Free-agent recommendations refer to 12-team league formats, unless specifically stated. FAAB $ amounts are based on a $100 budget.
Bye weeks: Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings
1-Week Plug & Play
Jeff Driskel, Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
This one really could go either way, but there’s something scrappy about Driskel that warrants attention. He has starting experience after five nods in 2018 with the Cincinnati Bengals, and was plenty competent this past weekend vs. a tough Dallas secondary. Washington had given up almost nothing to QBs since Week 5 before Sam Darnold went for 293-4-1 in Week 11. Some of the success was due to the matchups. Driskel has the talent to further capitalize on his promising start for the Matthew Stafford-less Lions. Since four normal fantasy starters are on bye this week, don’t be afraid of No. 9’s replacement.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
After rookie QB Dwayne Haskins began his Washington Redskins career with zero touchdowns against four interceptions in three appearances, the Jets decided to make him look decent for a change. He finished with a pair of TD passes and only one turnover. The prior three opponents (Gardner Minshew, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones) all went for at least 279 yards and three TDs. The Jets are quality vs. the run, and Oakland could be forced to the air more than usual. Carr belongs atop your short list of Week 12 fill-in options with a quartet of starting fantasy passers on vacation. There’s a chance he still is available in more casual setups.
1-week plug & play
Bo Scarbrough, Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
The 2018 seventh-rounder by Dallas made his Detroit as well as NFL debut and was the most prolific rusher they’ve seen since Barry Sanders … okay, not quite, but it sure feels that way. The powerful Alabama product rushed 14 times for 55 yards and found paydirt. He’s not a threat to touch the ball in the passing game, but Detroit’s dire need of some semblance of a rushing attack makes him a likely candidate for more work. Entering Week 11, Washington vs. the position ranked 28.4 percent weaker than the league average in fantasy points yielded, and Le’Veon Bell rushed for 59 yards plus a score in Sunday’s meeting. Looking ahead for Detroit, it’s all downhill from there in the scheduling (CHI, @MIN, TB, @DEN).
Jonathan Williams/Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts head to Houston on a short week, playing Thursday night, and Marlon Mack will not go after suffering a hand fracture vs. the Jaguars. Gamers have an opportunity for a cheap lineup play of Williams and/or Hines. The Texans gave up no rushing TDs in the prior five weeks to the 41-7 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Mark Ingram landed a pair of touchdown grabs, and his backup, Gus Edwards, went for 112 yards and a score on just eight carries. Be more optimistic with Hines, because this defense had surrendered four aerial TDs vs. three ground scores to RBs entering Week 11, and Indy needs all the help it can get in the passing game right now. Furthermore, Jordan Wilkins (ankle) is on track to return and would impact the role of Williams the most. Mack could miss several games after undergoing surgery, so there may be some staying power, but the matchups are unkind.
Availability: 98% (Williams); 54% (Hines)
FAAB: $4-6 for either
Patrick Laird, Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
The Dolphins turned to the rookie in Week 11 as a pass-catching back while Mark Walton continues to serve a suspension. The Cleveland defense has been mostly neutral vs. PPR backs this year, giving up 53 catches (14th) and three touchdowns through the air. While a TD would be a nice bonus of sorts for Laird, if he lands something similar to another line of 6-51-0, consider it a win as a flex play. Even if he has a strong game, there isn’t much staying power with Walton on the verge of returning. (Update: Walton was released after another alleged legal incident, and Laird has more fantasy appeal heading into the fake postseason.)
priority free agents
Darius Slayton, New York Giants
Replaying this one from last week as he returns from a bye: There’s a lot of all or nothing going on here, and the rookie is still learning the ropes as he goes. The good is when Slayton has been on, look out! The New York Jets and Detroit Lions each gave up two TDs to him in his past three contests, enveloping a four-target, one-catch game vs. Dallas. Slayton has at least 11.2 PPR points in 50 percent of his games. WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) is supposed to return to practice this week, but he has done this once already and his symptoms returned. The remaining schedule is hit or miss: at Chicago (27th), vs. Green Bay (24th), at Philadelphia (8th), vs. Miami (18th), at Washington (16th). Slayton is explosive enough to warrant a roster spot in all traditional fantasy formats, even if Shepard indeed plays.
1-Week Plug & Play
Randall Cobb, Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
Cobb has seven or more targets in three straight games following the bye week and 21-plus fantasy points in consecutive games in PPR. The Cowboys have a tough matchup ahead with New England, but underneath receivers tend to do well for several reasons. First of all, the Patriots focus on eliminating the best weapon of the opponent. That’s Zeke Elliot, and Amari Cooper will see Stephon Gilmore, effectively canceling out the star WRq. Michael Gallup probably gets doubled aplenty in this one, and that leaves checkdown work to Cobb and tight end Jason Witten. Since Cobb is on a mini heater, expectations may be higher than usual, but he has at least 8 PPR points in every game this year with five or more targets. The Cowboys have enough ways to attack that New England could struggle in this one to always deploy coverage in the right areas — much like how Baltimore overwhelmed them in Week 9. The remaining schedule is unkind (BUF, @CHI, LAR, @PHI).
Taylor Gabriel, Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants
In the three games prior to their Week 11 bye, the Giants gave up seven individual efforts worth double figures in PPR. The matchup was more than 36 percent better than the league average in that window as five different receivers scored a touchdown (six total TDs). The Bears are mostly a dumpster fire in the passing game, but Gabriel is capable of doing more with lower volume than when those double-digit target days aren’t happening. There is plenty of risk involved here, and the QB situation needs clarity, but in the last week of byes, gamers are forced to take chances on upside rather than production sometimes.
Rashard Higgins, Cleveland Browns vs. Miami Dolphins
With Antonio Callaway’s tenure in Cleveland over, Higgins is an incredibly risky but sneaky play. He and Baker Mayfield have displayed considerable chemistry through their short time together, and when a fantasy owner is desperate enough to take a gamble on someone like Higgins — a third receiver in an underperforming offense — it better be with a higher probability of said player scoring a touchdown. The Dolphins allowed 14 touchdowns on 92 receptions by WRs entering Week 11. For comparison, the winless Cincinnati Bengals yielded one fewer catch and only eight TDs in that window.
Grab & stash
Jakeem Grant, Miami Dolphins
While Grant could be a worthy flier in Week 12 vs. the Cleveland Browns, this defense has been relatively capable at limiting the position in 2019. The schedule ahead is more favorable for rolling the dice: Philly, at Jets, at Giants, vs. Cincy. The elusive wideout is coming off of two offensive touchdowns against the Bills, and he scored a pair of TDs when including a kickoff return (typically not counted in fantasy). Gamers were advised to watch how this situation plays out a few weeks back when Preston Williams (knee) was lost for the year. Now we know!
priority free agents
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The veteran has a rapport with his quarterback and Brate’s positional mate, O.J. Howard, is firmly lodged in Bruce Arians’ doghouse. Howard had his best game of the year in Week 10 and followed it up with a bobbled pass that was picked off and no receptions. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston went to Brate a whopping 14 times, resulting in 10 grabs for 73 yards. Look for Brate to continue being the primary target at the position. Ahead on the schedule includes trips to Atlanta and Jacksonville before returning home for Indianapolis. The Bucs close out the fantasy season with a visit Detroit and a home battle with Houston. All but Indy offers a positive matchup when factoring data since Week 5.
Ryan Griffin, New York Jets
Inconsistency has been a major issue for Griffin, and Chris Herndon was looming before his season came to an end before it ever really began. Griffin is free to roam the middle without the second-year tight end waiting for his turn. The former Houston Texan has at least 11 PPR points in four of his last six games. The two without: a total of 1.9 points. Yeesh. Nonetheless, with a volatile position and erratic utilization of the receiving corps in New York, Griffin’s role should remain mostly stable. The Jets face Oakland, at Cincinnati, vs. Miami, at Baltimore and vs. Pittsburgh ahead.
1-Week Plug & Play
Jaeden Graham, Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A quality game vs. the Buccaneers — a doormat for fantasy tight ends this year — could lead to Graham seeing more work while TE Austin Hooper (knee) continues to recover for a few more weeks. The Yale product stands 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, but his NFL track record is virtually zilch. He caught two passes for 23 yards in Week 11 and one the prior outing. Brave gamers who are looking to play the matchups can stream him, but Graham is about as risky as they come. Don’t invest more than a roster spot.
1-Week Plug & Play
Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Any kicker with 25 fantasy points in a two-week span is worthy of picking up, and it never hurts when the matchup ahead is vs. one of the most favorable opponents. The Bucs have yielded the most fantasy points to the position entering Week 11, and enemy boots have attempted 13 three-pointers in the last four games alone vs. Tampa. The former Chargers kicker has nailed six of his seven tries with the Falcons and could have some staying power with another strong effort.
Austin Seibert, Cleveland Browns vs. Miami Dolphins
Seibert missed his first field goal attempts of the year last Thursday, which could give gamers pause. He should shake it off. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have allowed kickers to attempt at least two field goals in every game since Week 1. In Week 11, Steven Hauschka came through on his one-week play recommendation against this defense, and we’re going to the well once again. Miami’s defense vs. Cleveland’s offense profiles as a nearly perfect script for a field-goal frenzy by the rookie.
1-Week Plug & Play
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Oakland has logged 10 sacks in the last two games alone after totaling just 13 in all of 2018. In those two contests, the Raiders recorded four interceptions a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown on a Pick 6. Washington managed two sacks and two takeaways vs. New York in Week 11, but in the prior five weeks, the Jets turned it over 11 times and gave up a shade under three sacks a contest. Oakland’s defense is playing as well as any unit right now in fantasy and deserves some respect.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week, I dismissed the Falcons as having an outlier performance vs. the Saints, and it was a mistake to downplay the impact of the coaching staff shakeup. Dan Quinn basically fired himself as defensive coordinator and turned over the control to a tandem of assistants in Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich. Guess what? It was a move that just might save Quinn’s job. After harassing Drew Brees all day in Week 10 and annihilating the Panthers in Week 11, the Falcons draw the turnover machine that is Jameis Winston. Enjoy!
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
The Jets recorded six sacks and an interception of rookie Dwayne Haskins in Week 11. The Lions have struggled to get to the quarterback in 2019, but this could be the right recipe for a spot start in fantasy. Washington has given up 14 sacks in the last three games alone and 17 in the past four. Detroit had only one sack of Dak Prescott in Week 11, which was to be expected, but this defense racked up five the prior week in Chicago. Pressure tends to lead to mistakes, even more so vs. inexperienced quarterbacks like Haskins.