- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Standard ESPN league finds
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (owned in 0.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Willis McGahee tore his right MCL and fractured a bone in his leg Sunday; his return timetable has been set between four and eight weeks, though it's fair to be skeptical that he'll help his fantasy teams again in 2012. Hillman and Lance Ball (0.4 percent) figure to split the backfield workload, but about three seconds of exposure to Denver's game film lets you know that Hillman has a better chance for a positive fantasy impact than the slow-footed Ball. The big question is whether the 190-pound Hillman has a chance to succeed between the tackles; according to Stats LLC, he's averaging 2.5 yards per carry on his 17 totes that can be categorized as "up the middle." More quick than he is burning-fast, Hillman nevertheless benefits from lining up behind Peyton Manning. Ball, on the other hand, is probably only a deep-league option, as he'll play mostly on third downs. Beware that the unkillable Knowshon Moreno could also be active on game days.
Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (0.3 percent): Brown was a blue-chip recruit out of high school who alienated coaches at two institutions of higher learning, leading to character concerns. He essentially never played at Kansas State and fell to the seventh round of April's draft, but there's no doubting Brown's raw tools: He runs a sub-4.5 40 at 223 pounds. (Essentially he's the same speed as Hillman and weighs 30-plus pounds more.) The Eagles have already toyed with using Brown near the goal line this year, and he returned kickoffs in Week 11. With LeSean McCoy suffering a concussion that caused him to be carted off the field, there's a real chance Brown starts Monday night against the Carolina Panthers. The Iggles are obviously a disaster area, but in that case, Brown would merit at least flex consideration.
Jalen Parmele, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (0.1 percent): The Jags had seen enough of Rashad Jennings as their starter in Maurice Jones-Drew's absence; Jennings had averaged 2.9 yards per carry since MJD's injury and had scored once. Against the Houston Texans Sunday, Jennings took over kick-return duties while Parmele became the starting halfback. The results were meh. But meh is better than Jennings had done, so Parmele will draw the start Sunday versus the Tennessee Titans. After a 37-point outburst in Houston, it's tempting to view the Jags' offense as reborn, having been freed from the yoke of Blaine Gabbert's disastrously bad play. I'm not there yet. But Parmele does potentially have the advantage of Chad Henne scaring defenses more than Gabbert did. Parmele is a big kid without much wiggle, kind of a ham-and-egger who'll pound into people but make nobody miss.
Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders (14.5 percent): Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm is a fantasy crusher, and Myers is probably the best waiver-wire option available in most leagues. He's not a true playmaker but he sure has been consistent: Between 44 and 62 yards receiving in six straight games. Plus he's scored three TDs in his past three contests. If I'm a Gronk owner, Myers is the first guy I look up. After that, I'd think Dustin Keller (31.1 percent), Logan Paulsen (0.4 percent), Dennis Pitta (37.3 percent) and Dwayne Allen (2.6 percent and a good game in Week 11, but Coby Fleener is reportedly set to return from injury).
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (44.6 percent): Entering Week 11, Blackmon had a grand total of 250 receiving yards. Against the Texans, he produced 236. It's fair to be skeptical that this is a one-week-wonder situation, but you can't argue Blackmon doesn't have physical tools and ball skills galore. He was the fifth overall pick in April, after all. His biggest problem on film so far this year has been that he's played slow and occasionally looked disinterested, but neither was the case Sunday. Has he turned everything around in one week? I doubt it. I'm going to have the more consistent Cecil Shorts ranked higher in Week 12, but anyone with a bench spot and a thin WR corps can take a shot. There's upside here.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions (1.1 percent): Titus Young can't be trusted. He's got Randall Cobb ability and an offense that wants to throw until the cows come home, but he can't stand success. Young showed a two-week flash after Nate Burleson broke his leg, but he regressed again for three straight games and Sunday's loss was the final straw for the Lions. Young reportedly was benched on his team's final possession for making mental errors and causing a scene on the sideline. He hasn't responded to coaching, he has complained about not getting the ball and now the Lions have suspended him for Week 12. Young's maturity is miles away from his ability, and that opens the field for Broyles on Thanksgiving. He'll be Detroit's No. 2 WR opposite Calvin Johnson. Expect him to be ranked among the top 30 wideouts.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks (16.8 percent); Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers (1.6 percent); Marcel Reece, RB, Raiders (32.8 percent); James Starks, RB, Packers (7.0 percent); Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (47.9 percent); Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers (38.2 percent); Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons, RB (13.4 percent); Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (13.1 percent); LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals (30.0 percent); Danario Alexander, WR, Chargers (4.5 percent); Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars (27.5 percent); Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks (8.8 percent); Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers (4.8 percent); Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets (42.0 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (15.6 percent); Josh Gordon, WR, Browns (27.4 percent); Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (31.1 percent)
Deeper league finds
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (0.5 percent): Henne has won the Jags' starting job regardless of whether Blaine Gabbert's injured throwing elbow heals in time for Sunday. He did this by making a series of ludicrously big plays against a really good Texans defense, and winding up with a career-high four TD passes (actually, he'd never even thrown three) to go with 354 passing yards. I've seen enough of Henne's red zone struggles in his days with the Miami Dolphins to know he's probably not the long-term answer in Jacksonville. But he's got a good enough arm and some actual pocket presence, so it's fair to believe the Jacksonville offense could have some better times ahead.
Dion Lewis, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (0.9 percent): Lewis has exactly zero touches from scrimmage so far this season, having fallen behind rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk on the Philly depth chart. If LeSean McCoy misses Monday's game, however, Lewis is likely second in line for backfield looks. Polk injured a toe in practice a couple weeks back and hasn't been seen on the sidelines since. Lewis is only 5-foot-7 but has some thickness to him, and it was only a year or so ago that Andy Reid was convinced he could handle a full load in the event of a Shady injury. Clearly, though, he'd be a purely speculative add.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos (2.4 percent): You can't kill him. Don't even try. One of the NFL's most disappointing first-round draft picks of the past four years, Moreno hasn't played since Week 2; once Ronnie Hillman proved he could pass protect, that was all she wrote for Moreno's playing time. But we're still talking about an undersized rookie starter (Hillman) and a lead-footed third-down back (Lance Ball), so I expect to see Moreno in uniform Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be mighty weird to see him start out as a major part of the game plan, but you never know.
Dallas Clark, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.7 percent): If you're a Gronk owner in a super-deep league, you might not have a choice but to cast your lot with the 33-year-old Clark (whose limbs are perhaps a decade older than that). He's scored in three of his past five games, but also hasn't topped 58 yards in a game once all year. Still, it's not a terrible idea to buy into a piece of Tampa's explosive offense, even a piece this small.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (5.7 percent): You really have to believe Henne is going to completely turn things around for the Jags to buy Lewis as a full-fledged Gronk replacement. Since his 10-TD campaign of '10, Lewis has 68 catches in 25 games. But he found the end zone twice last week, and definitely has pass-catching ability. It's just that he's also an awfully good blocker, and has been asked to perform those duties a bunch in the Gabbert era.
Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins (17.0 percent): Bess is strictly a PPR-league option; he runs out of the slot most of the time, and rarely catches a ball beyond 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. But he's on pace for 77 grabs, which would approach a career high. Plus, last Thursday he caught a red zone score, his first of the season, and who knows: In a Miami offense almost totally devoid of aerial weaponry, maybe he gets more such looks going forward.
Charlie Batch, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.1 percent): Let's be clear: You don't want Charlie Batch. He turns 38 in December and hasn't started more than two games in a season since 2001. But he'll be under center Sunday when the Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns. Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich are both out with rib injuries, so if you're in the deepest of deep leagues, and need a warm body to fill your second QB spot, Batch is your guy. Remember, he was able to fill in for Big Ben late last year and actually led Pittsburgh to a shutout win (and pass for 208 yards in the process), though I'll be pretty surprised if he's able to accomplish that again.
Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions (40.3 percent): Smith played more snaps than Joique Bell (9.2 percent) in Week 11, which may mean that he's re-passed the younger Bell as Detroit's favored third-down option. Bell's primary fantasy value back in Week 9 came because he dominated fourth-quarter touches in a blowout, which is a specialty role to say the least. However, Mikel Leshoure is his own goal-line back, so I'm hard-pressed to find a ton of attractiveness in either Smith or Bell.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (40.4 percent); Jake Locker, QB, Titans (6.6 percent); Nick Foles, QB, Eagles (8.5 percent); Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (9.3 percent); Bilal Powell, RB, Jets (1.2 percent); Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots (34.4 percent); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (11.2 percent); T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts (3.3 percent); Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (30.3 percent); Chris Givens, WR, Rams (1.8 percent); Donald Jones, WR, Bills (2.5 percent); Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots (0.7 percent); Logan Paulsen, TE, Redskins (0.4 percent); Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (37.3 percent); Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts (2.6 percent).
Christopher Harris lists the top waiver-wire pickups heading into Week 12, including Ronnie Hillman and Brandon Myers.