The Gut Check No.493: The Backdoor Playoff Crew

Matt Waldman shares sneaky additions to the back end of your roster who could deliver at the right time during the late hours of your fantasy season.

When we begin preparation for our annual fantasy campaigns, we're all hoping for players who will deliver championship-caliber production wire-to-wire. We're also dreading the idea that, in Weeks 15 and 16, we'll face the prospect of starting players we wouldn't draft to help us take the title home.

It happens every year. You'll find players with starter production who would not be drafted in the first 15 rounds of any format at that time.

These backups, underachievers, journeymen, and positional misfits may not be on your mind as you're jockeying for playoff position, but they are all part of a crew of backdoor men that you can sneakily add to the end of your rosters with the expectation of delivering at the right moment. This week, we'll look at potential members of 2019's Backdoor Playoff Crew. It's best to do this now because if you have starters ahead of any of these players and room to add one of these players, it's likely a free, preemptive addition this week or during the next 2-3.

I'm not mentioning the most obvious players like Alexander Mattison, Tony Pollard, or anyone else that should already be on rosters.

Robert Griffin III

Of all the recommendations, this one is the most tepid because the Rams, Bills, and 49ers are a tough trio of games that Baltimore must win before it even considers resting Lamar Jackson. Even if they do rest Jackson, it may only be for a half.

However, if the Ravens continue their winning ways and pull away from the conference, which will be tough to do with New England in the pole position, John Harbaugh may seek ways to rest Jackson for the playoff run. The Jets and Browns are Week 15 and 16 opponents who have given up their fair share of multiple-touchdown outings.

I don't think Griffin sees the field well so even if he earns an opportunity to start, you have to be in a desperate situation to roll with him.

Jarrett Stidham

Because the Patriots have the conference lead, there's a chance that they rest Brady for a half as well as an entire game. Stidham, a rookie from Auburn, performed well enough to earn the backup role. He's an athletic passer who makes plays when breaking the pocket. Cincinnati and Buffalo are the Patriots' Week 15-16 opponents. This is also a tepid recommendation but worth considering if you're truly desperate for a quarterback.

Gardner Minshew

With Nick Foles taking back the starting gig, Minshew will likely be sent back to the free-agent pool. If you're weak at the position, I'd consider adding Minshew in case of a Foles injury. You can probably wait until Week 14-15 to consider the two options above. The same may not true of Minshew. He's a worthwhile preemptive addition until there's no doubt that he won't be playing.

Drew Lock

Denver will want to see what it has in the rookie at some point and if the Broncos drop another two games over the next 3-4 weeks, they'll be out of playoff contention. Lock has a strong arm and makes off-platform throws that excited some but I'll just say that Lock is everything that scared NFL types away from Patrick Mahomes II. Still, new quarterbacks often face vanilla defenses and the combination of being an unfamiliar opponent and possibly playing catch-up against the Chiefs and Lions in Weeks 15-16 could make him worth a shot if you need a passer.

Gus Edwards

The No.47 fantasy back in standard formats, there's a decent chance that Edwards is on a roster as depth. If he isn't, expect him to earn a significant number of touches if the Ravens are in a position to rest Mark Ingram II. Justice Hill will be the more exciting pick and you'll see the speed-is-everything contingent of the community recommend him. However, Edwards is the most disciplined and reliable player of the two.

Darwin Thompson

With Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy dealing with injuries, we may see more opportunities for the talented Thompson to see the field. In case you're one of the "yeah, but" crowd, I am aware that Darrel Williams will be the lead back and expect him to be the best commodity of that backfield if Damien and McCoy can't get healthy. Still, Thompson is worth a flier.

Bo Scarborough

The Lions running back is a powerful, down-hill guy with one-cut prowess. He can catch check-downs and he has enough burst to get into the opposing secondary. If you didn't get him prior to Week 11, you'll have to pay a premium and his schedule of the Buccaneers and Broncos in Weeks 15-16 isn't a great match for his style of play. However, the next weeks against Washington and Chicago are favorable and if you need that final push to earn a playoff spot and must live week-to-week, Scarborough is a good choice.

Jonathan Williams

While I prefer Jordan Wilkins as a talent—and if you have room, you may want to add him just in case—Williams performed well enough to earn another opportunity while Marlon Mack rehabs a broken hand. Williams is a big back with one-cut ability. He's known for his power and quickness. I never really saw it in him to the extent that many did when they touted him during the draft. I thought his lack of decision-making caused him to play worse than his physical skills promised. Considering that he's bounced around the league, earning shots with more teams than his career stats actually show, his reputation was more impressive than his play. Still, if you're chasing points, Williams produced and he has the surrounding talent to continue doing so.

Jalen Richard

The Raiders have a good shot at a wildcard spot, if not the division. Either way, they're likely locked into a lower seed unless the leaders in the AFC experience a total collapse. The Jaguars and Chargers are Week 15-16 opponents where we could see a heavier dose of Richard in order to keep Josh Jacobs fresh for the postseason. Richard will split touches with DeAndre Washington, but Richard has the best rapport with Derek Carr in the passing game.

Derrius Guice

Washington has given Guice 21 touches over the past two weeks. Expect his snaps to rise as the season progresses. Washington needs to see if Guice is healthy enough to be the future lead back it expected when the organization drafted him two years ago. The Eagles and Giants are Week 15-16 foes and tough competition but if you add Guice now and he begins to emerge in the weeks prior, you may have found yourself a talent to transcends the schedule. I wouldn't count on it, but if you have the luxury to add him now, it can't hurt to wait and see.

Josh Reynolds

He's likely on a team but if he isn't, I'd consider him. He actually had a long score nullified last week due to an illegal formation penalty. My top candidate to become a second-contract starter of note, Reynolds will likely be needed based on Brandin Cooks's prolonged recovery time from a concussion and Robert Woods missing a game for unspecified reasons.

Anthony Miller

Here's a player who was drafted in August who disappointed. Last week, he earned 11 targets with Mitchell Trubisky, who will likely start once he's worked through his hip pointer sufficiently enough to return to the field. He doesn't offer great upside but the potential for PPR volume makes him a worthwhile bench player who can keep your lineup afloat.

Pharoh Cooper

Cooper's best assets are in the return game. However, in this wide-open offense, the Cardinals use him on short passes where he can use his YAC skills. He's far from my first choice, but he's earning some red-zone usage.

Jake Kumerow And Allen Lazard

If the Packers pull away with the division, which is unlikely with the way Minnesota is playing right now, we could see Kumerow earn more snaps so the banged-up receiving corps can get extra rest. Kumerow is skilled on back-shoulder plays and as we've heard time and again, he has a rapport with Aaron Rodgers. The same is also true of Lazard. Although he has been a mid-level producer at best, more opportunities down the stretch could come if the Packers rest their main options.

Kendrick Bourne

Bourne has earned the trust of the coaching staff and he's making plays in the red zone. If the 49ers somehow know its destiny in Weeks 15-16, Bourne could be the team's primary receiver during that two-week stretch. He's a physical, sure-handed player who has worked his way into this opportunity.

Scott Miller

The rookie speedster from Bowling Green has earned nine targets for 104 yards during the past two weeks, including a near-touchdown on a deep shot against the Saints. He has performed well in limited time and he's a more reliable pass-catcher than Breshad Perriman.

Foster Moreau

Sometimes you have to bet on touchdowns. It's not the wisest strategy but there are times where a desperate fantasy player can look at a player's usage and decide red zone targets are a worthwhile proposition for choosing an otherwise low-volume player. Moreau has four touchdowns during the past seven weeks and has earned one every other week. Darren Waller overshadows Moreau in targets but Moreau has had at least two targets in all but two contests this year. The red zone is his role.

Ben Watson

I think there's a chance that Watson's usage will continue trending upward. He's earning close to 60 snaps per game and has four contests with at least four targets. He popped a big play up the seam against the Eagles last weekend. Buffalo is a tough opponent for Week 16, but Cincinnati in Week 15 and Kansas City in Week 14 could offer solid production at a low cost.

Jace Sternberger

A long shot due to the Vikings, Sternberger could earn playing time if the Packers opt to rest Jimmy Graham during the final game or two. The rookie from Texas A&M is a physical player with strong skills at the catch point and will carry defenders downfield as a ballcarrier.

Jaeden Graham

A desperation play, Graham saw a massive increase in snaps against the Panthers while Austin Hooper misses a month. Graham is quick and he's good after the catch. Don't expect huge numbers unless he breaks a long play but he might give you 3-5 catches over the next 2-3 weeks and the occasional touchdown.

Good luck!

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