Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 12
Week 12 is stacked with big bouts bearing major playoff implications. Six games pit a pair of feasible postseason contenders against one another. Fantasy managers, however, are more focused on their own title pursuits.
Marquee matchups mean the slate also features contests with little besides draft positioning at stake. The points all count the same for us. Because of fantasy football, many fans will watch the Steelers vs. Bengals with the same zest as the Patriots vs. Cowboys. Aside from a quarterback in Sunday night’s headliner, this week’s batch of start and sit picks happen to shine a brighter light on players from subpar squads. For those who don’t know the drill by now, the accompanying Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) were taken on Tuesday night from FantasyPros’ half-PPR rankings.
Start: Sam Darnold (NYJ) vs. OAK: QB16 ECR
A lot of folks are going to need a new quarterback with Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Kirk Cousins, and Philip Rivers all on a bye. Despite amassing 86 passing yards and four interceptions in an all-time clunker against the Patriots, Darnold is the QB14 since coming back in Week 6. He’s notched over 20 fantasy points in consecutive games against the Giants and Washington, so he’s earned some tepid streaming trust in the right situations.
Even after facing Ryan Finley, the Raiders rank 25th or worse in passing yards, opposing yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, and fantasy points relinquished to quarterbacks. Along with those in need of a bye-week replacement, Darnold offers more tangible Week 12 upside than the struggling Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Sit: Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) vs. GB: QB11 ECR
Garoppolo has tossed four touchdowns in two of his last three games and registered a combined 741 passing yards in those outbursts. They were both against the Cardinals, who rank last in passing defense and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. He’s averaging 217.1 passing yards in his other eight bouts, five of which resulted in one or zero touchdowns. Garoppolo hasn’t mustered 15 fantasy points or a top-15 finish against anyone besides Arizona and Cincinnati.
Despite beating up on a weak division foe, he’s still a matchup play who has stumbled in other opportune spots against Tampa Bay, Washington, and Seattle. While the Packers rank 23rd in passing defense, they have also permitted the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks with the 12th-best opposing passer rating (88.2). In a likely run-heavy game, he’s at best a borderline replacement to all the big names on a bye.
Start: Kareem Hunt (CLE) vs. MIA: RB24 ECR
Hunt has immediately found his niche in Cleveland’s offense by catching 13 of 17 targets in two games. He played 55% of the snaps each time, and a home game against Miami could represent the perfect opportunity to give him more playing time. That’s not to say he requires more rushes in a blowout win; he saw plenty of receiving work in a start-to-finish triumph over Pittsburgh. Hunt, however, should make the most of his runs against a defense allowing 4.7 yards per carry. For those (unlike myself) willing to put ethical dilemmas aside and roster him, there’s enough of a floor to utilize Hunt as a flex option in PPR and half-PPR formats.
Sit: Ronald Jones (TB) at ATL: RB22 ECR
Darn you, Bruce Arians. You got us again. Back in Week 8, Jones played more than half of Tampa Bay’s snaps (55.3%) for the first time this season. Arians named the second-year back his starter after a 20-touch performance. Although Jones recorded 106 yards — 77 through the air — and a touchdown the following week, his snap rate dropped to 45.8%. Last Sunday, his snaps (30.9%) and touches (six) plummeted.
Granted, the Bucs didn’t bother testing a strong Saints rushing defense in a 34-17 loss. Jones nevertheless shrunk back into a three-player timeshare with Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale. Suddenly a defensive juggernaut, the Falcons are favored on the road. Since Atlanta has allowed just 3.9 yards per carry, this could be another scenario of Tampa Bay ditching Jones and the ground game.
Start: Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) at WAS: WR30 ECR
Ahead of Kenny Golladay as the WR12 this season, Jones is constantly under-ranked as a borderline starter. Still perceived as a boom-or-bust play, the label is growing outdated. He’s shattering previous career norms with a 76.1% catch rate, putting him on pace for a personal-best 81 receptions. The eight-year pro has gone just three games with either no touchdowns or fewer than 60 yards this season. Beyond the elite names, no receivers pan out every week. Golladay has slipped up just as many times.
Eight touchdowns have certainly fueled his success, but Jones isn’t completely reliant on end-zone production. He’s averaging a respectable 48.7 receiving yards in six games without a score. Even without Matthew Stafford, Jones is hitting too much to bench in a strong matchup against a Washington defense just shredded by Darnold.
Sit: Tyler Boyd (CIN) vs. PIT: WR34 ECR
Boyd seems like the quintessential positive regression candidate typically highlighted under positive pretenses. Tied with Cooper Kupp and D.J. Moore with the NFL’s sixth-most targets (94), it seemed like only a matter of time before the results caught up. Then the Bengals benched Andy Dalton for Finley.
Boyd’s one score looks less like a fluke considering just two of his ample targets have come inside the red zone. Neither of those were inside the 10. Despite the overall volume, he has now finished two of his last five games with exactly 10 yards. In Week 11, he gained them all on a run. Stuck on a putrid offense that hasn’t exceeded 17 points since Week 5, Boyd can’t command much trust against Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers’ ninth-ranked passing defense. With Finley under center, there might not be more upside beyond the six-catch, 60-yard line Boyd offers on a good day.
Start: Vance McDonald (PIT) at CIN: TE11 ECR
Who else does Pittsburgh have left? James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson are all in jeopardy of missing Week 12’s bout against the Bengals. While McDonald has yet to top 40 yards in a single game this season, he’s gathered seven targets in each of his last three outings. He’s played in 71 snaps in consecutive weeks and has received seven red-zone targets through nine games. This could be a case of touching a hot stove after already burning your hand, but the table is set perfectly for McDonald to finally deliver as a low-end TE1.
Sit: Cameron Brate (TB) at ATL: TE14 ECR
Ten catches and 14 targets are a lot. Before Brate’s unusually busy Week 11, he had 15 catches on 20 targets all season. The last time he drew double-digit looks: September 25, 2016. The last time he reached 10 receptions? Never.
Such activity is still too promising to ignore at tight end, which is why I featured him in this week’s waiver wire column. But would it stun anyone if Arians pulled O.J. Howard out of the doghouse and once again cast Brate aside? Either one could be a borderline top-12 option if not for competing with the other. With both vying for Jameis Winston’s affection on a weekly basis, it’s not a game worth playing for those who can add Jacob Hollister, Noah Fant, or Ryan Griffin instead.