Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos : 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 fprobably unlikely that he’ll help his fantasy owners again in 2012. Hillman and Lance Ball figure to split the backfield workload,but Hillman has a better chance for a positive fantasy impact than the slow-footed Ball.
Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: 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.
Jalen Parmele, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: 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: 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 and Dwayne Allen.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: He had a bid day last week, but 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.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions: 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.
Deeper league finds
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: 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.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers: There’s obvious risk in starting Kaepernick this week since he could have a letdown and Alex Smith (concussion) has yet to be ruled out or benched. He had an amazing debut in his first NFL start in Week 11 against Chicago at home. Against a dominant defense, Kaepernick was 16 of 23 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns and we really didn’t see his rushing prowess since he ran for just 12 yards. But he also has the chance for a bigger performance this week against the Saints, who have allowed seven quarterbacks to pass for at least 300 yards and seven to score multiple touchdowns. If Kaepernick starts as expected you should buy into his upside.
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