Over the course of a typical NFL season, it's not always easy to
come up with a topic to write about that will help fantasy owners.
Then there are weeks like the most recent one. Every season seems
to deliver at least one or two weekends that are just brutal from
an injury perspective, and Week 2 was one of them.
Virtually no fantasy owner in competitive and/or high-stakes
leagues can seamlessly overcome the loss of an every-week starter
- much less their first-round pick - for a significant amount
of time and still hope to be one of the top teams in their league.
However, part of the beauty of fantasy football is that good fortune
(for your fantasy team anyway) is never too far away if you keep
your team alive during the downtimes. Conversely, these times
also can be bull markets for the fantasy owners fortunate enough
to avoid having any of their fantasy stocks affected by this past
weekend's market crash.
Taking advantage of another team's misfortune is not a bad thing
in this hobby. It is actually encouraged. However, don't confuse
that with trying to take advantage of another fantasy owner. Even
if you don't believe in karma, fantasy owners tend to remember
league-mates who attempted to or actually helped them bounce back
from the loss of one of their foundation pieces.
Fantasy football often makes for strange bedfellows, putting
owners in a position to rely on a player or two they were not
familiar with or might have sworn off a few days or weeks earlier.
This is not my attempt to do a waiver-wire column, but rather
give readers some ideas about how to remain afloat until the pendulum
swings the other way and fortune shines favorably on your fantasy
While I won't cover every injury from last weekend, I do want
to touch upon some of the more significant ones and how I am handling
them (or would handle them). Thus, the remainder of this column
will be devoted to getting somewhat comfortable with your new
bedfellows, even if they aren't on your team quite yet.
Most owners tend to seek immediate help and hope for the best
in the future when adversity strikes, so Freeman will likely be
the apple of most fantasy owners' eyes on the waiver wire this
week. That may not be the wisest move. Freeman cannot be expected
to pick up a new playbook in 1 1/2 weeks, which means his first
significant contribution to the Giants may not come until Week
5 at the earliest.
There's also the small matter of Freeman likely only serving
as a two-down back since New York appears
to be comfortable with Lewis on passing downs for the foreseeable
future. If that ends up being the case, Freeman will be running
behind the same line that has (sarcasm alert) cleared the path
for Giants running backs to amass 55 yards on 30 carries so far.
(That's not a typo.) There was always hope Barkley would be able
to overcome the shortcomings of his offensive line once the schedule
lightened up because he is such a special talent, but it would
be unrealistic to expect Freeman to do so since he was arguably
one of the worst running backs in the league last year behind
a more talented line in Atlanta.
Last but not least, no team is attempting a higher percentage
of passes through two games than the Giants (68 percent). Again,
some of that can be attributed to the fact New York has faced
Pittsburgh and Chicago. But let's look ahead to the team's immediate
schedule: San Francisco, LA Rams, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia
and Tampa Bay. How often will New York be able to establish a
rushing attack in those games? How helpful will Freeman be to
fantasy owners even if he takes 90 percent of the rushing work
and splits passing-game duties with Lewis right down the middle?
There's virtually no fantasy upside to Freeman, and that doesn't
even take into consideration his lack of durability in recent
How am I coping? I have (or had by
the time this article hits the site) Barkley on three teams entering
the season, including one high-stakes team. Replacing Barkley
will be next to impossible, but I do have a plan of attack in
mind. I prioritized high-upside running back depth on my high-stakes
teams this year, so I came away with J.K. Dobbins, Joshua Kelley,
Benny Snell and Jerick McKinnon after drafting Barkley and Kenyan Drake on the one high-stakes team affected by this injury. As
if it wasn't obvious, I have pieces of two of the running back
environments in the NFL with Baltimore (Dobbins) and San Francisco
(McKinnon). I have the clear handcuff to a back in an offense
that believes in featuring one back (Pittsburgh). And Kelley's
performance to this point speaks for itself. In other words, I
may only be a week or two away from starting someone from that
bunch with confidence.
Fantasy owners with less depth can generally take two approaches
simultaneously in situations like this: 1) buy low and 2) continue
to build on the strengths of your roster so you can eventually
deal from it. The second point is fairly self-explanatory, as
there will come a time some owner in your league will look at
your two top-10 quarterbacks and three top-20 receivers and feel
compelled to part with his running back depth.
Regarding the first point, I will likely be targeting Joe
Conner and Derrick
Henry to fill the Barkley-sized void in my lineup. Maybe Kenyan
Drake is available at a slightly discounted price. Savvy fantasy
owners probably aren't going to part with their early picks off
to slower-than-expected starts, but this is where it pays to take
the pulse of the industry. "Henry isn't scoring touchdowns!" or
"Mixon is losing work in the passing game to Giovani
Bernard!" Both are true. Both may change next week too. Particularly
in Mixon's case, the Bengals aren't going to continue peppering
Bernard with targets if he can't break a tackle and/or reward
his coaches with something more than 4.8 yards per reception.
Both backs - Henry and Mixon - are immensely talented and getting
a lot of volume. Conner's inclusion should be obvious: most of
the fantasy world is down on him because they donít trust him.
I have his handcuff, and we're another minor Conner injury away
from hearing the familiar refrain of "he can't stay healthy."
Some players might feel cursed if they sprain their shoulder
and suffer a torn ACL over the course of their rookie contract.
Sutton managed to do both in less than two weeks. It's almost
inconceivable how one player could be that unlucky. His misfortune
is just the latest of several big hits Denver has absorbed over
the last month (Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, Philip Lindsay, Drew Lock,
etc.) and removes much of the luster from an offense that looked
like it had the potential to do big things this summer.
Making matters worse for the Broncos in the immediate future
is Jeff Driskel taking over for Lock, who could miss anywhere
from two to six weeks with his own shoulder injury. Jeudy isn't
going to be available in any competitive league, but it's debatable
how useful he'll be to fantasy owners over the next month even
if he was sitting on the waiver wire. The first-round rookie has
already shown his supreme route-running chops, but asking him
to be the clear WR1 in this offense with a backup quarterback
known more for his rushing prowess against the Buccaneers and
Patriots in two of the next three weeks doesn't sound like a recipe
for fantasy success. It's possible that if Miami and Kansas City
are healthy in the secondary next month, Jeudy may not be useful
in fantasy - with or without Lock - in four of the team's five
games before the team's Week 8 bye. (He should catch a break in
Week 4 versus the Jets.)
Hamler's seven targets in Week 2 give us hope he will be asked
to take on a prominent role in this offense. He's a good bet to
break loose for a score sometime over the next five games given
his game-breaking speed, but attempting to predict when that will
happen is more likely to drive fantasy owners mad than pay off
big. Patrick is the most natural replacement for Sutton and a
quality receiver, but it would be foolish to believe Driskel can
make more than two pass-catchers (Jeudy and Noah Fant, most likely)
consistently playable in fantasy when he hasn't shown the ability
to do so at any of his other stops.
How am I coping? Trying to replace
Sutton is much less nuanced than replacing someone like Barkley.
I only owned one share of Sutton (in a mid-stakes league) and
knew I needed to have some depth when I was drafting because he
had just suffered his shoulder injury a few days earlier. He fell
to the seventh round in that draft, so I had already built a nice
foundation for my team before taking him. Unfortunately, that
same team also lost Jalen
Reagor, so my depth is being tested. While I have very good
running back depth and will consider a trade dealing from my stockpile
there, I will first attempt to rebuild my depth by buying into
emergence. In my particular case, Cole makes a ton of sense since
is my new WR3. I will give strong consideration to adding Van
Jefferson later in the week as well because I'm not going
to try to attempt going multiple weeks with four healthy receivers
in a league where I am required to start three. Jefferson's snaps
dropped from Week 1 to Week 2, but he's already making it difficult
for HC Sean McVay to keep him off the field.
For the sake of time and space, I'll address how I'm coping with
the multi-week injuries in one section now.
McCaffrey was placed on IR earlier in the week, so the earliest
he'll be able to return is in Week 6. Cannon is a 185-pound scatback
who has yet to log an offensive snap this season. Bonnafon remains
on the practice squad as of the middle of this week, but it seems
almost certain he will be elevated to the active roster at some
point because Carolina has virtually no one else capable of handling
more than 10 carries if Davis gets hurt.
Davis is the clear choice to serve as the featured back in McCaffrey's
absence, while Samuel will likely get a
few token carries over that stretch. While Davis is probably
the best add for the majority of fantasy owners this week (assuming
the likes of Joshua Kelley and Jerick McKinnon aren't available),
it's important to note McCaffrey was averaging a full yard less
per carry through two games this year than he did last season.
In other words, it would be unrealistic to view Davis as anything
more than a volume-based RB2 at the moment given the fact McCaffrey
was struggling to get it going as a runner. Looking ahead to the
Panthers' upcoming matchups, Week 5 (and 7, if CMC is still out
at that point) against Atlanta appears to be the only matchup(s)
Davis has a chance of somewhat filling McCaffrey's shoes.
This appears to be an injury that won't sideline Mostert very
long, but it's the absence of Coleman that may be the most helpful
for fantasy owners - at least immediately. McKinnon has done nothing
but impress with his limited work (six carries for 101 yards and
two total touchdowns!) and should be in line for a bigger piece
of the backfield pie with Mostert also sidelined - likely for
the next game or two. McKinnon's injury history is substantial
enough that HC Kyle Shanahan will likely keep him in the 10-12
touch range for however long Coleman is out, but we've already
seen that is more than enough for him to reward his fantasy owners.
The player most likely to benefit from Coleman's absence is Wilson
or Hasty. Wilson flirted with fantasy relevancy last year when
he scored a pair of touchdowns in back-to-back weeks as a goal-line
hammer while Coleman was hurt, long before Mostert established
himself as the leader of the pack. Wilson had another nice two-week
run as the lead back late in 2018 as well. He has a history of
holding down the fort when he's been given a chance and, just
as importantly, he is someone Shanahan trusts. However, he is
also a core special teamer, which is a big part of the reason
why he was kept on the active roster over Hasty. As easy as it
is for fantasy owners to assume the backup that got the snaps
last week should get them the following week in situations like
the one San Francisco is dealing with right now, it doesn't always
work that way.
Anyone who is been playing fantasy football long enough knows
there is almost always another running back - usually someone
few people have heard of - capable of breaking out in a big way
if given the chance in Shanahan's offense. Hasty performed well
enough during training camp that some thought was given to keeping
five backs on the roster for fear the undrafted rookie free agent
wouldn't make it through to the practice squad. It's mildly surprising
some team didn't pluck him off the practice squad after Week 1,
and now a likely mid-week promotion may be the only thing keeping
him from being next week's hot waiver-wire pickup, especially
if the 49ers want to avoid creating any more chaos than they are
currently experiencing by taking Wilson away from his special
teams duties. San Francisco didn't have another back in the pipeline
it liked as much as Hasty when Wilson stepped up in relief the
previous two years. It does now, and it may not take much at this
point to keep him on the roster if he fares well given how relatively
little Coleman has produced - outside of one playoff game - and
the frequency with which he has been injured since becoming a
49er. In fact, I'll predict Hasty leads the backfield in carries
versus the Giants if he is promoted late this week.
Smith performed about as well as anyone could have hoped for
in Thomas' absence in Week 2. Sanders was a virtual no-show and
it's hard to understand why. HC Sean Payton addressed the topic
Wednesday and told reporters Sanders' "touches are going
to come." Take that for what it's worth. Next Gen Stats has
charted Sanders with creating 3.5 yards of separation on his targets
through two weeks, so giving Drew Brees enough margin for error
doesn't appear to be the issue. Perhaps the lack of an offseason
didn't give Sanders enough time to work his way into Brees' circle
of trust. Additionally, when we consider Thomas hadn't missed
a game since 2016 prior to last week, maybe the coaching staff
didn't put a great deal of thought on creating plays specifically
designed to get Sanders the ball during this most unique of offseasons.
The Saints owe it to themselves and think ahead a bit in regards
to Thomas. There is a distinct chance they will win two of their
next three games at the very least - with or without Thomas -
with home games against the Packers and Chargers sandwiching a
road date in Detroit before their Week 6 bye. Keeping Thomas off
the field until that point would give him five full weeks to heal
and a full week of practice when he is near or at 100 percent
leading up to Week 7.
The problem facing Thomas' fantasy owners right now is the roster
limbo his situation is creating in leagues with IR spots in relatively
small benches. Until Thomas is put on the three-week IR (if that
happens, which seems unlikely now), owners can't use his spot
to add a temporary replacement and keep the replacement on the
roster week after week. And even when he returns (let's assume
Week 4 in a best-case scenario), his fantasy owners need to be
prepared for at least two to three weeks of modest production
as he completes his recovery (not unlike the disappointing numbers
Barkley posted during his rushed recovery from a similar injury
in 2019), and that assumes he doesn't make it worse by playing
before he's ready.
(bone bruise in his knee, week-to-week)
Much like with Thomas, fantasy owners have had a bit of time
to adjust to Brown's absence. There's also a pretty good chance
Brown isn't the WR1 on most fantasy teams. Unfortunately, we don't
seem to have a lot of clarity in terms of his timetable. Thankfully,
Davis and Humphries have stepped up in his absence and performed
well for the fantasy owners who were able to replace Brown with
the next receiver on the Titans' depth chart.
It's uncertain if receivers coach Rob Moore gave us some
insight earlier this week about Brown's potential return when
he was asked about it earlier this week:
ďWhen he does get back, whether itís this week or
next week, he has to prepared and ready to go from a mental standpoint.
He canít lose that edge that he got in training camp.Ē
Taken at face value, it would seem as though Moore expects Brown
to return no later than Week 4, which is just about the time the
schedule difficulty picks up for a couple of weeks (at home against
the Steelers and Bills in consecutive weeks). Thus, it would appear
streamers of Davis and Humphries may only have one more decent
matchup to take advantage of prior to Week 6 (this week at Minnesota).
Still, based on the available information to this point, Brown's
injury appears to be the least significant in terms of his ability
to return soon and play at something approaching 100 percent.
How am I coping with the multi-week absences? Mike Davis the
obvious add for fantasy owners scrambling to replace McCaffrey,
but there's only one of him and all it takes is one owner with
a vendetta against you and more FAAB money to ruin that plan.
While most of us remember Barkley only missing three games with
his high ankle sprain last season, it took nearly 10 weeks before
we saw the kind of efficiency we had become accustomed to from
him. McCaffrey's injury didn't look too bad - he reportedly played
a few snaps after it happened - but I think fantasy owners are
kidding themselves if they think he'll be himself when he is eligible
to come off IR in Week 6. It could be argued Alvin Kamara never
quite got past his high-ankle sprain last year. While it is far
too early to be pronouncing McCaffrey's season over (at least
in terms of what we expected from him), we need to be prepared
for the possibility he may not the dominant player we remember
again until November.
One other option I'm considering that is widely available: Damien Harris. While we are well aware that Cam Newton is carrying the
ground game so far in New England, OC Josh McDaniels cannot expect
him to hold up all season averaging 13 carries (208-carry pace
over a 16-game season). My working theory is that the Patriots
are treading water with the rushing attack until Harris is ready.
Yes, Newton will cap his upside by stealing more than his fair
share of goal-line carries and James White will remain the primary
passing-down back, but this is an offense that could push for
a run-pass ratio of 55:45 (you are reading that correctly) without
a midseason upgrade at receiver. If the Patriots can find a back
who can consistently do more with 15 touches than Sony Michel
has done with his 10 or so per game over the last 1 1/2 years,
I would not bet against this current version of the Patriots giving
that back that kind of opportunity.
I stated before the start of the season that I was confident
starting 50 receivers regularly. Two weeks obviously has altered
the landscape somewhat, but there are several wideouts available
in just about any league that can make a case to be started. A
great plug-and-play in deep leagues this week is Braxton Berrios,
who is serving as the primary slot option with Jamison Crowder
expected to miss another game. Zach Pascal is a longer-term option
who is expected to be the primary slot for however long Parris Campbell is sidelined, although the team has already said it intends
to use a committee there. Isaiah Ford is getting some quality
run in the slot as well for Miami and already has 14 targets.
Darnell Mooney has played more snaps than Anthony Miller in Chicago
and caught each of his six targets.
In smaller leagues, players like Keelan Cole and Chase Claypool
might be available and should be of interest to different types
of owners, depending on if they are looking for more of a high-floor
play to round out their lineup (Cole) or more of a high-upside
option (Claypool) who is probably due for a dud soon but could
also easily emerge as the 2020 version of Martavis Bryant - a
comparison I made multiple times this summer.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.