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Injuries Open Door for Mattison, Hubbard

NFL Week 13 – Down to the last two weeks of byes, it’s handcuff season. There isn’t much time to cultivate the trust of potential late-season fantasy breakouts such as Phillip Lindsay and D’Onta Foreman. So in many cases, the best use of the fantasy bench spots that clear when you drop your fill-in kickers and defenses are the handcuffs to your star running backs. The backups for ailing stars such as Tony Pollard, Mark Ingram, and the No. 1 waiver wire option for this week are obvious targets. But I suggest you also consider the likes of Ronald Jones, Khalil Herbert, and Sony Michel if their starters’ injuries could derail your run to a fantasy title.

Roster percentages are for ESPN/Yahoo.

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings


Mattison proved himself a trustworthy handcuff when he saw 32 touches in each of Weeks 3 and 5 in games that Dalvin Cook missed because of an ankle injury. And after Cook dislocated his shoulder on Sunday, Mattison seems likely to see another extended run as a temporary bell-cow back. Whether or not Cook lands on injured reserve, his fantasy players can’t spend too much FAB on Mattison. But every team should take a run at a likely short-term RB1. Mattison would certainly be that if he started in Week 13 with the Vikings poised to play a Lions defense ranked 29th in run defense DVOA.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 100%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: Yes

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers


Christian McCaffrey has none of Cook’s uncertainty. He is done for the year with his latest ankle sprain. But McCaffrey has less certainty with the backs behind him. Fourth-round rookie Chuba Hubbard started strong with 12 or more carries in five starts during McCaffrey’s first injury. But he settled into a -22.6% rushing DVOA that is second-worst among backs with 88 or more carries and yielded most of his targets to Ameer Abdullah in Weeks 8, 9, and 10. You may not have a choice but to chase the workload of a likely starting running back. But I wouldn’t be excited about Hubbard’s prospects and wouldn’t spend too much on the rookie with the Panthers going on bye in Week 13.

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

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Miami Dolphins


The Dolphins built an early multi-score lead on the Panthers on Sunday that allowed for some extra rushing opportunities. So while Lindsay had a decent volume of 12 carries in his Dolphins debut, he still trailed incumbent starter Myles Gaskin 12 carries to 16, 20% snap share to 50%, and no touchdowns to two—a secondary workload that would keep Lindsay from fantasy relevance in more typical game scripts. This 12% FAB recommendation reflects the chance I see that Lindsay could take over as the team’s top early-down back. It’s difficult to make a case for that switch statistically. Lindsay has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry this season and has a 30.2% success rate that is the lowest among backs with 50 or more carries. But the Texans have the only offensive line with less adjusted line yards (3.06) than the Dolphins (3.53). And Lindsay has produced 1.8 yards before contact per attempt, and with his elite speed would be a threat to leap Gaskin’s 2.2-yard average with even the modest blocking improvements that could unlock the potential for some breakaway carries. I don’t hate the gamble. At 194 pounds, Gaskin is likely too small to sustain his average of 19.8 touches per game from the past six weeks. And the Dolphins have yet to activate anticipated early-down option Malcolm Brown from injured reserve with his quad injury. Lindsay may be the team’s best choice for the role practically by default.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 12%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills


With another two touchdowns on just three targets on Thursday, Knox reasserted himself as the king of small-volume fantasy production. And while I’m normally much more confident in players with consistent heavy volumes, Knox is a trustworthy exception. His 0.78 touchdowns per game this season are easily the most among tight ends. Rob Gronkowski (0.68), Hunter Henry (0.58), and Pat Freiermuth (0.55) are the only others above even 0.50. And while Knox maintains a 3.4-touchdown surplus over the 3.6 touchdowns expected by the air yards and proximity to the end zone of his targets, he still has the fourth-highest total of 0.40 expected touchdowns per game at the position and a big-armed quarterback in Josh Allen who could spur a consistent overachievement.

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

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Tennessee Titans


Dontrell Hilliard paced the Titans backfield with 133 yards, a touchdown, and a 51% snap share on Sunday and makes a compelling case for his own fantasy consideration. And while I have no qualms if you choose to throw some FAB his way, I’d bet on Foreman as the likeliest Titans back to have fantasy value this December. Hilliard owes much of his Week 12 breakout to a 68-yard touchdown run that would seldom be repeatable even with the same opportunities, and I’m not even sure he’ll have those with competing receiving back Jeremy McNichols, who is likely to return from his concussion after the team returns from its bye in Week 14. With Adrian Peterson gone, the 236-pound Foreman fills a unique need for a Titans team that prefers to run on early downs and use that threat for its play-action passing game. And Foreman has been quietly exceptional as a Derrick Henry substitute. His 59.5% success rate is the sixth-best of backs with 40 or more carries.

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

Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints


It never made sense that Hill ceded the Saints’ starting job to Trevor Siemian after the former player battled Jameis Winston for the role all preseason. And finally, head coach Sean Payton provided the answer. Despite being active the last two weeks, Hill was still fighting the foot injury that made him inactive through much of October. Based on that report, Hill seems likely to start when he’s healthy. That could be this week if his first-team practice reps are any indication. Hill averaged 21.2 fantasy points per game in four starts for an injured Drew Brees last season. That average would land Hill ninth at the position this season.

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

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers


I have felt like a broken record each week writing the same paragraph about Freiermuth’s TE1 target share, which now stands at 17.2% since JuJu Smith-Schuster went out for the season in Week 6. That rate is tied for 11th-best at the position with Mike Gesicki, a player rostered in 92% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues. But Freiermuth has now also scored five touchdowns in his last five games and is top-two at his position in both touchdowns and expected touchdowns (3.6) since Week 6. I think that may finally move the needle of his roster rates past the 80% threshold I use as a shorthand for universal rostership in this column. Feel free to spend up to secure one of the few impact tight ends still available in some leagues. But consider the activity of your league before you overspend. If Freiermuth didn’t make it on a roster in November, then your league may not have the urgency to drive up his price tag now.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Football Team


Thomas was an overturned touchdown in the final few minutes on Monday night away from a solid fantasy return from his hamstring injury. But no matter his modest totals of three catches and 31 yards—Thomas provided a positive signal of his future fantasy value with a 17.6% target share. That fell just short of the 19.2% share Thomas had in 2020 that made him a top-five fantasy option at the position. He may fall a bit short of that standard over the rest of this season surrounded by better talent—assuming Curtis Samuel can remain healthy, too—but Thomas can match Freiermuth for rest-of-season fantasy production and may be less expensive if your leaguemates overlook the Monday night performers or needed a standout fantasy total to realize Thomas was back healthy.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 5%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears


If I thought his current situation would continue the rest of the season, Mooney might earn my 100% FAB recommendation. He has had 24 targets the last two weeks and a 34.8% target share that is the highest at his position. But Mooney’s modest fantasy production from the broader season suggests he has benefited from Allen Robinson’s and Justin Fields’ recent injury absences. And while Robinson has yet to practice after injuring his hamstring in Week 9 and is no lock to play Sunday even after 10 days of rest, Fields drew an optimistic prognosis for his cracked ribs. Head coach Matt Nagy told reporters that Fields is day-to-day despite his serious-sounding injury and will not go on injured reserve. And while Fields has had a similar tunnel vision for Mooney as his replacement Andy Dalton, the rookie quarterback throws markedly fewer pass attempts per game while leaning on his legs. That difference is enough to render Mooney a flex option at best with Fields and limits the receiver to being a temporary fantasy option.

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

Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams


The Rams built their roster with the same stars-and-scrubs mentality as many fantasy drafters, but that tendency has exaggerated in recent weeks as the team lost Robert Woods, Tutu Atwell, and Ben Skowronek to injuries. Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, and Jefferson played 184 of a possible 186 offensive snaps on Sunday. That alone would likely spur all three to fantasy relevance. But Jefferson had built a case for that value even before his improved fantasy circumstances of late. His target share increased from 13.0% from the first six weeks to 18.0% from Week 7 on. That latter rate is 42nd among wide receivers. Meanwhile, Jefferson has a pair of touchdowns since Week 7 and is unlucky to not have more. His 3.8 expected scores in those recent weeks are second-most at his position behind just Ja’Marr Chase’s 4.2.

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

Devonta Freeman, RB, Baltimore Ravens


Freeman has 14 or more touches in each of the last four weeks, has out-targeted his backfield mate Latavius Murray 23 to seven for the season, and even out-touched the bigger Murray two-to-one within 5 yards of the end zone the last two weeks. I think it’s clear Freeman is the lead Ravens back even if Murray chipped into the former back’s 58% snap share from Weeks 9 to 11 with a 44% vs. 49% share split on Sunday night. With Lamar Jackson’s rushing tendencies, Freeman may cap at a back-end RB2 for fantasy. But with two weeks of continued production alongside Murray, Freeman has a higher floor than the likes of Phillip Lindsay, D’Onta Foreman, and Rex Burkhead dominating this week’s waiver headlines.

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

Rex Burkhead, RB, Houston Texans


The Texans have provided their backs the worst circumstances for fantasy value. They have trailed in most of their games. They have the lowest adjusted line yards in football. And until recently, they split their work among as many as four different backs. Well, at least the latter point may have changed. As part of just a two-back committee, Burkhead played 61% of snaps on Sunday, the most of any Texans back all season. Mark Ingram maxed out at 46%. Phillip Lindsay maxed out at 26%. And while Burkhead managed just 27 yards on his team-leading 12 Sunday carries, he added three catches and 27 yards receiving with that extra playing time and could offer flex value in deeper formats thanks primarily to volume. His 30 carries the last two weeks are tied for ninth-most at his position.

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

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions


Williams faded from fantasy relevance as D’Andre Swift exploded for 466 yards in four games from Weeks 7 to 11. But Swift sprained his shoulder on Thanksgiving and could miss some time. And that could allow Williams to volume his way to flex value for a few weeks. He had 15 carries and five catches on Thursday, and he’ll have the benefit of a friendly run of fantasy defenses if Swift misses any time. The Lions draw the Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals the next three weeks, and those teams rank 27th, 28th, and 14th in run defense DVOA and all are 10 or more ranking spots higher in pass defense than they are in run defense.

Recommended FAB bid (% of maximum): 3%
Should you use your No. 1 waiver priority on him: No

Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons


Things remain quiet on the Calvin Ridley front. And while Gage seemed to exclude himself from temporary No. 1 receiver status with a zero-catch Week 10, he has quietly surrounded that blanking with eight, eight, and seven targets with Ridley absent and has a 23.1% target share since Week 9 that is tied for 22nd among wide receivers. The Bucs and Panthers are difficult matchups on paper the next two weeks, but the Bucs lost another cornerback in Jamel Dean to an injury on Sunday and may be temporarily vulnerable to the pass.

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

Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars


With a 73% snap share, Shenault may not have matched Marvin Jones (97%) or even Laquon Treadwell (86%) on Sunday. But the more important rate from my perspective was the former receiver’s 77% slot percentage. Shenault seemed likely to gain targets when DJ Chark went out for the season in Week 4, but he lost them as he transitioned to an outside role and Jamal Agnew played in the slot. But now that Agnew is out for the season with a hip injury, Shenault is back in his more natural slot role and paced the Jaguars with nine targets on Sunday. His ceiling is capped on a bottom-five passing offense by DVOA, but Shenault could rediscover the volume this December that made him a top-40 PPR receiver in drafts this preseason.

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

Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns


Landry offers a similar fantasy value proposition as Shenault. He led the Browns with 10 targets on Sunday night and has a 24.8% target share since the team released Odell Beckham before Week 9. That rate is tied for 15th among wide receivers. But even if the Browns aren’t efficient with the 18th-ranked passing DVOA, they prefer to lean on the run. And even as the team’s undisputed No. 1 receiver, Landry has failed to score a receiving touchdown and has just 0.9 expected scores the last four weeks. You probably know if you should roster Landry now eight years into his remarkably steady career. But keep in mind that the Browns have their bye this week if you are considering a FAB bid on him.

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

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants


Shepard has yet to practice since he injured his quad in Week 8. I wouldn’t count on him in Week 13. But Shepard did see nine, 10, and 14 targets in his three healthy games this season. And if he managed a game or two of similar productivity in the next few weeks, he could return to flex consideration in time for the fantasy playoffs.

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

Players on More Than 80% of Rosters to Add

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (94%/93%)
Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns (91%/92%)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (89%/94%)
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (88%/94%)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (88%/91%)
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (88%/89%)
Odell Beckham, WR, Los Angeles Rams (87%/88%)
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86%/91%)
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (85%/86%)
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (84%/91%)
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos (84%/87%)
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (83%/85%)
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos (82%/85%)
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (82%/75%)
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (80%/88%)
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets (69%/81%)
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (61%/83%)
Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals (61%/82%)

Players on More Than 20% of Rosters You Can Drop

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (95%/99%)
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (70%/79%)
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Buffalo Bills (70%/69%)
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills (69%/62%)
Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans (69%/62%)
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (66%/68%)
Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons (59%/51%)
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers (53%/46%)
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (48%/40%)
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams (43%/32%)
Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers (37%/46%)
Dan Arnold, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (34%/36%)
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (29%/17%)
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (25%/15%)
DJ Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (24%/14%)
Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers (23%/20%)
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (20%/28%)
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears (17%/21%)

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