15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 12
Just when you think your fantasy team is set and ready for the playoffs, you're slapped in the face with the reality that a player's season can change in a single instant.
When A.J. Green grabbed the back side of his leg in Sunday's contest against the Bills, fantasy owners knew. You, a Green owner, knew. It was over. The guy you depended on each week to give you top-notch fantasy numbers was no longer going to contribute each week from here on out.
Fortunately, news on Monday was positive. Green may indeed return this season. But it was a healthy reminder that having a contingency plan in fantasy football -- especially as we inch closer to the postseason -- is always a good idea. And that, of course, is why this column exists for you each and every week.
Add Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd
The reports about Green potentially returning this year definitely hurt both Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd as hot waiver wire pickups this week. But keep in mind that Green will still miss time, and the Bengals themselves aren't in a great position to make the playoffs: they're two wins off of both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And over the next two weeks, Cincinnati faces Baltimore (on the road) and Philadelphia (at home), two superior teams, especially with the Bengals being Green-less.
That's really the hope for LaFell and Boyd in fantasy -- the Bengals lose both of those contests, and they're sitting at 3-8-1. Why rush AJ Green back to action? If they don't, both secondary wide receivers should have flex appeal moving forward.
And LaFell, to me, would be the priority in most formats. Though Boyd has inherent upside as a rookie, LaFell has consistently played more snaps this year (18 more per game), and he's more of a deep threat who would hypothetically take that role from Green. This year, LaFell's yards per catch at the point of the catch (that is, yards per catch minus yards after the catch) is 8.85, while Boyd's is 6.76. He's been catching deeper routes.
And despite his volume in Week 11, Boyd actually played fewer snaps this past week than James Wright. That's not a great endorsement.
I wouldn't be going nuts on the waiver wire for either guy, but I would be prioritizing LaFell over Boyd given all of this.
Add Wendell Smallwood
The Eagles suffered some injuries this week as well, with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles each exiting Sunday's game against the Seahawks. That led to rookie Wendell Smallwood to play 48% of the team's snaps in Week 11, leading the Eagles with 13 carries.
Now, Sproles fractured a rib in a "safe" area, which means he could play this weekend. And Mathews is day to day with a knee injury. But the injuries are still there, and Philadelphia has been a great place for running backs in fantasy this season: they've scored the second-most points, as a group, in the league, behind only Dallas.
Getting workhorse use from Smallwood may not happen, but we're late in the season -- there's no reason to just leave him on the waiver wire.
Buy Michael Thomas
Last week, I mentioned Willie Snead as a decent buy candidate because of the Saints beautiful schedule in the fantasy playoffs -- they face Tampa Bay twice between Weeks 14 and 16. The entire passing game failed to live up to expectations against Carolina this past week, which now shifts my interest to a guy who had just a moderate performance: Michael Thomas.
Though Brandin Cooks has put up better raw numbers this year than Thomas, it hasn't been a consistent ride. Thomas actually has just as many top-24 performances in PPR leagues as Cooks does, even though he started the season slowly, hauling in 10 catches for a little over 100 yards over his first two games. That's to be expected from a rookie.
I would assume Thomas' market value is lower than Cooks', too -- he'd be easier to snag in a last-minute trade. And given the fact that he's ranked outside the top-30 in weekly scoring the last two weeks, you may be able to get him at a slight discount.
Sell Jarvis Landry
Jarvis Landry was a sell in 15 Transactions last week and, naturally, he found the end zone in Week 11 for the first time since Week 3. (If you saw the score, though, it was anything but a normal touchdown.)
The fact is, Landry's overall lack of production in fantasy football is directly tied to the aforementioned success that the ground game has had. As I said last week, the Dolphins have gone from a top-10 team in drop-back-to-run ratio to a bottom-10 one in just five weeks of play. Landry not only is seeing well over two fewer targets per game strictly as a result, but his overall market share is also dropping -- it's gone down 4.21% over the team's last five games. It also doesn't help that he's been out-targeted by DeVante Parker in each of the last two contests.
Because he scored this week, this could be your opportunity to sell. The team's direction is not one that's going to benefit his numbers.
Buy Thomas Rawls
Oh, what a difference a few weeks makes.
The Seahawks backfield was supposed to be all about the combination of C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls. Prosise would be the receiving threat, while Rawls would be the bruiser. But then football happened this weekend. Prosise left Seattle's Week 11 game with a shoulder injury, and now, at the very earliest, he won't be back until the playoffs.
It's Thomas Rawls time.
The Seahawks' offense has turned the corner (finally), which should create more scoring opportunities for Rawls -- they've scored 31, 31, and 26 points, respectively, over the last three weeks after hitting that 29.33-point average just once in the seven games prior.
You may be wondering, "How the hell can I buy Thomas Rawls right now when his owner is going to see the team's improvement?"
Well, you can talk down Rawls' playoff schedule to his current owner.
In Week 14, the Seahawks will face the Packers (they did prove to be beatable on Sunday Night Football, though), but then they get the Rams and Cardinals in Weeks 15 and 16. The Rams have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to backs this season, while the Cardinals have surrendered the second-fewest.
But both games are in Seattle, which is a huge plus. Since Russell Wilson entered the league, the Seahawks have averaged 5.1 more points and 0.51 more rushing touchdowns per game at home versus on the road. So, regardless of matchup, Rawls should have plenty of chances to score fantasy points given positive game script and the volume he'll see.
Sell LeGarrette Blount
It's impossible to downplay how fun LeGarrette Blount has been this year in fantasy football. He's what fake football is all about -- there's nothing better than bruising running backs who score touchdowns all the time.
But that fun may start to come to an end, or, at the very least, slow down. Dion Lewis returned this week, and he ended up stealing some looks (5 carries) from Blount, all while playing 28% of the Patriots' snaps. Blount finished the Week 11 game with a 45% snap rate, which was the lowest he's seen since Week 6. As Lewis gets going, Blount could easily be used less and less.
The Patriots' rest-of-season schedule also doesn't bode all that well for him, either, as New England still has to face the Jets (5th against the run, according to our schedule-adjusted numbers), Rams (15th), Ravens (1st), Broncos (25th), and Jets (5th). The only real favorable matchup for a fantasy running back in that group is Denver, but keep in mind how Blount has been so fantasy relevant this year -- through touchdowns. Against a top defense like Denver's -- even though they can't stop the run very well -- scoring chances could be limited for Blount.
He's still a good option rest of season, but expectations should certainly be lowered.
Add Colin Kaepernick
Since Colin Kaepernick has been featured in this column week after week, I'll save my voice and keep this thing simple for you: he's scored 18-plus fantasy points in four of his five starts under Chip Kelly this season, rushing the ball for 260 yards. That's a nice floor of 52 yards per game, or the equivalent of more than a touchdown pass in standard fantasy leagues. The fact that he's still on 83% of waiver wires on ESPN.com has to be because folks are connecting real football to fake football. But let's not pretend he's been atrocious in real football, either -- he's got a 0.02 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back average, which is below the norm, but not Jets quarterback-esque. Please, I beg you: if you're a quarterback streamer, or if you're in need of a signal-caller, add Kaepernick.
Sell Jamison Crowder
Only 18 wide receivers have scored more PPR points than Jamison Crowder this year. He's been incredibly reliable considering where folks drafted him, and that may give his owners pause before sending him away.
But let's look at this as objectively as possible. On the year, Crowder barely ranks in the top-40 in wide receiver targets, and his market share at the position is just 17.46%. That's a worse share than Quinton Patton.
What's surprisingly buoyed his performance to date is touchdowns -- he's got six of them. Based on his Reception NEP total -- that is, the number of real points he's adding for his team on catches, which isn't skewed by touchdowns -- Crowder should have closer to 4.54 touchdowns, which is one of the larger "has" to "should have" gaps you'll find in football.
His yardage total tells the same story. If you chart receiving yards to touchdowns over the last five years and regress the touchdown totals, you'll find that Crowder's 637 yards equates to about 4.39 receiving scores, not the 6 that he has.
And then there's the fact that both Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson are back and healthy. That will only limit Crowder's overall scoring chances. Yeah, I know he scored on Sunday night, but he also only saw just three targets.
Regression should hit him at some point, and with such a small market share, there's not a lot of reason to blindly trust Crowder week to week.
Hold Jay Ajayi
This transaction may seem a little out of place because nothing substantial happened to Jay Ajayi this week. But things happened and are happening around Ajayi.
Our own Jim Sannes did a great job at showing how the Dolphins' offensive line health aligned perfectly with the start of Ajayi's breakout. Remember his big game against Pittsburgh? Well, that game was the first time Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey, and Branden Albert were all healthy.
Right now, Albert is dealing with a wrist injury, Pouncey is having hip issues, and Tunsil left this week's game with a shoulder injury. The "hold" recommendation is for monitoring purposes -- it's to show that, while this isn't a big deal just yet, it could become one. Because that offensive line is a big, big deal for Ajayi's overall production.
Add Sammy Watkins
I'm old enough to remember when Sammy Watkins was a second-round fantasy selection.
Now, reports are surfacing that Watkins could actually play a bit against Jacksonville this weekend. Not only is this the right time for him to come back given the lack of weapons in the offense, but he's also Sammy Watkins -- he was an early-round fantasy selection for a reason. If he's on your waiver wire after he hit the IR, go ahead and snatch him up.
Sell Jordan Howard
The Bears are already down Alshon Jeffery, and in Sunday's loss to the Giants, they also lost Zach Miller to a broken foot and Jay Cutler to a shoulder injury. Miller is donezo for the year, and the team is exploring if Cutler will be, too. With Brian Hoyer on IR, the Bears starting quarterback from here on out -- again, without their top tight end and wide receiver -- could be Matt Barkley. Matt freaking Barkley.
Owners may not think that's a massive deal for someone like Jordan Howard since he's not dealing a ton with the God-awful throws that are to come, but it definitely is. The Bears already have yet to score three touchdowns in a single game this year, and now they're about to be even less efficient. And worse efficiency on offense often leads to poorer running back play from a fantasy standpoint.
As a fantasy owner, I want nothing to do with this offense. Howard may have an elite market share over the last three weeks -- only Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson are seeing a higher percentage of backfield touches for their team -- but in this offense, it may not matter. See if you can get a decent return for him before your trade deadline hits.
Sell Allen Robinson
After disappointing owners for the majority of the season, Allen Robinson has come back to life with a touchdown in each of his last three games. Things are actually looking fine for him -- during this time, he's got a 25.20% target market share, good for 12th in football, while catching 19 passes.
The problem with A-Rob from here on out is the team's playoff schedule, which has been brought up in past 15 Transactions. In Week 14, Jacksonville gets Minnesota, who've given up the second-fewest wide receiver fantasy points per game this season. Then they'll face Houston, a team Robinson played well against earlier this year, but one that still presents a problem, surrendering the third-fewest points per game to the position. Given his recent performance, if you can get a good return, feel free to do so.
Add Jared Cook
Sure, why not?
The Packers released Justin Perillo this past week, leaving them with just Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers at the position. One of those two tight ends is an athletic pass-catcher who's never lived up to his potential, while the other is a straight-up dad runner. We'll side with the athletic guy.
And, like I said, why not? Cook returned to action this past week after an eight-week hiatus, and he saw 11 targets in the Packers' loss. His 25.58% market share in Week 11 was the fourth-best at the tight end position. If even a 20% target market share in that offense continues moving forward, he could end up being a usable piece in fantasy football.
Adding Cook is more of a hopeful, high-upside play more than anything else. But his Week 11 performance is certainly worth noting.
(Note: If C.J. Fiedorowicz is on your waiver wire still, he's the safer, smarter add.)
Add Ryan Tannehill
Kaepernick should be a quarterback streamer's first priority off the waiver wire this week, but Ryan Tannehill isn't a bad spot start in Week 12. He'll face Kap's 49ers, a team that's more often than not allowed a top-12, QB1 performance, surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points per game to the position. The game total, per Vegas, is at a solid 45.5 points, and the Dolphins, in turn, actually have the sixth-highest implied team total on the entire slate. Tannehill should play at least some part in that scoring.
Add the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
So, Scott Tolzien is more than likely going to be under center for the Colts on Thanksgiving thanks to an Andrew Luck concussion. The last time we saw Tolzien as a starter, it was 2013. In his two starts, he threw zero touchdowns and three interceptions while getting sacked twice. The Steelers are on the road, but they're a great streaming option given the quarterback replacement.