Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet Week 12: Leftovers at running back, starts and sits

Can Rachaad White break free from teammate Leonard Fournette in terms of fantasy production for the rest of the season? AP

So much changes from week to week around the NFL, and we're here to make sure you're on top of it all heading into Week 12 of the 2022 NFL season.

The weekly fantasy football cheat sheet provides a rundown of the best tips from all the fantasy football content that ESPN has posted over the past seven days. You'll find answers to the biggest start/sit questions of the week and other pertinent matchup advice from our team, including Field Yates, Mike Clay, Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Seth Walder, Al Zeidenfeld, Eric Moody, Liz Loza, Daniel Dopp and ESPN Insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, plus all of NFL Nation. It's all the best advice in one handy article.

Here's what our experts are saying about Week 12 in the NFL:

Leftovers at running back

The Thursday tripleheader of Thanksgiving football action took a lot of running back options off the board for fantasy managers headed into the Week 12 weekend. So, if you had decisions to make on whether to roll with the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rhamondre Stevenson, Saquon Barkley, Jamaal Williams, D'Andre Swift and Dalvin Cook, we're hoping you made the correct calls. For those still with RB spots to fill in their lineups, here are a few thoughts on some of the more confusing backfield situations our fantasy experts were discussing prior to turkey time.

  • The Los Angeles Rams waived starting back Darrell Henderson Jr. on Tuesday. The move was surprising given that Henderson has started 28 games over the past three seasons, including seven this season. That means the Rams are down to just two running backs on the active roster in Kyren Williams and Cam Akers, the latter of whom was nearly traded earlier this season. The backfield has been in flux for much of the season, and the Rams' rushing attack has been largely anemic, averaging 76.1 yards per game, second-worst in the NFL. Akers led the team with 14 carries for 61 yards in Week 11, his best performance of the season and a decided edge over Williams' seven carries. While this cracks the door open to Akers bringing back a bit of value, my feeling is that given the offensive line play and injuries this season, no back is certain to carry starting value in fantasy for this team. Both Akers and Williams are fine to add to your bench, in case one eventually takes on a large enough role to merit lineup consideration. -- Yates

  • Williams averaged 5 yards per carry (on seven rushing attempts) in the Rams' Week 11 game versus the Saints, while leading the L.A. backfield with 35 snaps. And Williams has logged four receptions in his past two games. He could be an emerging player for a team that is still trying to establish a run game identity this season. Williams and the Rams get the Chiefs in Week 12. -- Bowen

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a fifth-year option for 2023, so the Kansas City Chiefs have a decision to make. He had been phased out of the offense even before a high ankle sprain sent him to IR, while rookie Isiah Pacheco had a career-high 107 yards on 15 attempts against the Chargers, becoming the first Chiefs running back to eclipse 100 rushing yards this season. Beginning in Week 12, Kansas City's schedule is very favorable for running backs, and Pacheco could become the front-runner to lead the Chiefs' committee in 2023 if he performs well. -- Moody

  • My past few sleepers produced modestly so here's a surer bet. Latavius Murray has averaged 14.8 touches per game since joining Denver in early October, including 72 yards and a touchdown on 21 touches last week vs. the Raiders. Melvin Gordon III's presence clouded the tailback picture in Denver, but his release -- coupled with Chase Edmonds' high ankle sprain clears the path for Murray to throw it back to 2015, when he last made a Pro Bowl. -- Fowler

Looking for the latest injury news leading up to kickoff? Check out all of the Week 12 inactives here.

Clarity coming to Tampa Bay?

While injuries, releases and timeshares have made some backfield situations a bit more cloudy over the past few weeks, when it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it does seem like we're moving away from a tag team effort and more toward a one-man show. Let's see how our experts feel about a potential new RB1 emerging.

  • Leonard Fournette took a hit in my Week 12 ranks due to the production we saw from Rachaad White the last time the Buccaneers were on the field (Week 10). White got that start in that game, Fournette left with an injury and the rookie running back logged 105 yards rushing -- on 22 carries. The tape was really good, too. White played with some juice. With the expectation that both backs factor into Tampa's Week 12 game plan versus Cleveland, Fournette slips down to the lower-tier RB2/flex range here. -- Bowen

  • Start White. The Browns are vulnerable against the run (only Houston allows more fantasy points per game to running backs), and White's role is one that's only continuing to grow in the Bucs' offense. Even if Fournette comes out of the bye healthy, I expect White to continue to get more and more work as the Bucs look to spark their offense. -- Graziano

  • White could play another 65% of the offensive snaps regardless of Fournette's (hip) status, after a breakthrough Week 10, but even in a split arrangement, White stands out against a Browns defense that has seen four different running backs score at least 14.5 PPR fantasy points in just the past two weeks. -- Cockcroft

Quick hits, starts and sits

  • Consider it an outlier because of Lamar Jackson's history. Since 2019, Jackson has completed 449 passes to wide receivers, which ranks 22nd in the NFL. Jackson has always preferred throwing to tight ends. This is why Mark Andrews is the only safe fantasy play in the passing game. But Demarcus Robinson might have a chance to produce consistently if he continues to get open. Last Sunday, Robinson was open (3-plus yards of separation) on five of his nine targets, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Ravens will also look to get wide receiver Devin Duvernay more touches, which could impact Robinson's productivity. -- Jamison Hensley

  • Treylon Burks' success should be a sign of things to come in the future, but his target share could be inconsistent. The Titans have tried all season to scheme up ways to get him the football. Unfortunately, opportunities aren't always abundant because of the Titans' focus on the run game. Still, expect Burks to make big plays via the play-action passing game. The 51-yard reception that Burks made to seal the Packers game is an excellent example of how he and quarterback Ryan Tannehill can take advantage of one-on-one opportunities when teams focus on stopping Derrick Henry. -- Turron Davenport

  • The Colts have allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, as well as the fifth-fewest to the perimeter and fourth-fewest to the slot. Top corner Stephon Gilmore has often been called on to shadow on the boundary, including a combined 110 of 118 perimeter routes (93%) run by Brandin Cooks, Travis Kelce, Courtland Sutton, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown in those six games. That suggests it's possible he travels with Diontae Johnson this week, but it's no sure thing considering how impactful George Pickens has been in recent weeks. In fact, Gilmore did not shadow Davante Adams in Week 10. Regardless, this is a tough matchup overall for Johnson and Pickens and we should lower expectations. -- Clay

  • Downgrade Deebo Samuel. Screens, it turns out, perform the worst against man coverage with two high safeties. At first, this surprised me, but I think what might be happening here -- I can't be sure -- is that wide receiver screens against 2-man suffer, given the lack of cushion and a safety in good position. And if that's right, that's not ideal news for Samuel, because no wide receiver runs more screens than him and no defense runs more Cover 2 man than the Saints. Of course, even running the most 2-man doesn't mean they run it a ton -- just 19% of the time. Still, every advantage -- or disadvantage -- matters, so this could be a slight deterrent on Samuel's Sunday. -- Walder

  • Geno Smith's performance this year is night-and-day improved upon either of his two seasons as a Jets starter (2013-14), his 2017 as a Giants backup or his three fill-in starts for the 2021 Seahawks. Smith has completed at least 64% of his pass attempts in all 10 games this season, the only player in the NFL who can claim that (no other quarterback has more than seven total such games in 2022). That level of accuracy will suit him well against the Raiders, whose defense has allowed a league-high 71.5% completion rate and afforded quarterbacks a league-most 0.49 fantasy points per passing attempt. -- Cockcroft

  • In the absence of Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) has a guaranteed floor of targets much like he had early in the season when Van Jefferson was out. As the first or second option on many of the Rams' dropbacks, Higbee brings a solid floor, especially considering that Los Angeles should be playing from behind as a 14.5-point underdog against the Chiefs. -- Zeidenfeld