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Before we get into the nitty gritty of waiver wire analysis, I wanted to highlight some running backs who have been outstanding in limited usage this season.
Knowing which backs have made the most of their touches could (should) help us prioritize late-season bench stashes that could make all the difference in the fantasy playoffs, three short weeks away. Just know we’re (mostly) dealing with small samples here.
Jaylen Warren (PIT): Struggling with a hamstring injury, Warren might not get a chance to see a full workload in the Steelers offense while Najee Harris recovers from an abdomen injury he suffered Monday night against Indianapolis. Warren has been undeniably impressive in every facet though. He’s fifth in broken tackle rate, 15th in yards before contact per carry, and fourth in evasion rate. Warren has caught 16 of his 18 targets this season and ranks 20th among running backs in yards per route run. He could be shockingly productive if he recovers from his hamstring issue and Harris misses a few weeks.
Tyler Allgeier (ATL): The rookie has been unfailingly efficient behind an Atlanta offensive line that PFF grades as the league’s top run-blocking unit. He’s 13th in rush yards over expected per attempt, according to NextGenStats. Allgeier is 11th in broken tackle rate through Week 12. In fact, all three Falcons backs — Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Caleb Huntley — have popped in efficiency metrics. If any one of them seizes a larger role in the coming weeks, they would have a mouthwatering ceiling.
Justice Hill (BAL): Hill, once called a “superstar” by head coach John Harbaugh, is eighth among all running backs in yards before contact — a metric that measures a back’s ability to run to daylight. If the rest of Baltimore’s backfield is abducted by aliens or quits football to seek enlightenment in Tibet, Hill could do quite a bit with a bigger workload.
James Cook (BUF): The rookie has quietly been fantastic whenever the Bills let him on the field for more than a few snaps. Cook is 14th in yards after contact per attempt and second among all running backs — trailing only Derrick Henry — in yards per route run. Cook is a savvy bench stash who could go off if Devin Singletary misses any of the next five games.
Below are Week 13 waiver priorities, along with crowdsourced free agent budget data from fantasy football researcher Freeman Smith. Hopefully Smith’s data (from his FAAB Lab) helps you wrap your head around how your league mates will value waiver wire players this week.
Jordan Love (GB)
Rostership: 0 percent
Love looked like what the teens are calling the “real deal” on Sunday night against an upper-tier Eagles secondary. He came in for Aaron Rodgers — struggling with somewhere between two and five injuries — and completed six of his nine throws for 113 yards and a touchdown, rushing once for 12 yards. Love’s adjusted yards per attempt against the Eagles (11.4) was more than double his 2021 adjusted yards per attempt (5.1 on 63 attempts).
Time and again, Love delivered strong throws on time, moving the pocket and appearing composed — a vast departure from his previous regular season outings. His numbers would have been even better if not for two egregious drops by his pass catchers.
The July and August reports trumpeting Love’s growth as a professional signal caller were not, it turns out, exaggerated. He appeared to be an entirely different QB on Sunday night. Love would be a high-end QB2 if Rodgers misses time with his finger, wrist, and rib issues, and could be a critically important fantasy player down the stretch. The Packers have the league’s third easiest passing strength of schedule from Week 13-18.
His downside could stem from the Packers’ determination to establish the run like it’s 1988. Green Bay has the 12th lowest pass rate over expected through Week 12.
Mike White (NYJ)
Rostered: 2 percent
White looked like the second coming of Joe Flacco in the Jets’ Week 12 win over the Bears. Most importantly, White confirmed my priors that Garrett Wilson and the Jets pass catchers can thrive with any other NFL quarterback besides Zach Wilson, a bottom-barrel third-string level signal caller.
In Week 13, White matches up with the Vikings, the NFL’s fifth most extreme pass funnel defense. Probably White won’t have a better matchup than he did in Week 12 against Chicago if he plays for another fifteen years. But he should provide some streaming viability in 12-team leagues.
Other quarterbacks to roster
Bryce Perkins (2 percent): Perkins barely eked out 100 passing yards in massively negative game script last week against Kansas City. We don’t care much about that. We want that sweet, sweet QB rushing production, which Perkins — with a long history of effective running — can provide. Against the Chiefs, he logged nine rushes for 44 yards. The potential for double-digit rushing attempts for a quarterback is incredibly valuable for fantasy purposes. Perkins profiles as a viable superflex option in Week 13 against a Seahawks defense giving up the seventh highest EPA per play this season.
Andy Dalton (9 percent): The entire Saints offense is down so bad it should be illegal for me to write about them. But free speech is back, baby, so Dalton gets a mention as a Week 13 streamer against Tampa. The Bucs are a pass funnel defense and have allowed the 13th highest drop back EPA since Week 7. Dalton should be forced to drop back quite a bit this week with the Bucs entering as 5.5-point road favorites.
Editor’s note: I suppose Gus Edwards should be the top running back priority on the wire this week. He came back from knee and hamstring injuries in Week 12 to lead the Baltimore backfield with 16 carries, including most of the goal line work. Kenyan Drake, meanwhile, was completely phased out of the Ravens offense. Edwards should be a boring, touchdown-dependent RB3 for as long as he’s healthy.
Zonovan Knight (NYJ)
Rostership: 0 percent
Knight, a person I definitely knew existed before Week 12, looks like the lead back for one of the run-heaviest offenses in the NFL. Michael Carter is iffy with an ankle injury, James Robinson — coming off a 2021 Achilles tear — has been demoted to RB4 status, and Ty Johnson profiles as a pass-catching specialist.
Knight played an eye-popping 82 percent of the Jets’ early down snaps after Carter exited the team’s Week 12 game against Chicago. It was Johnson who saw almost every third down snap, however. Knight had 14 rushes for 69 yards and caught all three of his targets for 24 yards against the Bears. The rookie showed some ability to command targets, seeing his three looks on a mere nine routes.
Knight’s workload could be on the hefty side if the Jets continue establishing the run whenever possible. They have the 13th lowest pass rate over expected with negative PROE in five of their past seven games. Johnson’s passing down role will put a lid on Knight’s upside.
Jordan Mason (SF)
Rostership: 0 percent
Mason saw six carries on nine snaps in Week 12 against New Orleans, rushing for 25 yards after Elijah Mitchell exited with a knee injury and Christian McCaffrey was slowed by his own knee issue. A sneaky good rookie prospect, Mason’s preseason peripherals suggest he’s an above-average running back who could find himself as the lead back for an excellent, run-first offense in Week 13 against the Dolphins. Mason needs to be at least 50 percent rostered going into this week. He could inherit the Mitchell role with Mitchell done for the season.
Melvin Gordon (KC)
Rostership: 45 percent
Two weeks removed from his separation from Russell Wilson’s down-bad Broncos, Gordon was claimed by the Chiefs on Monday. That Kansas City has tried to claim every running back over the past month — including, notably, Eno Benjamin — should tell us a little something about what Andy Reid thinks of his backfield stable.
For as efficient as Isiah Pacheco was before Week 12, he was downright bad against the Rams, turning 22 carries into a not-so-nice 69 yards. He was 28th among 39 qualifying backs in yards after contact per carry. Jerick McKinnon has been inefficient in his pass-catching role, ranking 22nd in yards per route run among running backs since Week 8.
Gordon is 13th among backs in yards per route run. He caught 12 of 15 targets in the three games before Denver waived him. He’s been wildly inefficient as a rusher — Gordon is dead last in rush yards over expected per carry — but could work in as a pass catcher in KC’s offense once he’s up to speed with Redi’s system. One thing we know for sure: Gordon’s presence will submarine the locked-in roles for McKinnon and Pacheco.
Kyren Williams (LAR)
Rostership: 36 percent
Writing about the Rams backfield has trimmed precious years from my life. Nevertheless, I persist in telling you Williams had a pretty good workload in Week 12 against the Chiefs. He played 38 of 54 offensive snaps for LA and saw 11 carries to Cam Akers’ eight rushes. Williams, a good-enough pass catcher, took on almost all the route-running duties for the Rams and had three targets from Bryce Perkins. If you’re into 11 PPR points, Kyren is your guy.
JaMycal Hasty (JAC)
Rostership: 3 percent
If you smartly stashed Hasty as the clear insurance for Travis Etienne, you might enjoy some good old reaping in Week 13 against the Lions. Etienne picked up a foot injury in Week 12 against the Ravens, and though he and Doug Pederson insist there’s nothing to see here, I’m guessing the Jaguars will be careful with their emerging superstar back in a lost season.
Hasty acquitted himself well, as he always does, in Etienne’s place against Baltimore. He gained 28 yards on a dozen carries and caught five of six targets for 67 yards and a touchdown. Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting about Darrell Henderson’s presence and his potential involvement in the Jags backfield if Etienne misses time. But it’s Hasty that has been with the team all season, has time and again drawn praise from Jacksonville coaches, and would be first in line (I think) to replace Etienne as the lead back. Hasty’s Week 13 range of outcomes includes 20 touches against a Detroit defense allowing the second highest rate of positive rushes in 2022.
Benny Snell (PIT)
Rostership: 0 percent
Snell mostly split the Pittsburgh backfield with Anthony McFarland on Monday night against the Colts following Najee Harris’ abdominal injury. I’d guess Harris will be back in short order because he’s never really injured. Snell would be the priority add over McFarland. Both backs ran 11 routes against the Colts and Snell saw 12 carries to six for McFarland.
It was Snell, importantly, who saw every goal line snap for the Steelers. He shapes up as a floor option for Week 13 if Harris is sidelined.
Other running backs to roster
Darrell Henderson (47 percent): Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson last week was complimentary of Henderson, calling him a tough downhill runner and raising questions if Pederson claimed the wrong running back off waivers. In any case, Henderson could be in line for some touches if Travis Etienne (foot) is sidelined in Week 13. I expect JaMycal Hasty to operate as the lead back, at least for one week.
Alexander Mattison (35 percent): I’m not sure why Mattison’s rostership hasn’t budged over the past month. He’s the most important contingency back in fantasy — a one-for-one replacement for Dalvin Cook who often outproduces Cook when he gets a full workload. Scoop up Mattison this week.
Ty Johnson (1 percent): Jets coaches love Johnson. That matters. He was in on 11 of the team’s 12 third down snaps in Week 12 against the Bears, catching one of his two targets. Johnson should be rostered in case the Jets suffer more backfield injuries.
Anthony McFarland (0 percent): McFarland was on the short end of the Steelers’ backfield split after Najee Harris exited Monday night’s game with an abdominal injury. He could take on a small majority of the passing down snaps if Harris is sidelined. Benny Snell is the preferred waiver add.
Kenyan Drake (60 percent): Drake is going to be dumped in a lot of leagues this week. And for good reason: He barely played in Week 12 and had just two carries. He still profiles as the default RB1 for Baltimore if anything befalls Gus Edwards though. Drake should be stashed.
Cam Akers (55 percent): Akers is completely uninvolved in the Rams passing offense and the team has been less than smitten with him for months, but he could stumble into an every-down role if Kyren Williams gets dinged up. Our chaotic universe could deliver an Akers explosion game that will decide fantasy championships. Please remain woke at all times.
Mike Boone (4 percent): Due back from injured reserve this week, Boone should see passing down work in the Broncos offense while Latavius Murray gets the early-down stuff. Boone would have some flex appeal if Murray were to miss any time.
Caleb Huntley (7 percent): A speculative add, Huntley would become interesting if Atlanta’s backfield sees one or two backfield injuries over the next month. Huntley is fifth in rush yards over expected per carry while notching nearly five yards per tote. The human bowling ball is good. Maybe really good. And he has a narrow path to touches in Arthur Smith’s 1972 offense.
Tevin Coleman (1 percent): Coleman could be activated to the Niners’ game day roster if Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey miss time. The veteran would probably play behind Jordan Mason though.
Michael Gallup (DAL)
Rostership: 47 percent
Gallup has officially re-asserted himself as the Cowboys’ No. 2 wideout. On Thanksgiving against the Giants, Gallup logged a 93 percent route rate and was second on the team with eight targets, catching six five for 63 yards.
Gallup has a decent fantasy floor even if CeeDee Lamb continues to dominate targets in the Dallas offense (Lamb has been wildly efficient on high volume too). I have serious doubts about Odell Beckham being a fantasy football factor over the next month, even if he signs with the Cowboys in the coming days (or weeks). Gallup’s rostership should be way higher.
Zay Jones (JAC)
Rostership: 25 percent
I wrote earnestly about Jones after his 10-catch, 85-yard, one-touchdown Week 3 performance against the Chargers, urging you to pick up the living, breathing PPR cheat code. Since then, it’s been up and down for Jones. But when game script goes haywire for Jacksonville, Jones is nearly a lock for double digit targets. What I’m saying is Jones is a game script-dependent wideout.
We can’t bank on massive pass volume with a Jacksonville team bound and determined to prioritize the run. At 6.4 yards per target, Jones should be Trevor Lawrence’s main underneath target. Jones should certainly be started in 12-team leagues that start three or four wideouts every week.
Van Jefferson (LAR)
Rostership: 23 percent
Jefferson in Week 12 against Kansas City was the only Rams receiver who avoided a rotational role. Jefferson, in an offense that will probably be without Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson for the rest of the season, is the Rams No. 1 wideout by a wide margin. Just like Sean McVay drew it up.
He led the Rams with six targets (28.7 percent target share) against the Chiefs and caught the team’s lone touchdown while running 29 percent of his routes from the slot — a noted change in his usage. With a little downfield involvement in this Perkins-led Rams offense, Jefferson could prove quietly valuable in 12-team leagues in the season’s final five weeks.
Isaiah McKenzie (BUF)
Rostership: 33 percent
I’m desperately trying not to be overtly reactionary with touting McKenzie after his out-of-nowhere Thanksgiving blow up game against Detroit (six catches for 96 yards and a score on ten targets). McKenzie had nine total targets in his previous four games, seeing his routes reduced to about 50 percent of Josh Allen’s drop backs.
Khalil Shakir, who has played some slot this season, is now playing on the outside after Jake Kumerow’s season-ending injury. That should leave McKenzie to function as Allen’s only slot option. McKenzie has been far better against man coverage than zone coverage this year. Buffalo’s Week 13 opponent, the Patriots, are top-three in man coverage rate. McKenzie suddenly looks live as a starting PPR option in 12-team leagues.
Chase Claypool (CHI)
Rostership: 52 percent
Claypool led all Chicago receivers in routes and targets in Week 12 against the Jets and trailed only Cole Kmet in target share in his first sustained action as a Bear. Darnell Mooney’s season-ending ankle injury catapults Claypool into the team’s WR1 role. He could return some weekly value if he commands enough targets in the ultra-run-heavy Bears offense. Claypool should become Justin Fields’ best downfield threat — if Fields plays again in 2022.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE)
Rostership: 50 percent
Peoples-Jones is going to be a frustrating, risk-reward option no matter who’s under center for the Browns. That’s what happens when many of your looks come downfield. But Peoples-Jones should be snatched from the wire ahead of Deshaun Watson’s regular season Browns debut. One of the league’s most accurate deep ball throwers when he last played in 2020, Watson could form a quick connection with Peoples-Jones.
Nico Collins (HOU)
Rostership: 24 percent
Collins saw nine of the most depressing targets you’ll ever see in Week 12 against Miami. He caught six for 44 yards and led Houston wideouts in routes and targets. Even the Texans will drop back and throw a bunch when facing huge deficits. That’s going to be the case more often than not in the coming month. Collins could be something of a pleasant surprise in favorable matchups — like the one he has in Week 13 against a burnable Cleveland coverage unit.
More receivers to roster
Demarcus Robinson (17 percent): Folks didn’t much care for Robinson’s recent target domination if rostership is any indicator. Their skepticism was well founded. Robinson caught one of his four targets for 17 yards in Week 12. He narrowly missed a touchdown from Lamar Jackson against the Jags. His Week 12 route rate (65 percent) leaves a lot to be desired too. Still, Robinson could lead the Ravens in targets from here on out with little target competition outside Mark Andrews. Baltimore has the 11th easiest remaining passing game strength of schedule.
Julio Jones (18 percent): The old man has officially replaced Scotty Miller — perhaps the league’s worst receiver — as the Bucs WR3. Julio has the team’s second highest yards per route run over their past two games, seeing 10 targets. If Tampa gets back to a pass-heavy approach, Julio’s routes and targets could balloon.
Alec Pierce (18 percent): His route rate isn’t going to budge unless the Colts struggle with wideout injuries over the next month, but Pierce is the team’s lone deep threat. In fact, he leads the Colts with a 28 percent air yards share while operating as a part-time player.
DeAndre Carter (23 percent): I, for one, would have thought Carter’s playing time would dwindle to nothing with Keenan Allen’s return to LA’s lineup. I was wrong. Carter had an 83 percent route rate in Week 12 and caught seven balls for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Allen played two-thirds of the slot snaps while Carter was pushed (mostly) to the outside with Mike Williams sidelined. I suppose Carter, for now, can be counted on as a mainstay in the Chargers three-wideout sets. Williams’ return would put Carter off the fantasy radar.
Elijah Moore (26 percent): Moore’s rostership is nothing short of stunning. The truthers are out there. He caught a long pass last week against a horrible Chicago secondary but logged a dismal 43 percent route rate and saw just two targets from Mike White. For the second straight week, Moore ran over 60 percent of his routes from the slot. His playing time will have to spike if Moore is going to be a fantasy relevant player.
Dante Pettis (0 percent): Pettis has a chance to become the Bears’ primary slot guy after Mooney’s season-ending ankle injury. Mooney had run 60 percent of his routes from the slot. Against the Jets in Week 12, Pettis operated exclusively from the slot and caught one of two targets for 12 yards. Pettis, in the Bears’ run-first offense, would be an exceedingly thin play even in deeper formats.
Foster Moreau (LV)
Rostership: 39 percent
Moreau, who’s run the fourth most tight end pass routes since Week 8, has touchdowns in back to back games while being targeted 15 times over his past three outings. He’s a classic desperation streaming option for as long as he’s out there running routes at a high rate in the Vegas offense. Tight ends are seeing an average of seven targets per game against the Chargers, Vegas’ Week 13 opponent.
Moreau, for whatever it’s worth, has the NFL’s third highest yards after catch over expected. So he has that going for him. Which is nice.
Hunter Henry (NE)
Rostership: 30 percent
Henry is coming off a five-catch, 63-yard, one-touchdown performance that should have been 20 yards and one score better, if not for an abominable overturned touchdown in the second half of the Patriots’ Thanksgiving game against the Vikings. I’m not bitter. You’re bitter.
Henry ran a route on 76 percent of the team’s drop backs against Minnesota while Jonnu Smith was as uninvolved as ever. Since the Patriots are content running the ball with the smallest of leads, Henry is going to see precious few targets as the third or fourth option in the New England passing attack. He should be more highly rostered though.
Robert Tonyan (GB)
Rostership: 36 percent
Tonyan’s route rate has finally reached the point where we can (sort of) trust him as a streaming option. He has at least three receptions in three of his past four games as the fourth option in the Packers passing offense. Like almost every tight end, he’ll need a touchdown to be fantasy relevant.
Other tight ends to roster
Tyler Conklin (18 percent): The Conk Daddy, as the teens are calling him, split route running duties with C.J. Uzomah in Week 12. Both guys saw three targets. Conklin is usually the Jets’ primary pass-catching tight end and should enjoy a massive QB upgrade in Mike White.
Jelani Woods (1 percent): The rookie broke all the way out on Monday night against the Steelers, securing eight of his nine targets for 98 yards. Kylen Granson (illness) was sidelined and Woods ran 27 routes on 39 Matt Ryan drop backs. Mo Alie-Cox logged just 11 routes and saw three targets. Woods would be usable if Granson were to miss another game. Otherwise, the Colts will likely return to their ugly three-tight end rotation.
Cameron Brate (2 percent): After re-establishing himself as the Bucs TE1, Brate has a 55 percent route participation rate (while Cade Otton has a 40 percent rate) and has caught three of six targets from Tom Brady. Brate is barely fantasy viable.
Noah Fant (12 percent): Fant ran fewer routes than Will Dissly in Week 12 against the Raiders but continues to be targeted on a much higher rate of his routes than Dissly. You could (barely) do worse than Fant in 14-team formats.
Jason Myers (SEA)
Rostership: 40 percent
Not in your league, I know. But if he’s out there, Myers is an excellent process-oriented fantasy option with the Seahawks listed as 4.5-point favorites against the dead-on-arrival Rams.
For as good as Geno and the boys have been in 2022, they’ve struggled in the red zone. Only six teams have been worse than Seattle in scoring touchdowns inside the 20 this season. That’s worked out just fine for Myers, who has multiple field goal tries in seven of the team’s past nine outings. He should have all the positive game script in this one.
Cade York (CLE)
Rosteship: 4 percent
We like our kickers when their teams are heavily favored, don’t we folks? That’s precisely what we have in Week 13 with York and the Browns favored by seven over the Texans, who might not qualify as a professional football team after their Week 12 drubbing at the hands of the Dolphins.
York would be a viable streaming option no matter who is under center for the Browns (please don’t make me say his name). Houston has allowed multiple field goal tries in eight of their 11 games and York is averaging 2.2 field goal attempts in Browns wins this season. The big-legged York could be a fantasy difference maker over the season’s final month.
Joey Slye (WAS)
Rostership: 9 percent
Slye now has multiple field goal attempts in five of his past seven games. This is thanks in large part to Washington’s ability to keep games close and play a boring-but-effective kind of football that will succeed until it doesn’t. It doesn’t hurt that the Commanders are one of the worst red zone offenses in the NFL, converting only 53 percent of their red zone possessions into touchdowns.
In Week 13, Slye goes up against a Giants team allowing the fifth most field goal attempts (27). Washington enters the week as a one-point home favorites (not that playing at home matters; the crowd will be 69 percent Giants fans). Slye is a safe option once again.