The first week of the 2022 fantasy football playoffs is in the books, and managers fortunate enough to still have something to play for must continue their vigilance on the waiver wire.
While there isn’t a ton of startable talent to be found in the free-agency pool right now, injuries have opened the door for a handful of backups to shine in this coming week.
These lightly rostered talents could end up playing pivotal roles for not only their NFL clubs but also desperate fantasy managers as they try to make a championship push.
With that in mind, here are some of the best waiver-wire pickups heading into Week 16. All suggestions are rostered in 50 percent or fewer of Yahoo leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers offense hasn’t skipped a beat since turning the keys over to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.
The last pick in the 2022 draft has kept San Francisco atop the NFC West by winning all three contests that he’s appeared in since Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a broken foot in Week 13.
Purdy isn’t just managing the game, however, as he’s done a great job of executing head coach Kyle Shanahan’s complex offensive schemes.
In his last three appearances, Purdy has completed 58 of 84 passing attempts for 612 yards and six touchdowns against a single interception. He’s also added a score on the ground.
Purdy ranks No. 8 in fantasy points scored at the quarterback position since he began starting in Week 14 and could be a strong play for anyone who needs to shake things up in Week 16.
The Niners have a matchup tap against a Washington Commanders squad that has been average against opposing signal-callers in 2022, so managers would be hard-pressed to find a better option available.
Zack Moss was elevated to fantasy relevance Saturday after Indianapolis Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor went down with an ankle injury early in the team’s eventual heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
While Taylor’s status is still a bit murky, ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicated there is a chance the league’s reigning rushing champion won’t return to the field this season.
Moss was Indy’s preferred rushing option after Taylor went down. The third-year veteran logged 53 offensive snaps and generated 81 yards on 24 totes in Indianapolis’ 39-36 overtime defeat, besting or tying his career highs in each category.
Moss will get a chance to take over Indianapolis’ backfield during the team’s Week 16 meeting with the Los Angeles Chargers. The 25-year-old had success against that opponent during his stint with the Buffalo Bills, rushing nine times for 59 yards and catching two passes for nine yards back in 2020.
Fellow backup Deon Jackson also saw his fair share of work in wake of Taylor’s injury. He rushed 13 times for 55 yards and scored a touchdown on his lone catch. But he was only on the field for 32 percent of the Colts’ offensive plays in comparison to Moss’ 67 percent share.
Managers in deeper leagues should try to grab both players, but Moss should be the priority pickup after his heavy usage in Week 15.
The Houston Texans are playing out another lost season, but fantasy managers may be able to wring some production out of the team’s backfield down the stretch.
Heading into Week 15, it wasn’t apparent which of Houston’s backups would serve as the lead back after breakout rookie Dameon Pierce landed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle.
There’s now some clarity after fifth-year veteran Royce Freeman earned the lion’s share of the touches against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Freeman, who was recently elevated from Houston’s practice squad, made his 2022 debut Sunday by rushing 11 times for 51 yards and catching his lone target for five yards despite only seeing the field for 24 offensive snaps.
Dare Ogunbowale, the team’s No. 2 back for much of the season, only produced 14 yards on eight totes on his 27 offensive plays. Longtime veteran Rex Burkhead was just a minor factor in passing situations, reeling in two receptions for 17 yards while failing to record a single carry over 12 offensive snaps.
Head coach Lovie Smith praised Freeman’s performance in a shockingly competitive contest that saw the Texans take the heavily favored Chiefs to overtime before eventually suffering their ninth consecutive loss.
“It is about the next guy stepping up,” Smith said after the game, per Drew Dougherty of the team’s official website. “Royce has waited patiently. Been on our practice squad going against the [number] one [Texans] defense each day. I thought he took advantage of his opportunity.”
While this backfield could be a tad volatile over the final three weeks, Freeman is looking like the player to roster and should have the coaching staff’s trust in wake of his steady Week 15 showing.