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The fantasy football season is entering a critical phase. Injuries are beginning to pile up simultaneously as teams are beginning to differentiate themselves in the standings. This is a time in the season when teams will begin to declare their intentions and enter rebuilds. This is a great opportunity but requires optimizing your roster.
Through three weeks, Dak Prescott, Trey Lance, and now Mac Jones have all suffered injuries resulting in spot starts for their respective backups. That does not include Zach Wilson, who was injured in the preseason and replaced by Joe Flacco, who leads the league in passing attempts.
The running back position is unsurprisingly getting hit hard by injuries. Alvin Kamara missed Week 2, and Elijah Mitchell was placed on injured reserve after Week 1. David Montgomery and DAndre Swift are both expected to miss multiple weeks after suffering Week 3 injuries.
Additionally, Dalvin Cook has suffered a shoulder injury he is expected to attempt to play through.
As injuries begin to stack up, they can derail teams. But they can also be an opportunity.
A Roster Fodder Test
This should be a call to action that it is time to optimize your roster for the attrition that is to come.
If you have a player on the back of your roster you do not feel comfortable putting in your lineup this week, ask yourself two questions.
First, what would need to happen for you to feel comfortable putting this player in your lineup? Second, what would need to happen where you can trade this player for a value that is meaningfully different from his current value?
These players are roster fodder if you do not have very clear, one- to two-sentence responses to these questions. They are loitering on your bench, taking up roster spots which are very valuable resources.
If you find your teams are either underperforming your expectation or struggling in the flex spot, this is particularly important.
Your flex position can be dramatically improved just by optimizing your roster constructions. The players that fail the Roster Fodder Test are typically wide receivers or tight ends with low draft pedigree.
Wide receivers selected on day three of the NFL Draft (rounds 4 through 7) and those who are undrafted should be very limited holds on your roster. Your roster has room for your favorite wide receiver drafted in the past two draft classes who is not producing with some lineup viability. Any more, and you are collecting roster cloggers. In leagues of 28 or fewer roster spots, players like Odell Beckham Jr and Will Fuller are really hard to hold when using this test.
Transitioning wide receivers to running backs will give starting options in your weekly lineups. If these players have value, trade them for a backup running back. The name of the backup running back matters less than their actual status as an injury away from relevance.
If you cannot get a player you like, trade them for a pick. If you cannot get a pick, make a trade with the waiver wire.
When optimizing, your targets should be those who pass the Roster Fodder Test.
Profiles of players you will feel comfortable putting in your lineup include running backs who are an injury away from a starting opportunity. Search for backup running backs who might be on your waiver wire. Present opportunities include Jordan Mason, Matt Breida, and Dontrell Hilliard.
Wide receiver profiles that you can feel comfortable putting in your lineup include wide receivers who play a lot of snaps on their teams but are under the radar. Noah Brown and Mack Hollins are recent examples of wide receivers, starting for their teams, who were available on the waiver wire. They can play in your lineup in a pinch if they are on the field nearly every snap in a good offense.
Backup quarterbacks are also a good bet to be useful in lineups or see an uptick in value if their starter is injured.
The process of optimizing your roster should be ongoing. Injuries or changing opportunities may alter how comfortable you would be putting a player in your lineup. Optimize your roster in favor of players that pass the Roster Fodder Test each week, and your team will benefit from, instead of suffering from, roster attrition.