There are myriad words and terms fantasy owners don't like to hear, including high-ankle sprain, multi-interception outing and bye weeks, and the term "game-day decision" certainly belongs on the list. For Week 15, there are quite a few popular wide receivers receiving this designation, which during the fantasy playoffs creates much angst. As of Friday morning we don't know -- they are game-day decisions -- if the likes of Roddy White, Dez Bryant and Cecil Shorts will play Sunday, but since this is the weekly Sneaky Pickups blog entry, let's look at who stands to benefit.
After all, these are productive wide receivers, with White a top-10 choice, Bryant close to it and Shorts playing at that level when he was dealt a concussion, and their quarterbacks are expected to be busy this week. With White (knee), his replacement seems obvious, though Harry Douglas is also listed as questionable with sore ribs. Douglas hasn't scored or registered a 50-yard game this season, but the Falcons are cruising along and could sit the durable White or the risky Julio Jones in any of the final weeks, helping Douglas and Drew Davis.
In Dallas, surprising Week 1 hero Kevin Ogletree, owned in 20 percent of ESPN standard formats, would stand in for Bryant (finger). In this case, the situation is more interesting. While the Falcons are cruising, the Cowboys cannot afford any losses, and after what should be a tough battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Tony Romo gets to throw on the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins. Can't get much better than that! I've ranked Bryant as if he will play, a top-20 choice, but Ogletree, who since his 23-point fantasy opener has accumulated 29 points, is a wise addition in leagues larger than 10 teams for the rest of December. Cole Beasley, who delivered in Week 12 against the Redskins, is a smallish, slot type who becomes relevant depending on Bryant's status, and Dwayne Harris will be involved too.
Then there's Jacksonville. Shorts has been cleared to practice, but he still might sit out Sunday's in-state game in Miami. Justin Blackmon is owned in more than two-thirds of ESPN standard formats, so the sneaky add would be Jordan Shipley. He caught five passes for 55 yards in Week 14 against the New York Jets -- nothing awesome, but still relevant for those in point-per-reception formats. As with White and Bryant, I think and hope Shorts plays, because he is really good and remains underrated, but if he sits, Shipley, released by the Cincinnati Bengals this summer after tearing an ACL last season, does have upside.
As for other wide receivers that owners in deeper formats should pay attention to, I'm watching the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Dwayne Bowe (ribs) is out and likely done for the season, so Jon Baldwin gets a nice opportunity to step up. Baldwin has caught only 18 passes this season, third among Chiefs wide receivers to Bowe and Dexter McCluster, so it's possible the Pittsburgh product is more bust than sleeper. McCluster has barely been used of late and Steve Breaston appears on the outs, so Terrance Copper seems next in line for the enticing matchup in Oakland. Also keep an eye on Oakland's Rod Streater, Detroit's Kris Durham (college teammate of Matthew Stafford) and Tampa Bay's Tiquan Underwood.
At quarterback, it's Week 15, so it's tough to make any argument for a sneaky pickup anymore. In ESPN standard leagues, 19 quarterbacks are owned in at least 70 percent of leagues, so even Robert Griffin III owners should have a reasonable backup. For those in multi-QB formats or 20-team leagues, Kirk Cousins, Joe Webb and Jason Campbell jump out as pickups. Cousins is the rookie backup for the Redskins and could be called into duty in relief and for future contests. Christian Ponder continues to underachieve for the Vikings, and the team might let Webb run around instead. In Chicago, Jay Cutler (neck, knee) remains questionable for this week, setting Campbell up to potentially throw at Brandon Marshall 15 times.
At running back, nobody should assume Montell Owens becomes the next Fred Taylor in Jacksonville. Richard Murphy is next in line. Oakland's Marcel Reece shows up on ESPN's most-dropped list, but do you feel confident Darren McFadden will play all of the final three contests? If the Buffalo Bills continue to mess with C.J. Spiller, we could certainly see third-stringer Tashard Choice play a larger role than expected (Fred Jackson is out for the season). In Green Bay, it would hardly be shocking if DuJuan Harris or Ryan Grant push the average Alex Green for touches.
Good luck to all in Week 15 and beyond!