The Late Week Hustle - Week 12

The Late Week Hustle

by @dwainmcfarland

Fantasy football is a fluid game.  Yeah, your waiver wires have already ran for the week and you are probably settling in on your lineups, but things change. 

You have new information at your disposal such as drops your league mates made, unexpected late week injuries, and other news.  That is why each week I will be bringing you an update on Thursday or Friday to help you digest new info and make the adjustments you need to win on Sunday or better equip your team for the long run. 

We are entering the heavy bye week period.  For some owners this spells doom, but for smart owners that are hustling it spells OPPORTUNITY.  If you are behind in the standings, now is the time to be aggressive.  Gain points and wins on your opponents who are depending on a few studs that will be on bye. If you are an owner in the lead, now is the time to crush those beneath you by padding your roster with more depth and blocking the weak from becoming strong.

In the content below you will see me refer to player utilization.  Player utilization refers to the underlying drivers that must be there for consistent fantasy performance. 

  • Team plays tell us about coaching philosophy.  Up tempo play callers give us more of what we want in fantasy - volume. 
  • Snap percentages provide us our first indicator of player involvement.  Not on the field, welp you know rest of that equation ...
  • Routes Ran per Drop Back help us understand who coaches want on the field when the ball is in the air.  This is a very telling, yet often overlooked data point.
  • Target percentages are a well known stat at this point, but can be misleading if out of context.  We don't want to pick up a player with 20% of the targets last week when he was only on the field for 50% of the snaps and only ran routes 40% of the team drop backs.

It is ALL about context and these indicators when used together can paint a very telling picture that will help you dominate your opponents by pivoting away from bad choices to find the true gems.  So, let's dive in and start out hustling your league mates.

Late Week Injuries & News

Below is a run down of most skill position injury news (or other news) we likely didn't have when league waiver wires ran.  This isn't meant to be an extensive list of injuries - more focused on the trickle down impact to team mates and their value.


QB Marcus Mariota - Limited Thursday due to neck injury, but was able to go full on Friday.  Considered questionable, must monitor Saturday participation.

The Titans' two weeks of improved play out of the bye week seems like a distant memory after the week 11 disaster.  RB Dion Lewis, WR Corey Davis and even TE Jonnu Smith were gaining some momentum before last week, but if Mariota can't go all expectations must be downgraded.  Blaine Gabbert carries a 59% completion rate and an aDOT (average depth of target) of 6.4 yards.  That is a 9% and 2 yard drop off from Mariota.  Consider Lewis and Davis as flex plays only and Jonnu Smith as unstartable if Mariota misses the game.

QB Joe Flacco - DNP all week.  Out.

Lamar Jackson only attempted 24 passes in week 11, a far cry from the 42 attempts per week averaged by Flacco.  That makes all Raven's skill position players even riskier than usual (all positions are by committee).  Michael Crabtree and John Brown are desperation plays only.  Willie Snead dominated target share (60%) last week, but a sample size of one game with Jackson doesn't make me to comfortable utilizing him.

Gus Edwards led the running backs (17 carries) with Jackson at the helm, but that seems shaky as well now knowing that Alex Collins was nursing a foot injury that could be feeling better.  Consider both backs risky options you should avoid if possible.

Lamar Jackson attempted 27 rushing attempts for 117 yards last week and the team could deploy a similar approach at home versus Oakland (favored by 10.5).  He can serve as a strong fill in option for Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff owners who may be scrambling.  

RB Melvin Gordon III - Downgraded to limited sessions Thursday and Friday due to knee and hamstring.  Questionable for Sunday.

Downgrades are almost never good, but at least Gordon was able to get in a limited session again Friday.  If he can't go this is a huge blow to fantasy owners - Vegas has the Chargers as 12.5 point favorites at home versus the Cardinals this weekend, a scenario ripe with fantasy potential.  Even if Gordon plays hurt he should be a lock for RB2 numbers as long as he get's through the game healthy.  The team likely will protect him though if the Bolts get a huge lead which caps upside.  If Gordon can't go, Austin Ekeler slots in as an RB2 with upside and is borderline must start depending on your strength at the position.

RB Doug Martin - Limited all week due to ankle ailment.  Questionable.

Last week the Raiders deployed a true running back by committee with Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington all receiving ~30% of the carries.  Richard played the most overall with 47% of the snaps with the team trailing and was targeted 14%.  If Martin can't go Richard becomes flex worthy and Washington is a desperation play.  If Martin does go, he and Richard are both low end flex options.

WR A.J. Green - DNP all week due to toe.  Questionable.

I consider Green more on the doubtful side.  If he can't go, Tyler Boyd and John Ross will continue to see more forced targets.  Consider Boyd a WR2 either way and Ross as a flex option if Green can't go.

WR Doug Baldwin - DNP all week with groin injury.  Questionable.

The Seahawks passing game is highly volatile due to low attempts.  If Baldwin can't go it provides a slight bump to the value of David Moore and Tyler Lockett who could see more work, but still makes them worth no more than flex options.

WR Devin Funchess - DNP all week with back injury.  Listed as doubtful.

If Funchess can't go WR D.J. Moore should be considered a WR3 with lots of upside this weekend.  For you DFS players, he is only $5800 on FanDuel and should be part of your lineup constructions.  

WR Pierre Garcon - Out with knee ailment.

The Niners and Bucs tilt has the highest Vegas over/under of the week at 54.  With Garcon out, WR Marquise Goodwin moves firmly into the flex with upside conversation and Kendrick Bourne can be used in desperation situations.

WR Robby Anderson - Returned from DNP status to limited on Friday with ankle ailment.  Questionable.

I only mention Anderson here because Josh McCown will be starting again with Sam Darnold still healing.  McCown and Anderson had great chemistry last year and Anderson could be used in desperation if he suits up.  Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa will see more targets if he doesn't and can be used as low end WR3 or flex options.

WRs Danny Amendola & WR DeVante Parker - Both limited all week (hamstring & AC Joint).  Questionable.

If one or either of Amendola or Parker can't go this provides a big boost to WR Kenny Stills, who already returned to a full compliment of snaps before the bye in week ten.  If both are out Stills will get the volume of a WR2 most likely with Tannehill returning to the lineup.  If one is out he is a decent flex play.

TE Rob Gronkowski - Limited all week but likely to play.  Officially listed as questionable.

If Gronkowski can go, he will be as well rested as any time this season.  If for some reason he gets scratched, expect a boost in targets for Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon.

Other News

RB Marlon Mack - Gets bumped into the RB1 conversation this week for a few reasons.  

  • Favorable game script:  Vegas has the Colts as eight point favorite over the Dolphins with an implied score of 29.5
  • Role clarity:  Over the last three games Mack has 63%, 52% and 57% of the carries
  • Offensive line:  Vastly improved play

Mack should only be ranked below the clear elites at the position for week 11.

RB Sony Michel - Should be considered a strong RB2 candidate this week.

  • Favorable game script:  Vegas has the Pats as 10 point favorites over the Jets with an implied score of 28.5
  • Health:  Played okay before the bye week but the game script was bad.  Now has another week of rest.

Waiver Wire - Looking Ahead

First of all, if you haven't read Jim Day's weekly waiver wire article please do so here.  Each week in this space I will focus on a couple of areas:

  • One or two under the radar waiver options I am being proactive on
  • Players on the mend I am being proactive about

I may or may not have recommendations every week for each category.  

One word of advice before we dive in on these - only you know your league.  If you are in a smaller league some of these guys may not be viable for you.  If you are in crazy deep leagues (like most of mine) many of these guys won't be available.

I will add context where I can on this where I can, but trust you to hold yourself accountable for making the right choices.

Under the Radar

Previously listed:  WR Taywan Taylor, QB Jameis Winston, TE Geoff Swaim, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Albert Wilson, WR David Moore, WR D.J. Moore, WR Courtland Sutton, WR DaeSean Hamilton, WR Brandon Powell, WR D.J. Chark, RB Spencer Ware, RB Rod Smith, RB Malcolm Brown

WR Marcell Ateman - With Brandon LaFell out for the season and the shaky health of Martavis Bryant the seventh round pick is likely about to get some run for the Raiders.  In week 11 he played 96% of the snaps and was targeted 19% of the time by Derek Carr.  The Oklahoma State product had a decent preseason and brings a large frame (6'5" 216 lbs) into the Raiders passing equation.  Here is what analyst Lance Zierlein had to say about Ateman before the draft:

Long target with good size and functional speed. Ateman played in a vertical offense that took advantage of subpar secondaries in his conference and should fit into a West Coast offense as a pro. His frame and ball skills give him instant credibility as a jump ball threat in the red-zone while he continues to hone his skill set. Ateman should be an early backup with a chance to climb the ladder on the depth chart.

On the Mend

Below are players that are progressing well and are likely to return to the field soon.  This is not meant to be an extensive list.

Previously listed:  WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Hayden Hurst, TE Greg Olsen, RB D'Onta Foreman, TE Jack Doyle, TE Ed Dickson, RB Elijah McGuire, WR Quincy Enunwa, RB Giovani Bernard, RB Rex Burkhead

RB Ronald Jones II - Set to return to the lineup this weekend.  Jones has competition with Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, but with the season on the brink the staff could decide to get a better look at their 2nd round pick some point soon.  Jones makes for a nice stash if you have room on your bench for some upside.

Sneaky Cuts

If you are considering picking up any of the players mentioned above but are struggling with who to cut, there is a strategy I like to utilize when in this circumstance.  I call it floating. 

The idea is to cut a player you can likely reacquire next week (i.e. float) because your league mates won't notice them while you get a look at a player that will actually be on the field (and thus more likely to be a hot commodity next week if they go off).

There are a couple of tactics I like to deploy when floating:

Tactic 1:  Cut middling level players that are on a bye.

Tough week with Rams and Chiefs occupying the byes.

Tactic 2:  Cut middling level players out due to injury this week.

Dolphins wide receivers.

Well that is it for week twelve.  Good luck to everyone this weekend, unless you by some random chance are playing me.  In that case, you don't stand a Fighting Chance!

If you want more information similar to what you found in this article you can every Tuesday on The Tuesday Night Hustle pod cast with myself and Brian Drake.  Listen live or on demand.

Additionally, you can follow me on twitter @dwainmcfarland

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