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Flex ranks: Reggie Bush jumps into top 20

11/17/2011

Editor's note: Eric Karabell is off this week. Tristan H. Cockcroft wrote the Four Downs (Sunday night) and this flex rankings (Thursday) KaraBlog, KC Joyner wrote the year-to-end ranks KaraBlog (Tuesday) and AJ Mass will write the "sneaky pickups" KaraBlog (Friday). Eric will return Sunday night (Nov. 20) with his Four Downs blog from Week 11.

The bye weeks return in Week 11, for only one more week, forcing fantasy owners to dig deeper to plug our flex lineup spots. This week in particular is a toughie, because when you think of the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers, you think several flex-play candidates: Players such as Ben Tate, Pierre Garcon, Lance Moore and Antonio Brown are usually at or above that class in ESPN standard leagues.

Sure enough, those four teams combined have 17 players who rank among the top 100 for the season between running back, wide receiver and tight end. The Saints alone have four who rank between No. 62 and No. 100: Pierre Thomas (62), Moore (78), Robert Meachem (83) and Mark Ingram (100). Talk about an offense that likes to spread things around!

Before we begin with the flex rankings, one note: I probably rate wide receivers and tight ends slightly higher than my colleague Eric Karabell, so feel free to adjust accordingly, if you wish. In today's NFL, it's so much tougher to find a 20-carry running back. Frankly, given the choice between the eight-carry backup running back and the potential five-catch receiver, I'm going to pick the receiver; there's so much greater yards-per-touch potential at the position. Nowadays, when total touches are close -- say, within five -- it's OK to go wide receiver.

Sure enough, look back at Week 10's fantasy points: Among the 98 running backs, wide receivers and tight ends combined who managed five points or more, 38 were running backs (38.8 percent), 46 were wide receivers (46.9) and 13 were tight ends (13.3). As such, of my top 100 flex rankings, 36 are running backs (36.0 percent), 44 are wide receivers (44.0) and 19 are tight ends (19.0).

And here now are the Week 11 flex rankings:

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: I'm thinking coach Leslie Frazier will lean on him heavily, because the Raiders' defense wears down badly late in the game. In the past five weeks combined, the Raiders have allowed an NFL-worst 101.0 rushing yards per game after halftime.

2. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: He has finished in double digits in fantasy points in all nine games; no other non-quarterback has done that.

3. Matt Forte, RB, Bears

4. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens

5. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: The Redskins are a mess, especially their run defense. Since their Week 5 bye, they've allowed 746 yards and 5 TDs on the ground.

6. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: He has had at least 17 touches in every game this season, the only player in the NFL to have done that. Do the matchups really matter anymore?

7. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

8. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams

9. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers

10. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions

11. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons

12. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars

13. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots

14. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: Darren McFadden (foot) is making progress, but Week 11 remains an extreme long shot. Start Bush with confidence, but oh, what a dilemma the Raiders might face come Week 12 ...

15. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers

16. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks

17. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: The knee injury is the one thing keeping him out of the top 10 -- he might be a game-time decision -- because the Cardinals' defense has been getting slaughtered by the run lately. In their past six games, the Cards have allowed 116 fantasy points combined to opposing running backs.

18. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

19. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: If not for Aaron Hernandez's presence, Gronkowski would probably have been proclaimed fantasy football's new No. 1 tight end exiting Week 10. My take: Even with Hernandez around, Gronkowski has absolutely earned this honor.

20. Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins: The goal-line carries matter -- he had both Dolphins carries inside the 5-yard line last week and scored on one -- because no team in the NFL has surrendered more touchdowns on goal-line runs than the Bills (8).

21. Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins: In the past five weeks combined, he has 47 total targets, six red zone targets and three targets inside the 5. Yet, incredibly, he has only one touchdown during that span. Fortunately, he faces a Bills defense that has allowed opposing No. 1 wideouts to score in back-to-back weeks.

22. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

23. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

24. James Starks, RB, Packers: Absolutely he's a strong start. In the Buccaneers' past four games combined, during which defensive tackle Gerald McCoy played just less than 12 minutes total, they've allowed 627 yards and 7 TDs rushing.

25. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

26. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: Health is no longer the question; it's entirely the matchup, which merely caps his usual week-topping upside. In his past three games against the Eagles, he has 15 catches for 153 yards and one touchdown combined.

27. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons

28. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

29. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Fourteen of his 23 Week 10 fantasy points came in garbage time, so no, I don't completely buy. Incidentally, the Falcons have allowed just 84.8 rushing yards per game and 2 rushing TDs in their past five games combined.

30. Roddy White, WR, Falcons

31. Shonn Greene, RB, Jets

32. Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots

33. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams

34. Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants

35. Fred Davis, TE, Redskins: Rex Grossman doesn't have a lot of alternatives to throw to; Davis has 42 targets the past five weeks combined.

36. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers

37. Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: The shoulder issue is a concern, but health willing, he matches up well against the Dolphins. Remember, in Week 15 of 2010, he managed 12 fantasy points at Miami.

38. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: He's back, and with Jeremy Maclin possibly out, he'll need to step up in a big way. But you can be sure the Giants won't punt to him ...

39. Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers

40. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers

41. Maurice Morris, RB, Lions: Here's a prediction: He scores the same number of fantasy points against the Panthers that the last Maurice did (see the No. 12 name's Week 3 performance).

42. Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets

43. Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos: He's a true game-time decision for the Thursday game, but if he's cleared to play, this is probably too low a ranking. (My gut feeling: McGahee is going to play.)

44. Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: The Packers have given up a slew of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, and they put opponents into constant passing situations. Williams merely needs to cut down on the drops (he has six).

45. Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers

46. Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets

47. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers

48. Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

49. Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens

50. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: In the Panthers' past four games, Stewart has all six of their carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line. Cam Newton? Zero.

51. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions

52. Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: The problem is the matchup; the 49ers are the only team to have not allowed a rushing touchdown, they've allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (73.2) and second fewest yards per carry (3.4).

53. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings

54. Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders:

55. Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: In his surprisingly good 2009, he managed 237 yards and 2 TDs in two games against the Ravens, and in his back-to-earth 2010, he managed 131 and zero in those two. And if you've watched him run this year, you should know which of the two models I'm seeing.

56. Mario Manningham, WR, Giants: In case you have Victor Cruz fear, keep in mind that in the Giants' past three games, Manningham has a healthy 26 targets, only five fewer than Cruz (31). Manningham, though, has the edge in fantasy points (34-32).

57. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

58. Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers

59. Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks

60. Lance Ball, RB, Broncos: If Willis McGahee (hamstring) sits, move Ball up about 12 spots. If McGahee plays, move Ball down 35.

61. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

62. Nate Washington, WR, Titans

63. Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys

64. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: I don't want to trust any of the Patriots' running backs, but it is the Chiefs on the other side, and Law Firm still looks like the probable team leader in carries.

65. Deion Branch, WR, Patriots

66. Jake Ballard, TE, Giants

67. Roy Helu, RB, Redskins: If I knew A) he was going to start, and B) he would be promised 15-plus touches, he'd rank 25 spots higher, easily.

68. Eric Decker, WR, Broncos

69. Earl Bennett, WR, Bears

70. Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns

71. Steve Breaston, WR, Chiefs

72. Greg Little, WR, Browns

73. Damian Williams, WR, Titans

74. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers: There might not be an NFL starting running back with a steeper Week 11 downside. Over/under: 8 carries.

75. Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns

76. Early Doucet, WR, Cardinals

77. Jackie Battle, RB, Chiefs

78. Dustin Keller, TE, Jets

79. Jabar Gaffney, WR, Redskins

80. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: This reeks of a boring 10 carries-for-45 yards stat line.

81. Jon Baldwin, WR, Chiefs

82. Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins

83. Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins

84. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals

85. David Nelson, WR, Bills: Bump him up about 15 spots should Steve Johnson (shoulder) sit.

86. Jerome Simpson, WR, Bengals

87. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: Jacoby Ford isn't going to play, so it's time for the Raiders to summon him from the doghouse.

88. Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers

89. Ed Dickson, TE, Ravens

90. Devin Hester, WR, Bears: His strep throat should be gone, and the Bears shouldn't be so far ahead that they'd give him extra rest.

91. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens

92. Josh Cribbs, WR, Browns

93. Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys: It appears he will play, but there's no wiggle room here. He's now a clear backup, and is ranked accordingly.

94. Brent Celek, TE, Eagles

95. Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers

96. Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots

97. Jared Cook, TE, Titans

98. Titus Young, WR, Lions

99. Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, Chiefs: It's a tantalizing matchup, yes, but don't get cute. His 14 touches from Week 10 represented a season high; he's averaging 10.2 points per game and was in single digits in Weeks 5, 8 and 9.

100. Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals: He should get more carries in the coming weeks. Note that I didn't say will; I said that he should.

Just missed: James Jones, WR, Packers; Marion Barber, RB, Bears; Preston Parker, WR, Buccaneers; Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins; Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams; Kevin Smith, RB, Lions; Jason Avant, WR, Eagles; Kregg Lumpkin, RB, Buccaneers; Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.

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