The Coronavirus recently forced sports to adopt unique measures to produce a playing season. While there's still potential for a positive test to sideline a player for at least three weeks, and there’s no way of projecting how many positive cases occur during the NFL season, there are also compelling factors beyond illness that create a demand for this feature: Late-week injuries, suspensions, and coaching decisions with personnel.
We developed this feature 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 for players falling victim to unexpected late-week events. This feature is also a great list for preemptive selections, a method of free agent shopping that's successful for a lot of fantasy GMs who reserve their funds for one costly addition and to stream defenses and kickers.
I won't be updating this piece over the weekend, but you'll get the goods on players worth consideration, and based on the past last two years, this column offered a lot of quality short-term and long-term options — many of them as preemptive picks:
- Khalil Herbert
- Craig Reynolds
- Boston Scott
- Josh Reynolds
- James Robinson
- Robert Tonyan Jr
- Travis Fulgham
- Tim Patrick
- Russell Gage
- Braxton Berrios
- Duke Johnson Jr
- Rashaad Penny
- Davis Mills
- 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.
- Pre-emptive 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 waiver 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 last year is on Line 1 waiting for you to pick up. Craig Reynolds is on Line 2. Boston Scott is waiting patiently on Line 3. They each have a long list of players before them 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.
WEEK 9 REVIEW
- Geno Smith: Safe to say he's playing well enough and in a good position to be considered for real as a starter.
- Eno Benjamin: James Connor is back, which relegates Benjamin to a complementary role, but he's worth having at the end of your bench based on his role as a substitute starter.
- Gus Edwards: Scoring twice in his debut, Edwards was, by far, the best Ravens back on the field, and with J.K. Dobbins' surgery, he's the best bet in the Baltimore backfield when healthy. He missed the Saints game with a hamstring injury but is expected back after Week 10 bye.
- Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Davis Mills: I presumed most of your league doesn't have them as free agents, but I'm listing them here if that's not the case. I'd roll with them in this order of preference, but Garoppolo and Mills are close enough that I wouldn't fault anyone for opting for Mills.
- Odell Beckham Jr: Likely joining a contender, Beckham may not be ready to play until December, but December isn't far off for teams with the luxury to stash a player with his skills.
- Darius Slayton: With Bellinger out and Kadarius Toney in Kansas City, Slayton is a good bet for bye-week value, especially after scoring against Jacksonville in Week 7 and following up with a 5-66 outing against the Seahawks.
- Tyler Conklin: At first, Zach Wilson's presence in the lineup didn't sustain Conklin's production that the tight end had with Joe Flacco. Wilson did a better job of finding Conklin against the Patriots, and it elevates him to a must-add if you need help at the position, but Conklin's target volume is less consistent on a weekly basis with Wilson compared to Flacco. Rookies Greg Dulcich and Cade Otton might be the better options for their targets and upside because of the caliber of quarterbacking.
- Cade Otton: He outperformed Greg Dulcich for the first two weeks, earning a respectable 4-64 against the Panthers. He lacks Dulcich's big-play potential but he has averaged 5.3 targets during the past three games, including a 5-catch, 68-yard outing against the Rams that led to the first touchdown of his NFL career.
- Greg Dulcich: Expect more boom-bust weeks ahead than what you'll get from Otton (see above), but higher ceilings, which can work out well at this position given the dearth of consistent scorers with a high points baseline. So far, Dulcich has averaged nearly six targets and 60 yards per game during the same three-week span as Otton.
- Marcus Mariota: The veteran journeyman is a weekly threat to deliver strong ground-aided fantasy production despite below-average fantasy value as strictly a passer.
- Isiah Pacheco: Locked in a committee, Pacheco's heaviest workloads come as a closeout option in blowouts. However, the rest of the Chiefs' backfield isn't that far ahead of him in volume, which keeps Pacheco an intriguing option to keep on your roster if you have the luxury. If not, he's a gamble that will likely tease more than fulfill fantasy expectations. This remains the case even with the Chiefs giving him the starter role, although the designation doesn't come with enough carries at this time to get too excited. He's also making mistakes with decisions, bouncing plays outside that require better anticipation of developing blocks inside.
- Marvin Jones Jr: He suffered a hamstring injury late last week and wound up a surprise scratch for Week 6 but rebounded with a 57-yard performance in Week 7. He's an up-and-down performer because his quarterback hasn't attempted a pass beyond 30 yards in multiple games.
- Malik Willis: Ryan Tannehill's injury likely made him a must-add in many league formats, but he could still be available as a preemptive addition because of the potential for Tannehill to be game-ready.
- Josh Reynolds: A viable flex or bye-week option in most leagues, Reynolds is often the second or third option in Jared Goff's progressions and occasionally the first read. He won't beat top man-to-man coverage with timing routes, but he's reliable in the middle of the field and at the boundary against off-coverage once his back injury isn't a lingering issue.
- Latavius Murray: Nathaniel Hackett's offense and personnel decisions will drive you to madness. Murray can still produce, but whether he'll remain a high-volume option is a guessing game.
- Caleb Huntley: He was more efficient than Tyler Allgeier three weeks ago but earned 8 carries to Allgier's 13. Two weeks ago, Huntley out-touched Allgier 16-15 and outgained Allgeier 59-51. Two weeks ago, Huntley was by far the best runner on the depth chart with 91 yards, but last week, it was Allgeier
- Dontrell Hilliard: He sees more playing time in a Titans offense that won't dominate game scripts. He's a good receiver and earning red-zone duty in this capacity. Malik Willis opts to run more than check the ball quickly, limiting Hilliard's appeal.
- Nico Collins: He led the Texans receivers with 6 targets, 4 catches, and 65 yards before the bye week but only managed 33 yards in Week 7. He has missed the past two weeks with a lingering groin injury and he might be another week away despite optimism about him this week. Collins was limited in practice on Wednesday.
- Isaiah Likely: If you're desperate for tight-end production, there's a shot Likely earns more looks as the third or fourth option behind Mark Andrews, Devin Duvernay, and Damarcus Robinson, but consider Likely a speculative play. Although he has scored in consecutive weeks, the fact he only converted one of five targets against the Saints leaves me skeptical that he's ready to be as big of a part of this offense as the past two weeks of fantasy points may lead you to believe. Still, if there's a position you can afford to gamble on a boom-bust player, it's tight end this year.
- JaMycal Hasty: Travis Etienne dominated touches for the Jaguars' backfield, but Hasty is one injury away from a significant role.
- Parris Campbell: I'm going against the grain here because most are dropping him after less production when Sam Ehlinger made his debut as the starter. But the box score watchers suggesting us to drop Campbell didn't note his involvement as a perimeter runner, and Ehlinger targeting Campbell deep resulted in a 45-yard pass interference penalty that was the defender's only way of preventing a touchdown. Campbell remains a big part of his offense, perhaps bigger if Johnathan Taylor's ankle injury derails his season. I'll give Campbell one more week before moving him down as only a player to monitor because targets and touch profile are still good enough to consider him for your roster as depth.
- Denzel Mims: He looked good against the Patriots with limited targets, showing off his tracking, acrobatics, and contact balance in the open field. Wilson just missed Mims with three of four targets against the Bills, but Wilson found Mims with an important third-down red-zone slant in the fourth quarter that sustained a drive. Mims has also been excellent as a run blocker. Davis is on schedule to return after this week's bye, but Mims' 94 snaps during the past two weeks indicate he's the receiver to replace Corey Davis if Davis suffers a relapse or compensatory injury.
- Olamide Zaccheaus: I've always been a fan of Zaccheaus' developmental potential. Although my old friend Dwain McFarland wouldn't start Zaccheaus if there was a fire, he's been the most productive receiver in Atlanta until Damiere Byrd (see below) emerged during the past two weeks. That's not a great thing for fantasy at this point, but monitor his usage to see if he returns to this role in case you need a desperation preemptive pickup.
- Damiere Byrd: He had a two-week tear working beside Kyle Pitts and benefitting from the attention paid to Pitts. He's worth consideration in deeper leagues if you need to gamble on a player capable of converting 1-2 high-value targets and earning opportunities to do so.
- Greg Dortch: Dortch is only an injury substitute.
- Keaontay Ingram: While Ingram remains a long shot for a big game, he improved his standing with the team during the past two weeks with limited demonstrations of prowess at the goal line and as a receiver. Adding him is a calculated gamble on talent if the opportunity presents itself. With Darrel Williams back and Conner getting healthier, Ingram is only worth a luxury addition for deep rosters. With Darrel Williams on IR, Ingram still has an opportunity to contribute if Conner or Benjamin gets hurt.
- Robbie Anderson: He may need a few weeks to become relevant. If the snap totals rise and he makes the most of targets this week or next, it will be time to preemptively add him.
- Richie James: James has taken a back seat to Slayton and Wan'Dale Robinson
- Jerick McKinnon: He's an injury away from being the lead back in the Chiefs offense -- or he'll at least earn the first shot to compete for it when Kansas City brings Ronald Jones II into the three-way mix with Isiah Pacheco if Clyde Edwards-Helaire gets hurt.
- Mack Hollins: When the Raiders face a team with a poor pass rush, Hollins has value because he's targeted on longer-developing routes.
- DeAndre Carter: The window is nearly closed on Carter.
- Nelson Agholor: He's not pretty, but he's likely to continue being more reliable than DeVante Parker if his hamstring isn't a major issue. Even so, that's not saying much. Worth considering with greater weight when Mac Jones returns.
- Noah Brown: His window has closed as a flex-play with Michael Gallup's return in Week 5, but he is still earning targets, including a 5-50 showing two weeks ago against the Lions.
- Foster Moreau: He's earning targets and converting them, but he's mostly a short-game target and not in the red zone.
- Justice Hill: Now that Gus Edwards is practicing and Hill is nicked up, you can probably dump Hill back into the free-agent pool, but he remains worth monitoring.
- Teddy Bridgewater: While there's a good chance Skylar Thompson will leapfrog Bridgewater next year, Thompson's opportunity to shine may be over this year.
- Raheem Blackshear: D'Onta Foreman is the man in Carolina when Chuba Hubbard isn't healthy. Blackshear is third in line. He scored in last week's blowout but didn't appear explosive and earned a lot of his yardage against large cushions in coverage.
- D'Ernest Johnson: Kareem Hunt didn't get traded, so Johnson will need an injury to earn a viable role.
- Sammy Watkins: Probably should be on the forget list, but Green Bay's injuries and youth at the position give Watkins a chance for big games. Good luck predicting when/if.
- Tyquan Thornton: Thornton is averaging four targets a week. This is enough to consider him in a desperation scenario but not to hold onto a roster long-term in redraft formats.
- Rashid Shaheed: The run of high-leverage targets came to an end against Baltimore last week. We'll see if he earns more in Week 10.
- Zack Moss: Unless Jonathan Taylor is out for the year, and the Colts could shut him down, given the state of affairs with this organization, Moss would still be the third or fourth option on the depth chart behind Deon Jackson and Jordan Wilkins.
- Khalil Shakir: Fantasy analysts will tell you that Shakir is a short-term fix who had one good game, and you should sell due to his fifth-round draft capital. Bills fans will tell you that Shakir clearly has more talent as a future fixture than Isaiah McKenzie. While I agree, don't expect McKenzie to lose his job due to injury.
- Bryan Edwards: He had 35 snaps but only one target in Week 1. His snaps were cut in half in Week 2, earning two targets for two yards. He won't be a factor.
- Quintez Cephus: He's on IR.
- Jody Fortson: After scoring in Week 1, Fortson did little the past two weeks. He may prove tough to predict due to his small snap counts.
- Jordan Mason: Jeff Wilson is the starter, and Tevin Coleman leapfrogged the rest of the depth chart, which means the 49ers don't trust the rookie to be a significant contributor unless injuries force their hand.
- Byron Pringle: He's on IR
- Kyle Philips: IR.
- Cooper Rush: Prescott will be back this week.
- Justin Jackson: Craig Reynolds has held down the No.2 role in Detroit. Jackson is a break-the-glass, injury substitute at best.
- Joshua Kelley: The Chargers' backup has a knee injury that will cost him multiple weeks.
- Tevin Coleman: He's on the 49ers' practice squad after the Christian McCaffrey trade.
- Qadree Ollison: Malik Davis earned the looks in Ezekiel Elliot's place. Ollison was sent back to the Cowboys' practice squad after the Bears' game.
- Darrel Williams: A knee sprain and is on IR
- Skylar Thompson: He performed better than his teammates during his truncated first start in the NFL, thanks to a thumb injury in the first half.
- Pierre Strong Jr: He earned one carry for five yards because New England didn't separate from Cleveland by the final margin we see until later.
- Kevin Harris: He earned three carries for five yards and may be the better option to monitor if Damien Harris remains out and Rhamondre Stevenson gets hurt.
- Trey Sermon: He earned his first playing time in Week 4, carrying the ball twice for 19 yards against Jacksonville, including a solid 14-yard gain on a cutback. That's the extent of his work this year.
- Calvin Austin III: He's likely a small-volume gadget option for the Steelers' offense until there's another injury to a teammate ahead of him, and he's still on IR.
ADD NOW: Donovan Peoples-Jones
The Skinny on Peoples-Jones: A Michigan Wolverines alum who many of us in the draft community believed has the talent to have a better NFL career than a college career playing for Jim Harbaugh, the khaki pants of passing offenses, Peoples-Jones is a rangy athlete with excellent ball-tracking and skills. Peoples-Jones lacks the speed that gets him on top of man-to-man coverage early in routes, but he's a useful vertical threat in offenses that feature him on routes that work inside-out against safeties or smaller corners.
Although he hasn't earned the type of routes to exploit it in the NFL, Peoples-Jones was a top return specialist with open-field talents. He began this year with one solid PPR-worthy game in deeper leagues during the first three weeks of September. Since October, Jacoby Brissett and Peoples-Jones have established a connection that has generated 4-6 catches per game with a range of 50-80 yards a week.
Peoples-Jones is not a big part of Cleveland's red-zone game. Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, Kareem Hunt, and David Njoku are ahead of him in the pecking order. Still, the consistency is helpful for fantasy GMs in PPR formats seeking a steady bye-week flex play with a big-play upside.
Recommendation: I'd bet on Peoples-Jones as a steady reserve for your lineups. There's a potential concern that Deshaun Watson won't have a strong rapport with Peoples-Jones and that ends his stint of fantasy utility in 2022. However, Watson's ability to buy time could lead to more off-structure targets for big plays. If I were to guess based on what I know about both players' games, Peoples-Jones may not be as consistent when Watson becomes the starter, but he'll have higher ceilings during weeks when he hits.
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