideration. As crazy as it would have sounded in the preseason, Allen now needs to be in starting conversations possibly over disappointments such as Tom Brady.
Dante Pettis (2.2) has 206 yards and three TDs in his past two games, and has emerged as the top playmaker in the 49ers depleted passing game. He has big-play ability and also demonstrated he can score.
In point-per-reception leagues, Curtis Samuel has three consecutive double figure outings, yet he remains only 12.5 percent owned. He has two TDs in his last three games. He’ll challenge defenses with his speed and has shown red zone promise.
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