Players are sorted by position and ranked based on priority. This means that, in most formats, you’ll want to pick up the first name listed if several are available. Note that this advice is strictly for redraft formats and usually will lean towards a fairly standard 12-team PPR league.
Tony Romo – Cowboys
I’ve had several people asking me if they should be adding Tony Romo to their team in hopes that he returns in the next few weeks, so I figured he was worth discussing. The fact is, the Cowboys are not expecting him back until, at least, week 16, which is championship week for most leagues. Most teams already have a good-to-great option at quarterback if they are playing in week 16, which means Romo has little value. If, however, you are loaded everywhere else, but a bit shaky at quarterback, Romo is certainly worth considering, since he might be able to help you get over the top in week 16. Still, are you really going to want to head into your Championship matchup with a guy who has been out of action for 2 months? Sure, there’s the possibility that Romo could return a week early, but Dallas is well out of competition for a playoff spot and is unlikely to hurry him along. Unless you’re desperate for help at the position come weeks 16-17, I’d use the roster spot on someone else.
Chad Henne – Dolphins
Chad Henne is worth a mention after returning to the Dolphins starting lineup this week, but he’s not worth an add. A popular sleeper during the off-season, Henne, like the rest of the Dolphins offense, is struggling to score touchdowns. His 63% completion percentage is above average and he’s doing a pretty good job racking up yardage, but it’s hard to score fantasy points in a low-scoring offense. Henne is a low-end QB2 and nothing more.
Brian Westbrook / Anthony Dixon – 49ers
With news that Frank Gore is done for the season, Brian Westbrook immediately jumps into the RB1 discussion. The 49ers turned to Westbrook when Gore went down on Monday night and the former Eagle responded with 136 yards and 1 score on 23 carries. Westbrook is likely to see most of the carries going forward, but rookie Anthony Dixon will see a share of the load as well. Although that limits Westbrook’s fantasy value (especially in standard scoring formats), consider that Gore had been targeted on 21% of the 49ers pass attempts this season, which is tops in the league among running backs. Westbrook is a serious threat in the passing game and could easily approach 15% of the targets going forward. That adds significantly to his fantasy value, especially in PPR. Westbrook is certainly a top 15 RB going forward and everyone should have a claim in for him this week. Anthony Dixon isn’t worth starting in any format right now, but will steal goal line carries from Westbrook and has major upside in TD-heavy leagues. Considering Westbrook’s age and injury resume, Dixon should be added in all formats.
Brandon Jacobs – Giants
Named the starter in place of Ahmad Bradshaw prior to the Giants week 12 game, Jacobs responded with 87 yards on just 14 carries. Bradshaw was also heavily involved and just as effective, racking up 81 yards on 13 touches. The Giants gameplan seems to be a good one (for them, at least). It includes a heavier load of the carries for Jacobs, including most of the work on short yardage. Bradshaw won’t be too far behind in carries, but will be heavily used in passing situations, which bodes well for his PPR value. Both of these gentlemen should be owned and started in fantasy right now, especially considering that the Giants are leaning even heavier on the duo while Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith are sidelined. Bradshaw is a high-end RB2, while Jacobs sits as a back-end RB3 in PPR leagues.
Ryan Torain / Keiland Williams / James Davis – Redskins
The Redskins didn’t run the ball much in week 12, but it was James Davis, not Keiland Williams, who led the team in carries. Don’t be too alarmed, however, as Williams played 37 snaps to just 17 by Davis. Going forward, Williams is still the lead dog in this backfield, especially in PPR. Even if Davis gets a slight edge in carries (I’d speculate to the contrary), Williams has a handle on the 3rd down job. Ryan Torain could return in the next week or two and would really throw a wrench into this committee. Torain would likely handle most of the early down carries with Williams continuing his job as the 3rd down back. Davis would be a back-up. Obviously, all 3 are very risky plays and the situation needs to be monitored every week. If I had to own one of these guys right now, it’d be Williams. He seems to have the easiest path to touches.
Toby Gerhart – Vikings
Adrian Peterson is a bit banged up and missed most of the team’s week 12 game. It appears, however, that Peterson could’ve returned to the game had the rookie Gerhart struggled, which he didn’t. Regardless, Gerhart’s fantasy value has not changed. He is Peterson’s back-up and an occasional threat for targets on third down. He’s a must-own for Peterson owners, but only worth a bench spot in deeper leagues due to his significant value in case of a Peterson injury. That all assumed Peterson returns in week 13. If he is out, Gerhart is certainly a RB2 with RB1 upside.
Pierre Thomas – Saints
Pierre Thomas is due back in the next week or two and is likely to return to his starting role. Chris Ivory and Julius Jones have done a decent job filling in for him while he was out, but Thomas is the best talent of the trio. Reggie Bush, although limited in his week 12 return, isn’t much of a threat for carries, but will handle plenty of targets on passing downs. Still, Thomas was handling nearly 12% of the Saints’ targets prior to his injury—a pretty solid number for a running back. Thomas may not be back for a week or two and may not see more than 15 touches in a game, but his upside is very high, making him worth a bench spot in all leagues, especially if you’re struggling at the RB position.
Tashard Choice – Cowboys
Tashard Choice is worth an add this week after news that Marion Barber will be out at least 2 weeks. Felix Jones will continue to handle most of the carries and targets, but Choice will fill in for Barber, who was responsible for just over 10 looks/game this season. He’s unlikely to see enough of a role to earn RB3 status, but the upside is certainly there. He’s worth a bench spot and desperate owners can consider him for the flex.
Aaron Brown – Lions
Aaron Brown, not Maurice Morris, led the Lions in touches and offensive snaps on Thursday. Morris stole the spotlight with a pair of scores, but played only 22 offensive snaps, compared to 55 for Brown. There’s no official word if Brown will be the permanent number 2 back while Jahvid Best is limited, or if this is simply the coaching staff getting a long look at their 2nd-year running back, but, either way, he has to be viewed as the #1 RB option out of this backfield going into week 13. Considering that Best was surprisingly active on Thursday despite not playing a single snap, it’s clear that he could be back in action soon, as well. This is a situation to avoid for now, but desperate owners can take a shot on Brown or Morris if desperate this week.
Rashad Jennings – Jaguars
Rashad Jennings is closing in on RB4 status every week, making him worth bench consideration for everyone, not just Maurice Jones-Drew owners. The clear #2 behind MJD, Jennings racked up 53 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries on Sunday and is in line for 6-7 touches a game going forward. He’s been effective since being drafted by the Jaguars last season and would handle most of the touches if Jones-Drew were to miss any action. He’s worth a bench spot consideration.
Mike Hart – Colts
Joseph Addai is not expected back this week, but Mike Hart is. This spells bad news for Donald Brown, who is averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry. Hart was impressive before his injury, putting up a 4.7 YPC mark on 38 carries. One would have to imagine that Brown will keep his job on passing downs, but watch for Hart to take a large bite into Brown’s carries. I’d speculate on a 60-40 split in carries in week 13, with the edge going to Brown. Even if Hart outplays Brown this week, Addai will be back in a week or two, pushing Hart back to compelte fantasy irrelevance. He’s a desperation play in week 13, but needs help to be any more than that.
James Starks – Packers
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy has already said that Starks needs to be ready to go this week after #2 RB Dimitri Nance suffered a concussion in week 12. Starks, who missed most of this season with an injury of his own, is likely to be active this week as the #2 back. Expect him to see a handful of touches and keep an eye on his effectiveness. Brandon Jackson has done a decent job replacing Ryan Grant’s production, but there is certainly an opportunity for touches in this backfield. If Starks comes out of the gate strong, he could force his way into a larger role going forward. He’s worth an add simply due to upside, but don’t start him yet.
Lance Ball – Broncos
Lance Ball is worth a quick mention after passing Correll Buckhalter on the Broncos depth chart. He’s not worth an add in most leagues due to a very limited role, but he is now the top handcuff to Knowshon Moreno. Take note, Moreno owners.
Jacoby Ford – Raiders
I discussed Ford after week 9, but he’s worth another look after a 10 target, 4 catch, 108 yard, 1 TD performance in week 12. He’s clearly one of the team’s top-2 options in the passing game, passing ineffective Darrius Heyward-Bey and the injured Zach Miller. Still, the Raiders are among the league’s run heaviest teams, will be switching quarterbacks again this week, and are just 24th in the NFL in touchdowns. Ford has also caught a dismal 48% of his targets. He clearly has upside and enough talent to do damage on 4 receptions, but he won’t see 10 targets every week, making him a very risky start. He’s worth a spot on your bench, but temper expectations and realize that his offense, and more specifically, his quarterback, limit his upside.
Danario Alexander – Rams
The oft-injured undrafted rookie free agent Alexander has now impressed in 3 games of action and should continue to see an increase in snaps as long as he’s healthy. Despite playing only 64 total snaps over those 3 games, Alexander has been targeted 13 times, catching 9 balls for 173 yards and 1 touchdown. If he continues to see action on only 30% of the team’s snaps, his fantasy value will rise no higher. However, the team seems likely to give him an uptick in snaps, which could mean WR3 material from here on out. Put in a claim and get him on your bench, but realize that he is all upside with plenty of risk. He’s worth the stash.
Ben Obomanu – Seahawks
Obomanu filled in for Mike Williams as the Seahawks’ #1 wideout on Sunday and came away with 5 receptions, 159 yards, and a score on 6 targets. Despite the big game, he was only third on the team in targets and will continue to see plenty of competition for snaps at the wide receiver position. Williams could return in week 13, which will mean Obomanu is not worth an add. If Williams is out again and you’re desperate at WR3, Obomanu is worth a look as a one-week fill-in.
Earl Bennett – Bears
I’ve mentioned Bennett a few times this season, but he finally got into the touchdown mix on Sunday, which will raise some eyebrows come waiver wire time. It might be a bit of a surprise, but after Johnny Knox, Bennett has been right there with Greg Olsen and Devin Hester in terms of targets this season. Jay Cutler has done a nice job spreading the ball around and that has helped Bennett stay on the fantasy radar. Still, a committee attack at wide receiver is bad news for fantasy. Seeing 15% of the Bears’ targets, Bennett is no more than a WR5 and has little upside. He’s not worth the add.
Jason Avant – Eagles
Avant exploded for 8 receptions on 9 targets for 83 yards in Sunday’s loss to Chicago, but his situation has not changed. He is the team’s #3 option at wide receiver and the 4th or 5th option overall. Some weeks he will see 3-4 targets and others he will see 7-8. He has great hands and will catch most of those balls, but generally it won’t even be enough to warrant a start in PPR. Unless DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin miss time with an injury, Avant is not worth an add.
Brad Smith – Jets
Smith had a huge game on the national stage on Thursday, but know that he is absolutely not worth an add in fantasy, except in leagues that award points for return yards. The former college quarterback has been responsible for 7% of the Jets carries this season, the highlight being the 53 yard touchdown run on Thursday, but has been targeted on only 1% of Mark Sanchez’s pass attempts. 2-3 offensive touches a week isn’t going to do the job. Leave him on waivers.
Rob Gronkowski – Patriots
Today’s updated rest-of-season projections will show Rob Gronkowski as a top-12 option at tight end, with Aaron Hernandez ranked outside the top 25. As mentioned over the last few weeks, Gronkowski has seen an uptick in offensive snaps and targets, while Hernandez has been relegated to the occasional target in a passing down. The Patriots have been red-hot on offense and it’s been with Deion Branch/Wes Welker split out wide and Alge Crumpler/Gronkowski at tight end. Considering that Crumpler is not a receiving threat and the team wants Gronkowski (a better blocker than Hernandez, but better pass-catcher than Crumpler) on the field, he will be the recipient of most targets to the tight end position. At the end of the day, this leaves Gronkowski with 5-6 targets/game, including a heavy dose in the redzone. Hernandez will still see 2-4 most weeks and could explode for a big game if New England is trailing in a given week, but he is too risky to start. If Gronkowski is still available in your league, snatch him up.
Brent Celek – Eagles
It took a while, but Brent Celek was finally heavily involved in the Eagles passing game. Targeted 8 times, Celek caught only 3 for 50 yards, but did score once. In fact, Celek could’ve easily scored 4 times in this game if not for poor throws from Michael Vick. Celek is still only a back-end TE2, but his upside is clearly very high. If you have room to stash a tight end, he’s a good place to start.
Daniel Fells / Billy Bajema – Rams
Rookie starter Mike Hoomanawanui is done for the year, which opens the door for Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema to play more snaps. Bajema scored twice in week 12, which has him on several radars, but, if you’re forced to target one of these guys, he’s not the one. Entering the game, Fells had run 198 pass routes this season, 126 more than Hoomanawanui, who missed several weeks due to injury, and 137 more than Bajema. Fells, not Bajema will be the Rams top TE going forward and could average 5-6 targets going forward. That is a respectable number for a tight end, but not enough to warrant serious fantasy consideration. He’s barely a TE2 and should be left on the wire.
Jared Cook – Titans
Cook took advantage of an injury to Bo Scaife on Sunday, racking up 4 receptions for 40 yards on 9 Rusty Smith targets. Cook was a highly touted tight end prospect in last year’s draft, but he doesn’t appear ready to step up into the fantasy elite. Scaife’s injury appears to be minor and Kerry Collins is expected back under center this week. With Kenny Britt also due back soon, Cook will be no better than the team’s 7th option in the pass game. Unless Scaife misses time, don’t even consider Cook in redraft leagues.