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Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings: Breaking Down Biggest Surprises in Top 10

Nov 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) leaves the field following the loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

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.

 

Notes: All point totals for standard-scoring leaguesPoints against stats via ESPN. The Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks are on bye. 

 

Quarterbacks

Week 12 Quarterback Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsAtlanta Falcons30
2Matt StaffordDetroit LionsTampa Bay Buccaneers26
3Tony RomoDallas CowboysNew York Giants25
4Peyton ManningDenver BroncosNew England Patriots24
5Tom BradyNew England PatriotsDenver Broncos20
6Andrew LuckIndianapolis ColtsArizona Cardinals17
7Colin KaepernickSan Francisco 49ersWashington17
8Cam NewtonCarolina PanthersMiami Dolphins15
9Robert Griffin IIIWashingtonSan Francisco 49ers15
10Alex SmithKansas City ChiefsSan Diego Chargers14

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.

 

Running Backs

Week 12 Running Back Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Matt ForteChicago BearsSt. Louis Rams25
2Frank GoreSan Francisco 49ersWashington24
3Adrian PetersonMinnesota VikingsGreen Bay Packers21
4Chris JohnsonTeneessee TitansOakland Raiders20
5Zac StacySt. Louis RamsChicago Bears20
6Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsSan Diego Chargers19
7Eddie LacyGreen Bay PackersMinnesota Vikings15
8Knowshon MorenoDenver BroncosNew England Patriots14
9Rashad JenningsOakland RaidersTennessee Titans13
10Ben TateHouston TexansJacksonville Jaguars13

Zac Stacy should not be a surprise to you. Since being named the starter of the St. Louis Rams, he's been excellent.

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Rashad Jennings (27) runs the ball for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Texans 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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.

 

Wide Receivers

Week 12 Wide Receiver Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsTampa Bay Buccaneers27
2Andre JohnsonHouston TexansJacksonville Jaguars22
3Josh GordonCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers20
4Dez BryantDallas CowboysNew York Giants19
5Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosNew England Patriots18
6Jordy NelsonGreen Bay PackersMinnesota Vikings16
7Brandon MarshallChicago BearsSt. Louis Rams16
8Victor CruzNew York GiantsDallas Cowboys14
9Larry FitzgeraldArizona CardinalsIndianapolis Colts14
10Marques ColstonNew Orleans SaintsAtlanta Falcons13

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. 

 

Tight Ends

Week 12 Tight End Rankings
RankPlayerTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ersWashington18
2Rob GronkowskiNew England PatriotsDenver Broncos17
3Julius ThomasDenver BroncosNew England Patriots15
4Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsAtlanta Falcons13
5Jason WittenDallas CowboysNew York Giants12
6Tony GonzalezAtlanta FalconsNew Orleans Saints12
7Rob HouslerArizona CardinalsIndianapolis Colts10
8Delanie WalkerTennessee TitansOakland Raiders9
9Jordan CameronCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers9
10Charles ClayMiami DolphinsCarolina Panthers8

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. 

 

Defense/Special Teams

Week 12 Defense/Special Team Rankings
RankTeamOpponentProj. Points
1Carolina PanthersMiami Dolphins18
2San Francisco 49ersWashington17
3Tennessee TitansOakland Raiders17
4Kansas City ChiefsSan Diego Chargers15
5Baltimore RavensNew York Jets14
6New Orleans SaintsAtlanta Falcons12
7St. Louis RamsChicago Bears10
8Houston TexansJacksonville Jaguars10
9Chicago BearsSt. Louis Rams9
10Miami DolphinsCarolina Panthers8

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. 

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets throws a pass during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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.

 

Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, tweet random fantasy musings and lament Ray Rice producing the week I finally benched him. 

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