Whether in life or fantasy sports, one of the biggest threats to success and progress is complacency. It’s the dangerous feeling that, because things are going well in the present, you avoid challenging yourself or doing things that make you uncomfortable since it’s much easier to live blissfully in the moment. I won’t get too philosophical on you, but this is the point of the season where you have to set yourself up for a strong finish by avoiding complacency. No matter how great you feel about your team right now, things can change in an instant, and there is a very good chance that your roster could be even better by staying weeks ahead of the competition.
At this stage of the season, my preferred bench stashes typically include RB handcuffs who would assume a sizable workload if the starter is out and D/STs with advantageous matchups against struggling offenses (in order, my shortlist of “bad or mistake-prone offenses to target” right now includes the Jets, Bengals, Jaguars, 49ers, Broncos, Washington Football Team, Bears, Giants, and to a lesser extent, the Cowboys and Patriots). In terms of RB handcuffs, you never want to bank on players getting injured (that’s obviously not a cool thing to do), but in this critical stage of the season, you have to prepare for the worst so your hard work does not go to waste. Even if it’s not an injury sustained in-game, there is always a risk of COVID affecting a player’s status (see: J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram out this week).
Stay focused, prepare a contingency plan if your top players are absent, and enjoy the ride over the next five-to-six weeks. Here are a few of my top RB/WR/TE streamers that I feel can contribute to a successful run to the playoffs.
* Players marked with an asterisk below can also be found in the priority waiver wire adds article referenced at the end. If anyone featured below is at risk of not playing or is relegated to a bench role late in the week, I will do my best to keep you all updated on Twitter (@BrandonMillerFB). All players below are under 65%-rostered as of 11/25/20.
*Gus Edwards (RB, Baltimore Ravens)
Seemingly every week this season, there has been an RB who goes from an afterthought/ fringe-starter to instant viable starting option. This week, that RB is none other than the Gus Bus. With J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram (positive COVID tests) out this week and potentially next (the Ravens have a Thursday game scheduled in Week 13, for now), Edwards is set to be the lead back for an offense that currently leads the NFL in rushing attempts (327) and rushing yards (160.5 per game). The Week 12 matchup against the Steelers isn’t ideal, as they are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. However, the Ravens are likely to stick to their guns by running often and Edwards was able to overcome this very matchup in Week 8, where he rushed 16 times for 87 yards and a score. The Ravens-Steelers contest was pushed from Thanksgiving to Sunday, so make sure it’s “game on” before putting him in your lineup. Edwards has just three receptions all season, so he should not be expected to provide much in the passing game, but with 15-20 touches and the ability to convert goal-line opportunities, I think you can trust him as a low-end RB2/ Flex heading into Week 12.
*James White (RB, New England Patriots)
This is my obligatory moment to say “I know, I know; it’s hard to trust any Patriots RBs from week-to-week.” Given the track record of unpredictability with Patriots RBs, it’s important to focus on the things we do know. One thing we know is that James White will have a role in the short passing game, even more so with Rex Burkhead (knee) now out for the remainder of the season. I think White gave us a hint of what to expect moving forward after registering 11 total touches last week (five carries for 19 yards, six catches for 64 yards). Consider anything White does running the ball as a bonus; it’s his work as a receiver that you’re targeting. He’s had extremely difficult circumstances to deal with in his personal life this season after losing his father in a car wreck that also severely injured his mother. Much respect and credit to White for having the fortitude to suit up despite the emotional weight. He’s a beloved member of the New England organization and a guy that is easy to root for as he looks to close out the season on a high note. I see White as a solid Flex play in all leagues, with an added boost in PPR formats due to his pass-catching role.
Other names to consider (in order): Salvon Ahmed (63%-rostered ESPN/ Yahoo, top streamer if available), Wayne Gallman (49%-rostered ESPN, #2 streamer if available), Damien Harris (61%-rostered ESPN, #3 streamer if available), Zack Moss, J.K Dobbins (COVID, stash), Frank Gore, Phillip Lindsay, Samaje Perine (if no Giovani Bernard), Joshua Kelley (if no Ballage/ Ekeler), Jamaal Williams (low-Flex, high-end handcuff), Latavius Murray (low-Flex, high-end handcuff), Adrian Peterson/ Kerryon Johnson (if no D’Andre Swift), Cam Akers (stash), Alexander Mattison (high-end handcuff), Tony Pollard (high-end handcuff), Benny Snell Jr (handcuff), Devontae Booker (handcuff).
Darius Slayton/ Sterling Shepard (WR, New York Giants)
No, you cannot start Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard as one player. However, I feel both are startable WR3/ Flex options rest of season and are currently rostered at a similar level (Shepard 63% ESPN/ 48% Yahoo, Slayton 61% ESPN/ 72% Yahoo). I discussed Shepard’s utility in Week 8, so for the sake of variety, we’ll focus more on Slayton this time around. Shepard could be considered the safer “floor” play of the two given his role as a short-to-intermediate route-runner who collects more high-percentage throws, but I believe Slayton has the higher ceiling of the two as the Giants’ primary downfield threat. In the Giants most recent game (Week 10), Slayton hauled in five of seven targets for 93 yards, showcasing his ability to make splash plays at any time. He has received six-plus targets in seven of ten games this year, the young offensive line has improved, QB Daniel Jones has looked much better lately, and the next four contests will be against defenses that rank bottom-10 against opposing WRs. If you are in need of help at WR, whether in your starting lineup or as a means to strengthen depth, Slayton and Shepard both represent fine Flex options rest of season.
Nelson Agholor (WR, Las Vegas Raiders)
Fantasy analysts and fantasy managers alike tend to gravitate toward players with “next best thing” potential while leaving solid, but unspectacular veterans like Nelson Agholor in the dust. We can look no further than the Raiders for a prime example of this; electrifying rookie speedster Henry Ruggs III was universally drafted by fantasy managers this season while Agholor was largely skipped over in 10-12 team leagues. Even now, Ruggs attains higher rostership than Agholor on most platforms. This late into the season, you are better served by going with what has actually been happening instead of holding on to hopes of what could happen. Agholor leads the Raiders in touchdown receptions (six), yards per catch (18.5), and plays over 20-yards gained (eight). He is also tenth in the NFL in targeted air yards (14.3), so the catches he makes are certainly enough to move the needle. Your opponent isn’t likely to shake in fear when they see him in your lineup, but if you need a plug-and-play WR for Week 12, I think Agholor is a WR3/ Flex with TD upside against the Falcons.
Other names to consider (in order): Michael Pittman Jr, Curtis Samuel (56%-rostered Yahoo), Jakobi Meyers, Cole Beasley, Jalen Reagor, Corey Davis (stash, bad matchup), John Brown (monitor injury status), Tim Patrick, Allen Lazard, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Gallup, Breshad Perriman, Emmanuel Sanders, Russell Gage, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Sammy Watkins (stash), Richie James, Deebo Samuel (stash), Rashard Higgins, Laviska Shenault Jr, Henry Ruggs III.
*Jordan Reed (TE, San Francisco 49ers)
If you’ve played fantasy football at any point since 2013 (when Jordan Reed was drafted), you surely know that opting to start Reed comes with the caveat of “if he’s healthy.” When Reed suits up at full-strength, he has proven to be a consistently productive and dynamic player throughout his career. This recommendation is primarily a result of Reed’s downfield and run-after-catch abilities combined with the fact that the 49ers will be without several key members of their passing game this week, limiting his competition for targets. He collected five of six targets for 62 yards in Week 10 against an emerging Saints defense and should continue to be a primary receiving option in San Francisco as long as he remains healthy while George Kittle is out. Unlike the unexciting crop of “TD-or-bust” waiver wire TEs I seem to mention every week, Reed has the skills necessary to add some juice to your lineup for the foreseeable future as a back-end TE1.
Other names to consider (in order): Dalton Schultz, Jimmy Graham, Austin Hooper, Robert Tonyan, Mike Gesicki, Logan Thomas, Trey Burton, Zach Ertz (stash).
Accountability is everything, so here’s a quick look back at last week’s recommendations
Kalen Ballage (RB, Los Angeles Chargers): Although Ballage was unable to find the end zone in Week 11, he gave fantasy managers solid value once again, operating in a high-volume role that amounted to 23 touches (16 carries for 44 yards and seven catches for 27 yards). Ballage should stay in lineups as a result (Flex/ RB2), though it’s possible Austin Ekeler will return from injury this week. I still see Ballage gathering a handful of touches each game once Ekeler is back, though he would be downgraded to more of a low-Flex/ priority handcuff when that occurs. Keep him on your roster for now, start him whenever Ekeler is out, then monitor the backfield split once both backs are active. There has been some chatter that Ballage sustained an injury in Week 11, though we have yet to receive much detail. If Ballage and Ekeler are out, keep Joshua Kelley on speed-dial.
Salvon Ahmed (RB, Miami Dolphins): You could essentially copy and paste what I said for Ballage (above); just substitute Ahmed’s name for Ballage and Myles Gaskin for Ekeler. You should feel fine starting Ahmed as a Flex/ RB2 while Gaskin is out, but there is a chance Gaskin returns from IR within the next week or two. As Miami’s lead back, Ahmed registered 12 carries for 43 yards and five receptions for 31 yards. For now, just take it week-by-week and start Ahmed as long as he’s the featured guy for the Dolphins.
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, Indianapolis Colts): It was a shame for Pittman to collect just three targets after seeing seven-plus the previous two weeks, but he was able to overcome to low-volume usage by turning those three catches into 66 yards and a score. The Colts haven’t been shy about their intentions to be an “establish the run” team, but Pittman is a dynamic playmaker and should remain on fantasy rosters while he’s producing. Better weeks are ahead for the stud rookie who I see as a WR3/ Flex rest of season.
Curtis Samuel (WR, Carolina Panthers): Coming off a dud performance with a backup QB under center, there was reason to doubt Samuel’s viability heading into Week 11. However, those brave enough to put him in their lineup were surely glad they did, as he turned 10 targets into eight catches for 70 yards, one receiving touchdown, and one carry for four yards. He’s bound to have some hiccups along the way, but is a threat to score on any given week and remains an upside WR3/ Flex for the time being.
Taysom Hill (TE, New Orleans Saints): 99.9% of the time, you’re pretty bummed out when the TE you start finishes the day with zero catches. However, when that “TE” happens to be named the starting QB for a good team and passes for 233 yards along with 10 carries for 51 yards and two scores, you’ll surely take the results. This was a one-week anomaly in terms of Hill’s TE eligibility (ESPN leagues), but if you need a QB streamer for the next few weeks, you could hang on to him for his versatile skillset.
Make sure to check out Myles Nelson’s priority waiver wire adds article every Tuesday for more insights on who you should be submitting claims for heading into each Wednesday. Good luck in Week 12!
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)