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"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
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 1-15 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:
- 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. With Jalen Hurts a better vertical passer than Carson Wentz, Fulgham could see revitalized opportunities down the stretch. But it's a volatile situation for Fulgham to play with a rookie.
- Robert Tonyan Jr: Tonyan remains a viable option.
- James Robinson: Now an established starter in 2020, Robinson shouldn't be a free agent in any format.
- Tua Tagovailoa: I doubt he's available in most leagues, but with his recent thumb injury he may have been dropped. He has shown a lot of promise late in the year and he's completing 60 percent of his passes--a good sign for a rookie.
- Gabriel Davis: Davis is a productive player when considering his role in the Bills' offense and with John Brown hurt, he's one of the best must-add receivers available. The Bills understand how to leverage his strengths as a big receiver who wins the ball well at the catch point and can earn yards after the catch if targeted in-stride.
- 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. With Drew Lock back, expect Patrick to return to his role as the replacement version of Courtland Sutton in this offense. He scored twice against the Chiefs in Week 12.
- Chad Hansen: Hansen has earned seven targets in consecutive weeks and posted a 7-catch, 56-yard outing against the Bears. He's a solid PPR option in a rematch with the Colts.
Recent or Past Recommendations Who Are Worth Adding Immediately If There's A Need
- #Lynn Bowden Jr: He performed well in the slot last week and with DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant nicked up, Bowden becomes a reasonable emergency PPR start.
- #Adam Shaheen: Shaheen is a red-zone threat with downfield ability who will earn more targets with Mike Gesicki dealing with a shoulder injury that could still limit him after missing last week.
- Mohamed Sanu: Sanu earned over 50 snaps and caught all 4 passes in Week 12, scoring a touchdown in the game. As mentioned last week, Sanu has formed a quick rapport with Matthew Stafford and there's a favorable schedule for Sanu to become a reliable option who can deliver 4-6 receptions per game 40-60 yards and a good chance of a touchdown. Kenny Golladay's setback gives Sanu additional opportunities to shine.
- Mitchell Trubisky: Named the Week 13 starter, Trubisky is exactly what I've described him as before last week, and really, throughout his career: A productive player between the 20s who has significant flaws in the red zone and backed up in his own territory. Expect Trubisky to continue to perform well against a poor Jaguars defense.
- Keelan Cole: Cole continues to show value as a flex-play with upside as an option who wins in the slot and outside, especially with Gardner Minshew back in the lineup.
- Scott Miller: Miller knows the offense better than Antonio Brown and he was healthy enough to resume his strong rapport with Tom Brady in the vertical game.
- Sammy Watkins: Although he only gained 38 yards on 4 receptions, Watkins earned 7 targets and 57 snaps and 3 targets for 52 yards in consecutive weeks after missing several others. Last week, Watkins earned 6 catches for 60 yards. Tyreek Hill is a little nicked up, which could lead to more targets if there's a setback with Hill over the week. If not, Watkins has been a consistent PPR performer for large starting lineup formats.
- 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's still a viable option if available.
- *LeSean McCoy: Leonard Fournette wound up with last week's workload and will likely be the primary back in Week 16 if Ronald Jones II, who is unlikely to come off the COVID list, doesn't play.
- #Denzel Mims: He continues to produce well with the workload he's earning. He has consistently been one play away from fantasy value for the past five weeks although last week he missed the game due to a personal matter.
- #Peyton Barber: He gives fantasy GMs a shot at red-zone work, and he's averaged 14 touches during the past four weeks.
- *K.J. Hamler: Although he didn't perform as hoped two weeks ago and COVID forced the Broncos to start a rookie wide receiver at quarterback, Hamler's target volume (6) was respectable in prior weeks—totaling 20 looks in Weeks 9-10.
- *Jordan Wilkins: Still, the No.2 "two-down runner" in this rotation behind Jonathan Taylor, Wilkins was productive in recent weeks until Taylor rebounded two weeks ago. Now off the COVID list, Taylor should get the most touches as the between-the-tackles runner in this offense. Because the Colts have a great slate of matchups ahead, if Taylor gets hurt or regresses, Wilkins is an easy choice for your roster.
- *Quintez Cephus: Cephus scored two weeks ago and Marvin Hall got cut. With Kenny Golladay likely inactive again, Cephus could be worth a preemptive pick as depth.
- Ito Smith: He's leading a three-headed committee thanks to Todd Gurley's flare-up with his arthritic knee.
Players Still Worth Monitoring
- *Eno Benjamin: Kenyan Drake and/or Chase Edmonds could be iffy this weekend, which makes Benjamin a potential option for a significant workload.
- *Collin Johnson: Three weeks of declining production makes him a long-odds proposition, at best.
- *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 the opportunities afforded him. He blocked well on running plays in Week 12's game and it was his second week in a row with over 60 snaps, so don't write him off completely from your watch list.
- *Ty Johnson: Frank Gore and Josh Adams played in Week 14 and Johnson only earned 16 yards on 8 carries. He's clearly on the back end of a three-headed committee but he earned time on passing downs and scored in Week 15. He's a gamble with upside for the truly desperate.
- *JaMycal Hasty: Hasty is still one injury away from a bigger role and two injuries away from starting.
- *Kerryon Johnson: D'Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson get the Lions' share of the workload but Johnson could earn scatbacks with a late scratch of either co-starter.
- *Ameer Abdullah: Dalvin Cook is healthy and the Vikings still have a shot at the playoffs.
- *Mike Boone: Same as Abdullah.
- *Devin Duvernay: Talented, but only saw 1 target despite playing 44 snaps against Dallas three weeks ago. Maybe next year.
- *Bryan Edwards: The rookie is clearly a spot contributor, at best with no fantasy value.
- *Mike Thomas: Tee Higgins has done enough that Thomas is an injury-substitute of note.
- *Darwin Thompson: At the rate that COVID-19 can decimate the availability of a position room, Thompson remains a talented enough name to remember in case the Chiefs backs get ill.
- *Brett Rypien: An underrated backup if called upon.
- *Kyle Rudolph: After a solid run, the return of Adam Thielen and a foot injury were enough to render Rudolph scoreless last week. He's likely to miss another week.
- *Robert Griffin III: As mentioned last week, he was a one-week desperation addition at best. He strained his hamstring late in the game against the Ravens after a respectable rushing performance and gave way to Trace McSorely who showed more as a passer in limited time. With Lamar Jackson likely returning in Week 13 and McSorely offering a dimension that Griffin may lack, Griffin is no longer a viable option worth monitoring.
- *Olamide Zaccheaus: Currently on IR.
- *Marvin Hall: With Mohamed Sanu in the fold, Hall is no longer a viable option.
- *Danny Amendola: See above.
- *Ty'Son Williams: Although not needed from the practice squad, if the Ravens backfield suffers additional complications from COVID-19, this rugged, smart, fast runner with good hands could be summoned to the active roster and called into action. At this point, the backfield appears 100 percent after its scare.
- *Marquez Callaway: A special teamer with injury-substitution value who is likely inactive this week due to injury.
- *Tyler Johnson: The Buccaneers are healthy enough at the position that Johnson is no longer a player worth monitoring.
- *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 6 targets during the past three weeks.
- *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.
- *Dante Pettis: He's on the active roster this week after spending a week on the COVID list, but he hasn't seen the field yet. All seems forgiven between the Giants and Golden Tate.
- *Luke Willson: Mark Andrews is back and Willson did little.
- #Josh Gordon: He can't stay sober.
Let's look at this week's recommendations.
Add Now: Alex Erickson
The Skinny on Erickson: Certainly not a well-known name outside of Cincinnati, but Erickson is a veteran receiver who will earn the start for the Bengals if Tyler Boyd misses Week 16—and it's likely this will be the case. When Erickson has earned more than five targets in a game during the past three years, he has averaged 6.2 receptions and 79.4 yards, including a two-game stretch with a 14-target, 8-catch, 137-yard effort against the Jaguars followed by a 7-target, 6-catch, 97-yard day against the Rams.
Recommendation: Houston's defense is one of the worst against the run and they are softer against the pass than they appear. Offenses that emphasize the slot receiver have success against them. Sammy Watkins (7-82-1), JuJu Smith-Schuster (4-43-1), Keelan Cole (2-25-1) and Collin Johnson (3-30-1), Adam Humphries (6-64-1), Mohamed Sanu (4-32-1), and T.Y. Hilton twice in the past three weeks (8-110-1 and 4-71) have fared well.
Erickson is a worthwhile option for those in desperate situations who can't find obvious free-agent performers. Lynn Bowden Jr and Erickson are about on par in terms of baseline workload and upside. Falcons receiver Russell Gage, a player I didn't profile but could be on fantasy waiver wires may have more upside this weekend if Julio Jones doesn't play.
Preemptive: Devine Ozigbo and A.J. Dillon
The Skinny on Ozigbo: Although James Robinson is trying to play this weekend with his high-ankle sprain, Jene Bramel believes it's unlikely. It means the Jaguars will turn to the two healthy backs on its roster: Dare Ogunbowale and Devin Ozigbo. Ogunbowale is a scatback with excellent open-field burst who runs hard and catches the ball well but hasn't proven to be a nuanced runner between the tackles during his stints with the Texans and Buccaneers.
Ozigbo began his career in New Orleans but didn't make the cut and has been spending most of his early career on the Jaguars' practice squad. A well-built back with a low center of gravity, Ozigbo displayed good footwork, vision, and contact balance at Nebraska. He catches the ball adequately as well. If fed enough in a two-down or three-down role, he has the baseline skills to compile yardage that can help a fantasy GM.
Recommendation: The Bears are a difficult draw but if we're going to match Ozigbo's playing style with backs that have faced Chicago (total touches, yards, and scores in parenthesis), Jamaal Williams (17-73-1), Malcolm Brown (10-57-1), Mike Davis (20-55-1), Jordan Wilkins (10-31-0), and Brian Hill (10-70-1) are within his area code of style. Although most of them are at the high end of the spectrum than Ozigbo in terms of talent, if the Jaguars can commit 10-15 touches to Ozigbo, he likely earns 50-70 yards and has a good shot of scoring in a green-zone situation.
The Skinny on Dillon: One of my favorite "the-next-tier-below" backs from the 2020 NFL Draft, Dillon spent much of this year on the COVID List, and when he wasn't inactive, the Packers remained committed to the talented duo of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. This weekend, Williams heads into the game with a quad injury that could keep him out and Aaron Jones has a toe issue that the team is managing.
With Green Bay in the playoffs as the division winner, it's likely that one, if not both backs see a limited workload. Although fighting to maintain the top seed, if the contest against the Titans gets out of hand this weekend, Dillon could earn the bulk of the touches from the backfield for the remaining quarter or half.
Either way, expect Dillon to earn at least 3-5 touches with an upside of 10-15 if one of Williams or Jones doesn't play. You're adding Dillon as a potential starter if the Packers announce that one of the backs ahead of him is on a snap count or a late scratch.
Monitor: Tyler Conklin
The Skinny on Conklin: A talented pass-catcher out of Central Michigan, Conklin has been a standout special teams performer and reserve tight end for the past three years in Minnesota. The strength of his game is route running and winning the football. He's also an underrated ballcarrier who can make the first man miss or bounce off the first hit.
Kyle Rudolph missed last week's game, and it was Conklin who earned the big-play opportunities alongside Irv Smith in the starting rotation, totaling 57 yards and a score on 45 snaps. During the past two weeks, Conklin has earned 8 catches for 97 yards and a score. It's also worth noting that he has no fewer than 45 snaps during 5 of the past 6 weeks, which means there's no need to account for acclimation time in the lineup.
Recommendation: If Rudolph misses this weekend, Conklin could once again play spoiler to Smith's fantasy GMs. Conklin's style of game is similar to options like Dallas Goedert (4-43-0), Jordan Reed (5-62-0), Hunter Henry (4-23-1), and Robert Tonyan Jr (5-50-1). He's not as strong or refined as most of these options, but he wins the ball well and he has good short-area quickness. He's also tough at the catch point. Expecting 35-50 yards from Conklin isn't out of the question.
"I look at you and see two men: the man you are, and the man you ought to be. Someday those two will meet. Should make for a hell of a football player."
-Jimmy McGinty, the Replacements
May those two men meet with the replacements you have to choose this weekend.