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NFL Barometer: Shonn Finds Greener Pastures

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

RISERS

Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE –Another two-touchdown game in Week 14 gave Gronkowski 11 scores over the last six weeks, helping him set an NFL single-season record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 15. It’s pretty clear at this point Gronkowski has an affinity for the end zone – he is now up to 26 scores over the first 29 games of his career. Gronkowski is also on pace to finish with 1,339 receiving yards, which would top the previous record for a tight end, 1,290 yards, held by Kellen Winslow, Sr. It has been a historic season for Gronkowski, to say the least. He will be a borderline first-round fantasy pick next year.

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – Greene totaled a career-high 187 yards from scrimmage in Week 14 to put up big fantasy points for the second consecutive week. After racking up just 16 receptions over the first 29 games of his career, Greene has recorded nine over his last three contests. That could be big news for his fantasy value if it’s a sign of things to come, which isn’t implausible with LaDainian Tomlinson’s career winding down. Greene has scored four touchdowns over the last two games and is playing better than he ever has when it matters most.

Jake Locker, QB, TEN – Locker produced more than 300 yards and totaled two touchdowns after replacing an injured Matt Hasselbeck in the second quarter Sunday. The sample is tiny, and outcomes are often different when defenses have time to prepare for the opposing starter, but Locker has been effective, exhibiting good arm strength and even better athleticism. His stellar 8.7 YPA mark has also come with a 46.0 completion percentage, so accuracy remains his biggest issue. However, it would be an upset if Locker weren’t Tennessee’s starting quarterback entering 2012. His strong arm makes him an ideal match for Kenny Britt.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC - Jones-Drew has racked up a whopping 745 yards from scrimmage over the past five games. He has also scored seven touchdowns over that span, including four during the most important week of the fantasy season to date. And after gaining just 85 receiving yards over the first eight games, he is on pace to finish the year with 428, which would be his most since 2008. This all comes while playing for one of the five worst offenses in football, so consider MJD’s performance one of the best of the season.

Kyle Orton, QB, KC – Orton practiced this week and will start Sunday’s game against the Packers. He suffered a finger injury two weeks ago in his team debut, but he claims it is no longer affecting his throwing ability. Given that Orton just arrived in Kansas City a couple weeks ago, it’s unlikely the team will be working with a full playbook Sunday; but even so it’s hard to imagine him not being an upgrade over Tyler Palko. The Chiefs may want to go ground-heavy in Week 15, but they’ll likely be forced to throw while playing from behind against a heavily favored Packers team that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Orton’s insertion into the starting lineup should give Dwayne Bowe a boost as well.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN – Thomas continues to drop passes, but he has racked up 222 receiving yards with three touchdowns over the past two games, seeing a whopping 20 targets over that span. He faces a New England secondary this week that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, and while Denver loves to run the ball, they may be playing catch up against a Patriots team likely to put plenty of points on the board.

Philip Rivers, QB, SD – As usual, Rivers is getting hot as the season winds down, posting a 7:0 TD:INT ratio over his last three games. In fact, he has thrown 15 touchdown passes over his last six contests. Rivers is 22-2 as a starter in December during his career, so the Chargers should play well down the stretch. Just be aware that Rivers has a tough matchup Sunday against a Baltimore secondary that has allowed just a 66.3 QB rating to opposing passers this season.

FALLERS

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT – It’s possible leading the NFL in touches last season has had something to do with it, but Mendenhall just hasn’t looked great running the ball this year. In fact, his 2.2 YPC average after contact ranks 52nd among running backs. He’ll probably reach double-digit touchdowns for the second straight season, but because he also offers next to nothing as a receiver, he shouldn’t be a top-20 pick in fantasy drafts next year.

Greg Jennings, WR, GB – Jennings suffered a sprained knee during Sunday’s win, and while he’s expected to be ready for the playoffs, his regular season is likely finished. It’s a tough blow for fantasy owners who had enjoyed his consistent production all season. However, Jennings’ absence should boost Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley’s fantasy values the rest of the way. James Jones, and maybe even Randall Cobb, could be intriguing options for those in deeper leagues.

DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL – Murray suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week, which was especially frustrating to his owners since it came early in a high scoring game in which he had a great matchup. Felix Jones once again enters the picture and should be treated as a top-15 fantasy back as a result, especially with a plus matchup against Tampa Bay in Week 15. If Jones finishes strong, it will really cloud Dallas’ backfield situation entering 2012. The injury could be a significant blow to Murray’s value in dynasty leagues.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, NE – Green-Ellis totaled just 19 yards last week, and he’s now been given only 11 carries over the past two games. In fact, he saw just nine snaps in all last week. New England appears to be implementing a full-blown committee in its backfield, and despite being the team’s top option at the goal line, Green-Ellis can no longer be relied upon in fantasy leagues.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI – Maclin was held to just one catch for 13 yards before exiting last week’s game after his hamstring tightened up. Since Week 9 Maclin has totaled 19 receiving yards. He was back practicing in a limited basis this week and says he’ll play Sunday, but he’s clearly not 100 percent healthy, so the possibility of another early exit remains. Moreover, Maclin faces a Jets secondary this week that has allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. He’s an extremely risky fantasy start.

Frank Gore, RB, SF – Gore averaged 7.2 YPC and scored a touchdown during the team’s Week 14 loss in Arizona, but the big concern is that he received just 10 carries, and coach Jim Harbaugh later stated the back is still dealing with injuries. Gore saw limited snaps (he played 38-of-68) for the second game in a row, so he’s clearly not right physically. In a matchup against a strong Pittsburgh defense, a hobbled Gore isn’t a great fantasy start in Week 15.

Sam Bradford, QB, STL – Bradford hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 13 of last season, and he has tallied just six touchdowns compared to 13 turnovers this year. His career 6.0 YPA mark is equally unimpressive, especially when considering he plays in a dome. The addition of Josh McDaniels at offensive coordinator hasn’t helped at all, as the QB has actually taken a step back during his sophomore season. Bradford’s rough season isn’t getting any better – he apparently aggravated his ankle sprain last week and is currently in a walking boot. Expect Kellen Clemens to start for the Rams in Week 15.

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