SSSQ is a weekly look at under-the-radar fantasy players to consider starting and potential busts you should leave on your bench. We also identify breakout candidates to stash on your roster and players you can safely cut.
For the rest of your lineup decisions, consult our Week 12 rankings. You can also listen to the Week 12 preview episode of RunSportBet Fantasy Football Podcast.
Cam Newton, Patriots
After missing time following a COVID-19 diagnosis and taking a couple of games to settle back into the offense, Newton has emerged as the QB10 based on fantasy points per game over the last month.
He’s also coming off his second 300-plus-yard passing effort as a Patriot after benefitting from the Texans’ defense and its lack of resistance. Fortunately for Cam, the Cardinals are nearly just as generous, offering the eighth-most favorable matchup for fantasy quarterbacks this season.
Continue to start Newton as a low-end QB1 in Week 12.
Boone’s projection: 241 passing yards, one passing TD, 38 rushing yards, one rushing TD
Other QBs to start
- Derek Carr at Falcons
- Taysom Hill at Broncos
- Tom Brady vs. Chiefs
Kareem Hunt, Browns
Oddly, Hunt has been more productive with Nick Chubb healthy than he was when the Browns’ starter missed time midseason.
Hunt has averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game in PPR formats during the six contests he’s shared the backfield with Chubb, compared to 13.6 without him.
On Sunday, Cleveland’s rushing attack will be in one of its best spots of the year as 6.5-point favorites versus a Jaguars team starting Mike Glennon. The Browns shouldn’t struggle to control this game, and they’ll also take advantage of Jacksonville’s bottom-five defense against opposing fantasy backs.
Both Chubb and Hunt can be started as top-12 options at running back this week.
Boone’s projection: 83 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards, TD
Other RBs to start
- Wayne Gallman at Bengals
- Jonathan Taylor vs. Titans
- David Montgomery at Packers
Justin Jefferson, Vikings
Adam Thielen was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list earlier this week, but at the time of this writing, we still don’t know whether he tested positive or was identified as a close contact.
We’re waiting for more information on Thielen’s Week 12 status. In the meantime, Jefferson has become a fantasy must-start no matter who’s in the lineup around him.
Since Week 3 when he became a full-time player, Jefferson is averaging the seventh-most fantasy points among receivers, right behind Thielen.
The Panthers don’t offer the best matchup, but they’ve given up 75-plus yards to five different wideouts over their last five games. Jefferson is about to make that six.
Boone’s projection: 107 receiving yards, TD
Other WRs to start
- D.J. Moore at Vikings
- Chris Godwin/Mike Evans/Antonio Brown vs. Chiefs
- DeVante Parker at Jets
Austin Hooper, Browns
Hooper has dealt with heavy winds and rain over his last two games since returning to the lineup in Week 10. That’s put a damper on the Browns’ passing attack, but there are still positives to be gleaned from Hooper’s performances.
The tight end has resumed his role as the team’s full-time starter, seeing five targets last week. If he gets better weather conditions, Hooper is sure to deliver against a Jaguars defense that’s allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Even though he hasn’t played like it yet, Hooper can be treated as a TE1 in a year when plenty of fantasy managers are still looking for stable options at the position.
Boone’s projection: 59 receiving yards, TD
Other TEs to start
- Evan Engram at Bengals
- Mike Gesicki at Jets
- Robert Tonyan vs. Bears
Ryan Tannehill, Titans
Since becoming the Titans’ starter, Tannehill has struggled against the Colts while posting passing yards totals of 182 and 147 – the most recent coming in a loss two weeks ago.
That’s not surprising, as the Colts present the third-most difficult matchup for fantasy passers, behind only the Steelers and Rams.
Better days are ahead for Tannehill, with the Browns, Jaguars, and Lions on the schedule over Tennessee’s next three games. But he should remain on your bench for one more week.
Boone’s projection: 176 passing yards, TD, INT, nine rushing yards
Other QBs to sit
- Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens
- Jared Goff vs. 49ers
- Kirk Couins vs. Panthers
Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Gordon posted his best stat line in over a month last week, putting up 84 yards and two touchdowns against a Dolphins defense missing linemen. But don’t be fooled.
Though chasing those points and putting him back in your lineup may be enticing, his situation hasn’t changed. In his previous three outings, Gordon was held to 46 yards from scrimmage or fewer with no trips to the end zone.
The Saints’ defense is also one the league’s stingiest against fantasy backs and perhaps the biggest reason to shy away from Broncos ball carriers on Sunday.
With Phillip Lindsay siphoning touches and capping his ceiling, Gordon is more of a risky RB3 in Week 12.
Boone’s projection: 43 rushing yards, nine receiving yards
Other RBs to sit
- Leonard Fournette vs. Chiefs
- Darrell Henderson/Malcolm Brown/Cam Akers vs. 49ers
- Frank Gore vs. Dolphins
Tyler Boyd/Tee Higgins, Bengals
We’re in wait-and-see mode with the Bengals’ talented receiving duo following Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury.
Brandon Allen has been named the starter, which is a slight improvement over Ryan Finley. But it’s hard to feel confident in any of Cincy’s backup passers given the team’s poor offensive line.
That’s bad news for Boyd and Higgins, who have operated as WR2s in recent weeks, and they’ll now fall into the risky WR3 range. Though big games are still possible, inconsistency and a lack of scoring opportunities are the new reality in Burrow’s absence.
Boone’s projection for Boyd: 56 receiving yards
Boone’s projection for Higgins: 45 receiving yards
Other WRs to sit
- D.J. Chark vs. Browns
- Jerry Jeudy vs. Saints
- Travis Fulgham vs. Seahawks
Jimmy Graham, Bears
Before getting too excited about a possible revenge game for Graham against the Packers, it’s important to acknowledge his situation.
Graham is a touchdown-dependent fantasy option, and he’s topped 35 receiving yards only twice this year, scoring once over his past five games.
Meanwhile, the Packers present the fourth-most difficult matchup for fantasy tight ends in 2020. We might see the Bears go out of their way to get Graham a red zone target or two, but there’s likely a streaming option with more upside on your waiver wire.
Boone’s projection: 31 receiving yards
Other TEs to sit
- Jared Cook at Broncos
- Trey Burton vs. Titans
- Jordan Reed at Rams
Andy Isabella, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald will be sidelined for Week 12 and maybe longer after testing positive for COVID-19. And while we wish the veteran a speedy recovery, his absence opens the door for Isabella (1% rostered) to finally see increased playing time.
The Cardinals have yet to unleash their second-round pick from 2019, holding him to 50% or less of their snaps in every game this year.
If you’re curious about whether the speedy sophomore can thrive in Kliff Kingsbury’s system playing alongside DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk, now is your chance to roster him and find out.
Gabriel Davis, Bills
With John Brown ruled out for Week 12, Davis (1% rostered) should get another expanded workload.
In the three games Brown has missed, Davis has produced stat lines of 4-81-0, 5-58-0, and 1-11-0 while playing at least 70% of the snaps in each contest. In fact, the 21-year-old has put up 55-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his 10 appearances.
If Brown’s ankle injury lingers, Davis could be a sneaky add for the stretch run in one of the league’s best offenses.
Marquise Brown, Ravens
Brown (76% rostered) would have made the “Quit” section before we received news that Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19.
Even with Jackson healthy, Brown has been a major disappointment this season. The 2019 first-round pick hasn’t posted double-digit fantasy points since Week 5, and he’s recorded just six catches for 55 yards and one touchdown over his last four outings.
He can’t be trusted in your lineup, and there are surely better waiver-wire options.
Kalen Ballage, Chargers
Ballage (68% rostered) was banged up in last week’s game and re-aggravated his lower-leg injury in practice on Thursday. His Week 12 availability is now in doubt after a couple of solid outings as the Chargers’ lead back.
With Austin Ekeler nearing a return, Ballage can be dropped for the next hot waiver-wire back who might be thrust into a bigger role. Potential candidates include Brian Hill (Todd Gurley missed practice Wednesday and Thursday), Samaje Perine (Giovani Bernard is trying to clear the concussion protocol), or Ballage’s teammates Troymaine Pope and Joshua Kelley (potential fill-ins if Ekeler isn’t ready yet).