Chris Wesseling

Post-Season Fantasy Football Guide

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Fantasy Playoff Ranks

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Wide Receivers

1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
2. Wes Welker, Patriots
3. Eric Decker, Broncos
4. Julio Jones, Falcons
5. Roddy White, Falcons
6. Andre Johnson, Texans

More consistent than the touchdown-reliant Decker, Thomas produced 75 yards or a score in 14 of 16 games with Peyton Manning under center. Decker did finish furiously, placing second to Michael Crabtree in fantasy points over the final three weeks and fourth over the final five. ... Only three receivers had more targets than Welker's 175. He may see a slight dropoff with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski healthy, but he's been heavily involved in the offense every week since the season opener. ... Julio and Roddy have traded big games all season. I still prefer Jones' upside as the more explosive playmaker. ... Johnson has a daunting opening matchup, as Danario Alexander (Week 13, 102 yards) is the only receiver to reach 100 yards against the Bengals this season. On the flip side, Johnson finished as the No. 1 receiver in Pro Football Focus' ratings, playing the best ball of his career  over the past two months. Johnson was held under 95 yards and seven receptions just once in the final seven games. 

7. Greg Jennings, Packers
8. Randall Cobb, Packers
9. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
10. A.J. Green, Bengals
11. James Jones, Packers
12. Jordy Nelson, Packers
13. Torrey Smith, Ravens
14. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots

The Packers were lucky to open the season with too many mouths to feed in the passing game. Cobb picked up the slack when Jennings went down, Jones stepped up when Nelson and Jermichael Finley were injured, and Jennings returned the favor once Cobb finally missed a game. From a fantasy perspective, though, good luck figuring out which receiver will blow up in a given week. Jennings is favored here for two reasons: 1. He's finally back to 2010 form, with Aaron Rodgers admitting that 85 was open all game on the Week 16 game film before an explosion in the regular-season finale. 2. Cobb and Nelson aren't fully healthy. Both players were limited in Wednesday's practice. Cobb insists there's a "100 percent" chance he will play in the rematch with the Vikings, but Nelson's status is murkier. Nelson looked good running Wednesday, but the team doctor "has some concerns" and needs further evaluation before clearing Rodgers' favorite vertical threat for game action. The guess here is that the medical staff is being overly cautious, as was the case late in last week's game. 

It turns out that the promotion of Colin Kaepernick and the absence of Mario Manningham were the perfect storm for Michael Crabtree's chances of emerging as a legit No. 1 receiver. Over Kaepernick's seven starts, Crabtree has 66 targets compared to 26 for the next-closest teammate. Roughly half of Crabtree's 1,105 yards came in the final five games, when only Dez Bryant had more fantasy points. ... A.J. Green managed just five catches for 47 yards against Johnathan Joseph in last year's playoff loss. He's going to have to dominate the matchup for the Bengals to join the other 31 NFL teams in producing a post-season win in the past 23 years. ... Smith and Lloyd have been hit-or-miss all season, but have the talent to put together have a strong playoff run.

15. Reggie Wayne, Colts
16. Pierre Garcon, Redskins
17. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
18. Sidney Rice, Seahawks
19. Golden Tate, Seahawks
20. T.Y. Hilton, Colts

Drawing more defensive attention, Wayne reached 65 yards just once in the last five weeks while being outscored by Hilton. Wayne still finished second in targets, fifth in receptions, seventh in yards, and second in Pro Football Focus' wide receiver ratings. Hilton, meanwhile, leads the NFL with five touchdowns on throws of 20+ yards. Hilton accounted for nine of the 18 Colts plays that measured 32 yards or more. Outside of Donnie Avery's four, no other teammate had more than one. ... According to PFF, Garcon was second among all receivers with 2.93 yards per route run this season. ... Boldin is practicing in full this week after sitting out the meaningless regular-season finale to rest his shoulder. ... Rice and Tate are more talented than their numbers suggest, but it's telling that Percy Harvin saw more targets (85) in nine games than any Seahawks or Redskins did all season.

21. Brandon Stokley, Broncos
22. Donnie Avery, Colts
23. Randy Moss, 49ers
24. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
25. Santana Moss, Redskins
26. Jacoby Jones, Ravens
27. Kevin Walter, Texans
28. Marvin Jones, Bengals
29. Harry Douglas, Falcons
30. Andrew Hawkins, Bengals
31. Leonard Hankerson, Redskins
32. Jarius Wright, Vikings
33. Josh Morgan, Redskins
34. DeVier Posey, Texans
35. Deion Branch, Patriots
36. Jerome Simpson, Vikings
37. Lestar Jean, Texans
38. A.J. Jenkins, 49ers
39. Michael Jenkins, Vikings
40. Ted Ginn, 49ers
41. Jeremy Ross, Packers 

Stokley is a nice sleeper in PPR formats. ... Randy Moss' 26 targets are the second-most on the team since Kaepernick took over at quarterback. ... Wright closed out the season in impressive fashion, but he's going to run into a slower track in Green Bay. ... Jacoby, Ginn, and perhaps even Ross are worth a look in deeper return-yardage leagues. 
 

Tight Ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots

Despite missing five games, Gronk finished with more fantasy points than any tight end in the playoffs. In leagues that combine wide receivers and tight ends, he's every bit as valuable as Demaryius Thomas. ... Fantasy's top tight end over the final five weeks, Hernandez isn't far behind Gronkowski. The two are in a league of their own at the position entering the post-season.

3. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
4. Jacob Tamme, Broncos
5. Jermichael Finley, Packers
6. Owen Daniels, Texans
7. Vernon Davis, 49ers
8. Dennis Pitta, Ravens

Gonzalez is coming off his best season in a Falcons uniform at age 36. He forced 16 players to miss tackles this season, the second-highest figure Pro Football Focus has recorded for a tight end in the past half-decade. ... The three highest yardage totals of Tamme's season came in the last six games. He's still behind Joel Dreessen in the red-zone pecking order. ... Finley returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday with a swollen eye. He quietly broke the single-season franchise record for receptions by a tight end while topping 50 yards in six of the final seven games. ... The Texans plan to get Daniels more involved in the offense during the playoffs after injuries siphoned his production in December. ... Davis may only be averaging a catch per over the past six games, but the monstrous fantasy output from last January can't be forgotten. He was a post-season MVP candidate, averaging 137 yards and 1.3 touchdowns in three games. ,,, Pitta finished as fantasy's No. 7 tight end in an inconsistent breakout year.

9. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
10. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
12. Delanie Walker, 49ers
12. Joel Dreessen, Broncos
13. Dwayne Allen, Colts
14. Zach Miller, Seahawks
15. Coby Fleener, Colts
16. Garrett Graham, Texans
17. Anthony McCoy, Seahawks
18. Ed Dickson, Ravens
19. Logan Paulsen, Redskins
20. Virgil Green, Broncos

Bump Gresham one tier if you believe the Bengals will get off the playoff schneid. Gresham pulled off a nearly impossible feat this season, leading all tight ends in yards after the catch yet still finishing last in Pro Football Focus' ratings for the position. ... Rudolph hauled in half of Christian Ponder's 18 touchdown passes this season. ... Walker has an 18-to-11 target edge on Vernon Davis since Week 12. A utility tight end, Walker is an example of game film matching advanced statistics. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Walker's passing-game role is limited primarily to a few downfield "shot" plays per game, and his 220 yards on deep passes led all tight ends. ... Fleener has taken a backseat to fellow rookie Allen, who has drawn comparisons to Heath Miller for his well-rounded game. ... Zach Miller had the highest catch rate among tight ends this season, but McCoy had more fantasy points over the last five games.

Kickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
2. Matt Prater, Broncos

Gostkowski set a career high with 153 points this season, falling just one field goal shy of breaking Gino Cappelletti's franchise record. ... Prater tied Steven Hauschka for the most fantasy points among kickers over the last five weeks.

3. Mason Crosby, Packers
4. Matt Bryant, Falcons

5. Steven Hauschka, Seahawks
6. Justin Tucker, Ravens
7. Shayne Graham, Texans

Crosby appeared to get the monkey off his back last week, but he's not without risk. He gets a bump with the likelihood of playing at least two games. ... In the year of the rookie kicker, Tucker was unfairly overshadowed by Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein. ... Graham's 38 field goal attempts were second only to David Akers' 32, as the Texans too often stalled in the red zone over the final month.  

8. Billy Cundiff, 49ers
9. David Akers, 49ers
10. Kai Forbath, Redskins
11. Josh Brown Bengals
12. Blair Walsh, Vikings
13. Adam Vinatieri, Colts

Cundiff was signed to compete with Akers, whose accuracy has been shot to hell by a pelvis injury. Akers has missed kicks in five of the past six games, which suggests Cundiff would be the more reliable option. Whether that holds true in practices the next two weeks is anyone's guess. ... Forbath has missed just one kick since taking over for Cundiff in October. ... Walsh set an NFL record by going 9-of-9 on field goals over 50 yards, but he's never kicked in subfreezing temperatures. 

Team Defense

1. Broncos
2. Patriots
3. Seahawks
4. Packers
5. 49ers
6. Falcons
7. Texans
8. Ravens
9. Bengals
10. Redskins
11. Colts
12. Vikings

Denver's defense finished second only to Chicago in standard-scoring leagues. It's the best defense to complement Peyton Manning in his 15-year career. ... The Patriots weren't far behind, finishing third in fantasy points. ... Seattle's defense/special teams was a juggernaut over the final month, producing six fumble recoveries, eight interceptions and three touchdowns. ... The Packers welcome back future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson this week. ... Cincinnati's defense set a franchise record with 51 sacks, just one off the Broncos' league-leading pace. The J.J. Watt-led Texans are ranked higher because I don't trust the Bengals to win on the road with a struggling offense. 



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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