An emerging concept with respect to putting together your fantasy
team in a redraft league is to try to pair up your early selections
(starters) with players that have ideal matchups on the weeks
that your projected starters take the week off (bye weeks). The
purpose of this article, however, is not merely to propose that
as a strategy but to take the concept further and identify what
specific “bench” players should be paired with some
of the most prominent starting players in the game today. Before
we dig into that on a week-by-week basis, let me offer a reminder
about a couple of things.
First, we’re talking primarily about players in the 13-20
range with respect to quarterback and tight end value, and the
25-40 range with respect to running backs and wide receivers.
Players whose values are higher than that will likely be drafted
as starters unless you’re playing with kindergarteners in
which case all bets are off. Second, any identification of players
is based on which defenses got exploited in 2013 by specific skill
position players. For example, nobody gave up more fantasy points
to quarterbacks in 2013 than the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys also
led in fantasy points surrendered to fantasy running backs. Wide
receivers and tight ends performed best against the Eagles and
Cardinals. And, while 2014 defenses won’t look exactly like
2013 defenses, massive improvements don’t come overnight
or more specifically, over the course of an offseason. Still,
some adjustments will be made based on the off-season changes
that have occurred. With those things in mind, every ideal bye
week replacement player fits within a certain range with respect
to pre-season value and will be facing a bottom five defense in
terms of points allowed to their respective position in 2013.
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Peyton
Manning, RB Marshawn
Lynch, RB Giovani
Bernard, RB Montee
Ball, RB Zac
Stacy, WR Demaryius
Thomas, WR A.J.
Green, WR Larry
Fitzgerald, TE Julius
Thomas, TE Jordan
That’s a lot of big names. If you end up drafting one or more
of those players early in your draft later this month, here are
some bye week gems based on matchups:
Rivers (vs. JAC): Playing at home against the Jaguars
on a Sunday afternoon in San Diego makes Rivers an ideal quarterback
to pair with an early round selection of Manning. In Week 7 last
season, Rivers went 22-26 for 285 yards and 1 TD against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville gave up the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks
Thomas (@ DAL): A Sunday night shootout in Dallas means
Thomas will have a prominent role most likely running the football
and receiving it as well. He should be paired with Lynch, Bernard,
Ball, or Stacy on your draft day. The Cowboys will once again
be without their middle linebacker and defensive leader, Sean
Lee, which means plenty of room to roam for the Saints running
backs in Week 4.
Boldin (vs. PHI): Boldin is at home in Week 4 against
an Eagles team that struggled mightily to contain possession receivers
last season. Eddie Royal (7 catches, 90 yds, 3 TDs), Wes Welker
(7 catches, 76 yds, 2 TDs), Rueben Randle (6 catches, 96 yds,
2 TDs), Rod Streater (5 catches, 98 yds) all lit up the fantasy
scoreboard. As such, Boldin is a good pairing for stars like Demaryius
Thomas and Green.
Green (vs. JAC): For the same reasons that Rivers is
a great play, either Chargers tight end would be an asset on teams
that land Julius Thomas or Cameron as their starters.
Prominent Players on Bye: RB Lamar
Miller, RB Knowshon
Moreno, RB Maurice
Jones-Drew, RB Darren
McFadden, WR Mike
As bye weeks go, this one is pretty benign, but it’s possible
that some will be looking to a Dolphin or Raider as a starter,
so ideal replacements for those players are as follows:
Williams (vs CHI): The Bears were near the top in giving
up fantasy points to running backs (No.2 in FPts Allowed) and
what does Carolina do best… run the ball. Jonathan Stewart (hamstring)
has already missed time because of injury and is not even being
drafted in most leagues. The running backs on bye this week are
thin, but in case Miller comes out of the gate strong enough to
be a RB2, Williams should be able to fill those shoes for one
Baldwin (@ WAS): The Redskins weren’t particularly
good against fantasy receivers last season (No.11 in FPts Allowed)
and while the signing of DE Jason Hatcher is nice, the team hasn’t
done a whole lot in the off-season to improve their secondary.
Plugging in Baldwin as your third receiver while Wallace sits
on your bench should be adequate.
Rivers torched the Raiders in Oakland last
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Drew
Brees, RB Jamaal
Charles, TE Jimmy
Three names only, but three BIG names whose absences will be felt
significantly. No one can replace such firepower, but here are
three players who are a good fit for stopgap duty:
Rivers (@ OAK): I know Rivers was just listed two weeks
prior, but a great bye week fit is a great bye week it. No reason
to over think it. The Raiders’ defense should be improved this
year, but not to the point of slowing down Rivers in an AFC West
shoot-out. Philip hung 411 yds and 2 TDs on the Raiders, in Oakland
Jackson (vs. CHI): As was noted above, the Bears simply
don’t have the horses to stop the run and even though Jackson
is towards the end of a distinguished career, he’ll still perform
well this year in spot duty. Consider this the best “spot” for
Ebron (@ MIN): Five weeks ought to be long enough for
Ebron to get his feet wet before he enters into a near perfect
matchup with a Vikings team that struggled to stop tight ends
crossing over the middle in 2013. Changes in the offseason in
the secondary were marginal (Munnerlyn), so start Ebron with confidence
barring something unforeseen.
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Nick
Foles, RB LeSean
McCoy, RB Doug
Martin, WR Vincent
If you’ve got Foles, McCoy, Martin, or Jackson on your team, you
should look to make the following players a part of your team
Manning (@ DAL): It’s going to be a long year for Dallas’s
defense and Eli has a history of carving up the Cowboys even when
they’re at full strength. As such, the roster combination of Foles
& Manning is more than sound, it’s highly recommended.
Sankey (@ WAS): Much like Ebron the previous week,
this is a good time of the year to begin plugging in talented
rookies. Rookies often struggle early and then hit a wall late,
but excel in the middle if they’re in the right situation. In
this case, right situation…right matchup as the Redskins were
29th vs. the run last year and improved the offense more than
the defense this offseason.
Cooks (@ DET): I will call it with confidence: New
Orleans at Detroit is going to be the “shoot-out” game of the
year with 1,000+ yards of offense produced. You can pair Vincent
Jackson with the Saints receiver of your choice.
Prominent Players on Bye: WR Victor
Cruz, TE Vernon
Another light week in terms of bye week fantasy impact, but Cruz
and Davis are going to be starters on fantasy teams this fall,
so here’s a couple of very good replacement selections:
Sanders (vs. SD): The Chargers will no doubt make every
effort to limit the impact of Thomas & Thomas in this game making
Sanders a sneaky good play.
Ertz (@ ARI): Arizona ranked dead last in fantasy points
surrendered to tight ends in 2013, mainly because they have such
good corners. As such, Ertz makes the perfect pairing on draft
day with the veteran Davis.
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Aaron
Rodgers, QB Matthew
Stafford, QB Matt
Ryan, RB Matt
Forte, RB Eddie
Lacy, RB Reggie
Bush, RB C.J.
Spiller, WR Calvin
Johnson, WR Brandon
Marshall, WR Alshon
Jeffery, WR Julio
Jones, WR Jordy
Nelson, WR Roddy
White, WR Randall
That is a lot of key players sitting the week out. As such, the
aim will be to try to nail this week with your best replacements,
as it will impact nearly every reader of this article who is redrafting
without exception. As such, please consider the following to be
Week Nine gems:
Palmer (@ DAL): If your starters at QB are named Rodgers,
Stafford or Ryan, this is the guy you want to draft. Palmer faces
the Cowboys secondary and anemic pass rush in Week Nine in a controlled
environment. Your Rodgers-, Stafford-, or Ryan-led teams won’t
miss a beat.
Gore (vs. STL): If Gore is still upright at this point,
it will be a great week to use him. The 49ers face the Rams, who
boast a ferocious pass rush, but were in the bottom five in fantasy
points yielded to running backs last season. Look for Gore to
be in the game more as a pass protector and trusted carrier of
Wallace (vs. SD): I hate to pick on the Chargers again,
but they were third worst in the league with respect to fantasy
points allowed to wide receivers, due primarily to lots of deep
ball touchdowns. Who do they play in Week Nine? Whose primary
role is to burn a team deep at least once a game? You get the
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Andrew
Luck, QB Robert
Griffin III, QB Tom
Brady, RB Adrian
Peterson, RB Arian
Foster, RB Ryan
Mathews, RB Alfred
Morris, WR Andre
Johnson, WR Pierre
Garcon, WR Keenan
Allen, TE Rob
Not quite what Week Nine brings with respect to player absences,
but this week deserves greater scrutiny as well. Pair the players
above with the following replacements:
Romo (@ JAX): If you draft Griffin or Brady, you will
look for a borderline starter/high quality backup to pair them
with due to the uncertainty of their status as true starters.
Enter Romo, who happens to face the presumably hapless Jaguars
in Week 10 while Griffin and Brady sit.
Rice (vs. TEN): For all we know, Rice may be starting
by Week 10 , but you can get him cheap on draft day and you should
consider doing so if guys like Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster
are in your starting backfield. A home date vs. the Titans looks
like Rice’s best opportunity of the year to re-gain past glories.
Williams (@ JAX): The Jags will no doubt see their
best chance to win as trying to take Dez Bryant out of the game,
leaving Williams to have a potential breakout game against them.
As such, owners of Garcon, Allen and Andre Johnson would do well
to draft Terrance Williams as the ideal bye week fill-in guy.
Cook (@ ARI): Got Gronk? Draft Jared Cook. He’s got
the Cardinals on the schedule that week and (again) they gave
up four fantasy points more per game in 2013 than any other team.
Not sure it will be 2013 Week 1 all over again for Cook, but he’s
a good fit as Gronk’s primary backup.
Prominent Players on Bye: RB DeMarco
Murray, WR Dez
Bryant, TE Jason
It’s all about filling in for missing Cowboys in Week 11. Choices
for replacements would be…
Woodhead (vs. OAK): Ryan Mathews is likely going to
be spelled mid-season some to preserve him for a possible playoff
run. A home game vs. the Raiders could be a blowout, which means
a lot of second half work for Woodhead and/or Donald Brown.
Jones (@ SD): And…while Woodhead and Brown chew up
clock in the second half, Matt Schaub or Derek Carr will be chucking
it deep trying to catch up. That’s where Jones will do most of
his damage this season and as we’ve already established, this
Chargers secondary isn’t very good.
Bennett (vs. MIN): Weather in Chicago can get a bit
more dicey come mid to late November and when that happens, the
running backs and tight end will get more play. In this case,
it’s against that same Vikings defense who failed to upgrade a
poor defense in the offseason.
Prominent Players on Bye: QB Cam
Newton, RB Le’Veon
Bell, WR Antonio
Brown, TE Greg
Finally, the bye weeks conclude with the Panthers and Steelers
getting a (by this time) much needed rest. Some final suggested
replacement pairings include:
Manning (vs. DAL): See Week Seven. The beauty of the
Gore (vs. WAS): This is Gore’s second mention and I’m
not even that high on him for this season. But, a great fit is
a great fit and Snyder’s Redskins seem more intent on trying to
become a dynamic offense than focusing on the simple things like
stopping the run, making Gore a nice pairing for the youthful
Wright (@ PHI): You need a possession receiver to move
the chains in order to rest your defense vs. Chip Kelly’s high
octane offense. Wright is that guy in this matchup with the Eagles’
suspect pass defense (dead last in fantasy points given up to
wide receivers in 2013).
Fleener (vs. JAX): A lot of people will be counting
on Greg Olsen to be a productive starting TE in 2014. If you’re
one of those people, either of the Colts’ tight ends would serve
as excellent backups given this home contest vs. the Jags.
Normally, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do much beyond
reading an article and gleaning from it a thing or two to use
in their team construction. However, in this case, let me make
one final suggestion: Print this article and bring it with you
to your draft. As you draft any of the prominent players above,
write the name of their ideal bye week replacements down and grab
those players later in the draft. You’ll be glad you did.