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 8 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: He has been the safest choice as the lead back for the Cardinals in recent weeks. James Conner and Darrel Williams have the potential to play this week, but both have been limited during practice. If you can afford to wait until game day to make the decisions, Benjamin may have starter value for you. If not, he's still a capable flex-play, given the likelihood that only one of Connor and Williams will be ready. That said, there's a trap door with the presence of rookie Keaontay Ingram (see below), who could earn more playing time after making a good first impression with limited touches during the last two 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.
- 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: I can't think of many scenarios where it doesn't make complete sense to add him.
- Darius Slayton: After a solid week against the Packers, Slayton had one catch for 14 yards against the Ravens. The box score doesn't show that he was targeted twice in the end zone, and one of those targets drew a penalty. I told you to give it another week because this offense cannot live off Daniel Bellinger and Saquon Barkley alone. With Bellinger out and Kadarius Toney going to Kansas City, Slayton is a good bet for bye-week value, especially after scoring against Jacksonville in Week 7.
- Tyler Conklin: Zach Wilson's presence in the lineup hasn't kept Conklin's production afloat as consistently as Flacco, but Wilson's weeks may be numbered. Even if they aren't, Wilson did a better job of finding Conklin against the Patriots, and it elevates him to a must-add if you need tight end help. Dulcich might be the better option for his upside because most probably still trust the Denver Wilson over the New York Wilson.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tyquan Thornton: A mid-game quarterback switch killed the passing game on Monday night. Give Thornton another 1-2 weeks to see what he can do with Mac Jones if there are no compelling needs for your roster.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Allgier 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. Last Week, Huntley was by far the best runner on the depth chart with 91 yards. If Cordarrelle Patterson doesn't make it back against the Chargers (by all accounts, he's on track to play), Huntley is a must-add. Worth preemptively adding for this reason if desperate for the possibility of a solid RB.
- 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. The biggest concern is if the Titans switch to Malik Willis due to Ryan Tannehill's ankle injury, and Willis opts to run more than check the ball. This is a legitimate possibility based on his playing habits at Liberty.
- 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 is out this week with a lingering groin injury.
- 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.
- JaMycal Hasty: Travis Etienne dominated touches for the Jaguars' backfield, but Hasty is one injury away from a significant role.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Shakir is a good short-term addition who might expand his role but think of his ceiling as a bye-week player this year.
- Noah Brown: His window may be closing as a flex-play with Michael Gallup's return in Week 5.
- Foster Moreau: He's on the verge of dropping another tier if not for the fact that he'll be a good replacement for Darren Waller if injury strikes.
- Denzel Mims: Mims looked good against the Patriots with limited targets, showing off tracking, acrobatics, and contact balance in the open field.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Darrel Williams: Still dealing with a knee sprain.
- 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. Tua Tagovailoa is on track to return in Week 7.
- 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.
- 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.
- Raheem Blackshear: D'Onta Foreman is the man in Carolina when Chuba Hubbard isn't healthy. Blackshear is third in line.
- 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.
- 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.
ADD NOW: DAmiere Byrd And Denzel Mims
The Skinny on Byrd: I profiled Byrd this week in my Gut Check feature. The No.15 PPR WR during the past two games, he's earning big points from a small target share, which is risky. However, the underlying film shows that he's aligned next to Kyle Pitts and with defenses focusing so much on Pitts, Marcus Mariota is exploiting that focus with big-play shots to Byrd.
The veteran's snap counts also rose to a level against the Panthers that it's worth considering Byrd in situations where you need a desperation fix for a weekend. Byrd wins after the catch because of his vision and open-field quickness. He's fast enough to stretch the field and because Mariota is at his best when reading half the field, Byrd being on Pitts' side of the field most of the time often makes him the second read in the Falcons' passing game.
Recommendation: Michael Thomas, Rashod Bateman, and/or Keenan Allen getting you down and the waiver wire looks dry? Take a shot at Byrd as a cheap addition. He may not fit the safe fantasy analysis profile, but his potential based on understanding Atlanta's passing game gives you a puncher's chance.
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