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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 before 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 15 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.
- Parker Washington: A trust-throw target in the end zone and a skilled zone player underneath and over the middle.
- Demarcus Robinson: Matthew Stafford targets Robinson on fades, along the end line, and on vertical routes. He's a high-leverage situational gamble for lineups with 3-4 receivers.
- Joe Flacco: A desperation starter based on the Browns' schedule, Flacco's ability to spread the ball around and losses to the Cleveland defense lead to pass-heavy scripts.
- Ivan Pace Jr.: Four strong weeks of play from the middle linebacker with a knack for sacking the quarterback. A must-start in 4-LB leagues
- Jonnu Smith: Remains a significant part of the offense. He's a favorite target against zone coverage and has skills after the catch.
- Tyjae Spears: The Titans have fully incorporated Spears into its offense as a committee option. He's not an every-week starter, but his league-leading elusiveness is giving the league a preview of what's to come and makes him a match-up option in fantasy lineups.
- Jerome Ford: The Browns starter and leader from the backfield.
- Josh Downs: He's worth consideration as a PPR flex.
- Chuba Hubbard: He has looked better than Sanders as a decision-maker and has taken 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 — but Luke Schoonmaker could become more of a factor as the season unfolds.
- Jayden Reed: A top-15 fantasy WR for the past several weeks who has made impactful plays despite a target volume that's a little more limited compared to his teammates, who spent more time aligned outside.
- Demario Douglas: He may be the most productive receiver the Patriots have. That's not high praise, given the issues in New England, but he's often worth starting in leagues that allow 3-4 receivers in a lineup.
- Jalin Hyatt: You may find he's worth starting in lineups with 3-4 receivers. Tommy DeVito has played well enough to consider Hyatt if desperate.
- Jonathan Mingo: He has earned opportunities in recent weeks to have PPR value in lineups with 3-4 receivers.
- Dontayvion Wicks: After multiple weeks with at least 25 snaps and reserve-level production, Wicks earned only one target against Detroit. But Christian Watson's hamstring injury gives Wicks 2-3 weeks of contributor value for lineups with 3-4 receivers if the ankle holds up.
- Ty Chandler: Chandler and the Vikings ran through the Bengals, even before DT D.J. Reader got hurt. He's a solid play as an RB2.
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