We're closing in on the end, so I've turned my main article highlighting the top waiver wire targets into a spotlight on some matchup-based spot starts to target on waivers. Given the amount of injuries we've seen this season, that turns the Deep Dive into "handcuff central," more or less. Most of the players below will need something to change to get their opportunity to truly produce in fantasy, such as an injury to someone ahead of them on the depth chart. And while we never wish injury on a player, it's a fact of fantasy and real football that injuries happen, and teams need to be prepared to fill the void.
With that, let's move on to the "Deep Dive" waiver wire targets for Week 14.
Bang bang, chicken and shrimp! Hard Knocks fan favorite Chris Polk finally gets a spot on the list, after doing his mom proud and racking up 72 total yards and a touchdown in the Texans' loss to the Bills. Bill O'Brien finally backed off of feeding all of the backfield touches to Alfred Blue, and the result was a more dynamic attack. Polk and Jonathan Grimes are both worth a look on waivers this week, as they are superior talents and rushers to Blue. Hopefully this new touch distribution holds for the rest of the season, too.
While DeAngelo Williams has been a revelation in fantasy this season, he is still a 32-year-old running back with over 1,500 career carries. If you're hoping to ride Williams through the fantasy playoffs, you should make sure you have Todman along in the sidecar. He'll be the likeliest candidate to assume a healthy amount of touches if Williams suffers any sort of injury. Toussaint was the one active for the Sunday night game against the Colts, though, and is worth a look as well.
In the wake of Eddie Lacy's primetime benching, fantasy owners finally learned the source of their Lacy related anguish: he's dealing with some off the field issues. Lacy's weight has been a season-long problem, but when he missed curfew on Wednesday night, the team cut Alonzo Harris (Lacy's friend and running mate who also missed curfew) and effectively benched their Pro Bowl running back. This is a dire situation for his fantasy owners, but help could be on the way in the form of Crockett. The pride of North Dakota State university runs hungry, and looked like the most dynamic back on the Packers roster against the Lions. More than likely, James Starks will still see the bulk of the carries, and Lacy could return to the coaches' good graces, but Crockett (or Montee Ball, if he signs with the team after a workout last week) is worth a look/stash in deeper leagues.
While Sunday's game against the Rams was the David Johnson show, Kerwynn Williams did a fine job filling in when needed. While Stepfan Taylor was rumored to see more work, it was Williams who got the bulk of the garbage time carries, including a 35-yard touchdown scamper. He'll be worth adding as a Johnson handcuff down the stretch, as the team could lean on him if the rookie were to miss time. For what it's worth, Williams was the more effective rusher last year when splitting carries with Taylor down the stretch.
Karlos Williams missed practice all week with his arm still in a sling, indicating it might take him a little longer to heal up. That keeps the door open for Gillislee, who looked spry while spelling LeSean McCoy in Buffalo's Week 13 win over the Texans. McCoy owners will want to make grabbing Gillislee a priority this week, especially since McCoy was checked for a concussion against Houston. Gillislee would still split work with Boobie Dixon in McCoy's stead, but is the better handcuff to own in fantasy.
Frank Gore looked like he found the fountain of youth against the Steelers with 16 hard-fought touches, but he's still a 32-year-old running back, and his owners would be wise to handcuff him. Both Herron and Zurlon Tipton saw work against Pittsburgh on Sunday, but Herron is the better bet to see the most touches in the event Gore goes down with any sort of injury.
One of the knocks on Wheaton was that he was never in sync with Ben Roethlisberger, and that showed up in their constant miscommunication on the field. Well, perhaps they performed a mind-meld over the bye, as in the two games since they've connected 12 times for 251 yards and two touchdowns. The Pittsburgh offense operates at a high enough level that three pass catchers could produce in fantasy week to week, which gives Wheaton stand alone value. He's also a rare wide receiver handcuff if this run of production continues. If Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant (who is already dealing with a hip injury) were to go down, Wheaton could be in line for a ton of targets.
Nelson showed flashes recently, and is an ideal wide receiver handcuff for John Brown or Michael Floyd owners. While both looked great against the Rams on Sunday, they're also both still dealing with hamstring injuries. Were either to miss a game down the stretch, Nelson would immediately enter the WR3 tier.
Roberts didn't go crazy in the stat sheets again (as anticipated), but he did offer a nice safe floor of 50-plus yards. He accomplished that feat in four of his last five games. He's a safe pickup as a potential matchup-based WR3/4, and is a smart handcuff for Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree owners.
Last week I wrote about Jeff Janis, but this week the high-upside Packers wide receiver to target is Abbrederis. With James Jones pulling a disappearing act, Abbrederis could push for more snaps as the third wide receiver for the Pack. Abbrederis is big, fast and showed a bit of a rapport with Aaron Rodgers before his injury. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb continue to struggle getting separation, giving Abbrederis a chance to get in and make a difference -- if he sees the requisite snaps.
With Jimmy Graham landing on season-ending IR, Willson becomes the top tight end in the Seattle offense. He'll still have to battle Cooper Helfet for targets as well, but Willson has more upside and has seen the field far more than Helfet so far this season. If owners are looking to stream either of these tight ends, they should choose Willson.
Even though he had a touchdown vultured by Lee Smith, Walford still put up a solid fantasy stat line. He caught all five of his targets for 53 yards for a solid 10.3 PPR fantasy points. Those looking for a nice stash/streaming candidate at the position should scoop up Walford this week.
-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer and editor for NFL.com, and the producer of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. He recently discovered the ablum "WisconsInsane" by Sigmund Snopek, the keyboardist for the Violent Femmes, and suggests you check it out. Or at least look into Snopek's underappreciated impact on the music of his time period. Chat with him about music/movies or ask him for fantasy advice on Twitter @AlexGelhar.