Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets for Week 12: Rookies Offer League-Winning Upside

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets for Week 12: Rookies Offer League-Winning Upside article feature image
  • Ryan Collinsworth breaks down his best fantasy football waiver wire claims for Week 12, from handcuffs to top streaming quarterbacks and more.
  • Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith has established himself as the No. 2 receiver in New Orleans' offense.

There are just two teams on bye in Week 12: The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.

Many fantasy football teams are making their final playoff push over the next two weeks, so we’ll be taking a longer-term approach to waiver recommendations. Most fantasy teams are no longer looking for potential breakouts to stash on their bench. At this point in the season it’s about hoarding starting-caliber talent for a title run.

Below, I’ll highlight players who are owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN fantasy leagues and recommend an auction price (in parentheses) for each player for leagues using a Free Agent Acquisition Budget system (which I highly recommend, by the way). All recommendations are made based on a $100 FAAB budget.

It’s Cuffing Season

In life there are few absolute certainties: Death, taxes and fantasy football injuries. In this section, I highlight players to target on waivers when top players inevitably get hurt or suspended.

Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins ($12)

I recommended Gore last week following his 90-yard rushing performance against the Packers. After the Dolphins’ Week 11 bye, my opinion on Gore has not changed.

Since Week 4, he has averaged 15.5 rush attempts and 71.7 rushing yards per game. He could also see an increase in his receiving usage if Kenyan Drake misses action due to a shoulder injury. Prior to his injury, Drake ranked second on the team in passing targets (51) and first on the team in red-zone targets (5).

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore (21).

Increased receiving volume is vital to Gore’s fantasy viability and would make him a solid starting running back against Indianapolis this week. The Colts rank 28th in pass defense DVOA against running backs. They are conceding on average the third-most receptions (7.2) and fourth-most receiving yards (57.9) per game to running backs this season.

Gore’s remaining schedule is manageable, but not does not feature many obvious matchup advantages. Consider him a streaming flex play contingent on Drake’s health and availability.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($5)

Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard suffered a sprained ankle against the Giants. In his stead, Brate immediately becomes Tampa Bay’s No. 1 tight end and gains access to part of Howard’s 13.7% target share.

Brate has underwhelmed this season while hidden in Howard’s shadow, but he could provide fantasy TE1 production if Howard indeed misses time. Brate finished last season as the tenth-ranked tight end in PPR settings, and he finished as the seventh-ranked tight end in 2016.

He faces the 49ers in Week 12, who rank 21st in pass defense DVOA against tight ends.

Top Streaming Quarterback

Each week, I highlight top quarterback streaming options for late-round quarterback truthers. These quarterbacks are week-to-week options and are not necessarily viable long term.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys ($2)

Okay, so Prescott isn’t necessarily my top streaming candidate this week. Rather, his remaining schedule is so advantageous that I’m advising you to consider rostering him for the long haul. He boasts the best schedule of all quarterbacks available on waivers in at least 50% of ESPN leagues.

He posted a mundane 208-0-0 passing line against the Falcons in Week 11 but did add a rushing touchdown. He has found the end zone via the ground in four of his past five games despite mediocre yardage totals. That rushing upside has helped elevate him to fantasy QB9 status since Week 6.

He faces off against the Redskins this week who will be without quarterback Alex Smith after he suffered a season-ending leg injury. The Redskins may have trouble sustaining drives with backup quarterback Colt McCoy.

Moreover, the Redskins rank 17th in pass defense DVOA. While this is by no means a smash spot for Prescott, he should still deliver an above-average fantasy performance against Washington.

Other streaming options this week include Eli Manning facing the depleted Eagles secondary and Baker Mayfield who squares off against the Bengals.

Top Streaming Tight End

Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans ($3)

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered an elbow injury in their Week 11 game against the Colts. His status for Week 12 is questionable, which means we could see Blaine Gabbert under center for Tennessee.

Regardless of who pioneers the sputtering Titans offense, Smith still boasts a phenomenal matchup against the Texans. In fact, if Gabbert indeed starts, that may open up more short-yardage opportunities for Smith.

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81).

Houston ranks 31st in pass defense DVOA against tight ends and has given up huge games to tight ends in its past two games. Against the Broncos in Week 9, the Texans allowed Jeff Heuerman to catch 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.

In Week 11, Jordan Reed torched Houston for seven receptions, 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.

Smith posted a solid 6-44-0 receiving line on eight targets against the Colts this week. His eight targets and six receptions are season highs, and he has scored over 10.0 PPR fantasy points in three consecutive games.

Buy and Hold: Rookies Edition

The following players with season-long upside deserve immediate roster consideration. This week, all five of my Buy and Hold recommendations happen to be rookies.

Josh Adams, Philadelphia Eagles ($13)

It has been difficult to trust any Eagles running back this season, but Adams is separating himself in the pecking order.

Against the Saints this week, he rushed seven times for 53 yards and a touchdown and added three receptions for 19 yards on six passing targets. His six passing targets are particularly notable, because prior to this week, he had not demonstrated any meaningful receiving usage.

Meanwhile, Corey Clement rushed twice for 11 yards, and Wendell Smallwood saw just one rush attempt for negative yardage. Adams also drew the most snaps (28) in Week 11 compared to just 14 for Clement and only four snaps for Smallwood.

Over the past three weeks, Adams has averaged 62 total yards per game. Clement has averaged just 9.3 total yards per game over the same stretch, and Smallwood completely disappeared against New Orleans in Week 11.

Adams draws a Week 12 matchup against the Giants, who rank 19th in run defense DVOA and are giving up on average the 10th-most fantasy points per game (20.0) to running backs this season.

Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints ($12)

Smith exploded with a 10-157-1 receiving performance on 13 targets against the Eagles. His targets, receptions, yards and 31.7 PPR fantasy points all marked season-highs for the dynamic rookie.

Since the preseason, we’ve all been waiting for this kind of game from Smith, who has demonstrated game-breaking ability at times but never quite put it all together. Of course, his Week 11 masterpiece represents his ceiling — not his median expected outcome — but his target volume gives us cause for optimism.

He is a boom-or-bust flex candidate with very little competition as the Saints’ clear No. 2 wide receiver. He also boasts a fantasy-friendly schedule to close the season:

He should immediately be a starting flex candidate in Week 12 against the Falcons. Atlanta ranks dead last in defensive DVOA, 29th in pass defense DVOA, and is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

Keke Coutee, Houston Texans ($11)

Coutee thoroughly outplayed Demaryius Thomas in Houston’s Week 11 matchup against the Redskins. He led the team in targets (9), receiving yards (77), and tied for the team lead in receptions (5). Meanwhile, Thomas was targeted only once and failed to record a catch.

In five games this season — and while battling a nagging hamstring injury — Coutee has averaged 7.8 targets per game (23rd among wide receivers) and 10.6 PPR fantasy points.

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee (16).

He previously asserted that he would not return to action until he felt fully-recovered from his hamstring injury. So, his return to action in Week 11 inspires confidence that his injury woes are behind him.

He faces off against the Titans in Week 12, who are allowing on average the fifth-most fantasy points per game (26.2) to wide receivers this season. They are also coming off a brutal 38-10 beatdown at the hands of the Colts wherein quarterback Andrew Luck torched the Titans secondary for 297 yards and three touchdowns.

D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers ($9)

Oddly enough, Moore totaled the exact same receiving yardage (157) as Tre’Quan Smith this week, but he did so only three fewer receptions. Also like Smith, his remaining schedule lays out incredibly well for fantasy production during the playoffs.

Moore will likely remain a highly-volatile upside play due to his inconsistent target volume. He shares passing targets with Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey and is likely the fourth option in the Panthers offense. He also draws a very difficult matchup against the Seahawks in Week 12, so he may not even be a starting option immediately.

Nonetheless, he has played admirably and is deserving of increased receiving volume. Given his dynamic play-making abilities and his fantasy-friendly matchups looming, he could provide week-winning upside during the fantasy playoffs.

Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals ($7)

Kirk flashed his big play ability against the Raiders while hauling in three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Cardinals wide receiver Chad Williams remains out with an ankle injury and has not practiced since Week 9. That has enabled Kirk to produce borderline-starting fantasy value nearly all season.

He ranks second on the team in targets (55), receptions (36), and leads Arizona in receiving yards (495). He also boasts seven receptions of 20 yards or more, which demonstrates his dynamic open-field skillset.

He likely projects as a fantasy WR4 this week against the Chargers, who rank eighth in pass defense DVOA but 18th against No. 2 wide receivers. Importantly, however, his remaining schedule features a couple tasty matchups that could benefit fantasy teams in the early rounds of the playoffs.

Dates against Detroit and Atlanta both project favorably. But, he closes the season with matchups against two excellent defenses in the Rams and Seahawks . He’s a great pickup for teams making a playoff push but may not pay dividends during the most important weeks of the fantasy season.

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The Watch List

The following players may be worthy of consideration in deeper leagues. Many of these players have inconsistent usage or mediocre remaining schedules but could still provide week-to-week starting-caliber production. Current ESPN ownership percentage for each player is in parentheses.

  • Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears (49.1%)
  • Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (37.6%)
  • Bruce Ellington, WR, Detroit Lions (0.1%)
  • Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (47.5%)
  • Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets (6.6%)
  • David Moore, WR, Seattle Seahawks (8.0%)
  • Elijah McGuire, RB, New York Jets (17.1%)
  • Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens (0.1%)
  • Jeff Heuerman, TE, Denver Broncos (21.7%)
  • John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (17.2%)
  • LeGarrette Blount, RB, Detroit Lions (9.8%)
  • Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers (47.9%)
  • Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (48.8%)
  • Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks (31.4%)
  • Seth Roberts, WR, Oakland Raiders (0.6%)
  • Taylor Gabriel, WR, Chicago Bears (43.3%)
  • Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions (33.1%)
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