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Fantasy Fix: The Return of Brian Westbrook

From 2004 to 2008, there were few running backs better than Brian Westbrook. He never lead the league in rushing yards, but he was often just as good a receiver as he was running the ball. Multi-dimensional consistency made him a hot fantasy pick every year during that stretch, but occasional injury problems became more frequent and by last season he had fallen far down the draft charts.

Until last week, he was only held in 1 percent of Yahoo! fantasy football leagues - and with good reason: Now playing behind Frank Gore in San Francisco, he was barely getting the chance to touch the ball once per game. Gore has been among the rushing yardage leaders this season, and his own Westbrook-like skills catching passes have kept him on the field practically every play.

Not anymore. Gore broke his hip in the Monday nighter this week and is out for the season. Westbrook came in early as his replacement and collected 135 yards and a TD against Arizona, and by Tuesday morning Westbrook had been picked up in an additional 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

He's still available in close to 70 percent of leagues and finding a spot for him just as fantasy teams enter the playoffs seems like a no-brainer.

However, it will be tough for him to have another game like he had this week. Arizona has the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL. San Francisco's upcoming opponents won't be as easy to dominate. Green Bay this week isn't great at stopping the run, but certainly is better than Arizona, and the three games that follow against San Diego, Seattle and St. Louis all feature teams with better than average run defenses.

Anyone picking up Westbrook also should watch this week for how often the 49ers throw to him. He didn't catch a single pass against Arizona and that aspect of his game might need to be revived for his value to play a big role for you in the playoffs. I have a feeling this will be a brief return to viability for Westbrook, and that he will probably return to the margins next year and for however long he continues to play. But for now, he potentially could be a difference-maker for your fantasy team.

Expert Wire
* Yahoo! Pickups of the Week calls Westbrook a strong buy, as well as Toby Gerhart, the back-up to Adrian Peterson, another star RB who may be out, though not for more than a week.

* SI.com has Chicago's very own Johnny Knox as a hot Week 13 pick as fantasy leaguers scramble for playoff positions.

* Bleacher Report lists the biggest fantasy duds of the season, with Brett Favre leading the way.

Fantasy Basketball
My fantasy basketball pick of the week is Blake Griffin, PF/C, L.A. Clippers, who recently has seemed intent on making up for the time he lost to injury during his rookie year. He's averaging a double-double this season (20.2 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game), but has been really on fire during the last week, averaging close to 29 PPG during that span.

The downside of Griffin's game right now is a scarcity of assists, steals and blocks. You don't expect many assists from the big men, and sometimes not a huge number of steals, but you at least need blocks from a PF/C. Right now, Griffin's still a benchwarmer in many fantasy leagues because of that discrepancy, but don't think about trading him just yet.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at his Beachwood blog SwingsBothWays.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021