Much of fantasy football in-season owner strategy centers around which players to pick up from the waiver wire or to target in the trade market. However, roster spots are a premium resource. Cutting a player - or adding them to a trade - opens a roster spot for a key waiver wire addition or flexibility to keep a currently injured player through a missed game or two. Here are the key players to cut or trade after Week 14:
*15-18 roster spots*
Why: Heinicke, at a minimum, is working back from a Week 14 knee injury in addition to logging his worst game since Washington's surprising recent week streak. Mobility is paramount to Heinicke's game, which includes middling arm strength. The Eagles, Cowboys, Eagles are a sub-optimal trio of matchups for the fantasy playoffs and that assumes Heinicke is bad to form physically to sustain his play style against quality pass-rushing units.
Why: The fear of Ameer Abdullah stifling Hubbard's passing game work came to fruition in Week 14. Abdullah logged four targets to Hubbard's zero and Hubbard saved a non-descript fantasy day with a chunk red zone touchdown. Cam Newton will still steal the occasional goal-line score and Hubbard has the passing limitation as well. Hubbard will be fine in dynasty leagues, but his start rate of 75% a week ago was inflated and is, at best, a flex play for teams competing in the playoffs.
Why: A trendy pickup a few weeks ago, Hillard devolved to an ancillary role to D'Onta Foreman, plus Jeremy McNichols is back in a third-down and later-game role. Hilliard is just a guy who splashed with a long run in Week 12 after a barrage of targets in Week 11. Even if Foreman is out, the confidence for playoff lineups is middling, which is the end-all, be-all divide for impact plays in the final weeks.
Why: Dealing with a current knee injury, Sanders is also dealing with a tough Carolina-New England duo of matchups to begin the fantasy playoffs and a deep depth chart where Gabriel Davis and effortlessly slide into Sanders' spot. Sanders was already in a last-season swoon with Week 9 as his last game of even 10 PPR points. Sanders might not even be a start in Week 15 if healthy (a variable). Consider churning the spot for the better shots at an auto-start player over the next one or two weeks.
*18-22 roster spots*
Why: Newton was benched again in Week 14 and a rotation has already come out from post-game comments for how Carolina is to navigate their lagging quarterback position for the rest of the season. Newton was already a rushing-centric option for a good fantasy performance, but the partial-game risk added to Buffalo and Tampa Bay on the schedule the next two weeks are enough to stay firmly away.
Why: Johnson flailed in his clarified start with three drops and just 10 touches. Week 15 features another touch matchup (Miami) and Jacksonville's optimistic matchup in Week 16 likely has Tevin Coleman (concussion) and/or Michael Carter (ankle) back to push Johnson back to the RB2/3 role.
Why: Two weeks as a streaming start recommendation with Darren Waller out has produced a meager 4-47-0 stat line total on nine targets. The Browns and Broncos are both sub-par matchups up next and Waller is questionable for Week 15 according to Jene Bramel to begin the week. Consider dropping Moreau unless clearly the best of a bad set of options for playoff lineups this week.
Why: Seals-Jones took a backseat to rookie John Bates in Week 14, a notable chance from the last time Seals-Jones filled in for an injury Logan Thomas, who is out for the season this time. Seals-Jones also has Curtis Samuel back healthy and Cam Sims making plays in Week 14 as passing game competition. Taylor Heinicke is also dinged up with a knee injury. Seals-Jones has reduced confidence as a streaming start in Week 15 despite the more optimistic Philadelphia aSOS matchup on tap.
*25+ roster spots, more dynasty-focused*
Why: 'Iggy' by nickname had a golden opportunity in Week 14, but floundered with a fumble and clunky play overall. Craig Reynolds percolated up in the minutes before kickoff as the likely starter and functioned as such, especially early in the game. Iggy also did not have his expected receiving-centric role on lock either. Iggy is a positional tweener and Jamaal Williams and/or D'Andre Swift should be back by Week 16 at the latest.
Why: Higgins is falling out of favor despite the Browns not being overly deep at wide receiver. Higgins' last decent game was Week 5 (3-29-1) and Donovan Peoples-Jones has the look of an impact player to close 2021 and heading into 2022 for the team. Higgins is a decent player, but the classic 'high floor, low ceiling' dynasty hold who fits more in the NFL WR3/4 mold than anything higher for any meaningful duration.
Why: Jackson is the classic 'road to nowhere' dynasty roster spot. At 35 years old, Jackson already has minimal-to-no market appeal. He has changed teams during the season plus is a binary 'did he go for a long touchdown' dart throw lineup proposition. Find a young player with some semblance of draft pedigree and age curve appeal into 2022. The lone spot to hold Jackson until the end of the season is a deeper best ball format on a contending team.
INJURED PLAYERS FOR DROP CONSIDERATION (REDRAFT)
- Daniel Jones: Week 15 would be on the very optimistic side and Jones may not play at all in the next two weeks. Plus, Jones is a dicey start anyway.
- Rex Burkhead: Dealing with a groin injury and may not beat David Johnson back, and Burkhead has not been the clear RB1 in a thin Houston depth chart either.
- Tony Pollard: The window is squeezed to see a clarified start. Ezekiel Elliott has stayed healthy enough while playing through injury and Pollard could miss all of the fantasy playoffs as a worse-case scenario individually.
- Trey Sermon: Week 16 is the earliest return, plus Sermon has yet to rise up the depth chart on his own accord.
- Antonio Brown: Week 16 is the earliest return, if team does not have a Week 15 fantasy bye, the spot could be valuable elsewhere.
- Will Fuller V: A complete unknown
- Dan Arnold: Eligible Week 16, but could need-use the spot earlier.
- Adam Trautman: Week 15 eligible return from IR, fringe streamer at best.