Fantasy Football Week 12 Rankings: Top Players, Sleepers and Positional Guide

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2015

New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is one of Week 12's top stars.
New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is one of Week 12's top stars.Butch Dill/Associated Press

Fantasy football rankings are never more valuable than around the holidays.

This is especially the case going into Week 12, where six teams suit up for games on Thanksgiving and owners don't exactly have as much time as usual to craft lineups.

Keep in mind, too, this is the season in which a pair of .500 teams lead divisions, Peyton Manning's sitting on a bench and quarterbacks for the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are viable options.

It's a tad overwhelming, right? Here's a look at a positional guide to help owners with the process.

 

Week 12 Schedule

Thursday, Nov. 26Time (ET)
Philadelphia at Detroit12:30 pm
Carolina at Dallas4:30 pm
Chicago at Green Bay8:30 pm
Sunday, Nov. 29Time (ET)
New Orleans at Houston1:00 pm
Buffalo at Kansas City1:00 pm
San Diego at Jacksonville1:00 pm
Minnesota at Atlanta1:00 pm
Miami at N.Y. Jets1:00 pm
N.Y. Giants at Washington1:00 pm
Oakland at Tennessee1:00 pm
St. Louis at Cincinnati1:00 pm
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis1:00 pm
Arizona at San Francisco4:05 pm
Pittsburgh at Seattle4:25 pm
New England at Denver8:30 pm
Monday, Nov. 30Time (ET)
Baltimore at Cleveland8:30 pm
ESPN

 

Quarterbacks

RankPlayer
1Carson Palmer
2Aaron Rodgers
3Drew Brees
4Tony Romo
5Cam Newton
6Brian Hoyer*
7Blake Bortles
8Tom Brady
9Ben Roethlisberger
10Andy Dalton
11Matthew Stafford
12Philip Rivers
13Matt Ryan
14Eli Manning
15Derek Carr
Author's projections. *If he plays

Look for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to put on a show this week.

Other quarterbacks might come close, but nobody sits in a better matchup than Palmer, who gets to beat up on a divisional foe in the San Francisco 49ers.

Forget for a moment that Palmer has five outings of 20 or more points, including three in a row with the last two coming against stingy Seattle and Cincinnati defenses. Instead, focus on the fact the 49ers allow the sixth-most points to the position and just gave up 25 to Seattle.

Palmer cruised to 18 points against San Francisco in Week 3. His weapons are healthier this time around and the 49ers are even worse, so expect even bigger production this time.

When it comes to streaming a quarterback sleeper on short notice, it's hard to find a better option than Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.

Stafford has just six double-digit outings this year but has gone for 15 or more in each of his past two. Now he gets to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has let up two or more touchdowns to quarterbacks six times, highlighted by a whopping five touchdowns surrendered to Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston last week.

The veteran won't have a problem shredding the secondary at home.

 

Running Backs

RankPlayer
1Darren McFadden*
2Adrian Peterson
3Devonta Freeman*
4DeMarco Murray
5LeSean McCoy
6Charcandrick West*
7Mark Ingram
8Thomas Rawls
9Todd Gurley
10Doug Martin
11Chris Johnson
12Matt Forte*
13T.J. Yeldon
14LeGarrette Blount
15Javorius Allen
16DeAngelo Williams
17Lamar Miller
18Jonathan Stewart
19Frank Gore*
20Chris Ivory
21Carlos Hyde*
22Giovani Bernard
23Latavius Murray
24Alfred Blue
25Eddie Lacy
26Antonio Andrews
27Danny Woodhead
28Darren Sproles
29Ronnie Hillman
30Jeremy Hill
Author's projections. *If he plays

The usual suspects will dominate the ranks at running back around the holiday.

Perhaps most notable is Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who is coming off a bit of a down game with just nine points in Week 11. That said, he's running like his old self and has a touchdown in each of his past three outings to go with seven trips to double digits.

Now Peterson gets to pound it often as the Vikings attempt to keep the Atlanta Falcons offense off the field. It helps that the Atlanta defense is quite exploitable considering it allows the sixth-most points to backs.

If Peterson is the star, Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks is the sleeper playing in place of a star. The backup is now the every-down back with Marshawn Lynch sidelined for weeks, according to Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo.

Owners shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger here. Rawls saw major work in Week 5 and totaled 22 points, then turned around and posted 36 this past weekend on 30 carries for 209 yards and a score.

Granted, Rawls has to go against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that ranks as the team allowing the fewest points to backs, but opportunities equal production, especially at home for a talented backup.

 

Wide Receivers

RankPlayer
1DeAndre Hopkins
2Calvin Johnson*
3Allen Robinson
4Julio Jones
5Demaryius Thomas
6Larry Fitzgerald
7Antonio Brown
8Alshon Jeffery*
9Odell Beckham Jr.
10Mike Evans
11Eric Decker
12A.J. Green
13Dez Bryant*
14Michael Crabtree
15Sammy Watkins
16Amari Cooper
17Brandon Marshall
18Jarvis Landry
19Brandin Cooks
20Stevie Johnson
21John Brown
22Travis Benjamin
23Randall Cobb
24Emmanuel Sanders*
25Martavis Bryant
26Danny Amendola*
27DeSean Jackson
28T.Y. Hilton
29Jeremy Maclin
30Kamar Aiken
31Nate Washington
32Allen Hurns
33Davante Adams*
34Brandon LaFell
35Vincent Jackson
Author's projections. *If he plays

It's hard for any star to break away from the pack given the immense depth of talent at wideout on a week-to-week basis. 

This week, though, somewhat lost in the scramble is New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Coming off a bye, it's easy to forget that Beckham posted 16 points in Week 10, giving him seven trips to double digits and three in a row.

Now Beckham gets to run wild against Washington, a team he torched in Week 3 to the tune of seven grabs for 79 yards and a score, good for 13 points. That same Washington defense still surrenders the fifth-most points to receivers with two or more scores allowed in six games.

Perhaps the most forgotten-about wideout around, though, is Travis Benjamin of the Cleveland Browns. The dangerous deep threat started the season with 14- and 29-point showings, only to post double digits again just twice since.

One of those outings, though, came in Week 10 before a bye. There's a chance Benjamin can make it two in a row when he collides with the leaky Baltimore Ravens defense, which allows the third-most points to the spot.

Considering Benjamin mustered eight points against the unit in Week 5 and it has only gotten worse since, he looks like one of the week's top sleepers.

 

Tight Ends

RankPlayer
1Rob Gronkowski
2Greg Olsen
3Delanie Walker
4Tyler Eifert
5Gary Barnidge
6Jason Witten
7Jordan Reed*
8Antonio Gates
9Jimmy Graham
10Travis Kelce
11Martellus Bennett*
12Julius Thomas
Author's projections. *If he plays

It's silly to focus on Rob Gronkowski given his every-week dominance allowing him to top charts no matter what.

Instead, consider Washington's Jordan Reed one of the stars to watch. He's coming off a two-point dud, but it doesn't change the fact he's scored 19 and 14 points in two of his last four outings since getting healthy.

Now Reed gets the New York Giants, a team coughing up the second-most points to the position. The only concern is that Reed sprained a ligament in his knee last weekend, although he returned to the game.

This time last year, Julius Thomas would have been considered the furthest thing from a sleeper. Now, though, he's been hobbled with injuries and on the Jacksonville Jaguars, with last week's eight-point showing one of the highlights of his season.

It's about to get a whole lot better. Thomas next encounters the San Diego Chargers, a team allowing the ninth-most points to the spot. Five times crops of tight ends have posted double digits against the unit this year, meaning Thomas stands a good chance at doing it on his lonesome.

 

Defense/Special Teams

RankUnit
1Cardinals
2Jets
3Packers
4Eagles
5Bills
6Seahawks
7Panthers
8Patriots
9Bengals
10Broncos
Author's projections.

Owners know all about the juggernaut defenses such as the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, so why not just get right to the sleeper? 

This week, it's all about the Green Bay Packers in a cupcake matchup against the Chicago Bears. Clay Matthews and Co. have posted three trips to double digits this year, with one of those coming in Week 11.

Green Bay only mustered one point against Chicago in Week 1, but much has changed since then. The Bears now allow the eighth-most points to opposing defenses this year, having coughed up four double-digit performances and seven or more points in three of their last four.

In other words, the Packers have a floor of seven, but on a short week, things could get wild—hence a huge ceiling.

 

Kickers

RankPlayer
1Stephen Gostkowski
2Matt Bryant
3Cairo Santos
4Matt Prater
5Josh Brown
6Blair Walsh
7Robbie Gould
8Justin Tucker
9Dustin Hopkins
10Steven Hauschka
Author's projections.

Let's take the same approach at kicker, where owners know Stephen Gostkowski, John Brown and Steven Hauschka, among others, will essentially put up guaranteed points each week.

Instead, keep an eye on a sleeper such as Detroit's Matt Prater. He's only gone to double digits twice while the offense around him floundered, but one of those came this past weekend when he knocked through all three of his attempts for 13 points.

It's going to be a similar outburst against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team allowing the 10th-most points to kickers. Over the team's past four games, the Eagles have let up nine or more points.

Call it an attractive floor for a guy available in most leagues, just in time for the holidays.

 

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of November 24.

Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter