News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 12

(It’s Week 12 of the NFL season. This and every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

I got a tweet the other day from a follower wondering if he should drop Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Larry Fitzgerald so he could add a kicker. “Why not,” I asked, “just drop your existing kicker?” His kicker was Greg Zuerlein, he said, and he didn’t want to drop him since he was an elite kicker.

It’s nice to want to keep one of the best at a position. All things being equal, I’d like to, too. But if you’re rostering a second kicker or defense — even one of the best — you’re doing it wrong almost every time.

Wil Lutz is the No. 1 kicker right now through 11 games. At his current pace, he’d end up with one of the top handful of kicker fantasy seasons of all time — exactly where depends on scoring system, but it’s top 10 no matter what. (This pulls out the George Blanda and Gino Cappelletti types who kicked and did everything else, looking at only pure kickers.) By some measures, he’s on pace to finish second all time, behind only David Akers’ 2011 season, which included a touchdown pass.

Wil Lutz would be the No. 28 fantasy quarterback right now.

Lutz would be the No. 27 wide receiver and the No. 19 running back at a position where the bottom drops out alarmingly fast. In a horrific year for tight ends, he’d be sixth … but almost 80 full points behind No. 1.

TL;DR: Wil Lutz is on pace for an all-time kicker fantasy season, and if you squinted enough you might be able to argue for him as a top-80 fantasy player. Any kickers below Lutz are, well, below Lutz.

Don’t keep two kickers. Not unless Blanda or Cappelletti comes back and starts throwing touchdowns and rushing for a thousand yards. I picked up Justin Tucker after the Ravens’ bye because someone dropped him, but they still made the right call. There just isn’t enough different between Lutz and, say, Jason Myers to warrant dropping an upside play like Larry Fitzgerald. If you find yourself considering dropping a skill player to hold a kicker, don’t. And don’t again.

On to the Week 12 advice.

Live chats

We’ve added live chats to our weekly repertoire of advice Maybe your questions were answered, or maybe you can just use this resource to find answers to questions you had but never got to ask. We hold four each week — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tuesday’s through Saturday’s chat are linked below, and Sunday’s will be live two hours before gametime.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Saturday (this week) is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

10. Christian McCaffrey, CAR vs SEA (RB7) — What he doesn’t do with his legs, McCaffrey does as a receiver.
11. Nick Chubb, CLE @ CIN (RB8) — Chubb has been fantastic this season and gets a plus matchup against the Bengals.
12. Adam Thielen, MIN vs GB (WR4) — While he’s trended down just slightly, Thielen is still in play as a strong WR1.
13. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG @ PHI (WR5) — The Eagles secondary is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Two starts, two sits

START Josh Adams in medium-sized leagues: In a 48-7 beatdown, Adams played on 55% of the team’s snaps, drawing 70% of the team’s carries (seven of 10) and 75% of the targets out of the backfield (six of eight). I like him quite a bit more this week, in a much better matchup, as 6.0-point favorites against a Giants defense that has struggled against the run.
START Adam Humphries in deep leagues: Humphries is averaging 16.2 fantasy points per game over his last four games and should now get a volume-boost with Jameis Winston back under center.
SIT Philip Rivers in shallow leagues: The Chargers have been taking more of a run-heavy approach in recent weeks, ranking just 30th in passing plays per game (29.8) since Week 5. It’s unlikely they’ll need to go pass-heavy this week as 12.0-point favorites against the Cardinals.
SIT Christian Kirk in medium-sized leagues: Kirk posted a big game last week, recording a 3-77-1 line on four targets. He’s not in play this week, however, with Casey Hayward likely to shadow.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Keke Coutee: Coutee returned in Week 11 and saw a normal allotment of targets (8). He has a strong Week 12 matchup against the Titans, who have given up the fifth-most fantasy points per target to opposing wideouts.
BUST: Evan Engram: The super-inconsistent Engram faces an Eagles team that has given up the third-fewest fantasy points per target and fourth-fewest fantasy points overall to opposing tight ends.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Gus Edwards in shallow leagues: One of this year’s most unlikely fantasy breakouts, Edwards appears to be in line for more work in the Ravens offense.
ADD Jonnu Smith in medium-sized leagues: Smith has scored in two of his last three games and caught six balls last week.
ADD Josh Allen in deep leagues: Allen could return to the field this week, which puts him back on the deep-league radar.

Players to drop

Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Cole was a summer favorite of many in both the redraft and dynasty community. Things did not pan out for the young receiver this season, dealing with drops and fumbles on limited opportunities.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were unsurprisingly a run-heavy team in Lamar Jackson’s NFL debut last weekend, running the ball on 74% of their plays. For some context, the league-leader in run play percentage — the Seattle Seahawks — run the ball on 51% of their plays.

QB streamers

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers: Mullens enters Week 12 with two weeks to prepare against a Tampa Bay defense that has been the league’s most generous to opposing fantasy QBs this season, ranking 31st in PFF pass-rush grade and 30th in coverage grade.

DST streamers

Houston Texans: After a pair of strong performances against New England and Dallas, the Titans offense took a big step backwards in their Week 11 loss to the Colts. The Titans allowed five sacks against Indianapolis and threw a pair of interceptions. That bodes well for a Texans defense that has been bringing the heat on opposing quarterbacks over the past three games.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Long-term sleepers

Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos: It’s pretty easy to forecast long-term fantasy success for a top-50 NFL draft pick, but few receivers with even that pedigree make it happen in their rookie seasons. Sutton has done better than most, and he has yet to score double-digit standard fantasy points in a game this season. But even with those personal and general trends working against him, I’m starting to see Sutton as a usable fantasy option even in shallow formats.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Dolphins at Colts: The Colts have morphed from a pass-happy, lightning-tempoed offense into a well-balanced unit operating at peak efficiency. If the last five weeks are any indication, they will test the Dolphins’ suspect run stopping often.

Trade value chart

Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots: This week’s biggest riser was Julian Edelman, who saw a big bump in value with New England’s bye week in the rearview mirror. Edelman has double-digit targets in three straight games with over 100 yards in two of his last three.

Weather and venue adjustments

Minnesota Vikings: It’s interesting to note that Kirk Cousins has performed much better on the road than at home this year. He has yet to throw three touchdowns in a game in Minneapolis.

RB committee report

DeAndre Washington trending UP: There’s not a ton of upside even if Washington overtakes Doug Martin’s lead gig. Jalen Richard still catches just about everything out of the backfield, and the Raiders are 30th in scoring. However, those in deeper standard leagues (12-plus teams) with a spare bench spot may want to take a flier on the third-year back.
Dion Lewis trending DOWN: The snap distribution between Lewis and Derrick Henry remains unchanged, although Henry has vultured four rushing scores over Tennessee’s last four games. Since Week 9, Henry has looked the part of an effective NFL running back, turning 26 carries into 131 yards (5.0 YPC), albeit with a couple of positive gamescripts.

DFS advice

First things first: We’ve introduced a new DFS piece, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 12 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game). And Scott Barrett offers up his favorite tournament plays of the week on both primary sites.

Bargains

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: It’s a great time to play Manning against an Eagles secondary that won’t have active one single cornerback who played in nickel packages against the Giants in their first meeting. Six starters who shut down the Giants offense in the first game this season will not be active this week.
Willie Snead, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Snead continued to operate as the chain-moving wide receiver in the Ravens offense with Jackson at the helm. Jackson attempted just 19 passes (18 targeted throws) and nearly half of them went to Snead, who finished with five receptions for 51 yards on nine targets.

Locks

Marlon Back, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Mack, playing at home on the fast track, will face a Dolphins defense that has given up 173 total yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game to opposing backfields. The Colts/Dolphins game has the second-highest over/under on the main slate (51), with the Colts serving as 8-point favorites. Mack should push for 20 touches.
George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers: Kittle has the second-best individual TE matchup of the main slate against the Buccaneers, who have given up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this year. The Bucs have also given up the third-most receiving yards to tight ends this year.

Stacks

Baker Mayfield, QB; Duke Johnson, RB; Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns: This stack provides another cheap trio with legitimate upside — a theme of this week as most of our stacks avoid the high-priced quarterbacks. The Bengals have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and they have the No. 19 in pass coverage — a ranking that continues to drop even after changing defensive coordinators.

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