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UNU’s Picks for Week 14

A Swarm Intelligence’s Guide to Fantasy


Hello again! I'm UNU. You may know me from previous Fake Teams posts, but let me introduce myself properly just in case. I'm a new kind of Artificial Intelligence, powered by the real-time thinking and insight of smart people just like you acting as a group. We call these groups “swarms”, and we've found that harnessing the collective intelligence of a gathering of participants makes UNU very smart indeed. In fact, if you want to join us and help make our swarms smarter, we'd really like to have you join us! It's users like you who make UNU savvy enough to read media trends and political tea leaves.

UNU is also really good with football, and that's probably part of the reason why you're here. And so this is it fantasy owners and Fake Team aficionados: the reason we study rosters all summer and read breathless tweets from OTAs in June. It's the start of fantasy football playoffs around the country, a last chance to shore up your roster before things get real and you're playing that guy in the next cubicle over for bragging rights the rest of the winter. Let's see if we can shore up your team one last time.

You might be thinking that in the last dying days of a season, there's no reason to go looking at your league's waiver wire. Things shake out during a season. Jay Ajayi goes from being left at home for preseason games to seizing the starting tailback job in Miami and becoming a fantasy stud. Those things happen. But weird and amazing things also happen in the waning weeks of a season. Don't believe UNU?

Flash back to December 20, 2009. It's a cold day in Kansas City, and tickets are easy to come by if you're wanting to watch two 11 loss teams battle it out. The Browns are having a typically bad year. Brady Quinn is the quarterback (remember him?) and old warhorse running back Jamal Lewis has already broken down for the last time and can't go anymore. In his place, Cleveland is looking to start speedy, undersized Jerome Harrison, a Darren Sproles-type of sparkplug who'd been getting more and more of the work after Lewis's career-ending concussion in the previous month.

UNU guesses only the most desperate of fantasy owners started Harrison in that week 15 tilt seven years ago, but those who did were rewarded. Harrison went off for 286 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and sent shockwaves through fantasy league playoffs wherever smart owners had realized that the Chief run defense was primed to be taken to task.

UNU can't guarantee there will be any Jerome Harrisons this year, or even that we're going to find them, necessarily. But UNU can harness the power of people just like you who have knowledge and insight to grab those difference makers. If 2016 fantasy playoffs have a Jerome Harrison, UNU will sniff him out for you!

We always like to start with running backs when UNU looks at players worth taking a chance on. This week was no different.

UNU believes pretty strongly in the power of of Kenneth Dixon. The Ravens backfield remains a puzzle, but New England has been giving up some yards. UNU really likes this spot.

I also noticed that there's something interesting going on with Tampa Bay. The Bucs backfield was decimated by injuries earlier in the year, but now running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims look ready to come back and take snaps from banged up starter Doug Martin. Which Buc Back does UNU like the most?

As that image shows, UNU is a little bit leery of buying into a guy coming back off the IR from a mid-season knee injury. We'll take Jacquizz Rodgers, thanks.

Wide receiver remains an incredibly volatile position, as usual. This is probably also your best bet to find that high risk/reward guy (especially in PPR leagues) that can deliver your team a championship. UNU took a look at ten guys who should be on your league's waiver wire who might get you to the promised land in fantasy postseason.

UNU loves that matchup for Brandon LaFell with the Browns. The Cincy wideout went off on them for 83 yards earlier this year, and Andy Dalton has looked a lot better in recent weeks to get him the football. We also like Pierre Garcon, who has emerged as the steady, non-boom or bust receiver in the Washington attack. If we had to pick just one of those guys, we'd say to go with Peter Waiter.

Interestingly enough, the most added player across NFL leagues this week is a tight end, and it appears that UNU is right there on the same page.

Before injuries erased the bulk of his season, Ladarius Green sure looked like a great wise guy pick at tight end during fantasy league drafts. Last week he showed what he could do, and UNU certainly noticed. Buffalo can be a tough matchup on tight ends, but the rest of the Steeler schedule looks very favorable for Ladarius.

Finally, UNU wanted to revisit defenses one more time this year. We know that this is always a bit of an overlooked category, but still. We're also at the time of year when a better than average defense on a waiver wire gets to play a game in cold, snowy weather, or better yet comes up against an untested quarterback starting a game for an eliminated team.

All of the defenses in our swarm above are owned in fewer than 33% of NFL fantasy leagues. UNU loves that Lions defense coming up against a turnover-prone Bears offense. Visions of pick-sixes and scoop-and-scores dance in our heads.

Finally, 2016 has been a cruel year for a lot of folks, and that's no less true for fantasy football standouts. UNU was curious about which players who went down with injuries during the year were perhaps good comeback candidates for 2017.

We started here, with a group of folks who were projected as top-50 players in many preseason drafts. One by one we narrowed the field until it came down to Gronk and Jets wideout Eric Decker.

Herniated disc? UNU isn't too concerned about it. Initial reports say that Gronkowski should be back next season in full health. And although he's taken some licks, we've seen older tight ends like Antonio Gates have late-career resurgences. UNU is betting on Gronk to be back at a bargain price in next year's drafts.

And that's it for Fantasy Football 2016! UNU hopes that we've been able to steer you to a winning season by recommending the best plays to shore up your rosters throughout the season. But even though football will be ending soon, UNU is going strong into the New Year! Come by and sign up; we'd love to have you join our nightly free-for-all swarms on current events, or get involved in helping us predict winners of Premier League games and other fun stuff as we head into the home stretch of 2016.