Week 12: Pickups of the Week
(Posted Tuesday, November 19, 12:45 a.m., then updated as needed)
Now that we're truly in the fantasy season stretch run, matchups become a larger part of the weekly waiver wire calls, long-term upside a little less. With only five weeks remaining in the majority of fantasy football seasons, the future is now. Brilliant statement, I know. Anyway, players profiled below are in bold and italics. For those still debating what to do, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hit me up on Twitter (@benstandig)
1) Josh McCown
2) Mike Glennon
3) Case Keenum
4) Carson Palmer
5) Scott Tolzien
Others: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jason Campbell, Matt McGloin
Notes: We've moved past the point where we note Mike Glennon is a rookie and just note he's putting up numbers. Gets a Lions defense in Week 12 that has allowed 14 touchdown passes in five weeks and consecutive 300-yard passing games. ...I still have no idea what happened with the Texans' QB situation last week. Oh, yes I do: head coach Gary Kubiak is freaking out about keeping his job and when rookie Case Keenum showed signs of a second half meltdown, he turned to the veteran Matt Schaub. Talk about your flawed logic for a two-win team. The bummer is Keenum would probably be a top 15 play versus the Jaguars next. The risk of another impulsive coaching move makes using him hard to trust, but the matchup is strong. We pushed for Carson Palmer as a matchup play last week. Props for those that went his way. Less ideal this week against the Cardinals, but still hope with those receivers on his side...Scott Tolzien will start in Week 12. The undrafted rookie didn't have a terrible Week 11 as he threw for over 300 yards, but there were three interceptions. Can't receive a much better matchup than the Vikings (and the Packers are loaded with pass catching playmakers). Just not sure I could stomach the next day reality of having lost because I started Tolzien. As a QB2 or those without options, he's not so bad. ...Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's a trust thing. Matchup alone, plug him in versus the Raiders.
1) Bobby Rainey
2) Donald Brown
3) Montee Ball
4) Chris Ogbonnaya
5) Daniel Thomas
Others: Jonathan Stewart, Brian Leonard, Mike Tolbert, Mark Ingram, Fozzy Whitaker
Notes: The good news is that it's clear Donald Brown is the best Indy RB. Well, that's not great news for Colts fans and fantasy owners beyond frustrated with Trent Richardson. The Week 12 matchup against the Cardinals' stout run defense could leave the entire ground game frustrated, but Brown is a low-end Flex this week. ...Daniel Thomas had 11 touches last week compared to six for Lamar Miller. Surprisingly, he also looked better. Neither will look very good against Carolina in Week 12.
1) Michael Crabtree
2) Nate Burleson
3) Rishard Matthews
4) Santonio Holmes
5) Miles Austin
6) Jerricho Cotchery
7) Doug Baldwin
8) Kenny Stills
9) Marquise Goodwin
10) Tavon Austin
Others: Mario Manningham, Nate Washington, Cordarrelle Patterson, Markus Wheaton
Notes: As you will notice below, no fantasy wide receivers are individually profiled. There are some interesting plays, but none with the "wow" factor, at least not for Week 12. Guys like Riley Cooper, Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd, Aaron Dobson and Jarrett Boykin should already be owned in all formats. ...Michael Crabtree could make his 2013 debut in Week 12, but that 411 likely won't be revealed until mid-week. The play for owners is sign him, stash him and hope over the next two weeks he shows signs of returning to WR1-2 form. He's the only receiver on this list with that level of upside, though Colin Kaepernick's struggles aren't helping the outlook. ...We're still not sure if Nate Burleson (broken arm) will play in Week 12. Even if he does, using him is not ideal simply because of the uncertainty. However there are reasons Burleson makes for an attractive pickup. The Lions' SOS in Week 14-16 ranks among the easiest and nobody has truly emerged as the number two receiver behind Calvin Johnson. We profiled Rishard Matthews last week. No reason to run away after Miami's slot target once again received plenty of looks...Santonio Holmes (hamstring) looked rather spry in his return to the lineup this past week with his only two receptions going for 38 and 33 yards. Trusting him in your lineup is not easy. Blame Geno Smith's rookie inconsistencies for that. Holmes should emerge as the Jets' top wide out before long. ...The initial versio of this post didn't include Miles Austin. Consider that an oversight based largely on not realizing the oft-injured Cowboys receiver is now owned in less than 50 percent of leagues. Oddly, he's not available in my three main leagues. Considering Terrance WIlliams' production tailed off in recent weeks, Austin is certainly worth adding, though wait a week before using. Let's see how Dallas deploys the vet and the rookie. Personally, my trust in Austin is such that I don't, but Dallas does have third-easiest SOS going forward ...The more I watch, the more I like, no, love Doug Baldwin. Alas, the run-heavy Seahawks are on a bye this week and when they return, Baldwin moves into the third receiver role behind Golden Tate and Percy Harvin. He could still be a spot-start WR3. ...Jerricho Cotchery has now scored in three straight games and should be a bigger factor in the Steelers' passing game with Emmanuel Sanders gimpy. However he's received only eight targets in the last two games, making him a touchdown dependent option. Considering Antonio Brown should see lots of Joe Haden, we're talking about a sneaky WR3 play in Week 12, but don't sit a steadier player for him. ...Drew Brees will throw for a billion yards this week against Atlanta. Whether Kenny Stills is involved in some or any part of that action is a major unknown, especially coming off a week he was largely unknown. If we're talking pure flyer, this is a strong option, but not for the risk-adverse. ...I wrote about Tavon Austin last week. Nothing has changed.
Others: Brandon Myers
Notes: The rare week with several interest free agent options this week. All four should land inside the weekly top 20. ... Don't look now but Rob Housler is starting to look like the upside player many projected. Went 6-70 against the Jags last week, taking advantage of a golden matchup, the same one Garrett Graham has this week. Indianapolis typically rules against fantasy tight ends, but Delaine Walker destroyed the Colts last week. Based on that and Housler's production uptick, we'll go his way over Graham... For the second straight week, John Carlson led the Vikings in targets and receptions. Now the Vikings starter faces a Green Bay D that has struggled against TEs this season, though they are better lately. ... Coby Fleener is owned in more than 80 percent of MFL leagues, but if available, he ranks second behind Walker this week thanks to great a matchup versus Cardinals. ...Consider Brandon Myers the alternative's alternative in Week 12 against Dallas (29th versus TEs).
2) New Orleans
5) PittsburghMyFantasyLeague availability: 85%
While most NFL fans are aware or caught a glimpse of the weather conditions in Chicago on Sunday, it's possible some will not connect the dots with the brutal conditions and McCown's pedestrian numbers. The brutal rain and win combined with large men running around shredded the Soldier Field turf. In addition, the Bears faced a Ravens defense that's no pushover, so forgive McCown's 216 yards and one touchdown. Some out there might immediately grasp the Mother Nature angle and have already moved on to the Rams, Chicago's next foe. By the numbers, St. Louis has been rather stingy of late against quarterbacks. The last two weeks there has been one TDP allowed versus seven interceptions and no more than 204 passing yards in three of the last four weeks. Now go deeper. In that span, the Rams faced Carolina, Seattle, Tennessee and Indianapolis. Not sure anybody knows what happened to the Colts in Week 10 (though Luck threw for 421 yards), but otherwise we're not talking about strong passing offenses. Certainly nobody with weapons like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Load up on the surging Bears this week, including McCown.MyFantasyLeague availability: 93%
Further proof that NFL teams should not bother drafting running backs in the first round came in Tampa's dominant win over Atlanta. Waived by the Ravens during training camp and the Browns earlier this season, Bobby Rainey walloped the Falcons for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. The 5-foot-8 Rainey didn't start, but played far more than Brian Leonard (45-20 snaps in favor of the pure tailback). Before we go any further, here is what I wrote about the duo last week following Mike James' injury:
"I'll admit to going back-and-forth between ranking Brian Leonard or Bobby Rainey higher. I always liked Rainey as a deep sleeper with the Ravens and Browns - and then both teams cut him. Basically this is a split backfield with Leonard the most experienced and therefore the safer option. Those in PPR hoping for 5-10 points per week, go with Leonard. Those willing to risk for more should consider the true tailback in Rainey."
Certainly not a ringing endorsement, but we want transparency here. Since most fantasy players go for the home run, I suspect that comment didn't derail anyone from grabbing Rainey. He's still available in over 50 percent of MFL leagues, so go grab him now. The particular matchup against Detroit isn't terribly exciting - no rushing touchdowns allowed since Week 5 and 2.2 yards per carry over the last four games. That makes Rainey more of a Flex option in Week 12.MyFantasyLeague availability: 73%
Let's start with this: ignore the two touchdowns in Week 11 against the Chiefs. Scores are random and not to be trusted (especially for a playing otherwise receiving limited touches). Ball also fumbled in the game and the Wisconsin rookie will join Ronnie Hillman in the doghouse with another. Though he had 11 touches, Knowshon Moreno rushed the ball 27 times...OK, enough of that doom and gloom talk. Yes, grab Ball if he's available. Sure, he put the ball on the ground, but he looked rather spry otherwise - including three receptions. Start him in Week 12? No, except as a flyer for those in deep leagues struggling at RB2 (almost everyone should have a decent WR for the Flex spot of needed). However, the potential for scores exists as evidenced by his three over the last three games. Everyone talks about running to keep Denver's offense off the field, but the Broncos could pull that maneuver against New England. The fact that the Vince Wilfork-less Patriots allowed at least 100 rush yards in five straight games to fantasy backs entering MNF makes that approach viable. Since Peyton Manning is no Cam Newton, all carries will go to actual runners. Moreno remains the main back, but Ball is certainly more involved. The final nugget (especially for those thinking Weeks 14-16) is Denver plays the Titans, Chargers and at the Texans. That's three potential blowouts for Manning and company, which means three opportunities for Ball to pick up more work. Way more handcuff than immediate help, but in this offense, that could be a sweet jackpot.MyFantasyLeague availability: 100%
This recommendation doubles as a Week 12 and look-ahead call. Ogbonnaya not only had 99 yards on 14 touches - including a PPR friendly six receptions - last week, but also played 48 snaps according to Pro Football Focus. For context, Willis McGahee had eight touches on 13 snaps, while Fozzy Whitaker had nine on 23. The Browns rank 29th in rushes this season, so nobody should mistake Ogbonnaya as a bell cow possibility. Still, snaps are snaps and touches are touches. Right now, it's a safe bet he'll receive the most going forward. Oh, almost forgot about the matchups. The next four weeks Cleveland faces Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, New England and Jacksonville. That's three bottom 10 defenses against fantasy RBs and the Patriots are just outside that range.MyFantasyLeague availability: 95%
This one is a little tricky. Are we buying Graham is the player who went for 136 yards and a TD on seven receptions in Week 10? Or should we view him as the player who went five straight weeks without a score or 50 receiving yards entering this past game? Independent of matchup, Graham should not be trusted. The long touchdown came on a busted, but stellar play by Case Keenum. Somebody had to catch passes after DeAndre Hopkins was benched. However, we do look at matchups and no doubt he's got a stellar one versus Jacksonville. The Jaguars allow the second most points to fantasy tight ends. They have surrendered a touchdown to the position in six of their last eight games. Last week wasn't one of those scoring weeks, but Rob Housler and the Cardinals posted 117 yards on nine receptions. Chasing matchups can leave scars, but pouncing on the right one makes the reward all the sweeter. Don't bench a top shelf option for Graham, but those playing mix-and-match every week - or dealing with injury uncertainty to Jordan Reed, Julius Thomas or Tony Gonzalez - can feel good about this scenario.