Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Ivory finds role, Bush loses his
The Saints' Chris Ivory has averaged 7.1 yards per carry over the past two weeks
Reggie Bush ranks 19th in rushing yards and was benched for fumbling Sunday
Andrew Luck ranks second behind RGIII in quarterback rushing touchdowns
What's in a name? Most of the time big names are the cornerstones of fantasy football, but sometimes it's possible to cobble together a collection of no-names and have success as well. Some of those under-the-radar players made a big push in Week 10, while others who have become stars were fantasy liabilities. We name names in this edition of Risers/Sliders.
Chris Ivory, Saints: The Saints' leading rusher during the injury-plagued 2010 season, Ivory has found himself buried on the New Orleans depth chart behind Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. Despite reports he was mentioned in trade talks before the deadline, Ivory's 2012 season looked like it would be spent only as a healthy scratch, but then Darren Sproles broke his hand and Ivory was liberated. The third-year man has taken the bull by the horns, becoming yet another weapon for Drew Brees and the Saints. A power runner with speed, Ivory's reckless abandon and ability to run around, over and through defenders with the ball in his hands is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch, the patron saint of the NFL's beast backs. For two straight weeks Ivory has careened through opposing defenses for impressive long touchdown runs and sports a 7.1 yards per carry average. While he's only run 17 times in those games, he's New Orleans' rushing touchdown leader and a candidate to handle red-zone carries when the need arises. The Raiders have given up seven rushing touchdowns over the past two games, which should have Ivory owners licking their chops in anticipation of Sunday.
Marcel Reece, Raiders: Should the injured backfield of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson fail to answer the call again this week, Oakland will not hesitate to call on Reece again. The fullback ran 13 times for 48 yards against the Ravens while hauling in another seven passes for 56 yards. That was just the fourth time this season a Raiders back went over 100 yards from scrimmage in a game, (the first three were by McFadden), something they did 25 times over the past two seasons. The Saints' defense is one of the most porous in the NFL against both the pass and the run, which bodes well for a big game from Reece.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins: For a while it appeared like Reggie Bush's roller-coaster career would become more stable as the clear leader of Miami's offense, but the slumping former Heisman Trophy winner hit new lows against the Titans on Sunday and found himself on the bench for most of the second half due to fumbling problems. His offseason boasts of wanting to lead the league in rushing are almost ludicrous now as he ranks 19th in the NFL with just 61.7 yards per game and has ceded control of Miami's backfield duties, at least in part, to Daniel Thomas.
Taiwan Jones, Raiders: The East Bay's battered backfield made this mystery man a hot fantasy pickup last week, but the speedy second-year man managed just 13 total yards on three touches while watching an undrafted rookie free agent, Jeremy Stewart, get more action. In 17 career games over two seasons, Jones has just 23 touches and 117 yards and should be owned in zero percent of leagues from here on.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars: It's hard to imagine a worse situation for an offensive player than the one facing Jacksonville these days. The league's lowest scoring team with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne behind center has virtually no bright spot with the exception of this hard-working second-year route runner from Mount Union. Shorts' speed and hands has enabled him to become the leading receiver on a team that features brighter names like a big-money free agent, Laurent Robinson, and a top draft pick, Justin Blackmon. In fact, Shorts has doubled the yardage of Robinson and Blackmon combined and outscored them four touchdowns to one. Shorts has accounted for a full third of Jacksonville's offensive touchdowns. The Jags face the Texans, Titans (twice), Jets, Bills, Dolphins and Patriots the rest of the year, and with the exception of the Houston game, I wouldn't hesitate to use him.
Danario Alexander, Chargers: A month ago Alexander was a free agent. Then last week he made his Chargers debut by catching three balls against the Chiefs. And on Sunday his assimilation into San Diego's attack was complete when he burned the Buccaneers for five catches, 134 yards and a long touchdown run. With Malcom Floyd on the opposite side and Antonio Gates in the middle of the field, Chargers opponents will have to pick their poison with the league's biggest receiving trio.
Danny Amendola, Rams: Just five weeks after he suffered a potentially life-threatening broken collarbone against the Cardinals, Amendola returned to the field against the 49ers and didn't miss a beat, reeling in 11 passes for 102 yards while having a potentially game-clinching long catch-and-run in overtime called back on a procedure penalty. A PPR machine, Amendola was let go in over 60 percent of leagues during his injury and his speedy return caught some by surprise. If he's available in your league, he warrants your top priority waiver pick.
Jarius Wright, Vikings: The rookie from Arkansas was a healthy scratch for the first half of the season while he learned how to play against NFL defenses, but Sunday he was pressed into action to try and help overcome the loss of Percy Harvin on the outside. He responded with a quality debut, hauling in three passes for 65 yards and a score, providing an additional speedy threat for Christian Ponder. Still raw, Wright will have trouble finding a role when Harvin is in the lineup (which reportedly will be in Minnesota's next game following their Week 11 bye), but with speculative picks coming up to fill out post-bye week rosters, he's someone to keep an eye on.
Victor Cruz, Giants: The Chunky Soup pitchman currently stands among the top-10 among all receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns, but he has slumped, as has the Giants' passing game overall, in the last three games. In those games, Cruz has managed just 10 catches for 116 yards -- tied for 55th and 57th respectively -- with no touchdowns. The Giants go into their bye week with major fixes necessary for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and his unit. Those heavily invested in Giants, especially Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, can only pray they'll be successful.
Chris Givens, Rams: The promising rookie hit a roadblock when he was deactivated for the 49ers game, along with fellow rookie Janoris Jenkins, for violating team rules. With the return of Danny Amendola, the Rams played the Niners to a tie, proving that the team was just fine without him. Givens came to prominence immediately after Amendola suffered his injury and has now become a question mark after his return. A decent source of touchdowns, Givens has yet to catch more than three balls in a game, which limits his true value to fantasy owners. With byes almost over, cutting him for the stretch run is a reasonable response to someone who may or may not be there when you need him most.
Andrew Luck, Colts: The sign of an elite fantasy player is that they put up big numbers even when they have poor games. Case in point was Luck on Thursday against the Jaguars. His 227 passing yards with no touchdowns and a pick were numbers you might expect out of Blaine Gabbert. However, Luck's value is multidimensional. He's second to RG3 in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks with five and tied with the likes of Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and fellow rookies Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson for eighth overall. The Patriots, Bills, Lions and Titans are coming up in the next four weeks, so the numbers should keep coming.
Carson Palmer, Raiders: While the Raiders didn't totally abandon the running game against the Ravens playing without top tailbacks Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, Palmer was forced to carry the offense again in a blowout loss. The results on the scoreboard were ugly, but those who started Palmer had few complaints as he managed 368 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the second week in a row (and fourth time this season) the former No. 1 pick went over the 300-yard mark, something he had not done since 2007. Oakland's only real strength is a deep receiving corps (Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers, Marcel Reece, Rod Streater) that plays right into Palmer's hands. Due to byes and injuries, there is a short roster of usable fantasy quarterbacks in Week 11, but with the Saints on the schedule, Palmer is certainly one of them.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: When Alex Smith was knocked out in the first half against the Rams by a concussion, Jim Harbaugh turned the controls over to Kaepernick, the Wildcat quarterback extraordinaire who threw for 117 yards and ran for another 66 and a touchdown in the tie against the Rams. Unlike most Wildcat option quarterbacks, Kaepernick has a strong arm and added an element of mobility Smith did not. In fact, Kaepernick's 66 rushing yards placed him 15th among all NFL runners through Sunday night's game. If you've been waiting to use Tim Tebow all season you just may be the kind of fantasy owner who would enjoy having Kaepernick in your lineup next week against the Bears.
Eli Manning, Giants: Peyton's kid brother has been through a lot recently with the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the scrutiny of the New York media after going through his roughest stretch in recent years. The Giants head into the bye having watched 99 Manning passes thrown since the last time he connected for a touchdown. The slump was understandable against the Cowboys and Steelers, but not the Bengals. There's serious cause for concern.
Michael Vick, Eagles: A concussion did what Andy Reid was unwilling to do; send Vick to the sidelines. As disappointing as he's been, Vick consistently has provided 15 to 20 fantasy points per week, a tall order for a rookie like Nick Foles.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: Just when it was looking like he could be used in a pinch, the rookie was embarrassed at home by the league's easiest defense to score against. Tannehill managed a mere three points while throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a pick-six. Unless you're in a two-quarterback league, you can put any thought of using Tannehill aside for the rest of the year.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Maddeningly invisible in recent weeks, Rudolph turned it on against the Lions, catching seven balls for 64 yards and a touchdown in Percy Harvin's absence. Leslie Frazier and his staff want Rudolph to be active in an offense short on receiving play-makers outside of Harvin.
Antonio Gates, Chargers: The Buccaneers had no answer for any of the Chargers' big three receivers, which has become a regular occurrence for Gates, who has played his way back into the elite class of tight ends. Now he goes against the Broncos, who have allowed opposition tight ends five touchdowns in three games, including two by Gates himself.
Vernon Davis, 49ers: He's gifted, dedicated and physically imposing, yet for the sixth straight game Davis went without a touchdown and only once during that span, against Buffalo, was he a fantasy factor at all. Next week's opponents, the Bears, don't give up much to fantasy tight ends, either, so it's unlikely that the skid will end anytime soon.