Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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Playoff Felixir

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


This week’s title comes courtesy of loyal Rotoworld reader Jim Sloan, who noted that Jones has risen from the ranks of the football dead just in time to cure what ails a short-handed fantasy owner in the two most crucial weeks of the season. The Cowboys placed DeMarco Murray (fractured ankle) on injured reserve Tuesday, ensuring that Jones will function as a three-down back the rest of the way.

Pro Football Focus made the case last week that the difference in perception between Murray and Jones this season is “almost entirely the result of a scheduling fluke which has artificially enhanced the yards before contact numbers of Murray and suppressed those of Jones.” In fact, Murray actually averaged slightly fewer fantasy points per touch from Weeks 7-13 of 2011 than Jones did from Weeks 10-17 of 2010.

While Jones was unquestionably one of the first-half’s biggest fantasy disappointments, he was facing a tougher schedule, playing through a separated shoulder, and running behind an inexperienced offensive line still learning the NFL ropes. We saw a more aggressive Jones Sunday night, lowering his pads and blowing through Giants tackles.

If Jones faceplants this time around, he will have only himself to blame. Matchups don’t get any dreamier than a Buccaneers defense going through the motions in a seven-game losing streak while allowing the most fantasy points to opposing backs. After turning Chris Johnson’s season around with 190 yards, the Bucs rolled over for a career-high four touchdowns to Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 14. Tampa's defense jammed up close to the line of scrimmage” against an offense that hadn’t topped 20 points all year, and still couldn’t close off running lanes. Jones is going to be a top-10 fantasy play in his first start since mid-October.

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 15. 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
Felix Jones
Ryan Grant
Chris Ivory
Montario Hardesty
John Kuhn
Kahlil Bell
Danny Woodhead

Quarterbacks
Jake Locker
Christian Ponder
Rex Grossman
T.J. Yates
Dan Orlovsky

Wide Receivers
Demaryius Thomas
Jabar Gaffney
James Jones
Randall Cobb
Golden Tate
Titus Young
Jerome Simpson
Donald Driver
Devin Aromashodu

Tight Ends
Dallas Clark
Anthony Fasano
Evan Moore
Marcedes Lewis


Defense/Special Teams
Cardinals
Falcons
Seahawks

Running Backs

Felix Jones, Cowboys - Coming off the bench 14 weeks into the season, Jones finally made good on that preseason hype (guilty as charged) once DeMarco Murray went down with a broken ankle. While Jones’ early-season disappointment was the result of a tough schedule, a separated shoulder, and a young offensive line still learning the ropes, it seemed evident that he was lowering his pads and running with more authority against the Giants Sunday night. With Murray on injured reserve, Jones is an every-down back heading into a matchup against the league’s most generous run defense. He’s a legit top-10 RB1 for Week 15.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Ryan Grant, Packers -  Grant’s 47-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage was the longest Green Bay run of the season, and his first over 10 yards in 67 carries and nine weeks. Although Grant was able to get downhill between the tackles, he still doesn’t stand a prayer to get to the edge. I wouldn’t expect a repeat at Kansas City even if James Starks (ankle) sits out again, but starting running backs are hard to come by at this stage of the season. Grant has to be owned in all leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Chris Ivory, Saints - As expected, Ivory led the backfield in carries against the Titans while filling in for Mark Ingram. There’s little falloff -- if any -- with Ivory in the lineup, so the Saints can afford to wait until Ingram is 100 percent recovered from his turf toe injury as opposed to rushing him back. If Ingram misses practices again this week, Ivory is worthy of flex consideration versus the Vikings in deeper leagues.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Montario Hardesty, Browns - Peyton Hillis (hip) started last week’s game against the Steelers, but Hardesty functioned as the lead back for the final three quarters. Hillis’ post-game comments hinted that the Browns intend to go with a timeshare in the backfield as long as he’s playing through injuries. Hardesty isn’t a good bet for more than 10-12 touches unless Hillis aggravates one of his injuries during the Cardinals game.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

John Kuhn, Packers - With James Starks (ankle) out of the lineup, Kuhn tied for the team lead with 10 carries against the Raiders in Week 14. The majority of his touches came in garbage time with the Packers in clock-killing mode. If Starks sits out again this week, Kuhn could be called upon to salt away a big lead again at Kansas City. He’s purely a desperation flex option for the fantasy playoffs.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Kahlil Bell, Bears - Bell played just 19 snaps to Marion Barber’s 42 against the Broncos, but it’s worth noting that the Bears wanted the ball in his hands when he was on the field. Bell touched the ball on 14 of those 19 snaps in a decidedly run-heavy attack. That will almost certainly stand as his season-high in touches, so keep expectations low against the Seahawks. Bell isn’t flex-worthy just yet.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Danny Woodhead, Patriots - The good news is that Woodhead led the backfield in snaps and touches against the Redskins in Week 14. The bad news, as we’ve all come to learn over the years, is that the division of snaps in New England is driven by matchups and game momentum. Woodhead could take a backseat to BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Broncos in Week 15.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper PPR leagues.

Watch List: Lance Ball, Isaac Redman, Chauncey Washington

Ball’s 38 snaps led Denver backs in Week 14. He could start seeing more touches if Willis McGahee wears down under his heaviest workload in years. … Redman is a handcuff. … Washington has yet to be promoted from the Cowboys’ practice squad.

Hold Off: Keiland Williams, Evan Royster, Sammy Morris

Kevin Smith (ankle) expects to return this week, sending Williams back to the bench. … Royster is a bench-warmer. … Morris is a 34-year-old with fullback speed. He’s not going to threaten Felix Jones.


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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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