The Talented Mr. Roto: 'The other' AP gets his chance


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

You know, just sitting here, rereading that phrase after I wrote it, I really like it. Why has no one used it before?

Since we last spoke, a number of things have happened, including a national holiday, A.J. Feeley outplaying Tom Brady and, apparently, the apocalypse.

Good times: I had a good Thanksgiving, spending time in my hometown of College Station, Texas. I grew up there, so I'm a Texas A&M fan. We beat u.t. (that's right, no capital letters for them!), we won the NIT preseason basketball tournament, Dennis Franchione stepped down. You couldn't ask for a better day as an Aggies fan. ...

And from a fantasy perspective, there was the return to fantasy goodness of Rudi Johnson, Plaxico Burress, Kevin Jones, Marion Barber, Chad Johnson and Peyton Manning. ...

Nice calls by me on Reggie Williams, Justin Fargas, Kolby Smith, David Garrard and the Tampa Bay defense. ...

The long national nightmare that is the Cedric Benson era is over in Chicago, at least for this season.

Bad times: The holiday was too short. My dating life continues to be a mess. (More on the most-recent "crazy chick" in another column.) Kurt Warner throws for almost 500 yards and yet Anquan Boldin only gets 76 of them. Brutal calls by me on the Arizona defense, Eli Manning and Frank Gore. ...

That was as ugly a Monday night game as I have ever seen. Nate Washington does absolutely nothing and I lose to Nate Ravitz, who has all of his guys go off, while I have Week 12 underperformers like Andre Johnson, Ron Dayne, Joseph Addai and the aforementioned Washington, from whom I needed 10 points. ...

My Redskins continue to look terrible and lose games they could win. ...

Monday got absolutely nuts with a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff, not leaving me any time to write a TRUM for this week. ...

It's a fairly ugly week for pickups, making this column hard to write this week. ...

And, the huge one, the senseless death of Sean Taylor. It's a tragedy that touches all of us, as human beings, but I also loved him as a Redskins fan. He always brought it, 110 percent, every game. Tough as nails and not afraid of anything. Even at times when the team was getting rolled, Taylor wouldn't lie down; he'd bring the same intensity on the last snap as the first. I'm really upset today.

My friend Ray Kalusa passed away over the holiday weekend as well. Ray was a former program director of the ESPN radio affiliate in Los Angeles, and the guy who hired me there, helping to launch my career. He was a big supporter and I wouldn't be where I am today without his help, encouragement and guidance.

Like I said: tough week. Let's get to the column.

Working the Wire

Here are some players who have recently seen an increase in value and who are available in a majority of ESPN.com standard leagues.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Bears: Not that you ever root for an injury, but I am less bothered by this one than any other. I've hated Cedric Benson for a long time, hated all the people who said he was a sleeper in the preseason, hated the people who hated me for saying he was terrible, hated Lovie Smith for insisting on continuing to give him the ball even though it was clear he might have been the worst starting position player in the NFL this season. The list goes on and on.

Anyway, Benson is done for the year and "the other Adrian Peterson", as he is known in fantasy circles, is the new starter in Chicago. He should be your No. 1 pickup this week and it's not even close. He's a much better pass-catcher than Benson and actually has a higher yards-per-carry average than Cedric this season as well. Peterson posted nearly 100 total yards and a score on Sunday after coming in for Benson.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: We still don't know if Marvin Harrison is coming back this week and, clearly, Peyton Manning trusts Gonzalez. A strong Thanksgiving showing by the rookie shows all is forgiven for his drops against the Patriots and he'll have value as long as he is starting.

Patrick Cobbs, RB, Dolphins: In a week of insane events -- Feely, the 49ers exploding, etc. -- there might not be a nuttier one than this phrase: With Jesse Chatman and Ricky Williams getting banged up Monday night, Cobbs might be the starter in Week 13. The fact that we're using any of those names, let alone all three, is coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. But a starting running back has value, and prior to the Monday Night mud bowl, the Dolphins had averaged 115 yards a game on the ground and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. And they play the Jets this week.

Justin Gage, WR, Titans: Nice call on starting this guy by "Southbeach," one of my readers, who mentioned him on my ESPN Conversation (beta!) pages. And although I can't say I trust Gage or that I would start him in a shallow league, I do know this: He's had 30 fantasy points the past three weeks, the Titans play Houston on Sunday and Tennessee can't run the ball anymore.

Chris Brown, RB, Titans: No, he isn't any good. But he got the same number of carries as LenDale White did on Sunday and actually had one more yard. White has been brutal the past three weeks, "the other Chris Henry" (as he is known in fantasy football circles) is still on suspension and the Titans must run the ball to be successful. It's entirely possible that Brown is your starter sooner than later, and the Titans have some nice matchups coming up, including the aforementioned date with the Texans in Week 13.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: From the Kolby Smith "He's all they got left" department, I present Fred Jackson, who had 65 total yards on Sunday after Anthony Thomas left with an injury. Both the A-Train and Marshawn Lynch are banged up and Dwayne Wright didn't touch the ball, making Jackson the potential starting running back for the Bills in Week 13. They play a Redskins team that couldn't stop Earnest Graham, even with Jeff Garcia out.

From the Obvious Name Department

Here are some players who have seen an increase in value and might be available in shallow leagues or leagues in which you play with morons.

Ahman Green, RB, Texans: If he was dropped, pick him back up. Looks like he's going to be healthy enough to play and get the start on Sunday. And if Albert Haynesworth misses another game for the Titans, watch out.

Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: If he is somehow still available in your league, he won't be after Thursday. He's not gonna do that again, but he is all the Chiefs have and it's not nearly as much of a fluke performer as you might think.

Andre Hall, RB, Broncos: You never know what Shanahan will do, but Hall looked great with 167 total yards and score. And with Selvin Young being a late scratch, there's a good chance Hall is still available in shallow leagues. I grabbed him in one 10-team league just before kickoff.

Reuben Droughns, RB, Giants: He may not have been picked up due to the questions around what was going on with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, plus the tough matchup with Minnesota. So, if he is still around somehow, he very possibly could be starting again this Sunday at Chicago, which Andre Hall just ran all over.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: I've been saying it since he got the starting gig, but no one gives this guy respect so I'm gonna keep saying it. He has 15 fantasy points in both his starts since coming back from injury. He has double-digit fantasy points in seven of eight games this year. In three of his past four games, he has been the 12th, 10th and 7th-best fantasy quarterback of the week. He's still available in more than 60 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. He's very solid, will never kill you (Hey, Eli, I'm looking at you) and more than likely still available.

Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks: Hey, I said it was the obvious name department. In case you missed it, Branch is back and D.J. Hackett is hurt.

Standing On The Sidelines

Here are some players who have seen an increase in value and who you should keep an eye on, but not pick up unless you are in a very deep league.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins: He was by far the most effective running back for Washington on Sunday (79 total yards on 11 touches) and, if you remember last year, he was huge down the stretch.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks: I've never been a big fan, but with Hackett out, he's now the No. 3 wideout. With Seattle passing as much as it does, he has a little bit of value.

Dwayne Wright, RB, Bills: The Bills have yet to update the status of their injured running backs. It'll be Jackson before Wright, but it's good to have him on the radar.

Cecil Sapp, RB, Broncos: Death, taxes and any Denver running back can have tons of value at any time. These truths we hold to be self-evident, just like the fact that Hall is now nicked up along with Young and Travis Henry. We won't know for a while who will start on Sunday for Denver, and even if we did, knowing Shanahan, it means nothing. All that said, the Broncos play Oakland and that horrific run defense on Sunday, so there may be a number of Denver running backs who have value in Week 13.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: I think Reggie Bush's injury is worse than they're letting on. That simple.

That's all I got kids. And remember, you can be my cyberfriend by clicking here: myespn.go.com/MatthewBerry.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's Sr. Director of Fantasy, in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.

Cyberstalk the TMR