Thursday’s Turkey Day action did not disappoint. The Detroit Lions were surprisingly competitive against an injury-ravaged Buffalo Bills team. Dallas solidified itself as the second-best team in the NFC East, and the Minnesota Vikings got back on the winning track. There was fantasy goodness on both sides of the ball, but with three games played, we will just briefly touch on the IDP side of things.
Von Miller left the Bills game with a concerning leg injury, leaving Buffalo painfully thin on the edge. Jordan Poyer was back to doing Jordan Poyer things, while on the other side of the ball, DeShon Elliott and Alex Anzalone had strong IDP performances. Matt Judon was held off the sack sheet, but teammate Josh Uche continued his emergency across from him. Kyle Dugger proved that he is back in the DB1 conversation to stay, while fellow top-12 types, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, and Danielle Hunter all had good games for the Vikings. Micah Parsons notched two more sacks for the Cowboys, while teammates Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark proved that they could be productive in the same game. Jaylon Smith had a throwback performance against his old team, while Jason Pinnock had another strong outing and may be pushing his way into weekly consideration.
Looking ahead to this weekend, we will take a look at five players fantasy managers should do their best to plug into their lineups and five others who are better left on benches despite promising upside. Let’s dig in.
Patrick Queen (LB – BAL)
The prevailing thought process was that Patrick Queen, who had been producing in fantasy despite his issues in coverage, would take a major step back with the arrival of Roquan Smith. Instead, Queen has finally been freed up to do what he does best. He did not play enough in college for the Ravens to accurately assess his true strengths and weaknesses, but now that he has Roqaun beside him, he can focus on getting to the ball. Queen has played every snap since Roquan was added to the team, exploding for nine solos, three assists, 0.5 sacks, and one tackle for loss in Week 11, despite Roquan also playing every snap. The addition of Roquan looks to have actually stabilized Queen’s value as an LB2 option. Treat him as just that for a plus Week 12 matchup against a Jacksonville Jaguars team allowing the ninth most fantasy points per game to the position.
Bryan Cook (S – KC)
Juan Thornhill hurt his calf in Week 11, and the sentiment around the team appears to be that he will not be available for Week 12. If Thornhill cannot go, the Chiefs will start intriguing rookie Bryan Cook, who came on in relief of the veteran when he went down with the injury. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo is a big fan of his cerebral rookie, a sign that he should occupy an every snap role if Thornhill is ultimately ruled out. Cook will be playing the deep safety role, so his tackle count may be more sporadic than if he saw a higher percentage of his snaps in the box. Treat him as a DB3 option if Thornhill is sidelined.
CJ Gardner-Johnson (S – PHI)
CJGJ has proven to be an elite talent at safety, most recently racking up 10 solos, one assist, and one tackle for loss. He still leads the NFL with six interceptions and should be considered a weekly must-start going forward. His insane production is not a mirage but a byproduct of finally being moved back to his more natural safety position. Fire him up as a top-five defensive back option for a tasty Week 12 matchup against a Green Bay Packers team surrendering the third most fantasy points per game to the safety position.
Adrian Amos (S – GB)
Adrian Amos continues to be a solid fantasy contributor, tallying six solos and four assists in Week 11. He has put together back-to-back strong outings, something that has become a rarity for him as a member of the Green Bay Packers. However, he should be plugged into lineups as a DB3 option as long as he is rolling. He will almost certainly have a few more clunkers the rest of the way, but Amos was fantasy relevant with Chicago, so hopefully, this production is the start of a new trend. Start Amos where needed for a plus Week 12 matchup against a Philadelphia Eagles team relinquishing the sixth most fantasy points per game to the position.
Carl Lawson (DE – NYJ)
Carl Lawson was excellent in Week 11, racking up two solos, one assist, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Lawson has two sacks in his last three games, putting him at five for the season, and on pace to set a new career high before the year is through. He is less active in the tackle department than he was in Cincinnati due to a declining snap percentage, so he has become a more sack-dependent player, but should continue to get to the quarterback as long as defenses are forced to focus on the disruptive Quinn Williams.
Arnold Ebiketie (DE – ATL)
Ebiketie was excellent in Week 11, racking up five solos, one assist, one sack, and two tackles for loss. However, the rookie’s production has been sporadic this season as this was the first game since Week 6 in which he recorded more than two solos and it was the first time since Week 1 that he recorded a full sack. Ebiketie simply has not been afforded the opportunity many had pegged him for entering the season, notching only three games north of 60 percent of the snaps. He played just 52 percent in Week 11. He is worth rostering in deeper leagues and, of course, in dynasty formats, but should not be a starting option on a non-bye week. Keep him benched for Week 12 despite the plus matchup against a Washington Commanders team allowing the ninth most fantasy points per game to the position.
Preston Smith (DE/LB – GB)
Preston Smith was elite in Week 11, racking up two solos, three assists, 1.5 sacks, and one tackle for loss. Smith played just under his season high with 86 percent of the snaps against the Titans, proving to be an absolute menace against the run. His sack production has been sporadic despite playing heavy snaps, making him someone hard to lean on during a non-bye week. We would like to see him string together strong performances before bumping him up to every week DL3 status. His tackle production remains lower than one would expect from such a talented player playing as many snaps as he does, so opt for a less sack-dependent option for Week 12.
Jerome Baker (LB – MIA)
Baker was solid in Week 11, tallying four solos, three assists, and one tackle for loss. He has been an LB3 option during the byes by virtue of playing the bulk of the snaps at linebacker for the Dolphins but should be left on benches with all 32 teams playing. The Week 11 matchup is a neutral one on paper, and Baker has displayed very little upside this season. Look elsewhere for your Week 12 LB3.
Deion Jones (LB – CLE)
Jones was benched for poor play in Week 11 and will likely remain in the doghouse as long as the Browns keep Joe Woods on staff. This helps Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Sione Takitaki become stable LB2 options going forward but means those who burned a roster spot on the former LB1 mainstay may be out of luck. Keep him stashed for another week or two if possible, but Jones should be the first to go if you have more pressing needs.
Marcus Maye (S – NO)
Maye continues to disappoint in New Orleans. He has flashed the DB1-level form he showed last year but has only done so twice all season. The rest of the season has been scattered with injuries and DB4-level production. He appears to be over the abdomen injury that kept him sidelined for Week 10 but is not worth plugging into lineups in which you start three or fewer defensive backs. Keep him benched despite the plus matchup against a San Francisco 49ers team surrendering the eighth-most fantasy points per game to the safety position.
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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.