There are plenty of things to be thankful for as we head into Turkey-fest 2011. For one, we are nerds that revel in mining for the most productive defenders in all of football. Not sure we need much else, but I suppose we can also be grateful for family, friends and freedom.
Sticking with the more important theme of fantasy nerdery (new word), let's discuss some of the players that have been giving back lately and could help make your holiday weekend that much more rewarding.
Defensive Line: It appeared that for much of the season Elvis had indeed left the building, as in Denver's Elvis Dumervil and his sluggish start to the campaign. His 17-sack opus in 2009 had many salivating over his potential as a full-time defensive end in the new system in Denver this season, but the returns weren't there for the first half of the season. Now, however, Elvis is most definitely back in the building with 3 1/2 sacks in his past three games for an increasingly aggressive and effective Denver front seven. Dumervil is available in nearly half of ESPN leagues and makes for a savvy addition for the stretch run and the fantasy playoffs. Rams rookie Robert Quinn is coming off his best game as a pro with five solo tackles and his fourth sack of the season. In dynasty and keeper leagues, there are few commodities with more upside. The Eagles' Jamar Chaney has put together some strong performances of late and has been a regular inclusion in our "Bargain Bin."
Linebacker: Minnesota's Chad Greenway, similarly to Dumervil, was slow to start the season given high expectations, but has stepped up lately and just turned in his best game of the season. Tennessee's Colin McCarthy is a 'backer to consider, as he mans the middle for the Titans while Barrett Ruud deals with an injury. Even when Ruud is good to go, McCarthy is making a serious bid at retaining the gig with his speed and instinctive pursuit of the ball.
Defensive Back: The days of Bernard Pollard being a fantasy super-safety might be over, but his role as an enforcer for the Ravens has kept him productive and consistent. Green Bay's Tramon Williams seems to heat up when it gets colder and the season matures. Grab him for some Turkey Day fun against a pass-happy Lions attack.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Everybody hates Chris: Now "hate" might be a strong word in this sense, but people sure do seem to be ignoring Chris Clemons and his penchant for big games when the matchup is inviting. After a breakout 2010 that many deemed an aberration, he has a team-leading eight sacks for the Seahawks so far and is coming off his best game of the season.
Detroit duo: I don't know about you, but owning guys that play on Thanksgiving really does sway my decision process sometimes. It's simply fun to watch your talent play on that food-filled Thursday, and the Detroit Lions would like to accommodate such entertainment in the form of defensive linemen Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. Both have been productive this season, tied for the team lead in sacks with six apiece, and will spend their holiday attempting to collapse the pocket and corral Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers.
Miller time: Von Miller's explosive performance last Thursday night wasn't enough, apparently, to lure more fantasy owners his way. The super rook has been a revelation for the Broncos and is the rare rookie pass rusher that has produced from the jump. With just one truly lean outing on his fantasy resume this season, an amazing feat, Miller is the rare pass-rushing 'backer that brings consistency and big-game potential.
Bargain Bin: Each week, we'll profile players owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN leagues, and often seek out those dramatically below this ownership threshold. Jacksonville's Daryl Smith has been a consistent source of tackles and is widely available in ESPN leagues (24.5 percent owned). New England's Kyle Arrington has struggled in coverage at times this season but often it's these types of corners that garner lots of attention, and thus tackles. San Diego's Donald Butler should have a few shots at Tim Tebow this week. St. Louis safety Quintin Mikell should be busy over the top on Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game. Go get Karlos Dansby and end the madness that is his lowly ownership percentage.
IDP Rankings Week 12: The Top 20 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle -- solo (0.5), Tackle -- assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3). Remember to check the latest injury news before setting your lineups.
Top 20 Linebackers
Top 20 Defensive Linemen
Top 20 Defensive Backs
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and the high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMacPhillies on Twitter.