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Strength in Numbers

Actionable Week 12 Stats

by Jack Miller
Updated On: December 1, 2021, 1:41 am ET

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Two weeks remain in the regular season of most fantasy leagues. It is, as Scott Hanson of NFL RedZone fame likes to say, the Witching Hour for fantasy football, when wins become losses and losses become wins. To prepare for your playoff run, you need to be aware of the most important stats and tidbits from around the league, but that's easier said than done with so many games every weekend. Thankfully, Strength in Numbers is here to break down the most actionable stats in a concise, numbers-filled format. Let's get right to it.


1. Leonard Fournette's fantasy score was the story of Week 12, as he turned 17 carries into 100 yards and three touchdowns in addition to catching 7-of-8 targets for 31 yards and another score. But Fournette's underlying usage was just as impressive. The veteran played 54-of-67 snaps (80.6%), ran 31 routes on 36 Tom Brady dropbacks (86.1%), and was the only Bucs running back to record a target.

Giovani Bernard played a season-low one snap – notable considering Tampa Bay actually trailed for a while against the Colts. Fournette has a three-down role locked up in the best offense in football, and that's scary for opposing fantasy managers. Graham Barfield (of Fantasy Points) pointed out that Fournette has seen an uptick in passing-game usage since the Buccaneers' bye in Week 9. In the first eight weeks, he ran a route on 54% of pass plays. Over the past three games, that number has spiked to 66%.

At the beginning of the season, Bernard was playing on third downs and in two-minute drills. That's no longer the case, as Fournette has a clear advantage in all facets. He's an RB1 for the stretch run of fantasy leagues.


2. Cordarrelle Patterson was truly questionable heading into Week 12, but he ended up leading the Falcons' backfield with 16 carries (Mike Davis had five and Wayne Gallman had four) and scored a pair of touchdowns. He was lined up in the backfield on 23 of his 29 snaps. However, he only ran 13 routes on 29 Matt Ryan dropbacks, the same number as Davis.

 

 

In classic Cordarrelle fashion, Atlanta's Swiss army knife needed only 29 snaps to find the end zone twice and finish as the third-highest-scoring running back in fantasy. JJ Zachariason also noted that he posted his second-highest team rushing attempt market share of the season in Week 12.

 

 

Patterson wasn't as involved as a pass-catcher, and Davis played his fair share of snaps in obvious passing situations. It remains to be seen whether Patterson will revert back to his all-around role in coming weeks (he may have been limited due to injury?) or if the Falcons plan to ride him harder on early downs and let Davis play on third downs. Regardless, it's encouraging that Patterson was questionable all week and immediately regained a sizable workload after missing a game.


3. Christian McCaffrey is done for the year. Ameer Abdullah ran 21 routes on 36 Panthers dropbacks in Week 12 (McCaffrey ran three; Chuba Hubbard ran four). Both Abdullah and Hubbard had two carries each, and it was Hubbard who started the second half with McCaffrey sidelined.

It's another lost season for McCaffrey, who was his dominant self when healthy but frequently unavailable for the second consecutive season. Carolina will turn to Hubbard and Abdullah in his absence. When McCaffrey missed time earlier in the season, Hubbard had a very strong role and played on all three downs (although he sometimes ceded passing-down snaps to Rodney Smith and Royce Freeman). That likely won't be the case this time around, as Abdullah dominated routes in the Panthers' backfield on Sunday. Abdullah has also out-snapped Hubbard in four straight games. Hubbard should be the primary early-down grinder, but expectations need to be tempered due to his one-dimensional role. Abdullah is worth an add too in case it's more of a split on early downs than expected.

The Panthers also play the Bills, Saints, and Buccaneers over the next three games – basically as difficult of a schedule as you could dream up for a running back. Hubbard's value torpedoes if the Panthers are trailing, and there's a chance he gets scripted out against such strong competition. Abdullah could end up being the more valuable McCaffrey backup.


4. Elijah Mitchell played 49-of-70 snaps for the 49ers and got 27 carries (Deebo Samuel had six and Jeff Wilson had two). Mitchell also had six targets, although he only ran 15 routes (40.0% target per route run rate) on 28 team dropbacks (53.6% route rate). John Daigle pointed out that Mitchell set season-highs in snap rate and market share of backfield touches.

 

 

It's fair to say that backfield market share stats are slightly deceiving for San Francisco since Deebo Samuel is so involved as a runner. It's also fair to point out that Kyle Juszczyk is still involved on passing downs.

With that being said, – it's also fair to say that Mitchell is far and away the 49ers' RB1, even with Jeff Wilson back, and he holds a highly valuable role even if Samuel remains involved on the ground and Juszczyk takes passing downs. If not for Cordarrelle Patterson, Mitchell would easily be the best waiver wire pickup of the season. San Francisco has shown us time and time again that the sixth-round rookie is their guy when he's on the field. Mitchell could flirt with low-end RB1 status down the stretch.

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5. In Odell Beckham's first game as a Ram, he played 27% of offensive snaps and got three targets. In his second game – which came after Los Angeles' Week 11 bye – he played 60-of-61 snaps and ran 40 routes on 41 Matthew Stafford dropbacks.

Beckham split snaps with Ben Skowronek (who was inactive against the Packers) in Week 10, but he is evidently fully acclimated with the playbook now, as he played basically every snap in his second Rams game. Beckham also tied with Cooper Kupp for the team lead in targets (10), which he turned into five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. The 19.1 fantasy points he scored on Sunday were his best since Week 4 of 2020, per numberFire's JJ Zachariason.

 

 

Beckham could provide top-24 wide receiver value over the rest of the season. He should be the second option for Stafford most games, although Kupp commands as much volume as any wideout in the league. Consider Beckham a low-end WR2 or strong flex play.


Quick Hits

This section will be used for stats I think are worth mentioning (and for which the takeaway is fairly intuitive) but aren't important enough to write up fully. Let's get to it:

  • Fantasy managers who hoped Javonte Williams' role would increase significantly as the season went on may end up being disappointed. The Broncos seem committed to a completely even split between the rookie and Melvin Gordon. Gordon briefly left with an ankle issue in Week 12 but was able to return fairly quickly. In the end, Williams played 36-of-62 snaps (Gordon got the remaining 26) and ran 15 routes to Gordon's seven, but the veteran had a 17-14 edge in rushing attempts. Expect more of the same on Sunday Night Football against the Chiefs in Week 13.
  • Miles Sanders had the edge over Boston Scott for the Eagles early on in Week 12, but the latter ended up getting more work after Sanders tweaked his ankle in the second half. Scott played 34 snaps to Sanders' 22 (out of 67 total plays) and got 15 carries to Sanders' nine. It's worth monitoring practice reports during the week to see if Sanders is limited at all. Jordan Howard could also be back next week after missing Week 12 with a knee injury.
  • Dontrell Hilliard played 32-of-63 snaps for the Titans on Sunday. D'Onta Foreman got the remaining 31. Foreman had 19 carries to Hilliard's 12 and Hilliard ran 15 routes to Foreman's nine, indicating Foreman is the preferred back on early downs with Hilliard holding the advantage in passing situations. Jeremy McNichols was Tennessee's third-down back with Derrick Henry healthy earlier this year but he has been out with a concussion. If he clears protocols, he'd threaten Hilliard's workload more than Foreman's.
  • Damien Harris played 22-of-60 snaps and got 11 carries. Rhamondre Stevenson played 20 snaps and got nine carries. Brandon Bolden played 19 snaps and didn't get a carry, although he did run 17 routes.
  • Phillip Lindsay had 12 carries in his Dolphins debut, but nine of them came after Miami already had a 20-point lead. Myles Gaskin was still the guy when the result of the game was in question, although the Dolphins could crank up Lindsay's workload once he's more acclimated with the system.

 

 

  • Dan Arnold ran four routes before suffering an MCL sprain in Week 12, which paved the way for James O'Shaughnessy to run 36 routes on 44 Trevor Lawrence dropbacks and record eight targets. O'Shaughnessy quietly had eight targets in Week 1 as well before getting hurt in Week 2. Given how the Jaguars have peppered their starting tight end with targets this year, O'Shaughnessy actually seems like a viable option.
  • Laviska Shenault occupied the slot with Jamal Agnew out. The Colorado product lined up in the slot on 41-of-53 snaps and saw nine targets on 42 team pass attempts. 53 snaps isn't a great number considering the Jaguars ran 73 plays in total, but the fact that Shenault is now in the slot is good for his outlook.
  • With Michael Carter (ankle) on injured reserve, the Jets turned to Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, and real NFL player Austin Walter at running back. Coleman led the way in snaps (30) and carries (16), but Walter was in near the goal-line and even scored a short touchdown. Ty Johnson led the New York backfield in routes run (he had 10, Coleman had seven, and Walter had five), solidifying the notion that he's the guy in passing situations with Coleman the preferred option on early downs.
  • Rex Burkhead led the Texans in snaps (35 to David Johnson's 22), routes (18 to 8), and carries (12 to 10). Royce Freeman could muddy this backfield further if the Texans decide to make him active in the coming weeks.
  • ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Dalvin Cook is expected to miss at least the next two games with a shoulder injury. The Vikings reportedly hope he can be back for Week 15. Alexander Mattison will fill in the meantime, and he steps into a highly lucrative role. Unlike previous seasons, Mattison was a three-down workhorse when Cook missed time earlier this season. That was again the case after Cook exited in Week 12, as the Boise State product ran 14 routes to Kene Nwangwu's one. Mattison also had three targets. Lock in Mattison as a high-end option for at least the next two games.
  • After a couple of weeks in which the Rams started to give Sony Michel more work, they went all the way back to Darrell Henderson in Week 12. Hendo played 50-of-62 snaps, got 15 carries to Michel's three, and ran 32 routes on 41 Matthew Stafford dropbacks. The problem: Henderson also suffered a quad strain, jeopardizing his Week 13 availability. Michel would enter must-start territory if Henderson is out, especially against the Jaguars. Fantasy managers must monitor injury reports throughout the week.

Thanks for reading the Week 12 edition of Strength in Numbers! Check back next Tuesday for the Week 13 version.

Jack Miller

Jack Miller is a fantasy football and prop betting analyst for NBC Sports EDGE and Establish The Run. You can find him on Twitter @JackMiller02.