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Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups for week 12 to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Mark Sanchez (owned in 46.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Prior to week 9, Mark Sanchez had not thrown an NFL pass since the end of 2012 . He has now played the majority of three games, and thrown for 6 touchdowns along with 4 interceptions. In his two starts, the former Jet has averaged an impressive 339.0 yards, though completing just 56.8 percent of his throws. Tennessee’s 11th ranked pass defense is coming to town for week 12.
Josh McCown (owned in 8.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since returning week 10, Josh McCown has completed 63.6 percent of his passes and averaged 294.5 yards, 2.0 touchdowns, and 1.0 interception. He’s even rushed for 47 yards in the two games. The 13-year veteran missed six weeks with a thumb injury sustained week 3 in Atlanta, when his throwing hand slammed into the helmet of Falcons cornerback Robert McClain. Last year in Chicago, McCown started five games, connecting on 66.5 percent for 308.6 yards, 2.2 touchdowns, and 0.2 interceptions per game. Through all eight of the games he played in 2013, he threw 13 touchdowns and just one pick. If Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were to stand on top of each other, they would crush enemy corners at 19-foot-4. Seferian-Jenkins has an inch over the 6-foot-5 wideouts.
Past targets include: Drew Stanton and Kyle Orton (week 11), Brian Hoyer and Mark Sanchez (week 10), Ryan Tannehill and Ben Roethlisberger (week 9), Derek Carr, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, and Mike Glennon (week 8), Carson Palmer and Kirk Cousins (week 7), Teddy Bridgewater (week 5).
C.J. Anderson (owned in 77.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
The Broncos combined for nine rush attempts in week 11’s loss in St. Louis. All nine of those went to starter C.J. Anderson, who got the nod over Montee Ball. Ball returned for his first game since week 5 , but re-aggravated the groin injury that sidelined him for the past six weeks. The rest of his season is in danger, at least for the immediate future. Anderson has now played the majority of two games for Denver, and put up 17.0 touches for 139.0 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns each week.
Alfred Blue (owned in 66.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Arian Foster was held out of Sunday’s game with a groin injury, but may return as soon as week 12. In his absence, Alfred Blue managed 156 yards on a monstrous 36 carries (4.3 yards per attempt). Foster also missed week three this season, when the rookie started for 14 touches and 88 total yards. Through ten games, Blue has 104 attempts for 390 yards (3.8 yards per carry), along with six catches for 56 yards and one receiving touchdown. The next three games for Houston are against the 28th, 29th, and 26th ranked run defenses, smooth sailing into your fantasy playoffs.
Ryan Mathews (owned in 81.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Ryan Mathews returned Sunday for his first game since week 2. The Chargers starting back rushed 16 times for 70 yards, and caught one pass for 5 yards. Branden Oliver came in for 13 carries and 36 yards. In the red zone, Oliver rushed three times for 8 yards, while Mathews got just one carry for seven yards. Both backs were held scoreless in the 13-7 win. Mathews played 32 of San Diego’s 76 offensive snaps, Oliver played 23, and Donald Brown came in for 21. The coaching staff may be aiming simply to ease the starter back to action, with more work ahead on his plate.
Jonas Gray (owned in 8.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since week 9, Jonas Gray leads the NFL with 160.0 yards per game, and ranks second with his average of 33.0 carries. In Sunday’s 42-20 rout of the Colts, the rookie ran 38 times for 199 yards and four — count ’em, four — touchdowns. Were it not for the Bill Belichick tendency to cycle through his running back carousel, this writer might not have set some sort of bench scoring record this week. New England plays Detroit’s number one run defense this week, followed by Green Bay’s 30th ranked unit. Gray might deserve starting lineup consideration following his recent performance.
Isaiah Crowell (owned in 23.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last two games, Isaiah Crowell has played 67 of Cleveland’s 156 offensive snaps (42.9 percent), while Terrance West has been in for 46 (29.5 percent) and Ben Tate, 42 snaps (26.9 percent). Crowell has gotten 28 touches for 132 total yards and a touchdown during these games. In Sunday’s loss to Houston, he used 16 touches to produce 91 total yards, while West ran five times for 12 yards, and Tate lost 9 yards on two carries. It’s a sad statistic when the longest run column lists “-3” beside your name, and that’s one reason why opening day starter Tate was released by the Browns Tuesday.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Herron.
Past targets include: Terrance West, Steven Jackson, C.J. Anderson, and Montee Ball (week 11), Bobby Rainey, Tre Mason, Alfred Blue, and Jeremy Hill (week 10), Ronnie Hillman, Charles Sims, Jonas Gray, and Christine Michael (week 9), Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon, and Jonathan Stewart (week 8), Branden Oliver, Juwan Thompson, and Chris Ivory (week 7), Antone Smith , Joseph Randle (week 6), Jerick McKinnon, Khiry Robinson (week 5), Lorenzo Taliaferro (week 4), and Knile Davis (week 3).
Josh Gordon (owned in 68.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Josh Gordon returned from suspension on Monday, though he’s been working out at team facilities over the past couple weeks. Last year, he led the entire league with 1,646 receiving yards, despite playing just a 14 game season. Brian Hoyer is averaging 254.2 yards, 1.1 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions each week. Up next for the Browns is Atlanta’s 32nd ranked pass defense. Gordon should be in your lineup faster than you can say Unfrozen Caveman Hoyer.
Jordan Matthews (owned in 41.7 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jordan Matthews’ twitter name is @jmattjmattjmatt, but the fun just begins there. Since week 9, only Mike Evans has scored more touchdowns (5) than the 6-foot-3 Eagles receiver (4). Over the last two games, Matthews’ 245 yards rank third, behind only Evans (334 yards) and Jordy Nelson (261). The next closest Philadelphia wideout is Jeremy Maclin with 131 yards during the last two weeks. The Eagles next get to face Tennessee and Dallas, who own the 11th and 15th ranked pass defenses, respectively.
Brandon LaFell (owned in 48.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since week 4, Brandon LaFell leads all Patriots wideouts with 530 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He also ranks 17th in the NFL in yardage since that point. LaFell has played 445 of New England’s 510 offensive snaps since week 4 (87.3 percent), more than any fellow wide receiver. Over the same period, no one has more red zone targets on the team (7), as LaFell has converted 4 of 7 targets for 3 touchdowns. Tough opponents are on the horizon over the next four weeks, as the Patriots will face Detroit, San Diego, and Miami and their 5th, 6th, and 2nd ranked pass defenses.
Honorable Mention: John Brown.
Past targets include: Mike Evans, Martavis Bryant, and Odell Beckham Jr. (week 11), Donte Moncrief, Malcom Floyd, and Doug Baldwin (week 10), Brandon LaFell, Martavis Bryant, Josh Gordon, and John Brown (week 9), Jermaine Kearse (week 8), Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Mohamed Sanu, Cecil Shorts, and Andre Holmes (week 7), Terrance Williams, Andrew Hawkins (week 5), Jordan Matthews, John Brown, and Brian Quick (week 4), Allen Hurns and Steve Smith Sr. (week 2).
Coby Fleener (owned in 26.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Dwayne Allen left Sunday Night Football with a high ankle sprain, and Coby Fleener capitalized for 7 receptions and 144 yards. So far this season, the tight end has 29 grabs for 439 yards and four touchdowns. In the red zone this year, Fleener ranks third on the team with 9 targets, behind only Ahmad Bradshaw (14) and Hakeem Nicks (9). With the possibility that Bradshaw and Allen miss time, Fleener could have an arrow pointing pretty high.
Past targets include: Mychal Rivera (week 11), Jared Cook (week 10), Tim Wright (week 9), Larry Donnell, Dwayne Allen, and Jace Amaro (week 7), Travis Kelce (week 5), Owen Daniels (week 4), and Niles Paul (week 3).
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, and profootballfocus.com.