Matt McGloin, Bobby Rainey, Donald Brown, Montee Ball, Jairus Wright, Marquise Goodwin, Danny Noble and Mychal Rivera—what do all of these players have in common?
Why, they were all in the top 10 fantasy rankings at their respective positions this week, and absolutely no one saw it coming, that's what!
Of course, starting an obscure player who has never proven to be a viable fantasy option would be madness, which is why on my top-10 lists for every position, you'll generally find players you are familiar with. But that doesn't mean you won't be surprised by a few players you'll find below, so let's take a closer look at this week's surprises in my projections.
|Week 12 Quarterback Rankings|
|1||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||30|
|2||Matt Stafford||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||26|
|3||Tony Romo||Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||25|
|4||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||24|
|5||Tom Brady||New England Patriots||Denver Broncos||20|
|6||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||Arizona Cardinals||17|
|7||Colin Kaepernick||San Francisco 49ers||Washington||17|
|8||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||Miami Dolphins||15|
|9||Robert Griffin III||Washington||San Francisco 49ers||15|
|10||Alex Smith||Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||14|
The biggest surprise you'll find in a pretty familiar group of quarterbacks in the top 10 is probably Alex Smith, but perhaps it shouldn't be. Smith is averaging a steady if unspectacular 14.9 fantasy points per week and has reached or exceeded 20 points four times.
This week, he faces a San Diego Chargers defense allowing 276 passing yards per week (27th in the NFL) and has given up 15 passing scores. In a week when owners should generally be trusting their studs, Smith is a surprise but justified entry in the top 10.
|Week 12 Running Back Rankings|
|1||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||St. Louis Rams||25|
|2||Frank Gore||San Francisco 49ers||Washington||24|
|3||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay Packers||21|
|4||Chris Johnson||Teneessee Titans||Oakland Raiders||20|
|5||Zac Stacy||St. Louis Rams||Chicago Bears||20|
|6||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||19|
|7||Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||15|
|8||Knowshon Moreno||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||14|
|9||Rashad Jennings||Oakland Raiders||Tennessee Titans||13|
|10||Ben Tate||Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||13|
Zac Stacy should not be a surprise to you. Since being named the starter of the St. Louis Rams, he's been excellent.
But you can feel free to be surprised about Rashad Jennings and Ben Tate making this list. Darren McFadden may return from injury this week, but Jennings has earned the right to receive at least half of the backfield touches in Oakland's offense after notching 340 rushing yards and two touchdowns the past three weeks.
This week, he faces a Tennessee Titans defense that allows 117.1 rushing yards per game (tied 20th in the NFL) and has given up 17 or more fantasy points to opposing running backs eight times this season.
Meanwhile, Ben Tate takes on a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that has allowed 19 or more fantasy points to opposing running backs six times this year—a defense that also gives up an NFL-worst 139.1 rushing yards per game. However, the Jags defense been stingier against opposing running backs in the past two weeks.
Still, expect very big things for Tate.
|Week 12 Wide Receiver Rankings|
|1||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27|
|2||Andre Johnson||Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||22|
|3||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||20|
|4||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||19|
|5||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||18|
|6||Jordy Nelson||Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||16|
|7||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears||St. Louis Rams||16|
|8||Victor Cruz||New York Giants||Dallas Cowboys||14|
|9||Larry Fitzgerald||Arizona Cardinals||Indianapolis Colts||14|
|10||Marques Colston||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||13|
The first eight players on this list are familiar faces—yes, I like Jordy Nelson this week against the Minnesota Vikings, because I like most offensive players against the dreadful Minny defense—but Larry Fitzgerald making this list for a second straight week, and Marques Colston returning to fantasy relevance might surprise a few folks.
Fitzgerald broke his fantasy slump Sunday with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. He faces an Indianapolis Colts defense that has given up 24 or more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers five times, so he should be in line for another productive afternoon.
Meanwhile, Colston has 12 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdowns in his past two games and now gets a miserable Atlanta Falcons defense allowing 249 passing yards per game (22nd in the NFL) and has surrendered 21 passing touchdowns on the season (30th).
Expect the good times to keep on rolling for both of these players.
|Week 12 Tight End Rankings|
|1||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers||Washington||18|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots||Denver Broncos||17|
|3||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||15|
|4||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||13|
|5||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||12|
|6||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||New Orleans Saints||12|
|7||Rob Housler||Arizona Cardinals||Indianapolis Colts||10|
|8||Delanie Walker||Tennessee Titans||Oakland Raiders||9|
|9||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||9|
|10||Charles Clay||Miami Dolphins||Carolina Panthers||8|
Rob Housler has really turned heads the past two weeks with 10 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Colts just allowed Delanie Walker to catch 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, so Housler should be quite productive against them.
Oh, and speaking of Walker, he now has 14 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the past two weeks. He has a touchdown in three of his past four games and seems to be established as Ryan Fitzpatrick's security blanket, making him a player worth owning down the stretch.
|Week 12 Defense/Special Team Rankings|
|1||Carolina Panthers||Miami Dolphins||18|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Washington||17|
|3||Tennessee Titans||Oakland Raiders||17|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||15|
|5||Baltimore Ravens||New York Jets||14|
|6||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||12|
|7||St. Louis Rams||Chicago Bears||10|
|8||Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||10|
|9||Chicago Bears||St. Louis Rams||9|
|10||Miami Dolphins||Carolina Panthers||8|
The majority of this list is a surprise. With the Bengals and Seahawks on a bye, you shouldn't be afraid to take some chances this week.
Geno Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown in three games (he has five interceptions in that time), has a dreadful 56.3 completion percentage, has turned the ball over 16 times this year and lacks weapons in the passing game.
In other words, the Ravens are a nice start.
The St. Louis Rams have 11 or more fantasy points in four of their last six games, so they're worth starting at home and coming off a bye, even against a very good Chicago offense. And they also have Kellen Clemens as their starting quarterback, so the Bears defense is a good start, too.
The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins make the list because neither the Jacksonville Jaguars nor the Carolina Panthers have a compelling offense. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints have been tough against the pass, and its hard to imagine the Atlanta Falcons (73.1 rushing yards per game, 31st in the NFL) beating them on the ground.
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