Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Targets Shorts, Crowell

BY Ryan Fowler • November 18, 2014

We’re coming off a fantasy football week where only four definitive RB1’s scored touchdowns – Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell, Bishop Sankey and Eddie Lacy.

Even more troubling is over the last FOUR weeks, only 18 running backs have scored 2-or-more rushing touchdowns.  Included in that list are the following second and third options on the depth chart:

Of the 15 players with five or more touchdowns, seven have been started with regularity since Week 1, while three have been promoted to RB1 / RB2 status since October due to consistent production – Lamar Miller, Justin Forsett and Mark Ingram.

The fantasy football running back shell game continues to evolve this late into the season and despite a ransacked player pool to invest in, a few shiny pearls exist heading into Week 12:

Isaiah Crowell – available in 84 percent of leagues

Now that Ben Tate has exited Cleveland’s crowded running back committee, Crowell’s fantasy stock creeps into the Top 30 and is one of the most coveted players this week.  Why isn’t he ranked inside the Top 24 off the jump?

Inconsistencies in the Browns running back “hot hand” approach make it very difficult to pin down who will earn the 15-20 touches you need to creep into RB2 status.  Terrance West carried the ball 15, 26 and 5 times with no fumbles in each of the last three games, while Crowell carried 0, 12 and 14 with a fumble during the same stretch.  Crowell has fumbled three times and lost two this season, while West’s sheet remains clean.

Also, Coach Mike Pettine was quoted on Monday, "It's something we'll look at week to week," Pettine said. "We're not just going to pick one. When you go in a game-plan situation you look at what gives us the best chance to win."

Coach said basically the same thing after the Browns beat the Bengals with a three-RB approach.

Latavius Murray – widely available

The Darren McFadden – Maurice Jones-Drew experiment failed miserably in Oakland, but does hold par for the Raiders’ offensive course.  Combined the duo have 464 rush yards on 146 carries (3.17 YPR) with DMC scoring both touchdowns.  The 0-10 record allows the team to once again get creative with their young talent.  The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Murray picked up 43 yards on four carries with 16 more yards on three receptions.  He’s not the answer to your Week 12 prayers (sorry, Le’Veon Bell owners), but a strong speculative waiver target for rest of season opportunities.

Jonas Gray – available in 85 percent of leagues

God bless Gray and what he accomplished against the Colts 28th-ranked fantasy rush defense (22.2 FPAPG).  If he can average double-digit fantasy points per game, it’ll be a miracle within Bill Belichick’s and Josh McDaniels’ system.  Plus, with Detroit on the horizon, Gray will however around the Top 24 running backs in my weekly rankings, but only based off of expected touches.  Tom Brady can exploit that pass defense and another steady diet of Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski should be expected.

Cecil Shorts – available in 65 percent of leagues

A must-add in all PPR leagues.  With no Allen Robinson to tie up targets, Shorts becomes the top option for Blake Bortles during garbage time.  Shorts is averaging nearly nine targets per game this season (seven games).  Although the touchdown opportunities will be few and far between, the amount of looks Shorts should get during the second half is enough to add and, in some cases, FLEX out in point-per-reception leagues.

Kenny Stills – available in 95 percent of leagues

Over his last five games, Still is averaging 58 yards per game with two touchdowns.  That was with Brandin Cooks in the equation.  Now that the rookie slot receiver is out four-to-six weeks, Stills – not Marques Colston – moves up my fantasy rankings as the most viable option to see at least some of Cooks’ targets.  The pecking order remains Graham/Ingram, but Stills could be in for plenty of looks rest of the fantasy season before Cooks can return to action.

Andrew Hawkins – available in 78 percent of leagues

Although Josh Gordon’s return will impact Hawkins’ 10 targets-per-game average, one should expect Hawkins’ PPR value to remain relatively steady due to the amount of attention Gordon, West and Crowell will draw from opposing defenses.  In PPR leagues, Hawkins could creep into the 30-36 range even with Gordon’s priority in the Browns’ passing game rest of the season.

Coby Fleener – available in 79 percent of leagues

Can’t ignore him even when Dwayne Allen is healthy.  Over his last four games, Fleener averaged nearly 13 fantasy points per game (PPR).  With the Jaguars up next (9.3 FPAPG to opposing tight ends), Fleener remains a smart streaming option for those without Greg Olsen (BYE).

Josh McCown – available in 90 percent of leagues

Perhaps my fantasy football May projection on Josh McCown wasn’t so far off after all.  Just ignore Justin Hunter and my inability to project a Kyle Rudolph groin injury.  Now in four completed starts this season, McCown is averaging 21 fantasy points per game.  This week he travels back to Chicago for a match-up against the second-worst fantasy pass defense in the league (25.3 FPAPG to opposing QBs).