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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 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.
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 6 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.
- Keaontay Ingram: I've been telling you to keep Ingram despite the argument that he has shown nothing with limited touches. The Cardinals gave Ingram the first crack at proving he can be the lead option, and he was good enough that he and veteran Damien Williams should earn the majority of the work this weekend. Still, Arizona isn't setting this backfield rotation in stone just yet. Tony Jones Jr. was released after a week with the team, which means the Cardinals believe Ingram, Williams, and/or Emari Demercado are a potential answer. Demercado was not as efficient as his box score may lead you to believe. Ingram and Williams were the best looking on tape.
- Zach Evans: A non-factor this season, the Rams have been sold on Kyren Williams as the lead option. Still, Evans offers the big-play element that the rest of the depth chart lacks. He could overtake Williams if he makes the most of the opportunity. Williams and Ronnie Rivers are out for multiple weeks, and the Rams have signed Darrell Williams and Myles Gaskin (more on them below and how to approach this). Evans will have to do it by playing low-error football to deliver on his long-term upside. This can be difficult for rookies to do, so keep expectations grounded.
- Jameson Williams: Week 6's Preemptive Pickup recommendation scored a long touchdown. He only earned two targets, but he should deliver big weeks if he can continue to make mature decisions on and off the field.
- Jordan Mason: Elijah Mitchell was coming off a knee injury last week and didn't practice enough for Kyle Shanahan to give his preferred back up the lion's share of carries after Christian McCaffrey left the game. That should change this week, but Mason runs hard and catches the ball well enough to serve as the change of pace and potentially earn a meaningful split if he performs hot and Mitchell does not.
- 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.
- Jaleel McLaughlin: The return of Javonte Williams cost McLaughlin the RB1-level opportunities that he earned and converted for the past two weeks, but his workload against the Chiefs remains promising enough to consider him a fantasy RB3 candidate, especially during the bye weeks.
- Tyjae Spears: The Titans have fully incorporated Spears into its offense as a committee option, earning fantasy RB3 value. His big-play upside gives him an even higher ceiling on a weekly basis, even with Derrick Henry healthy.
- Jerome Ford: The Browns will spread the field more, which changes the impact of the ground game in Cleveland, but Ford's receiving skills make him a versatile asset worth starting.
- Tank Dell: He's the best big-play option on the team and has a rapport with fellow rookie C.J. Stroud. Monitor his journey through concussion protocol.
- 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. Stay patient.
- Kadarius Toney: His toe injury is limiting him, and it may be time to cut bait. But I'd rather be patient based on the ceiling of his potential. He scored Thursday night.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tyler Conklin: With Aaron Rodgers, I expected Conklin to provide late-round value. Zach Wilson has done enough to reconsider Conklin as a fantasy factor in PPR formats.
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