With a solid performance last week, James Cook increased his credentials as a waiver wire target for fantasy football managers in Week 12. Is his 86-rushing yard performance indicative of a growing role in the offense, or could it prove to be a red-herring for fantasy managers?
Let’s take a look at the larger picture surrounding Cook’s role in Week 12 and what it means in the wider context of the season.
Is James Cook a Week 12 Waiver Wire Target?
Cook’s full line for Week 12 was 11 rushing attempts for 86 yards and two targets, with no receptions. He had 13 opportunities in the game, which is only the second time this season he has seen double-digit opportunities. The first such occurrence came in Week 2 when Cooks played a larger second-half role due to the Buffalo Bills blowing out the Tennessee Titans.
The 16 snaps for Cooks was also a season-high outside of that Week 2 game. However, in terms of his snap share in the offense, 25% matched what we saw in Week 8 and was only marginally more than 23% in Week 9. Therefore, this increase in touches came as part of a concerted effort to get Cooks the ball more on his snaps rather than being due to increased playing time.
Five of Cooks’ 13 opportunities, including both targets, came in the first half. With two minutes to go in the third quarter, he had only touched the ball six times. With the Bills leading 22-10 and 1:37 remaining on the clock in the third quarter, Cook got his own drive. He touched the ball on five consecutive plays in that drive, with a 29-yard rush being the highlight. He would then touch the ball two more times on the next drive.
The summary of all of that is we still do not really know what role Cook has in the offense. Devin Singletary remains the lead back, seeing over 70% of the offensive snaps. He also saw the majority of red-zone and goal-line work once again. Meanwhile, Nyheim Hines saw his snap share rise from 8% to 15% this week. That seems unlikely to decrease much in the coming weeks and could even increase if the Bills are chasing games in the second half.
Therefore, Cook is an intriguing player to value. Right now, you are relying on him breaking a big play if you are looking for him to have a starting value in 12-team leagues. In 14-team leagues and deeper, the 11 touches are intriguing but could also be a one-off.
Really, Cook’s main value right now is as a late-round selection in Underdog Fantasy Best Ball contests and in any leagues that are 14-teams or deeper. In shallower leagues, his main value is as a handcuff to Singletary. If Singletary were to get hurt, Cook would likely be the main early down and goal-line ball carrier.
That role has a considerable potential upside down the road, especially if you have Singletary on your roster. Handcuffing Singletary with Cook could be a prudent decision if you can spare the bench spot with the majority of bye weeks now past.
How to Prioritize Cook on the Week 12 Waiver Wire?
At this stage of the season, you need to start getting really smart when working the waiver wire. You need to be very honest about your roster. If you have two or three solid starting RBs, you are likely better off spending those RB bench spots on their handcuffs than on matchup-dependent spot starters.
Therefore, if you roster Singletary, Cook should probably be a much higher priority this week than the other top options available right now. In that situation, you could actually make a case for spending as much as 20-25% of your FAAB on Cook this week. Yes, you would be paying a premium for a good week, but if you go cheap, miss out, and Singletary gets hurt next week, you will be kicking yourself.
Alternatively, if you need an RB to contribute for you in Week 12, then things look a little different. Cook most likely is not helping you this week, barring the Bills being in a blowout situation over the Lions late in the second half. While possible, the Lions have been a very competitive team for the majority of this season.
In that case, you might instead look to the likes of Latavius Murray or Samaje Perine. Melvin Gordon is gone from Denver, and Chase Edmonds is dealing with an ankle issue. Therefore, we could see a heavy workload for Murray this week against the Carolina Panthers. Murray touched the ball 21 times last week on a 50% snap share, and both of those numbers could go up this week.
Meanwhile, Perine is an option this week with Joe Mixon in the concussion protocol. The matchup with the Tennessee Titans is brutal, and we do not know if Mixon will actually miss the game. Therefore, Perine is behind Murray but ahead of Cook on the waiver priority if you need an option this week. Perine should also be in consideration as a handcuff add this week if you have Mixon. However, you will have to pay a hefty price to do so.
The really intriguing name this week is Cam Akers. After being all but done in Los Angeles as recently as four weeks ago, Akers led the backfield in touches this week with 14. His snap share jumped 22% from Weeks 10 to 11, and he now appears to be back as the lead back for the Rams. With John Wolford or Bryce Perkins likely under center for the Rams this week, they could lean heavily on the run game.
Therefore, Akers sits between Murray and Perine in the priority order for this week. He is still behind Cook in the priority list if you currently roster Singletary. However, if you are just looking for an upside stash for the next few weeks, then Akers could be that option.