Week 12 Fantasy Football Fallout

by Emerson Beery · Fantasy Football

In Week 12 of the NFL season, there were several key developments that are sure to impact the fantasy football playoff races. From standout performances to concerning trends, the league showcased a mix of surprises and anticipated outcomes. Let’s delve into the biggest fantasy football headlines from this week, highlighting key players like Devonta Smith, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence, James Cook, Jordan Love, and the struggles faced by Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks’ offense.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Fallout

DeVonta’s Dazzling Resurgence

After a slow start to the season, Devonta Smith has finished as a top-20 fantasy receiver in four straight games. He’s garnered over a 25-percent target share in two straight games as well. This coincides with Dallas Goedert being out of the lineup, who could be returning as early as this week. That may be tough for him to pull off considering the severity of his injury, making his likely return in week 14.

Smith has enjoyed a nice stretch of target volume. However, fantasy managers shouldn’t count on this kind of performance for the remainder of the season. The Eagles are No. 22 in pass plays per game and No. 27 in pace of play. When Smith, Goedert, and A.J. Brown are on the field, there isn’t enough target volume for all three to find regular fantasy success. Smith will be a must-start regardless, but down performances should be expected. This is something that could sink fantasy managers in a big playoff matchup.

Languishing Lamar’s Fantasy Output

The Baltimore Ravens are winning football games. However, the Ravens’ passing attack hasn’t taken the step forward that many anticipated. Lamar Jackson is only No. 10 in fantasy points per game. While he’s been effective, the volume simply hasn’t been there. The Ravens rank No. 31 in pass plays per game and No. 29 in pace of play. This has resulted in Jackson only being No. 20 in the NFL in pass yards per game.

This isn’t the fault of Jackson as he ranks in the top 5 in yards per attempt. Rather, it is the fault of the run-heavy offense that the Ravens continue to deploy. The Ravens are No. 1 in game script this season, which fuels more rushing attempts. Jackson has been very efficient, but that hasn’t translated to fantasy success in a system that once again revolves around ball control.

Nonetheless, that didn’t matter in the past as Jackson’s fantasy production used to be predominantly driven by his legs. In his MVP season in 2019, Jackson ran for 80.9 rushing yards per game. That has dropped to 48.9 rushing yards this season. This is a number that has fallen every year since 2019. That still ranks No. 2 in the NFL, but Jackson is no longer the outlier he once was. With a soft schedule coming up, Jackson will struggle to return top-5 fantasy football value without more competitive game scripts.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers

Trevor’s Triumphant Turnaround

After failing to meet expectations through the first 10 weeks of the season, Trevor Lawrence has exploded in the last two weeks. He’s had his best two fantasy performances of the season, and the Jaguars are bound for the NFL playoffs once again. That coincides with some changes that Jacksonville has made on offense over that span. After struggling for most of the season, the offensive line has improved with Lawrence having the No. 2-lowest pressure rate over the last two games.

Additionally, the Jaguars have begun using their skill position players more effectively. Calvin Ridley has begun looking like the player that fantasy managers expected after drafting him early in the summer. This was a result of the Jaguars not using his route-running ability and him running far too many post-routes for most of 2023. In the last two weeks, he has been used far more in the slot and has been given more opportunities to show off his route-running ability. This also coincides with the return of Zay Jones who is capable of shouldering a lot of those difficult deep routes.

This is the real Jacksonville Jaguars offense, and I expect Lawrence to continue his strong play through the remainder of the season. He will be a QB1 even in tough upcoming matchups against the Browns and Ravens. The offense has one of the most talented skill position groups in the NFL, and the offensive line is finally giving Lawrence the protection he needs.

James Cook’s Role Remains Restrained

Despite playing under 50-percent of the snaps in three straight games, James Cook ranks as the RB12 in fantasy football leagues in 2023. He continues to be one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL ranking No. 4 among running backs in yards per touch. Unfortunately for his fantasy managers, he is only No. 20 in Opportunity Share which has hampered his fantasy production.

With 23 opportunities in Week 12, things appear to finally be aligning for Cook. Not so fast though, as the Bills ran more plays on offense than any other offense has this season against the Philadelphia Eagles. A low snap-share, lack of goal-line work, and minimal usage in the passing game will continue to limit his upside these final few games of the season. Fantasy managers need to sell Cook now if others think he’s turned a corner.

Love’s Long Ball Looms Large

Don’t look now, but Jordan Love has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in seven of eleven matchups this season. He’s No. 13 in fantasy points per game and is wildly outperforming preseason expectations. Love still isn’t very accurate, ranking only No. 26 in Accuracy Rating. However, he leads the league in deep ball attempts, and he is No. 4 in Air Yards Per Attempt.

This has been great for Christian Watson in recent weeks, who is now finally getting healthy after an injury-plagued start to the season. Watson has caught a touchdown in back-to-back games and tied his season-high in targets with seven. Watson is back in flex territory and is likely a solid starter against Kansas City this weekend with six teams on bye.

Love still struggles with simple throws and accuracy, but he has earned another season as the starter in Green Bay. He is benefiting strongly though from an offensive line that ranks No. 4 in the NFL in Protection Rate. Love has struggled under pressure too, with only a 49-percent completion percentage when he is under pressure. Fantasy managers should still be wary about his future value, but he should be a solid streamer following a tough matchup against Kansas City in Week 13.

Geno’s Gridiron Gloom

The magic that the Seattle Seahawks captured last season has eluded them as the offense continues to struggle in 2023. Geno Smith finished outside QB1 territory for the ninth time this season as well. Several factors contribute to this, with the main issue being the increased pressure defenses are putting on Geno Smith. After ranking No. 14 in Protection Rate in 2022, the Seahawks have dropped to No. 32 in 2023. Smith has held onto the football for far too long on many plays, a concern he acknowledged after this past week’s game.

Unfortunately, Smith’s struggles have translated to the rest of the offense’s fantasy production. DK Metcalf‘s 24-percent target share aligns with the volume he has received over the last several seasons. However, he is only No. 98 in Catchable Target Rate among wide receivers, as Smith and he have not been able to get on the same page. This has resulted in him scoring 4.84 fewer fantasy points per game than expected. Even if Metcalf continues to receive high volume, it will be impossible to rank him higher than a low-end WR2.

There is no longer any reason to expect the fortunes of this offense to change in 2023. With upcoming matchups against the Cowboys, 49ers, and Eagles, Smith will continue to deal with a lot of pressure. With a lack of mobility, Smith isn’t capable of creating success without more time to throw. Smith can be dropped in redraft leagues and is on shaky ground in dynasty leagues too.