The purpose of a waiver-wire column should be to highlight players who may be on the verge of a breakout. After all, trying to land that player after his breakout is exponentially more difficult. Additionally, waiver-wire moves should always be made to add high-upside depth for later in the season or improve your chances of winning the upcoming week.
Not all of these columns will feature a future stud or no-brainer add, but we can usually find help for our fantasy teams if we try hard enough. Furthermore, I will try to avoid recommending players coming off a 10-catch or three-touchdown game because it should be incredibly obvious to most that they need to be on a roster at that point.
The players listed below are available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues and stand at least a decent chance of making some kind of impact in the coming weeks:
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: Quarterbacks
Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints
Week 11: Bye week
This one comes with a bit of a caveat because Carr has yet to be cleared from the league’s concussion protocol despite New Orleans coming off a bye week. While he has had a bit of an up-and-down year to this point due in a large part to injuries and uneven offensive line play, the 32-year-old was showing that he has a relatively steady fantasy floor with at least 16 fantasy points in five straight contests before his early exit in Week 10.
One of the best reasons to buy into Carr entering the season remains one of his best qualities now: a strong supporting cast. Another reason is the Saints’ remaining schedule. Three of New Orleans’ last six games on the fantasy schedule come against defenses that rank inside the top 10 in most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, including one in each of the next two weeks (Falcons and Lions) as well as the fantasy championship – assuming a Week 17 fantasy title game – versus the Buccaneers.
Carr makes for a reasonable option for those managers who lost Joe Burrow last week. For any manager concerned about his health, backup Jameis Winston has occasionally shown throughout his career that he can put a fantasy team on his back in any given week.
ESPN ownership: 20.9 percent
Other potential strong add(s): Gardner Minshew, Colts (6.6 percent); Jake Browning, Bengals (0.1)
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: Running Backs
Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
Week 11: N/A; currently on IR (hamstring)
Brown is purely a speculative add in deeper leagues, but he could easily create a path to fantasy relevancy as the season begins to wind down. First and foremost, the rookie was reportedly making a very favorable impression in practice before landing on injured reserve in late October, meaning he was likely pushing to become the team’s clear No. 2 option behind Joe Mixon and the complementary back Samaje Perine was for the team in recent years.
Mixon has stayed healthy this season, but 2023 will likely be his final year with the Bengals. However, the primary reason Brown has a chance to be relevant in fantasy is that Cincinnati could look to turn the page to 2024 early this season with Joe Burrow (wrist) out for the year. It would make a lot of sense for the Bengals to see what they have with Brown before officially parting ways with Mixon next spring.
ESPN ownership: 0.4 percent
Other priority add(s): Jeff Wilson Jr., Dolphins (19.8 percent); Rico Dowdle, Cowboys (10.2)
Other potential strong adds (especially in deeper leagues): Latavius Murray, Bills (22.6); Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles (16.0); Leonard Fournette, Bills (7.0); Michael Carter, Cardinals (1.4); D’Ernest Johnson, Jaguars (0.1)
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: Wide Receivers
Jayden Reed, Green Bay Packers
Week 11: Four catches for 46 yards on six targets; three carries for 46 yards and a touchdown
Reed was surprisingly still available in over 75 percent of leagues entering Week 11 despite being Green Bay’s top fantasy receiver in three of the previous four games. He made it four of five with his all-around effort against the Chargers, scoring a touchdown for the second straight game while also compiling nearly 100 total yards.
The Packers have utilized something of a committee approach at receiver for nearly two months, as none of their wideouts has topped seven targets in five of their last six games. Fortunately for Reed, he has usually supplemented his fantasy bottom line with a big run or a touchdown over the last five games. While his current usage is unlikely to keep him relevant each week, his continued ability to do a lot with a little should lead to more opportunities as the season continues.
With any luck, Week 11 was the start of that. Unfortunately, his Week 12 status appears to be in some doubt after he was added to the team’s practice report on Tuesday with a chest injury.
ESPN ownership: 18.7 percent
Other priority add(s): Demario Douglas, Patriots (24.5 percent); Rashid Shaheed, Saints (23.7); Zay Jones, Jaguars (18.1); Jameson Williams, Lions (14.4); Khalil Shakir, Bills (5.4); Jalen Guyton, Chargers (1.7); A.T. Perry, Saints (0.2)
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: Tight Ends
Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens
Week 11: No catches on two targets
Fantasy managers will need to convince themselves of a few things to roll the dice on Likely moving forward, but there are some reasons why they should be interested. Both of the times Mark Andrews either missed a game (Week 1) or significant time within a game this season (Week 11), first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken did not have much time to adjust his game plan.
With Andrews now expected to miss the remainder of the season with the ankle injury and the Ravens coming off a mini-bye, Monken should have enough time to make the necessary adjustments to his offense. Lamar Jackson’s history – nearly all of it with Andrews but a bit with Likely last season – suggests he wants to feed his tight end, especially in the red zone.
Likely proved he was plenty capable last season – posting 100 yards and/or a touchdown in the three games in which he played at least half of the offensive snaps – so he warrants a spot on fantasy rosters moving forward until we see for sure that Monken does not trust him. The good news is that managers should know the answer within two weeks.
ESPN ownership: 1.0 percent
Other potential strong add(s): Michael Mayer, Raiders (6.5); Donald Parham, Chargers (4.6); Tanner Hudson, Bengals (0.4); Tucker Kraft, Packers (0.1)