The Coronavirus has forced sports to adopt unique measures to produce a playing season. Because a positive test could sideline a player for at least three weeks and there’s no way of projecting how many positive cases there will be during the NFL season, Footballguys wants to give you resources that will help you weather the potential loss of players.
As the author of the most comprehensive scouting analysis of skill players since 2006, I’m one of those resources—especially for players at the bottom of depth charts, signed to practice squads and training at home with dreams of that phone call from an NFL team.
Each week, I’ll walk you through the shortlist of players who will get their shot to contribute as replacements to starters who tested positive for the Coronavirus. We’ll examine three types of replacements:
- Players who get immediate playing time.
- Preemptive additions from your league’s waiver wire.
- Options worth monitoring in case the established backup eventually misses time.
If you don’t think street free agents won’t factor, Raheem Mostert is on line one waiting for you to pick up, and he has a long list of players before him who would like to make an appointment to set you straight.
Week 1-11 Review and Changes
It's been a crazy season. Hopefully, you've embraced your sense of adventure when it comes to your need for last-moment replacements. Let's see if we continue delivering decent plays.
Here my brief thoughts and recommendations for previous players as we move forward. These are not in order of preference. If there's an asterisk (*), they've moved down a tier. If they have a number symbol (#) they have moved up:
- #Tua Tagovailoa: I doubt he's available in most leagues, but with the exception of last week, he's performed like the top quarterback in this 2020 draft class. In my opinion, he is.
- #Jordan Reed: Two touchdowns and a primary role in the passing game got him the quick add weeks ago, but a knee injury put him on IR. He looked good against the Saints and is worth adding for stretch-run potential after the 49ers' Week 11 bye.
- #Richie James: The 49ers receiver got wide open behind a pair of Saints defensive backs on a deep post that Nick Mullens underthrew but fumbled a punt later that took San Francisco out of the game. James still has a small window of becoming a significant contributor, he'll need to make the most of opportunities after the Week 11 bye.
- #Jordan Wilkins: Still, the No.2 "two-down runner" in this rotation behind Jonathan Taylor, he's worth paring with Taylor if you have the luxury. That's what I mentioned prior to last week's 100 yards from scrimmage and it makes him an immediate add for those with the luxury or need.
- Keelan Cole: Cole continues to show value as a flex-play with upside.
- Travis Fulgham: He's now considered the starting X receiver even with Alshon Jeffery's return. As long as he continues to play well, it's his gig, and he's playing well.
- Robert Tonyan Jr: Tonyan remains a viable option.
- Brett Rypien: The Broncos' third-stringer had an up-and-down box score output but showed enough to consider him a potential emergency value who may be needed this weekend.
- Tim Patrick: Patrick played well upon his return and was on track for a starter day against the Raiders until he got in a fight and was ejected from the game.
- James Robinson: Now an established starter in 2020, Robinson shouldn't be a free agent in any format.
- K.J. Hamler: Although he didn't perform as hoped last week, his target volume (6) was respectable after two weeks totaling 20 looks in Weeks 9-10.
- *Alfred Morris: Listed two weeks ago as a player to monitor, Morris' 67 yards on 9 touches against Washington was an indication that he's worth having on rosters as a weekend rental until Devonta Freeman returns to action. Wayne Gallman has been a TD-dependent fantasy commodity, but he's earning enough of a workload to limit Morris because Morris lacks receiving chops.
- #Scott Miller: Miller remains one injury away from delivering starting production for fantasy squads fielding 3-4 receivers.
- #Denzel Mims: Mims earned some vertical targets last week against the Chiefs and nearly converted one of them. The Jets' offense will keep him no more than an inconsistent match-up play out of desperation, but Mims' talent keeps him on the list for consideration.
- David Irving: Irving has played well in limited time for the past two weeks, but is out this week with an injury. He's worth adding if dropped hastily.
- #Gabriel Davis: Davis is a productive player when considering his role in the Bills' offense and will do a lot more if John Brown or Stefon Diggs get hurt.
- #Donovan Peoples-Jones: Shutout the past two weeks, keep in mind that Cleveland weather was windy and difficult for throwing the football.
- *Devonta Freeman: Despite limited touches, Freeman showed more juice than I think people realize. Freeman may be back this week.
- *Olamide Zaccheaus: Calvin Ridley is still walking wounded, even if he has played in recent weeks. If inactive, Zaccheaus has top-15 upside at his position.
- #Darwin Thompson: Darrel Williams and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are ill this week, which could mean carries for Thompson. If both backs are inactive, Thompson could make a worthwhile desperation addition if you're seeking at least a small amount of points ahead of a zero.
- *Case Keenum: Baker Mayfield still doesn't look good enough to think he's completely safe from benching with another bad week or two. This situation remains worth monitoring.
- *Mike Boone: A valuable injury-substitute.
- Bryan Edwards: He saw 20 snaps and 1 target--an out-route he caught and bounced off a safety's hard hit. Continue waiting for an increase in snap count.
- *Lamar Miller: The Bears haven't called up Miller from the practice squad, but his experience and the Bears' need for depth makes Miller a preemptive option. However, the fact that the Bears have struggled on the ground and Miller hasn't seen the active roster after three weeks means we're about 1-2 weeks from cutting bait on his potential this year.
- *JaMycal Hasty: With Raheem Mostert returning, Hasty is still one injury away from a bigger role.
- *Jordan Howard: Howard didn't fit in Miami, but is back in Philadelphia. If injuries strike, Howard could earn a call-up from the taxi squad.
- *Tyler Johnson: Johnson is earning playing time but not enough to count on until there's another injury to the receiving corps.
- *Austin Mack: The rookie from Ohio State failed to build on his promising debut in Week 9. He wasn't bad in Week 10 but failed to garner a bigger piece of the workload. Golden Tate may be on the outs with the organization by year's end, but based on his workload, the year is far from over.
- *Mack Hollins: Jakeem Grant appears to be holding his own enough to earn opportunities as the second option among the wide receivers. Hollins only earned one target last week.
- *Dante Pettis: He's on the active roster as of last week, but he hasn't seen the field yet.
- *Quintez Cephus: Marvin Hall has done more for the Lions offense with Kenny Golladay. If Marvin Jones Jr is inactive, Cephus could earn more targets but he hasn't done enough to be a preemptive add at this time.
- *Mike Thomas: Tee Higgins has done enough that Thomas is an injury-substitute of note.
- *Dez Bryant: Officially signed to the team, Bryant has done nothing for the past two weeks.
- *Adam Shaheen: Shaheen has seen targets, but not enough to consider him for your roster.
- *P.J. Walker: Walker had a solid week as a first-time NFL starter in Week 11. If Teddy Bridgewater has a setback, Walker is worth an emergency add.
- *Marvin Hall: With Mohamed Sanu in the fold, Hall is no longer a viable option.
- *Danny Amendola: See above.
- *Will Grier: As expected, Walker earned the start ahead of Grier in Week 11. With Bridgewater back, no need to keep an eye on the Grier.
- *Alex Collins: The Seahawks got Carlos Hyde back on Thursday night and added Bo Scarbrough to the active roster. Collins has run out of opportunities to be saved as an active/taxi flex and might be on the way out of town.
- *Hakeem Butler: After media speculation that he could earn playing time in recent weeks hasn't played out, he's the type of player you'll likely need to wait and see action before making a move.
- *Anthony Firkser: The Titans tight end was a non-factor against the Steelers and remains a third-down option who isn't earning enough targets for consideration.
- *Reggie Bonnafon: Mike Davis performed to expectation and the Panthers added Trent Cannon to the active roster, a speedster who has cut into Bonnafon's shots.
- *Jeff Smith: He's still worth monitoring like he was last week, but he only earned 8 yards on 4 targets despite earning 60 snaps against the Dolphins in Week 6.
- *Byron Pringle: Sammy Watkins is back and Pringle was only a bit-player during Watkins' absence.
- *D'Ernest Johnson: Nick Chubb is back and that relegates Johnson to the bench.
- *Albert Okwuegbunam: On IR.
- *Lamical Perine: Frank Gore remains the best option on a lowly Jets' offense.
- *Marquez Callaway: A special teamer with injury-substitution value.
Let's look at this week's recommendations.
Add Now: Sammy Watkins and Mitchell Trubisky
The Skinny on Watkins: A Pro-Bowl-caliber talent on the field and if we rated players based on the number of injuries that can keep them off the field, Watkins is one of the most frustrating fantasy commodities in the past decade. Even so, it's difficult to ignore him as a potential stretch-run value based on the Chiefs' offense and his run in the 2019 NFL Playoffs.
Recommendation: Watkins is worth adding as depth because he has the skills to beat any cornerback in the NFL, giving him the upside to deliver 7-10 targets, 80-150 yards, and a touchdown in any game. Demarcus Robinson had some decent weeks, but he's not as well-rounded of a player as Watkins and shouldn't pose a great threat to Watkins' future opportunities.
The Skinny Trubisky: Nick Foles' hurt his shoulder and the Bears decided late this week to give Trubisky the nod. The former future of the franchise lost his starting role after a poor half against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3. Based on the nature of his benching and the fact that his head coach reportedly didn't even have a conversation with Trubisky about the move when he made it, it's a good indication that the move was not a teaching moment as much as a permanent switch.
Still, Trubisky has had eight weeks to observe Nick Foles, study the game, and work at his craft without the demands of being an NFL starter. This could have either been a productive period of development or he could have spent the period drowning in his sorrows.
Recommendation: Although the Packers' defense is statistically one of the best at limiting the fantasy points of quarterbacks in the NFL this year, they've faced Nick Mullens, Jake Luton, and Kirk Cousins twice. Matt Ryan's sub-par game was partially due to injuries with his receiving corps. Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, and Philip Rivers have all delivered respectable outings against Green Bay.
You shouldn't bank on Trubisky retaking the field as a far more mature and developed decision-maker but even the Trubisky we've come to know as fantasy GMs has a 300-yard and multiple-touchdown upside because of his athletic ability, arm, and penchant for streaky play that goes both ways.
Preemptive: Mohamed Sanu and Robert Griffin III III
The Skinny on Sanu: The former Atlanta Falcons receiver got cut by the Patriots and 49ers this year before landing in Detroit. Sanu is still a competent receiver by NFL standards who probably came recommended to the Lions via Stafford's good friend and offseason neighbor, Matt Ryan. Stafford and Sanu had some success on Thanksgiving Day, connecting for a touchdown in a blowout loss.
His veteran leadership should also be a helpful mentor to a player like rookie Quintez Cephus, who has a similar athletic upside that Sanu had in the prime of his career.
Recommendation: Sanu won't be a high-volume option, but his work around the red zone and in the middle of the field should yield enough of a fantasy floor for him to deliver as a desperation flex for an injury-riddled team. He won't be available as a preemptive addition this week since most leagues will have locked Sanu's eligibility until Week 13's waiver run, but he's worth adding after that Week 13 run has passed as a first-come, first-serve discount pick if you have a serious need.
The Skinny on Griffin III: The last time Griffin played, he faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 of 2019. He played 73 snaps and went 11-for-21, earning 96 yards and another 50 yards on 8 carries. On paper, Griffin's athletic skills seem like a good fit for this offense, but Griffin's play is a strong indicator as to why there's a canyon of a difference between Griffin and Lamar Jackson.
Griffin has a better arm than Jackson but he doesn't see the field or manage pressure nearly as well as Jackson in any capacity. A straight-line runner, Griffin also lacks Jackson's creativity when breaking the pocket or creating plays off-script.
Recommendation: If the outlook for Griffin is so negative, why even recommend him? I asked myself this question a few times before adding him to the list. Ultimately, the nature of our pandemic could create a scenario in some leagues where you need to keep your options open for any points from the quarterback position that you can get. The Steelers' game is an awful draw for Griffin, but the Cowboys' awful defense is up next, and it's almost 100 percent likely that Griffin draws both starts.
Monitor: Ty'Son Williams
The Skinny on Williams: Although the NFL moved the Ravens-Steelers game to Sunday, there's still a good chance that Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins will not play in Week 13. I profiled Williams in this week's Gut Check as a longshot option who has the talent to contribute in the NFL. As a member of the Ravens' practice squad, Baltimore will likely make him active for this week's game as the third or fourth back, and because of his 6'0, 220-pound frame, he's a more likely candidate to earn carries between the tackles if Gus Edwards were to get hurt or contract COVID-19 during the next two weeks.
Recommendation: Last I heard, ESPN and Yahoo! leagues don't have Williams listed in its player pools, but if myfantasyleague.com leagues do. He's worth a preemptive add considering that Lamar Jackson's positive test came on Thanksgiving Day and Edwards has likely had contact with all three of his backfield mates currently on the list.