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Week 15 fantasy football best waiver wire pickups, trade candidates and start or sit roster decisions based on PFF routes run

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) dives to break the plane on for the game-winning touchdown in overtime of the NFL Week 14 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. The Bengals tied the game in the fourth quarter, but eventually fell to the 49ers in overtime, 26-23. San Francisco 49ers At Cincinnati Bengals

Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and chasing target volume has always been a winning strategy — especially in PPR leagues. PFF premium stats offers proprietary data that goes well beyond the box score, including routes run for every player on the depth chart.

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Targeting players who are running a high percentage of routes is a good strategy for identifying breakout candidates, DFS targets and the best waiver wire pickups. This weekly report will look at the previous week's rate of routes run per dropback compared to larger samples to find sleeper running backs, wide receivers and tight ends who are garnering more or less opportunities in the passing game heading into Week 15.

Last week's article highlighted the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, K.J. Osborn, Laquon Treadwell, Breshad Perriman, Tee Higgins, Jalen Guyton, Chase Claypool, Darrel Williams and Saquon Barkley as players whose receiving usage was likely to transform into fantasy production sooner than later.

This data does not include the Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Rate of routes run per dropback | Week 14
Player Routes run % of routes run per dropback
Diontae Johnson 51 100%
Justin Jefferson 35 100%
Marvin Jones Jr. 46 98%
Ja'Marr Chase 41 98%
Davante Adams 39 98%
Donovan Peoples-Jones 37 97%
Courtland Sutton 27 96%
Chris Godwin 53 96%
Amari Cooper 50 96%
Hunter Renfrow 49 96%
Brandon Aiyuk 47 96%
Robby Anderson 37 95%
Marquise Brown 54 95%
Josh Palmer 34 94%
Jamison Crowder 50 94%
Mike Williams 33 94%
Mike Evans 51 93%
D.J. Moore 36 92%
Darnell Mooney 43 91%
Michael Gallup 47 90%
Ray-Ray McCloud III 46 90%
Brandin Cooks 51 89%
Jarvis Landry 34 89%
Stefon Diggs 58 89%
K.J. Osborn 31 89%
Tyler Boyd 37 88%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 37 88%
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 35 88%
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine 34 87%
Tajae Sharpe 27 87%
Russell Gage 27 87%

Donovan Peoples-Jones was a sneaky start in Week 14, and he came through against a very banged up Baltimore Ravens secondary. The second-year wideout caught five passes for 90 yards while running a route on 97% of Baker Mayfield’s dropbacks. That’s WR1 usage.

He is a top option off waivers ahead of a matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders, who rank bottom-five in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing WRs over the last five weeks.

It’s hard to envision Brandon Aiyuk leaving starting fantasy lineups anytime soon with a cakewalk schedule of matchups — Falcons, Titans and Texans — throughout the fantasy football playoffs.

With Deebo Samuel operating more like a running back than WR, Aiyuk has become the de facto No. 1 wide receiver for the 49ers, as indicated by his 96% route participation and 11 targets in Week 14.

He’s an extremely strong fantasy WR2 option versus Atlanta, which has allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the last four weeks.

Was the process behind Jamison Crowder correct in Week 14? Yes, it was. He ran 50 routes — top-10 on the week — and was in a plus-matchup against the Saints. However, the seven targets didn't translate to points with Braxton “Target Magnet” Berrios seeing 10 of his own while running a route on less than 50% of dropbacks. 

It’s frustrating for sure, but with no Corey Davis or Elijah Moore, you could do worse than Crowder the next few weeks against the likes of Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers. Miami ranks second in the NFL in completions to opposing slot WRs this season.

Ray-Ray McCloud’s increase in snaps is solely based on Chase Claypool getting benched last Thursday night. Don’t read too much into it unless we get confirmation Claypool will be limited. I can’t imagine that will be the case because Pittsburgh is still “alive” in the playoff hunt, and Claypool gives them a much better chance of winning.

With Adam Thielen sidelined for Thursday night football, K.J. Osborn ran a route on 88% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks and caught three of eight targets for 83 yards plus a touchdown for a second straight week. Be sure the second-year wideout is not available on waivers with Thielen’s status for Week 15 not guaranteed.

After a down week in usage, Odell Beckham Jr.‘s routes spiked fro 59% to 89%. The polarizing wide receiver is an essential every-down player in the Los Angeles Rams offense and has scored three touchdowns in his last three games. Both OBJ and Van Jefferson — 92% route participation in Week 14 — should be trusted throughout the fantasy playoffs with Seattle, Minnesota and Baltimore rounding out their playoff schedule.

Rate of routes run per dropback | Last four weeks

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