Everyone needs starting running backs this time of year, so any decent-volume RB is sure to be among the top Week 12 fantasy waiver wire pickups and free agent adds. Perhaps surprisingly, there are several who are widely available (Gus Edwards, Cam Akers, Wayne Gallman, Frank Gore), though most don’t inspire a lot of excitement. But excitement doesn’t always translate to fantasy points, so don’t get blinded by name value. If a back is going to get 12-plus touches, he’s worth owning. That doesn’t nencessarily mean you should use a high waiver claim on him, but you should at least pick him up as a free agent after waivers clear around 4-5 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning in Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
Our full free agent list features much more than just potential flex backs. There are some interesting breakout receivers (Curtis Samuel, Nelson Agholor, Michael Pittman Jr.), valuable tight ends (Jordan Reed, Logan Thomas, Dalton Schultz), and some worthwhile quarterbacks (Taysaom Hill, Tua Tagovailoa, Derek Carr). We also have our usual complement of Week 11 streaming recommendations at QB, TE, and D/ST, which can be found at the end of this list. If you’re hot for kickers, you can check out our Week 12 kicker rankings.
Gallman, Edwards, and even Gore are worth at least mid-tier waiver claims if you need an RB or are playing defense against an opponent who needs an RB. You can make similar cases for Akers and even Adrian Peterson and Carlos Hyde, depending on the statuses of D’Andre Swift (concussion) and Chris Carson (foot). Volume is important at RB this time of year, and if you’re fighting for a playoff spot, there’s no point in holding onto your claim if you’ll otherwise be starting a low-ceiling committee back in your RB2 or flex spot.
You can make the same case for some of the top WRs or even a TE such as Reed if you have a glaring hole at WR3 or TE this week. Using a high claim on these types of players wouldn’t be recommended in Week 6 or 7 (and it’s not recommended now if you don’t need them), but with just two more weeks to go in the fantasy regular season, you have to do whatever it takes to win.
Top fantasy football waiver wire pickups for Week 12
Unless otherwise noted, only players owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues considered.
Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens. With Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins both going on the COVID list, Edwards will operate as Baltimore’s lead back and likely see 15-plus touches in Week 12. Pittsburgh’s defense just gave up 94 total yards on 19 touches to James Robinson, so that’s a reasonable outcome with Edwards — only with more touchdown upside. Dobbins was Baltimore’s clear lead back in Week 11, so Edwards might not have much value beyond this week, but he’ll be a volume-based RB2 on Thursday night.
Cam Akers, RB, Rams. Akers took a slight step back in Week 11 after leading the Rams in carries in Week 10, but he notched the first touchdown of his career on a four-yard reception on Monday and generally seemed like the Rams most explosive and versatile back. He managed just 19 total yards on six touches, so we’re obviously projecting a bit, but with Darrell Henderson (eight carries, six yards) struggling and Malcolm Brown (three carries, 20 yards) functioning more like a change-of-pace back, Akers could be poised to lead this backfield down the stretch. With games against San Francisco, Arizona, New England, and the Jets over the next four weeks, he could do some real damage.
Frank Gore, RB, Jets. With news of La’Mical Perine’s high-ankle sprain, it seems as if the 37-year-old Gore will be the primary ball carrier once again for the Jets. He held that role in Weeks 2-4 when Le’Veon Bell was hurt, and he averaged 16.3 carries and 50 rushing yards. Obviously, fantasy owners will want more production, but after posting 61 yards and a score on 15 carries in Week 11, it’s possible Gore has some value left in him. He’ll face Miami’s mediocre run defense in Week 12 and Vegas’s poor run defense in Week 13, so it’s possible Old Man Gore can help you clinch a fantasy playoff spot.
Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants. Gallman is owned in 54 percent of Yahoo leagues, but that’s still far too low for the Giants’ new lead back. With Devonta Freeman (ankle) on IR, Gallman is getting at least two more games as the starter. He’s averaged 63.3 yards per game in his past four outings and has scored five times in that span. Fresh off a bye, he should be ready to take advantage of a Bengals defense that has been middle-of-the-pack against RBs and can be trusted as an RB2 until Freeman is ready to return.
Adrian Peterson/Kerryon Johnson, RBs, Lions. Peterson and Johnson have little value if D’Andre Swift (concussion) returns for Thursday’s game against Houston, but if he’s out, at least one of these two will be worth using as a flex. The Texans are allowing a league-high 159.3 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry, so there will be yards to go around. To be fair, we thought that last week in a similarly favorable matchup against Carolina, but Detroit simply couldn’t get anything going offensively that entire game. Back at home on Thanksgiving, the Lions offense will be better, and at least one of these backs will take advantage. Peterson had seven carries to Johnson’s six in Week 11, but Johnson had five targets to Peterson’s one. Peterson likely has a little more value in standard leagues, while Johnson would be the preferred play in PPR.
For additional waiver/free agent suggestions, including more breakouts and potential streamers, check out our full Week 12 list.