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Cutting the Cord: Week 15

Breaking down the key players to drop or trade to optimize fantasy football rosters

Shifting focus with the season winding down, here are the key adds and drops covering leagues of various depth:

Quarterbacks

Nick Foles is the big pickup of the week for streaming teams in the playoffs. Carson Wentz was likely on a playoff team and losing him is a gut punch for the critical final two weeks. Foles has two good matchups (Giants, Raiders) plus inherits a strong offensive structure. 

Blaine Gabbert and Mitch Trubisky are two streaming candidates where the top-20 or so quarterbacks are already owned. Both have a pair of optimistic matchups.

In terms of dropping quarterbacks, dynasty owners should be wary of keeping too many quarterbacks in start-1 formats into the offseason. With less than 25 roster spots, the maximum roster spots in the offseason is 1-2 quarterbacks. In deeper leagues (and especially superflex formats), quarterbacks are strong stash options, especially those with free agents on their depth chart (or themselves) like Colt McCoy, EJ Manuel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Mike Glennon.

Running Backs

In terms of adding running backs, the window is closing for shooting the needle on a backup option to hit with an injury in front of them. Week 16 is the lone week to react to an injury and benefit from a spot start, which is likely not as strong compared to a championship team's existing roster of options. Kerwynn Williams, Malcolm Brown, Damien Williams, James Conner, and Matt Breida are some of the rare examples where their workloads in Week 16 could be enough to consider for lineups if an injury clears their path (Williams would need Adrian Peterson to merely remain out).

For stash players in keeper or dynasty leagues, running backs offer a bevy of viable bets into the offseason for a changing landscape:

Terrance West, Jeremy Hill, Chris Ivory, and Jonathan Stewart are four undervalued veterans with potential team changes with a profile of production to bet on a revival. All four have been on various leagues' waiver wires I have observed in recent weeks. West and Ivory are the most likely to be available with Stewart and Hill luxury additions if floating out there. Going deeper for dynasty owners, Darren Sproles and Matthew Dayes are other names with uptick potential.

Wide Receivers

Wide receiver is not the position to find starting caliber options this late in the season as a general rule. Even an injury to a depth is not likely to pave the way for a waiver wire receiver to vault to flex or better consideration like the other skill positions. Chester Rogers, Albert Wilson, Torrey Smith, and Cordarrelle Patterson are the typical 'best case' options in medium depth leagues if needing a spot starter. If in more shallow formats, Mohamed Sanu, Paul Richardson Jr, and Tyler Lockett are worthy of matchup upticks in the closing two weeks.

For the offseason, Brice Butler, Kendall Wright, Danny Amendola, Torrey Smith, Tavon Austin, and Kenny Britt are worth consideration for final roster spots. To highlight two of these players, Butler has flashed in his limited opportunities behind Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams in Dallas for multiple seasons. Butler has prototypical outside receiver traits and a quality size-movement combination to land as a No.2/3 option in free agency. Tavon Austin has been a massive disappointment compared to his draft position during his initial seasons. However, a fresh start for the elite athlete can offer untapped upside if optimized by an expanded role by a new offense.

Tight Ends

Free agents or tight ends to benefit from free agency top the list for stash options. Nick Vannett is a name to keep in mind for Seattle with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson both potential players to move on to other teams. Vance McDonald is one of the better stashes with a strong size-movement combination but inconsistent thus far in his career. Pittsburgh can save more than $4 million by cutting McDonald. Josh Hill, Darren Fells, and Michael Roberts are three more options who could benefit from cuts as Coby Fleener and Eric Ebron would be substantial savings by team cuts in the offseason.

Defenses

While the Jaguars are potentially the only matchup-agnostic defense to close the season, be flexible to target certain quarterbacks and offenses with streaming options.

Add

Ravens

The crown jewel (if available) is Baltimore with Cleveland and Indianapolis to finish the fantasy season. They were a proactive add the past few weeks to set up a playoff duo on matchups for strong teams with a fungible roster spot.

Redskins

While the Ravens are likely owned, Washington is available in most leagues. Arizona has allowed 19 sacks over the past five games (most in the NFL) and thrown in seven turnovers. Washington also has an optimal matchup against Denver in Week 16, so spending extra to lock up Washington gets both weeks covered for streaming teams.

Bills

If needing a final option, Buffalo gets the nod for Week 15 against Miami, who has 11 turnovers in the past five games and this week against New England was their only 'clean' game in the last month.

Drop

Outside of Jacksonville, drop kicker and defense for stash players in dynasty leagues. Far too many owners keep a starting lineup into the offseason when it is not mandatory in >95% of leagues. Check the rules and take additional shots on offseason landscape changing options at the skill positions.