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Depth Chart Watch: Actions Speak Louder than Words

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 or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Bills WR - With both Steve Johnson and Robert Woods inactive for Week 11, it was Marquise Goodwin who saw the bulk of work (nine targets) with T.J. Graham and Chris Hogan each logging four targets, second on the team. Both Johnson and Woods should return after the Week 12 bye, but given the way Goodwin has played, you can probably expect him to stay in the mix. He probably won't see as many targets, but he could be a solid threat to keep stretching the field.

Broncos RB -
Ground Control to Knowshon Moreno owners: We could have a Montee Ball problem. Repeat: We could have a Montee Ball problem. While Moreno did the heavy lifting against the Chiefs, Ball stole the glory with a pair of touchdowns and four targets in the passing game. And all of this came in spite of a first-quarter fumble. This was the split most fantasy owners expected at the start of the season, so while it shouldn't come as too much of a shock, Moreno owners can't feel as comfortable now as they did just a few weeks ago. Assume that the split will continue this way, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Broncos WR -
While there really isn't much movement to expect on the depth chart, we should note that if Wes Welker's concussion keeps him out, you can expect a decent increase in red-zone targets for Eric Decker who has seen his drop this year with the addition of the former Patriot. Andre Caldwell likely would see a few extra snaps with a couple extra targets here and there, and maybe Trindon Holliday sees some extra work. Ultimately, though, you would have to expect that Decker, Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, if his knee holds up, will benefit most.

Broncos TE -
Julius Thomas will head for tests on his right knee after comning away from Sunday night's game banged up. While he was able to walk it off and get back into the game, ultimately, he was forced to remain on the sidelines in the fourth quarter while Joel Dreessen got most of the work. Should Thomas miss time, Dreessen immediately becomes a must add. He and Peyton manning have worked together in the past, and while he is no Thomas, he could still garner some decent red-zone looks.

Browns RB -
During the Week 10 bye, the coaching staff announced that Chris Ogbonnaya would see increased work, and true to its word, he was the lead running back during the loss to the Bengals on Sunday. Although the ground game was forced to take a backseat as the Bengals went up big and early, Ogbonnaya saw eight carries to Willis McGahee's six and Fozzy Whittaker's four. In addition, Ogbonnaya was on the field for most of the passing downs and saw 12 targets, which he turned into six catches for 30 yards to give him 99 all-purpose yards on the day. While it's tough to rely on the Browns ground game, at least you know that Ogbonnaya is the guy to own.

Buccaneers RB -
While Brian Leonard started Sunday, Bobby Rainey stole the show when he carried 30 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns while also catching two passes for four yards and another score. Given the breakout performance, there is no reason to believe that Rainey won't be the lead back when the Bucs take on the Lions in Week 12, while Leonard falls back into a more complementary role. Considering this is just one game, nothing is set in stone, but you have to figure Rainey will see the majority of work unless Leonard does something extraordinary to supplant him.

Cardinals RB -
Much to the fantasy world's chagrin, Rashard Mendenhall continued to see the bulk of work out of the Cards backfield, while Andre Ellington failed to reach the 15-touch minimum coach Bruce Arians once promised. The decision is as aggravating as it is inexplicable, but so goes life in Arizona, and fantasy owners expecting Ellington to have another breakout game as he did in Week 8 are just going to have to sit on their hands and wait. As sad as it sounds, Mendenhall is the lead back.

Cardinals WR -
One week after dislocating his shoulder and suffering a sprain in the AC joint, Michael Floyd was back in action and dominating targets Sunday, catching six passes for 193 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 11 targets. Larry Fitzgerald remains the top receiver, but Floyd slips back into the No. 2 spot with Andre Roberts returning to a complementary role. Although it can be tough to trust him most weeks, with a favorable matchup, Floyd should make for a solid choice in PPR leagues and a decent WR3 in most standard play.

Chargers WR -
You'll have to check reports on Keenan Allen's knee throughout the week, but if he is unable to go, you can expect an increase in targets for both Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal with a possible bump for Seyi Ajirotutu. Although he's been a serious disappointment this season, Brown is likely to see the biggest jump, but again, this could all be a moot point if Allen's injury is deemed minor and doesn't hold him out.

Colts RB -
While coach Chuck Pagano was quick to say afterward that Donald Brown has not supplanted Trent Richardson as the starting running back for the Colts, actions speak a whole lot louder than words. Brown had 14 carries to Richardson's eight, produced an impressive 5.7 YPC to Richardson's 2.8 and, save for the one Andrew Luck took in himself, got both touchdown runs when the Colts were inside the red zone. Pagano claims to still have full confidence in Richardson's abilities and says that the numbers will come, but it's hard to imagine with the way things are going that Brown won't continue to see the bulk of carries. If Pagano is insistent on getting Richardson the ball, the two will continue to split carries, alternating each series early in the game, but expect the load to eventually tilt Brown's way as he continues to out-produce one of fantasy's biggest first-round busts.

Dolphins RB -
It was Lamar Miller who took a backseat to Daniel Thomas this week, and fantasy owners are left scratching their heads once again. The job went from all Miller to a split, then back to Miller and now it's tilting toward Thomas. The Fins have decided that using the hot hand is the approach they'll take, but given the offensive line woes and the tough matchups ahead (Panthers and Jets), neither looks like a trustworthy option. Consider it a straight-up platoon situation and leave both on the bench.

Falcons QB -
Despite the four-game slump that Matt Ryan has been mired in, the only reason Dominique Davis saw time under center Sunday was because Atlanta was being blown out on the scoreboard. He re-entered the game when Davis came up lame after taking a hit and went on to throw his second touchdown pass of the game, and it should be business as usual the rest of the way. For those of you who have weathered the storm, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Week 12 against New Orleans might be a tough one, but after that, Ryan has three favorable matchups in a row, just in time for your fantasy playoffs.

49ers WR -
While Mario Manningham is clearly the team's favorite for the No. 2 wide receiver spot, look for Jon Baldwin to see a few extra targets if Manningham's knee is still an issue. Baldwin saw three targets to Manningham's four this week, but Baldwin did get a nice look in the red zone and would have had a touchdown had he not bobbled the ball when he fell onto his back outside the endzone. The eventual return of Michael Crabtree will soon end this minor debate, but until then, Manningham will see the most targets of the secondary receivers.

Jaguars WR -
Before he even really got a chance to prove himself, Mike Brown was knocked out of Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. That boosted the targets Ace Sanders saw and with Cecil Shorts being blanketed in coverage, Sanders put together a strong game with eight catches for 611 yards. Whether Brown is out for any length, Sanders could step over him as the team's No. 2 receiver. He's certainly been reliable when leaned on and probably has about as much upside as Brown did.

Jets QB -
While Geno Smith was asked to take a seat for the fourth quarter of Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Bills, coach Rex Ryan was adamant in his postgame press conference that Smith would still be the starter in Week 12. However, with eight interceptions to just one touchdown the last five games and a tough matchup coming against Ryan's former team, the Ravens, the leash could be a short one. It's doubtful that anyone is using Smith as a starting fantasy quarterback in single-QB leagues, but if you're using him in a two-QB league, it might be time to find an alternative. Matt Simms is, obviously, not the answer, but if Smith doesn't turn things around soon, you and the Jets might not have much choice.

Lions RB -
Yes, it's true. Reggie Bush was, in fact, benched Sunday due to losing one fumble in the first half and almost losing a second had the Steelers actually thrown the challenge flag on the play. Chris McCoskey of the Detroit News even said that Bush might not have seen the field at all in the second half had Joique Bell not tweaked his foot and aggravated an old injury. But don't worry, Bush owners. Tomorrow is another day, and while this one might have been a rough one, Bush is still the top dog and gives the Lions the best chance to win each week when he's in the backfield. Bell will continue to see his usual share of the carries, but there's no running back controversy.

Raiders QB -
With Terrelle Pryor banged up headed into Week 11, there were a few rumblings that backup Matt McGloin could actually supplant him as the team's starting quarterback. Now, after a 197-yard, three-touchdown, no-turnover performance led the Raiders to a big win over Houston, that talk is getting louder and louder. Coach Dennis Allen would not commit to giving McGloin the start next week against the Titans, but given Pryor's recent performance and the banged up knee, it would be tough to see Allen not go with McGloin once again. This should be a hot topic of discussion all week, so you'll probably get the official word in a day or two.

Raiders RB -
After another strong performance out of the backfield, Rashad Jennings just may have played his way into a timeshare in the Oakland backfield. Coach Dennis Allen suggested that Darren McFadden, who has been out with a hamstring injury, could be brought back slowly as he and jennings split carries down the stretch. McFadden has always been a slow healer and has missed plenty of games the last couple of years, so while this will ultimately hurt both players' fantasy value, it should help the Raiders in the real world.

Raiders WR -
While waiting for the starting quarterback to be decided, it's important to note the tendencies each when evaluating receivers for your rosters. With Pryor under center, Denarius Moore sees the majority of the targets with Rod Streater filling in as a complement option. With McGloin, Streater seems to get more looks, and there's much more of a reliance on the tight-end position, as evidenced by Mychal Rivera's six targets this week. Obviously, that could change based on coverage assignments, but you should keep a watchful eye on the situation.

Ravens RB -
As expected, Bernard Pierce saw an increase in work as he ended up with 10 carries, the most he's seen since Week 5. Unfortunately, for those who thought he would have a bigger day, Ray Rice finally decided to show up and dominated the game with 25 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown while also pulling in three catches for an additional 17 yards. That performance should be enough for him to maintain his hold on the lead job and he should continue to see a substantially greater number of carries, but be careful as his upcoming matchups are a lot tougher than the weak Bears run defense he saw Sunday.

Ravens TE -
Dallas Clark has done most of the heavy lifting this season with Ed Dickson serving as more of a blocker who sees no more than a target or two in the passing game. But all of that could soon come to a close as Dennis Pitta is apparently closer than ever to returning to practice and should regain the starting job upon his return. If he makes it back by the end of November then he could be an interesting playoff sleeper as he and Joe Flacco built an excellent rapport last season.

Redskins WR -
Obviously Pierre Garcon is the team's leading wideout and despite tweaking his ankle, he was able to play the entire game Sunday. Leonard Hankerson, on the other hand, suffered a knee injury and was unable to return to the game. Aldrick Robinson benefited the most and even found the endzone on a late-game 41-yard touchdown catch and would likely benefit even further if both Hankerson and Jordan Reed remain sidelined.

Redskins TE -
With Jordan Reed leaving Sunday's game with a concussion, Robert Griffin III is losing one of his most prominent targets over the last six games. Fred Davis is the next in line for work at the position, but he hardly seems like a strong option as he was practically phased out of the passing game for more than a year before the emergence of Reed. Perhaps a change in the play-calling might help his value, but if RG3 doesn't trust him, then fantasy owners won't be able to either.

Seahawks WR -
As expected, Percy Harvin made his return this week. He only saw one target, but owners of Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate should start to expect a decrease in targets. We expect Tate to end up in the No. 2 role with Baldwin filling in, but considering it was Baldwin who saw the red-zone work, things could change. The Seahawks have a bye in Week 12, so check the practice reports the next two weeks and see how everything falls into place.

Steelers WR -
With Emmanuel Sanders leaving Sunday's game with a foot injury, rookie Markus Wheaton benefited with a nice increase in snaps the rest of the way. Although Antonio Brown will remain Big Ben's favorite target, the rookie just might be able to flash some of that speed we know is lurking, should Sanders miss time. His value may be reserved for deeper leagues at first, but he certainly has a ton of upside and could blossom with a big enough opportunity.

Texans QB -
It looks like we have a bit of a quarterback controversy in Houston as coach Gary Kubiak, with his team down 28-17, pulled Case Keenum late in the third quarter in favor of Matt Schaub, who Kubiak believed could increase the tempo of the game and handle in-game audibles better to address protection. While Kubiak would not commit to a starter in Week 12, it should be noted that Schaub failed to find the endzone on two fourth-quarter drives and was forced to settle for a pair of field goals. There was also an interesting end-of-game spat between Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson after a miscue on what could have been a game-winning drive late in the fourth. Johnson, the team's biggest playmaker, has zero touchdowns with Schaub under center, while he has five in the two games with Keenum at the helm. Stay tuned for more.

Titans RB -
It would appear that the announcement of Shonn Greene getting an increase of carries did the trick in lighting a fire under Chris Johnson's rear. Since that day, CJ2K has rushed for 266 yards with four touchdowns over a three-game stretch while also kicking in 71 receiving yards on nine catches. Greene has seen his workload drop steadily, and it appears that the balance has shifted back toward Johnson. He should continue to see the bulk of work, as opposed to the 60-40 split coach Mike Munchak discussed earlier, and with some favorable matchups coming, he should be a solid option for your fantasy playoffs.

Vikings QB -
Christian Ponder, despite having an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, received the start this week against the Seahawks, but was yanked in favor of Matt Cassel as the game slowly got out of hand. But, funny enough, when asked who would be under center for Week 12, coach Leslie Frazier was not only non-committal, but he indicated that it would either be Ponder or Josh Freeman. Cassel is apparently locked in as a back-up no matter, so if you're sitting in desperation for a quarterback, just know that he's not an option. Neither should the other two, but at least one will play.

Vikings WR -
Jarius Wright had a solid day when he caught three passes on four targets for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But just keep in mind that, while it was a solid game for him, he never would have seen the looks had Greg Jennings been able to play. Meanwhile, it was Cordarelle Patterson who received the start in favor of Jerome Simpson who is in the doghouse after a recent DUI. Looking ahead to Week 12, you can expect Jennings to be back in his usual starting role with Patterson on the opposite side. Should Simpson make his way back into coach Frazier's good graces, then he'll get his work in at the expense of Patterson. Wright, unfortunately, falls back into a bench role.