Now that the NFL Draft is complete, there is no better time to take a little break from your struggling fantasy baseball teams and take a look at the incoming class of offensive talent to get on your radars for the upcoming fantasy football season. They are ranked by position with a quick Top 10 overall list to follow. This is an early rankings list, and will very likely change as preseason arrives and players get their first chances to stake a claim to starting jobs and/or more playing time. Consider this list a starting point for names you want to keep track of when training camps open in just a few short weeks.
1. Johnny Manziel, CLE - The Browns made the biggest splash of the first day of the draft when they moved up via a trade with Philadelphia to draft Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. I was in attendance and I can testify that the crowd in Radio City Music Hall went nuts when his name was finally announced. The former Heisman winner’s stock took a hit with the news that his top receiver, Josh Gordon, is facing a suspension for failing another drug test, but Johnny “Football” still ranks at the top of this year’s incoming rookie class due to his ability to scramble and improvise on the run. The Browns have publically stated that their new franchise player is the backup to Brian Hoyer, but the Browns didn’t draft Manziel to plunk him on the bench. Hoyer is a nice story, as a local product, and he played well in his short stint last year, but he doesn’t even come close to matching Manziel’s natural ability. Gordon’s suspension has the Browns publically stating that they will dial things back offensively and go with a run-heavy attack, which actually will play to the rookie’s strengths as he hones his passing game. His rushing ability will bolster his pedestrian passing numbers to make him a quality QB2 in his rookie year.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - The Vikings landed Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round, and then came out and said that he will be given every chance to compete with Matt Cassel for the starting job in training camp. The Louisville product tumbled in the draft due to questions regarding his technique, but he couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot than with the VIkings. Norv Turner loves to throw the ball vertically and Adrian Peterson is there to take the pressure off. Throw in a nice set of weapons in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph and it is easy to see Bridgewater making some noise as a QB2 at some point this year.
3. Blake Bortles, JCK - Although the 6’5” Bortles was the first quarterback selected in the draft, with the number three pick by the Jaguars, unlike Manziel or Bridgewater, he doesn’t figure to play that much in his rookie season. Chad Henne will continue to start as Bortles learns the ropes and waits for his first opportunity, which could come sometime in the second half. Bortles has potentially more value than those above him in dynasty formats, but expectations for this season aren’t quite as rosy.
1. Bishop Sankey, TEN - The running back out of Washington was the first tailback selected in this year’s draft, as the Titans grabbed him with the 54th pick. If you need further evidence that the NFL is a passing league, not only did no running backs get selected in the first round, but Sankey is the latest that the first running back drafted has gone in the history of the draft. The good news is that he has landed in a spot that will lead to immediate production, thanks to the Titans moving on from Chris Johnson, leaving only the plodding Shonn Greene standing in his way. Sankey has drawn comparisons to Tiki Barber, and he should start in a committee with Greene from day one and should get the most consistent work of anyone in this class. The Titans have a great offensive line and will continue to lean on the running game. Sankey rates as a RB3 with upside, whose stock could soar with a solid preseason.
2. Jeremy Hill, CIN - The Bengals signaled that BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ days could be numbered in Cincinnati. The “Law Firm” scored seven touchdowns last year to help obscure the fact that his skills are on the decline. Hill (6’1”, 233) has the size to take over as the power back alongside Giovanni Bernard, and provide owners who take a shot at him flex-worthy stats as the new short-yardage back. If Hill can show enough in camp, then the Bengals could wave goodbye to Green-Ellis and save $2.5 million, a move that Hill should have no trouble convincing them to make.
3. Terrance West/Isaiah Crowell, CLE - Ben Tate will be the starter for the Browns in new OC Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, and as mentioned earlier, the Browns plan to run the ball a ton this year as Manziel breaks in and Gordon serves his likely suspension. That means carries for all the backs in Cleveland’s backfield, and potential upside for whoever emerges as the number two behind the oft-injured Tate. West has been compared to Alfred Morris, who emerged as a fantasy star in Shanahan’s offense and played his college ball at Towson State. West isn’t the only rookie the Browns are bringing in though, as they also signed troubled Isaiah Crowell as an undrafted free agent. Crowell very well may have been the top back in this class were it not for a long list of off-the-field problems. He has the skills to be a complete back but just has to prove he can be a model citizen. It’s a nice gamble by the Browns that could pay off big time if Crowell matures. This will be an interesting battle to keep track of, because if you draft Tate, you will want to grab his handcuff late for insurance.
4. Devonta Freeman, ATL - Steven Jackson will be 31 when the season starts, and he is coming off his worst season as a pro. Freeman will immediately put pressure on Jacquizz Rodgers for the number two spot in the lineup, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sharing the workload with Jackson when the season starts. He can catch passes, which is a vital part of what the Falcons want to do on offense, and if Jackson succumbs to injury again, Freeman could be a lottery ticket that pays off in spades.
5. Carlos Hyde, SF - Hyde is a bruising runner whose value in redraft leagues is muted by landing in San Francisco. Frank Gore will be 31 but has remained healthy and productive the last three years. Add in the fact that the Niners have Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore on the roster, and it is easy to see the potential for Hyde to be brought along slowly. However, Lattimore has a history of knee injuries and Hunter doesn’t profile as a feature back anymore, so there is a chance that Hyde could be the guy the team turns to if Gore were to go down.
6. Charles Sims, TB - Sims will be thrown right into the battle for the No. 2 job with Mike James and Bobby Rainey, and seeing as the Bucs burned a third-round pick on the 24-year-old, they obviously expect him to win the job. Sims is definitely one to watch in camp, since Doug Martin is returning from shoulder surgery. It’s a crowded backfield, but Sims can catch passes as a kind of poor-man’s Matt Forte.
7. Tre Mason, STL - After a record-setting career at Auburn, Mason lands with the Rams and more than likely signals the team is ready to move on from both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Mason is smaller than you might like out of a starting RB at 5’8”, and he is not much of an asset in the passing game either as a blocker or a receiver. Zac Stacy should be able to hold him off for early down work to start the year, but Mason will apply some pressure to the incumbent for sure. Benny Cunningham is also in the mix, which means that Mason won’t be rushed into the lineup, despite his collegiate heroics.
8. Ka’Deem Carey, CHI - Matt Forte is still the man in Chicago, but since the team allowed Michael Bush to walk in the off-season, Carey already lines up as the clear backup to Forte, who has battled injuries at various times in his career.
1. Sammy Watkins, BUF - Watkins was the most talented receiver in this year’s draft and the Bills paid a premium to move up to draft him. Afterwards, they traded Steve Johnson to San Francisco, which clears the way for Watkins to be the No. 1 WR for E.J. Manuel right out of the gate. Watkins is a little undersized (6’1”, 211) by today’s standards, but he is an electrifying playmaker who will bring a new level of excitement to the Bills' atack. He looks like a solid WR3 at this point, with room to move up the ranks if Manuel can elevate his game in his second full season.
2. Mike Evans, TB - There are plenty of people who prefer Evans to Watkins, being that he is much taller (6’5”, 231), making him a serious weapon in the red zone. He is often compared to Vincent Jackson, who is now his teammate. The only thing holding down Evans this year will be the fact that he won’t be the primary option in the passing game and the less than stellar options at quarterback for the Buccaneers. Evans should hold more value in touchdown-heavy leagues thanks to his ability to win the “jump” balls in the endzone. If everything breaks right, he could easily be the best rookie receiver this year.
3. Kelvin Benjamin, CAR - The 6’5” Benjamin doesn’t have as much skill as some of the other receivers behind him on this list, but he has the size and the opportunity to make an impact immediately for a Panthers team that is thin at WR, thanks to the departure of Steve Smith. The Panthers love to run the ball, but Cam Newton is going to love looking Benjamin’s way in the red zone, where his huge wingspan will make him a nightmare to defend. Like Evans above, he’ll have more immediate value in TD-heavy formats, and is worth speculating on as a WR 4/5 with upside.
4. Odell Beckham, NYG - Beckham is someone to watch in camp this year, since the Giants have clearly signaled they aren’t really sold that Rueben Randle is the answer to replacing Hakeem Nicks as the starter opposite Victor Cruz. Beckham should be able to beat out Randle to become the “X” receiver in the revamped Giants passing offense, and he could easily lead all rookies in catches if he gains Eli Manning’s confidence. His lack of size (5’11”, 198) doesn’t give him as much scoring upside as those higher on the list, but he could turn out to be a better option than anyone outside of Watkins for PPR leagues.
5. Jordan Matthews, PHI - Matthews (6’3”, 212) comes to Philly from Vanderbilt, where he finished as the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions (262) and yards (3,759). He will get to strut his stuff in Chip Kelly’s explosive offense and should take over as the primary slot receiver to start the year. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper will begin the season as the primary outside receivers, but it isn’t that far fetched to think that Matthews will challenge Cooper for more playing time as the season progresses. He will likely be slightly undervalued on draft day and might present the most affordable route to buying into the Eagles offense this year.
6. Marqise Lee/Allen Robinson, JCK - Lee has the better pedigree of the two Jaguars rookies, but Robinson may end up having the better rookie season. Robinson is the bigger target (6’3”, 220) and doesn’t come with as many red flags as the more heralded Lee (6’0”, 199). Lee dropped in the draft due to questions about his knee and his work ethic. Throw in the fact that both will take a back seat to Cecil Shorts in a passing game that will rely on Chad Henne and neither player really projects to make a huge impact in their first year.
7. Brandin Cooks, NO - Cooks landed in the perfect place for a player with his skill set. Speed is his calling card, and with both Darren Sproles and Lance Moore gone, he will get the opportunity to fill the void created, especially out of the slot. But, as with any Saints wide receiver, predicting success on a weekly basis will be a fool’s errand, meaning you will be frustrated trying to figure out when Drew Brees will look his way. He is still worth a late-round flyer. Just be aware that you will likely never feel comfortable starting him.
8. Martavis Bryant, PIT - Bryant (6’4”. 211) slipped in the draft, and the Steelers feel like they got a potential steal in their fourth-round pick. Emmanuel Sanders is gone, and the Steelers will have an open competition to fill his spot across the field from Antonio Brown. Markus Wheaton failed to impress last year and Lance Moore is on the downside of his career, so Bryant will have an opportunity to play. His size will make him an option in the red zone and give him some sleeper appeal in deeper formats if he can lock down the number two spot in camp.
9. Davante Adams, GB - Adams will be given time to learn behind Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin, and he is more of a name for owners to keep on file if injuries strike or Boykin doesn’t build on last year’s mini-breakout.
10. Cody Latimer, DEN - Latimer will enter the year fourth on the depth chart behind Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders. He’s in an ideal spot for a rookie to learn the ropes, but unless injuries strike, he is more of a dynasty grab than a redraft target. However, he is just one Wes Welker concussion from being an every-week player.
1. Eric Ebron, DET - The Lions broke the Giants' hearts when they grabbed the best tight end in the draft just ahead of them. He is a physical specimen at 6’4”, 250, and brings wide receiver speed to the position. People are already salivating over drafting the next Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham, but it should be noted that tight ends rarely make a splash in their first season. Ebron will be utilized enough to catch anywhere from 50-75 balls as a rookie, but you will be better served by grabbing him as your TE2 than elevating him to TE1 status before he’s even played a snap.
2. Jace Amaro, NYJ - Amaro will be given every chance to start over veteran Jeff Cumberland, but with Geno Smith under center, expectations should be kept fairly low. A better dynasty target who could emerge as a solid TE2.
Overall Top 10 Rookies
Stankey, Watkins, Manziel, Evans, Benjamin, Beckham, Hill, West, Matthews, Ebron
Week 16 of the Waiver Wire Report has finally arrived and that means championship games are finally upon us. Hopefully, you have a fighting interest in reading this week's column, but if you do, the chances that you will need to make any significant moves should hopefully be minimal this week. Still, injuries, slumps and of course bad weather are always part of late-season fantasy football, so we will once again dish up a plate full of options for leagues of all sizes. Good luck to everyone still playing and here's hoping you all get an early Christmas present from your fantasy teams this week. This will be our final week of highlighting players to grab off the wire for this season, but we'll offically close the book on the fantasy football season next week by handing out some presents (or lumps of coal) to deserving players.
Kirk Cousins, WAS - We first mentioned Cousins in this space back in Week 13, and correctly speculated that he would see the field at some point this season. Since then, things have gotten pretty sticky in Washington, as Mike Shanahan finally benched Robert Griffin III. The writing was clearly on the wall last week, and we listed Cousins again in light of that fact for all RG3 owners. If you had the balls to roll with him last week, you were rewarded with 381 yards and three touchdown passes. He did turn the ball over three times, but all that did was dampen what could have been an even bigger day against the reeling Falcons. Now he gets to feast on a Cowboys defense that is ranked dead last against fantasy quarterbacks. Yes, it is risky to start an inexperienced QB with all the marbles on the line, but the ‘Boys have gotten roasted by Josh McCown and Matt Flynn in back-to-back weeks. That’s not exactly Montana and Marino, folks. Even if you don’t need him this week, pick him up just so your opponent can’t use him against you.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN - Fitzpatrick has performed quite well as a fantasy QB2 since he took over for Jake Locker in Week 10. We have highlighted him a couple times since and our recurring refrain was that we liked most the fact that rather than some other options that emerged late in the year, he was a guy that had a lock on his job the rest of the way, plus a favorable playoff schedule. He likely put a few lucky teams into the title game with his 402 yards and four touchdowns, and while it would be crazy to expect those kind of numbers this week, he does get to play the Jaguars in warm weather, which at least puts him on the QB1 radar for this week. If I was an Andrew Luck owner this week for instance, I would make the switch and hope for some more magic.
Matt Cassel, MIN - Cassel has strung together two quality starts as the Vikings play out the string, but he faces a very tough test this week against a very solid Bengals defense. Add in the possibility that Adrian Peterson makes it back, and you can see the recipe for very pedestrian numbers this week. The only people who might consider Cassel are those in really deep leagues, but they might be better served by looking at E.J. Manuel, Matt McGloin or even Kellen Clemens this week.
Matt Flynn, GB - I personally would not want to rely on Flynn this week if I could avoid it, since he isn’t a sure bet to start with Aaron Rodgers’ return looming. Even if he does start, the Steelers will not give him nearly as much time to throw as the Cowboys did. Keep him as Rodgers insurance if you like, but if you need a guaranteed QB2 this week, make sure you have a backup plan if you are currently using Flynn in that role.
Week 15 Updates
Ryan Tannehill, MIA - Tannehill more than justified his ranking from a week ago with a signature comeback win against the Patriots on Sunday. He topped 300 yards again and passed for three touchdowns for the second week in a row. He has another solid matchup against the Bills this week, but it is a road game, and that does temper our enthusiasm just a bit. It doesn’t mean I won’t tip my cap to him again for his late-season play that has lifted the Dolphins into the playoff picture.
Jason Campbell, CLE - Campbell didn’t really perform up to expectations a week ago, but gets a chance at fantasy redemption against the Jets this week. The Jets are dominant against the run, something the Browns are pretty lousy at to begin with. Hopefully the veteran can shake off last week’s lackluster performance and get back to targeting Josh Gordon. The two could be in for another big day and Campbell is a solid plug-n-play in two-quarterback leagues.
Jordan Todman, JCK - Todman got the start last week and showed that he could handle the workload, toting the rock 25 times for 109 yards and catching four passes for an additional 44. Maurice Jones-Drew could be back this week, but with the season gone and free agency looming, there isn’t a ton of incentive for the team to rush him back. Hopefully, Todman can enter the day as the clear starter against the Titans so you can feel confident rolling with him as a RB2 this week. Even if MJD does play, expect Todman to still see significant carries.
Dennis Johnson, HOU - Ben Tate may have re-injured his broken ribs against the Colts last week, and that puts his backup back in the picture this week as a potential injury replacement. Tate doesn’t really have anything left to prove, and the Texans are pretty much in full tank-mode anyway. If Johnson gets the start, he should get enough work to be a decent enough flex option.
Edwin Baker, CLE - I’ll admit, when the Browns claimed Baker off the Texans practice squad last week, I certainly didn’t envision him getting much playing-time, let alone leading the team in rushing. If Willis McGahee doesn’t play again, Baker will likely be the lead back, which makes him a desperation play in deeper leagues. As mentioned earlier, the Jets don’t do a lot well, but stopping opposing running backs is the one thing they excel at.
Matt Asiata, MIN - When I listed Toby Gerhart atop the list last week, I did note that he had suffered a hamstring injury of his own, and that the situation was fluid as we went to press. What I failed to mention was that Asiata was the next in line. Peterson owners, who had likely grabbed Gerhart as insurance heading into the playoffs, had to be tortured seeing the average talent score three touchdowns on Sunday, while many of their teams possibly went down in defeat. If you are a lucky AP owner who survived, you can add Asiata to your bench, since the Vikings very well might just shut Peterson down for the rest of the year.
Week 15 Updates
Trent Richardson, IND - This season has been one to forget for Richardson and his owners, and some may have jettisoned him in disgust after they likely failed to make their league's playoffs thanks to their first-round bust. Donald Brown’s injury allowed T-Rich to top 20 touches for the first time since Week 6. If Brown can’t go this week, then Richardson could be worth starting as a flex, but not much more thanks to a date with the Kansas City defense.
Lamar Miller, MIA - Miller made it back from his concussion and regained his role as the top-dog in the committee with Daniel Thomas. If you have to rely on a ‘Fins back this week, Miller is the horse to bet on.
Montee Ball, DEN - Ball might have submarined a few teams with last week’s stumble against the Chargers. If you are still playing this week, don’t be afraid to go back to the well in a game against a Texans team that is already thinking about next year.
Marvin Jones, CIN - Jones has gotten back into the mix for the Bengals again, just in time for a matchup against the Vikings excuse for a pass defense. They have been getting lit up through the air, and that gives Jones some nice appeal as a sleeper play this week. He has scored the last two weeks, and Andy Dalton trusts him in the red-zone. His four-touchdown day back in Week 8 illustrates the potential upside, and the matchup makes him a very intriguing dart to throw this week if you need to take a shot with your WR3/Flex spot.
Andre Caldwell, DEN - The Broncos threw us a curveball by sliding the former Bengal into Wes Welker’s slot role instead of rolling with Jacob Tamme for another week. He responded with the best fantasy game of his career, since he had never caught two touchdowns in a game prior to last week. It is yet another example of how Peyton Manning can elevate otherwise mediocre talents into fantasy relevance. The downside is the fact that there is no guarantee that the Broncos will turn to him again next week, and Welker could make it back from his concussion. While anyone who might start for the Broncos has obvious upside, you will have to monitor this situation closely to avoid coming up empty, like Tamme owners a week ago.
Doug Baldwin, SEA - Baldwin had another strong game against the Giants, hauling in six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate will see Patrick Peterson most of the day, and that should set up Baldwin for another solid day. He's unlikely to put up big numbers, but he has exhibited a stable floor at home of late, and the weather-proof game makes him an attractive WR3/Flex this week.
Robert Woods, BUF - Woods and E.J. Manuel were showing some emerging chemistry early in the year, before the young quarterback injured his knee in Week 5. By the time he made it back, Woods was on the shelf with an ankle injury that caused him to miss multiple weeks. They are both finally healthy again and last week they started to rekindle their friendship in the red-zone.
Santana Moss, WAS - Kirk Cousins has breathed some life into the passing game, and after targeting the wily veteran nine times in his first start, it puts Moss into Flex territory in PPR leagues. Playing out of the slot with Jordan Reed still sidelined, Cousins will likely continue to look to Moss as a safety valve.
Week 15 Updates
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN - Patterson scored a late touchdown to boost an otherwise ho-hum game, as Greg Jennings took over as the top WR last week. The game against the Bengals isn’t the most inviting for this Boom/Bust talent.
Da’Rick Rogers, IND - Rogers was worth grabbing a week ago to see if he was more than a one-week wonder. If you need his roster spot this week to address other needs, cut him loose.
Delanie Walker, TEN - Walker was able to deliver against the Cardinals a week ago in his first game back from a concussion and will continue to be a key target for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the passing game. He's got a great chance to find the end-zone again this week.
Timothy Wright, TB - Wright is better suited to deep leagues but he is coming off his best game of the season (7/82/1). The Rams defense is pretty solid, and could scheme to take Vincent Jackson away from Mike Glennon. If that happens, Wright could match the nine targets he saw last week.
Zach Ertz, PHI - Ertz found the end-zone again last week, and despite a Week 14 bagel, looks like an emerging talent in this offense. He’s a risky play, but one that could pay off in an expected shootout.
Andrew Quarless, GB - Matt Flynn has something going with Quarless, as he scored for the second week in a row, and even put up the exact same totals across the board. Fans of The Omen may be spooked by the fact he had six catches for 66 yards in back-to-back weeks. If that doesn’t phase you, then you might as well try to take advantage of the roll he is on.
Week 15 Updates
Dennis Pitta, BAL - Pitta took a step back last week, just when it looked like he was ready to be a real difference-maker for playoff teams. He now is a risky start against the Patriots.
Rams - The Rams are coming off a great game against the Saints and will take on a much less formidable Tampa Bay team at home in the dome.
Browns - The Browns defense was the only thing that kept the team in the game against the Bears a week ago, and if you like to stream against turnover prone quarterbacks, take a hot defense that is facing Geno Smith and roll with them.
KICKERSAlex Henery, PHI - The game against the Bears figures to be a scoring bonanza, giving the Eagles kicker ample opportunities at home. Robbie Gould should have a nice day as well.
For many leagues out there, the regular season is over and the playoffs have arrived. Hopefully, you are still in the hunt and have something to play for the next few weeks and hopefully we have played a small part in helping you get there. If you are lucky enough to still be playing meaningful games, hopefully you have a strong enough core that you can now dedicate some of your extra roster spots to either securing more handcuffs for your studs, or maybe taking a shot on a player who could really make a splash during the playoffs. Take a good look at the schedules your key players face again and make sure you like what you see, not only for this week, but also beyond. Drew Brees' dreadful day against the Seahawks is a reminder of exactly the type of game that can ruin a successful fantasy season, so mitigate the risk where you can and don't be afraid to cut guys you will never start for those you might be more inclined to turn to in a pinch. You've made it this far, so now is no time to get lazy or complacent. And now, here is my usual list of players for you to consider adding this week.
Jay Cutler, CHI – Cutler hopes to be back on the field this week for the Bears, and if he gets cleared for action he would be a solid QB1 in the now dynamic Bears offense against the porous Cowboys pass defense. Josh McCown was our top choice a week ago, and if Cutler has a setback this week, then he will look to continue his hot play until Cutler is fully ready to take over again.
Joe Flacco, BAL – Last year’s Super Bowl MVP has basically been a QB2 for most of the year, but a date with Minnesota at least makes him an enticing option for anyone scrambling or playing matchups this week. Weather could be a factor in Baltimore this weekend, but even in the rain he should be able to make plays downfield on the Vikings secondary.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Don’t look now, but another one of our preseason sleepers seems to be hitting his stride right in time for the fantasy playoffs. Tannehill has posted two straight 300-yard games and finally seems to have found the connection with Mike Wallace. It at least has vaulted the Dolphins QB back up the QB2 ranks, with the Patriots and Bills on deck after Wallace’s return to Pittsburgh this week.
Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum has clearly lost some of his luster since his back-to-back three touchdown days in Weeks 9 and 10, and while the matchup against the Jaguars looks great on paper, the rookie flopped against them just two weeks back. Still, it might be tough for those in two-quarterback leagues to pass up the upside this week.
Mike Glennon, TB – Glennon is past the predictably tough matchup against the Panthers, and should be able to get back on track against the Bills at home this week. With the Niners and Rams on deck, he might only be a one-week plug-n-play for two-quarterback leagues.
Matt McGloin, OAK – McGloin would be a “Hail Mary” start this week, but a meeting with the reeling Jets defense, and a potentially full complement of weapons could make for a surprisingly solid day.
Week 13 Updates
Alex Smith, KC – I wanted to highlight the Chiefs signal-caller again heading into the playoffs. He reeled off his third strong start in a row and has a nice schedule (@Was, @Oak, IND) the rest of the way. Honestly, if you don’t currently have an elite option as your QB, or have been counting on Aaron Rodgers to make it back, Smith might be my pick as the best guy to pin your hopes to the rest of the way.
Carson Palmer, ARZ – Palmer delivered against the generous Eagles defense last week and is on a roll heading into the fantasy playoffs. However, if he is your emergency backup or you are in a two-quarterback league, you may want to think about a contingency plan to avoid having to use him in Week 16 against the Seahawks.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Weeden actually put up some numbers last week that would have looked even better if he hadn’t turned the ball over three times. However, he suffered a concussion, and is questionable for this week’s game against the Patriots. Jason Campbell is the better bet to make it back this week, and Josh Gordon owners are praying it happens.
Donald Brown, IND – We talked about Brown in Week 12, coming off his two touchdown day against the Titans, and he promptly went out and did nothing against the Cardinals the following week. The performance very well may have prompted some to jump ship in shallower formats, while those who waited were rewarded as Brown finally was elevated to the starting job over Trent Richardson. He’ll likely keep the starting job the rest of the way and at worst projects as a solid flex option going forward.
Joique Bell, DET – It has been awhile since we called Bell’s name here, but he has been making his presence felt again the last few weeks and took advantage of the blowout in Green Bay to log his most carries (19) since way back in Week 3. He was dropped in one of my leagues by an angry owner after Week 12, and is worth grabbing since he still plays behind the oft-injured Reggie Bush.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Le’Veon Bell got his bell rung at the goal-line at the end of the Steelers Thanksgiving Day game, and apparently suffered memory loss after the devastating hit that sent his helmet flying (and cost him a second touchdown). The extra days off may get him cleared in time to play this week, but if he is a regular cog in your lineup, then Dwyer is the handcuff to get this week to cover your backfield.
Willis McGahee, CLE – He hadn’t topped 50 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 5, but he was back last week as the top rusher for the Browns, which of course isn’t saying much these days. You can grab him if you like for depth, but hopefully you can avoid it. If you are forced to choose a running back wearing an orange helmet, then at least grab the one who will be getting any goal-line touches that magically appear.
LeGarrette Blount, NE – Last week, we talked about Brandon Bolden. This week, I have to mention Blount again, and of course we can’t forget Stevan Ridley could be back in the mix again after getting banished for at least one week. If Ridley is active, then he is more than likely the guy. Otherwise, Blount will likely be called on again this week. The Browns are tough against the run, but the offense turns the ball over multiple times every week, leading to short drives and extra red-zone opportunities. If he starts, he isn’t a bad bet to score this week.
Antone Smith, ATL – Smith is still third in the pecking order for the Falcons, but he is making the most of the limited opportunities he has been getting. He exploded for a 38-yard touchdown on his only carry last week, his second long touchdown in three weeks. With the season lost, the coaching staff may opt to increase his workload, especially considering the results so far.
Week 13 Updates
Montee Ball, DEN – I feel like I have written about the Broncos rookie enough, and his ownership numbers keep rising weekly, but he showed last week that he is settling into his role in the Broncos offense as we enter the fantasy playoffs. He is ideally a flex option for you, because he is still in a timeshare with Knowshon Moreno, but he could get the bulk of the carries in an all important Week 16 game as the team looks to make sure Moreno is completely healthy for the playoff run.
Dennis Johnson, HOU – I think Johnson’s effective play a week ago helped snap Ben Tate back to life, as does the fact that he still has something to prove heading into free agency. He is merely insurance for Tate owners now, so feel free to drop him if you aren’t among that group.
Julian Edelman, NE – I had muted excitement for Edelman last week, mainly because his reemergence as Tom Brady’s favorite target was surprising, and the two touchdowns seemed a tad fluky. However, after gobbling up another nine catches last week, and with injuries to both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, he has earned his way back up to the top of the receiver list for the second time this year. If we have learned anything about Tom Brady over the years, it is that he will stick with what is working, and right now that is Edelman. Danny Amendola owners don’t want to hear it, but Edelman is the guy to own until further notice. In PPR leagues, he could be someone’s key to a championship.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree gets a little bump this week after finally suiting up and proving that he could actually still make plays, even though he still is working his way back into game shape. We said last week that the best time to trust him would likely be a Week 16 game against the Falcons, and we are going to stick with that for at least another week since he gets to face the Seahawks bruising secondary this week.
Doug Baldwin, SEA – Percy Harvin’s hip is still acting up, and with the Seahawks playoff ticket already punched, they have no reason to rush him back now. It means that Baldwin should get to continue his run as a starter in an offense that is humming along. He is worth a grab if you are looking to solidify your bench in deeper leagues for your playoff run. He is a threat to score as long as he is playing starter’s snaps.
Brian Hartline, MIA – I was a fan of Hartline’s coming into the season, because I thought he could flourish as a PPR option opposite Mike Wallace. He started out really strong in Week 1 with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, but failed to build on what looked like a breakout game. He’s been basically producing the same scoreless five catches and 60 yards ever since until last week, when he flashed that Week 1 form again with nine catches, 127 yards and his third touchdown of the year. It once again gives us some hope thanks in part to the improved play of his quarterback and the upcoming schedule. He at least has earned a spot on fantasy benches again heading into the playoffs.
Jacoby Jones, BAL – Jones is far from trustworthy, but he has been getting involved the last two weeks and showed against the Jets that he can make some big plays when the matchup is right. The Vikings fit the bill, enough to make Jones a reasonable “Hail Mary” play this week.
Andre Holmes, OAK – Holmes took advantage of the injury to Denarius Moore, as well as Matt McGloin’s willingness to chuck it his way, to grab seven balls for 136 yards last week. Granted, it came against the Cowboys, but he is big (6-4) and fast enough to give smaller cornerbacks headaches and his ability to win jump balls is an asset to an average quarterback like McGloin. It has yet to be determined if he is a one-week wonder or truly a breakout talent, but history has given us plenty of players who have arrived just in time to make a difference in the fantasy playoffs.
Week 13 Updates
Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson didn’t make any friends with his disappearing act on Thanksgiving, a week after his promising return to the lineup last week. The Lions have some favorable matchups the next few weeks, so my advice is to hang onto him for depth even if you are leery of starting him this week. He has two weather-proof games at home in Weeks 15 and 16, meaning he could be a valuable option if bad weather or injury strikes one of your other options.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – Last week’s game is a pretty good example of what we should expect from Patterson the rest of the year. He has a chance to make explosive plays any time the Vikings put the ball into his hands, as evidenced by his exciting 33-yard touchdown run. He also is still an unpolished player, prone to drops and mistakes. Next week against the Eagles at home might be your best chance to take advantage of his natural ability. If you can afford to hide him on your bench, I say that’s the way to go for at least another week.
Ladarius Green, SD – I have been running with Green in this space since I first mentioned him back in Week 11, and every week the arrow keeps pointing a little further in the right direction. The freakishly good TE flashed his skills again last week and scored for the second straight week. He played a season- high 61 snaps last week, thanks in part to Antonio Gates being limited by a hamstring injury and Eddie Royal also being injured. The game at home against the Giants provides a great chance for the Chargers' new weapon to find the end-zone yet again. If I was playing matchups, I might just roll with Green, and hope that he can take another long pass to the house.
Zach Ertz, PHI – There was some decent buzz surrounding the rookie entering the year, and while it was nice to see him finally make an impact in the passing game, the fact is he is still splitting time and targets with Brent Celek. He is worth a look in deeper and dynasty leagues, but the real breakout will likely come next year.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham is getting a boatload of targets (33) the last three weeks, and will get to work against the Jaguars this week. The increased attention hasn’t amounted to much the last two weeks, but the favorable matchup could be enough to entice you to take a chance that he can pull another Week 11 (7/136/1) rabbit out of his bag of tricks.
Week 13 Updates
Jared Cook, STL – Cook couldn’t follow up his solid Week 12, but gets another chance against the same Cardinals defense that he torched in Week 1 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – We should have word on Pitta’s availability sometime later this week. Even a limited return would be a huge help to the passing offense.
Raiders – The Jets and Geno Smith have been giving out early Christmas presents to fantasy defenses the last few weeks, so we shouldn’t get too complicated here this week. If you are streaming defenses, then picking on the Jets right now is your best bet.
Alex Henery, PHI – Henery likely hit a lot of wires with the Week 12 bye and this week gets a tasty matchup against the Lions.
Losing a star player just as the playoffs arrive is every fantasy owner’s worst nightmare. It can be a real dilemma since this late in the season, it can be very difficult to replace a key performer, especially in deeper leagues. Rob Gronkowski was the biggest casualty as he blew out his knee and is done for the year. Last week also saw significant injuries to Adrian Peterson and Wes Welker as well as potentially troublesome hits to various starting running backs. All you can do is gut it out by grabbing the best options available and hope for the best. If you didn’t get nailed by any injuries, that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to sit back this week. Don’t be afraid of cutting loose a non-essential player if it means keeping a key replacement away from your opponents. Everything is fair game once playoff time is here. Good luck and we will see you next week for our final installment of the Waiver Wire Report for 2013.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Tannehill kept his nice late-season run of improved production going against the Steelers last week. While he only passed for 200 yards, he notched three touchdown passes and added a season-best 56 yards on the ground to help boost his overall point total. This week, he gets a Patriots team that just made Jason Campbell look like Warren Moon, so he should be able to deliver multiple scoring plays for a third straight week. As a plus, the Dolphins are at home where weather won’t be an issue. He gets the Bills in Buffalo in Week 16, so you may not want to use him past this week, but he could be a viable alternative to a mid-range starter with a tough/cold weather matchup this week.
Jason Campbell, CLE – Campbell gets a prime spot on the list again this week after finally making it back from the concussion he suffered against the Steelers in Week 12. He fed the ball to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron early and often and finished with 391 yards and three touchdowns for a surprisingly monster day. One key for Campbell has been protecting the ball, one of the many ways he has distanced himself from Brandon Weeden. He gets the Bears defense that on paper doesn’t look like a great matchup, but a big part of that has been teams running the ball at will on them this year. The Browns, however, do not possess the talent at RB to exploit the true weakness, so they will air it out instead. Campbell’s stock is also boosted by a juicy Week 16 date against the Jets. He could be a real difference-maker in two-quarterback leagues to finish the year.
Andy Dalton, CIN - We haven’t checked in with Dalton since his mid-season explosion. We mentioned back then that he might find success with some of his late-season matchups, mainly a Week 16 meeting with the Vikings. While this week’s game against the Steelers doesn’t instill a ton of confidence, if you want to speculate for next week, then Dalton has the matchup, albeit at home, in what could be less than ideal conditions.
Case Keenum, HOU – I won’t sugarcoat it, the young quarterback hasn’t instilled much confidence with his erratic play of late. However, the firing of Gary Kubiak should at the very least lock him in as the starter the rest of the way, since the team has conceded they are turning the page and will evaluate their players for next season going forward. The Texans get the Colts in Indy and then Denver at home the next two weeks, so there is a least some appeal to taking a shot on him as a QB2 in leagues that use two quarterbacks.
Kirk Cousins, WAS – The whispers that the Redskins might finally bench Robert Griffin for Cousins as they close out a lost season are growing again, and could finally result in the team officially shutting down their franchise QB for the season. If you have Griffin, you may want to grab his backup as insurance, especially in two-quarterback leagues. Embattled coach Mike Shanahan is supposed to announce his plans sometime tomorrow.
Week 14 Updates
Aaron Rodgers, GB – Rodgers still seems like a shaky bet to make it back on the field this week, but the fact that the Packers are still in the hunt for the playoffs means the pressure will be on for him to suit up if he is able. If you have been waiting on Rodgers, then cross your fingers and hope he makes it back to take advantage of the leaky Dallas pass defense. If he doesn’t get cleared for action, Matt Flynn will get the prime assignment and would make a serviceable start on the road in Jerry’s house.
Josh McCown, CHI – The legend of Josh McCown continues to grow after his monster day against the Cowboys playing in place of Jay Cutler, who couldn’t make it back from his injured ankle. Coach Marc Trestman has stated that Cutler will be the starter when he is cleared to play, but the strong play of McCown clouds the issue. If you have McCown and have been riding him, you have to keep him and hope he keeps the job for this week’s game against the Browns. Your best option could be owning both Bears quarterbacks and then just starting whichever one plays.
Joe Flacco, BAL – Flacco was able to deliver against the hapless Vikings and owners in deeper formats without better options can at least feel better about potentially riding him again this week against the Lions. If you like to avoid the weather this time of year, Flacco should get a boost on your list this week.
Toby Gerhart, MIN – Making sure you have key handcuffs locked up heading into the playoffs is always sound advice, and we are no different in reminding you to get your ducks in a row when playoff time approaches. In weeks 12 and 13, we told you to get Gerhart on board since there was a likelihood that Adrian Peterson could be shut down with the Vikings season already in the toilet. If I ran the Vikings, I would shut AP down, but of course I don’t, and X-Rays show that the foot isn’t broken. So what looked like a devastating injury on Sunday suddenly doesn’t look so bad and Peterson has shown the ability and desire to play through pain before. Complicating matters is the fact that Gerhart, who rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown in relief last week, tweaked his hamstring on a long touchdown run. If still unowned, he is a must grab as he has shown he can produce solid, if not spectacular, numbers as the lead back. Just be aware that the situation is very fluid as of today.
Jordan Todman, JCK – Maurice Jones-Drew injured his hamstring and could very well end up as a game-time decision this week for a prime matchup against the Bills. Jordan Todman is the next guy in line, and he has been waiting ever since the season started for a chance to really strut his stuff. MJD has vowed to play, but with his availability for the next two weeks in doubt, Todman has to be owned. If he draws the start, he’ll do damage against the Bills.
Daniel Thomas, MIA – We wrote up Mike Gillislee in Week 13 since reports had Thomas out for the season with an ankle injury. But there he was, miraculously back on the field last week, running for a season-high 105 yards and a touchdown after Lamar Miller sustained a concussion. Miller is showing signs of making it back in time for this week’s game, but Thomas at least merits a grab on the chance that he could be the primary ball-carrier against the Patriots this week.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE – I am loathe to lobby for the Browns running game again this week, but after it looked like Willis McGahee was back in control of things, he suffered a concussion and is in doubt for this week’s game against the Bears. As mentioned earlier, they are giving up tons of yardage to opposing running backs, so even someone as mediocre as Ogbonnaya has appeal in this scenario. Heck, Fozzy Whittaker has flex appeal against the Bears this week as well.
James Starks, GB – If I was sure that Eddie Lacy wouldn’t suit up this week, after spraining his ankle last week, then Starks would be higher on the list. The matchup versus the Cowboys is a good one, and Lacy’s injury at the very least means Starks should be owned again since he has shown nice burst when he has been called upon this year.
Marcel Reece, OAK – Reece was an All-Star in the column a year ago, and he finally got a chance to strut his stuff this year after both Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden were sidelined. He rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, and chipped in his usual receiving yards as well. Jennings has been cleared from his concussion this week, which likely sends Reece back into a secondary role. Reece, however, should still get enough touches to have some flex value in PPR leagues, and is a great bench stash in case Jennings goes down again and Reece gets thrust back into the starter’s chair for Week 16.
Knile Davis, KC – Jamaal Charles’ backup got some garbage-time carries in the blowout against Washington. You can’t count on him to get more than 2-4 carries in a normal week, so he’s nothing more than an emergency handcuff.
Week 14 Updates
Joique Bell, DET – Bell was recommended last week after rebounding from his lousy Week 12, since Reggie Bush could get injured at any point making Bell an every-week starter. Well, thanks to lousy conditions and a calf injury to Mr. Glass in pre-game warmups, Bell got a chance to carry the load and gave a decent impression. He did fumble twice, but we can give him a slight pass on that considering the weather. I expect Bush to make it back for the Monday Night contest, but he might have a setback or leave the game at any moment. If you didn’t make the move last week, he’s a must-own the rest of the way, with big upside if he gets starter's touches.
Donald Brown, IND – Brown couldn’t build on the momentum he seemingly had coming into the week, and the Colts aren’t giving up on Trent Richardson without a fight. For fantasy owners, all it does is make both of them risky starts.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – We have been waiting for the talented rookie to have a true breakout game, and it finally happened last week as he caught five passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. I said last week that the Eagles matchup presented a prime opportunity to unleash him in your lineup, and with the injury to Peterson, it presents even more opportunities for the team to put the ball in the hands of their best remaining playmaker. Remember, if you start him, you do so hoping for more fireworks. Just be aware that there is still plenty of risk here due to the offense he plays in.
Da’Rick Rogers, IND – Rogers has traveled a long road before busting out with six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns, but Colts fans have been waiting for the team to finally step up opposite T.Y. Hilton. LaVon Brazill also caught two touchdowns on Sunday, but Rogers is the more physically gifted of the two. There is no denying that both young receivers will get more opportunities to make plays at the expense of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Rod Streater, OAK – Streater took a back seat to Andre Holmes in Week 13 but was back in his role as the number one target for Matt McGloin, and produced his best line (7/130/1) of the season. He looks like a pretty reliable WR3 the next two weeks, and that could come in handy, say if you just lost Wes Welker or want to bench your Giants wide receivers this week against Seattle. Speaking of Holmes, he had another solid day, but his production could take a hit if Denarius Moore makes it back this week.
Kenbrell Thompkins, NE – Someone is going to have to step back up with the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Dobson also could be in the mix, but the last time both rookies played, it was Thompkins who was on the field making plays, and he seems the better bet to draw the start this week. Tom Brady will have to rely on his outside receivers to make plays again, especially in the red-zone.
Ace Sanders, JCK – I almost added Sanders to the list last week as a PPR sleeper, since the Jaguars were finally finding ways to incorporate him into the offense. This past week, an unlikely passing touchdown buoyed his value, but just shows that he looks like a reasonable flex option against the Bills.
Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – The last time I listed the wily veteran, he promptly laid an egg, so I won’t blame you for not risking it a second time. Still, he is up to an improbable nine touchdown grabs on the year, seven of which have come in the last six weeks.
Week 14 Updates
Julian Edelman, NE – Edelman was solid again (6/64/1) and will undoubtedly be leaned on even more with Gronk’s injury. No reason to get off this train since it is picking up steam.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree knocked off more rust, but I am still waiting one more week before really feeling confident enough to start him as anything more than a WR3/Flex.
Brian Hartline, MIA – Hartline found the end-zone for the second week in a row and has a great chance to make it three against the Patriots.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Anyone who stashed the Ravens tight end had to be very pleased that he got right back up to speed as an integral part of the offense. He was a little shaky early in the game but came up big in crunch time, catching some key passes and scoring at the goal-line. He is likely the best option for anyone who lost Rob Gronkowski. The Lions will bring the heat to Joe Flacco, which could mean another boatload of targets for his tight end.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham (8/73/1) got the job done last week against the Jaguars and this week’s game against the Colts sets him up for another solid week. As long as he is getting double-digit targets, he has a chance to rack up the numbers. He doesn’t possess the upside of Pitta, but he doesn’t make such a bad alternative plug-n-play this week.
Jacob Tamme, DEN – Tamme’s value will hinge a bit on Wes Welker’s health, but it seems doubtful the slot receiver will make it back from his concussion by tomorrow night’s game. Tamme will be his replacement in the slot and that alone puts him into consideration in the always potent Broncos offense.
Delanie Walker, TEN – Walker missed last week’s game with a concussion, but he is on track to play this week against the Cardinals. While they have been very tough against opposing wide receivers this year, the Cardinals are dead last when it comes to defending TE’s. If you like to play those angles, then Walker is a bet that could pay off in spades.
Week 14 Updates
Ladarius Green, SD – Okay, so maybe I got a little too excited about Ladarius Green. The Chargers got Eddie George back and Antonio Gates isn’t done just yet either. It all led to a drop in usage, and he’s back to being just a keeper play rather than a fantasy savior this year.
Eagles – The Vikings have been a pretty good team to pick on this year when it comes to streaming defenses and they could be without Adrian Peterson, which obviously is a big hit to an already struggling offense.
Saints – Plugging the Saints in is always a little risky, but they do generate sacks and turnovers by forcing teams to abandon their running game early. Kellen Clemens could be in for a long day.
Adam Vinatieri, IND – The Colts offense figured out how to score touchdowns last week but could easily revert to the form that provided the veteran kicker with five attempts just a week earlier.
Finally, the bye weeks are behind us and the fantasy regular season is coming to a close in most leagues this week. Hopefully, you have already locked up a spot in the playoffs, and if so, then continue to focus on bolstering your roster for your run. That means checking the schedules of your starters, and continuing to bolster your bench to give you options should adversity strike at the wrong time. For those of you on the brink this week, you may have no choice but to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on a long-shot or two this week, since injuries or ineffectiveness may have you scrambling for answers this week. Get you moves in tomorrow, set your lineups early and then have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Josh McCown, CHI – Jay Cutler will remain sidelined for at least one more week, which extends McCown’s fantasy relevance for at least one more week. He passed for 352 yards and two touchdowns last week and gets to face the fading Vikings defense this week, indoors at the Metrodome. It is quite possible you are still fighting for the playoffs this week, and in a do-or-die situation. If you don’t like the matchup for your current starter or are still waiting for an injured player to return, then McCown might be your best bet as a plug-in option for yet another week. And despite what Jay Cutler hopes, there is still a chance he doesn’t make it back for Week 14 against Dallas.
Matt Flynn, GB –The Packers weren’t winning football games with Scott Tolzien under center, so when he got off to a rough start, the team turned to the former Packer, who was re-signed two weeks ago to basically replace Seneca Wallace. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been cleared for action yet, and will most likely miss the tasty matchup against the Lions on Thanksgiving. Flynn is no Rodgers, but he showed last week he is far more poised that Tolzien, and even without Randall Cobb, still has three very good receivers as well as a quality running game at his disposal. While all Rodgers owners are still hoping he makes it back for the start of the fantasy playoffs, the fact remains that as the team’s playoff hopes dwindle, the chances that the team shuts their franchise quarterback down for the year grows.
Carson Palmer, ARI – I don’t think I have mentioned Palmer at all in the Report since tabbing him as a sleeper late in the pre-season. That fact has a lot to do with the fact that his play this season has been generally disappointing, as he has thrown 15 interceptions against only 17 touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald’s nagging leg injuries haven’t helped, but there is no denying Palmer is playing his best football of the year when it counts. Weather could be a factor in Philadelphia this weekend, but the Eagles are still giving up a ton of yardage through the air. The Cards have tough sledding after that (StL, @Ten, @Sea) but two dome games make him a solid backup behind your cold-weather QB1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF – We mentioned back in Week 11 that we liked Fitzpatrick as a depth QB in deeper leagues, since he would have his job the rest of the season and a nice schedule to boot. He has been performing quite well the last three weeks, and gets another crack at a Colts team that has been very generous to opposing QB’s lately.
EJ Manuel, BUF – Manuel gets to face the Falcons in a dome this week, and should come out of the bye healthy and energized after a strong showing against the Jets in Week 11. He will also welcome back Steve Johnson, and possibly Robert Woods, and could be ready to tap into some of his potential down the stretch.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – For the second time this year, the deposed quarterback has reclaimed the position due to injury. Jason Campbell suffered a concussion, so Weeden gets a home game against the lowly Jaguars, and Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron make him worth a spot-start for someone in two-quarterback leagues this week. Hopefully, your opponent has to make this choice and not you.
Kirk Cousins, WAS – The Redskins season is done, and it seems likely that Cousins will see the field at some point in the near future. Robert Griffin clearly is still hampered by his injured knee, and at this point it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to keep sending him out there. Cousins would arguably be an upgrade to the offense going forward, making the case to keep starting Griffin even weaker. If RGIII is your starter, it is time to grab the rare QB handcuff.
Week 12 Updates
Alex Smith, KC – Smith should be owned in all leagues the rest of the way. That’s two solid weeks in a row, and now it’s home for a rematch with the Broncos that will call on him again to make plays with his arm. He has a nice playoff schedule (@Was, @Oak, Ind) that you might actually like better than your current starter. This is a sleeper that is starting to pay off at the perfect time.
Eli Manning, NYG – Manning wasn’t terrible last week, but the high winds grounded the passing attack enough to dampen the payoff. The Redskins keep his floor intact for another week, but you aren’t starting him outside of two-quarterback leagues unless you have to.
Mike Glennon, TB – Glennon turned in another solid performance against the Lions but can’t be trusted against the Panthers this week.
Dennis Johnson, HOU – Ben Tate was ineffective running the ball last week, and that opened the door for the diminutive Johnson to see his most significant action of the year. He responded with 74 yards on 13 carries, and should continue to at least share the load with Tate going forward, and the team will look to run the ball against a Patriots team that got gashed by the Broncos for 280 yards last week. He tops my list at running back this week, since he has earned more touches and his team will be playing out the string, making it more likely they start auditioning guys for next year. I’m not saying start him this week, but he is worth owning heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Benny Cunningham, STL – Cunningham came on in relief against the Bears after Zac Stacy was sidelined with a concussion. He opened some eyes by dropping 109 yards and a touchdown in the second half, and since Isaiah Pead didn’t even get a carry, would surely get the start this week if Stacy can’t go. Here’s the problem. Stacy could very well make it back this week, and even if he doesn’t, a date with the Niners defense caps Cunningham’s upside this week. He is more valuable to the Stacy owner in your league as a handcuff, but if you are in a jam, make the grab and hope you get to use him this week.
Brandon Jacobs, NYG – We talked about Jacobs' return to the lineup last week, but we didn’t expect him to look as good as he did last week, even against a thin Dallas defense. Still, he looked healthy and spry, and Andre Brown has a long history of not staying healthy. Jacobs has some desperation flex appeal this week against the Redskins thanks to his goal-line looks.
Brandon Bolden, NE – Stevan Ridley’s fumbling problems have returned at the worst possible time for fantasy owners. Making matters worse is the fact that he fumbled so early in the game last week that his benching meant you likely got negative points from him. LeGarrette Blount was next in line, and he fumbled on his second carry. That opened the door for Bolden to take over as the primary ball-carrier for the rest of the contest. He rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown, and is back on the radar as he could very well get the start this week, and if he runs well, could keep Ridley in the doghouse. Shane Vereen also gets a big boost, and is the only Patriot RB I feel confident starting at this point.
Ronnie Brown, SD – Ryan Mathews' latest hamstring injury was a tough blow since he was finally running well. Instead, he’s out for this week and possibly longer. It gets Danny Woodhead back into fantasy lineups and puts Brown on the radar again. He will only be used to spell Woodhead and perhaps get a goal-line carry, making him the ultimate desperation play this week.
Mike Gillislee, MIA – Meet your new No. 2 RB in Miami. He hasn’t played a down yet this year, but the season-ending injury to Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller’s struggles at least makes him worth grabbing in deeper leagues this week.
Week 12 Updates
Montee Ball, DEN – We have been preaching for weeks that Ball was just a Knowshon Moreno injury away from making a splash. Moreno’s injury isn’t that serious, but it looks like it will be enough to keep him out of this week’s game. That would seem to put Ball in the catbird seat, except his fumbling resurfaced last week, which could mean he will merely lead a committee. The Broncos also face the Chiefs defense, which could lead to a pass-heavy scheme. C.J. Anderson came on for Ball after he fumbled and would be the backup if Moreno can’t go. If Ball continues to struggle with ball-control, Anderson could see more carries down the stretch.
Toby Gerhart, MIN – We told you last week Gerhart was a must-have for any AP owner, and he cemented that point after tallying 91 yards on just nine carries. If AP gets shut down, Gerhart is more than capable of putting up quality numbers in his stead.
Bobby Rainey, TB – Last week’s waiver darling flopped in his encore and gets another stiff test against the Panthers this week. He still got the bulk of the work, so a modest rebound this week should be in the cards.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE – Ogbonnaya fumbled for the second week in a row and ceded those extra touches that were supposed to be coming his way to Fozzy Whittaker instead. He could bounce back this week against the Jaguars if given the chance, but you won’t feel confident about starting him.
Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson’s return to action was a success, as he picked right up where he left off as the Lions No. 2 option, catching seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He topped our list last week, and the performance keeps him there again, since many took a wait-and-see approach on the veteran. While you can’t count on him finding the end-zone regularly, he is almost a lock for 6-8 catches, making him a very strong PPR start going forward. His solid floor makes him worthy of a roster spot everywhere.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – The highly touted rookie has been a tease for much of the season, but the team has finally started to slowly take the wraps off of their first-round pick. You don’t grab Patterson to necessarily start him this week, you grab him because he has true game-breaking ability and with the season lost in Minnesota, it’s time to take the training wheels off and get him some much needed experience for next season. There aren’t many players with his talent hanging around the wire this time of year.
Rod Streater, OAK – We had Streater in the DD section a week ago, based on his chemistry with new Raiders QB Matt McGloin and the anticipation of this week’s game against the Cowboys. Streater should be able to provide solid WR3 numbers, with the upside for more on Thanksgiving.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree has finally been activated, and will reportedly make his season debut this week against the Rams. The time to pick him up ends this week, but the time to insert him in your lineup will have to wait for now, until he shows us that he is ready to make plays. Just stash and hope he gets back up to speed by the time the Falcons come to town in Week 16.
Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins, NE – Running back wasn’t the only position where the Patriots left fantasy owners scratching their heads last week. Edelman re-emerged as the star of the day with 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches. Danny Amendola, meanwhile, was very quiet, and it’s no stretch to say that both Tom Brady and the coaching staff noticed. Thompkins (6-56) took over for a benched Aaron Dobson after halftime and made some key plays in the comeback. He looks like he is back in the lineup, which gives him deep league appeal again.
Justin Hunter, TEN – We have mentioned Hunter earlier in the year, but the rookie finally had a breakout game, catching all six of his targets for a team-leading 109 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. He has serious big-play ability and Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to put the ball up there and let his receivers go and get it. The Titans have been lacking this dynamic all season long, so hopefully they will continue to increase Hunter's role as the season comes to a close. There is plenty of upside here, and that is worth at least a reserve spot on fantasy playoff rosters.
Tiquan Underwood, TB – I briefly thought about grabbing Underwood for a spot start against the Lions last week, but in the end went another way. I of course missed his 108-yard, two touchdown explosion, and won’t overreact to his big game. He is a starter for the Bucs now, but he is still a true boom-or-bust option most weeks. I will let you guess what I feel about a matchup against the Panthers.
Week 12 Updates
Miles Austin, DAL – The best thing we can say about Austin’s return was that he stayed healthy. He didn’t really show much otherwise, so I don’t blame anyone switching him out for another flier this week.
Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Well, Cotchery came up empty last week, and likely burned plenty of owners who plugged him in. That’s how these things go sometimes. Time to look for magic somewhere else.
Ladarius Green, SD – We have been advocating Dynasty players snap up Green before it was too late for the last couple of weeks, because he is clearly the next big thing at the position. Guess what, after last week’s game, in which he caught three balls for 80 yards and a touchdown, he now needs to be owned in standard leagues as well. His talent is too great for the Chargers to deny, and even though Antonio Gates still caps his true upside, Green is coming on strong enough that you might even consider starting him since he has such game-breaking ability that he only needs a few touches to make an impact. I’m grabbing him everywhere I can this week.
Jared Cook, STL – Cook scored for the second time in three weeks against the Bears, and could be a factor again, especially if Zac Stacy can’t go this week. It’s not a great matchup, but with some key options struggling lately, he is worth a look in deeper leagues.
Jacob Tamme, DEN – Tamme seems to have emerged as the clear backup TE in Denver. Julius Thomas should be back this week, but his owners may want to get his backup on board heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta is still just a playoff stash, but one that could pay off once he gets back in action.
Week 12 Updates
Delanie Walker, TEN – Walker’s production sagged last week, but he’s still going to see the ball and gets another crack at the Colts, who put him on the map in Week 11 when he ripped them for 10 catches and a score.
Dolphins – Geno Smith has been a turnover machine all season long, and Chris Ivory is banged up as well. Those two facts, along with potential lousy conditions in New Jersey this weekend, make the Dolphins a very solid streaming option this week.
Browns – The Browns laid a dud last week against the Steelers, but in reality the defense didn’t play that poorly. Four bad turnovers put the defense in a tough spot, and obscured an otherwise solid effort. They failed to record any sacks for the second straight week, which is troubling, but the Jaguars are coming to the shores of Lake Erie in what figures to be a sloppy, error-filled game. They aren’t the safest play this week, since Brandon Weeden likes to give out gifts, but the Jags haven’t been very good on the road all year, so there's no reason not to go to this well again if you need the upside play.
Dan Carpenter, BUF – The kicker wheel spins and this week lands on Carpenter. He is available in tons of leagues and plays indoors this week against a Falcons team giving up plenty of scoring chances to opposing kickers.