Start vs. Sit: Who to Play, Who to Bench Week 12

Start vs. Sit: Who to Play, Who to Bench Week 12

This article is part of our Start vs. Sit series.

Week 12 is upon us and while it's a bit of a bland week in terms of big games, it still marks the opening week of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues. Nailing your lineup decisions this week is a do-or-die dilemma, and this week's article will hopefully give you the edge you need over your opponent to advance to the championship round. Let's look at this week's batch of Start and Sit candidates.

PLAYERS TO START

AAC

D'Eriq King, QB, Houston (at Tulane): Houston's been sort of a tough team to figure out this year, but the Cougars are a scary looking team with King at the helm of the offense. In two games (one start) as Houston's quarterback, he's completed 27 of 41 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns while adding 97 yards and three scores on the ground. He gets to face a Tulane defense that's mediocre-at-best across the board, but it's worth noting that if there is one strength on the Green Wave defense, it's against the pass. With that, King may be put in more rushing situations Saturday, which only adds to his fantasy value.

ACC

Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville (vs. Syracuse): Hey, remember this guy? At the outset of the season, Smith was primed for a huge year with 379 yards three touchdowns in his first three games before a wrist injury robbed him nearly one full month. Well, now Smith is back and making up for lost time. He's averaging

Week 12 is upon us and while it's a bit of a bland week in terms of big games, it still marks the opening week of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues. Nailing your lineup decisions this week is a do-or-die dilemma, and this week's article will hopefully give you the edge you need over your opponent to advance to the championship round. Let's look at this week's batch of Start and Sit candidates.

PLAYERS TO START

AAC

D'Eriq King, QB, Houston (at Tulane): Houston's been sort of a tough team to figure out this year, but the Cougars are a scary looking team with King at the helm of the offense. In two games (one start) as Houston's quarterback, he's completed 27 of 41 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns while adding 97 yards and three scores on the ground. He gets to face a Tulane defense that's mediocre-at-best across the board, but it's worth noting that if there is one strength on the Green Wave defense, it's against the pass. With that, King may be put in more rushing situations Saturday, which only adds to his fantasy value.

ACC

Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville (vs. Syracuse): Hey, remember this guy? At the outset of the season, Smith was primed for a huge year with 379 yards three touchdowns in his first three games before a wrist injury robbed him nearly one full month. Well, now Smith is back and making up for lost time. He's averaging 9.5 targets per game in four games since returning, turning those looks into 81 yards per game. What's more, he caught two touchdowns last time out and gets one of the softest matchups in the ACC this week with Syracuse coming to town. Syracuse just gave up 734 yards ... to Wake Forest. At home ... Lamar Jackson is going to light up the Orange defense, so starting his favorite target (Smith) is going to pay dividends.

BIG 12

Charlie Brewer, QB, Baylor (vs. Iowa State): Wide receiver Denzel Mims has been a staple in the top 30 of my receivers for much of the season, but a lot of the time it's been in spite of the quarterback play. Well, the times, they are a'changing as Charlie Brewer has risen up the ranks to be start-worthy this week. He's thrown for 732 yards and six scores over his last two games, and while I have to acknowledge that those numbers have come against Kansas and Texas Tech, that's still a promising trend. Iowa State showed to be vulnerable against the pass last week against an Oklahoma State team that was essentially using James Washington as a decoy. The Cyclones will be able to put up points in their own right, so look for Brewer to be chucking it early and often. Also, RotoWire colleague Nick Grays pointed out in his column this week that TCU's Kyle Hicks has starter upside now that Darius Anderson is out for the year. I agree with Mr. Grays in this case.

BIG TEN

Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern (vs. Minnesota): There are plenty of flashy star running backs in the Big Ten ranging from future first-rounder Saquon Barkley to young bucks like Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins. Jackson ... well ... flashy doesn't come to mind when he's brought up in discussions. But Jackson is consistent and reliable, ranking 12th in the nation in carries per game at 20.6. Sure, Jackson owners might be a bit spooked after his 25 carries went for 46 yards against Purdue, but the Boilermakers actually rank 5th in S&P+ in stopping the run. Minnesota, on the other hand, checks in at 106th by that metric. Adding on here, but it's going to be cold and rainy in Evanston on Saturday, which should mean a heavy dose of Jackson against a weak Gopher front. Jackson profiles as a decent RB2 or flex play depending on the depth of your league this week.

CONFERENCE USA

Ray Lawry, RB, Old Dominion (vs. Rice): Lawry hasn't had the senior year many envisioned due to some hamstring issues, but he's in line to finish his collegiate career on a high note in the closing weeks of the season. He's run for over 160 yards in two of his last four outings and could potentially make it three out of five with a soft matchup against Rice, which ranks 121st against the run in S&P+. If you're looking for a deeper cut with some upside, look no further than the other side of this game as freshman wideout Aaron Cephus has been balling out for the Owls. The 6-4 freshman is the definition of a deep threat with a 25.8 YPR mark and Old Dominion might have a tough time finding anyone who can match up with him deep down the field.

MAC

Jordan Huff, RB, Northern Illinois (vs. Western Michigan): Huff has had an injury-plagued senior season, but he looked like his old self in his return last week with 81 yards and two touchdowns on seven total touches. Northern Illinois was able to ease him back in an absolute blowout, so he should be fresh for Wednesday's tilt. Western Michigan, for how good it is at running the ball in its own right, really struggles to stop the opposition in that regard, checking in at 125th in S&P+. Huff may not see the 20-plus touches we saw earlier in the year, but double-digit carries against that leaky of a front should pay dividends for your lineup.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State (vs. Air Force): I've hesitated to anoint Mattison as the next stud running back at Boise State, but his performance in Saturday's wild win over Colorado State shifted my perspective. No, he's still not Jeremy McNichols or Jay Ajayi, but there's fantasy value to be had here against Air Force's defense that allows an FBS-worst 5.97 yards per carry. The opportunity will be there, and Air Force's defense is soft enough for him to take advantage in a big way. Also, any Colorado State guys you have can be used with confidence against San Jose State's laughable defense and San Diego State's Rashaad Penny is my top ranked back this week.

PAC-12

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (vs. Arizona): This takes something of a leap of faith as Oregon might be coy about Herbert's status up until close to kickoff, but considering Herbert nearly got the start prior to Oregon's Week 11 bye, I suspect he'll be back in the fold in front of the home crowd this weekend. There could be a rust factor after missing a month and a half with a fractured collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder, but Herbert is an elite quarterback when he's on the field and Arizona's strong suit is not its defense. If Herbert is back, not only is he viable, but he makes the likes of Royce Freeman and Charles Nelson all the more valuable. Stay tuned.

SEC

Ish Witter and Larry Rountree, RB, Missouri (at Vanderbilt): Missouri is better known for its passing attack with Drew Lock at the helm and J'Mon Moore and Emanuel Porter causing nightmares down the field. That's still true; however, the Tigers have found traction on the ground since Damarea Crockett's injury. Witter and Rountree have both seen at least 15 carries in each of the last two week and have posted at least 83 yards. Vanderbilt is ill-equipped to stop the run, checking in at 111th in S&P+; interestingly, Vandy's great secondary gives Missouri all the more reason to establish the ground game. Both Witter and Rountree can be viable flex options this weekend, and both are still available on your waiver wire in all likelihood.

SUN BELT

Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State (at Louisiana Lafayette): Scott is starting to pick up steam in the draft twitter world thanks to his impressive production and ridiculous catch radius as a 6-6 wideout with great leaping ability. Well, he's also got plenty of fantasy utility in New Mexico State's up-tempo offense. Scott, who has 52 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns, draws about as favorable a matchup as you'll find this week and checks in as my 18th ranked wideout.

PLAYERS TO SIT

AAC

D'Angelo Brewer, RB, Tulsa (at South Florida): This pick has less to do with Brewer himself than it does Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are entering Saturday's game as three-touchdown underdogs against the Bulls, which portends for a pass-heavy game plan. Brewer's workload is about as reliable as any tailback in the country as his 24.4 carries per game rank fourth in the FBS; however, South Florida holds opposing runners to 3.25 yards per carry. If those averages bear out Saturday, it'd be a middling day out of Brewer, who'd need to find the end zone at least once to salvage an otherwise so-so rushing output.

ACC

Kelly Bryant, QB, Clemson (vs. Citadel): Of the playoff teams in your league, there's a decent chance one of the squads still in contention is there because of Bryant. The first-year starter averages 24.5 fantasy points per game in standard formats, and that number would be higher if not for the debacle at Syracuse that ended with him suffering a concussion. Furthermore, that exact instance could have a ripple effect into this weekend in the sense that coach Dabo Swinney might not play Bryant more than a handful of series to limit the chances of him taking hits in a game Clemson should breeze through with backups alone. Bryant will be start-worthy next week against South Carolina, but I'm worried about him being on a restricted snap count Saturday.

BIG 12

Baker Mayfield (LOL)

Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia (vs. Texas): Crawford has seen some of his heaviest workloads of the season over the last two weeks, getting fed 25 and 17 times respectively against Iowa State and Kansas State. This week he draws a decidedly tougher matchup against Texas, which ranks 16th against the run according to S&P+. Texas hasn't allowed a team to run for over 4.0 yards per carry since the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma and has given up multiple rushing scores just once in the last five games. Crawford may push for 20 carries Saturday, but there's reason for concern regarding his effectiveness against a tough Texas defense along with the possibility of Texas' offense scoring enough points to where West Virginia has to stick with the passing game to keep up.

BIG TEN

JD Spielman, WR, Nebraska (at Penn State): In a season bereft of them, Spielman really has been a bright spot for the Huskers, ranking third in the conference in yards per game (73.4) and fourth in receptions (49). Unfortunately, he'll be heading into a hostile environment against one of the best pass defenses in the nation on a day where a cold rain is in the forecast. Spielman also is unlikely to have quarterback Tanner Lee at his disposal with Lee currently in the concussion protocol. Patrick O'Brien will likely be making his first start in that case, and that simply does not bode well for Spielman's chances at producing up to his usual standards.

CONFERENCE USA

Andre Wilson, WR, UAB (at Florida): I know Florida has been delightfully down on its luck this year while UAB has been one of the best stories in college football, reaching bowl eligibility in its first year back, but this is still a potentially tough matchup for the Blazers. Florida has a talented secondary that'll be focused on stopping UAB's top target in Wilson, who has been one of Conference USA's best and most efficient receivers with 43 catches for 576 yards on 57 targets. On the other hand, I could whiff on this pick and this game becomes a sequel to when Georgia Southern beat Florida in 2014.

MAC

Gus Ragland, QB, Miami (OH) (vs. Eastern Michigan): I'm not expecting a meltdown from Ragland by any means, but my expectations are a bit tempered heading into this week's matchup. He returned from a lower body injury last week and while he tossed three touchdowns, there was still some rust as he threw a pair of picks and completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Ragland will be at home against a middling MAC defense, but I'm still not sold that we're going to see the type of performance that makes him start-worthy except for deep two-quarterback formats.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Wyatt Demps, WR, Nevada (at San Diego State): The best case scenario I can come up with for Demps this week is Nevada totally ditching the run after falling behind early to the Aztecs, leading to Ty Gangi giving him an absurd amount of targets. Actually, I do see that scenario happening, but I don't see it working out too well. In all likelihood, Nevada will be throwing it a ton, but against an opportunistic San Diego State defense that ranks eighth in Football Outsiders' havoc rate in the secondary. In other words, I see a high volume, low efficiency outing from Demps this weekend.

PAC-12

Darren Carrington, WR, Utah (at Washington): He's been a bit banged up with an apparent injury and was a late scratch ahead of kickoff last week against Washington State. Carrington should have a better shot at playing this week, but it's difficult to trust that he'll be at 100 percent against one of the nation's best defenses on the road in a hostile environment. Unless there's full confirmation during the course of the week that Carrington is a full go, he's a risky player for your lineup

SEC

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama (vs. Mercer): This goes along the same line of thinking for my Kelly Bryant pick, but for as talented as Hurts is, I almost get the sense that Tua Tagovailoa will end the day with bigger numbers than Hurts by virtue of playing more snaps. I'd be shocked if we see Hurts out on the field after halftime Saturday as Alabama gets a cupcake to run through before next week's all-important Iron Bowl clash with Auburn.

SUN BELT

Caleb Evans, QB, Louisiana Monroe (at Auburn): Coach Gus Malzahn has come out and said that the Tigers won't be taking their foot off the gas this week, and that spells trouble for the likes of Evans. Yes, Evans has been the 23rd-best quarterback in the nation this season in terms of fantasy production and was one of the savviest adds among signal callers.However, Auburn's talent across the board is going to be too much for Evans (or his offensive line) to deal with. It hurts to bench a player of Evans' caliber in the opening week of the playoffs, but it's necessary in this case.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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