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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer


The Beginning or the End?
All Out Blitz: Volume 42
12/1/11

Aggressiveness is a characteristic that tends to reward fantasy owners more times than not. In the NFL, an offensive line will sometimes hold up long enough to give the quarterback enough time to beat man coverage down the field and make the defense look foolish against a fierce pass rush. More often than not, though, when a defense brings the heat and forces the action, crisis management becomes the name of the game for the opposing team.

In that same vein, I hope to apply that same kind of pressure to the owners in all of my leagues by beating my opponents to the punch in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes, reaching a conclusion about a player too quickly results in making a bad situation worse. However, coming to a correct conclusion two weeks or two minutes quicker than your opponents is considered foresight and can often lead to fantasy championships.

Fantasy owners can be a uneasy lot, knowing that one two-or-three-game losing streak can wreak irreparable damage to his/her team’s chances to make a visit to the fantasy postseason. But just as it is in the NFL and in life, it’s hard to land the big prize by playing scared. Thus, I will strive each week to help each of you become a smart blitzer, so to speak.


Although this time of year typically produces a bit of stress when it comes to our fantasy teams, many of us have at least one or two teams that we have felt great about since the early part of the season. Each year about this time, Iím usually feeling pretty good about my chances to win some extra money over the holidays and further add on to my fantasy resume (if such a thing actually exists). Certainly by this point, I have wrapped up at least one division title and on the verge of clinching another with other teams locked into wild-card status.

This year, however, has been so abnormal that I find it hard to even attempt to describe it.

How bad has it been? I have one team that has never had a shot at the postseason, yet I find myself within 20 points of the leader with a real good shot at taking the point title. Iíve been without my RB1 for nearly half the season (Jahvid Best) and my RB2 (Tim Hightower) for even longer when you factor in how he was pulled from the lineup in Week 4. Iíve also been without my WR1 (Andre Johnson) and WR3 (Miles Austin) for longer than I care to remember. Of course, it didnít stop there. I also have the highest points-allowed total in my league, which just goes to show you that in at least one league per season, when it rains, it pours.

How bad has it been? On my other team that has no shot at the playoffs, I started out 4-0. However, it didnít take long for that ship to sink as each of the five RBs I selected with my first eight picks began to go down to injury, leaving my WR-weak team with little choice but to sell injured players to other owners to get something in return before our Week 8 trade deadline. It got so bad, in fact, that I had to start Curtis Brinkley and Taiwan Jones in Week 9 at a position where I never could have imagined I would need to use anything less than a high-end RB3.

How bad has it been? On my biggest money league team, I am using the first RB I drafted (Arian Foster) and my sixth different RB opposite him. I knew Ryan Mathews was an injury risk when I acquired him at midseason, but he has been the model of health for my team in comparison to his four predecessors. It appeared Kevin Smith was going to be my beacon of hope following his huge Week 11, but alas, he too could not stand the weight of responsibility that comes along with being a RB on one of my fantasy teams. This team can still make the playoffs with a win and some likely scenarios falling in my favor, but I still shake my head on how it ever got to this point.

Please understand that I only use these examples to underscore just how mind-boggling this entire season has been. Certainly, my predicament with the aforementioned teams isnít exactly uncommon for any number of owners. Be it injuries or running into the wrong team in the wrong week, some fantasy teams just arenít going to win no matter how much you want them too. Believe me, that last sentence is tough for someone like me to admit, but when injuries/demotions happen faster than you can make add/drops or use the fantasy stock market to your advantage, it will happen.

Regardless of whether you are nearing the end of your fantasy season or making plans for your playoff domination, there are any number of lessons that can be learned in the final weeks of the regular season. Not only will depth charts change, but back-of-the-roster players will be given a chance to shine for the teams that know they are already playing for next year. I can almost guarantee you that at least one difference-making player at each position is still left on the waiver wire in 95% of leagues. Much like I say in my open each week, it doesnít matter if you find that player two weeks or two minutes before the rest of that league does so long as you acquire his services before they do. While that process can be helped along by any number of ďfantasy expertsĒ, the fact of the matter is that one of the greatest joys in this hobby is finding and believing in that player yourself before anyone else does.

Long story short, if you find yourself out of the race in all of your leagues, donít call it a season. There will be at least one nugget of information that will you help you field better teams next year. And if you are still in the playoff race or have already clinched, then you shouldnít need any further motivation.

The cutoff at each position below is five touches/targets per game. To help provide some perspective, the average fantasy points/touch for the 63 RBs that qualify for my list above is 0.78. For the 64 WRs who qualified, the overall average for fantasy points/target is 0.57 and among the 21 that made the list at TE, it is 0.62. Feel free to use that number as a barometer to help you evaluate who is making the grade and who is not.

Note: For the players whose names and touches/targets are bolded and italicized, it reflects the touches/targets each player had with their former team before they were traded/released by that team.

 RB Workloads
Rk Player TM 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Avg Total FPts FPts/Touch
1 Arian Foster HOU DNP 12 DNP 33 27 21 30 34 24 21 bye 29 25.7 231 217.4 0.94
2 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 24 21 27 12 19 24 32 19 bye 28 25 22 23.0 253 175.6 0.69
3 Matt Forte CHI 21 20 16 29 26 23 27 bye 27 19 25 18 22.8 251 219.7 0.88
4 LeSean McCoy PHI 17 22 27 15 15 30 bye 32 21 17 26 14 21.5 236 243.8 1.03
5 Ray Rice BAL 23 18 13 27 bye 28 13 25 23 13 25 24 21.1 232 237.9 1.03
6 Michael Turner ATL 13 22 11 28 16 28 27 bye 20 23 22 20 20.9 230 162.8 0.71
7 Adrian Peterson MIN 18 27 21 24 29 13 24 26 bye 14 6 DNP 20.2 202 188.0 0.93
8 Chris Johnson TEN 15 27 17 25 17 bye 16 17 18 31 15 24 20.2 222 145.7 0.66
9 Marshawn Lynch SEA 15 7 20 11 16 bye DNP 16 24 37 29 25 20.0 200 145.6 0.73
10 Frank Gore SF 25 23 17 17 22 17 bye 31 20 7 25 15 19.9 219 143.0 0.65
11 Cedric Benson CIN 26 19 17 19 24 17 bye DNP 20 16 15 25 19.8 198 119.3 0.60
12 Steven Jackson STL 2 DNP 4 21 bye 22 22 29 30 30 18 20 19.8 198 150.4 0.76
13 Peyton Hillis CLE 23 31 DNP 15 bye 6 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 21 19.2 96 61.8 0.64
14 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 14 20 20 16 17 28 bye 18 DNP DNP DNP DNP 19.0 133 123.0 0.92
15 Darren McFadden OAK 23 27 22 18 18 21 3 bye DNP DNP DNP DNP 18.9 132 123.8 0.94
16 Ryan Mathews SD 15 19 25 21 25 bye 17 19 DNP 9 15 23 18.8 188 160.1 0.85
17 Beanie Wells ARI 22 14 DNP 27 20 bye 12 22 12 23 8 27 18.7 187 137.4 0.73
18 Willis McGahee DEN 9 29 25 17 16 bye 18 DNP 20 4 12 23 17.3 173 113.4 0.66
19 Michael Bush OAK 9 4 10 12 4 11 19 bye 21 33 32 28 16.6 183 154.1 0.84
20 Rashard Mendenhall PIT 12 21 21 9 DNP 23 14 16 14 17 bye 19 16.6 166 113.1 0.68
21 LeGarrette Blount TB 5 13 25 26 12 DNP DNP bye 15 11 19 23 16.6 149 108.2 0.73
21 Shonn Greene NYJ 11 18 22 10 23 22 20 bye 19 15 4 16 16.4 180 107.8 0.60
22 Daniel Thomas MIA DNP 19 26 DNP bye 16 21 DNP 7 17 15 7 16.0 128 60.2 0.47
23 DeMarco Murray DAL 3 7 2 5 bye 11 25 9 26 26 31 26 15.5 171 137.9 0.81
24 Reggie Bush MIA 20 7 12 15 bye 12 12 19 16 18 19 19 15.4 169 144.5 0.86
25 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE 15 18 9 17 28 15 bye 5 13 8 21 14 14.8 163 113.7 0.70
26 James Starks GB 12 12 14 18 14 15 16 bye 14 16 17 4 13.8 152 109.0 0.72
27 Montario Hardesty CLE DNP 3 17 12 bye 13 35 2 DNP DNP DNP DNP 13.7 82 47.7 0.58
28 Ben Tate HOU 24 27 20 2 DNP 9 15 5 12 13 bye 5 13.2 132 94.2 0.71
29 Mike Tolbert SD 21 17 7 11 8 bye 11 DNP 23 12 8 14 13.2 132 150.0 1.14
30 Mark Ingram NO 13 14 11 19 11 10 15 DNP DNP 9 bye 15 13.0 117 79.6 0.68
31 Brandon Jacobs NYG 6 17 9 10 DNP DNP bye 5 22 20 15 13 13.0 117 87.5 0.75
32 Felix Jones DAL 20 10 17 21 bye 10 DNP DNP DNP DNP 6 1 12.1 85 58.6 0.69
33 Kevin Smith DET DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 6 20 10 12.0 36 55.7 1.55
34 Jonathan Stewart CAR 9 14 13 12 7 10 14 15 bye 8 14 13 11.7 129 126.3 0.98
35 Chris Ogbonnaya CLE DNP DNP DNP 1 2 bye 8 16 14 21 23 4 11.1 89 62.9 0.71
36 Darren Sproles NO 9 12 8 12 16 9 18 12 9 6 bye 10 11.0 121 8.5 0.07
37 Joseph Addai IND 10 18 18 12 7 DNP 4 DNP DNP DNP bye 7 10.9 76 52.6 0.69
38 DeAngelo Williams CAR 13 9 12 10 9 13 10 9 bye 8 11 15 10.8 119 92.3 0.78
39 Chris Ivory NO DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 6 15 DNP bye DNP 10.5 21 179.8 8.56
40 Pierre Thomas NO 9 11 8 10 10 8 15 11 12 10 bye 11 10.5 115 127.1 1.11
41 Dexter McCluster KC 9 12 14 10 5 bye 10 9 8 14 10 11 10.2 112 79.1 0.71
42 Roy Helu WAS 1 13 7 8 bye 4 3 3 24 9 10 30 10.2 112 104.3 0.93
43 Jackie Battle KC 0 0 0 5 21 bye 16 19 15 9 9 9 9.4 103 61.1 0.59
44 Cadillac Williams STL 24 16 19 DNP bye 6 3 2 3 0 DNP DNP 9.1 73 43.4 0.59
45 Ryan Grant GB 10 9 17 DNP 8 11 9 bye 4 9 4 9 9.0 90 46.6 0.52
46 Delone Carter IND 7 11 4 7 14 14 10 11 4 6 bye DNP 8.8 88 46.0 0.52
47 Thomas Jones KC 2 12 15 11 12 bye 9 5 3 4 8 14 8.6 95 34.5 0.36
48 Ryan Torain WAS DNP DNP DNP 19 bye 10 2 9 2 12 6 DNP 8.6 60 31.1 0.52
49 Marion Barber CHI DNP DNP DNP 5 2 12 6 bye 10 13 6 10 8.0 64 58.3 0.91
50 Bernard Scott CIN 4 2 2 6 8 12 bye 25 6 7 9 6 7.9 87 43.9 0.50
51 Javon Ringer TEN DNP 7 8 4 9 bye 4 19 5 7 3 13 7.9 79 63.8 0.81
52 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ 11 7 11 4 3 10 8 bye 8 9 DNP DNP 7.9 71 84.9 1.20
53 Donald Brown IND 0 0 0 0 8 7 9 11 17 18 bye 15 7.7 85 67.3 0.79
54 Isaac Redman PIT 3 11 3 7 18 5 8 8 4 8 bye 5 7.3 80 52.2 0.65
55 Ricky Williams BAL 13 4 6 12 bye 2 3 6 10 6 6 8 6.9 76 44.4 0.58
56 Kendall Hunter SF 2 0 11 11 9 8 bye 3 8 7 12 5 6.9 76 59.4 0.78
57 Deji Karim JAC 17 7 7 4 5 5 7 3 bye 12 4 4 6.8 75 38.4 0.51
58 Maurice Morris DET 4 0 3 0 1 6 11 14 bye 11 8 16 6.7 74 66.0 0.89
59 Danny Woodhead NE 15 6 9 2 DNP 6 bye 0 10 8 7 4 6.7 67 50.4 0.75
60 Lance Ball DEN 1 6 4 3 0 bye 6 7 4 30 7 4 6.5 72 44.0 0.61
61 Kevin Faulk NE DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 11 DNP 5 DNP 0 5.3 16 11.0 0.69
62 C.J. Spiller BUF 6 5 2 4 4 5 bye 2 2 1 5 22 5.3 58 50.7 0.87
63 Danny Ware NYG 1 3 0 1 5 5 bye 3 7 14 5 13 5.2 57 44.0 0.77

Can someone please explain to me what happened with Ryan Mathews and Beanie Wells in Week 12? In the case of Mathews, I suppose this is what happens when he can stay healthy and doesnít get pulled because of a fumble. Wells, on the other hand, posted his best fantasy day in eight weeks and made the Ramsí defense look helpless, unlike his performance just three weeks earlier against the same team. He did not look the least bit bothered by the same knee injury that had essentially landed him on many fantasy benches for his lackluster contributions over the past month and a half. With that said, Wells isnít the kind of RB that I can recommend going forward because he gives his owners nothing in the passing game and is on a poor offense. (Think Michael Turner with much less fantasy upside, at least for the remainder of this season.) He may have a shot at production vs. Dallas, but San Francisco (Week 14) and Cincinnati (Week 16) are not favorable matchups for him. Therefore, I canít bring myself to recommend him as anything more than a flex and I suggest that you set similar expectations.

Michael Bush

Micahel Bush is becoming a workhorse for the Raiders.

I canít help but already think about next year and how the Redskinsí backfield is going to shake out. Iím still waiting to see this Clinton Portis-like explosion that HC Mike Shanahan stated Roy Helu had, but it appears he has finally discovered what fantasy leaguers have known since the beginning of the season Ė after Tim Hightower, Helu is clearly the best RB on their roster. (Please understand that I watched Helu on a regular basis at Nebraska and suggested on a number of occasions that he was a great fit in Shanahanís system. My biggest fear with him all along was his durability.) In all likelihood, Hightower will be allowed to walk as a free agent after the season, in large part due to his ACL injury. Thus, Helu could be auditioning for a feature-back role in 2012 or he could simply be helping his fantasy owners win their next 1-2 games until Ryan Torain or Evan Royster look better in practice. As we know with Shanahan, anything goes. For the remainder of this year, though, Iím wondering just how much he can provide for his owners against the Jets, Patriots, Giants and Vikings. His contributions in the passing game will make him usable in any format, but does he have the chops to put a couple of 100-yard rushing games together against that schedule and emerge as that late-season RB2 owners need him to be during the fantasy playoffs? Or does Shanny tease us one more time?

Oakland has itself a dilemma. We obviously know about Darren McFadden and what he can do when healthy. But there lies the rubÖMcFadden staying healthy. I have said a number of times that a team like Cincinnati should have Michael Bush a priority even as a restricted free agent this summer. Iím not suggesting any team would have dealt a first- and third-round draft choice in exchange for him, but rather investigate what it would take to acquire his services as there are ways that needy teams can negotiate around whatever tender the playerís first team places on him. What Bush lacks in game-breaking speed, he makes up for just about everywhere else and is just the kind of underrated piece that makes a good offense a great one. At his size (and given his light workload prior to McFaddenís injury), Bush should continue to handle his monster workloads until the end of the season if necessary, although the smart money is on McFadden returning in a week or two. Still, itís pretty clear that HC Hue Jackson has little concern about wearing him out. Bushís owners should continue counting their blessings as he is a rock-solid RB1 in fantasy for as long as D-Mac is sidelined.

 WR Touches
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Avg Tot Rec Catch %
1 Wes Welker NE 12 11 20 14 8 10 bye 8 10 8 3 12 10.5 116 82 0.71
2 Brandon Lloyd STL 11 DNP 7 11 4 bye 12 13 13 9 14 10 10.4 104 50 0.48
3 Roddy White ATL 13 4 17 11 9 5 10 bye 9 7 14 13 10.2 112 64 0.57
4 Calvin Johnson DET 10 7 11 13 6 9 11 7 bye 19 8 8 9.9 109 63 0.58
5 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9 7 8 11 8 bye 10 5 12 13 9 9 9.2 101 51 0.50
6 Dwayne Bowe KC 8 8 6 9 11 bye 10 11 10 7 9 11 9.1 100 55 0.55
7 Brandon Marshall MIA 13 11 7 8 bye 13 9 6 11 9 3 10 9.1 100 59 0.59
8 Steve Smith CAR 11 13 7 10 7 7 9 9 bye 8 10 7 8.9 98 59 0.60
9 Mike Williams TB 10 4 8 8 9 13 11 bye 8 5 11 11 8.9 98 52 0.53
10 Hakeem Nicks NYG 11 7 5 14 7 7 bye 10 DNP 4 7 13 8.5 85 50 0.59
11 Anquan Boldin BAL 7 7 14 2 bye 9 12 12 10 9 2 9 8.5 93 48 0.52
12 Steve Johnson BUF 6 14 10 6 5 10 bye 9 6 5 8 13 8.4 92 54 0.59
13 Reggie Wayne IND 10 8 13 9 7 6 4 14 6 6 bye 7 8.2 90 2 0.02
14 Pierre Garcon IND 6 5 10 8 8 11 6 15 6 6 bye 8 8.1 89 47 0.53
15 Andre Johnson HOU 11 9 12 5 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 3 8.0 40 27 0.68
16 Greg Little CLE 3 5 5 8 bye 12 7 11 8 6 8 13 7.8 86 47 0.55
17 Victor Cruz NYG 2 2 5 9 11 4 bye 9 11 11 10 12 7.8 86 55 0.64
18 Antonio Brown PIT 9 6 8 10 4 2 9 15 11 6 bye 6 7.8 86 48 0.56
19 DeSean Jackson PHI 12 3 6 9 7 7 bye 6 8 DNP 8 10 7.6 76 39 0.51
20 Jeremy Maclin PHI 3 15 7 11 8 7 bye 3 9 5 DNP DNP 7.6 68 46 0.68
21 Vincent Jackson SD 3 15 8 4 6 bye 8 8 12 7 9 3 7.5 83 44 0.53
22 Miles Austin DAL 9 15 DNP DNP bye 10 5 3 3 DNP DNP DNP 7.5 45 28 0.62
23 Greg Jennings GB 8 8 10 7 5 10 10 bye 8 5 6 5 7.5 82 58 0.71
24 Michael Crabtree SF 2 DNP 6 9 5 15 bye 9 5 4 10 9 7.4 74 44 0.59
25 Mike Wallace PIT 11 9 7 4 7 6 7 7 6 10 bye 6 7.3 80 55 0.69
26 Santana Moss WAS 8 9 8 10 bye 6 2 DNP DNP DNP DNP 7 7.1 50 29 0.58
27 Mario Manningham NYG 7 7 DNP 5 9 8 bye 9 7 10 2 DNP 7.1 64 34 0.53
28 A.J. Green CIN 4 14 5 10 8 7 bye 10 7 2 DNP 4 7.1 71 44 0.62
29 Jabar Gaffney WAS 7 8 6 4 bye 10 8 5 5 6 10 7 6.9 76 46 0.61
30 Marques Colston NO 9 DNP DNP 3 6 11 7 6 5 9 bye 6 6.9 62 45 0.73
31 Jerome Simpson CIN 9 9 4 3 7 9 bye 2 10 4 13 5 6.8 75 36 0.48
32 Eric Decker DEN 5 9 12 10 5 bye 3 12 5 3 5 6 6.8 75 37 0.49
33 Mike Thomas JAC 11 10 8 11 7 6 1 4 bye 1 11 5 6.8 75 37 0.49
34 Plaxico Burress NYJ 9 2 6 8 8 4 8 bye 5 8 9 7 6.7 74 34 0.46
35 Dez Bryant DAL 8 DNP 4 5 bye 8 8 5 9 6 8 6 6.7 67 38 0.57
36 Deion Branch NE 9 10 3 4 8 5 bye 7 5 9 3 10 6.6 73 38 0.52
37 Santonio Holmes NYJ 10 4 2 12 6 4 3 bye 6 8 9 9 6.6 73 37 0.51
38 Nate Washington TEN 7 11 9 4 8 bye 3 6 6 4 9 6 6.6 73 49 0.67
39 Laurent Robinson DAL DNP DNP 5 10 bye 2 3 8 5 3 11 12 6.6 59 38 0.64
40 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 7 DNP 3 7 12 9 11 bye 1 0 5 10 6.5 65 35 0.54
41 Danario Alexander STL 0 7 8 8 bye 10 6 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 6.5 39 16 0.41
42 Sidney Rice SEA DNP DNP 10 6 5 bye 5 14 8 4 3 2 6.3 57 32 0.56
43 Early Doucet ARI 3 6 6 6 16 bye 5 6 6 4 10 1 6.3 69 43 0.62
44 Julio Jones ATL 6 7 7 17 4 DNP DNP bye 4 5 DNP 0 6.3 50 30 0.60
45 Nate Burleson DET 5 9 2 4 4 10 3 7 bye 9 7 7 6.1 67 46 0.69
46 Percy Harvin MIN 4 8 5 7 2 9 3 5 bye 8 8 8 6.1 67 51 0.76
47 David Nelson BUF 6 13 8 3 2 6 bye 4 7 5 4 8 6.0 66 45 0.68
48 Steve Breaston KC 2 2 6 5 5 bye 9 4 11 6 8 8 6.0 66 43 0.65
49 Andre Caldwell CIN 1 4 12 5 4 4 bye 6 9 8 9 3 5.9 65 35 0.54
50 Brandon Gibson STL 5 8 7 1 bye 10 DNP 6 5 3 7 7 5.9 59 30 0.51
51 Austin Collie IND 3 10 7 7 2 6 5 7 5 5 bye 7 5.8 64 46 0.72
52 Damian Williams TEN 2 DNP 3 4 11 bye 4 5 7 7 11 4 5.8 58 27 0.47
53 Legedu Naanee CAR 5 7 2 11 8 2 3 7 bye 9 5 4 5.7 63 36 0.57
54 Jason Avant PHI 7 4 5 8 10 4 bye 5 3 1 2 14 5.7 63 43 0.68
55 Davone Bess MIA 7 5 9 5 bye 3 12 5 3 6 3 4 5.6 62 36 0.58
56 Doug Baldwin SEA 6 2 4 6 9 bye 3 8 6 3 5 10 5.6 62 37 0.60
57 Denarius Moore OAK 1 8 6 5 6 4 5 bye 12 7 2 DNP 5.6 56 31 0.55
58 Torrey Smith BAL 1 0 8 6 bye 5 5 9 9 8 7 3 5.5 61 31 0.51
59 Jason Hill JAC 5 DNP 5 9 8 3 8 5 bye 1 7 4 5.5 55 25 0.45
60 Lance Moore NO DNP 4 9 6 6 3 4 9 3 3 bye 7 5.4 54 39 0.72
61 Andre Roberts ARI 4 7 6 0 6 bye 5 3 7 7 9 5 5.4 59 27 0.46
62 Jordy Nelson GB 8 2 5 6 7 3 4 bye 6 5 7 6 5.4 59 44 0.75
63 Jonathan Baldwin KC DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 5 8 5 5 6 2 5.2 31 13 0.42
64 Malcom Floyd SD 8 2 5 3 7 bye 4 7 DNP DNP DNP DNP 5.1 36 19 0.53

Iím sure I was just one of the thousands of Julio Jones owners who still canít quite wrap their mind around a zero-catch game against a secondary missing so many DBs and losing a couple more during Week 11. The Falcons did pull him from time to time during the game, but it is not often that one receiver has a 10-catch performance, a tight end has a nine-catch game and the highly-touted rookie that Tony Gonzalez suggested could one day be the best receiver in the league gets nothing. That bagel cost me a win in my biggest money league and a possible shot at the division title for a team that has endured more injuries that I can recall having on all of my teams combined in a single year. My own fantasy woes aside, chalk Week 12 up to easing Jones back into action in order to play it safe and expect bigger things next week when the Texansí Johnathan Joseph chases Roddy White all over the field. This should open the door for a huge game for Jones and Harry Douglas since Houston defends the TE well.

Are the Bears finally going to let Johnny Knox contribute? I guess much of that will depend on how much Devin Hesterís shin injury will bother him going forward. As the second-best receiver (at worst) on this team, maybe it just took the insertion of Caleb Hanie into the lineup to get that train started. As weíve seen in any number of situations, a backup QBís comfort level is almost certainly going to be with a receiver he gets to work with regularly in practice, so it comes as little surprise that a talented second-team WR like Knox would produce with the backup QB getting regular snaps. Still, Iíd be very hesitant to trust my fantasy teamís fortunes on the basis of one single game against the Raidersí pass defense. Stash him if you can, but make him repeat his Week 12 numbers at least one more time before you even consider starting him.

Anyone who has seen or read about Laurent Robinson can tell you heís never lacked for talent, but durability. But if anyone had approached you at the beginning of the season and even suggested that someone other than Miles Austin or Dez Bryant was going to emerge as the best fantasy receiver on the Cowboys, you may have asked to see their fantasy credentials. It goes without saying that injuries to Austin and Bryant (and the lack of an injury to Robinson) has set the stage for this to happen, but with Austin due back this week and Bryant set to return punts once again, it gives you the sense that the coaching staff is willing to accept the risk of Bryant getting hurt on special teams. And by extension, that also means they are just fine with Austin and Robinson being the main receivers for Tony Romo. In no way am I suggesting that Bryant wonít get his numbers, but his upside Ė along with Austinís Ė is more limited than we could have imagined a month ago.

What is left to be said about Victor Cruz that hasnít already been said? As many of you will remember, I was quite high on Mario Manningham in the preseason in large part because I could see the Giantsí passing game was destined for fantasy success. As often happens in this industry, you can follow the trail of clues that lead you to the logical conclusion. But every so often, the path that you think logically connects you to one player ends up going to his teammate because he was ready to step up when needed and your player was not. Thereís no doubt in my mind that Manningham could be putting up the same kind of numbers Cruz is right now, but for every time Cruz made a mistake, heíd also make up for it with a big play; Manningham has not for the most part. It also should be noted that Cruz is doing this while defenses continue to tilt their coverages to Hakeem Nicks, but I suspect defenses wonít have an answer for Cruz until next year at the earliest. For fantasy purposes, he is the No. 1 fantasy receiver in New York now.

One way to help eliminate the unpredictable nature of non-elite WRs is to know your players and the defenses they will go against. That may sound rather elementary, but I was reminded of it again on Monday night and figured it warranted a mention. Take the Saints for example and Lance Moore in particular. Against man coverage, keying on a WR like Colston makes sense because Drew Brees can use his size and leaping ability to beat single coverage. Against zone coverage, a WR like Moore makes sense due to his ability to ďsit downĒ in the voids and essentially become an intermediate check-down option in hopes that the zone will shrink just enough that Brees can hit Devery Henderson or Robert Meachem over the top a couple of times per game.

 TE Targets
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Avg Total Rec Catch %
1 Jimmy Graham NO 7 7 8 14 12 11 7 8 8 12 bye 8 9.3 102 67 0.66
2 Kellen Winslow TB 8 8 5 6 9 10 12 bye 6 6 11 7 8.0 88 52 0.59
3 Jason Witten DAL 9 14 9 10 bye 4 6 12 7 7 3 5 7.8 86 56 0.65
4 Aaron Hernandez NE 10 8 DNP DNP 9 14 bye 4 5 5 7 7 7.7 69 47 0.68
5 Rob Gronkowski NE 7 6 9 5 4 7 bye 9 15 11 7 4 7.6 84 60 0.71
6 Tony Gonzalez ATL 7 9 8 9 8 3 8 bye 6 10 6 9 7.5 83 59 0.71
7 Brandon Pettigrew DET 6 3 13 9 5 14 6 4 bye 9 5 8 7.5 82 54 0.66
8 Antonio Gates SD 13 1 DNP DNP DNP bye 7 7 11 6 4 10 7.4 59 40 0.68
9 Greg Olsen CAR 6 4 10 7 5 10 3 7 bye 11 9 3 6.8 75 40 0.53
10 Fred Davis WAS 6 7 3 6 bye 11 8 9 7 7 7 4 6.8 75 53 0.71
11 Jermaine Gresham CIN 8 5 8 7 7 6 bye DNP DNP 5 6 9 6.8 61 37 0.61
12 Ed Dickson BAL 5 6 9 12 bye 3 5 9 5 14 3 2 6.6 73 43 0.59
13 Dustin Keller NYJ 8 6 9 8 2 5 8 bye 7 4 8 8 6.6 73 40 0.55
14 Marcedes Lewis JAC 3 DNP 2 7 4 8 3 9 bye 3 11 12 6.2 62 27 0.44
15 Brent Celek PHI 3 7 2 4 5 9 bye 9 9 7 6 6 6.1 67 42 0.63
16 Owen Daniels HOU 2 5 9 7 11 3 5 6 4 3 bye 7 5.6 62 41 0.66
17 Dallas Clark IND 5 8 6 4 5 7 0 10 5 DNP bye DNP 5.6 50 28 0.56
18 Ben Watson CLE 7 4 10 9 bye 8 4 3 2 5 4 4 5.5 60 19 0.32
19 Vernon Davis SF 6 2 9 6 3 2 bye 3 7 4 10 5 5.2 57 43 0.75
20 Jermichael Finley GB 4 6 8 6 7 4 2 bye 7 4 3 5 5.1 56 36 0.64
21 Todd Heap ARI 3 1 10 6 DNP bye DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 5.0 20 13 0.65

Is Marcedes Lewis ready to give some lucky fantasy owners a late-season push at the TE position? The bad news is that he hasnít scored once this season after doing so 10 times last year. He hasnít even caught half of the throws made in his direction. Additionally, he has a QB that has played like he is in over his head all season long. The good news is that he has seen more targets (23) than any other TE in the league over the last two weeks. Much like the Coltsí running game, I canít recommend any player in good faith from this passing game no matter how many targets he is receiving. Factor in all the change that is happening in Jacksonville this week and it doesnít make a lot of sense to put any faith in a Jaguar receiver right now. At some point, the ineptitude of the passing game will swallow up Maurice Jones-Drew as well, but I doubt it will happen against the Chargers this week or the Bucs in Week 14.

Dustin Keller is perhaps the most frustrating TE to own. Many of you already know of my disdain for Mark Sanchez, who doesnít do much for anyoneís consistency. The Jetsí decision to make key personnel changes to their offense doesnít help matters either, but Keller has made a regular habit of starting fast, going into a long funk only to tease fantasy owners a time or two before the end of the season. On a different team, I believe Keller has Aaron Hernandez-like upside. Yet, despite what appears to be another disappointing season for him, Keller is the seventh-ranked TE in PPR leagues right now. As I look at all the TE options below him, I see players like Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley and Owen Daniels that Iíd rather have. In spite of his lofty ranking, I canít entertain the idea of starting Keller anytime soon despite racking up seven or more targets in four of his last five games.

In regards to Keller and consistency, I have reached one conclusion for next season: I want a young elite TE. Each season, fantasy owners can typically hit on one RB2 or WR3 on the waiver wire at some point. The same cannot be said for true QB1s and TE1s. Certainly, counting on the waiver wire to fill any position isnít the greatest strategy, but even the best drafts in medium to deep leagues will leave a team with at least one glaring weakness. Why not have that weakness be at the position where there is the most chance of filling that void in-season? The traditional thinking has usually been to find a stop-gap at TE and load up at RB and WR, but with the lack of featured RBs in recent years, the difference between a second-round and fifth-round fantasy RB isnít nearly what it used to be. If that is truly the case Ė which it seems it is Ė those second-, third- and fourth-round picks need to be consistent players that have shown the ability to fill up box scores, not players who you hope can do it. That lesson has really been driven home for me this season and will encourage me to incorporate some part of the consistency calculator into my PSAs going forward.


Next Week’s Waiver Wire Stars

Each week, I’ll select one player at QB, RB, WR and TE that is available in at least three of my five leagues and make a case as to why they could be important to you the following week or beyond. For those of you who have been loyal readers for some time, you already know I am not concerned with making safe picks; selective and smart aggressiveness is often the name of the game in fantasy.

I cannot emphasize enough these players are not necessarily recommended additions to your fantasy team – I will make sure to make that obvious if that is the case – but have a chance, however small, to make an impact, even if it is only as a potentially valuable reserve down the line.

QB: Matt Moore, Miami. The Dolphinsí poor start did nothing to wow fantasy owners and apparently has turned many of them off to any possibility that Miami still might have something to offer fantasy owners. There were any number of reasons why Moore flamed out in Carolina last season following a great end to 2009. This week, Moore faces one of the friendliest defenses vs. opposing QBs in the Raiders, who have yielded at least two touchdown passes in all but two games this season. While I will admit that trusting any Dolphin at this point of the season is difficult, players like Christian Ponder and Caleb Hanie have each put up more than respectable fantasy numbers against this defense the past two weeks. Since getting more comfortable in the offense, Moore has shown the ability to take advantage of plus-matchups, so donít hesitate to give him a start this week.

Previous recommendations: Matt Cassel, Week 3; Vince Young, Week 4; Tim Tebow, Week 5; John Beck, Week 6; Christian Ponder, Week 7; Colt McCoy, Week 9; Alex Smith, Week 10; Matt Leinart, Week 11

RB: Shane Vereen, New England. Itís going to take a small miracle for the Colts to stay competitive with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium for more than a half. While I cannot predict whether or not New England will use this opportunity to pad Tom Bradyís passing totals or run the ball 35-40 times, I can tell you that I wouldnít expect more than 2 Ĺ quarters from BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the Pats race out to a huge lead. If the game plays out like many believe it will, that should give one of the New England backs like Vereen a quarter or so of touches. We all know that Bill Belichick is almost impossible to predict, but the potential for 10-12 touches against the Coltsí run defense is enough reason for a desperate deep-league owner to use Vereen.

Previous recommendations: Alfonso Smith, Week 3; Keiland Williams Week 4; Jackie Battle/Jacquizz Rodgers, Week 5; Joe McKnight, Week 6; Phillip Tanner, Week 7; Tashard Choice, Week 9; Kevin Smith, Week 10; Johnny White, Week 11

WR: Doug Baldwin, Seattle. In honor of a Thursday Night game that will mean next to nothing in the NFC playoff race, Iíll give you an under-the-radar receiver from the less proficient offense of the two teams that will be squaring off. First off, some of this recommendation is based on the season-ending injury (concussion) to Sidney Rice, which will open up a starting spot for Ben Obomanu in all likelihood. While Obomanu gets a slight bump, I think Riceís absence could actually help Baldwin the most as he should face off regularly against slot corner Joselio Hanson since the regular DB in that spot (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) will not be available. Baldwin should actually be stashed in most leagues already, but stands to be a more consistent factor in the passing game now given a few more weeks to work with Tarvaris Jackson. While Seattle will remain a running team, Baldwin stands a great chance to become a fantasy regular in this offense down the road; look for him to display that as we close out this season.

Previous recommendations: Michael Jenkins/Dane Sanzenbacher, Week 3; Mark Clayton, Week 4, Naaman Roosevelt, Week 5; Arrelious Benn, Week 6; Roy Williams, Week 7; Joshua Cribbs, Week 9; Andre Roberts, Week 10; Demaryius Thomas, Week 11

TE: Jared Cook, Tennessee. I have spoken about my dislike for OC Chris Palmer a time or two in this column, but Jimmy Grahamís display on MNF a few days ago further drove home the point. While Cook may not be quite as athletic as Graham, he is close. Granted, Matt Hasselbeck is not Drew Brees either, but the point is that most teams simply do not have defenders who can match up with the Grahams, Gronkowskis and Cooks of the world. Be that as it may, Cook has seen 16 total targets (nine in Week 11, seven in Week 12) over the past two weeks and faces the third-friendliest defense vs. opposing TEs this week in Buffalo. Basically, any middle-of-the-road or better TE has enjoyed facing the Bills this season. With no reason to expect the TE production against Buffalo to come to a complete halt, Cook is shaping up as high-end TE2 or even low-end TE1 play in deeper leagues this week.

Previous recommendations: Ben Watson, Week 3; Jake Ballard, Week 4; Joel Dreessen, Week 5; Lance Kendricks, Week 6; Visanthe Shiancoe/Jeremy Shockey, Week 7; Dennis Pitta, Week 9; Daniel Fells, Week 10; Kevin Boss, Week 11

Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football in general? E-mail me.


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C. this past season. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can also follow him on Twitter.