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November 20, 2012
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Bag a few Jaguars

Chris Wesseling
Senior Writer, Rotoworld.com

First-round quarterbacks have always received the benefit of a long leash thanks to their mega contracts and the franchise’s deep investment. Times could be changing for the better, however, after the post-lockout CBA greatly reduced rookie contracts, allowing organizations to turn the page if the young quarterback is holding the offense hostage.

As it turns out, that’s exactly how it’s playing out in Jacksonville. The swing-and-miss on golden boy J.P. Losman eventually got Mike Mularkey canned in Buffalo. Faced with the same scenario nearly a decade later, Mularkey switched gears and sent GM Gene Smith’s No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft to the clipboard and visor in favor of journeyman Chad Henne.

 

With Henne under center, we saw plenty of evidence in a shootout at Houston that the Jaguars boast NFL-quality offensive talent at wide receiver and tight end. Fantasy's No. 5 receiver over the past five weeks, Cecil Shorts is now on pace for a 1,000-yard season. Fifth overall pick Justin Blackmon is now leading all rookies in receiving yards after trading blows with Andre Johnson in Week 11. Blackmon also appears to have emerged as Henne's favorite target. 

 

Jalen Parmele leaves a lot to be desired in the instincts department, but he should be in line for a heavy workload against a Titans defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to backs. With Rob Gronkowski out and Heath Miller in third-string QB hell, Marcedes Lewis joins Brandon Myers, Dwayne Allen, and Dustin Keller as viable pick-ups this week. Lewis was fantasy's No. 4 tight end with David Garrard at QB in 2010. He scored more points last week with Henne than he did any of Gabbert's 24 starts.

Service Announcement: With bye weeks winding down last week, the top two running backs on this list should have already been rostered by the owners of Willis McGahee and LeSean McCoy. Now that bye weeks are over and done with, there’s no need to be carrying low-upside flex options such as Ronnie Brown, Peyton Hillis, Donald Jones, Andre Roberts, or Browns receivers.

In addition to Hillman and Brown, the following “handcuffs” should be added this week: Kendall Hunter, Toby Gerhart, Robert Turbin, Evan Royster, Shane Vereen, Bernard Pierce, Michael Bush, and Daryl Richardson. It’s a little fuzzier for timeshare handcuffs such as LeGarrette Blount, Jacquizz Rodgers, Montario Hardesty, and Cedric Peerman, but they can certainly be added in deeper formats.

 

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 12. Full write-ups of each player are below.

 

Quarterbacks
Colin Kaepernick
Chad Henne

Jake Locker

Russell Wilson
Mark Sanchez

Running Backs
Ronnie Hillman
Bryce Brown
Jalen Parmele
Mark Ingram / Chris Ivory
Beanie Wells
Vick Ballard
James Starks
Ben Tate
Bilal Powell

Wide Receivers
Danario Alexander
Justin Blackmon
T.Y. Hilton
Julian Edelman
Ryan Broyles / Mike Thomas
Brandon LaFell
Brandon Stokley
Mohamed Sanu

Tight Ends
Brandon Myers
Dustin Keller
Dwayne Allen
Tony Moeaki
Marcedes Lewis

Team Defense
Browns
Rams
Patriots

Quarterbacks

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers - Coach Jim Harbaugh passed up the opportunity to back Alex Smith as his starter after Kaepernick’s sterling performance in a blowout of the Bears. Stating that he tends to go with the hot hand, Harbaugh left the door wide open for Kaepernick to start against a Saints defense allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Although the decision won’t be made until later in the week, Kaepernick is worth picking up as a speculative addition. Of his 25 rushes this season, nine have gone for 10+ yards. Only RGIII, Michael Vick, and Cam Newton have more. As Evan Silva points out, the 49ers did not change their offense to suit a “run-first” QB Monday night, leaving their passing game more wide open than ever with Kaepernick under center. The coaching staff’s action tells us they believe Kaepernick is legit.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Chad Henne, Jaguars - It turns out Blaine Gabbert was holding the offense hostage after all. Against a top-five NFL defense, the Jaguars proved that they have plenty of offensive talent, allowing Henne, Justin Blackmon, and Marcedes Lewis to finish as top-five fantasy performers at their respective positions (Cecil Shorts was 13th). With Blackmon and Shorts rolling and the running game struggling to get back on track, Henne could flirt with QB1 value in juicy matchups versus the Titans and Bills the next two weeks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Jake Locker, Titans - You could do worse for a plug-and-play against a Jacksonville defense that just surrendered the second-most passing yards in NFL history to Matt Schaub. The Locker-Henne showdown has a bizarre shootout feel courtesy of a pair of defenses in the bottom third in the league -- both allowing 325+ yards per game. For the season, the Jaguars have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks - As we mentioned in last week’s article, Wilson is on pace to join Peyton Manning as the only rookie QBs to pass for 24 touchdowns. Although he’s playing at a high level, his per-game fantasy average ranks just 17th over the past five weeks. Wilson remains a QB2 option for the next three games, two of which come against the top-five pass defenses (Bears, Cardinals).

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Mark Sanchez, Jets - Sanchez kept the Tebow chants at bay for another week with a strong 15-of-20 performance at St. Louis. The last time he faced the Patriots, Sanchez delivered 328 yards and a 68.3 completion percentage. New England is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Sanchez can implode in any given week, but at least the matchup is right.

Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.

Watch List: Charlie Batch, Ryan Lindley

Batch hasn’t cleared 210 yards in a game since the 2007 season; he’s a caretaker and little else. … Coach Ken Whisenhunt is undecided on his Week 12 starter, though the Arizona Republic suspects it will be the rookie Lindley until Kevin Kolb returns. The Cardinals QB will be ranked 32nd of 32 fantasy options until Kolb is back on the field.

Cut Bait: Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Cassel, Byron Leftwich, Jason Campbell

Tannehill’s play has fallen off over the past three weeks. … Foles, Gabbert, Campbell, and Cassel are expected to head back to the bench this week. … Leftwich is expected to miss this week’s game.

Running Backs

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos - After rewatching the Broncos-Chargers game, I expect Hillman to lead a three-man committee in Denver for the next 4-6 weeks. As much as John Fox praised his “feistiness” in pass protection, Hillman still isn’t trusted as much as veterans Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno in guarding Peyton Manning. Fox said the starter will be determined on the practice field this week, so there’s a chance that any of three will lead the attack at Kansas City. For Week 12 value, alone, I prefer Bryce Brown. For those in need of a swing-for-the-fences pickup, it’s worth finding out if Hillman can put his stamp on this backfield while Willis McGahee is out.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Bryce Brown, Eagles - LeSean McCoy’s concussion was serious enough that he was carted off the field, was feeling “foggy” after the game, and was still experiencing headaches on Monday. As strictly as the NFL has been clamping down on concussions of late, I would be surprised if McCoy suits up against the Panthers in Week 12. Brown isn’t your typical seventh-round rookie. He was the No. 1 high school player in the country back in 2008, ranked ahead of Trent Richardson. After a checkered college career, he severely outplayed incumbent Dion Lewis in camp to earn the backup job. Unlike Hillman, Brown does have three-down ability and can expect 18-24 touches -- if he draws the start -- against a Carolina allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing backs. Contrary to popular belief, McCoy was fifth in the league in touches prior to the concussion.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Jalen Parmele, Jaguars -  Taking over for an ineffective Rashad Jennings, Parmele racked up a whopping 27 touches at Houston. Unfortunately the former special teamer showed little in the way of running instincts, slamming into the line at full speed on the majority of his runs. Parmele showed little to no patience and lacked a feel for setting up blocks. Although the schedule is tasty with plus matchups against the Titans, Bills, and Jets the next three weeks, Parmele will always be a week-to-week player regardless of Maurice Jones-Drew’s return date. For Week 12, alone, Parmele should be a top-25 running back option.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Vick Ballard, Colts -  Still owned in just a third of Yahoo leagues, Ballard is fantasy’s No. 15 back over the past five weeks. He was the clear choice over Donald Brown as the lead back at New England, totaling 79 yards on 17 touches. Ballard has a nice matchup on paper against a Bills defense allowing the most fantasy points to opposing backs. Just keep in mind Buffalo’s run defense has stiffened a bit of late, including a shut-down of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas last week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Mark Ingram / Chris Ivory, Saints - Leading the Saints backfield with 38 touches, Ingram has been fantasy’s No. 21 back over the past three weeks. Ever since interim coach Joe Vitt noted that Ingram had finally regained pre-surgery form, the Saints have recommitted to a successful ground attack featuring the power Ingram and Ivory. It looked like Ingram was powered by a jetpack when he beat the Raiders to the edge for a 27-yard touchdown in Week 11. I expect Ingram and Ivory to continue to lead this backfield renaissance even with Darren Sproles back in the picture.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Beanie Wells, Cardinals - Arizona desperately needs Wells back in the lineup as a sustainer.  LaRod Stephens-Howling’s Week 11 stat line was boosted by explosive runs of 40 and 52 yards, but he managed just 35 yards on the other 20 carries. LSH figures to remain in the mix on obvious passing downs and outside runs, but Wells should be the primary early-down back. The problem is that the Cardinals offense (specifically the offensive line and QBs) simply isn’t trustworthy for fantasy purposes. Wells is unlikely to be more than a flex option going forward.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Ben Tate, Texans - This is yet another handcuff reminder. Tate is listed here as a representative for the likes of Kendall Hunter, Toby Gerhart, Robert Turbin, Evan Royster, Bernard Pierce, and Michael Bush. You don’t want to end up losing out on Ronnie Hillman and Bryce Brown like many remiss Willis McGahee and LeSean McCoy owners will this week. While Tate (hamstring) hasn’t played since Week 7, coach Gary Kubiak sounded optimistic about his progress on Monday. If he doesn’t return to the backup role this week, he should leapfrog Justin Forsett by Week 13 at the latest.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

James Starks, Packers - A slow-moving Starks managed just 2.96 yards per on 25 carries as the workhorse back at Detroit. Coach Mike McCarthy noted that Starks left too many yards on the field and plans to get an even more ineffective Alex Green back in the mix. Starks has been the better runner, which is damning with faint praise. Expect this to be a timeshare backfield until Cedric Benson returns, likely in Week 15.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Bilal Powell, Jets - Beware of Powell’s Week 11 production. Shonn Greene has been performing better than any Jets offensive player, and Powell’s two scores were a bit on the fluky side. Both came on third-down plays with the defense expecting a pass. It’s not like he’s taken over as the goal-line horse. Powell is only worth carrying in deeper leagues.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Kendall Hunter, Toby Gerhart, Evan Royster, Robert Turbin, Shane Vereen, Jacquizz Rodgers, Bernard Pierce, Michael Bush, Cedric Peerman, Daryl Richardson, Montario Hardesty, LeGarrette Blount, Jamie Harper, Kevin Smith, Jason Snelling, Lamar Miller, David Wilson, Phillip Tanner

The bye weeks are over. Dump the flotsam and jetsam floating on the periphery of your roster and pick up the obvious handcuffs to your star fantasy backs.

Cut Bait: Willis McGahee, Joique Bell, Ronnie Brown, Alex Green, Isaac Redman, Peyton Hillis

McGahee will be on crutches for about a month. He’s not going to be an asset for the fantasy playoffs. … Kevin Smith stole third downs from Bell last week. With the bye weeks over, flex options such as Bell, Brown, Redman, and Hillis aren’t nearly as valuable. … Green didn’t see a single carry in Week 11.

Wide Receivers

Danario Alexander, Chargers - “DX” topped our wide receiver list a week ago and was third on the list two weeks ago. He’s still owned in less than a quarter of Yahoo leagues, which tells us that fantasy leaguers are falling by the wayside by November. Installed as the starter two games ago, Alexander has already emerged as Philip Rivers’ favorite receiver and the Chargers’ most dangerous offensive playmaker. Only Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Andre Johnson have more fantasy points over the past three weeks, which makes Alexander a must-start receiver for Week 12 versus the Ravens. As was always case, Alexander has difference-making ability as long as his knee holds up.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Justin Blackmon, Jaguars - Out of shape and still learning the NFL route tree, Blackmon spent the first half of the season struggling mightily to separate from defensive backs. With Chad Henne under center, the light finally flipped on for Blackmon against one of the league’s elite secondaries. Although quite a few smart analysts have been down on Blackmon’s NFL potential, I’m not one of them. He excels after the catch, has vice-grip hands and proved with his 236-yard breakout game that he can make plays down the field. Henne has shown a clear preference for Blackmon and Cecil Shorts this season at Laurent Robinson’s expense. Blackmon should be owned in all leagues to see if he can produce magic with the new quarterback.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts - Like Alexander, Hilton is owned in just 23 percent of Yahoo leagues even though he’s been high on this list the past couple of weeks. Donnie Avery’s Week 12 status is up in the air after sustaining a concussion at New England. With a pair of 100-yard games sandwiching a Week 10 goose egg, Hilton is fantasy’s No. 7 receiver over the past three weeks. He’s a viable WR3 option versus the Bills in Week 12 if Avery is held out.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Julian Edelman, Patriots - Taking over as the starter opposite Wes Welker in two-wide sets, Edelman produced the best fantasy game of his career and his most targets (7) since his rookie season of 2009. With Rob Gronkowski out of the lineup for a month or longer, Edelman should retain a significant role in the offense. With Aaron Hernandez (ankle) due back, though, Edelman won’t be more than third or fourth option for Tom Brady. He’s more of a flex option going forward.

Recommendation: Worth a look in PPR leagues.

Ryan Broyles / Mike Thomas, Lions - Titus Young’s Week 12 suspension represents a prime opportunity for fantasy production opposite Calvin Johnson. The problem is there’s no clear winner between Broyles and Thomas. The latter is expected to start, but he’s been a drop-prone disappointment while the former has drawn praise from his quarterback. "Every time I throw him the ball, he makes a play," Stafford said of Broyles. "Maybe I should throw it to him some more. I'm sure he'd like that." I’d rather take a chance on Broyles than Thomas, but neither is going to be ranked among the top-35 receivers for Week 12.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Brandon LaFell, Panthers - LaFell led the Panthers in targets (7) and yards (93) last week, producing his best fantasy game of the season. This week brings a matchup against a reeling Eagles defense that has been highly susceptible to the big play since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as defensive boss. To put it in perspective, seven QBs had a passer rating of 120.0 or higher in 160 games under the late Jimmy Johnson. In four games under Bowles, all four QBs have reached the mark.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Brandon Stokley, Broncos - Stokley has topped 55 yards just once all season, but he’s been a top-25 fantasy receiver over the past three weeks. After dealing with the moribund Chiefs in Week 12, the Broncos face three of the 10 most generous defenses to fantasy receivers over the next month. Stokley is purely a deep-league option.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Mohamed Sanu, Bengals - The third-round rookie played as many snaps (63) as A.J. Green last week, which means he’s finally emerged as an every-down player. The Bengals have a plus matchup against a Raiders defense allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers, but Sanu isn’t going to be a recommended start outside of deeper leagues.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Plaxico Burress, Chaz Schilens, Harry Douglas, Marvin Jones

I only included Plax to make it clear that he should be ignored this week. The Steelers will struggle to move the ball, and he doesn’t know Todd Haley’s offense. His only fantasy relevance is in Vinny Testaverde’s couch league. … I wouldn’t trust Schilens even in a great matchup versus the Pats. Clyde Gates ran more routes than Schilens last week. … Douglas may be worth a look in deeper PPR formats if Julio Jones sits out. Even then, keep in mind that Douglas has never been a reliable fantasy asset when playing starter’s snaps.

Cut Bait: Titus Young, Alshon Jeffery, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Donald Jones, Brandon Gibson, Stephen Hill

Young has been suspended for Week 12 and will have to earn his way back into the coaching staff’s good graces the rest of the way. … Jeffery left Monday night’s game with a knee injury. … Moss, Hankerson, and Morgan can’t be trusted with Pierre Garcon back in the mix at wide receiver. RGIII has no go-to receiver at the moment. … Jones, Gibson, and Hill can be dumped for running back handcuffs.

Tight Ends

Brandon Myers, Raiders - Myers is still owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo leagues because a good portion of fantasy owners are asleep at the wheel by late November. Over the past five weeks, Myers is fourth in fantasy points, fourth in yards, and second in receptions among tight ends. The Week 12 matchup is outstanding with Carson Palmer returning to Cincinnati to face a Bengals defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Pick Myers up if he’s still out there.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Dwayne Allen, Colts - The rookie’s 240 yards are the sixth-most among tight ends over the past five weeks. Coby Fleener is expected to miss one more week, and Donnie Avery is battling the after-effects of a concussion this week. Allen isn’t a bad plug-and-play versus a Bills defense allowing the 13th-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Dustin Keller, Jets -  Keller is still owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues because nobody trusts the Jets offense. With Rob Gronkowski out, Heath Miller in third-string QB jail, and several others injured, though, you may have no choice. Keller is Mark Sanchez’s most reliable red-zone weapon, and he’s set to square off against a Pats defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Tony Moeaki, Chiefs - If you can muster up any semblance of faith in Brady Quinn, it’s worth noting that Moeaki has registered season-highs in yards in three of the past four weeks (he was shutout in Week 9). It appears that his surgically-repaired knee is finally coming around, just in time for desperate fantasy owners to roll the dice against a Broncos defense allowing the most points to tight ends.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars - It was only two years ago that Lewis earned a trip to the Pro Bowl with 700 yards and 10 touchdowns under David Garrard. He’s certainly not without talent, especially as a red-zone weapon. It’s been Blaine Gabbert’s poor play that has killed his production for the past year and a half. With Chad Henne behind center, Lewis had his best fantasy day since the 2010 season. He’s set to face a Titans defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Garrett Graham, Dallas Clark, Ben Watson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Michael Hoomanawanui

Graham’s career game in Week 11 comes with a giant asterisk in an overtime game wherein the Texans passed more heavily than they ever will again. The majority of Graham’s production came on one fourth-quarter drive when the Jags left the middle of the field open with a two-touchdown lead. … Clark is worth a look in deeper leagues with the offense firing on all cylinders, but his production typically comes via comeback mode only. … Watson scored two touchdowns in Dallas. Make him do it again. … I’ve seen a good portion of fantasy owners angling for Shiancoe or Hoomanawanui as Gronkowski’s replacement this week. This I don’t understand. Shiancoe is washed up, Hoomanawanui is a blocking specialist, Aaron Hernandez is returning this week, and Julian Edelman’s offensive role is increasing. Ignore the New England tight ends on the wire this week.

Cut Bait: Dennis Pitta, Anthony Fasano

Pitta is unlikely to play this week after sustaining a concussion at Pittsburgh. … Fasano is an afterthought in the Miami passing “attack.”

Team Defense

Browns - Coming off a season-high seven sacks of Tony Romo, the Browns return home to feast on the carcass of Charlie Batch and a Steelers offense that managed just one touchdown in Week 11. Batch hasn’t typically been turnover prone coming out of the bullpen, but he has struggled to consistently move the offense. Expect a low-scoring affair by the lake.

Rams - Coach Ken Whisenhunt is noncommittal on his Week 12 starter after Matt Schaub produced more completions (43) than the Cardinals did passing yards (41) at Atlanta. Whether it’s Ryan Lindley or John Skelton, the Rams defensive front is in for a field day against the worst offensive line in the league.

Patriots - New England’s fantasy D/ST is coming off a trio of return touchdowns versus the Colts. It’s not a bad idea to see if they can keep it rolling against a Jets offense that has flat-out fallen to pieces in losses this season.

Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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