Mitchell Westall and Ramon Mejia, staff writers
Todd Gurley (St. Louis Rams, RB): Todd Gurley has been gold for people who drafted him though he did not see the field until Week 3. In his first start of the season, he posted a mere 1.4 points. Since then, he has been one of the top running backs in the league. Unfortunately, Gurley only posted a total of 30 yards against a stingy Cincinnati defense this past week. Gurley has proven to be a high number one running back in fantasy football and will hopefully remain as such. This week was an upsetting one.
Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans, WR): Hopkins enjoyed the coming out party we all anticipated. He had to endure a carousel of below-average passers delivering him the ball. This week, he only posted 3.6 points against a weak New Orleans defense, the same one that has been getting torched by teams like the Redskins and the Giants. Hopkins put himself into position to be one of the top six receivers off the board in next year’s draft, falling somewhere among Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and A.J. Green. Hopefully next season Houston will solve its quarterback problem, which would undoubtedly benefit Hopkins.
Brandon LaFell (New England Patriots, WR): With all of Tom Brady’s weapons falling to injury, LaFell was supposed to have a pretty nice week. Instead, he posted 3.6 points, and the New England Patriots lost their bid at an undefeated season at the hand of the Denver Broncos. LaFell may be in line to have a good week next week. Gronkowski will most likely be absent from the lineup, leaving LaFell and tight end Scott Chandler to carry the load.
If you have a weak receiver lineup, consider taking a chance on LaFell this week. He could also be included in the potential studs category. Though he was disappointing this week, he could be a promising starter for the coming one.
Desean Jackson (Washington Redskins, WR): It looks like Jackson took a play out of Drake’s playbook going ‘Back to Back,” after playing his old, deep threat self for several weeks. Prior to Week 11’s matchup with the Panthers, Jackson indicated to reporters that he was completely recovered from the hamstring injury that has hampered him since Week 1. Over the last two weeks, Jackson has resumed his playmaking abilities on the field. In his last two match-ups, his ability to stretch the field has been evident. When healthy, “D-Jax” is one of the premier deep threat specialists in the NFL. It is rare to find a player with the kind of speed Jackson has at his disposal. Over the past two games, he has accumulated seven receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scoring plays have come off of 40-yard or longer pass plays.
Spencer Ware (Kansas City Chiefs, RB): Perhaps no team has been hit harder by the running-back-injury bug than the Kansas City Chiefs. After losing arguably the best running back, Jamaal Charles, fantasy owners were left scrambling to find a replacement. Charcandrick West rose to the challenge, having already established himself as a viable fantasy option. Unfortunately, West had to sub out of the game due to a hamstring injury, leaving an opening in the Chiefs’ backfield once again.
Enter Spencer Ware, Kansas City’s third starting running back of the season. Against a stout Bills defense, Ware emerged and made the most of this opportunity, finishing the day with 19 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Depth is one of the most vital components of football–both on the field and in the realm of fantasy. The Chiefs have proven the importance of depth at the running back position, breeding three different 100-yard rushers in the same season — an impressive feat. If West misses another game moving forward, Ware is a viable RB2 candidate.
C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos, RB): Welcome back, Mr. Anderson! Entering the 2015 fantasy season, Anderson was viewed as a top 10 player at the running back position. Drafted to be an RB1 for fantasy owners, Anderson started off the season slow. In the ensuing weeks, his performances worsened, as he failed to score a touchdown within the first six weeks of the season. Gone was the explosiveness we had seen the previous season. Owners can blame the play of the offense line, Manning’s struggles or play calling, but at the end of the day, Anderson was simply not getting it done.
Following the bye week, Anderson seemed to return to fighting form and looked like his old power back self. A change at the quarterback position has paid dividends for Anderson. Going up against the Patriots in harsh wintery conditions seemed to play to Anderson’s strengths. He exploded back onto the scene with 15 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, the kind of performance owners had been awaiting all season. For those who have kept Anderson stashed on the bench or picked him off the waiver wire, kudos to you. With the running game intact in Denver, Anderson’s return to fantasy relevance makes him a viable flex play option moving forward.
Week 13 Potential Studs
Michael Crabtree (Oakland Raiders, WR): The Raiders’ receivers may be in for a big week. They welcome Kansas City to town, a team that has allowed the second most points to opposing receivers. Crabtree has had an up-and-down season, scoring anywhere from three to 22 points in a given week. However, this week Crabtree and Amari Cooper should be inserted into your starting lineup, as they are set to rack up some serious points.
Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals, RB): Jeremy Hill and the Bengals face off against the Cleveland Browns who surrender the sixth most points to opposing running backs. Hill has been the face of touchdown dependence this year. In a recent matchup with Cleveland, he only managed 52 rushing yards for 5.2 points. This week, Hill seems to be trending in the right direction after posting 16.5- and 10.0-point games over two consecutive weeks. As we come closer to playoff time, Hill should be a solid RB2 or flex play this week.
Dez Bryant/Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys, WRs): The Dallas Cowboys’ matchup this week against the Redskins will go one of two ways: The Cowboys’ receivers could light up the Redskins weak secondary, or the Redskins’ secondary could overachieve like they have in recent weeks. Either way, the Redskins give up the fifth most points to opposing receivers. Though Bryant and Williams will have Matt Cassel throwing them the ball, this is one of those scenarios that the Redskins love to play poorly against. This is going to be feast or famine for these two receivers. We would not recommend benching Dez Bryant — most certainly not against a team he has been known to shred.
Sources: ESPN Fantasy Football Now, NFL.com Fantasy Football