- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
There figure to be more than a few quarterback changes on fantasy rosters heading into Week 11, as concussions and other maladies (shoulders, bye weeks, etc.) are robbing fantasy owners of potential starters, but also potentially affecting their weapons negatively. People are scrambling for the likes of Nick Foles, Byron Leftwich and, gasp, perhaps even Mark Sanchez! No, not him! At least his teammates seem to like him. In general, none of these new quarterbacks are appealing in fantasy at this point, though I'd like to see what San Francisco 49ers runner Colin Kaepernick could do with a decent matchup (Week 11 isn't one).
The bigger picture for fantasy is not if the Chicago Bears' Jason Campbell is worth playing, but whether top wide receiver Brandon Marshall is. In Pittsburgh, Mike Wallace will have a new fellow at quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger out at least a week. Basically, when an injured quarterback needs replacing, fantasy owners overreact in judging their normally safe, reliable wide receivers. I certainly considered this angle while ranking players for Week 11, and it's clear from the staff rankings that we feel good wide receivers are still good wide receivers, even if the one slingin' them the football is not a good quarterback.
Wallace is a fine example, especially going up against a Baltimore Ravens defense he sees twice a season. In 2012, the Ravens have not played defense at quite the elite level many of us expected, but does Leftwich have a chance? Of course he does! While there's little chance I would actually use the journeyman backup for fantasy in Week 11, I'm not sitting Wallace, who has touchdowns in six of his nine games. His No. 21 rank from me has Leftwich/Ravens implications built in, but that's not a huge drop for someone entering the week tied with Wes Welker as the No. 16 wide receiver for the season. Wallace is not on pace for 1,000 receiving yards. He's not a monster PPR choice. But why can't Leftwich find him for 5 catches, 60 yards and a score? I think he can.
Marshall's matchup in San Francisco isn't friendly, either, even if Jay Cutler were the starting quarterback, which seems unlikely. Still, I ranked Marshall 10th at wide receiver, nearly mirroring the staff average. Marshall is an elite player, on pace for 119 receptions, 1,607 yards and 12 touchdowns. I used the analogy earlier this season on Dwayne Bowe when Matt Cassel was initially replaced by Brady Quinn in Kansas City: Why would Bowe's value plummet when Cassel wasn't that great to begin with? Cutler is 25th among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Campbell will find Marshall, and let's remind people that the 49ers have hardly been impenetrable against the Rams and Cardinals wide receivers the past few games.
Leftwich and Campbell could certainly combine for many turnovers in this game and hurt their teams, but those aren't charged to the wide receivers. Bottom line: Wallace and Marshall don't lose as much statistical value as their owners might want to believe. Look at what Larry Fitzgerald has dealt with for years in Arizona; no, he's not a top-five wide receiver anymore with John Skelton throwing to him, but he's certainly relevant, as is teammate Andre Roberts, who actually has one more fantasy point. Bowe isn't having a great season, but as a WR3, you could do far worse. If you regularly rely on Marshall, Wallace, Bowe or even Philly options DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, whom I didn't rank well this week with Foles starting and likely running for his life, stay the course. Not a lot has changed for them.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer both face top quarterback options (Tom Brady and Drew Brees, respectively) and should hold their own as top-10 choices. I ranked Luck sixth among quarterbacks. Shootout, baby! That's certainly possible every week for Palmer. I liked Matt Schaub and Ryan Tannehill better than the group (matchups), and Andy Dalton and Nick Foles worse. Dalton faces the Chiefs, a team that has allowed a pretty decent average of only 13 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks the past three games, and against big-name quarterbacks at that (Palmer, Philip Rivers, Roethlisberger). I can't totally jump on the Dalton bandwagon. Foles still has no offensive line to help him out, even against a patsy pass defense.
Running back: Reggie Bush was benched in Week 10, but seems to understand why, and he has a nice matchup in Buffalo this Thursday. I know all the reasons to avoid him, but I think Bush will have a big game against a bad defense, thus the No. 12 ranking. I also trust Willis McGahee, Mikel Leshoure and Marcel Reece more than most. Reece, in particular, is a surprise in the top 20, but he plays the Saints. Is it possible that Reece struggles much like Michael Turner did last week? Of course, but Turner has looked shot for a while. Reece looks fresh and catches passes, too. I don't know if Rashard Mendenhall will suit up and play, but he made my top 30 for now, as did Jonathan Dwyer.
Wide receiver: Three Packers options among my top 23 receivers? Jordy Nelson should play, and should play well, against Detroit, and certainly Randall Cobb and James Jones have proved capable of big games against any defense with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball. I like Torrey Smith, even against the Steelers, and just because Victor Cruz didn't do much against the Bengals last week doesn't mean the Chiefs' Bowe can't. If you're looking deeper, don't shy away from Cecil Shorts, Jeremy Kerley, Mike Williams or Santana Moss.
Eric Karabell offers his take on the tough Week 11 rankings decisions, including where to rank star receivers Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace.