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USATSI

Week 13's rankings are going to be pretty fluid right up until kickoff, because there's just so much we don't know right now, specifically about injuries. And Thursday's game between the Saints and Cowboys is a microcosm of that, because we're just a day out from the first game of the week, and there's still so many unanswered questions for those two teams.

Most notably: Who will start at quarterback for the Saints? We expect it to be Taysom Hill, who has taken first-team reps at practice Monday and Tuesday, but who may still need to prove his lingering foot issue -- reported to be plantar fasciitis, a tricky one -- won't be an issue. Saints head coach Sean Payton didn't name a starter Tuesday, so we'll have to wait until Wednesday to know for sure. We assume it'll be Hill, and he'll be a top-12 QB for me, but that isn't 100% certain yet.

And the Cowboys side has even more questions. First and foremost, there's the question of whether Amari Cooper will be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for the game. The assumption had been that Cooper would be activated after missing the mandated minimum of two games following his positive test, but according to Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, Cooper still isn't feeling well and probably won't play Thursday if he isn't cleared to practice Wednesday. We also have questions about Ezekiel Elliott's role after reports surfaced last week that the Cowboys were considering lightening the load on him in light of his lingering knee injury. Elliott has practiced without limitation each day this week, but with a tough matchup on the way and concerns about his usage, can you trust him? 

And that's just one game out of 14 for this week. Today's newsletter is all about answering some of those questions, or at least trying to. I've highlighted the 10 toughest players to rank for the week and we also have Heath Cummings' position previews for you to check out while you are pondering your own questions. And make sure you check out Dave's Trade Values Chart here -- and if you're looking for trade or lineup help, email me at Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com with the subject line "#AskFFT" to get included in a mailbag column tomorrow. 

I also have my rankings for each position available below, updated with some of my thoughts on some of the most interesting players and decisions of the week here:

Hopefully, that helps you get an understanding of what to expect for this week. Here's what the rest of today's newsletter has in store to help you get ready for Week 13:

  • 📈The toughest players to rank📉
  • 🔍Position Previews

📈The toughest players to rank📉

The rankings process is an ongoing one, and at least at first, it's a lonely one. In my case, it's just one man, his computer, and a spreadsheet filled with each team's Vegas odds, season statistics, matchup data, and more, because I start by projecting each team's performance before moving on to the individual players and how they rate out relative to one another.

That projections process forms the basis of my rankings for each week, and I make tweaks based on that. Most weeks, the initial round of post-projection tweaks are pretty minimal, but Week 13's required quite a bit more massaging because there's a lot going on right now that doesn't necessarily gibe with a more data-focused approach -- like the number of injuries going on around the NFL, or the league-wide shifts in passing trends we've seen over the past month-plus. It's just a tough time to have to try to figure out the Fantasy landscape. 

Once everything is ready, I release my rankings into the world in Tuesday morning's newsletter, which is also usually my first chance to see what my co-workers (and the rest of the Fantasy community) thinks about the upcoming week. And one thing jumped out to me immediately Tuesday: I'm way higher on Odell Beckham than my co-workers. I've got him ranked as WR15 against the Jaguars, while Jamey Eisenberg has him just 27th at the position, and he's higher than either Dave Richard or Heath Cummings. And the thing is, I actually moved Beckham down from where my projections initially had him ranked. 

This is a tough week for the rankings, in other words, and there are going to be plenty of disagreements along the way. I wrote several thousand words about my quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end rankings Tuesday, with explanations and notes for dozens of players at each position, and I figured it makes sense to highlight some of the players I had the toughest time figuring out where to slot in this week and why: 

  • QB9Matthew Stafford vs. JAX -- Stafford is playing through an elbow injury and chronic back pain, per reports, which might explain why he's struggled so much of late, with a pick-six in each of his past three games. The Rams were happy to lean heavily on the run when things were going well early in the season -- he averaged 34 passes per game during their 7-1 start compared to 42.8 since -- and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a similar approach this week, which could be a good thing for Sony Michel if Darrell Henderson is out. I'm not saying you have to bench Stafford, but I'm certainly wary of relying on him at this point.
  • QB12Taysom Hill vs. DAL -- The Saints haven't officially announced Hill as the starter, but all signs point to that being the case assuming his foot injury doesn't limit him. Hill has apparently been dealing with plantar fasciitis, but he practiced without limitations Monday and Tuesday. Coach Sean Payton notably refused to name a starting QB Tuesday, instead saying he wanted to see how Hill looks Wednesday, while also hinting that Hill may have started in Week 12 if his foot had been in better shape. If he's healthy enough to play, Hill is a top-12 QB for me -- he averaged 24 Fantasy points per game as a starter in four games in 2020. But the foot injury does give me just a bit of pause, because he's going to need to rely heavily on rushing production to really matter.
  • RB6Alvin Kamara vs. DAL -- Kamara's role in the passing game has already been limited this season by the Saints' offensive changes, and now with Hill likely to step in at quarterback, it's hard to see how things are going to get better. It's not that Hill didn't throw to Kamara -- he threw 16% of his passes to him last season, a pretty solid rate for a running back. However, that's still a step down from Kamara's current 21% mark, and while his production in the passing game this season has left a lot to be desired, that might disappear this time around. Can Kamara be a No. 1 RB if he's splitting work with Mark Ingram, ceding goal-line touches to Hill, and not getting many targets? It's a narrow needle to thread.
  • RB13David Montgomery vs. ARI -- Montgomery's passing game usage, or lack thereof, is starting to be a real concern. A big part of why he was a must-start Fantasy option last season was because he averaged four catches per game over his final 12 after Tarik Cohen's injury, but he hasn't even had four in a game yet this season. He's still playing nearly every snap, including most passing downs since his return from a knee injury, but he ranks 32nd out of 32 qualifying running backs in targets per route run this season, and it's been an issue with both Justin Fields and Andy Dalton at quarterback.  If Montgomery can't get five targets in a game the Bears figure to be trailing, it could be time to hit the panic button.
  • RB22Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. DEN -- Edwards-Helaire returned in Week 11 and it was a bit of a mixed bag. He actually played fewer snaps than Darrel Williams, but 14 touches in his first game back was a pretty promising sign. Williams is going to have a role, especially in two-minute situations and many passing downs, but the big question at this point is what the split will look like near the goal line. If Edwards-Helaire is splitting that work, too, then this may be more like his ceiling most weeks.
  • WR10Marquise Brown @PIT -- Brown has been a solid PPR option of late thanks to 28 catches over his past five games, but it's been a disappointing stretch overall, with 51 or fewer yards in three of five. Brown just hasn't been able to hit on many big plays during that stretch -- he has just one catch for more than 22 yards on 54 targets. Volume has obviously not been an issue, which is reason to remain optimistic, especially after we saw him pull out of an even worse slump last season. Keep the faith.
  • WR15. Odell Beckham vs. JAX -- Unsurprisingly, Beckham was more involved in the offense in his second game with the Rams, matching Cooper Kupp for the team lead with 10 targets, catching five of them for 81 yards and a touchdown. He played all but one snap for the Rams, and I would expect that to be his role moving forward. Beckham is pretty beat up -- injuries in both shoulders and he seemed to be grabbing at his back at times in Week 12 -- but given his apparent role in this offense, I'm going to have to view him as a starting-caliber WR at this point.
  • WR18. D.K. Metcalf vs. SF -- If you just take what he's done since Russell Wilson's return from IR, Metcalf doesn't deserve to be ranked anywhere near this high: He has eight catches for 70 yards over the past three games. Wilson hasn't played well overall, but it's especially been an issue when he has targeted Metcalf, as the two have hooked up just eight times on 20 targets -- including 0 for 5 on passes 20-plus yards down the field. Wilson is 4 for 8 when targeting Tyler Lockett deep in that same span, so it isn't like Wilson has been completely off. That's ugly, but given this duo's track record, you have to bet on them figuring it out. I understand being skeptical, but I can't leave someone with Metcalf's upside on my bench. 
  • WR21. DeAndre Hopkins @CHI -- Hopkins has now had four weeks off, so the assumption here is he's healthy enough to play his usual role this week. However, even before the injury, Hopkins was on pace for just 107 targets in 16 games, which would be his lowest total since he was a rookie. Before the injury, I assumed the Cardinals would consolidate their targets, and perhaps they still will, but the injury is a complicating factor. Will they look to push Hopkins, especially in his first game back, especially against a matchup they should be able to win pretty easily? 
  • TE7. Kyle Pitts vs. TEN -- Pitts has 190 yards in five games since his consecutive 100-yard performances, and he just hasn't stepped up as the lead target as we hoped he would. Even the target volume isn't so massive that you can't consider sitting him, as he has between five and seven targets in each game, and he had just one target in four November games, as Dave Richard pointed out. The Falcons just haven't found a way to get him going, and while I still believe in the potential, there's no way you can view Pitts as a weekly slam dunk anymore. It's been tough to watch -- he has caught just 45% of his passes over the past five.

🔍Week 13 Position Previews

Every Tuesday, Heath Cummings previews each position, providing injury insights, key stats to know, the best waiver-wire adds, DFS targets, and more for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Here's a brief rundown of each position, along with some key details you need to know about and our expert consensus top-12 rankings before you go read Heath's full breakdowns:

QB Preview

  • Injuries: Kyler Murray (ankle), Aaron Rodgers (toe), Jalen Hurts (ankle), Teddy Bridgewater (shin), Justin Fields (ribs), Taysom Hill (foot), Daniel Jones (neck) and Zach Wilson (knee)  
  • On a bye: Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield  
  • Number to know: 27.4 -- The Washington Football Team surrenders 27.4 Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. No other team allows more than 23. Derek Carr gets the Football Team this week. 
  • Matchup that matters: Mac Jones @BUF (1st in points allowed to QB)
  • Top streamer: "Taysom Hill. Hill could legitimately be a top-five quarterback rest of season if everything goes OK."  
  • Top DFS play: "Lamar Jackson. Normally you wouldn't dream of choosing a quarterback who has struggled like Jackson has the past two weeks at Pittsburgh. But this defense is just not the same as they've been and Jackson is too good to keep struggling like this. If he comes at a lower roster rate as well, bonus!"

Consensus Expert Top 12

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Dak Prescott
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Lamar Jackson
  5. Josh Allen
  6. Matthew Stafford
  7. Justin Herbert
  8. Jalen Hurts
  9. Kyler Murray
  10. Kirk Cousins
  11. Derek Carr
  12. Russell Wilson

RB Preview

Consensus Expert Top 24

  1. Jonathan Taylor
  2. Austin Ekeler
  3. Alexander Mattison
  4. Joe Mixon
  5. Leonard Fournette
  6. James Conner
  7. Elijah Mitchell
  8. Cordarrelle Patterson
  9. Najee Harris
  10. Alvin Kamara
  11. Antonio Gibson
  12. Josh Jacobs
  13. James Robinson
  14. Darrell Henderson
  15. Jamaal Williams
  16. Myles Gaskin
  17. Saquon Barkley
  18. David Montgomery
  19. Ezekiel Elliott
  20. Boston Scott
  21. Melvin Gordon
  22. Javonte Williams
  23. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  24. Devonta Freeman

WR Preview

Consensus Expert Top 24

  1. Cooper Kupp
  2. Tyreek Hill
  3. Justin Jefferson
  4. Keenan Allen
  5. Diontae Johnson
  6. Stefon Diggs
  7. CeeDee Lamb
  8. Cordarrelle Patterson
  9. Marquise Brown
  10. Adam Thielen
  11. Chris Godwin
  12. Jaylen Waddle
  13. Mike Evans
  14. Terry McLaurin
  15. Hunter Renfrow
  16. Ja'Marr Chase
  17. Antonio Brown
  18. Michael Pittman
  19. Amari Cooper
  20. Tyler Lockett
  21. DK Metcalf
  22. Brandon Aiyuk
  23. Darnell Mooney
  24. Chase Claypool

TE Preview

  • Injuries to know: Darren Waller (knee), Pat Freiermuth (concussion) and Dan Arnold (knee)  
  • On a bye: David Njoku, Austin Hooper, Tommy Tremble, Geoff Swaim and Josiah Degaura  
  • Number to know: 60 -- Logan Thomas played 60 snaps in his return from injury. 
  • Matchup that matters: Noah Fant @KC (26th in points allowed to TE)
  • Streamer: "Logan Thomas. This should be the last week of Logan Thomas in this section. He projects as a top-12 option this week and rest of season."  
  • Top DFS play: "George Kittle. Kittle was miserable last week but the absence of Deebo Samuel should ensure a monster target share in Week 13."

Consensus Expert Top 12

  1. Travis Kelce
  2. Mark Andrews
  3. George Kittle
  4. Rob Gronkowski
  5. Dallas Goedert
  6. Zach Ertz
  7. T.J. Hockenson
  8. Logan Thomas
  9. Kyle Pitts
  10. Mike Gesicki
  11. Dawson Knox
  12. Noah Fant