Updated: Nov 5
The 2023 NFL season has been filled with surprises and craziness as always, and as we head into the second half of the season, I wanted to discuss some players that fantasy managers should be targeting for the second half stretch. This group of players are a combination of guys that might still be on your waiver wire, or could be looked at as high priority trade targets for various reasons.
Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints – Carr’s beginning to his stint with the New Orleans Saints was a tough one this season. After a modest game Week 1 against Tennessee, Carr went 3 straight games with under 10 fantasy points while battling through a shoulder injury. It seems Carr has gotten healthier and the team is trusting him more, as his fantasy output has been increasing each of the last 4 weeks, over 15 points in each game. The return of Alvin Kamara has helped provide Carr a safety checkdown option, and the ceiling for this offense could be even higher if they can get Chris Olave going. Carr has passed for over 300 yards in 3 straight games and is providing very usable fantasy numbers. I like Carr because he might have the best schedule in the league for QB matchups the rest of the way. He gets Chicago and Minnesota the next two games before the bye, and has very soft matchups the rest of the way, with the only challenge being Week 13 against Detroit. Carr is 69% rostered so most likely isn’t available on the waiver wire, but you probably won’t have to give up much in a trade for him. Unless you have an elite option at QB, I would go get Carr for the schedule he has the rest of season.
Davonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles – People have become concerned after Smith’s slow start to the season, but if we remember back to last year, Smith had a similar trajectory. Through the first 8 games last season, Smith was averaging 9.5 PPR points per game, and through the first 8 games of this season, Smith is averaging 10.7 PPR points per game. He’s been slightly better this season, but not by much, and I get the same sense of panic from managers that Smith owners had last season. Through the second half of last season, Smith exploded for the Eagles, averaging 14.5 PPR points from Weeks 10-18, a 5 point jump in his per game average. If possible, I would be trying to buy-low on Smith for another second half break out. The Eagles have a tough schedule the rest of the way taking on teams like Dallas twice, Buffalo, Kansas City, and San Fran, and while those teams all have tough defenses, I would expect all those games will have monster Over/Unders, which should provide plenty of fantasy points to go around. Philly’s offense has been humming this season, averaging the third most points per game, seventh most passing yards per game, and the seventh most passing touchdowns per game. So far this year, most of that has gone to AJ Brown, but if teams start playing coverage differently and we get some regression to send a few more targets towards Smith, I think he can repeat his monster second half performance like last year.
Demario Dougles, New England Patriots – Douglas has been a hot waiver wire add the last few weeks so a good chance he got snagged in your league, but his roster percentage is still only 39%, so might be out there, and shouldn’t be a guy you would have to trade much to acquire. Kenrick Bourne was lost for the season last week with a Torn ACL, and the other WRs Devante Parker and Juju Smith Schuster have been major disappointments. The Patriots are begging someone to step up as a #1 WR in that offense. We see rookies have second-half breakouts every single year, and I think Douglas is a great candidate to be that guy this season. He’s gotten much more involved in the offense, playing 62% and 77% of the snaps each of the last two weeks respectively, and gotten 6+ targets in each game. Douglas is a small, speedy type of WR that can take it the distance from anywhere. He might not be a monster ceiling play every week, but you absolutely want to own the #1 target in an offense, which I think Douglas is now. The Patriots have some really nice matchups down the stretch against Los Angeles Chargers, Washington, New York Giants, Kansas City, and Denver. Several matchups against weak defenses, or game the Patriots will be heavy underdogs in, which should lead to a ton of passing.
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders – There’s been a terrible stigma around the Raiders this season, and for good reason. Head Coach Josh McDaniels is the first coach of the season to get fired after the Raiders fielded one of the league’s worst offenses to start this year. It might seem tough to buy into the Raider’s offense, but there’s several reasons I like Jacobs for the second half. First, it’s very rare to find backs now a days that get almost all the work. Jacobs consistently sees the majority of the RB touches, and averages around 80% of the team’s snaps this year. Secondly, he’s been quietly productive even with the terrible offense – he’s RB11 on the season. So I think at worst you’re buying a low-end RB1, but I think there’s a good chance we see the Raiders with more life the rest of the way. We see this story all the time, when a stale head coach gets fired mid-season, teams always tend to have somewhat of a resurgence after a change. Antonio Pierce is a former linebacker who now steps in at head coach for the Raiders, and given Pierce’s defensive background, we could see more focus on the run game and defense to win games. Jacobs has a nice schedule in the second half, getting teams like the Giants, Dolphins, Vikings, Chargers and Colts.
Taylor Heinicke, Atlanta Falcons – I know Henicke isn’t someone you’re most likely going to plug and paly immediately, but he’s absolutely worth a stash on your bench unless you have an elite option. Heinicke is a season vet who’s been in the league a while, and has showed a promising ceiling in his past during his time with Washington. The schedule is so juicy for Atlanta down the stretch as well, getting Minnesota and Arizona the next two weeks, followed by Carolina, Indianapolis and Chicago Week 15-17 during the fantasy playoffs. He’s a must add in Superflex leagues, and might be a really nice matchup based streamer along the way in 1QB leagues.