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For a couple of years, the Coronavirus 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 will 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 to help 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.
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 three years, this column offered a lot of quality short-term and long-term options — many of them as preemptive picks:
- Jaleel McLaughlin
- Tank Dell
- Josh Downs
- Geno Smith
- 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
- AJ 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.
- Preemptive 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 10 REVIEW
In the coming weeks, I'll provide brief thoughts and recommendations for the previous week's candidates as we move forward. Since I devoted this year's All-Gut Check Team to Waiver-Wire Sleepers as my unofficial Replacements piece for Week 1, let's use that list as the starting point.
- Ty Chandler: He's not the next Austin Ekeler, but he will get volume with Alexander Mattison returning from a concussion. That could translate to 10-15 touches and a potential scoring opportunity.
- Khalil Shakir: He has become worthwhile as the third or fourth option now that Josh Allen is spreading the ball around despite a Week 10 output of two targets. The three weeks prior, he averaged nearly 5 catches and 61 yards.
- Royce Freeman: Of the two backs in the Rams' rotation, Freeman has been the best film performer during the past two weeks. In the box score, there has been a split between Freeman and Henderson based on red-zone touches. Both earned big creases, but Freeman's contact balance and finishing power translated to more yardage. That said, I would bet he earns the Malcolm Brown-C.J. Anderson role as the third wheel to Henderson and Kyren Williams, if not Zach Evans. That may be the best case. Worst case, he could be cut. Until Williams or Evans earns significant touches, keep betting on Freeman if you need a back.
- Darrell Henderson Jr.: The veteran earned the red-zone touch that made a big difference for his fantasy value when evaluating his workload split, but he wasn't the most impressive of rotation. That said, the Rams did a great job creating 11-9, 10-8, and 9-7 advantages in the box to create large rushing lanes for both backs, and Henderson is the fastest back on the depth chart. That may be enough for him to maintain a split with Freeman or Gaskin.
- Jonnu Smith: Week 6's Add Now recommendation scored a touchdown off 5 targets, 4 catches, and 36 yards. He remains a significant part of the offense and has scored at least 8 fantasy points per week since Week 2. He's a favorite target of Desmond Ridder against zone coverage and has skills after the catch.
- Tyjae Spears: The Titans have fully incorporated Spears into its offense as a committee option. His big-play upside gives him a high ceiling on a weekly basis, even with Derrick Henry healthy, but his floor remains low.
- Jerome Ford: The Browns will spread the field more, changing the impact of the Cleveland ground game, but Ford's receiving skills make him a versatile asset worth starting when healthy.
- Tank Dell: He's the best big-play option on the team and has a rapport with fellow rookie C.J. Stroud. He's an every-week starter.
- Josh Downs: The box score production has trended upward during the past three weeks. He's worth consideration as a PPR flex. Remain patient.
- Kareem Hunt: It took a few weeks to get into game shape, but he's earning enough volume for consideration.
- Chuba Hubbard: He has looked better than Sanders as a decision-maker and may get his chance to take over the RB1 role due to Sanders' injuries and less-than-stellar play.
- Jake Ferguson: The second-year tight end has been a nice preemptive addition because his snaps and targets are strong enough to consider him a low-end starter — just like his fantasy totals the past three weeks.
- Jayden Reed: Although the volume of catches hasn't been there for Reed, the targets have, and so has a chunk gain in or a touchdown in every game. He's a reasonable reserve for your rosters with flex appeal.
- Demario Douglas: Douglas earned quality work last week against the Bills and looked impressive. With Kendrick Bourne out for the year, Douglas may be the most productive receiver the Patriots have and should earn even more volume.
- Rico Dowdle: Dowdle has earned a handful of touches each week, and Dan Graziano reported two weeks ago that Dowdle will see a little more work in the coming weeks now that the world has seen that a Tony Pollard may not be able to handle a big-boy workload due to two offseason surgeries that have at least temporarily robbed Pollard of his explosion. Dowdle's performance against the lowly Giants may not translate to more time on a regular basis, but the drumbeats indicate he's earning more time regardless of the situation.
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