As we collectively inch another week closer to the playoffs, consider the difference between a player’s value in a vacuum and his value specifically to your team. This distinction becomes increasingly important as the season progresses. With fewer games to play and fewer bye weeks to shake up our lineups, flavor-of-the-week types are worth less with each passing week. The chance you will start a guy like Chris Ogbonnaya or Rod Streater over your elite (or at least proven) performers are slim. Wouldn’t you rather protect your investment in those elite commodities? Yup, it’s officially time to cinch all your handcuffs.
Let’s say you’re a Jamaal Charles owner with a good-to-decent shot to make the playoffs. Who would you rather have if Charles gets hurt in Week 12, Chris Ogbonnaya or Knile Davis? I would much rather own Davis because at least there’s a chance that he can return 90% of Charles’ production. While Ogbonnaya is a fine player, we know who he is from a fake football perspective and there’s no way he could save my season if I lost JC Superstar. Here’s a brief rundown of other potential running back handcuffs to lock up for the fantasy season’s final weeks:
LeSean McCoy – Bryce Brown
Reggie Bush – Joique Bell
Matt Forte – Michael Bush
Alfred Morris – Roy Helu
Ray Rice – Bernard Pierce
Adrian Peterson – Toby Gerhart
Marshawn Lynch – Robert Turbin and Christine Michael
Chris Ivory – Bilal Powell
Frank Gore – Kendall Hunter (or maybe Anthony Dixon)
Rashad Jennings/Darren McFadden – Marcel Reece
Maurice Jones-Drew – Jordan Todman (and maybe Denard Robinson)
Donald Brown – Trent Richardson*
Daniel Thomas – Lamar Miller*
*I troll because I love. These fantasy disappointments burned me just as bad as they did you, dear readers. On a more serious note, though, if you’re a Donald Brown owner and T-Rich is available, he’s not the worst handcuff. If Brown suffers an injury, Richardson will have value based on potential goal-line usage alone.
If you own a starter listed above on the left, that player’s counterpart on the right might be more valuable to your team than the other options on the Week 12 waiver wire. Don’t blindly follow this column’s rankings or those of any other fantasy pundit without considering that team-specific difference in value.
Better Late Than Never: Josh McCown
Some fake footballers may find it disturbing that owners in deep leagues are reacting to the new Matt McGloin era in Oakland the same way video game fanatics react to a new console being released, but I find it charming. I’m glad there are folks out there loving weird things like Matt McGloin, pet reptiles, and steampunk so I don’t have to.
BLTN: Ryan Fitzpatrick
It’s a good thing McGloin came along because Case Keenum finally fell from orbit on Sunday. Luckily, he fell softly onto a pile of racy letters from lovelorn owners of Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Matt Schaub stunk up the joint after Keenum was benched. To call it a return to action for Schaub is disrespectful to the word “action”. His performance was more of a return to dullness. Keenum has already been named the starter for Week 12. I can’t imagine the Texans going away from him in favor of Schaub again, but I thought the same thing going into Week 11, so keep Schaub on your radar in 2-QB formats.
I covered Chris Ogbonnaya to some extent in the open, but in case you missed it, he’s the new lead back for the Browns. He posted 7.9 fantasy points on Sunday on 8 carries and 12 targets. Cleveland’s upcoming schedule offers nice match-ups for RBs (Pittsburgh, then Jacksonville at home), so don’t be afraid to pick up and start him now that he’s the president of his team’s committee.
Meanwhile, the new VP of the Cleveland backfield is Fozzy Whittaker. He scored 6.1 fantasy points on 4 carries and 5 targets Sunday. The major takeaway here is that Willis McGahee is currently out of the picture. Whittaker is only worth adding in the deepest of leagues.
Keenan Allen continued to be the preferred target of Philip Rivers on Sunday, but he left their game in the 4th quarter with an injury to his knee. With Allen’s status in doubt for Week 12, Vincent Brown is worth an add on speculation alone.
Is there anything Matt McGloin can’t do? He pumped some air back into Rod Streater’s tires against the Texans with 8 targets for 6 receptions, 84 yards, and a touchdown. It was the first time since Week 8 and only the third time this season that Streater has received more targets than Denarius Moore. I’m not forecasting the start of a new trend, but Streater and McGloin could easily develop a bond similar to the Foles-Cooper connection we’ve seen recently on the Eagles.
The Buccaneers are making a valiant attempt to right the ship, thanks in large part to the impressive play of quarterback Mike Glennon. Vincent Jackson has seen a big uptick in production with Glennon at the helm. He received 12 targets on Sunday while the rest of his team received 13 combined. That sort of tunnel vision can’t be sustained in the NFL for too long before opposing defenses catch on and force other receivers to get involved. Tiquan Underwood is the de facto candidate to get more looks at wide receiver in the Bucs’ offense and he may have no choice but to step up if Tampa’s Week 12 battle against Detroit turns into a shootout.
The Jets, meanwhile, are searching for anyone competent to catch passes from the erratic Geno Smith. Santonio Holmes was that man in Week 11, turning 8 targets into 2 catches for 71 yards. I want to believe that Holmes is finally ready to live up to the promise he had when he left Pittsburgh for New York, but concerns about his health and his quarterback leave me skeptical.
Beware the Week 11 lesson of Percy Harvin; otherwise… BLTN: Michael Crabtree
Pierre Garcon has been one of fake football’s most consistent wideouts this season, but he developed an ankle injury on Sunday. He was able to finish the game, but if the issue worsens this week, look to Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson to pick up the slack in Week 12 against the 49ers.
With Cecil Shorts smothered by Patrick Peterson on Sunday, it was not Mike Brown, but Ace Sanders who garnered the most of Chad Henne’s attention as the Jaguars’ #2 wide receiver. Sanders caught 8 of his 10 targets for 61 yards against the Cardinals and could be in line to mimic that production again with Brown questionable for this week’s match-up against Houston.
Markus Wheaton stepped in for the injured Emmanuel Sanders in Pittsburgh’s win over Detroit and put up 38 yards on 3 catches. It’s unclear how serious the injury is, but if Sanders misses time, Wheaton has a lot of upside. If Jerricho Cotchery can have value on the Steelers, why can’t a rookie like Wheaton?
Garrett Graham burst onto the fantasy scene on Sunday and finished with the week’s top tight end score in standard formats. It’s too bad the breakout came a good two weeks after fantasy owners gave up on him. Seeing Graham finally get involved in the Texans’ offense is nice, but don’t assume this one great game will repeat itself every week going forward.
Speaking of best games of the season, Ladarius Green had his on Sunday with 4 grabs for 81 yards against the Dolphins. Like the previously discussed Vincent Brown, Green is due for more work if Keenan Allen misses time. Regardless of Allen’s status, it’s past time to start considering Green as a stash in keeper leagues.
Jeff Cumberland returned from a concussion to catch 3 passes for 25 yards and a score in Week 11. As discussed in the above blurb about Santonio Holmes, the Jets are hurting for receiving production. Cumberland and perhaps even Kellen Winslow Jr. could be the players to provide it down the stretch if you’re desperate for a tight end.