9 route: Top 9 fantasy football waiver targets in Week 14

Steelers' Ladarius Green not just Gronk replacement, he's posting Gronk-like numbers

By ARTHUR ARKUSH — aarkush@profootballweekly.com
Published: Updated:
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green (89) crosses the goal line for a touchdown after taking a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham)
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green (89) crosses the goal line for a touchdown after taking a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham) — Jared Wickerham

Every Tuesday, Arthur Arkush shares his top nine waiver wire targets for fantasy football players. This will focus exclusively on players owned in less than 50 percent of all Yahoo! leagues.

A note of caution: just because a player is on this list, it doesn't mean readers should exhaust their claim priority and/or waiver budget. Those decisions should be based on individual roster makeup, injuries and other outside forces.

Have specific roster questions for your fantasy team? Tweet @ArthurArkush

Just missed the cut: Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Colts TE Dwayne Allen, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta, Bears WR Cameron Meredith, Packers RB Christine Michael, Browns QB Robert Griffin III, Bears QB Matt Barkley

9. Broncos RB Justin Forsett: Denver desperately wants to replace Devontae Booker, who hasn't gotten the job done in C.J. Anderson's absence, and with Kapri Bibbs out of the equation and Forsett already in the know on Gary Kubiak's system, crazier things have happened. Like, Forsett going from journeyman to fantasy stud under Kubiak before. As good as the AFC West is, run defense seemingly is optional, and Denver's trip to Kansas City during fantasy championship week could bear fruit for Forsett, if not sooner.

8. Buccaneers RB Charles Sims: Tampa's talented No. 2 will be moved from I.R. back to the active roster this week, just in time for a date with the Saints. Now we're not suggesting plugging Sims into your lineup, not with Tampa's crowded backfield including struggling Doug Martin, reborn Jacquizz Rodgers and intriguing Peyton Barber. But the Bucs get the Saints again in fantasy championship week and Sims could be squarely in the mix by then. Tampa is fighting for its postseason lives and Sims' pass-catching ability in an offense with Mike Evans and not much else is intriguing.

7. Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett: Here we go again. Accuse me of refusing to let go if you wish, but Lockett had easily his best game of the season to force his way back on the list. Unlike Allen or Pitta, Lockett's 138-yard outing, including a razzle-dazzle 75-yard scoring burst off a jet sweep, showcased his limitless upside. Seattle's offense is heading in the right direction and Lockett's increased health and, in turn, involvement could be fantasy lightning in a bottle. The Packers — Seattle's Week 14 opponent — haven't suddenly fixed their still-undermanned 'D.'

6. Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman: Apologies in advance if the rest of this column sounds like a broken record, but we're a lot prouder to have had all these guys on previous '9 routes' than, say, Colin Kaepernick. Inman again won a long footrace to the end zone Sunday, his second consecutive week doing so, and gets Carolina's secondary next. The Panthers are fighting mental hurdles now, Ron Rivera says, so apparently it can get even worse (or better for the Chargers and Inman owners).

5. Bills RB Mike Gillislee: Six touchdowns and a 5.9-yard average is gaudy stuff, and Gillislee hasn't seen an opportunity he's yet to run with in his short NFL tenure. LeSean McCoy continues to dazzle, and when he does it on long runs down to the red zone, enter the short-yardage specialist and touchdown siphon. The Bills play Cleveland and Miami after a date with Pittsburgh's improved 'D' Sunday. What if McCoy gets nicked and/or shut down?

4. Packers "WR" Ty Montgomery: First, an apology to the Christine Michael truthers — I'm one of them! — preparing to play up the revenge game narrative. It's hardly a lock Montgomery, not Michael, will be the primary back down the stretch drive. What seems more assured is it won't be James Starks, who was twice benched Sunday while Michael led the backfield in carries (9), including a key fourth-down conversion, and Montgomery settled into an every-down role late for Green Bay's two biggest drives of the season.

3. Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell: His targets and catches have increased in four consecutive games, including 8-82 receiving on 10 looks Sunday. Mitchell can stretch the field, but he also has more in his repertoire, as evidenced by a pair of short chain-movers on third down. If you're reading this for advice, you're in the playoffs. We don't have to tell you why getting Patriots stock, particularly with Gronk out of the equation, is wise.

2. Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon: The rook only took six of Baltimore's 17 carries (sigh) but that translated into 56 yards, plus 4-21 receiving for a modest 7.5 points despite little work. He took a backseat to Terrance West, but the Ravens likely will need all hands on deck to avoid engaging in a Foxborough shootout in Week 14. We can't explain why Joe Flacco has attempted the second-most passes in the NFL, but it's the only reasonable explanation why Dixon remains 46 percent owned.

1. Steelers TE Ladarius Green: Green's 18.8-yard catch average is flat-out Gronk-esque. Sure, he has only 11 catches, but three of those have gone for more than 30 yards, plus he scored his first touchdown as a Steeler last week. If you've heeded this column's advice in the past, you're all set because Green has appeared in this space about five times now. He also resides in the NFL's premier big-strike offense, which previously lacked a gamebreaker (without a broken hand) not named Brown or Bell. That's right, "previously." Green has arrived. Lucky for you there's one more opportunity to welcome him on board your roster as Pittsburgh keeps expanding his role.

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