Welcome to the post-Week 11 installment of the Waiver Wire weekly series for the 2016 fantasy football season. Below are my Week 12 waiver wire pickups and sleepers (depending on league size) to consider adding for your fantasy teams. Congratulations on making it through the last big bye week of the season, as zero teams are off in Week 12 (Cleveland and Tennessee rest the following week). Double congratulations if you made it through Week 11 without a visit from Injury Satan.
We saw A.J. Green go down with what is now being called a hamstring strain, Giovani Bernard reportedly tore his ACL, C.J. Prosise is likely done for the fantasy season with a scapula fracture, Zach Miller broke his foot, Ryan Mathews has a sprained MCL but is now allegedly day-to-day (not buying it), Darren Sproles left with a rib injury, Robert Woods was spotted on crutches with a knee injury and obviously LeSean McCoy was forced from the same game with a dislocated thumb. McCoy will allegedly be okay for Week 12, but it’s still noteworthy. Whew. Well, y’all wanted a week with waiver-wire goodness. Be careful what you wish for.
Be sure to also check out our weekly rankings and analysis columns, with in-depth analysis for all options heading into Week 12.
Editor's Note: Once you're done here, be sure to read about even more Week 12 waiver wire recommendations, for all fantasy-relevant positions. Just click on any link: ALL - RB - WR - TE - QB - DEF - FAAB - CUTS
Week 12 Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups
Rob Kelley (RB, WAS) - 51% Owned
I know Kelley’s 50/50 ownership is partly due to inactive leagues, but his ownership still needs to be higher. I’ll break into your leagues if I have to. We touted him before after his nice showing against a strong Minnesota front in Week 10, and then he absolutely demolished the Packers in Week 11 with three touchdowns and 137 rushing yards – 66 of which came on a busted blitz by Green Bay on the last drive. The point here is that Washington’s offensive line looks strong, and even though Kelley’s Week 12 date at Dallas looks gross, his usage points to a bankable floor here.
Wendell Smallwood (RB, PHI) - 15% Owned
This is the man who will likely have the most buzz when waivers roll, as both men ahead of him on the depth chart are banged up. Ryan Mathews is reportedly dealing with an MCL sprain yet Doug Pederson says he's just day-to-day (ha), and Darren Sproles was forced from Philly’s Week 11 tilt with a rib injury (but apparently it's in a "safe spot"). If Sproles cannot go then Smallwood is an incredible add with Green Bay’s paper-thin defense on deck, but even if Sproles can go, Smallwood is still a nice candidate to garner the bulk of the RB touches with some goal-line shots. If both Mathews and Sproles are active for Week 12, then Smallwood is still worth an add, but won't feel like that #1 waiver add.
Mike Gillislee (RB, BUF) - 32% Owned
You know the drill by now. LeSean McCoy isn’t 100% and that makes Gillislee valuable. McCoy was unable to finish Buffalo’s Week 11 contest against the Bengals thanks to a dislocated thumb, and so Ghillie suit rushed the ball 14 times for 72 yards in relief. With Jacksonville’s below-average run defense on deck, Gillislee would make for a nice RB2 if McCoy is limited or out. While initial reports say McCoy should be ready to rock, we all know how optimism can flow eternal from early reports.
Dion Lewis (RB, NE) – 47% Owned
Lewis was utilized on 10 plays in his first game of 2016 against the 49ers, rushing the ball five times for 23 yards and catching three-of five targets for 26 yards. It was definitely nice to see him back on the field, though it’s impossible to tell just how much usage he’ll see moving forward. Lewis should have a good gamescript facing him in Week 12 against the Jets, as they are stout between the tackles but vulnerable to swift pass-catching RBs.
James White (RB, NE) - 50% Owned
White was being left for the dogs by many with the activation of Dion Lewis, but White will not go quietly into the night. White didn’t record a single rush in Week 11 against the 49ers, but caught all six of his targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. This was as soft a matchup as they come and obviously Lewis was only just getting mixed in, but he may still hold some deep-league PPR relevance yet. New England has made a habit out of running up scores and spreading the ball around.
James Starks (RB, GB) – 42% Owned
Starks continues to leave his mark thanks to his pass-catching abilities, as he caught five-of-six targets for 46 yards and a hilariously wide-open TD scamper. He only collected 25 rushing yards on nine totes, but total numbers are all we care about. This bodes well for his floor heading into a tough matchup against the Eagles in Philadelphia next week, certainly better than if he were just a plodder.
Tim Hightower (RB, NO) – 40% Owned
Hightower did much of the heavy lifting in New Orleans’ Thursday night loss to Carolina (12-69 rushing, 8-57 receiving), as Mark Ingram is dealing with a possible concussion and is in question for Week 12. Hightower is more of an RB3 if Ingram does play, but would be a solid RB2 if the backfield is his even against a rough Rams front seven.
Matt Asiata (RB, MIN) – 35% Owned
It is the nasiest, ugliest, grossest feeling in the world to rely on Asiata, but Week 11 was yet another example of how the goal-line running back holds value, no matter what his surroundings are. He only touched the ball six times, but collected 27 total yards with a touchdown to serve as a decent flex option.
Kenneth Dixon (RB, BAL) – 29% Owned
Dixon didn’t really see much work against Dallas in Week 11 with only six carries, but he still turned in 40 yards on the limited touches. The man has talent, but the Ravens offensive line is simply too beaten up to help him out and he’s still in a true timeshare with Terrance West. Unfortunately, Dixon leans more towards the “B side” of the committee, as West draws the starts and gets most of the goal-line work. Dixon is an RB3 in PPR leagues at best next week against the Bengals.
Alex Collins (RB, SEA) - 5% Owned
In case you missed something, the Seahawks have lost three running backs in the past week while gaining back one. Seattle waived Christine Michael, and just lost C.J. Prosise for the rest of the regular season alongside an injury to Troymaine Pope. The math is no good here, unless you’re in a very deep league and want to speculate on Alex Collins, also known as the only RB left behind Rawls. Seattle will undoubtedly sign somebody for depth, but Collins could be a sneaky add here as an RB that knows their system. Or maybe they'll just keep him buried on the depth chart and get creative.
Akeem Hunt (RB, HOU) - 3% Owned
Hunt came off the practice squad last week and promptly rushed for 52 yards on only eight carries. He is clearly the next man up behind Lamar Miller, and did so well that head coach Bill O’Brien already said that Hunt would be part of the gameplan against Oakland on Monday night. While he’s not going to be all that valuable as long as Miller is healthy, he’s clearly the handcuff to own here.
Kenjon Barner (RB, PHI) - 3% Owned
If it turns out that Darren Sproles will be joining Ryan Mathews on the shelf for an extended period of time, Barner is likely to complement rookie Wendell Smallwood in a committee for Philadelphia. His coaches have already shown a willingness to trust him with red-zone carries, but do note he hasn’t recorded a catch all season.
Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, PIT) – 2% Owned
With DeAngelo Williams healing from his knee surgery, Toussaint is now the next man up for Pittsburgh should something happen to LeVeon Bell. While we’re not touting Toussaint as a big talent, the opportunity in Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense is worth a little sticky note in your head.
Kenneth Farrow (RB, SD) – 2% Owned
Another handcuff reminder, as Farrow is the only man left standing behind Melvin Gordon now that Dexter McCluster is done. Farrow is a UDFA out of Houston who won the MVP Award at the 2015 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, but you’d be buying his role in a potent Chargers offense of course.
Rex Burkhead (RB, CIN) - 0% Owned
With Giovani Bernard reportedly done for the season with a torn ACL, it would be Burkhead that stands to gain as the man to help spell Jeremy Hill. While Hill will surely see an uptick in touches moving forward, Burkhead is a quiet benefactor here who could help those in the direst of straits out. He has only tallied 19 rushes and 19 catches over his three NFL seasons thus far, but they have to trust him at this point.
Week 12 Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups
Tyler Boyd (WR, CIN) - 25% Owned
The real fantasy beneficiary from A.J. Green’s injury, Boyd tied his season-high mark with eight targets and six catches for a solid 54 yards and his first career TD. You’re not adding Boyd with the hopes that he rips off an 80-yard bomb, but his skills as a reliable possession type with some swiftness to him will likely make him Andy Dalton’s hot read out of all wide receivers. Tyler Eifert will drown in targets moving forward, but Boyd should be a lock for around 7-8 weekly targets now. Week 12 will be a good test for the rookie against Baltimore’s good defense, but you’re still making the add now. The Monday afternoon report says that Green suffered more of a strain rather than complete tear, so he's more week-to-week. Boyd is still a solid add, but may not be an asset all season long.
Cameron Meredith (WR, CHI) - 32% Owned
Who does Jay Cutler have left at this point? Alshon Jeffery is suspended and now Zach Miller is reportedly done for the season with a broken foot. Those were Cutler’s tried-and-true safety blankets, and now they’re gone. Cutty can’t check it down to Jordan Howard or Eddie Royal on every play, so he’s going to have to learn to throw to Meredith. He caught all four of his targets for 49 yards in Week 11 versus the Giants, which is a step up from his one catch in Week 10. Chicago will tangle with Tennessee’s solid defense next, but this is a speculative add worth making on volume alone.
Steve Smith Sr. (WR, BAL) - 51% Owned
Yeah, yeah, “Smith is owned in my league already!” Well, 51% owned says there are still some of you who might benefit from his services, perhaps those of you in shallower leagues who just lost A.J. Green. Smith has now seen 23 targets in his three games since returning from injury in Week 9, with 17 catches for 206 yards and two TDs. Not bad at all.
Pierre Garcon (WR, WAS) - 38% Owned
He was looking at a downtick in targets with DeSean Jackson returning, but a blowup game out of Kirk Cousins and the passing game meant there was more than enough to go around. Garcon caught six-of-seven targets for 116 yards and a long, 70-yard TD. Washington’s receivers were regularly getting behind Green Bay’s decimated secondary, but a date with Dallas in Week 12 may call for Garcon’s chain-moving possession skills quite a bit.
Tyreek Hill (WR, KC) - 36% Owned
Hill was a DFS darling with Week 11’s matchup against Tampa Bay on tap, but couldn’t replicate his 13-target Week 10 in a modest four-catch, 53-yard effort. It wasn’t his best, though it’s worth noting that Hill would’ve likely scored on a 42-yard catch had Alex Smith been able to throw it with enough mustard to lead the Olympic speedster. Hill won’t be a strong option in Week 12 against Denver, but his services may be very much required against Atlanta’s high-scoring offense in Week 13.
Brandon LaFell (WR, CIN) - 31% Owned
Hold onto your butts, Brandon LaFell is now Cincinnati’s “#1 receiver”. It ain’t pretty, but it’s the truth. Well, in name on the depth chart at least. He only caught four balls on nine targets for a measly 32 yards in Week 11, highlighted by a terrible route where he allowed the DB to intercept the pass by telegraphing his break. He still isn’t more than a WR4 moving forward, but would have a decent shot at Week 12 value if Jimmy Smith can’t go for Baltimore.
Tajae Sharpe (WR, TEN) - 30% Owned
Sharpe has come back to life over the last few weeks, and has now caught a touchdown in back-to-back games to boot. Relying on a TD a week would be unwise, but he has now seen 19 combined targets over his last three games, with 194 yards and the two TDs to show for it. Considering Chicago is on tap for Week 12, Tennessee could very well bounce back from this Week 11 loss with a 40-point showing.
Kendall Wright (WR, TEN) - 24% Owned
For those of you in deeper PPR leagues who need some Week 12 relief, Wright and the Titans will face a hurting Bears squad that will likely be extremely deflated. Wright isn’t dominating targets or touches by any means, but is still capable of WR4 numbers thanks to Marcus Mariota’s growth and their willingness to throw in the red zone.
Eddie Royal (WR, CHI) - 24% Owned
It is far from encouraging to see Royal only garner three targets in a game where Jay Cutler had almost no one that he knew by name to throw it to by the time the clock hit zero, but those in 14-16 team PPR leagues should still take a chance here. Chicago’s defense is improved, but still won’t keep them in the game by itself. Royal and the other WRs are going to have to step up, and with juicy matchups against the 49ers, Lions and Packers on deck following Week 12’s tilt against the Titans, Royal might just have a few tricks left up his sleeve.
Eli Rogers (WR, PIT) - 21% Owned
Rogers only caught four balls for 20 yards on six targets in a pushover Week 11 win against the Browns. Awful weather conditions combined with favorable matchups everywhere meant that Pittsburgh didn’t have to take chances, so Rogers really wasn’t utilized. That doesn’t change that he was used nicely in the two preceding games, a trend that should continue in what figures to be a Week 12 shootout in Indianapolis next week against the Colts.
Ted Ginn Jr. (WR, CAR) - 19% Owned
Ginn Jr. gave us all a friendly reminder that he still has game-breaking speed in the tank and shouldn’t be forgotten. While this was his best game of the season, it actually broke a streak of four games in which he had caught five passes in each contest. With a date against Oakland in Week 12 on deck, Ginn Jr. should see his usual 6-8 targets with the potential for that deep bomb.
Marqise Lee (WR, JAC) - 15% Owned
Don’t look now, but Lee is finally running with a sustained bill of health and has now averaged over six targets per game in a pass-happy offense that often finds itself in catch-up mode. While Blake Bortles’ weaknesses do limit Lee’s ceiling, there’s no question that the rapport is starting to build between the two. Lee has been more efficient than Allen Hurns, though Lee is still the #3. His high-point tip-toe catch on a fade in the end zone this week was a beautiful sight. Unfortunately, Jacksonville has pretty terrible matchups after next week’s game against Buffalo (DEN, MIN, HOU), but the volume should be there regardless.
Adam Thielen (WR, MIN) - 15% Owned
ESPN reporter Britt McHenry said that Thielen would be more involved in this Week 11 matchup against Arizona, and he delivered with a 5-65-1 line. He caught all five of his targets as a healthy alternative to Stefon Diggs, who was dealing with Patrick Peterson. Thielen’s ceiling is right about here, but his range of outcomes appears rather healthy with five targets per game over his last five contests. A Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions’ burnable secondary should make him a nice side dish for your fantasy team.
Dontrelle Inman (WR, SD) – 10% Owned
Obviously this doesn’t help you for next week with San Diego on their bye, but keep an eye on the practice and injury reports for Travis Benjamin. With Benjamin’s knee knocking him out of action in Week 10, Inman caught five-of-nine targets for 43 yards. That doesn’t jump off the page, but it’s solid and the nine targets are worth chasing. He also had nine targets in Week 9, so just keep tabs here.
Cecil Shorts (WR, TB) - 4% Owned
Week 11 was the first sign of life from Shorts in 2016, as he had been battling injuries and had only caught four balls in four games before this nice little five-catch, 62-yard showing on Sunday. With the Chiefs down CB Marcus Peters, Tampa Bay was able to rack up yardage effectively even though they had to settle for four field goals in the red zone. If Shorts can run as a decent #2 wide receiver (his seven targets beat Russell Shepard’s four), then he could be a sneaky playoff option when Tampa Bay takes on New Orleans in Weeks 14 and 16. Next week at home against Seattle will likely be very frustrating however.
Marquess Wilson (WR, CHI) - 3% Owned
Week 11 marked Wilson’s first appearance in 2016, and even though he only caught one of his four targets, it was at least a nice 35-yard grab. No one is a proven commodity in that Chicago WR corps right now, so perhaps Wilson can carve out a nice piece of the pie moving forward as he gets worked in more and more.
Cobi Hamilton (WR, PIT) - 1% Owned
So you’re a one-percenter, eh? Hamilton didn’t do anything special in Week 11, catching two balls for 11 yards, but he did see five targets and was on the field quite a bit with Markus Wheaton on the IR, Darrius Heyward-Bey injured and Sammie Coates benched. Hamilton is very low on the pecking order here, but Pittsburgh could be engaged in a firefight with the Colts in Week 12. Maybe Hamilton builds on these five targets and provides some value.
Week 12 Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups
N.B. – The top-20 QBs are owned in roughly 70% of leagues or more.
Joe Flacco (QB, BAL) – 47% Owned
Flacco put in a decent QB2 performance in Week 11 against Dallas, completing 23-of-35 passes for 269 yards and a TD alongside six rushing yards. The Cowboys are notorious for their ability to control the clock and limit opposing offenses, but Flacco still doesn’t quite look like himself out there. That said, Baltimore’s offensive line is the source of many of their woes, with the lack of a reliable rushing attack being one of them. Flacco will face Cincinnati at home next, a team that will struggle to rebound from losing two of their big offensive weapons.
Carson Wentz (QB, PHI) - 43% Owned
Don’t laugh. Wentz actually looked decent against the Seahawks in Seattle, but this is much more about the matchup on tap. Next Monday night the Eagles play host to a Packers team whose defense is absolutely barren thanks to injuries. With Ryan Mathews out and Darren Sproles hurting, Wentz may be asked to do more than usual in a gravy matchup.
Sam Bradford (QB, MIN) - 32% Owned
New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is keeping things rather simple for Sammy Biscuits, which does limit his ceiling, but if you’re in a 2QB league then he could do just fine in Week 12 when he gets to face a burnable Lions defense in Detroit. Minnesota got two TDs from its defense and special teams in Week 11, points that the offense will likely have to account for.
Colin Kaepernick (QB, SF) - 27% Owned
Kaepernick displayed his strong floor once again in Week 11’s tilt against a vulnerable New England defense with 206 passing yards, two touchdowns and 32 rushing yards, and will tussle with the Dolphins next. Miami does boast a stout defense, but their offense will struggle to establish a balance for as long as their offensive line is in disarray.
Trevor Siemian (QB, DEN) - 25% Owned
Hopefully Denver’s bye week gave Siemian enough down time to get that shoulder closer to 100%, but their offensive philosophy is unlikely to be radically different from the run-heavy approach we’ve seen thus far. Denver will have to deal with Kansas City’s defense in Week 12, but at least it won’t be at Arrowhead Stadium. Keep an eye on stud Chiefs’ CB Marcus Peters’ injury status throughout the week as well, because Siemian would be a solid QB2 play should he sit out again.
Josh McCown (QB, CLE) - 7% Owned
For the truly desperate and/or masochistic, McCown should draw the Week 12 start against a rather imposing Giants defense. This isn’t ideal by any stretch, but Cody Kessler is hurt and so the “gunslinging” McCown will get a chance to at least reach 10 points. Inspiring, I know.
Week 12 Tight End Waiver Wire Pickups
Cameron Brate (TE, TB) - 49% Owned
Don’t feel bad Cameron, no tight end has been able to produce against Kansas City’s defense this season. Hopefully you heeded the warnings we floated. Things don’t get much easier against Seattle in Week 12, but Zach Ertz did just have a decent 6-35-1 game against them. It can be done. Brate is a mid-range TE2 here, but you’d be grabbing him for his future matchups. Mostly those two matchups against the Saints in the fantasy playoffs.
Jack Doyle (TE, IND) - 46% Owned
After Doyle led the Colts in targets in Week 9, he only saw two come his way in a Week 11 victory that saw most of the action funneled through Indianapolis’ WRs. Doyle’s upside takes a hit with a healthy Dwayne Allen in the fold, but he still appears to be the lean here over Allen. A home game against Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense should provide ample opportunity for scoring in Week 12, especially with Pittsburgh’s defense looking vulnerable against offenses that aren’t the Browns.
C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, HOU) - 34% Owned
I know Fiedorowicz isn't going to inspire anyone to dance around the room, mostly because his QB has been terrible to date, but the guy still out-snapped Ryan Griffin 55 to 34 and leads their TE corps. His matchup on Monday night against the Raiders is a solid one, and hopefully he'll see his usual 7-8 targets instead of only five like he did in Week 10.
Jared Cook (TE, GB) - 29% Owned
It’s no secret that Cook put up the best numbers for a tight end in Week 11 through Sunday despite it being his first game back since Week 3, as he punished Washington’s defense to the tune of six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he fumbled the game away late, but he showed his speed, strength and sure hands rather often on Sunday Night Football. He’ll be tested against a Philadelphia defense that has been the third best against the TE according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, but this isn’t a performance you can easily pass over.
Vance McDonald (TE, SF) - 15% Owned
Dancin’ Vance McDonald caught his fourth touchdown of the season in San Francisco’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots, and most notably saw six targets for the fourth-consecutive time on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick isn’t shy about finding McDonald out there. With the 49ers always a good bet to be trailing, a sizeable pass-catcher who has a decent floor and red-zone opportunities isn’t such a bad add.
Austin Hooper (TE, ATL) - 14% Owned
Jacob Tamme is out for the year, and so the starting TE duties on the NFL’s highest-scoring offense now fall to the rookie. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he has horrible matchups bearing down on him. Week 12 brings a date with Arizona, and Week 13 sees him draw Kansas City’s stifling safety coverage. It’ll be interesting to see how much faith they put in the rookie, but at the very least he should see a decent amount of volume moving forward.
Will Tye (TE, NYG) - 8% Owned
Tye had shown enough recently for the Giants to list Larry Donnell as an inactive for Week 11, which Tye has translated into 20 targets over his last three games. His touchdown against the Bears was his first of the season, though it only came with two catches for 12 yards. Eli Manning simply has many other superior options, and now the Giants are even capable of running the ball again it seems. Still, those desperate for a deep-league flex play could do worse than a guy who is seeing some solid volume and draws the Browns horrid defense in Week 12.
Jermaine Gresham (TE, ARI) - 3% Owned
If you’re even more desperate than Tye, Arizona’s Jermaine Gresham has topped 30 yards in each of his last three games now. Since that inspires nobody, the important piece here is that Arizona’s Week 12 matchup against the Falcons pits Gresham against an Atlanta defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points on average to tight ends. Just your typical Hail Mary dart throw.
Logan Paulsen (TE, CHI) - 0% Owned
Someone is going to start at tight end for the Bears, and it looks like that should be Mr. Paulsen. He led all Bears TEs with 33 snaps in Week 11, and should be the add over Brian Braunecker here for those in very deep formats looking for a longer-term add. The 29-year-old UCLA product does stand at 6'5", and may end up being a nice target for Jay Cutler over the middle of the field.
Week 12 Defense Waiver Wire Pickups
Baltimore D/ST - 46% Owned
The Ravens just got stood down by Dallas’ insanely talented offensive line on the road, but before that they had generated 11 sacks, six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns in their previous three games. They should get back on track with a home matchup against a Bengals team that just lost two of their biggest playmakers in A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. If Baltimore gets top CB Jimmy Smith back, then even better.
San Diego D/ST - 34% Owned
San Diego’s defensive scores have been heavily reliant on touchdowns lately, with three TDs in their last three games. The good news is that forcing seven turnovers in that same span does lend itself to generating those kind of opportunities. The bad news is that they’ve only recorded two sacks in those three games, after logging multiple sacks in each of their first seven games this season. Coming out of their bye week well rested, they should be a solid play against Brock Osweiler and the Texans.
Tennessee D/ST - 15% Owned
The Titans get to face the one offense that is more depleted than the Bengals, as they face a Bears team that is down their starting WR1 and TE, both of whom were Jay Cutler’s favorite targets. Cutler is already prone to imploding on himself, even when the conditions all favor him. Now he barely has any familiar faces around him, and oh yeah, his offensive line is far from full strength as well. The Titans haven’t been the best in the turnover department, but their 30 sacks are tied for the third most in the NFL.
New Orleans D/ST - 5% Owned
Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, just hear me out. The Saints have only given up 21 points per game over their last five contests after yielding a shade over 31 PPG in their first five. They’ve also tallied eight sacks between their last two games, it’s just those pesky turnovers and TDs that are really lacking. What could remedy this? How about a date with Jared Goff and the hapless Rams! While Los Angeles may keep things extremely conservative here, this is the best chance the Saints defense will have at being relevant. DFS risk-takers can get frisky here.