Fantasy football Week 12 awards: Shorts becoming big story for Jags
Cecil Shorts leads the NFL with five touchdown catches of at least 30 yards
Hakeem Nicks has been targeted on 27 passes in the Giants' past two games
Ryan Mathews has struggled in 2012, averaging 66 yards rushing per game
Thanksgiving's trio of games proved to be a hard act to follow after a horn of plenty in fantasy points. None of Sunday's offerings could match the drama and shootouts on Thursday, but they weren't cold leftovers, either. There were plenty of highlights and lowlights from the Giants' resurrection in a beat down of the Packers, to the legend of Cecil Shorts III and tough injuries to Andre Brown and Matt Forte. The running back position seemed to be at the center of most everything in Week 12, from who's in and out, injured and healthy, surprising and disappointing or just surprisingly disappointing. Without further ado ... let's hand out some awards.
Top Waiver Wire Receiver of the Year: It's early, but we have a candidate. The former Jaguars' one-man box score anomaly has grown into a budding fantasy star, becoming a consistent bright spot on a bad team. Cecil Shorts has been nothing short of a fantasy revelation. On Sunday he scored his NFL-leading fifth touchdown of more than 30 yards and posted his third-straight outing with a score. He also has 100 yards or more in two of the last three weeks. Credit, in part, goes to Chad Henne, who has brought the passing game to life the past couple weeks, but Shorts has been producing since before Henne took over. Any team owner who picked him up in the past couple weeks deserves a tip of the cap. If he's still available in your league, the waiver wire line is going to be long. Is it too soon to call him CS3? The suggestion box is open for cool nicknames -- thus far, he's earned it.
Pickup of the Week: Knowshon Moreno. The former left-for-dead, injury-prone, first-round NFL pick that once hurdled tacklers for Georgia is back on the radar. Many thought rookie Ronnie Hillman would be the next man up at starting running back for Denver. Instead, it was Moreno, who had 85 yards rushing and 111 total against the sad-sack Chiefs while Hillman played in a third-down role. Next week Moreno faces top-ranked Tampa Bay, but for the fantasy playoffs, barring injury, Moreno will face the Raiders (ranked 28th against the run) in Week 14, the Ravens in Week 15 (ranked 26th) and the Browns in Week 16 (ranked 19th).
Pickup of the Week, Runner-up: A slew of running backs will be flying off the waiver wire this week (see: Michael Bush, below), among them Arizona's Beanie Wells. Wells' first performance since Week 3, against the Rams, was, like his entire fantasy career, bittersweet. On one hand, he barreled in for two touchdowns; on the other, he rushed for 48 yards on 17 carries at 2.8 yards a clip against a middling St. Louis run defense. Classic Beanie Wells, as in there's always a catch with him -- and usually not in the receiving part of the box score. Unlike Bush, who is probably rostered as Forte insurance, or could lose the starting spot at any point the next few weeks when and if Forte returns, Wells seems to have more staying power, barring injury. He's a solid pick-up at this time of the season, but expect the sour to come with the sweet.
Welcome Back Award: Hakeem Nicks, we missed you. For the second time this year Nicks was relevant to fantasy owners in a good way -- by scoring a touchdown. Nicks owners have suffered through one injury or another, as well as invisible performances throughout the season. His Week 2, 199-yard explosion against Tampa Bay excluded, he has posted five games with under 50 yards receiving. Even when Eli Manning wasn't struggling, Nicks was a non-factor or nursing injuries. On Sunday night Nicks posted his second straight game with just under 80 yards and added a touchdown for the first time since Week 2. The arrow is firmly pointed up for Nicks. The past two games alone, Manning has targeted Nicks 27 times combined. With Manning out of his funk and Nicks back in the groove, better days are here and big days are coming.
The Tough Break Award: Andre Brown owners are feeling the pain Monday morning. One of fantasy's most underrated finds and king of the flex position, Brown broke his leg against the Packers. Counting Week 12, Brown had five straight games with a touchdown and ranked third in the league in rushing touchdowns. Even with the Giants offense floundering for a three-week span, Brown was the one constant owners could rely on as a low-end RB2 or top flight RB3. This has to open the door to David Wilson, who should finally get a chance to show he's more than a special teams novelty. Wilson, who may usurp Ahmad Bradshaw as the starter next year, is a decent free agent option as the Giants have spread the running game workload around all year.
Fantasy Injury of the Week: Matt Forte's injured ankle sent shockwaves through many a team roster Sunday. Most notably, those without handcuffs or playing in leagues with short benches are bearing the brunt of the pain. Forte might only be a mid-range RB2 who got drafted as a RB1, but the timing, with the playoffs around the corner, could not have been worse. The scramble to pick up Bush should be on, as he's proven to be a solid lead back.
Mr. Underwhelming: Ryan Mathews, is this all you got? Pre-collarbone injury, Mathews had a lot of late first-round buzz. Even after his preseason injury, he was still a fourth-to-sixth round pick in fantasy drafts because of his upside. But this is one case where patience has not been rewarded. Mathews is a mid-range RB3 at this point after yet another scoreless outing Sunday. This season he has one touchdown and has not found in the end zone in six games. He is averaging 66 yards a game rushing and roughly 90 yards in overall offense. The Chargers have spiraled downwards offensively this year, and Mathews is one of the casualties, but at some point this former real-life first-round pick has to be part of the solution. Hopefully, he can bounce back next year as a late mid-round pick, but don't hold your breath on someone who thus far (despite a small sample size) has been an injury prone underachiever.
Mr. Underwhelming, Runner-up: Vick Ballard. Ballard has yet to get a rushing touchdown this season, despite doing some solid work following a battlefield promotion. But in a shocker Sunday, he was only able to muster 41 yards on 13 carries against the Bills' 31st-ranked rush defense. That happens to be the same defense that yields 147 yards per game on the ground. Color us unimpressed. Ballard looks more like a journeyman second banana at running back, rather than a one-day future starting lead back.
Future Fantasy Star: Colin Kaepernick. As an owner of him in a dynasty fantasy league who enjoyed some college fantasy success with him, I have to admit: 1) I saw this coming, and 2) It's a brave new world. My fearless prediction is that Kaepernick, after he is named the 49ers starter for fall of 2013, will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Easily. In fact, he'll be a poor man's RG3 in terms of dual threat point production. Kaepernick didn't set the Saints defense ablaze, and one can argue 240 yards and one touchdown pass is horrible against one of the worst defenses in the league. But his rushing score and 27 yards makes his passing line more palatable, plus two pick-sixes on Drew Brees changed the entire pace and tone of the game for San Francisco. The quarterback starter question will be a guessing game the rest of the year, which makes Kaepernick tough to depend on for fantasy owners, but he is the hot hand. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been somewhat of a quarterback whisperer, and Alex Smith's transformation has been stunning. But keep in mind that Kaepernick was a second-round pick in Harbaugh's first draft, and has been his pet project. Like a stock that's ready to be cashed in, Kaepernick might not be Google, but he's at least Yahoo.
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