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Fantasy Fodder: Second fiddles stealing the show

By Matt Vensel

4:00 PM EST, November 29, 2011

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Fellow owners of Hakeem Nicks, I feel your pain.

I can also relate to what you’re going through if you own Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne or even Anquan Boldin. Those fantasy maestros have been outscored by second fiddles this season with Victor Cruz leading the way.

When Cruz burst onto the scene earlier in the season, I was worried the Giants receiver would cut into the targets for Nicks, whom I ranked as a top-five wideout before in the preseason. I never thought for a second that Cruz would actually out-produce Nicks, but he has. Cruz ranks fourth among wideouts with 131 fantasy points (based on ESPN standard scoring). Nicks is ranked 15th with 96. It’s not bad, but not what I expected.

Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson is fifth among wideouts with 128, two more than Jennings. If you own Jennings, you are certainly happy, but you also fantasize about how many points he would have if not for Nelson’s breakout.

Here in Baltimore, rookie receiver Torrey Smith and veteran Anquan Boldin both rank in the top 20 at the position, but Smith has slightly better fantasy production due to his team-high five touchdowns.

It was frustrating to see Cruz scoring garbage-time touchdowns on Monday night instead of Nicks, but that’s what I get for dismissing Cruz as just a second (or third) fiddle who was temporarily playing over my maestro.

Great news for Dwayne Bowe owners: Kyle Orton will be starting for Kansas City soon enough, which will more than buoy the value of Bowe because Orton is a better quarterback than Matt Cassel (in my opinion).

The T.J. Yates era has begun: Matt Leinart will join Matt Schaub on the injured reserve, leaving rookie T.J. Yates atop the Houston depth chart (unless journeyman Kellen Clemens or recently signed Jake Delhomme overtakes him). I wouldn’t worry about Arian Foster, but playing with an unknown commodity in Yates will likely hurt Andre Johnson’s value.

Fantasy penthouse: Drew Brees threw for four touchdowns and added another on the ground. Beanie Wells rushed for 228 yards and a score. Victor Cruz was a Monday night savior with nine catches for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jimmy Graham also starred on ‘MNF’ with five catches for 84 yards and two TDs.

Fantasy doghouse: Alex Smith threw for 140 yards and had an interception. Jackie Battle had nine carries for 20 yards. Mike Wallace had two catches for 17 yards. Seattle’s Zach Miller had one catch for two yards.

The wire: 1. Mike Shanahan claims Roy Helu is now his starter after Helu rushed for yards and a touchdown Sunday. He also caught seven passes for 54 yards. … 2. Johnny Knox clicked with Caleb Hanie, catching four passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. … 3. Maurice Morris will be Detroit’s lead back if Kevin Smith is sidelined. … 4. Eric Decker has touchdowns in four of his past five games. … 5. Santana Moss is back.

Five guys I really like this week: 1. With the Packers coming to town, Eli Manning should be throwing often again this week. … 2. Reggie Bush has averaged 14 fantasy points the past five weeks and is going up against the Raiders. … 3. Percy Harvin had 168 receiving yards and two TDs in the past two weeks. … 4. Lost in that celebration aimed at Plaxico Burress (and in those drops) was that Stevie Johnson had his best fantasy week in two months. … 5. Jermaine Gresham should have success against the Steelers defense.

Extra point: The Ravens play the Browns this weekend, and Cleveland’s leading receiver is Greg Little. He has struggled with drops this season, but he is worth owing based on volume alone. He was targeted 12 times in the loss to the Bengals, catching just five of the passes. But Little also scored his first career touchdown, and in the process produced his first double-digit fantasy performance. He should see plenty of looks from now on.

Matt Vensel is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun who uses this column to tinker with his fantasy football team on the clock. Send your questions and comments to Matt.Vensel@baltsun.com or @mattvensel on Twitter.