Many people associate Thanksgiving week with food or family gatherings, but fantasy football players know it means one thing—crunch time.
The fantasy football playoffs are rapidly approaching, and every game is magnified as teams fight for positioning and seeding. One timely waiver-wire pickup or change to the flex position can mean the difference between a spot in the playoffs and an offseason of disappointment.
With that in mind, here is a look at some potential waiver-wire pickup candidates before Week 12 as well as rankings and stat projections for the top options at different positions.
A player was considered a waiver-wire candidate if he was owned in less than 20 percent of ESPN.com leagues as of Sunday.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles announced that running backs Ryan Mathews (knee) and Darren Sproles (ribs) each missed the end of Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks with injuries.
While it wasn’t officially determined how long they will be out, it opens up a chance for rookie Wendell Smallwood to shine in the coming weeks if they miss extensive time.
Smallwood didn’t do much on the ground against Seattle’s stingy defense with 48 rushing yards on 13 carries, but it was just the third time all year he reached the double-digit plateau for touches. He did prove to be a threat in the aerial attack with four catches for 31 yards.
Smallwood has touched the ball at least 10 times in just three games this year, and he impressed with 228 total yards (76 per contest) and a touchdown in those outings. While those aren’t amazing numbers, they are viable for a deeper waiver-wire target.
There is also no need to worry about Kenjon Barner vulturing much production considering he has never topped 42 rushing yards in a single game.
Alex Gelhar of NFL.com called Smallwood a "must-add," especially with an impending showdown against a Green Bay Packers defense that "has shown plenty of cracks in recent weeks."
Don’t miss the chance to add a potential starting running back this late in the season.
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has tallied noteworthy overall numbers the past three games, which is far more important for fantasy players than whether the 49ers win or lose.
He has notched 271.33 passing yards per game in that span to go along with five touchdown passes, 110 rushing yards and just one interception. He torched the New Orleans Saints for 398 passing yards and at times looked like the quarterback who once led San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers are 1-9, which means they are often playing from behind. There is no reason to think that will change in the near future, so Kaepernick will be forced to air it out even more in the coming weeks.
I think he’s a very dangerous player back there. It’s a different offense, so some of the things are different. But he can hurt you in a lot of ways. He’s got a good arm and throws the ball all over the field. He’s athletic and can extend plays. He can also run for yardage.
If you are dealing with injuries or simply a lack of production at quarterback, Kaepernick is worth a waiver-wire gamble.
Top Quarterback Projections
Week 12 Quarterback Projections
Rank Player Opponent Projected Stats 1 Tom Brady, New England Patriots New York Jets 330 passing yards, three TDs 2 Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers Indianapolis Colts 295 passing yards, three TDs 3 Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Tampa Bay Buccaneers 275 passing yards, 35 rushing yards, two TDs 4 Eli Manning, New York Giants Cleveland Browns 300 passing yards, two TDs 5 Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans Chicago Bears 240 passing yards, 45 rushing yards, two TDs, one INT
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will jump-start the week for fantasy players on Thanksgiving against the Indianapolis Colts.
According to ESPN.com, the Colts gave up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks per week as of Sunday. That is a recipe for success for those relying on Big Ben, especially considering he threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10.
He didn’t need to do much in a 24-9 victory over the 0-11 Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but look for a shootout against Andrew Luck and Co., a la Pittsburgh’s 35-30 loss to Dallas. That means Roethlisberger will throw plenty of passes and connect with Antonio Brown for massive fantasy points.
Top Running Back Projections
Week 12 Running Back Projections
Rank Player Opponent Projected Stats 1 Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers Indianapolis Colts 175 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards, two TDs 2 Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys Washington 130 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards, two TDs 3 Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers Houston Texans 115 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, two TDs 4 David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons 107 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards, two TDs 5 DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans Chicago Bears 110 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards, one TD
David Johnson has been one of the most consistent players in the league this season, and that won’t change against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12.
ESPN.com noted that the Falcons gave up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs as of Sunday, and Johnson will arguably be the most talented one they have faced.
He has been a dominant two-way force this season and reached 100 total yards in every single game. He has 863 rushing yards and 510 receiving yards to go along with 12 total touchdowns and would likely be a serious MVP candidate if his Cardinals were better than 4-5-1.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is struggling with five interceptions in his last three games and 10 for the season, so Arizona will ride the rushing attack and safe passes to Johnson in the flat against Atlanta. The result will be an impressive fantasy day for the playmaker.
Top Wide Receiver Projections
Week 12 Wide Receiver Projections
Rank Player Opponent Projected Stats 1 Antonio Brown, Pittbsburgh Steelers Indianapolis Colts 184 receiving yards, two TDs 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals 145 receiving yards, one TD 3 Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys Washington 110 receiving yards, one TD 4 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants Cleveland Browns 100 receiving yards, one TD 5 Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks 98 receiving yards, one TD
Odell Beckham Jr. will torch the 0-11 Browns in Week 12.
According to ESPN.com, Cleveland allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, as of Sunday. Beckham is no ordinary opposing receiver, with 819 receiving yards and six touchdown catches this season.
This is simply a go with the superstar against a team without a win this season. The hapless Browns won’t be able to slow down Beckham.