Week 12 Dynasty Pros - Start/Sleepers/Sits
By Joel Dehls
We’re just a couple weeks away from the fantasy playoffs and I CAN'T WAIT. While some of you are making a final push for the playoffs, I’m sure there are some of you who aren't going to make it. It’s important if you miss the playoffs, to pay attention to what happens every week. The players who breakout at the end of the season and in the NFL playoffs seem to have a higher ADP the next year as many owners remember what they did at the end of the year versus the beginning. With that being said, let's get right into it!
Start - Derek Carr @ Atlanta Falcons
There was a ton of speculation going into 2020 whether Derek Carr was the future for the Raiders. After his 2 performances against the Chiefs, Carr is proving to Gruden and the NFL that he is a franchise QB. While his stats wont blow you away, he does his job each week so that the Raiders are in position to win. He only has 2400 yards and 19 touchdowns, but has a 70% completion percentage and only 3 INT’s. Carr is also taking shots downfield, as he averages 7.7 yards/attempt, which is top 10 in the NFL.
The matchup against the Atlanta Falcons is as good as it gets for fantasy QB’s. The Falcons give up the most points to the QB position (26.6) and are coming off a game where they let Taysom Hill complete 78% of his passes in his first ever career start at QB. This has been going on all year for the Falcons. The only quarterback they were able to contain was Teddy Bridgewater in week 8, other than that every quarterback they play has scored 18 or more fantasy points. Vegas is also expecting this game to be a shootout, as the over/under is set at 54 points, the 2nd highest total of the week.
Sleeper - Baker Mayfield @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Baker Mayfield and the Browns passing attack have been nonexistent the last few weeks. At first glance it may seem odd that after arguably Bakers best game of his pro career he has crashed into an abyss. This hasn't been anybody's fault, the last 3 games the Browns have played have all been in terrible weather conditions. Between rain, high wind and even snow, the Browns have been forced to feed Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. While Baker has killed your fantasy team in his 3 previous outings, against the Jaguars he has the potential for a top 10 performance.
To nobody's surprise, the Jaguars have been terrible on defense, giving up the 3rd most points to the quarterback position (23/game) and the 4th most points in the NFL (30/game). In 4 of the previous 6 weeks, the Jaguars have allowed 24 or more fantasy points to QB’s, including a 38 point performance from Justin Herbert. While I dont expect Baker to put up 30+ points, nor do I think he is as good as Herbert, the Jaguars defense paired with good weather conditions lead me to believe Baker will have 250+ yards and 2 touchdowns.
Sit - Carson Wentz vs. Seattle Seahawks
The problems for the Eagles are large and it starts with Carson Wentz. He has been terrible this year, as he is 19th in yards, 14th in touchdowns, 32nd in completion percentage and has thrown the most interceptions. This hasn't been entirely his fault as the Eagles have dealt with injuries to WR, TE and across the offensive line, which has led to 40 sacks on Wentz, the most in the NFL. Unfortunately, they are still dealing with major injuries. Lane Johnson, their starting tackle is out for the season and Jason Kelce, their best offensive lineman, is also battling through an elbow injury and is listed as questionable. Carson Wentz hasn't shown me anything this year that leads me to believe he can overcome more injuries to the offensive line.
I went full circle on Carson Wentz this week. When I looked at the matchups on Monday and Tuesday, I thought Wentz would be an easy start of the week against Seattle. Digging a bit deeper into the Seahawks defense makes me worry about Wentz and the Eagles. Since acquiring Carlos Dunlap and having a healthy Jamal Adams, Seattle's defense has seen a drastic improvement. In the 2nd half of the Rams game, Seattle only allowed 114 total yards of offense and 6 points, then held the Cardinals to just 21 points, the lowest total points a team has scored on Seattle all year. With Dunlap and Adams being able to generate a pass rush, it doesn't give quarterbacks time to sit in the pocket and pick apart a mediocre secondary. I would much rather play Baker, Derek Carr, or Cam Newton.
Start - Mike Davis @ Minnesota Vikings
Mike Davis was on FIRE to start the season, but has slowed down since week 6 against the Chicago Bears. To be fair to Davis, he has had some tough opponents, including a 3 week stretch of Chicago, New Orleans, and Atlanta, who is surprisingly 7th best against fantasy RB’s. Then in week 9 CMC returned and week 10 played against Tampa Bay, who has the 2nd best rush defense in the NFL. Last week, in a plus matchup against Detroit, Davis was back to dominating. He played on 73% of snaps, saw 16 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown, all with PJ Walker at QB. In week 12, he gets another plus matchup and should see almost all of the rushing work with CMC out.
Against the Vikings, I expect Mike Davis to have a top 15 week. While the Vikings are middle of the pack against fantasy RB’s (18th easiest), they have been exposed on multiple occasions. Just last week Zeke had his highest yardage game of the season, rushing for 103 yards and adding on a receiving touchdown. Tony Pollard was also efficient, averaging more than 11 yards/carry. The only player on the Vikings front 7 who is elite is linebacker Eric Kendricks, there is nobody on the defensive line that scares opposing offenses. Lastly, according to PFF, the Panthers have the 5th best advantage for OL/DL matchups for week 12. Start Mike Davis with full confidence.
Sleeper - Brian Hill vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Last year, there was a brief period where Brian Hill was a hot waiver wire add due to injuries in front of him. He wasn't able to do much with the starting job, as he only had 2 games over 10 carries where he averaged under 3 YPC and scored a combined 17 fantasy points in those weeks. But in limited work this year, Brian Hill has impressed me. Hill has once again seen limited touches because of Todd Gurley, but showed he could be explosive with those opportunities. He has 5 games where he averaged over 4 YPC and his best game of the year came against the Chicago Bears who had a top 5 rush defense in the NFL at the time. While Brian Hill might not be a popular name, he holds great value in what should be a high scoring game.
The Raiders rush defense has been consistently horrible the entire season. We all witnessed the Kansas City Chiefs run all over them on SNF where CEH (twice) and Le'Veon Bell found the endzone. On the season, they give up the 4th most points to the running back position and have allowed 34 or more points in 40% of their games. If there was ever a matchup to exploit, it's this one against the Raiders.
Sit - Melvin Gordon vs. New Orleans Saints
Melvin Gordon, along with the Denver Broncos season, has been a rocky one. He started off the first month of the season as RB10, but things have gone down hill quickly. From week 6 on, Gordon is RB26, averaging under 10 points per game, with Phillip Lindsay closely behind him as RB29. With Lindsay out the first month, Gordon was able to showcase his 3 down ability. Since then, his utilization has significantly decreased, going from about 70% of offensive snaps down to about 55% of offensive snaps. While Gordon came through for owners last week, it was against a soft rush defense, as the Dolphins give up the 5th most rushing yards/game. This week against the New Orleans Saints, Melvin Gordon is an RB3 at absolute best.
If the Saints want to make a deep playoff run it'll be on the back of their dominant defense. The Saints give up the 2nd fewest rushing yards/game (74) only trailing the Buccaneers. Since their bye in week 6, they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and have allowed fewer than 55 rushing yards in 4/5 matchups. That is beyond elite, teams aren't able to do anything against this front 7. If the Broncos go down early, I expect Lindsay to see more work as he is the home run hitter between the two. A few guys I would start over Gordon are Brian Hill, Jonathan Taylor (can't believe I’m falling for it), and Wayne Gallman.
Start - Diontae Johnson vs. Baltimore Ravens
This might come to a surprise to some, but Diontae Johnson is a top 10 WR for the rest of the season (barring health). When he is able to stay on the field and finish the entire game, he is Ben’s clear favorite target. Diontae is coming off arguably his best statistical game of the season, as he was targeted 16 times and had 12 receptions for 112 yards. Although Ben hasn't thrown many deep balls, and when he does it's usually to Claypool, Diontae is an absolute must start, even in the worst of matchups.
The last time the Steelers played the Ravens, Diontae wasn't able to do much of anything. He was targeted 3 times, and had 1 reception for 6 yards. Since this is Diontae’s breakout campaign, many owners are still worried if Diontae is matchup proof and the simple answer is, yes. Although he struggled against the Ravens, that was an outlier game. Do you really think he will only be targeted 3 times again? I find it highly unlikely. Diontae should be in your lineup this week, and every week. Start him as at top 15 WR, even in this tough matchup against the Ravens.
Sleeper - Michael Pittman vs. Tennessee Titans
In a loaded WR class, Michael Pittman got off to a slow start due to injury. In his second game back against a tough Ravens secondary he was targeted 7 times and had 4 receptions for 56 yards. After getting his feet wet against the Ravens, he had his breakout game on TNF against the Titans where he had 7 receptions for over 100 yards. Over the past 3 weeks, he has taken over the #1 WR role for the Colts, averaging about 6 targets/game. You can start Pittman in this matchup and for the rest of the season as a WR2 with upside.
As we saw a few weeks ago, the Colts will have no problem passing on this Titans defense. The Titans are the 6th easiest matchup for opposing wide receivers, giving up 34 points/game to the position. Pittman and Rivers have a real connection too, as they connect on 75% of Pittmans targets. With TY Hilton being washed and Zach Pascal clearly being less talented, I expect Pittman to take a huge jump in the 2nd half of the season.
Bust - Tee Higgins @ New York Giants
The Joe Burrow injury might be the worst NFL story of 2020. Burrow beat the odds in college, was drafted #1 overall, was competing for rookie of the year, and sadly tore his knee to shreds last week. I wish the best for Joe Burrows recovery and I’m sorry, Bengals fans. Unfortunately, we still have to look at the fantasy impact. While Joe Burrow was able to make both Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins must start every week, Brandon Allen makes both of them risky starts for the remainder of the season. In limited work with the Broncos last season, Allen was only able to complete 46% of his passes, while throwing 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 3 games. The entire Bengals offense gets a huge downgrade, including Clemson star Tee Higgins.
While the Giants have not been great against fantasy WR’s (16th), they are more than good enough to slow down Brandon Allen. James Bradberry has been a lockdown corner and I expect Higgins to be shadowed by him as Boyd operates in the slot (Bradberry only lines up in the slot on 8% of snaps). If you own Tee Higgins in dynasty, he is a firm hold or potentially a buy if he is on a contending team. In redraft, I’m willing to wait a week and see what he can do with Brandon Allen, but I’d be willing to cut bait if an RB emerges on waivers. I would start Michael Pittman, Mike Williams, Robby Anderson, and Devante Parker over Higgins this week.
Start - Hunter Henry @ Buffalo Bills
When you’re looking at the tight end landscape, you either have Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or just looking for a high scoring game. Starting Hunter Henry is me getting a piece of potentially the highest scoring game of the week. Although Henry is TE7 on the season, he is getting peppered with targets, seeing an average of 7/game. Henry has also been on fire the last 2 weeks, bringing in 4+ receptions in each matchup as well as a touchdown.
The Buffalo Bills defense has been bad this year, especially to TE’s. They give up the 3rd most points to the position, about 12.6/game. They somehow allow the 3rd most points per game to TE’s, but have played the Jets twice, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Patriots, all teams who barely utilize their TE’s. This is a matchup where I expect a ton of scoring as Vegas has the over/under set at 51.5 points, the 3rd highest of the week. Start Hunter Henry with top 5 upside.
Sleeper - Jordan Reed vs. Los Angeles Rams
Jordan Reed is a deep sleeper in a tough matchup against the Rams. While the days of Jordan Reed being an elite option at TE are long gone (remember 2015?) Reed still possesses the ability to be a difference maker on the field. In Reeds' two games where he has played 40% or more of the team's offensive snaps, he has a combined 14 targets, 12 receptions, 112 yards and 2 touchdowns. I know it's an incredibly small sample size, but when you look at the current TE landscape, it's an encouraging statistic.
The last time the 49ers played the Rams, George Kittle went off. He saw 10 targets, reeling in 7 receptions for over 100 yards. I don't expect Reed to duplicate Kittle’s statline, but it is encouraging that the 49ers were able to have success against the Rams linebacking core. With the Rams secondary shutting down opposing WR’s paired with a top 5 rush defense, I expect the 49ers to incorporate Jordan Reed in their offense.
Sit - Jared Cook @ Denver Broncos
With Drew Brees starting at QB, Jared Cook is a TD dependent tight end. With Taysom Hill starting at QB, Jared Cook is unstartable. In the first full game without Brees starting, Jared Cook was targeted just once, resulting in 1 reception for 6 yards. That was while Taysom Hill saw success as a passer against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. This week, in Denver, I expect the passing game and Taysom Hill to be less efficient.
While the Denver Broncos have had their struggles on offense, their defense has played relatively well. They are the 9th best pass defense and let up the 8th fewest points to the tight end position. Vegas expects this game to be low scoring, with the over/under set at 44, which is tied for the 2nd lowest of the week. I have Jared Cook outside of the top 15 tight ends this week and would much rather start Jordan Reed, Austin Hooper, or even Mo Allie-Cox if you’re desperate.
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