The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 12 2021
Week 11 of the Fantasy Football season is now officially in the books, and we are definitely in the home-stretch of the season, spiraling towards the playoffs and (hopefully) championship game. Trade deadlines have passed in the majority of leagues, so rosters have formally taken on the "what you see is what you get, absent the waiver wire" approach. Interest has begun to fade (if not full-fledged evaporate) for those who aren't in contention, leaving two definitive groupings left:
Those who have already clinched a berth in the playoffs, and those who are clawing and scratching their way towards one of the wild card positions.
With any luck, you're in the first group - things are wrapped up neat and tidy, and barring something truly cataclysmic, you'll be in contention to win your league come December. Now don't get me wrong - I know that not all of my readers are in this position, but I'm hopeful that my advice, guidance and recommendations have steered you in that direction.
For those who are in the second group - fear not, I'll be by your side until the very end providing my insight. Despite the last few weeks being void of any season-altering waiver wire pickups, there are several players who are intriguing heading into Week 12 that I'll review below. As always, if you need my thoughts on someone who isn't covered this week, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) and I'll be glad to discuss things with you there as well. Let's win out!
Welcome back, Cam Newton! I'll admit that I was skeptical what sort of impact he could have for Carolina in 2021, since he hasn't been Fantasy-friendly over the past three seasons. Initially, I was trepidatious if his athleticism would be enough to make an impact at age 32, on a Panthers roster that is comprised of an oft-injured Christian McCaffrey and inconsistent D.J. Moore. It turns out, plenty. Newton handled every snap for Carolina at quarterback against Washington, even though beat reporters speculated that he would be splitting time with P.J. Walker. Newton finished 21-of-27 passing for a meager 189 yards, but he threw two touchdowns, and added another 46 yards and a score on the ground with his legs. I touted Newton as a pivot play for Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray owners, and he finished as a top-5 player at the position. Carolina squares off against Miami in Week 12 - the Dolphins have surrendered the most passing yards in the NFL, and they are in the bottom third for interceptions. Kansas City and Arizona are both on bye in Week 12, and Newton is owned in less than 40 percent of leagues. Invest heavily if you need to!
Speaking of vintage performances - Aaron Rodgers lit up the Minnesota Vikings secondary on Sunday, passing for a season-high 385 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers discussed in length after the conclusion of the game how injured his toe is, but he didn't exhibit any limitations when he was on the field. Aaron Jones is questionable for Week 12, but he should be back as a safety outlet for the Packers stretch run.
Justin Fields struggled mightily against the Baltimore Ravens before leaving with a rib injury, completing just 4-of-11 passes for 79 yards against a defense that was previously very generous to quarterbacks. In his absence, Andy Dalton led Chicago on a ferocious back-and-forth battle to the delight of fans. Reports surfaced after the game that Fields was (thankfully) able to avoid breaking any ribs, but his status for Week 12 on Thanksgiving is doubtful. Fields has been largely disappointing this season, completing barely over 58 percent of passes with a 4:8 TD:INT ratio. Better things are in store for his long-term future, but for the remainder of 2021 I'd avoid starting him if possible.
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills haven't been able to capture the same magic as last year, and the team's passing attack has been in utter disarray of late. Allen finished Week 11 with just 209 passing yards and two touchdowns against Indianapolis, and he wasn't able to compile statistics while in catch-up mode in the second half of the game. Allen has thrown five interceptions the past three weeks, and he continues to finish outside the top-10 at the position. I'll fully admit that I whiffed here - I had Allen ranked over Mahomes as my top quarterback of 2021. Buffalo has a difficult stretch coming up, playing New Orleans, New England, Tampa Bay, Carolina and then New England again from Weeks 12-16. Fingers crossed for a rebound.
Before we wrap up the positional breakdown, can someone for Baltimore please get Lamar Jackson on a Vitamin-C regimen? He gets sick more than my 6-year old son.
Week 11 was a case of "If you had Jonathan Taylor and/or Austin Ekeler, you likely won. If you faced them, you likely lost". Both players went absolutely ballistic, and will remain the focal-point of their offenses for the remainder of the year. Not much else to say here.
D'Andre Swift continues to baffle me. If you follow me on Twitter I'm sure that you've seen my weekly rants about his production, and how Detroit continually forgets that they have one of the most talented running backs in football until the second half. Swift finished with just 14 rushing attempts, but finished with over 130 rushing yards for the second week in a row, averaging close to 10 yards per touch. His juke moves in space are absolutely electric, and he will enter 2022 ranked as a top-8 play on my board. Even with Jamaal Williams returning, Swift is a mid-range RB1.
"Chubby Bunny" Nick Chubb continues to feast, and he looked stellar after returning from a stint on the COVID-19 list. Chubb racked up 130 rushing yards against Detroit, and caught his first touchdown pass since the 2018 season. With Cleveland struggling to pass the ball due to Baker Mayfield's injury woes, the Browns will need to rely on their offensive line and ground game more than ever.
Who the hell is Dontrell Hilliard, and why was he taking snaps away from D'Onta Foreman? Foreman was one of the top waiver-wire additions of the week, and he appeared to be in a smash matchup against his former team the Houston Texans (The absence of Jeremy McNichols made it even more appealing). Yet, in a move of utter insanity, Tennessee promoted Hilliard from the practice squad and gave him the start. I wasn't touting Foreman as a RB2, but I thought that he was a viable FLEX option, especially given his prior work in the passing game. Clearly the team wasn't as impressed as I was. Foreman finished with less touches than both Hilliard and Adrian Peterson, and it will be hard to endorse him as a start moving forward. This backfield is a mess.
Speaking of players that I hoped would break out - what is going on in Seattle? Chris Carson was placed on season-ending IR after he elected to undergo surgery on his troublesome pinched nerve in his neck, which opened the door for Alex Collins moving forward. Additionally, Seattle came out and stated their desire to have a more balanced approach to game script, commenting that they needed to run the ball moving forward. So, what happened? Collins finished with 10 carries for 36 yards and ceded work in the fourth quarter to DeeJay Dallas, as the team needed to climb out of a perpetual hole. The issue with Collins isn't his talent - it is the fact that Seattle's defense is so atrocious it forces the team to completely abandon the run. At best, moving forward Collins is a desperation FLEX. I'll not make that mistake again.
I won't harp on it, and I'm thankful that he is okay, but how Najee Harris didn't sustain a concussion on Sunday Night Football is baffling. That was brutal to watch.
I see you, Elijah Moore. Even though New York has been utterly putrid for the entirety of 2021, Moore has really come into his own since Week 8, even with a carousel at quarterback. Since then, Moore has totaled 24 receptions for 336 yards and four touchdowns, and he has become the team's No.1 option. Given how porous the Jets' defense is, Moore will be in a positive game script each week, and he is an ascending WR3 in PPR formats. He's currently rostered in 40 percent of leagues, and I'd be willing to spend heavily to acquire him in redraft formats moving forward.
Have a day, Darnell Mooney. By far the best receiver for Chicago this year (and it pains me to say that, given how high I was for Allen Robinson entering Week 1), Mooney caught five passes for 121 yards and a score against Baltimore. Both Justin Fields and Andy Dalton struggled to get him the ball accurately (nothing new there), so Mooney could have had a much larger day given his whopping 16 targets. With speed being his primary attribute, Mooney is a low-volume, high-upside play most weeks that is capable of turning any dump-off into a score. He's a risky start in PPR formats, but in standard leagues he's gaining massive traction.
Can we officially say that Brandon Aiyuk is back? Aiyuk caught all seven of his targets for 85 yards and a score against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the coaching staff has begun to really incorporate him into the game script each week. Injuries at running back have forced San Francisco to utilize Deebo Samuel as a running back, allowing for Aiyuk to see more targets in the passing game. He continues to impress me with his explosiveness and ability to shift direction in space. The trade window for him has officially closed - I expect Aiyuk to really go off with his upcoming schedule against Minnesota (24th worst against the pass), Seattle (28th), Cincinnati (22nd) and Tennessee (31st).
No sense beating around the bush - Terry McLaurin is exactly the player that analysts ranked earlier this year, and it is a darn shame that he didn't have Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball all year. His body control is absolutely insane. Yes, he had a number of poor performances from Week 5-10, but I can't pin that entirely on him.
Both A.J. Brown (finger/chest) and Marcus Robinson (hamstring) left Sunday's game against Houston, forcing Nick Westbrook-Ikhine into the top receiving role for Tennessee. I'd expect Robinson to miss Week 12 since he struggled with hamstring injuries earlier this year, and Brown is a questionable-at-best spot right now. The Titans square off against New England in a huge contest for Week 12, and operating with the understanding that Bill Belichick will do everything that he can to take Brown out of the game, Westbrook-Ikhine becomes an interesting flier for those looking for help at the position.
Speaking of the upcoming New England game, I wouldn't go crazy on adding Nelson Agholor after his 5/40/1 effort against Atlanta on Thursday Night Football. Fantasy managers are prone to chasing last week's stats, and I'd be very hesitant relying upon any New England receiver for production. Agholor is more of a DFS flier than redraft start.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught my attention again this week, as a positive game script where Green Bay needed to play catchup thrust him into relevance. "MVS" came away with 4 grabs on 10 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. He will likely being a top waiver-wire recommendation on many formats, since Allen Lazard is currently nursing a shoulder injury. My main issues with MVS has been his inefficiency, and after a few incompletions his way Aaron Rodgers tends to ignore his presence. If Lazard were to miss another week, MVS would make an interesting streaming play for one week, prior to the Packers bye in Week 13. His upside warrants a few dollars of FAAB for desperate players.
Zach Ertz finished Week 11 as the top scoring player at the position, and suddenly it feels like 2018 all over again. A clear favorite target of Colt McCoy, Ertz routinely abused Jamaal Adams for Seattle, catching 8 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. His fantastic production was in part due to the absence of DeAndre Hopkins, but don't chalk this up as a total fluke - Ertz will remain a top-7 play each week at tight end. Arizona is on a bye in Week 12, but I'm happy to hold onto him.
Welcome back to Fantasy relevance, Darren Waller! It seems that Las Vegas has made a real effort to make Waller a focal point of the offense again, following a series of disappointing performances from Week 2-8. This marks the second time in three weeks that Waller has seen at least 8 targets, and he comes into Week 12 in a favorable matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. His mention here isn't a total surprise since he was drafted as the No.2 option at the position, but a reminder of how fluky things can be.
Something smells fishy around here, could it be Adam Trautman? Puns aside, Trautman was a popular streaming pick at the position for Week 11, and he delivered in spades. The beneficiary of 28 targets over the last four game with Trevor Siemian at the helm, Trautman is establishing a nice double-digit floor for himself, and his presence is necessary to keep New Orleans competitive. Somehow owned in just 6 percent of leagues, that number really needs to increase for Week 12. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz are both on bye next week, and I think he makes a wonderful addition.
::Update:: News broke after the conclusion of the New Orleans game that Trautman suffered a sprained MCL, and he will miss the next 4-6 weeks (essentially the rest of the Fantasy season). In his absence Nick Vannett will likely draw the start instead, so Trautman is off the radar. The loss of Trautman further brings Taysom Hill back into the conversation, as the Saints gadget player has played the position sparingly in the past. Hill signed a four-year, $95 million contract extension with the team that is predicated upon which positions he ends up playing for the team. With New Orleans continuing to roll Trevor Siemian under center, there is a distinct possibility that Hill is used at tight end, running back and/or wide receiver. Depending on which provider you use for Fantasy Football, his eligibility status may or may not change. For those with an extra spot at the end of their benches, Hill makes an interesting flyer for a team in desperate need of offensive help.
Before I conclude, I did want to wish all of our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend it with your family and loved ones, and that you enjoy some well-earned rest around the holidays. Best wishes!