Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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Weapon of Choice

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


The waiver wire question of the week: James Starks or Tashard Choice? Choose your weapon for the fantasy playoffs. Both backs have major question marks as well as several points in their favor.

Starks' 18 carries against the 49ers matched a Green Bay season-high, but coach Mike McCarthy is envisioning a three-headed attack with Brandon Jackson on passing downs and Dimitri Nance or John Kuhn at the goal line. Tashard Choice's 100 yards at Indy were the second-most by a Cowboys back all season (and a third of Marion Barber's total production in 11 games). His role remains uncertain, however, with Felix Jones starting and Barber getting healthy.

Starks has the matchup advantage in Week 14 at Detroit (fourth-most points to opposing backs), but Choice gets a Redskins team going through the motions in Week 15 and fantasy's friendliest defense in Week 16 at Arizona.

Choice has a demonstrated history of fantasy success as the feature back against a murder's row of defenses down the stretch in 2008. Starks has the talent to take the early-down job and run with it just as Ryan Grant did down the stretch in the 2007 season.

The likeliest scenario in Green Bay is that Starks approximates Chris Ivory's role with the Saints. He's not going to see the field in passing sets, but he is getting the rock when he's in the game. The $64,000 question: How valuable is that in fantasy terms if he ends up getting pulled for Nance or Kuhn at the goal line? I see flex value here as opposed to a reliable RB2 option.

Owner Jerry Jones suggested Sunday night that Choice doesn't have to worry about heading back to the bench after he proved once again that he's the most complete back on the roster. Given Choice's average of 106 total yards in the eight career games in which he's received at least 10 touches, I'm taking him No. 1 this week. It doesn't take an over-active imagination to picture Felix Jones going down with an injury and leaving Choice as a 20-touch RB1 option in Weeks 15 and 16.

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players available at each position as we head into Week 14. Full writeups of each player are below.

***

Editor's Note: You can get our Season Pass package at a discount rate for the fantasy playoffs. Tons of extra stat tools, projections, columns, and playoff rankings, and Chris Wesseling's Dynasty league coverage -- all for just $4.99.

Running Backs
1. Tashard Choice
2. James Starks
3. Javarris James
4. Anthony Dixon
5. James Davis
6. Bernard Scott
7. Rashad Jennings
8. C.J. Spiller

**Pierre Thomas (89 percent), Michael Bush (66 percent), and Ryan Torain (70 percent) are already owned in the majority of CBSSports.com leagues. Choice is the first pick regardless.

Wide Receivers
1. Earl Bennett
2. Jacoby Ford
3. Robert Meachem
4. Ben Obomanu
5. Danario Alexander
6. Roy Williams
7. Anthony Armstrong
8. Seyi Ajirotutu
9. Mohamed Massaquoi

**Kenny Britt is owned in 72 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. He would be first on this list if available.

Tight Ends
1. Owen Daniels
2. Ed Dickson
3. Ben Watson
4. Jimmy Graham
5. Tony Moeaki

Quarterbacks
1. Jason Campbell
2. Alex Smith
3. Matt Hasselbeck
4. Drew Stanton
5. John Skelton
6. Chad Henne
7. Kerry Collins

Defense/Special Teams
1. Falcons
2. Broncos
3. Browns

Running Backs

Tashard Choice, Cowboys - Choice averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2008 and 5.5 in '09. He's proven to be an asset with 10+ touches per week, but that didn't stop the Cowboys from relegating him to the bench behind a washed-up Marion Barber. Given a chance against the Colts in Week 13, Choice did what he always does: produce. With an injury-prone back in front of him and ideal matchups in Week 15 and 16, Choice is the top waiver pickup this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues

James Starks, Packers - Starks hadn't played a meaningful down in two years heading into Week 13, but that didn't stop him from dominating the workload against the 49ers. Even with Coach Mike McCarthy envisioning a three-man backfield, Starks is the best bet for carries the rest of the way. Goal-line work remains a question mark, though Starks should still be good for flex value at Detroit (fourth-most points to opposing backs) in Week 14.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues

Javarris James, Colts - The Colts aren't optimistic about Joseph Addai returning this week. Donald Brown and Mike Hart both sat out Monday with ankle injuries, and there's a chance that all three will be unavailable on a short week. With all three sidelined late in the game last week, James took over as the feature back down the stretch with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Cowboys. If James handles the same role Thursday night at Tennessee, he's going to have legit RB2 value.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Anthony Dixon, 49ers - Brian Westbrook started the game in Green Bay, but Dixon saw the first carry. The two backs rotated the rest of the way, and we can expect more of the same going forward. Westbrook's value gets a spike in PPR leagues with Alex Smith regaining the starting job, but Dixon remains a better bet for touchdowns as the goal-line horse. Against a Seattle run defense that has been gashed repeatedly the past month, both backs are fine flex options in Week 14.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

James Davis, Redskins - For the second straight week, Davis has come off the bench to handle the majority of the touches in relief of Keiland Williams. Would-be starter Ryan Torain (hamstring) is expected to progress to full practices this week after missing five games and suffering several setbacks. If Torain makes it through the week unscathed, this backfield has the look of a full-fledged quagmire. If not, Davis could have flex value against the Bucs in Week 14.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Bernard Scott, Bengals - Every time Scott relieves Cedric Benson for a series, Twitter goes absolutely bonkers with speculation that there's been a changing of the guard in Cincinnati. Perhaps it's with good reason, as a plodding Benson has been held under 4.0 YPC in six of the past seven games. While Scott is unquestioningly a more explosive option, the Bengals have shown no inclination to mix things up in the backfield.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars - Maurice Jones-Drew's backup can't be counted on for weekly production, but he's scored in back-to-back games while averaging 54 yards. Jacksonville's running game is a well-oiled machine right now, so Jennings would have legit RB2 value if Jones-Drew goes down. He's a must-have handcuff considering the Jags' dream schedule throughout the fantasy playoffs.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

C.J. Spiller, Bills - After three weeks of Fred Jackson's domination in the bell cow role, Spiller looked like the Bills' best offensive player at Minnesota. He's nowhere near a threat to F-Jax's starting job, but he's now a good bet for 8-10 touches in the Reggie Bush role.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Long-Term Fliers: Derrick Ward, Jerome Harrison, Jason Snelling, Javon Ringer, Isaac Redman, Earnest Graham, Troy Sutton

Get your handcuffs here. … Those in TD-heavy leagues should note that the Bucs are toying with the idea of using Graham at the goal-line. This after he didn't receive a single carry in Week 13. … Sutton could see a third-down role if Mike Goodson (shoulder) ends up missing this week's game.

Editor's Note: On the outside looking in for the fantasy playoffs? You can get a new team via SnapDraft right now.


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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.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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