Early waiver wire targets and biggest risers/fallers in fantasy football following NFL Week 12

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) and running back Alexander Mattison (25) in action during the game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Only Monday Night Football remains on the 2021 NFL Week 12 slate, so most fantasy football managers will now be turning their gaze to Week 13 to try to gain an advantage in their fantasy leagues.

It’s important not to overreact to individual stat lines. For example, some players scored two touchdowns this week yet probably won’t do that again this season, while other players saw the field for most of their team's snaps but couldn't quite make it to the end zone.

Remember: chase the usage, not the box score.

Here are some early waiver wire targets, as well as the biggest risers and fallers from NFL Week 12. For a more detailed 32-team view of the week, including snap counts, check out the Complete Week 12 Fantasy Football Recap.

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Waiver Wire Targets

RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of the Vikings' Week 12 game against the San Francisco 49ers and was carted off the field. He was having a quiet game on the ground with 39 yards on 10 carries but was much better as a receiver, racking up 64 yards on six catches.

Mattison took over as the primary running back for the rest of the game. He gained 21 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown. Mattison has been on rosters in a significant number of leagues and should be picked up in any league in which he is available. If Cook's injury is serious, it’s worth spending the rest of your FAB to pick him up.

RB Dontrell Hilliard, Tennessee Titans: Hilliard got the start for Tennessee, though the Titans' two backs were used interchangeably throughout the game. There was a slight preference toward D’Onta Foreman on early downs and goal-line work, but not as much as expected. Hilliard was the more impressive back of the two, which should lead to even more work after their Week 13 bye. He gained 131 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, including forced missed tackles.

The only concern is that Jeremy McNichols was once again inactive due to the concussion he suffered. Once he’s back, there is a chance he could cut into Hilliard’s playing time. It could be a risk starting Hilliard in Week 14, but it’s definitely worth picking him up if he can play close to this level going forward.

Tennessee Titans Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Dontrell Hilliard 32 15 2 12
D'Onta Foreman 31 9 1 19
Total 63 26 19 36

WR Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots: The Patriots' third wide receiver had a quiet start to the season, but he was WR22 from Week 3-11. In Week 12, he put together what is highly likely to be his third top-10 fantasy finish of the season. He caught five passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

It’s worth noting the Patriots play the Jaguars during fantasy football championship week, giving him what could be one of the week's best matchups.

TE Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears: Kmet’s target share has risen as the 2021 season has progressed. He’s seen at least six targets in four of his last five games and at least six catches in two of his last three. He finished his Thanksgiving day game with a career-high eight catches for 65 yards. Ideally, he would be the one seeing red-zone targets instead of his backups, but he’s trending in the right direction. He has a relatively high floor for a young tight end.

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Biggest Risers

RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Barkley returned to the Giants last week after missing over a month of football. His playing time was limited, and he only received 12 touches in that game. His playing time was much closer to normal in Week 12, playing 88% off of the Giants' offensive snaps and handling double-digit carries for the first time since Week 4.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t all that effective running the ball. He gained 32 yards on a single carry and totaled eight rushing yards on the other 12. He should be back in fantasy starting lineups with this amount of playing time with plenty of room for his production to grow.

TE Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gronkowski returned to action last week with a solid outing (71 yards on six receptions). He didn’t see as much playing time as usual in that game, but that changed this week. He played in over 80% of offensive snaps, which is similar to how the Buccaneers used him in the first two weeks of the season.

The future Hall of Famer was able to take advantage of a favorable matchup and gain over 50% of the Buccaneers' receiving yards. He caught seven passes for 123 yards and is a must-start the rest of the season as long as he remains healthy.

TE Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots: Both Patriots tight ends were limited in practice throughout the week with different injuries. Smith has been on the injury report for over a month now with his shoulder injury, which has typically limited him. He was able to cut more into Henry’s playing time on Sunday, catching three of the four passes thrown his way for 49 yards. Hunter Henry only caught two passes for 16 yards.

We might not see Smith overtake Henry for the primary receiving role at tight end, but we could see the two get closer to even in routes run. If this happens, it will be hard to trust starting either player.

New England Patriots Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Hunter Henry 41 23 5 0
Jonnu Smith 34 12 4 1
Total 60 35 32 23

Biggest Fallers

QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton was expected to have a big game, but he only completed five passes to his teammates compared to two passes to the Dolphins. He was benched for Phillip Walker late in the game. And Walker didn’t fare much better than Newton.

Newton’s problem is just as much the schedule as it is his level of play. Carolina has a bye week, followed by games against the Falcons, Bills, Buccaneers and Saints. It’s OK to hold on to Newton if you trust starting him in Week 14 against Atlanta after this performance. If not, he can be released.

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RB Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins: Gaskin fantasy managers were very happy with his performance yesterday, but there should be a little concern with his playing time as this became a four-man backfield. Phillip Lindsay was added off waivers from the Texans, while Salvon Ahmed played a significant role after being inactive last week. Gaskin was on the field for only half of the team’s offensive snaps and handled less than half of the team’s carries.

Luckily, he has two great matchups against the Giants, a bye week and then another against the Jets. Even if he’s seeing less volume, those matchups will make Gaskin a fantasy starter. Once the fantasy football semifinals hit, it might be much harder to start him.

Miami Dolphins Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Myles Gaskin 37 17 2 16
Phillip Lindsay 15 0 0 12
Salvon Ahmed 13 6 1 5
Patrick Laird 12 3 0 0
Total 74 34 31 38

TE Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars started the season with James O’Shaughnessy as their receiving tight end. He caught six passes for 48 yards in Week 1 and landed on injured reserve after Week 2. He was activated off injured reserve two days ago. The Jaguars started their game against the Falcons on Sunday with a rotation at tight end before Arnold suffered a knee injury. O’Shaughnessy was the primary receiving tight end the rest of the game.

If the injury is not serious, we can expect the two to split snaps making neither a safe bet in fantasy football. If the injury is serious, then O’Shaughnessy would be worth a waiver wire pickup.


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