Standard ESPN League Finds
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (owned in 17.5 percent of ESPN leagues): Let's be clear: If you're playing in Week 17, your goal should be not to add anyone to your roster. Nobody who will be mentioned in today's column should be considered a must-start. But Eddie Lacy aggravated his right ankle injury Sunday and missed the game's conclusion, whereupon Starks took over as the feature back. I'd expect the Pack to do everything in their power to get Lacy ready for Week 17's showdown with a historically awful Chicago Bears run defense, but anyone who's counted on Lacy thus far needs to handcuff Starks to him immediately. If Starks starts, he's a top-10 option.
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (1.3 percent): The drawback to using Week 17 in your fantasy finals is the worry that your superstars might sit. Jamaal Charles is on his way to being 2013's Fantasy MVP, but the Chiefs find themselves as the only playoff team whose game Sunday is completely meaningless to their fate. KC will be the AFC's No. 5 seed no matter what, and coach Andy Reid "hasn't ruled out" sitting his starters for some or all of a contest against the San Diego Chargers. If you can get definitive word that Charles will sit (or play only one series), Davis could be a decent ace in the hole. In limited action during the past month, the rookie has consistently sprung impressive mid-length runs spelling J-Mail (Sunday's lost fumble notwithstanding).
Edwin Baker, RB, Cleveland Browns (0.2 percent): Baker played 50 snaps in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets, compared to 20 for Chris Ogbonnaya and one apiece for Fozzy Whittaker and Willis McGahee. Where I come from, we call that feature-back territory. The Browns are playing out the string and their Week 17 opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are still alive for the playoffs, meaning Sunday's game may present a motivational imbalance. But Baker has shown legit third-down-RB-on-a-good-team chops these past two weeks, which is more than I can say for any other RB on this roster.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans (48.3 percent): Greene touched the ball an eye-popping 20 times in Week 16, easily his highest mark of the season. And his work wasn't merely of the garbage-time variety. He got seven carries and one target on a late first-quarter/early second-quarter drive with Tennessee trailing (which ended when the Titans didn't hand it to Greene on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and threw an incompletion instead), and in the second half he benefited when his team went no-huddle with Chris Johnson stuck on the sideline. It didn't look like a pure time share, and if you want to chase Greene, the worry is that he had four touches for 3 yards just a week before. So it's difficult to predict how backfield work will get distributed in Week 17, but another short TD and double-digit touches is at least possible.
Jonathan Grimes, RB, Houston Texans (0.0 percent): Grimes looks like the last man standing in the 13-consecutive-loss Houston carnage, and already has been named Week 17's starter in a meaningless tilt against the Tennessee Titans. Dennis Johnson (14.2 percent) played poorly in the first half Sunday before leaving with a hip injury that renders him questionable, while his replacement, Deji Karim, broke his collarbone thereafter. Going into the 2012 draft, Grimes was a small-school kid (William & Mary) with decent size but not much speed or agility. He has seven career regular-season NFL carries, so I'd be lying if I said I knew what to expect, other than a doubling or tripling of his career workload.
Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox, RBs, New York Giants (8.5 and 0.4 percent): Andre Brown struggled through his second straight difficult matchup Sunday, then took a blow to the side of his head in overtime, fumbled and had to be carted from the sideline to the locker room. Considering the Giants are playing a meaningless game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, my guess is Brown doesn't suit up. Who'll replace him? It could be Hillis, but he missed Week 16 because of his own concussion, and anyway, there's almost no chance he'll be back in 2014. So my guess is Cox gets the nod. Cox has looked too slow for prime time in limited regular-season action, but he's got NFL size and sure did pummel second- and third-string opponents in the preseason.
Indianapolis Colts, Defense (22.2 percent): Listen, the Colts have submitted some awful defensive efforts this season, including two in their past five outings. But they've also allowed a combined 10 points the past two weeks. Sunday in a tough spot against the Chiefs, they smothered Alex Smith behind Robert Mathis' push to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Outside of Vontae Davis, there are real and troubling issues in this secondary, but in Week 17, I'm not sure I think Jacksonville's Chad Henne is going to expose them. Indy can still elevate to the AFC's No. 3 seed, so my hope would be that it plays this one out. If you're looking deeper, you could consider the San Diego Chargers D/ST (4.1 percent), who'll be facing a Chiefs team that's locked into the No. 5 seed.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins (8.7 percent); Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins (18.4 percent); Donald Brown, RB, Colts (47.0 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (47.8 percent); Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (36.5 percent); Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings (9.8 percent); Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals (30.5 percent); Nate Washington, WR, Titans (30.0 percent); Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (35.1 percent); Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (11.8 percent); Timothy Wright, TE, Buccaneers (2.2 percent).
Deeper League Finds
Kyle Orton, QB, Dallas Cowboys (0.1 percent): Cue the cavalcade of tweeters beseeching me to see how tasty Orton's matchup is against the Philadelphia Eagles, and begging me to rank him above Cam Newton. Sorry, I'm not that guy. Tony Romo is reportedly out for the season with a back injury, leaving the Neck Beard under center in a crucial game for the NFC East crown, but that doesn't mean things are going to go swimmingly for Orton. They might, but I'd only be willing to take the chance on him fantasy-wise in a super-deep league where I actually owned Romo.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders (18.3 percent): Pryor is a great runner, and if the Raiders had stayed committed to a pure zone-read offense with him under center, he might've been a strong fantasy option all season. Heck, in his first seven starts (he missed Week 4 with a concussion), he averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game, though obviously a sizable percentage of those points were derived from his legs. But Pryor suffered a sprained knee ligament in Week 10, and the Raiders decided they didn't want to be a zone-read team after all, and made Matt McGloin their starter. Dennis Allen will go back to Pryor Sunday in what should be his swan song as Raiders coach, but it's unknown whether they'll also go back to running a bunch of read option. If I could be convinced they would, I'd rate Pryor higher.
Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, RBs, Seattle Seahawks (2.9 and 22.1 percent): Had Seattle beaten the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, they'd have locked up the NFC's No. 1 seed and Week 17's matchup with the St. Louis Rams would've been meaningless. But now the Seahawks can still lose the NFC West crown to the San Francisco 49ers, so I'm assuming we're going to see a lot of Marshawn Lynch. However, I'd imagine coach Pete Carroll could get an itchy trigger finger if Seattle overwhelms St. Louis early, which could lead to backfield work for a backup. Unfortunately, I'm not sure who that backup would be. Turbin has run as the No. 2 all season, but kneed the ball out of his own hands on a kickoff return Sunday for a crucial lost fumble. Perhaps Michael would get the call instead? Outside of truly desperate deep situations, you probably can't use either guy here.
Joe Banyard, RB, Minnesota Vikings (0.0 percent): After the Vikes removed Adrian Peterson from their blowout Week 16 loss, Banyard was their only remaining option. Toby Gerhart aggravated his hamstring injury trying to tackle a fumble recoverer, and Matt Asiata was inactive because of his own hammy injury. If Peterson doesn't play in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions -- and for the moment, I'm assuming he won't -- one of these three guys (Gerhart, Asiata or Banyard) will get the call, and Banyard is the only one who's healthy. Neither big nor fast, Banyard is a plugger who transferred from TCU to UTEP and went undrafted a couple of years ago, but he's hung around the Vikings' practice squad all season, and if he gets a chance, it would be fun to see him do something with it.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (0.7 percent): Lewis has a TD in each of his past four games, which is to his credit. Unfortunately, in that same span, he has a total of 13 catches, and hasn't topped 54 receiving yards in any game this season. You can't argue he isn't a strong red-zone threat -- remember 2010, when he scored 10 TDs? Unfortunately, his '13 season was wrecked by a calf injury, and neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne is a starting-quality QB.
Ryan Griffin, TE, Houston Texans (0.9 percent): As of this writing, nobody seemed sure whether it'll be Matt Schaub, Case Keenum or T.J. Yates under center Sunday for the Texans, but it does seem likely that it'll be Griffin lining up at tight end. He's been a nice little find in two straight games, racking up 11 catches and 128 yards as a safety-valve kind of player. Raw, with good size and athleticism, Griffin is a deep-league option again if neither Garrett Graham nor Owen Daniels can return from his respective injury.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Titans (5.2 percent); Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals (11.1 percent); LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots (6.1 percent); Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots (4.9 percent); Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins (6.6 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (5.2 percent); Rod Streater, WR, Raiders (8.4 percent); Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Giants (0.1 percent); Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks (18.4 percent); Andre Caldwell, WR, Broncos (5.5 percent); Andre Holmes, WR, Raiders (0.5 percent); Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (41.3 percent); Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Colts (3.5 percent); Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers (3.9 percent); Mike Brown, WR, Jaguars (0.2 percent); Andrew Quarless, TE, Packers (1.4 percent); Heath Miller, TE, Steelers (16.0 percent).