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 4 REVIEW
- Gus Edwards: Now practicing, Edwards is worth adding, even if he's a week or two away from starting.
- Greg Dortch: With A.J. Green dealing with a bone bruise, Dortch remains viable even with Rondale Moore practicing this week.
- Nelson Agholor: He's not pretty, but he's likely to be more reliable than DeVante Parker, who exploded last week with schemed plays and picking on a rookie corner. So far, he's been reliable and Detroit's damaged secondary is the next opponent.
- Richie James: James still looks like the most reliable receiver in the Giants' lineup, and Kadarius Toney still isn't practicing.
- Tyler Conklin: An RSP favorite, Conklin earned raves this summer from a former Jets scout who labeled Conklin a steal in free agency. Conklin isn't stretching the field, but he has been a reliable safety blanket for Joe Flacco. Considering the rave reviews that occurred during practices with Zach Wilson, there's still a chance Conklin remains a viable fantasy target when Flacco exits the lineup.
- Devin Duvernay: He has clearly been the third option in this passing attack with red-zone and vertical targets.
- Noah Brown: Last week's preemptive pick had a big game on Monday Night Football against the Giants. Michael Gallup may be back soon, but likely on a pitch count. Brown will remain a compelling option for another 1-3 weeks, if not longer.
- Teddy Bridgewater: He gets his first start this weekend. With a week of practice, expect at least a pair of touchdowns in his first start as long as Jaylen Waddle is healthy enough to roll.
- 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.
- Skylar Thompson: He's been a long-term monitor for the legitimate possibility of Miami leapfrogging him over Teddy Bridgewater on the depth chart if Tuga Tagovailoa falters and the Dolphins fall out of contention and want to see if his preseason promise is worth building around. With Tagovailoa suffering a head and neck injury after an already questionable diagnosis the week prior, Thompson will be the backup for at least 1-2 weeks, if not longer. He might be worth a preemptive addition or even an add-now label if you're in a league where free-agent quarterbacks are scarce. See below.
- Isiah Pacheco: Likely on another roster at this point, but there are still leagues where he's available. it's entirely possible that, based on the fantasy analysis I see out there, GMs will dump Pacheco after concluding that Clyde Edwards-Helaire has locked up the role and Pacheco was just a one-week fantasy value. I still see signs that Pacheco is earning opportunities beyond clean-up duty. It may not amount to anything, but the door is still open and worth considering Pacheco as a luxury hold for the end-of-rosters.
- 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.
- Jordan Mason: Jeff Wilson is the starter, and the addition of Marlon Mack and Devonta Freeman is the 49ers' kicking the tires of reliable, assignment-sound vets in case the rookies can't handle the big stage. Mason is worth a cheap preemptive addition in larger leagues, but don't get too attached. Some folks may overbid because they associate Mason as the next potential Elijah Mitchell. Don't think that way, as tempting as it may be. I like Mason and love the scheme, but we're all confounded by Kyle Shanahan with his personnel. Err on running backs who can be simple-minded with their approach. Mason has the capacity, so he's worth considering.
- Dontrell Hilliard: He will see more playing time in a Titans offense that won't dominate game scripts. He's a good receiver. The biggest concern is if the Titans switch to Malik Willis and Willis opts to run more than check the ball, a legitimate possibility based on his playing habits at Liberty and last week.
- Marcus Mariota: The veteran journeyman had an unimpressive follow-up against the Rams, but he remains a threat to supplement his below-average fantasy value as a passer with what he can do as a runner.
- Geno Smith: Smith had a strong enough week against the Lions to jump from 18th to 9th among fantasy producers at the quarterback position. If a league mate reacted to Matt Ryan's shaky start and hastily dumped the veteran, you want to immediately grab Ryan if in need of a passer. Otherwise, Cooper Rush, Mariota, and Smith will at least give you points with the potential for a starter-worthy week if desperate.
- Cooper Rush: 235 yards and a score isn't incredible fantasy value but for a fifth-year veteran backup starting for Dak Prescott with an injury-riddle offense? Not bad. The Giants' defense isn't awesome, but he'll be throwing the ball more than Mariota and Smith, which makes him the best option of the three for the next 2-3 weeks. These three quarterback additions are presuming Jared Goff, Davis Mills, and Jimmy Garoppolo are not free agents.
- Eno Benjamin: In a back-up-by-committee with Darrel Williams, Benjamin is still performing well enough to deliver committee starter upside if James Conner gets hurt. Last week, he out-pointed Conner.
- Darrel Williams: Williams is probably the better option to bet on in non-PPR formats, whereas Benjamin might have a slight edge in PPR formats if Conner gets hurt.
- Justin Jackson: He scored on a pass reception last week but only earned four touches. Still, this is the week where we'll see if he earns an increase in usage and if you're desperate, Jackson is worth consideration as a preemptive pick to plug in and hope. Otherwise, you can monitor him, and if the snaps are closer to 20-30 and the touches rise, he could have value until D'Andre Swift returns.
- 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.
- Isaiah Likely: He didn't surprise me in Week 1, and while he was more active in Week 2 when Devin Duvernay suffered a concussion, Duvernay is the more compelling third option in this passing game. It leaves Likely in the role of a low-end desperation addition unless you have the luxury to add a player with athletic promise who has a tangible possibility of growing with the offense if he proves his reliability.
- 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 Chargers leaned harder on Gerald Everett in Week 2, but Carter still caught 5 of 5 targets for 27 yards. Not great, but it's something if you need a fourth receiver in your lineup and is desperate for points. Expect 20-80 yards as his likely range in any given week while Keenan Allen is out. Allen is practicing on a limited basis this week, so the window is closing.
- Foster Moreau: Let's see if the Raiders adjust their game plan, but 18 snaps in Week 1 doesn't cut it for now.
- Joshua Kelley: The Chargers' backup performed well when on the field, but he's splitting time with Sony Michel. He's holding his own but is better to monitor than add at this time.
- Denzel Mims: He has yet to earn a snap.
- 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.
- Malik Willis: Most likely to become a preemptive pick if the Titans fall to 0-6 or 1-5. He already earned clean-up duty in a blowout against the Bills in Week 2.
- Keaontay Ingram: Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams are splitting backup duties. No need to think about Ingram for your rosters anytime soon.
- Calvin Austin III: He's returning to practice, but he's likely a small-volume gadget option for the Steelers' offense until there's another injury to a teammate ahead of him.
- Kyle Philips: After earning 9 targets on 30 snaps, converting 6 for 66 yards, and looking good doing it against the Giants, Philips only earned 13 snaps and 1 target for 5 yards against the Bills. As mentioned last week, don't expect Phillips to become a weekly starter this year, but he could be a good match-up play when Tennesse faces high-powered offenses that force the offense to throw — if Tennessee can remain in the game and keep Ryan Tannehill in the lineup because as talented as Malik Willis is, expecting a rookie quarterback to be on the same page with a rookie slot receiver is a tall order.
- 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.
- Bryan Edwards: He had 35 snaps but only 1 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: As expected, he's had few snaps.
- 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.
- Byron Pringle: He's on IR
Phillips and James could become solid bye-week options all year if the factors described earlier continue to favor them.
ADD NOW: Odell Beckham Jr and Nico Collins
The Skinny on Beckham: Reports surfaced this week that Beckham visited the Giants, Buccaneers, and Saints. Von Miller is actively recruiting him to Buffalo. Aaron Rodgers told the media he'd "enjoy" playing with Beckham if the opportunity arose. The fact that Beckham is visiting facilities is a sign that his rehab has progressed to the point that he will be ready to practice soon.
But Matt, Beckham didn't do much last year; why does he remain so valuable of a consideration?
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