Win the Wire: Week 12

Baltimore Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins
Baltimore Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

For fantasy football, running backs are usually where rookie utility begins and ends. But 2020 is a crazy year, so I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that hyped freshman backs such as Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers are mired in timeshares while rookie quarterbacks and receivers such as Justin Herbert, Chase Claypool, and Justin Jefferson have quickly become top-flight options at their positions. But even though the fantasy season is fast approaching its end, teams still have a month and a half of real-world postseason push to transition workload to their rookie backs. And finally on Sunday, one such back enjoyed a breakout, and he leads the list of waiver recommendations for Week 12.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens


I think the Ravens had a plan for their 2020 backfield. Even though they drafted Dobbins in the second round, they had another year of Mark Ingram at a hefty salary before the dead cap hit of his release shrank from $6.7 million to $1.3 million dollars next offseason. That made Ingram a bit of a lame duck and an easy choice to stick with regular-season touches to let Dobbins learn and conserve his legs for future seasons.

That plan made sense until the Ravens started to lose games. Even before the team's consecutive losses to the Patriots and Titans, Lamar Jackson lamented that their offense had become too predictable such that defenses were calling out their plays pre-snap. I think that the team's increased reliance on Dobbins in Week 11 was their plan to add deceptiveness. He played 63% of the team's offensive snaps on Sunday, nearly 20% more than his previous high in a game with both backfield teammates healthy. And his 17 touches dwarfed Ingram's and Gus Edwards' combined total of just five. Dobbins was already the team's preferred choice on passing downs -- his 8.2% target share more than doubled Ingram's 3.2% and Edwards' 3.0% rates this season. But Dobbins has maybe surprisingly been more effective between the tackles than the veteran Ingram with 2.0 versus 1.5 yards after contact per attempt this year. Suddenly, it looks like a no-brainer for the team to rely on Dobbins, whose versatility can confuse defenses and whose power game seems at least as good as the teammates for whom that was expected to be a specialty.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 55%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens


Of course, the Dobbins breakout is complicated by news that he and Ingram tested positive for Covid on Monday. Since this isn't a close-contact situation, both backs will presumably miss the Steelers game this Thursday on Thanksgiving as they spend the next 10 days in quarantine -- assuming that game isn't postponed. The missed game doesn't dramatically move the needle of my fantasy assessment of this backfield since the Steelers have the No. 2 overall and No. 6 run defense by DVOA -- even a healthy Dobbins would fall into the flex range this week. But if you need a back in fantasy for Week 12 specifically, you could do worse than Edwards, who could counterbalance his likely inefficiency in a difficult matchup with more volume with just he and rarely used receiving back Justice Hill as the team's only backfield options. And Edwards can also serve as longer-term Dobbins insurance if you can manage to snag both for your fantasy teams.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 45%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants


If the Ravens are too complicated for your level of patience, make it easy on yourself with a FAB offer for Gallman instead. Really, Gallman's recent workload and productivity make the case that he should be the top waiver option independent of health. His 46.3% carry share since Week 8 is 16th-highest at the position, and that should continue with Devonta Freeman required to miss at least the next two weeks on injured reserve. And while his four rushing touchdowns overachieve his 2.73 opportunity-adjusted ones in that time, that latter number still shows that he is the team's preferred goal-line option over the bigger Alfred Morris (0.16 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns). There's a lot to like, but Gallman still may not merit an exhaustive FAB offer if he remains available in your format after several weeks of solid production. Rely on your knowledge of the other fantasy managers in your league. You may be able to add Gallman on the cheap.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 41%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles


Richard Rodgers' recent production may have thrown fantasy players off the scent, but Goedert definitively reestablished his top-10 tight end value with 77 yards and a touchdown on six targets on Sunday. You have to work a bit to get a full sense of it, but Goedert has a 19.0% target share in his healthy starts in Weeks 1, 2, 10, and 11 that is seventh-highest at the position. He played 100% of snaps on Sunday and may even be the Eagles' No. 1 receiving option with every player healthy. He's certainly enough a fantasy value to justify a significant FAB offer with the lack of other quality tight end options this year.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 41%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles


And speaking of the tight end search, I think it's time to speculate on Zach Ertz's recovery from his high-ankle sprain. The Eagles designated him to return from injured reserve last week, and that means the team will need to activate him in either Week 12 or Week 13 in accordance with this year's IR rules. Ertz underwhelmed with just nine catches and 48 yards in his most recent three starts, but his 19.7% target share before the injury was top-five at the position. He could be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 24%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Salvon Ahmed, RB, Miami Dolphins


The Dolphins couldn't deliver the run-positive game script many expected in their upset loss in Denver on Sunday. But that proved to be a boon for Ahmed's short- and long-term fantasy prospects. Based on his superior college receiving ratio compared to his former and current teammate, I suspected that Ahmed could equal injured incumbent Myles Gaskin in his impact as a receiver. But it nevertheless was nice to see him catch five balls for 31 yards on six targets, five more than in his first start the week before. It's clear now that Ahmed is the team's bell-cow back, at least until Gaskin can return from his sprained MCL. He played 66% of offensive snaps and took 17 touches on Sunday. Matt Breida, finally healthy, saw just 11% and two touches. But Gaskin is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, and as optimistic as I've become for his continued involvement, I don't think it's a given that Ahmed has won the every-down job for the rest of this season.

He may be versatile, but Ahmed is averaging just 1.0 yards after contact per attempt. This 13-yard catch-and-run summarizes his game perfectly. Ahmed can quickly accelerate and has exceptional top-end speed. But as soon as he contacted linebacker Alexander Johnson, Ahmed hit the ground.

Ahmed has offered more explosive plays than Gaskin and other Dolphins backs, but those have tended toward the outside runs like this 14-yarder where he has been able to turn the corner.

On inside carries, the 196-pound Ahmed does not have the strength to push the pile. And while Gaskin has suffered a 1.79-touchdown shortfall relative to his 3.79 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns, he has more than doubled Ahmed's push with 2.2 yards after contact per attempt.

In truth, both Ahmed and Gaskin have flaws. The fact that he has healthy now may offer Ahmed the edge in his backfield, and his timing couldn't be better for fantasy purposes as the Dolphins face the Jets and Joe Burrow-less Bengals the next two weeks. But with an eye on the fantasy playoffs, Ahmed strikes me as a longer shot to contribute than the top prospect Dobbins.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 21%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

J.D. McKissic, RB, Washington Football Team


After Washington built one of its rare leads on Sunday, McKissic answered the question of how much of his recent target boon was a result of game script. It's quite a bit of it. Leaning heavily on the bigger Antonio Gibson in an effort to kill clock, Washington offered McKissic six carries and four targets on Sunday. That made for a relatively poor fantasy day and could foreshadow another one on Thursday against the Cowboys and their No. 28 DVOA run defense. Still, it's a decent floor when you consider how massive McKissic's ceiling has become. Even off the down game, McKissic has a 28.4% target share since Week 9 when Alex Smith took over at quarterback. That's nearly 10% higher than Alvin Kamara (18.8%) in second place at the position.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 16%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

James White, RB, New England Patriots


He may not have McKissic's receiving upside, but White looks like the back that would benefit most from Rex Burkhead's apparent ACL tear. After playing just 17% and 26% of offensive snaps the two previous weeks, White shot up to 57% on Sunday, his highest rate of the season. If he could repeat his nine Sunday targets every week the rest of this season, White would become an RB2 in PPR formats. But I can't help but fear his target spike was related more to game script than Burkhead's injury. White had seemingly randomly reached 48% snap shares in three previous games this year. And in Weeks 4, 6, and 8 when that happened, the Patriots trailed and eventually lost, just like on Sunday. That will likely happen again to the bottom-10 DVOA team, but as their upset of the Ravens in Week 10 can attest, it's not always clear how the Patriots will match up with their opponents or split up the work in their backfield.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 15%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots


Harris did not see a workload bump with Burkhead's absence. His 38% offensive snap share landed him in the same 31% to 55% range he had played in the last month. However, another efficient running day added to the evidence that Harris is a better player than Sony Michel, who seems poised to return from injured reserve in Week 12. Harris has bested his teammate with a 5.4 yards-per-carry average and 54.2% success rate this year versus Michel's 4.2 and 50.4% career rates. And while their equal 9.8% college receiving ratios do not make an indication either way, Harris did double his seasonal total with two targets on Sunday. Perhaps he will see a bump in his receiving work with Burkhead out that can make his fantasy production less dependent on the game script.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 15%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Kalen Ballage, RB, Los Angeles Chargers


If the Chargers roster remained as it is for the rest of the season, I'd prefer the twice-cut Ballage to all the running backs I've mentioned before him. Joshua Kelley was the least efficient heavily used back in football even before his disastrous Sunday with -2 yards rushing and a critical fumble. And suddenly, Ballage owns a monopoly of the team's backfield touches. He has 23 each of the last two weeks on dominant 73% and 67% snap shares. The uncertainty here stems from Austin Ekeler's expected return from hamstring and knee injuries. We haven't had substantive updates beyond his own workout videos, but based on initial estimates, Ekeler could return this week or next. That might not completely eliminate Ballage's fantasy value, but it would relegate him to flex consideration similar to what Kelley was in the early season before he proved himself ineffective.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 11%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers


If you want a Chargers player who can help you the rest of the season, I suggest Williams. He's always been a tremendous red zone threat, which has manifested over the last month in 2.61 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns, sixth-most among wide receivers and just ahead of DK Metcalf (2.45). But with Justin Herbert playing well and shifting the team's play-calling balance, Williams has also enjoyed a decent volume of five or more targets for four straight games. Don't let Keenan Allen's success talk you out of his fantasy-relevant teammate.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 8%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans


A.J. Brown has been an after-catch monster long enough that I now believe it will continue. And as such, I think it's little surprise that he has doubled his teammate Davis four touchdowns to two since Week 7 despite a lower total of 1.31 versus 1.57 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns. But the 6-foot-3 Davis doesn't need to score every week to remain effective in fantasy. He has reached WR2 consideration thanks to a 26.3% target share since his return from Covid. That's even better than Brown's 25.5% over the same stretch of five games.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 7%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts


I'm not completely sold on Pittman's 2020 fantasy prospects. His 80% snap share from Week 11 led the Colts' receivers, and his 66 yards with a touchdown exceeded my expectations with the assumption that he would draw a lot of cornerback Jaire Alexander's attention on a defense that is otherwise bad against the pass -- Alexander's 4.1 yards allowed per target is the second-lowest of cornerbacks with 25 or more targets this season. But informed by his possibly matchup-reduced total of three targets on Sunday, Pittman has just a 16.4% target share since his Week 9 breakout that is 64th at his position. And his Week 11 output was the result of two plays with no pressure off the line and coverage that lost him as he crossed the field. The first was a 45-yard touchdown.

And the second was a 16-yard catch-and-run that was a mirror of the first play.

Those plays showed off Pittman's route-running, but I'm not overly impressed that a wide receiver could outrace a linebacker with 4.58s speed, Christian Kirksey, to the end zone. Still, I think Pittman is a worthy talent gamble for fantasy, especially considering that he plays his next three games in domes against the Titans, Texans, and Raiders with pass defenses ranked 19th in DVOA or worse.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 7%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers


The 49ers' wide receiver logjam is about as confusing as the Ravens' one at running back, but it has the potential to be similarly rewarding. Samuel was the No. 9 PPR wide receiver from Weeks 9 to 17 last season. Injuries have limited him to just two full games and parts of two others this year, but he had a bye in Week 11 to rest his hamstring and should finally be back on Sunday.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers


Aiyuk seemed like the safer health choice than his teammate, and he has been tremendous in Samuel's absence with a 30.8% target share in Weeks 7, 8, and 10 that is fifth-highest among wide receivers. But after already missing a week because of Covid contact protocols, Aiyuk went back on the Covid list on Friday. Without more information, it's unclear if Aiyuk is sick or might simply be waiting for negative tests to clear him for the Rams game this Sunday. Since the Rams are a top-10 DVOA pass defense, it is probably best to treat Aiyuk like a stash for the fantasy playoffs, which for the 49ers includes more favorable defensive matchups against the Cowboys and Cardinals.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 6%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants


It's a bit shocking to punctuate a handful of paragraphs on injury-affected receivers with one on Shepard as a healthy alternative. He'll always be a risk to see his season cut short because of concussions now, but he has been a consistent PPR option since his return from a turf toe injury in Week 7. In that time, his 24.4% target share is 19th at the position.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 4%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers


Target share suggests that Samuel might be the second Panthers receiver. He has a 22.0% once since he missed Week 6 with a knee injury, just between Robby Anderson at 27.7% and D.J. Moore at 20.1%. I side with snap share, which in Week 11 placed Samuel third at 68%, trailing both Anderson (70%) and Moore (86%). But in an offense that relies almost exclusively on 11 personnel, the ordering isn't overly important. Samuel's recent target share is 26th among wide receivers. He's bolstering that workload with about two carries per game. And despite his smaller stature at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he remains a better red zone option than the lanky Anderson (6-foot-3 and 190 pounds) and has a noticeable 1.60 versus 1.04 opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdown advantage since Week 7 to prove it.

Recommended FAB offer (% of maximum): 2%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (98%/99%)
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (98%/98%)
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (96%/97%)
Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers (96%/91%)
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (95%/93%)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (94%/95%)
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (94%/91%)
Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (93%/92%)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (91%/92%)
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (87%/92%)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (87%/86%)
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (86%/92%)
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86%/86%)
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (85%/91%)
Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints (84%/43%)
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (83%/80%)
Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (81%/77%)
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (79%/86%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (96%/93%)
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (73%/73%)
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (68%/71%)
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (62%/72%)
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (50%/60%)
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (47%/40%)
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots (45%/44%)
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (43%/44%)
Adrian Peterson, RB, Detroit Lions (39%/54%)
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (37%/41%)
Henry Ruggs, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (37%/31%)
Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (37%/28%)
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (36%/33%)
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots (36%/28%)
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (34%/27%)
Matt Breida, RB, Miami Dolphins (31%/21%)
Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland Browns (30%/24%)
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions (27%/16%)
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (25%/24%)
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (23%/16%)
Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins (22%/12%)
Jordan Howard, RB, Miami Dolphins (20%/17%)
La'Mical Perine, RB, New York Jets (19%/34%)
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (18%/20%)


5 comments, Last at 25 Nov 2020, 8:37am

#1 by p_cj // Nov 24, 2020 - 11:40am

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (18%/20%)


Seriously?  Prescott is still on people's rosters?  There is 0 chance that he comes back this year, that was one of the most disgusting injuries I have ever seen.  Felt horrible for the guy.

Points: 0

#2 by ddoubleday // Nov 24, 2020 - 12:47pm

If you're in a Dynasty League (especially one with IR positions), it makes perfect sense to still have Dak on a roster. That's the case in my league.

Points: 0

#3 by seattlefan68 // Nov 24, 2020 - 3:51pm

It makes sense if you're in a keeper league with 2 QBs, are in dynasty or have a bunch of IR spots to use.

Points: 0

#4 by meep 42@hotmail com // Nov 24, 2020 - 6:09pm


Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (81%/77%)


Has he even played the past two weeks?

Points: 0

#5 by Scott Spratt // Nov 25, 2020 - 8:37am

I made a point to keep him in that section because I've seen his last two opponents as minus matchups for No. 1 receivers, and I think his offensive snap share suggests he's definitely still the team's top wideout.  Expect a bounce back this week against the Seahawks.

Points: 0

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