By Matt Citak
Week 13 of the NFL season is here, which means the fantasy football playoffs are set to kick off in just one week. While some of you may have the luxury of already clinching a spot in the playoffs, the rest of us will be sweating it out this week as we attempt our final push to the postseason. Whether you have sealed your position in the playoffs or not, it doesn’t hurt to improve your roster.
With that in mind, here are some of CBS Local Sports’ top waiver wire pickups for Week 13.
RB Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots
Burkhead has found himself on this list in prior weeks, but his performance and usage in Week 12 makes him this week’s top add. The fifth-year running back out of Nebraska carried the ball 13 times for 50 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown, adding two receptions for three yards and another touchdown. But it was the way Bill Belichick used his running backs in Week 12 that lands Burkhead at the top of this list. After having a crowded running back group consisting of four different players receiving touches earlier in the season, the Patriots now seem to be in favor of using just Burkhead and Dion Lewis, as the two backs received 15 and 16 touches, respectively. James White touched the ball only four times, while Mike Gillislee was once again inactive. Burkhead has taken over as New England’s pass catching back, while also handling the team’s goal line work. Both Burkhead and Lewis could provide RB2 value for the fantasy playoffs, so snatch them up if you still have the chance.
RB Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
Drake did not do much to impress this week, as he carried the ball only nine times for 20 yards. He did manage to catch three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s 17-35 loss to the Patriots, but it was the news about his teammate that makes Drake a good pickup this week. The young back out of Alabama had been splitting touches with Damien Williams ever since the trade of Jay Ajayi. But Williams dislocated his shoulder on Sunday and is now expected to miss the next two-to-three weeks. With Williams forced to the sidelines, and backup running back Senorise Perry suffering a concussion, Drake is the only back currently on Miami’s roster. The Dolphins will surely add another running back before Sunday, but Drake is in line to become Miami’s featured back when the team welcomes the Broncos to Miami in Week 13. While his production hasn’t been amazing, the amount of touches he is likely to receive over the next few weeks makes Drake a strong waiver wire add.
WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
No one truly knows what to expect out of Gordon when he makes his return to the field for the first time in nearly three years. But looking back at what the talented yet troubled wide receiver was able to do against opposing defenses a few seasons ago, the 26-year-old is worth an add. Gordon played in 14 games in 2013, finishing the year with 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. He appeared in five games in 2014 as well, but totaled just 24 receptions for 303 yards and no touchdowns. While it would be unreasonable to expect a repeat of his 2013 dominance after such a long absence, it also wouldn’t be a total and complete surprise if he picked up right where he left off. Browns head coach Hue Jackson has made it no secret that he plans on having Gordon on the field as much as possible on Sunday. You may want to let him prove himself for a week before inserting him into your lineup, but if he’s still available on your league’s waiver wire, Gordon could end up being a very valuable add for the final stretch.
RB Rod Smith, Dallas Cowboys
It’s difficult to be high on any member of the Cowboys considering how poorly the team has been playing lately. However with the way he performed on Thanksgiving Day, combined with the release of Darren McFadden, Smith looks like he could be Dallas’ go-to running back until Ezekiel Elliott returns. The third-year back’s nine carries matched Alfred Morris for the team-high, but it was Smith that received the short goal line carry in the fourth quarter. Smith is a better pass-catcher than Morris, which should lead to more playing time for the young back as Dallas will likely continue to be playing from behind. Smith is a solid add this week, but should be considered nothing more than bench depth at the moment.
WR Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills
Jones is surging at the right time, which is amazing news for fantasy owners. The rookie second-round pick has seen a whopping 24 targets over the last three games, converting them into 13 receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns. In Buffalo’s Week 12 win over the Chiefs, Jones saw a team-high 10 targets, which was six targets more than any other member of the Bills. Part of the reason for his double digit targets was the absence of fellow wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in Week 11. Buffalo has said Benjamin is day-to-day, but if he is unable to go against the Patriots this weekend, Jones could be in line for another big day. Keep an eye out on the injury report throughout the week, but Jones could be a sneaky pickup for the fantasy playoffs.
WR Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Westbrook shined during the preseason, which is why it did not come as a surprise that the rookie wide receiver saw a team-high 10 targets in the Jaguars’ Week 12 loss to the Cardinals, which served as Westbrook’s second regular season game. The fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma was able to pull six of those targets down for 41 yards, which is hardly an amazing stat line. But it seemed quite clear that Blake Bortles trusts his rookie wide receiver, as he targeted him three times more than any other receiver. With Allen Hurns still working his way back from an ankle injury, Westbrook will continue to play the role of Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver. While his ceiling is limited as the Jaguars are a run-first team, Westbrook has shown that he can hold his own in the NFL. With an incredibly easy fantasy postseason schedule, Westbrook could make a name for himself over the last five games of the season.
RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler put himself on the fantasy radar when he totaled 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers’ Week 10 loss to the Jaguars. In the two games since, the rookie has taken 12 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown while adding five receptions for 73 yards. These numbers aren’t amazing, but keep in mind that he is performing like this while serving as Los Angeles’ second running back. Melvin Gordon still receives the lion’s share of carries for the Chargers, but Ekeler has proven to provide some standalone value over the last few games. If you own Gordon, then you should have added Ekeler to the end of your bench weeks ago. Even if you don’t own the Chargers’ starting running back, it could be worth it to roll the dice on Ekeler. If Gordon were to miss any time, the rookie back would jump into borderline RB1 territory.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals
A lot of you are probably looking at the final name on this list and thinking, “Who??” But over the last two weeks, Seals-Jones has begun to make a name for himself around the NFL. The undrafted rookie tight end has caught 7-of-11 targets for 126 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ last two games, both of which were started by quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has actually looked competent under center for Arizona, and his reliance on the tight end has catapulted RSJ into the fantasy world. The rookie tight end saw his snaps increase from eight in Week 11 to 17 in Week 12, and with the success he’s had, that number could increase yet again this Sunday. The Cardinals battle the Rams on Sunday, and with LA being stingy against the tight end, you may not be able to afford taking a gamble on RSJ this week. But those still looking for consistency at the tight end position should consider adding RSJ, at least as a bench stash this week.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.