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 or unexpected late-week events.
I won't be updating this piece over the weekend, but you'll get the goods on players worth consideration, and based on last year, this column offered a lot of quality short-term and long-term options — many of them as preemptive picks:
- James Robinson
- Robert Tonyan Jr
- Travis Fulgham
- Tim Patrick
- Scott Miller
- Ty Johnson
- Brett Rypien
- Tyler Johnson
- Marquez Callaway
- A.J. Dillon
- Tyler Conklin
This is a partial list, but you get the point.
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.
Many of these players are late-round picks and street-free agents. I'm not giving you obvious waivers candidates that will command a large percentage of your FAAB dollars. These are options you'll often find in your First-Come, First Serve section during the latter part of the week prior to kickoff.
If you think street-free agents won’t be factors, Ty'Son Williams from Week 1 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. James Robinson would like to tell you about his 2020 campaign. And, Raheem Mostert has time on his hands if you need a deeper consultation.
In the coming weeks, I'll provide brief thoughts and recommendations for the previous week's candidates as we move forward. Since I recommended Williams to this site's readers as a long-shot emerging force back in the first week of June and have been touting Williams as a future contributor talent since April 2020, we'll make him and Bryan Edwards the unofficial Week 1 candidates.
The recommendations below are categorized by my current view of the player.
- Josh Gordon: Reports out of Kansas City say Gordon and Patrick Mahomes II have instant on-field chemistry. I've stated enough about Gordon, you know if you are the type of person to add him to a roster.
- Tim Patrick: Patrick will remain one of the Broncos' three most productive receiving options until Jerry Jeudy returns.
- Zach Pascal: Although he has red-zone value, the Colts aren't a top passing unit. Although consistently earning targets and yardage, it's not enough for weekly fantasy value.
- Preston Williams: Showing off his boundary work last weekend, Williams generated 60 yards on 3 catches that he converted from 5 targets. He'll remain a viable contributor with Will Fuller V being Will Fuller V and DeVante Parker dealing with an injury.
- Khalil Herbert: I recommended Herbert in last week's Gut Check as a speculative addition who would earn reps with David Montgomery out. Herbert split the workload with Damien Williams and even salted away the game. He'll likely maintain a committee role.
- Juwan Johnson: A red-zone threat who offers boom-bust value but has the trust of Jameis Winston on a team lacking great options in the passing game.
- Royce Freeman: Chuba Hubbard will be the lead back while Christian McCaffrey is out, but Freeman is the complement and could earn more touches if Hubbard struggles.
- Rashod Bateman: The rookie should earn playing time within the next week or two, but he'll be the third or fourth option in the Ravens' passing offense so maintain realistic expectations.
- Ty'Son Williams: The Ravens elevated Le'Veon Bell from the practice squad last weekend and made Williams inactive. Bell didn't earn many touches but John Harbaugh gave a positive review. As I mentioned last week, many will drop Williams but if you're not desperate, you should have waited another week. The Ravens are throwing more but Williams remains a decent, low-cost speculative addition. In deeper leagues.
- Chris Evans: Joe Mixon may not be completely out of the woods with his injury and while Samaje Perine is the backup, Evans is closer to earning a bigger role than it may appear. Once Mixon proves he's back to 20-touch form, Evans can be a player you monitor from afar.
- Kylin Hill: Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon appear healthy enough but just to make sure, give Hill enough week or two on your deep rosters if you have the luxury.
- Van Jefferson: Jefferson continues to earn targets but Sean McVay shut the door on the idea of Jefferson overtaking Robert Woods this year, feeding Woods to the tune of 12 catches last Thursday night.
- Demetric Felton: Although he has earned touches as a slot receiver, he hasn't earned enough to generate a consistent fantasy impact because he's not completely replacing Jarvis Landry's role. If Nick Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt isn't earning rest and have legitimate injuries that force them from the Cardinals' lineup, Felton could earn a substantial role.
- Penny Hart: Geno Smith has probably worked with Hart more than Russell Wilson, so keep tabs on Hart's usage because his snap count has gone from 2-3 snaps during the first two weeks of the year to 8-12 during the past three.
- Royce Freeman: With Chuba Hubbard producing and Christian McCaffrey close to serviceable health, Freeman is expendable but still worth monitoring in case there are unexpected setbacks or injuries to the depth chart.
- Bryan Edwards: Edwards is clearly behind Hunter Renfrow in the Raiders' pecking order for targets. Until Henry Ruggs III, Darren Waller, or Renfrow falter, Edwards is only a boom-bust option due to his usage.
- J.J. Taylor: After fumbling two weeks ago, Taylor did little. Branden Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson will continue to contribute behind Damien Harris.
- Collin Johnson: After earning seven targets in Week 3, he only earned five snaps in Week 4.
- Jordan Wilkins: Marlon Mack wants a trade and he's getting enough playing time that could be a showcase for a deal within the next 3-4 weeks. Wilkins would be the next in line to Jonathan Taylor.
- Olamide Zacchaeus: Zaccheaus earned four targets as a starter against the Jets, but his production potential as a starter is high variance. Atlanta has seen him as a vertical option in the past and the offensive line hasn't given Matt Ryan that kind of time.
- Quintez Cephus: He's on IR with a shoulder injury.
- Albert Okwuegbunam: IR.
- Chris Thompson: The 49ers waived Thompson from the practice squad this week.
- Denzel Mims: He may earn an opportunity later in the year, but Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, and even Jeff Smith are ahead of Mims when it comes to playing time.
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: Westbrook doubled his target totals between Week 3 (4) and Week 4 (8) but decreased his productivity from 4 catches for 53 yards and a score in Week 3 to 3 catches for 29 yards in Week 4. With A.J. Brown returning, Westbrook could earn better coverage looks if Julio Jones remains out, but he was really only worth 1-2 weeks of consideration. He's also limited this week with a hamstring.
- Jacques Patrick: John Lynch described Patrick as a back in the style of John Riggins and then dumped the Riggins-like back once Elijah Mitchell got healthy.