For the second straight week, there are freely available assets at running back. Fantasy owners and waiver wranglers can get use to this after a running-back drought throughout the first half of the season.
If Bryce Brown remains available (owned in just 34 percent of Yahoo leagues), he's the No. 1 recommendation this week. LeSean McCoy is stuck in Phase I of the concussion program, has yet to pass his baseline tests and was still experiencing symptoms over the weekend. He's not expected to be available for Week 13 and is no lock to return the following week. As a general rule, we can consider any player out indefinitely if he's still experiencing symptoms 48-72 hours after a head injury. You saw what Brown's unique size/speed package could deliver Monday night. Pick him and plug him into your lineup at Dallas if he's still on the wire.
In any league where the owners are still paying attention, Knowshon Moreno is the top candidate after Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball went from significant Week 11 roles to benchwarmers in Week 12. All indications out of Denver last week suggested Hillman would be the lead back in a committee attack.
Coach John Fox threw fantasy owners a curveball, however, turning healthy scratch Moreno into a three-down workhorse to see if he could maintain even a passing resemblance to Willis McGahee between the tackles and in protection. Moreno moved the chains and ran more decisively than we've seen since his rookie season. The matchup is daunting this week against the Bucs' top-ranked run defense, but Moreno has the opportunity to hold onto the feature back job for the remainder of the season.
Update: Coach Mike Tomlin has promoted Jonathan Dwyer to starter while demoting Rashard Mendenhall to third on the depth chart. If Dwyer is available, he would be third on this list behind Brown and Moreno.
On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 13. Full write-ups of each player are below.
Dwayne Harris / Cole Beasley
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers - Lazy fantasy owners are playing havoc with owner percentage. Kaepernick is a borderline QB1 thanks to his legs and ability to stretch defenses, but he’s owned in just a third of Yahoo leagues. Excelling on third downs and throws of 20+ yards, Kaepernick has posted the second-highest QBR rating through a player’s first two starts over the last five seasons. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been predictably non-committal on his Week 13 starter at St. Louis. Nothing Harbs does will surprise me, but I suspect he will continue to ride the hot hand.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.
Chad Henne, Jaguars - Averaging 308 yards and three touchdowns in two games, Henne has a shot at QB1 value versus an easy schedule (@BUF, NYJ, @MIA, NE, @TEN) the rest of the way. The difference between Henne and Blaine Gabbert has been downfield aggressiveness and efficiency, taking advantage of the talents of Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, and Marcedes Lewis. Whereas Gabbert averaged 11.2 yards per attempt and 40.4 percent completion rate on throws of 15+ yards, Henne has averaged 19.9 per and 57.1 percent.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.
Jake Locker, Titans - Coach Mike Munchak surprisingly fired coordinator Chris Palmer, promoting highly regarded QBs guru Dowell Loggains to chief play-caller. The Titans want more creativity and imagination from their passing attack, and Loggains is viewed as an intelligent up-and-comer. It’s worth noting that Kerry Collins’ three best games of the 2010 season came in December when Loggains took on more responsibility with Mike Heimerdinger battling cancer. Locker is worth a speculative add to see if Loggains makes a noticeable difference in play-calling and scheming.
Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.
Sam Bradford, Rams - The boxscore is misleading. Bradford threw for just 205 yards at Arizona, but it was one of the best performances of his career. Eschewing short-to-intermediate throws, Bradford attacked relentlessly downfield to the tune of 12.1 YPA and 25.6 yards per completion. While he should get a healthier Danny Amendola for a dream playoff schedule (@BUF, MIN, @TB), Bradford is tough to recommend for Week 13 versus the 49ers.
Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.
Colt McCoy, Browns - Going through the league’s concussion protocol, Brandon Weeden’s status is up in the air for Week 13. Concussed quarterbacks have had a hard time gaining clearance for the next game in previous weeks. Should McCoy get the nod, he would have an excellent matchup against a Raiders defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. He’s only a deep-league option.
Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.
Cut Bait: Brandon Weeden, Charlie Batch
Weeden’s play has fallen off after a promising stretch in October. He’s questionable for Week 13 with a concussion. … Batch is brutal. The Steelers should have never backed up an injury-prone starter with a brittle backup and an ancient third-stringer.