Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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Retreaded in Detroit

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As I wrote in Monday’s Morning After column, I came away impressed with Kevin Smith’s acceleration, change-of-direction, lateral agility, and three-down skills despite the obvious caveat that his career game came against the most generous defense in the league. This is the same team that made Chris Johnson look passable after all. What shouldn’t be glossed over is Smith drastically outplaying Johnson, nearly doubling his per-carry average (8.8 to 4.8) while adding 15.3 yards per reception.

Evan Silva went back and watched the game on NFL Rewind, opining that Smith looked “very ordinary” against a defense that held a bad-tackling clinic.” Silva came away more excited about exploiting running-back matchups against Carolina the rest of the way while noting that Smith still has plenty of fantasy value due to projected volume of touches, especially as a receiver in the Lions’ pass-heavy offense. Smith was rock-solid in pass protection, and the coaching staff has always appreciated his sure hands and run-after-catch ability. After the first quarter, Smith had 19 touches to Maurice Morris’ four and Keiland Williams’ zero.

The Lions made the depth chart switch official on Tuesday, giving Smith the first-team reps in preparation for the Thanksgiving matchup with the Packers. Healthy and fresh, Smith is going to be the lead-back going forward. The Lions aren’t going to force-feed Jahvid Best more than 10 touches per game once he does return, perhaps in Week 13 against the Vikings. Ideally, Best would take on a Darren Sproles role in preparation for a playoff run, leaving Smith to handle the Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram touches.

As Gregg Rosenthal points out in this week’s Fantasy Fix, none of the Week 11 breakout candidates at wide receiver are particularly trustworthy. Jerome Simpson blows up a couple of times a year, but he’s not a player who can be counted on weekly. It’s a good week to scan through the players who have been dropped, such as Santana Moss, Jacoby Ford, or perhaps even Denarius Moore.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank @SPYDERMAN20 for this week's column title which narrowly won out over @austineatsworld's "Oh, Thank Kevin," @perrysantiques' "Smith & Wesseling, Packing Heat," and several dozen references to the eponymous director of Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma.

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

Editor’s Note: Join subscriber only chats, get weekly rankings before anyone else, plus exclusive weekly projections, stat tools, dynasty ranks, columns, and much more including the Rotoworld Oracle in our Season Pass.

Running Backs
Kevin Smith
C.J. Spiller
Donald Brown
Toby Gerhart
Joe McKnight
Ryan Grant
Javon Ringer
Marion Barber
Montario Hardesty

Vince Young
Caleb Hanie
Matt Moore
Jake Locker
Rex Grossman

Wide Receivers
Santana Moss
Riley Cooper
Jerome Simpson
Nate Burleson
Greg Little
Jacoby Ford
Jabar Gaffney

Tight Ends
Jacob Tamme
Jared Cook
Anthony Fasano
Tony Scheffler

Defense/Special Teams

Running Backs

Kevin Smith, Lions - Smith took the first-team reps in Tuesday’s practice after putting a  stranglehold on the feature-back job in the final three quarters of the comeback win over the Panthers. As delicate as Jahvid Best is at this point, the Lions aren’t going to give him more than 10 touches per game when he does return -- perhaps in Week 13. That leaves Smith with the most value in this backfield going forward. In what should be a Thanksgiving shootout with the Packers, Smith’s receiving ability should maintain RB2 value even if the running lanes aren’t nearly as wide as they were in Week 11. He’s easily the top waiver option this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

C.J. Spiller, Bills - Fred Jackson’s calf is reportedly “very, very sore.” He’s already been ruled out of Wednesday’s practice, leaving Spiller to handle the first-team reps in preparation for the Jets rematch. While Spiller has shown flashes of talent the past season and a half, he’s still unproven as a feature back. We have more confidence in his receiving ability, leaving him as a better option in PPR formats should F-Jax sit out.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Donald Brown, Colts - After functioning as the lead-back in Week 10, Brown would be higher on this list if the Colts would tip their hand on the backfield plans for Week 12. Per coach Jim Caldwell, there is a “possibility” that Joseph Addai (hamstring) will play this week, leaving Brown’s role up in the air. If that role solidifies by week’s end, Brown is going to fly up the running back rankings against a Panthers defense that has surrendered 375 yards and four touchdowns to Chris Johnson and Kevin Smith the past two weeks.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Toby Gerhart, Vikings - In Tuesday’s Daily Dose, Adam Levitan addressed the reluctance inherent in picking up Gerhart his week. Adrian Peterson is reportedly out 1-2 weeks, leaving Gerhart as the feature back against a Falcons defense giving up just 3.8 yards per carry and the 31st-most fantasy points to opposing backs. Gerhart did touch the ball 19 times for 95 yards in a spot start versus the Bears late last season, but he’s a poor bet to reach those numbers against a smothering defense with Percy Harvin taking on an increased backfield role. Gerhart won’t be a recommended RB2 option for Week 12.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Joe McKnight, Jets - Shonn Greene (ribs) expects to play in Week 12, insisting that his rib injury isn’t a significant issue. Greene did reveal after last week’s game that the coaching staff opted to stick with McKnight’s hot hand in the second half, suggesting a possible change in game plan against the Bills. McKnight can’t be counted on as a fantasy starter at this point, but that could change in the next week or two. He offers more play-making ability than Greene.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Ryan Grant, Packers - James Starks is day-to-day with knee and ankle sprains sustained on the same play after having his leg twisted backwards. Even if Starks misses Thursday’s game at Detroit, Grant is merely a desperation fantasy play. He’s not involved in the pass-heavy attack while John Kuhn and even B.J. Raji have gotten the call at the goal-line of late.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Javon Ringer, Titans - Since 1960, only 100 backs have ever carried the ball as many as 12 times without topping 13 yards. This is the state of Chris Johnson in Week 11 of the 2011 season. As hesitant at the line as any back I’ve ever seen, Johnson is arguably the worst in the NFL right now. Ringer should be rostered in case the Titans decide they can’t put up with the hemming and hawing any longer.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Marion Barber, Bears - As a player who touches the ball 6-10 times, Barber isn’t my kind of fantasy back even if he’s been given the opportunity for short touchdowns in four of the past five games. Barber can’t ever be trusted in standard-scoring leagues as long as Matt Forte is healthy, but he’s finding the end zone enough to be utilized in touchdown-heavy formats.

Recommendation: Should be owned in touchdown-heavy leagues.

Montario Hardesty, Browns - Coach Pat Shurmur intends to be “cautious” with Hardesty (calf) this week after Chris Ogbonnaya cleared 100 scrimmage yards for the second straight game. If Hardesty gets the green light this week, I expect him to play behind Ogbonnaya at Cincinnati. Tough matchups follow against the Ravens and Steelers the next two weeks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Johnny White

The fifth-rounder out of North Carolina could see 6-8 carries against the Jets if Fred Jackson (calf) can’t go this week.

Hold Off: Tashard Choice, Shane Vereen

To the surprise of no one who’s watched him the past two years, Choice averaged 1.17 yards on six carries in his Redskins debut. … Vereen was impressive in garbage time Monday night, but he’s going to have to do quite a bit of depth-chart climbing before hitting the fantasy radar.

Cut Bait: Maurice Morris, Bilal Powell, Taiwan Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, D.J. Ware

Morris saw just four touches to 19 for Kevin Smith after the first quarter in Week 11. … Powell was pedestrian in his NFL debut. … Jones pulled a hamstring last week. … Rodgers appeared to fall behind Jason Snelling against the Titans.

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

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