Aaron Rodgers should be the top pick in fantasy drafts next year (no matter what). Traditional wisdom tells us that a running back should be selected with the first overall pick. And normally, I would agree. But Rodgers has been so much better than anyone else, that you can’t possibly take anyone over him. On Thursday against the Lions, he threw for 307 yards and only two touchdowns. In 6-point passing touchdown leagues, that’s 24 points on a “bad” day, his “worst” game of the season. Drew Brees is the second most productive player on a weekly basis, and scores seven fewer points per week, that is the same difference between the top running back and the number nine back. Rodgers is consistently incredible.
Laurent Robinson is a top 15 receiver (as long as Miles Austin is out). Robinson has become a stud for the Cowboys, and has stepped up his game since Miles Austin suffered a hamstring injury. With Dez Bryant attracting attention from corners and safeties and Jason Witten occupying the middle of the field, Robinson is reaping the benefits. He caught seven passes for 79 yards and a pair of scores, giving him seven touchdowns in the past five weeks. For as long as Austin is out, Robinson is a top-15, and possibly top-10 receiver. Once Austin returns, Robinson is still a top-25 guy.
Andy Dalton is a productive quarterback (but only because of his supporting cast). I understand that Andy Dalton has been very good. But he actually walked into a pretty good situation, with A.J. Green, who appears to be even better than advertised, Cedric Benson, who has been a workhorse when not suspended, and a top-tier defense. He hasn’t been asked to do too much, just to manage the game, and not turn it over. On Sunday, he threw for 270 yards and a touchdown, and that kind of safe production can be expected going forward. He gets Pittsburgh and Houston, but then he’ll have favorable matchups against St. Louis and Arizona.
Chris Johnson is great (against bad defenses). Let’s not get carried away. Johnson has been about as brutal as a first round selection can be. For a few weeks, owners may have preferred Jamaal Charles, who can at least point to injury for his lack of production. Johnson got back on track against a low-end rush defense against Tamp Bay. To be fair, both he and his offensive line played better, as he racked up 190 yards on 23 carries. His upcoming schedule is really juicy, with Buffalo, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville in the next four weeks.
Reggie Wayne still cannot be trusted (unless Peyton Manning is healthy). I don’t care what the stat-line looks like. Wayne has been horrendous this year, as both Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter have made Peyton Manning’s case for MVP. His five catches for 122 yards and a score accounted for a third of his fantasy points this year. Don’t fall for it. He’s still not worth anything higher than WR3 consideration, if that.
Beanie Wells is healthy and productive (against the worst run defense in the league). Wells had injury troubles earlier this season (as expected). But the Rams’ defense has a way of improving the health of opposing running backs. Thanks to a 71-yard run, Wells had 100 yards rushing in the first half, and built on that total to the tune of 228 yards and a score on the ground. Fantasy owners may have to temper expectations going forward, as his next four games are against Dallas, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Cincinnati (three top-ten run defenses and Cleveland).
Mark Sanchez threw four touchdowns (but he’s still terrible). “The Sanchise” completed just 17-of-35 passes for 180 yards, four scores, and a pick. But he looked atrocious. But what fantasy owners can take from the Week 12 matchup with Buffalo is that the Jets’ coaching staff is all in on Sanchez. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is committed to Sanchez’s success, and both he and Rex Ryan will continue to hit us over the head with Mark Sanchez as they implore us to believe that he’s a good quarterback. Hopefully, fantasy players have better options than Sanchez.
The Texans’ offense will start to struggle (regardless of who is under center). I was really hoping Matt Leinart would show something. For what it’s worth, he did show something for about a half. With Matt Schaub and now Matt Leinart out with injuries, the Texans appear headed for the T.J. Yates era. Selected in the fifth round of April’s draft, Yates will be asked to steer the ship, meaning opposing defenses will stack the box against Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels will take a hit as well, as Yates attempts to adjust to the NFL game. Foster is still a stud, and Johnson is probably a must-start, but things just went from bad to worse in Houston.
Jason Avant is an interesting play (as long as Jeremy Maclin is out). Last week, it was Riley Cooper. This week, it was Jason Avant. Avant is known for having the best hands on the Eagles, and he works the middle of the field very effectively, and Vince Young is looking his way. Avant caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, and it looks as though both Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin may be questionable again on Thursday night, meaning the Young-Avant connection may be on full display again.
Ryan Mathews is capable of being a fantasy RB1 (when healthy). Perhaps it was the fact that he burned me last year, but I have not been on the Ryan Mathews bandwagon. But on Sunday, Mathews finally looked healthy, as he ran effectively for the Chargers, racking up 137 yards on 22 carries. Mike Tolbert was ultimately a non-factor, as Mathews received twice the number of carries. As long as he can stay healthy, he should have some success against Jacksonville and Buffalo before facing the Ravens in Week 15.
If you’re in the Jacksonville, FL area and can get to a radio around 8:50 am on Fridays, I’m now a weekly guest on 1010XL’s Sports Final Radio with Jeff Prosser and Dan Hicken.
Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.