Each week we give a player from each division a “Player of the Week” honor. In an attempt to not cram the same info down your throat you might find elsewhere, we are going to try to focus on players who weren’t draft day all-stars. In some cases they won’t even be rostered in redraft leagues, but guys that are worth stashing in dynasty leagues. We are going to focus on guys that have yielded the greatest return on your investment. You don’t need to be told Andre Johnson had a great day. He was drafted in such a spot that it was expected. Same with Julio Jones, Steve Smith (Car), and Arian Foster. That’s not to say that we won’t honor a truly elite performance, especially from rookies.
As part of a group collaboration, members of the DLF Staff have chosen to represent a division and will be selecting which players will be getting the “gold star” for the week. As an added bonus, I will also include the most impressive IDP performances of the week for each division, because defensive players need love too!
Here is who is will be nominating players for each division:
AFC West - Steve Wyremski
AFC East - Paymon Shokoohi
AFC North - Eric Olinger
AFC South - Tim Stafford
NFC West - The FF Ghost
NFC East - Jarrett Behar
NFC North - Jacob Feldman
NFC South - Ryan McDowell
Julian Edelman, WR NE
It was a wacky NFL Sunday to say the least. One of the many anomalies from week twelve was Edelman’s all-purpose performance. He returned a punt for a touchdown, rushed for 47 yards, and hauled in five passes for 58 yards. And, oh by the way, he scored a receiving touchdown. It hadn’t happened prior to week twelve and it probably won’t happen again after week 12. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, this kind of performance from unlikely fantasy producers was a common theme this week.
IDP- Aqib Talib, CB NE
Newly acquired and fresh off suspension, New England’s new shut down corner made his debut with a bang. Not only did he pick off an Andrew Luck pass and return it for a touchdown, he also had five solo tackles and two assists. His addition sends ripples through this defense for a couple reasons. He and Alfonzo Dennard, who also had a pick six of his own, will man the corners while Devin McCourty now slides to free safety. All this will allow Belichick to dial up more blitzes, create more pressure, and increasing chances of turnovers while teams try to keep pace with Tom Brady and company.
Chad Henne, QB JAX
How could it go to anyone else? Justin Blackmon is already owned in your league so it’s not really helpful for me to list him. It’s quite possible that we’ve seen the last of Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville. I’m not rushing to the waiver wire to pick up Henne – frankly, if Colin Kaepernick is available he’s a better pick-up. The important thing about Henne is it gives Cecil Shorts, Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis owners reason for hope down the stretch.
IDP- Derek Cox, CB JAX
Where in the heck did that come from?!?! Cox was an IDP force on Sunday with 16 tackles (all solo) and an interception. Unfortunately, he probably did it on your waiver wire. The tackle numbers nearly triple his season high in solos, but he now has all three of his interceptions in the last five games. It will be interesting to see what Chad Henne can do on offense moving forward because if this team can remain competitive, the opportunities for Cox should increase. It’s hard for a cornerback to put up statistics when opposing teams go into clock killing mode in the second quarter.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR PIT
With Antonio Brown missing in action, Emmanuel Sanders has stepped in and performed well. Sunday night against Baltimore he was Byron Leftwich’s favorite target as he looked his way a team high eight times. Sanders was only able to haul in three catches but for 82 yards. The biggest win for Sanders is the fact the Steelers are now faced with trotting out their 96 year old third string quarterback Charlie Batch. With Batch’s pea shooter of an arm, the dinking and dunking is going to benefit Sanders and Heath Miller much more than it will the field stretching Mike Wallace.
IDP- Dannell Ellerbe, LB BAL
I have been stubbornly slow to warm up to Dannell Ellerbe and I think it took fellow IDP writer Steve Wyremski to unintentionally wake me up. We were asked a start/sit question between Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard on Twitter, and I without hesitation thought Pollard was the better play. Steve disagreed and that made me take a step back and re-evaluate. Good thing, Ellerbe has filled in quite nicely for Baltimore. Sunday night against the rival Steelers, Ellerbe had a game high 12 total tackles (eight solo and four assists). Over the last three weeks he’s averaging nearly 11 total tackles a game and with Baltimore playing in more close and more close games, Ellerbe should continue racking up tackles.
Ladarius Green, SD TE
While the obvious choice for the AFC West is Ronnie Hillman given the Willis McGahee injury, Green played 28 snaps in week 11 and played well. This was the first time all season where he played meaningful snaps with the only other game of action being in week two when he played four snaps. This past week in limited action, Green saw three targets and caught all three for 25 yards. That’s not a stellar game by any means, but it’s impressive how active he was in the passing game given the small percentage of snaps. Many owners have started to get impatient with Green with no production early on, but given Antonio Gates’ injury struggles and age, Green is a great stash after flashing some nice potential. He looks to be the ultimate replacement for Gates.
IDP- Kendall Reyes, DE SDC
The easy route would have been to give it to Von Miller and his seven solo, three sack performance, but we all know Miller is a MANimal. As impressive as that was though, there was something interesting happening on the other team’s defensive line, and that was with a 23 year old rookie from Connecticut named Kendall Reyes. On a team DESPERATE for a pass rush playing against a quarterback who avoids being sacked as well as any in the history of the game, Reyes brought down Peyton Manning not once, but twice for his first two career sacks. Was it a fluke? Maybe. Should we be keeping an eye on him for a little bit? Absolutely.
Dez Bryant, WR DAL
Perhaps benefiting from the absence of Joe Haden and the Cowboys being in catch-up mode the entire game, Bryant had one of his best games as a pro seeing a staggering 15 targets and reeling in 12 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. The question now is if Bryant be consistent and put together back-to-back elite games. He’s got the eminently burnable Redskins secondary up next on Thanksgiving, so if he’s going to do it, you would figure it will be this week.
IDP- Fletcher Cox, DT PHI
The rookie defensive tackle might have been the lone bright spot for Philly on Sunday. Cox finished the game with seven solo tackles, an assist and a sack. A very nice day for any defensive lineman, let alone a tackle. With the coaching staff most certainly on the way out the future is cloudy for this line filled with underachieving talent, but make no mistake about this, Cox is going to remain a very big part of whatever scheme is brought in.
Josh Freeman, QB TB
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman continued his hot streak in week eleven in a divisional matchup against the Carolina Panthers, throwing for 248 yards and three scores. Over his past six games, Freeman has exploded, averaging 285 passing yards per game and throwing sixteen touchdowns in that span. Those excellent passing numbers are good enough to rank Freeman as the QB2 over the past seven weeks.
Following a tough two week stretch against the Falcons and Broncos, Freeman and the Bucs then face off against the Eagles, Saints and Rams in what will be the fantasy playoffs for almost all leagues. Freeman could lead many fantasy teams to a title.
IDP- Thomas Davis, WLB CAR
Ten solo tackles and six assists is pretty impressive for a player playing on knees held together with duct tape, rubber cement, and a prayer. Coming back from his third ACL surgery, Davis was not meant to have a major role on this defense, but since fellow fan of the medical ward Jon Beason is hurt again, Davis has been thrust into action. The 16 total tackles were his season high and his production has been all over the place. With Carolina’s home score keeper awarding nearly 42% of all Panthers’ tackles as assists, the most likely scenario is seeing Davis’ solo numbers be low and his assists be much higher.
James Starks, RB GBP
Between the Vikings being on bye, the Bears apparently thinking they were on a bye week, and the Lions and Packers both trying to lose their game to each other it was pretty slim pickings. In fact, the only NFC North players that didn’t let people down were Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb and maybe Mikel Leshoure. All three have been spotlights in previous weeks, which leave us with Starks.
Starks wasn’t very productive on Sunday with only 74 yards on 25 carries and one catch for six yards. The reason that he’s the spotlight player is that he had 25 of 28 planned carries by the Packers. That’s about as good as it can get in terms of workload. Cedric Benson isn’t eligible until December 9th and might not even be ready then according to recent reports. You know that Benson isn’t the long term answer at running back, so why not take a flier and see if Starks can do something with his role.
IDP- Nick Fairley, DT DET
Playing next to one of the nastiest, meanest men in the league should present a lot of opportunities for fellow defensive lineman to win one-on-one battles with the offense. Fairley was able to bring Aaron Rodgers down twice this weekend as the Lions nearly defeated their division rivals. Nearly as impressive was the number of tackles Fairley logged, four solo, three assists, for a total of seven. In leagues that require you start a defensive tackle, that kind of production is sweet on it’s own.
Colin Kaepernick, QB SF
Colin Kaepernick took his opportunity to start on a national stage against the Bears on Monday night and both figuratively and literally, ran with it. Kaepernick dazzled against an incredibly stiff Bears defense with 243 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, four rushes for 12 rushing yards and most importantly, no interceptions. Kaepernick bought time for his receivers by moving freely in and out of the pocket and avoiding the Chicago rush. His performance against what many believe to be one of the premiere defenses in the NFL has now possibly created a quarterback controversy in San Francisco. I personally think we’ve seen the dawning of the Kaepernick era on Monday night and boy does it look interesting.
IDP- Aldon Smith, OLB SF
Five and half sacks in one game will put you in this spot regardless of your name, pedigree, reputation, or average draft position. Jason Campbell checked under his bed and slept with the light on Monday night after what Smith did to him. Teams aren’t supposed to give up six sacks to opposing TEAMS, let alone one guy. Chicago’s pathetic offensive line had no adjustment to even slow down Aldon Smith as he destroyed J’Marcus Webb and any other tackle they trotted out there.