Just because a player is listed as a “fade” doesn’t mean they are automatic sits. As the adage goes, “Always start your stars.” What a “bust” designation does mean, however, is that you’ll want to consider higher-upside options in the flex.
Hopefully, your fantasy football teams have offered you plenty to be thankful for this season, but even the most bountiful cornucopias are bound to hold a bruised apple every now and again, right?
We’re back for another week to help prepare you for the possibility of some bruised apples in the cornucopia that is your Week 12 fantasy football lineups.
Here are six fades and busts to be wary of in your fantasy football lineups.
Bust: Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy football managers this season, finishing as a QB1 in three of the last six games since the Bucs bye. His connection with WR Mike Evans (and Evans’ propensity for scoring touchdowns) has kept him in the conversation as a viable streamer. However, a challenging road matchup against the Colts in Week 12 might just be enough to send Mayfield back to the bench for now.
Dating back to Week 6, the Colts defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a 0.63 pass touchdown to interception ratio — the lowest among any defense in that span — for the seventh-lowest completion rate and passing yards, as well as the second-lowest passer rating. Since Week 3, just a single quarterback has exceeded 16 fantasy points against the Colts — limiting the upside of a quarterback who already has a relatively low ceiling for fantasy to begin with. Streamers can look elsewhere for a play at quarterback in Week 12.
Fade: Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets
It’s no secret that the New York Jets have been struggling on offense this season. As Zach Wilson heads to the bench, and the team promotes backup Tim Boyle to the starting lineup, expect all eyes for this Miami Dolphins defense to be set on defending the run — already a point of success for this defense so far this season. Dating back to Week 6, the Dolphins have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, holding opposing rushers to just 3.82 yards per attempt.
In that span, the Dolphins have excelled in shutting down explosive plays, allowing a league-low four rush attempts of 10+ yards, giving up just three broken tackles against opposing running backs; Breece Hall’s bread and butter. Adding further insult to injury, Jets left tackle Mekhi Beckton is managing an ankle injury ahead of Week 12, which could force a shakeup on the offensive line if he’s limited in any way.
While it does just take one play from Hall to reach fantasy relevance — hence why you’re likely unable to bench him — it’s best to temper expectations given Miami’s ability to shut down explosive runs.
Bust: Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have utilized RB Alexander Mattison heavily this season, but unfortunately for fantasy managers, inefficiency has kept him from reaching his potential as a high-upside flex option. That won’t look to get any better in Week 12 with a showdown against the Bears, who have been a top rushing defense in recent weeks. Since Week 6, the Bears have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs with a league-low 3.05 yards per carry. Their 11.7% run stuff rate ranks eighth in the league in that span — a nightmare for Mattison, whose 14.2% stuff rate ranks third among running backs with 100 or more carries this season.
Their first meeting marked Mattison’s second-most inefficient outing of the season, totaling just 33 rushing yards on 18 attempts, though he still managed a top-24 finish thanks to some involvement as a receiver. The bad news is that the Bears' run defense hasn't gotten any easier to produce against since their last game. Though Mattison is difficult to bench considering his consistent volume, it’s best to expect very little from him in Week 12.
Fade: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
While the New York Jets can expect some struggles of their own on offense this week, fantasy managers shouldn’t expect many more fireworks on the Miami Dolphins’ side of the ball either — well, maybe outside of Tyreek Hill, who is as matchup-proof as they come. While the Dolphins have arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league, the Jets’ cornerback duo of Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed can ignite just as much fear in the eyes of their opponents. Through 11 weeks of the 2023 NFL season, Reed and Gardner both rank in the top 10 among all cornerbacks in PFF coverage grade. With them, the Jets defense ranks seventh in the league with a 52.7% success rate against wide receivers per NFL Next Gen Stats.
In Waddle’s two games against the Jets last season, he totaled just eight receptions for 67 yards combined, a premonition of what might be on the horizon in Week 12 as Waddle continues to seek his second performance of 15+ fantasy points in the 2023 season.
Bust: Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is set to make his third career start in Week 12. Unfortunately for him, it will come against a surging Denver Broncos secondary which has been creating problems for opposing quarterbacks (and their wide receivers) in recent weeks. It’s particularly bad news for Browns WR Amari Cooper considering the inefficiency this QB-WR duo has displayed so far this season, connecting on just 35.7% of targets for a 7.1 passer rating. That resulted in finishes as the WR97 and WR48 for Cooper in games with DTR under center. Further impacting Cooper’s fantasy value with DTR under center is a decrease in target share, as the rookie has shown a strong connection with TE David Njoku, who’s seen just over a 30% target share from DTR this season. Cooper, meanwhile, has seen an 18.4% target share from him.
Since Week 6, the Broncos have been one of just three teams allowing fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, tied for the second-fewest receptions allowed to the position in that span (44) and 10th-fewest yards per target. Wide receivers have caught just 57.1% of passes against the Broncos since Week 6, the sixth-lowest rate in the league — bad news for a receiver who has already struggled to establish an efficient connection with his quarterback.
Bust: Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons, coming off their bye week, are set to play their first of two games of the regular season against the New Orleans Saints. With that comes another week where fantasy managers are forced to decide whether or not to trust TE Kyle Pitts in their lineups.
Unfortunately, all signs (yet again) point to, “no” with the Saints allowing the eighth-fewest receiving yards per game this season. Though the Falcons may have caught a lucky break not having to face Marshon Lattimore (likely out with an ankle injury), they still have a below-average passing offense with QB Desmond Ridder set to get the start in Week 12.
Ridder’s 36.5 PFF passing grade under pressure ranks fourth-lowest among quarterbacks with 50+ dropbacks this season, having posted the fifth-most turnover-worthy plays on pressured dropbacks that could put this passing game in a tough spot facing Cam Jordan, Demario Davis and Carl Granderson up front. The Saints are allowing the second-fewest receiving yards per game to the tight end position for the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game. None of this should bode well for Pitts, who’s failed to exceed 47 receiving yards in all but one week with Ridder this season.