Week 13 fantasy football waiver-wire targets

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It's wild to think about, but the fantasy football season is coming to an end very soon for millions of players. That's because we're about to hit the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas (although I am thrilled it's now socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music). I'm talking about the fantasy football playoffs. Week 13 is just around the corner, and playoffs could be starting in deeper leagues any week from here until the end of the season. With 12 weeks of statistics and film evidence, there are few surprises remaining for me to unearth in this column. That's why you'll notice this week's piece has a bit of a different theme: handcuffs. Handcuffing running backs is a poor draft strategy, but this time of year it can be an incredibly valuable strategy. With no more bye weeks, the need for rotational bench players isn't as important as having high-upside handcuffs who could inherit a massive workload. There are plug-and-play options and a streaming quarterback pick as well, fear not. And as usual, if these players are all owned in your league, be sure to check back for Matt Harmon's deep dive and Matt Franciscovich's streaming articles that will be posted on Monday afternoon.

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1

Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots


Rex Burkhead was in danger of getting Belichicked last week after fumbling, but the Patriots recovered. Burkhead's value to this offense was put on display this week, though, as he returned to a prominent role and scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). He's the perfect Belichick offensive weapon as he's extremely versatile, capable of both running between the tackles or lining up as a wide receiver. He trailed Dion Lewis in touches by just one (16 to 15), and figures to be heavily involved in this high-scoring offense the rest of the way. #RexInTheFlex is a real thing, folks. Adam Rank's dreams have been realized, though it only took about 10 weeks to get here. (Percent owned: 12.7, FAAB suggestion: 35-40 percent)

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2

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Buccaneers


Doug Martin left the Buccaneers' Week 12 game with a concussion, and his status is up in the air for Week 13. This puts Jacquizz Rodgers near the top of the waiver priority list, as he'll become a pseudo featured back in the event Martin misses the game. Don't forget, Rodgers was the lead man early in the year while Martin was suspended, pacing the backfield in playing time (53 percent) and touches (68 percent). While Peyton Barber scored two touchdowns on Sunday, he was only used on nine offensive plays versus 24 for Rodgers. Martin's injury is also a reminder of the importance of handcuffs this time of year, which we'll dive into more in a bit. (Percent owned: 10.5, FAAB suggestion: 15-20 percent)

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3

Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers


As the Chargers round into form, a big part of their success has been the emergence of Austin Ekeler as a change-of-pace threat in the backfield. He's played 39 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks to Melvin Gordon's 60 percent, and scored three times as well (two receiving, one rushing). The Chargers are heating up in general on offense, and have a favorable schedule coming up for the playoffs, with either solid matchups or potentially high-scoring games (vs. CLE, vs. WAS, at KC, at NYJ). Ekeler offers both a piece of this explosive offense with a defined role, as well as massive upside if he has to fill in at all for Gordon in the event of an injury. (Percent owned: 10.4, FAAB suggestion: 15-20 percent)

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4

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals


And as you probably noticed, we've entered the handcuff portion of today's article. Giovani Bernard is barely involved in the offense right now, receiving more than four touches just once in the last seven weeks. However, with Jeremy Hill on injured reserve, Bernard and rookie Brian Hill are the only running backs on the roster behind Joe Mixon. We've seen Bernard be productive recently, and if he's seeing the volume Mixon is right now (roughly 15 touches per game since the Week 6 bye) he'll have plenty of fantasy relevance. The Bengals schedule is a bit tough (vs. PIT, vs. CHI, at MIN, vs. DET) but the potential volume is what we're after here. (Percent owned: 9.0, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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5

Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos


The Broncos offense is a mess, but Devontae Booker has some upside down the stretch. He's been producing on minimal touches of late and led the backfield in touches against the Raiders with eight. He also had a touchdown reception overturned upon review (he was down at the 1-yard line). With Denver in a free fall, they may give their young back more opportunities to see what he can offer. (Percent owned: 4.3, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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6

James Conner, RB, Steelers


The last addition in handcuff alley is probably the most valuable/important, and that's the Steelers' James Conner. Heading into Week 12, Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in total touches by a WIDE margin, as he had 232 carries (40 more than second place, Jordan Howard) and was second in receptions among backs with 49. Bell has shown no ill effects from this workload to date, but has a history of injuries. More importantly, Conner would be set to assume a gargantuan workload if Bell were to miss time, and he'd be playing on one of the league's better offenses. (Percent owned: 0.9, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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7

Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams


With Robert Woods sidelined, the Rams needed Cooper Kupp to step up and he answered the call. The rookie led the Rams with 11 targets against the Saints, catching eight of them for 116 yards (both also team highs). He's long had the trust of Jared Goff, and even after a bad drop and fumble last week Goff came right back to his rookie wideout. Kupp has a decent schedule coming up, which combined with his increasing volume in a high-scoring offense should set him up as a weekly fantasy start from here on out. (Percent owned: 18.3, FAAB suggestion: 25-30 percent)

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8

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins


Josh Doctson is about to be a thing, folks, and it's time more casual players take notice. The talented sophomore stud found the end zone on Thanksgiving in a sloppy game against the Giants, and has flashed his spectacular play-making ability seemingly every week for the last month. Kirk Cousins has been pummeling Jamison Crowder with more targets, but Doctson is getting targeted deep and in the end zone, which are valuable opportunities to chase in fantasy. There aren't many viable options left on waivers at the wide receiver position, so don't wait for a bigger breakout game from Doctson before adding him. (Percent owned: 7.5, FAAB suggestion: 15-20 percent)

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9

Zay Jones, WR, Bills


Amidst the myriad problems facing the Bills the last few weeks, Zay Jones has quietly been emerging as a volume monster. He missed Week 10 with an injury, but over his last three games he's seen seven, seven and 10 targets, posting 50-plus yards and/or a touchdown in all three (6-53-1, 4-68-0, 3-33-1). All told, Jones has only caught 13 of his 24 targets in this span and remains a bit of an inconsistent player, but with Tyrod Taylor locked in as the starting quarterback again for next week Jones' arrow remains pointed up. The Bills host the Patriots next week and will need to throw to stay in that contest, giving Jones a decent floor. (Percent owned: 10.2, FAAB suggestion: 15-20 percent)

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10

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns


I joked earlier this month that claiming Josh Gordon was a wasteful move in fantasy, given that he was weeks away from returning. Well, NOW is the time to go get him (kudos to you if you held onto him this long). Gordon returned to practice last week and is set to make his 2017 debut in Week 13 when the Browns travel to face the Los Angeles Chargers. It will have been 1,078 days since Gordon last played in an NFL game (December, 2014), but Gordon is an undeniable talent who could be relevant down the stretch for a team desperately in need of playmakers in the passing attack. (Percent owned: 9.1, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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11

Charles Clay, TE, Bills


Charles Clay was out for 52 percent of the plays last week, but saw his playing time increase to 65 percent this week against the Chiefs. He was targeted four times in each contest since returning from injury, and caught all four for 60 yards with Tyrod Taylor back under center. Clay is working his way back to being an every-week tight end play, and is in a favorable spot against the Patriots this week as the Bills will need to pass if they want to win. (Percent owned: 15.5, FAAB suggestion: 5-10 percent)

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12

Josh McCown, QB, Jets


In what has been a very strange fantasy football year, Josh McCown's emergence as a near matchup-proof fantasy quarterback play has been one of the strangest. Over his last seven games McCown has thrown multiple touchdowns in five games, posted 16-plus fantasy points in five, and gone for 20-plus in three. His next several games should allow him to keep that streak up, as he gets the Chiefs at home, the Broncos and Saints on the road, and then the Chargers back at home. McCown just went for 307 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers, who would seem to have been the toughest secondary McCown would face following his Week 11 bye. He could be a fantasy playoff savior for those hurting at quarterback. (Percent owned: 13.3, FAAB suggestion: 10-15 percent)

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "Like" his page on Facebook for more NFL and fantasy analysis.

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