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Depth Chart Watch: Colts Turn to Brown

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

Bears QB - While Josh McCown threw for 355 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers during Sunday's overtime loss to the Vikings and has nine touchdowns to just one interception over his last six games, he just may have started his last game in a Bears uniform. As good a replacement as he has been, McCown will take a backseat in Week 14 when Jay Cutler returns. Obviously, should anything happen to Cutler, McCown will be ready to step in, but for now, his fantasy value goes back to that of a mere handcuff.

Browns QB -
After Sunday's loss to the Jaguars, Brandon Weeden was diagnosed with a concussion, and his status for Week 14 is in doubt. He'll go through the NFL-mandated protocol, but the Browns are going to have to start making immediate plans to be without him. With Jason Campbell also dealing with a concussion, the Browns may have to turn to recently signed Alex Tanney, who is in his second year in the NFL but has yet to see game action. The Browns and Josh Gordon's fantasy owners are on the edge of their seat waiting for Weeden to pass his concussion tests, but nothing will be known until the tail-end of the week.

Browns RB -
Well, it looks as if the Chris Ogbonnaya experiment has been put on hold for the time being. After consecutive weeks of minimal production and a pair of fumbles, Ogbonnaya went back to his usual support role while Willis McGahee returned to being the starting running back. McGahee saw 14 carries, including one at the goal-line early in the first quarter, while Ogbonnaya saw just seven. He did, however, see five targets in the passing game, the role he held before the temporary promotion. With Fozzy Whittaker also seeing seven carries, it would seem that the Browns will continue to use a committee backfield with McGahee being the goal-line back and potential lead ballcarrier. More will likely be revealed in Week 14 when the Browns face the Patriots, a team that has allowed the second most rushing yardage in the league. Even then you'll probably want to avoid the situation if possible.

Cardinals RB -
Coach Bruce Arians continues to stand by Rashard Mendenhall as his lead back, but with Andre Ellington inactive due to a knee issue, the team had to choose a viable backup/complementary back for Sunday and potentially even further along. With both Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith available, the club opted to go with Taylor. He didn't have much of a game this week, due to limited playing time, but it's still good to know what the pecking order is, if you need to ever plan ahead. Taylor has solid upside in the long run, but has limited value now, even if he were to fill in as a primary backup again in Week 14.

Chargers TE -
While Antonio Gates is still the lead dog in San Diego, Ladarius Green continues to see a significant number of looks and seems to have an expanding role. Considering the weakness the Chargers have at wide receiver, there should be enough work for Green to be considered a viable option for fantasy owners. It may not be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but it's still a solid two-TE system that sees both benefiting each week.

Chiefs TE -
Keep an eye on Sean McGrath who now steps into the top tight-end slot with Anthony Fasano suffering a concussion. Fasano made a diving catch, smacked his head against the ground and had a tough time getting to his feet. When he did start to get up with the help of a teammate, you could see he was dealing with the jelly legs. NFL concussion protocol goes into effect this week, and if Fasano is unable to go, then McGrath should start to see an increase in looks.

Colts RB -
Just a couple days prior to Sunday's game, the Colts finally announced that Donald Brown would be the lead back and that Trent Richardson was demoted to a support role. Thankfully, it wasn't just a ploy to throw off the Titans as Brown saw 14 carries, including the late-game goal-line work, while Richardson saw just five carries all game. While the Colts obviously don't want to give up on a guy they traded a first-round draft choice for, they do recognize that they need to put their best players on the field during this playoff push, and for now, that best player is Brown. T-Rich will still see a handful of carries and will be the first one the team turns to should Brown get hurt, but in terms of fantasy value, his is limited to keeper leagues as the Colts will likely offer a clean slate heading into the 2014 season.

Cowboys WR -
Obviously Dez Bryant is still the top dog, but we're starting to see a bit of a competition for the No. 2 slot now that Miles Austin is healthy and back on the field. Last week, he had three targets to Terrance Williams' two, but this week it was Williams who saw the edge with six targets to Austin's five. The coaches haven't given any real indication as to which receiver they prefer, but considering Austin's time has come and gone and Williams, a rookie with tremendous skills, still has his whole career ahead of him, the decision should be pretty clear.

Eagles TE -
As much as fantasy owners would love for the Eagles to decide one way or the other as to who the top tight end is between Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, it appears that the two will continue seeing a relatively even split each week. Celek has seen 12 targets the last four games and has two touchdowns while Ertz has seen 15 targets and has three touchdowns. While you may think that Ertz automatically has the edge, he did go one of those weeks without a single target. Ertz is certainly the team's tight end of the future, so perhaps that will help tilt the scales in his favor, but as the situation is now, each is inhibiting the other's fantasy value.

Falcons WR -
Welcome back, Roddy White. We've missed you. If Mr. Harry Douglas could please step aside to make some room, that'd be helpful. Thank you.

49ers WR -
This is another easy one as Michael Crabtree returned to the field for the first time since suffering a torn Achilles' tendon in May. Crabtree will be eased in somewhat, though he looked completely fine in his debut, and he and Anquan Boldin are the top targets. Tight End Vernon Davis sits at the big kids' table as well while Mario Manningham slides back down the depth chart. No real surprise, though, as many anticipated this to be the case before the season even started.

Jets QB -
After throwing 11 interceptions and just one touchdown over his last seven games, Geno Smith was benched by the Jets after the first half in Week 13. He was replaced by Matt Simms, who really didn't look much better. However, with David Garrard inactive, the boys in green had little choice and had to move forward with what they had. Looking ahead, there's no guarantee that Smith will return to the starting role, but the Jets haven't made any sort of announcement, nor do they want to make any rash decisions. Look for them to give everyone a look and make a determination during the week, but as a fantasy owner, you should probably avoid whomever they do decide on.

Lions WR -
While Matthew Stafford targeted 11 receivers and connected with nine, the only real depth chart battle that bears watching is between Nate Burleson and Kris Durham. Guys like Dorin Dickerson and even Kevin Ogletree, who caught a touchdown, only saw extra playing time because the game was such a crazy blowout. But as far as Burleson and Durham go, each is vying for targets as the alternative option to Calvin Johnson. Burleson had a solid first game back last week with 10 targets, but saw just one target this time around while Durham saw six last week and seven this week. A shoulder injury for Durham might make this debate a moot point as Burleson would obviously see the spill-off of targets head his way, but if Durham is active, it's difficult to trust either because you just don't know who will see the majority of the looks. It would seem that Durham would be the more consistent of the two, but he also seems more like a possession receiver who doesn't see the red-zone looks his counterpart may see. It's likely a situation that needs another game or two to really see how things shake out, but fantasy owners don't really have that kind of time. Burleson, in my opinion, has the upside you want.

Packers QB -
For those of us who struggled to keep our food down during Matt Flynn's performance on Thanksgiving Day, there's really not much to say. For those who didn't see the debacle that the rest of us witnessed, you should know that we all had a hard time keeping our food down while watching Flynn play. Word is, Aaron Rodgers may not play for the rest of the season, so if that's the case, Scott Tolzien will be back under center for Week 14. We will not see Flynn play unless every other quarterback option for the Packers is dead. 'Nuff said.

Panthers RB -
With DeAngelo Williams inactive Sunday, Jonathan Stewart saw the bulk of the carries, not Mike Tolbert. However, Tolbert had a better yards-per-carry average and saw more targets in the passing game. Should Williams' quad injury keep him out again, you can probably expect the split to go just as it did this week. But while many would consider Stewart to be the better play because of the number of touches he'll see, Tolbert has the greater value thanks to the goal-line work and role in the passing game. Unfortunately, though, neither possesses a major value, even as a flex play, so if you have to use one, keep your expectations in check.

Patriots RB -
The split in carries Sunday, pretty much, says it all. Stevan Ridley remains in the doghouse and has been pushed down the depth chart. Brandon Bolden is still working his way into a bigger role but sits third on the depth chart. LeGarrette Blount seems to be the lesser of three evils and gets the carries by default, while Shane Vereen sits as the main guy, seeing a strong number of carries out of the backfield while also garnering all the looks in the passing game. Vereen possesses the greatest upside due to his role in the passing game and has decent value in both standard and PPR leagues. Blount has his best value in standard leagues, and the other two have limited value until they start seeing a heavier workload. Just be careful when using any of them as one little fumble could cost them their job.

Patriots WR -
While Julian Edelman continues to revive that early-season magic at the expense of targets for the oft-injured Danny Amendola, the battle also wages on in the lower ranks as Kenbrell Thompkins was forced from Sunday's game with a bum hip. With Aaron Dobson also nursing a foot injury, it was Josh Boyce who took the snaps for Thompkins, though he did not see more than just a cursory glance. Unless Thompkins and Dobson are both out, though, Boyce doesn't warrant consideration. Tom Brady has enough in front of him that he's not going to want to break in another receiver.

Raiders RB -
Yes, the Raiders said they were going to ease Darren McFadden back into the fold, but given the disparity in carries for McFadden (five) and Rashad Jennings (17), it appeared as if the Raiders were content using him simply as a change-of-pace back and potential passing target. However, a concussion for Jennings changes everything as he'll need to go through the NFL protocol before stepping back onto the field. If Jennings is unable to play next week, then, obviously, McFadden will shoulder the load. But if Jennings is capable of playing, then it would seem that the two will share carries while McFadden gets a bit of extra work in the passing game.

Raiders WR -
With Denarius Moore still sidelined with a shoulder injury, the window of opportunity opened up for Andre Holmes and the second-year receiver climbed through in a hurry with seven catches for 136 yards on Thanksgiving. Moore says that he'll be ready for Week 14, but considering the fact that he hasn't practiced yet, we're not going to know for sure until later in the week. If he does play, then Holmes will still be active but probably won't see another 11 targets. If he doesn't, then Holmes gets another opportunity to show the coaches what he can do. Meanwhile, Rod Streater has steadily developed into a solid No. 2 wideout and should continue to fill the same role he's had now for most of the season.

Ravens RB -
As expected, Ray Rice went back into hibernation upon learning that he wasn't allowed to continue facing the Chicago Bears' run defense every week. With that, the door is open, once again, for Bernard Pierce to steal carries; not enough to give him some newfound fantasy value, but just enough to keep the fantasy value down for Rice. More than likely, Rice will continue to see the greater number of carries between the two, but Pierce will be afforded enough of an opportunity to potentially supplant Rice for the lead job. Should he break out for a few strong runs, he could be someone to watch as we head into the fantasy playoffs.

Ravens TE -
There was some fleeting hope that Dennis Pitta was going to be activated a week early, but the Ravens never actually had any intention of activating him before Week 14. Once they do, Pitta should jump back into the fold of the passing game while Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark fall back into relative obscurity. There's a chance that one, Clark perhaps, continues to see a target or two, but the switch to Pitta means (close to) zero fantasy value for the other two.

Redskins TE -
Jordan Reed was inactive Sunday after suffering a late-week setback, and both Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen found themselves splitting targets. However, as expected, Paulsen saw the red-zone work and scored the touchdown. Davis has never been a favorite target for Robert Griffin III, so Paulsen scoring shouldn't come as much of a surprise. They should see a similar split next week if Reed is still unable to go.

Steelers WR -
There's not really a depth chart battle here, but the improved passing game for the Steelers is giving fantasy owners an additional option beyond Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. For the fourth game in the team's last five, Jerricho Cotchery has hauled in at least one touchdown catch. He really got the ball rolling in Week 9 when he caught three TDs against the Patriots, and save for the one game in Cleveland, he hasn't slowed down. He's not going to rack up a whole lot of yardage, but if he continues to be such a huge red-zone target for Ben Roethlisberger, he will provide fantasy owners with a fantastic option for a third wide receiver.

Titans TE -
Delanie Walker joins the ranks of those now acquainting themselves with the NFL protocol for concussions as the tight end left during the first quarter of Sunday's loss after seeing just two targets and coming down with one catch for five yards before getting hurt. Obviously he did not return to the game, which put Taylor Thompson on the radar as the next in line. Craig Stevens is also on the roster, but it looks as if Thompson, who failed to haul in one catch off three targets, is the next guy in line. Monitor Walker's progress during the week as he is the one who has the best on-field rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick. There's no guarantee that Thompson would be treated the same way should he be the one to fill the lead tight end role next week.

Vikings QB -
Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. The revolving door continues to spin in Minnesota and once again, the Vikings are left wondering who will start under center. Christian Ponder left Week 13 with ... wait for it ... a concussion, and Matt Cassel did a reasonably good job, not only keeping the Vikings in the game, but also leading them downfield for a game-winning field goal in overtime. However, the team has also been adamant about the fact that it does not consider Cassel to be the starter. That, unfortunately, could mean that the Vikings turn to Josh Freeman again. Whaaaat? Really? Could they actually do that? We'll have to wait and see what the team does this week, but in truth, none of the options really look good from a fantasy perspective.