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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 TySon 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 10 REVIEW
- Donovan Peoples-Jones: A quality producer as a bye-week option for several weeks, Deshaun Watson's return could eventually lead to an increase in big-play production after Watson shakes off the rust for a week or two.
- Geno Smith: Safe to say he's playing well enough and in a good position to be considered for real as a starter.
- Parris Campbell: Glad I went against the grain about dropping Campbell. With Matt Ryan returning as the Colts' starter, Campbell will earn reliable volume.
- Foster Moreau: He's earning targets and converting them as the second or third option and earned two red-zone targets last week, converting on one and the other well defended, despite many thinking of it as a drop. Moreau has been a top-10 tight end for the past three weeks.
- 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: 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. His volume was lower last week due to the return of Cameron Brate, but Otton made key plays that should keep him in consideration.
- 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: He had a strong outing against a weak defense last week and benefitted from strong holes. He's getting more decisive with obvious solutions but needs to prove he can create in more difficult circumstances to lock down the starter job long-term.
- 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 was on schedule to return after this week's bye but still isn't practicing. Mims' 94 snaps during the past two weeks indicate he's worth using for at least another week.
- Nico Collins: Collins is a good bet for 4-6 targets and 40-60 yards as his weekly baseline when healthy.
- Keaontay Ingram: Darrel Williams is on IR, and Eno Benjamin is a Texan. It tells you the team feels Ingram is capable of backing up James Conner.
- Jaylen Warren: He's earning enough touches as a runner and receiver to deliver value as a desperation bye-week option who could take over the backfield if Najee Harris gets hurt.
- Marvin Jones: 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 his refined skills.
- 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 and Allgeier have been the recipients of the hot-hand approach as starters and now as complements to Cordarrelle Patterson.
- 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.
- Chris Moore: His steady bye-week value while Collins was out may end this weekend.
- 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.
- Damiere Byrd: He's been usable for three of the past four weeks, including two weeks with starter fantasy values due to big-play passes leading to touchdowns.
- Olamide Zaccheaus: I've always been a fan of Zaccheaus' developmental potential. Although my old friend Dwain McFarland wouldn't start him if there was a fire, Zaccheaus had 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 Zaccheaus' usage to see if he returns to this role in case you need a desperation preemptive pickup.
- Eno Benjamin: Now a Texan, Benjamin might be the eventual replacement for Rex Burkhead on this team as a complimentary option. Watch from afar to see if he earns early opportunities.
- Greg Dortch: Dortch is only an injury substitute.
- 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.
- Jerick McKinnon: A committee option with most of his work in the passing game.
- Mack Hollins: When the Raiders face a team with a poor pass rush, Hollins has value because he's targeted on longer-developing routes. He's earning targets but hasn't converted at a high rate for the past two weeks.
- DeAndre Carter: The past two weeks have been solid for Carter, averaging 5 targets, 4.5 catches, 55 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns. Keenan Allen is supposed to be close, but the Chargers are being cautious with him. Carter's ribs have limited him this week during practice, but he'll likely earn another starter.
- Nelson Agholor: He's not pretty, but he's likely to remain in the Patriots' plans as a rotational contributor.
- Justice Hill: A situational contributor with big-play potential but few touches.
- 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: DOnta Foreman is the man in Carolina when Chuba Hubbard isn't healthy. Blackshear is third in line. He scored two weeks ago during a blowout but didn't appear explosive and earned a lot of his yardage against large cushions in coverage
- DErnest Johnson: Kareem Hunt didn't get traded, so Johnson will need an injury to earn a viable role.
- 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.
- Byron Pringle: He's off IR, but earned minimal targets in his return in Week 10. Give it one more week before forgetting about him.
- DeSean Jackson: Minimal targets for now, but keep tabs on him because he's still capable for at least 1-2 games while healthy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: Buried.
- Noah Brown: His window has closed as a flex-play with Michael Gallup's return in Week 5.
- Kyle Philips: IR.
- Richie James: James has taken a back seat to Slayton and WanDale Robinson
- 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: 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: 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: Randall Cobb and Van Jefferson
The Skinny on Cobb: It's too late to add him this week, but his targets should remain steady as the most trusted underneath option for Aaron Rodgers. Because he's old and lacks a high ceiling, he's likely to remain available in many leagues, but 11 targets, 11 catches, and 143 yards during the past two weeks are noteworthy.
Recommendation: Christian Watson stretches the field and will earn contested targets in the red zone. Cobb will benefit from new attention coming Watson's way. Cobb is a high-floor flex.
The Skinny on Jefferson: An above-average route runner with iffier hands than advertised, Jefferson should earn enough targets in Cooper Kupp's stead to approach Cobb's baseline value and perhaps earn more red-zone opportunities.
Recommendation: I like the Packers' offense more than the Rams', so Cobb is safer. Jefferson does have an extended opportunity to prove his worth and sometimes every-down reps help a player who has been inconsistent when used situationally. That has been Jefferson's problem early in his career. If you need a one-week fix, I'd consider my monitor selection above Jefferson if injuries create an opportunity on the Chiefs depth chart.
Preemptive: Tre McBride
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