1. Colin Kaepernick is Worth a Pickup in Most Formats
Although the 49ers have yet to commit to either Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith (concussion) as the team's starter at this point, the upside presented by the former makes him a worthwhile speculative addition in most formats.
Kaepernick would presumably have his passing upside limited, just as Smith does, by the generally run-heavy approach of the 49ers offense, but his own rare rushing skills give him a big advantage over Smith as far as fantasy production goes. Kaepernick has 187 yards and three touchdowns on just 25 carries this year, while Smith has a respectable but still much weaker total of 134 yards and no scores on 29 rushes. Kaepernick has 4.53 speed and knows how to run with the ball - he 4,109 yards and 59 touchdowns in college - and Jim Harbaugh is the sort of daring, unconventional coach who can capitalize better than most on Kaepernick's potential as a running specialist.
None of this is to dismiss Kaepernick as a passer, though. If Monday's game was any indication, actually, he probably has more upside than Smith through the air, as well. His velocity is much better than Smith's, and he threw decisively and effectively from a variety of looks in his first start Monday. And that's without adding bonus points for the opponent he faced - a Bears squad that allows just 6.4 yards per pass and a quarterback rating of 65.9 despite getting torched by Kaepernick for 243 yards and two touchdowns (no interceptions) on just 23 pass attempts.
2. Ryan Broyles is in WR3 Territory for PPR
The Lions are highly disillusioned with 2011 second-round pick Titus Young at this point. Good thing Ryan Broyles, their second-round selection from this year, is just about the opposite of Young.
Young, who the Lions suspended for Thursday's game against Houston, has red flags when it comes to maturity and focus, but the new wide receiver in Detroit is well known for his work ethic and attention to fundamental details. He lacks the rare athleticism that Young boasts, but sharp routes and instincts allowed Broyles to consistently dominate in college, becoming the all-time receptions leader at the FBS level despite suffering an ACL tear in the ninth game of his 2011 season.
That ACL tear, which occurred Nov. 5, proved to be an obstacle for Broyles at the start of this year, but the past five weeks seem to indicate that it's a problem of the past. He has 15 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns since Week 7, hauling in all but four of the 19 targets he's seen while averaging 9.5 yards per target.
With Young out of the lineup against Houston, Broyles' efficiency should be more visible as his target volume increases. Young has 35 targets in the last five games, and with him out of the lineup Broyles should push for the seven-target mark himself. In fact, he might see more than that, because the Lions figure to play especially urgent on offense against a Houston squad averaging 29.3 points per game.
3. T.Y. Hilton Should Stay Hot
Donnie Avery suffered another injury Sunday, returning to a theme that's been all too common in his career. He left Sunday's game against the Patriots with a concussion that figures to make him questionable for Week 12, and two weeks before that he suffered a hip injury against the Dolphins. Even before considering the limitation the injuries might pose, he was already due for a snap count decrease since rookie T.Y. Hilton had been more effective in the first place.
Despite playing more snaps than Hilton in all but two of the last eight games, Hilton has 440 yards and four touchdowns on 29 catches in that span, while Avery has only 405 yards and no touchdowns on 29 catches. Hilton, moreover, has two games of 100-plus yards and at least one touchdowns in the last three weeks, and Avery has failed to do that a single time this year.
It's easy to see that Hilton would easily pull away in this race if Indianapolis should give him Avery's snap count, and it's becoming so obvious that the Colts have no defense for not making the switch. Hilton's superiority isn't just a recent trend - for the season as a whole he's averaging 8.4 yards per target and hauling in 55.6 percent of his targets, whereas Avery is posting just 7.1 yards per target while catching 52.6 percent of his targets.
Between Avery's concussion and the superior (and apparently improving) effectiveness of Hilton, the Colts should be expected to roll with the rookie from Florida International as the second wideout against Buffalo this week. With two bad defenses in play - the Colts are allowing 26 points per game while the Bills allow 29.9 per contest - a shootout appears more than slightly likely, in which case Hilton should expect to see a good number of targets against a Buffalo team allowing 7.4 yards per pass and a 92.6 quarterback rating.
4. Health Permitting, Wells Should be Strong Upon Returning
Beanie Wells is one of the worst in the league when it comes to staying healthy, but there's no doubt that he's among the league's most talented athletes at running back. So when he makes his return after getting activated from the designated-to-return IR against St. Louis week, Wells should get to a fast start.
Wells claims he's been healthy for some time now, and that he's only been inactive this long because of the eligibility rules of the new IR designation. The toe injury for which he was originally deactivated is supposedly no longer an issue. If that's the case, then Wells enters this week with an advantage over the Rams defense - Wells has been resting all this time while his competition has been subjected to the physical toll of the NFL.
That physical toll - which Wells has not been subjected to - can play a big role as Wells matches up against defenses. Much lesser talents than him have posted big numbers as mid-year plug-ins at running back - Jerome Harrison and Julius Jones come to mind - it's a big advantage for a runner to play fresh against a defense with 11 weeks of fatigue.
The Arizona running game has shown some signs of life lately with LaRod Stephens-Howling going over 100 yards twice in his last four games, and a healthy, well-rested Wells should provide another spark. Against a Rams defense that's allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this year, Wells is a justifiable flex start for most formats.
5. Stash Ladarius Green in Dynasty Formats
A regime change is in order for the San Diego Chargers, at the coaching level at the very least. To the surprise of not many, Norv Turner has demonstrated again this year that he's not up to the tasks required of NFL head coaches, and even general manager A.J. Smith could be on the way out now that Vincent Jackson is showing in Tampa Bay just how damaging Smith's hardheaded ways can be to the interests of the franchise.
If new management arrives in San Diego, allegiances to past investments will likely have their leashes shortened, assuming they aren't abandoned altogether. Considering a rebuilding effort will likely be necessary, even former perennial All Pro tight end Antonio Gates will have his role on the team scrutinized as he heads into his age 33 season in 2013. His numbers have already fallen off a cliff - he heads into his 10th game this year with just 30 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns - and it's fair to wonder whether his cap hit of $4.5 million will be justifiable by the time next year approaches.
If Gates is gone by next year or merely has his role reduced, one player who's a good bet to emerge in his place is rookie tight end Ladarius Green, who the Chargers drafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette in the fourth round. Although he's raw in traditional tight end terms and lacks the short-area coordination you would see in a player like Jimmy Graham, Green has the size and speed to make a fantasy impact, even if he's just a one-dimensional seam-stretcher. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds he has legitimate sub-4.5 speed, and he fits the pass-catcher mold that quarterback Philip Rivers prefers - height and wingspan are things that all of Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander have in common, and Green boasts a great deal of both traits himself.