Week 17 Booms & Busts: Kyren Williams (and Puka Nacua) is proof of the power of the waiver wire

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua (17) leads block for Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams (23)

The Rams looked like a veteran-heavy team entering the 2023 season. Matthew Stafford, older quarterback. Cooper Kupp, aging receiver. Sean McVay, veteran coach. It looked like a team rolling out the same old stuff.

And another preseason narrative goes into the shredder. The best thing anyone could've done this fantasy season was prioritize a couple of emerging Rams right before the season or in the first week of free agency.

The Rams escaped with a one-point win at the Giants on Sunday, and it was the fresh faces who paced the offense. Second-year running back Kyren Williams had 101 total yards and all three Los Angeles touchdowns, pushing to the top of fantasy's running back board. Rookie receiver Puka Nacua didn't break the game, but his 118 receiving yards were tops on the team. It was a fitting fantasy capper for two of the stories of the year.

Christian McCaffrey was probably the best fantasy player you could've rostered this year (an injury-clouded Week 17 to the side), but not everyone had a real chance at McCaffrey. He was an early pick in every room. If you were slotted late in the first round, he was never an option.

But anyone with summer intel on Williams or Nacua (or an aggressive FAB tint in Week 1) was likely to land one of these guys, perhaps both. Williams and Nacua each had global ADPs outside the top 200 the final week of draft season and were unrostered in the majority of Yahoo leagues.

Nacua's signal was unavoidable in Week 1 — he threw a 10-catch, 119-yard masterpiece at the Seahawks. Williams was more subtle — although he had a pair of touchdowns, he managed a modest 52 yards on 15 carries. Cam Akers also had 22 rushes that day, though they went absolutely nowhere (29 yards), with a touchdown, too.

After Week 1, we were wondering if Williams were good enough to take command of this job and if Nacua were good enough to hold on to significant market share even when Kupp (who would miss all of September) eventually returned.

It was an emphatic yes on both counts.

The Williams season had three parts to it. He rolled out an RB7, RB4, RB26, RB3, RB30 and RB2 opening to the year before suffering an ankle injury in late October. Some shrewd fantasy managers might've traded for Williams while he was hurt, mindful of the delicious late-season schedule the Rams had waiting. Williams went into smash mode for the final third of the year, finishing RB1, RB9, RB18, RB5, RB11 and RB1 (in progress) the last six weeks. That's what a league winner looks like.

Maybe Nacua isn't a grand slam like Williams, but he has still been a home run. He entered Week 17 as the WR7 in half-point PPR scoring (cumulative points) and the WR9 if you prefer a per-game average. He has had monster games with and without Kupp. It's amazing the Rams found this snappy rookie with the 177th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

It has been a quirky year for rookie pass-catchers. Tight end Sam LaPorta is challenging for the TE1 spot, and Zay Flowers looks like a sure star. Jordan Addison and Rashee Rice have been reliable. Tank Dell was very good before a leg injury ended his year. Jayden Reed can play.

But there have been frustrating moments, too. Quentin Johnston might've been a first-round mistake. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been part of a crowded and slightly underwhelming Seahawks offense. Marvin Mims Jr. teased us for weeks but never could do enough to get a Denver promotion. To be fair, Mims has made his share of rookie mistakes, too.

The LAR breakouts remind us that draft capital isn't the be-all and end-all. Williams was the 164th pick in the 2022 class, similar to where Nacua was taken last spring. No team is correct with even the majority of its offensive evaluations, but if Sean McVay and Co. like a player, I'm at least going to take a second look.

And I know how important the September FAB process often is. This year, there was a fantasy title hiding in plain sight. You just needed to look west.

Other Week 17 heroes

— It was no surprise to see mobile quarterbacks percolating to the top of the Week 17 leaderboard. To be fair, Lamar Jackson crushed Miami with his arm — five touchdown passes, 35 rushing yards. Looks like he'll lock up his second MVP before the ball drops in 2024. Hopefully, his second career playoff win isn't far behind. Jackson's 36.34 Yahoo points Sunday were easily tops for the position, with athletic maestros Justin Fields (313 total yards, two scores) and Kyler Murray (256 yards, three scores) settling in the 20s.

Josh Allen stands at QB5, and it was all from his legs; he threw for only 169 yards but ran 11 times for 44 yards and two scores. The Bills offense has been a strange watch since Joe Brady took over for Ken Dorsey.

Arizona's stunning upset at Philadelphia had another hero: James Conner. He turned 27 touches into 133 yards and two scores. Volume and goal-line equity are wonderful things. If you kept the faith with Travis Etienne Jr. and De'Von Achane, you were rewarded. Etienne rushed for 102 yards and a couple of scores, and Achane was dynamic despite Miami's blowout loss, generating 137 total yards and a touchdown on 18 touches.

— Saturday gave us a strong receiver push, with CeeDee Lamb (13-227-1) torching the Lions and Amon-Ra St. Brown (6-90-1) providing his usual drumbeat. They had name-brand company Sunday; Davante Adams was dominant (13-126-2) if you had the nerve to stick with him, DJ Moore (9-159-1) continues to click with Fields, and Brandon Aiyuk (7-114-1) was part of San Francisco's expected get-back win at Washington.

Of course, there will always be plenty of receiver misses and disappointments; it's the ultimate boom/bust position. Tyreek Hill posted only a 6-76-0 line —not what we expect — on 12 targets. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 13. The puzzling Stefon Diggs slump continued: four catches, 26 yards. His last spike came in Week 12; he has been a fantasy headache for two months. The Philadelphia passing touchdowns surprisingly went to Julio Jones (two) and Dallas Goedert (one), which meant A.J. Brown (4-53-0) and DeVonta Smith (3-30-0) came in well under their projections.

— Waiver-wire hawks were rewarded at tight end, where Juwan Johnson dominated at Tampa Bay (8-90-1) and Isaiah Likely picked up two touchdowns. It's also possible that David Njoku (6-134-0) was scooped off the wire a few weeks back; he has looked like an All-Pro ever since Joe Flacco joined the Browns. Njoku would've had a much better game Thursday if the Jets had fought back even a little bit.

Hopefully some of those tight-end spikes can help erase the puzzling Travis Kelce slump. Kelce was held to four piddly catches for 16 yards against Kansas City, pushing him outside the Top 30 at tight end. Kelce has just one touchdown in his last nine games, and is starting to look every bit the 34-year-old tight end that he is. He's obviously not the only slumping Chief these days; Patrick Mahomes is right there with him. We have a lot to break down with this team in the summer.

I hope you grabbed the points you needed on the most important day of the year. Have a blast with that parade. Savor every title. Those championship flags fly forever.