What a wild NFL season this has been, in both real life and fantasy. We saw huge games from Will Fuller and Antonio Gibson on Thanksgiving only to have Tyreek Hill and Derrick Henry assert their dominance over the landscape. And while we were without Todd Gurley, Julio Jones, and (many) more, no fantasy-relevant players sustained injuries that should keep them out for an extended period.
We aren’t even done with Week 12 since the Baltimore Ravens game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been moved several times and is now set for Wednesday afternoon. This week’s waiver wire has at least one QB you probably never thought would be a top add, a running back that’s been there the entire time, and a wide receiver that recently returned from injury to make an impact in primetime.
*Remember, waivers will clear on Friday this week and we have the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on bye (the last of the season).*
A Pair of ’13’s Headline the Week 13 Waiver Wire
This wouldn’t have been a thing just a few weeks ago. Kirk Cousins was the QB25 on the season with 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Flash forward to now and Cousins was the QB3 in Week 12, is the QB12 on the season, and is coming off of back-to-back three-touchdown performances and third in four games. It was his fourth-straight game (a stretch in which he was the QB5) and eighth of the season with multiple touchdowns. All of this is even more impressive when you consider Dalvin Cook is second in the league in rushing attempts.
Cousins draws a cushy assignment in Week 13 as the Minnesota Vikings host the floundering Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags just fired their general manager and head coach Doug Marrone will likely follow after the season. But what matters for our purposes is Jacksonville is allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and has given up 23 passing touchdowns, good for second-most. The only thing that could hold Cousins back in this one is if the Vikings get out to a lead large enough that they just ride the running game, leaving fantasy managers to hope his current touchdown explosion lasts at least another week.
FitzMagic is back, baby! After taking a brief hiatus while Tua Tagovailoa kept his spot warm, Ryan Fitzpatrick was back under center for the Miami Dolphins in Week 12 and led them to a 23-3 victory over the winless New York Jets. He had a modest day, just 257 yards and two touchdowns, but that was good enough to check in as the QB8 through Monday Night Football. In six starts earlier in the year, Fitzpatrick threw for over 1500 yards with 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions (four if you throw out Week 1) and was the QB8.
Truth is Fitzpatrick will start for as long as it takes for Tua’s injured thumb to heal. That should be at least another game and that sets Fitz up to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy is 17th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but have tied for the third-most passing touchdowns allowed with 22. Miami has thrown more than twice as many touchdowns (18) as they have run in (8). The only concern here, as with Cousins, is the Dolphins (who rank second in scoring defense) get out to such a lead you’re left counting solely on touchdowns.
We probably should have seen this coming. It’s just how 2020 has gone. When it was announced Gurley would miss Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders, everyone assumed it would be Brian Hill, who had been spelling Gurley all season, to step into the lead role. Instead, Ito Smith came off the bench to take his 12 carries for 65 yards and a score and ranking as the RB10. Hill, who has out-carried Smith 3-to-1 on the season, took his 13 carries for 55 yards and former out-snapped the latter 39-28.
Smith out-targeted Hill 4-to-1 if you need another way to separate the two given how volatile touchdowns are. Atlanta faces the New Orleans Saints for the second time in three weeks and if Gurley misses another game, Smith needs to be the backfield option you deploy. The Saints are fourth against the run and have given up just three touchdowns on the ground. They’re fifth defending passes to backs too so it will be tough sledding either way. Smith has the easier path to fantasy relevance, albeit ever so slight.
Los Angeles Rams
We are entering troubling waters, my friends. Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers has received no more than 10 carries since getting 14 in the opener. He has just two games with 40-plus yards and has just one rushing touchdown. He is far and away third in snaps out of the backfield behind both Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown with a less defined role than either. But he keeps popping off for long runs, including the 61-yard scamper that set up his first rushing touchdown of the season on Sunday. He sits ranked as the RB16 (pending Wednesday’s results) in Week 12.
The Rams face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 but trusting Akers in lineups is quite the risky proposition. Sunday was literally his first time finishing with double-digit fantasy points. No, this is a move for the future. L.A. has talked of wanting to increase Akers’ workload as the season goes on. Don’t be fooled by Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers deter you, this offense is still seventh in rushing attempts. Imagine what Akers could do with a larger share of the workload.
Another week, another reminder that if your stud running back’s backup is sitting out there on the waiver wire you should change that. Unless you are ridiculously deep at running back you need this insurance. Just ask fantasy managers of Christian McCaffrey or Joe Mixon who missed out on Mike Davis and Giovani Bernard if they wish they had been proactive in this regard. This obviously doesn’t apply universally.
Hill is the best example of misreading the room. But in situations like Minnesota where Alexander Mattison is the clear backup to Dalvin Cook or in New Orleans where Latavius Murray has just seven fewer carries and 34 fewer yards than Alvin Kamara even though both have been active all season. Some other names to check the wire for are Devontae Booker, Jamaal Williams, and Boston Scott. These players have more value if you have the starter in front of them but if you have the bench space it’s not a bad idea to use it on a lottery ticket.
This was a situation similar to Hill’s as everyone assumed Cole Beasley would see an uptick in work for the Buffalo Bills with John Brown missing time. But Gabriel Davis caught three balls for 79 yards and a score, reverting back to his form of a couple of weeks ago when he caught four passes for 70 yards and a score. It was Davis’ fourth game this season with double-digit (PPR) fantasy points and has him as WR19 as of now but, again, it was second in three weeks.
The Bills take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13 but it’s more of a neutral site game as the 49ers cannot play their home games at home and will thus host in Arizona. Who knows what impact that has but Richard Sherman’s return to the 49ers defense helped them keep the Rams in check. Something similar could happen to the Bills but Davis has the benefit of not being Stefon Diggs in that he won’t be the focal point of the defense.
Green Bay Packers
Just two weeks back from his core muscle injury that knocked him out for seven games Allen Lazard found the endzone against the division-rival Chicago Bears catching four of his six targets for 23 yards. Don’t get hung up on the yardage output. Despite being woeful for the last month-plus, the Bears defense is still fifth in yards allowed to receivers. Lazard had 18-plus PPR fantasy points in two of his three contests before getting hurt including a six-catch, 146-yard performance that saw him finish as the WR6.
The Green Bay Packers take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 and we all just saw that secondary get torched by D.K. Metcalf to the tune of 10 catches for 177 yards. This despite shadowing him with top-corner Darius Slay. Davante Adams resides comfortably atop the pecking order for the Packers but Lazard was making headway as the trusted second banana before going down. He could get back to it right in time for the playoffs.
We are playing with fire with this suggestion. There was already a good chance the Detroit Lions would get Kenny Golladay back from a lingering hip injury next week against the Bears. It’s probably all but a given after the Lions fired head coach Matt Patricia. If he does miss, though, Mohamed Sanu filled his role quite capably. Sanu corralled all four of his targets for just 32 yards but he managed to find the endzone. He’s the WR25 ahead of Wednesday.
The dangers are two-fold because Chicago is a tough assignment for receivers and Golladay, itching to prove it was Patricia holding this group back, could find his way back into the lineup. So put in a claim for Sanu at your own risk. It could wind up that those things work together and the Lions hold Golladay out another week so as not to face such a tough opponent fresh off of injury.
This week’s contestant on “just fall into the end zone”, formally known as the tight end position. We have actually had a good run of suggestions so let’s hope we can keep it going with Kyle Rudolph. He’s the TE8 in Week 12 with seven catches and 68 yards. All of those numbers represent season-highs as Rudolph has lost much of his receiving work in recent years and has ceded even more to Irv Smith this season.
Minnesota faces those Jaguars in Week 13 though. We can attack this matchup with as much fervor as Cousins as Jacksonville ranks 31st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. They also lead the league in touchdowns allowed to tight ends with nine. Now, Rudolph doesn’t catch many touchdowns, he has just one on the year. But the name of the game is finding a warm body with a chance at falling into six points.