Words can’t even begin to describe the week the football world just experienced, yet here I am trying my best to come up with them.
Shocking, horrifying, absurd?
With injuries being more plentiful than fantasy points, backups are a hot commodity, and free agents will be signed to replace anyone and everyone. Who do we pick up, though? We only have so many roster spots available, that it seems an impossible task to figure out. I’ll be putting some extra names to compensate for all of the injuries.
Note: Last week I told you to fade players like Malcolm Brown, Sammy Watkins, Logan Thomas, Adrian Peterson, and Scott Miller who all did not meet expectations for one reason or another. I was higher on guys like Robby Anderson, Laviska Shenault, and Joshua Kelley who all exceeded ESPN’s PPR projections. I had two misses due to my love for Nyheim Hines and Dallas Goedert, but I think they can bounce back. Overall I did pretty well in fading some of the noise!
Justin Herbert, QB Los Angeles Chargers
I was one of the biggest Herbert deniers, not because I felt he lacked the arm talent but because I thought he was a terrible decision maker. After a near-win against the Chiefs I have to take a loss on that. Perhaps this was a fluke but if he remains the starter, which should happen, every Charger gets an upgrade. This nearly complete team only needed a QB and he has enough weapons to mask most mistakes every week. QBs were seldom affected by injuries, but if you have some underperformers like Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, or Daniel Jones he’s your guy.
Verdict: Add if you need a high-upside backup in a deep/superflex league
Mike Davis, RB Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss 4-6 weeks according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, which means Mike Davis is next in line for work and the passing game will be a major focus. If you read this same column last week, you knew Robby Anderson should have been added, but if he’s available in your league he also gets a major bump. The team was down big all game, and the injury happened very late so Davis only had three drives as the main back. Despite his lone carry, he had 7 of his 8 targets in the final three drives of the game. He caught them all for 74 receiving yards. The upside is there, and Davis is likely the must-add of the week, regardless of format.
Verdict: Add in all formats
Dion Lewis, RB New York Giants, Devonta Freeman, RB Free Agent
I’m putting these two together because we don’t know what will happen yet. Saquon Barkley tore his ACL so his season is finished. Unless you’re in a dynasty or keeper league, or can somehow get value out of him, drop him. Now comes the decision of whether Dion Lewis or Devonta Freeman is the best add. If Freeman signs with the Giants, I expect him to take over the majority of the work with Lewis playing a smaller role. It won’t be the same split as Barkley had, and probably will look closer to 65/35. Outside of his rushing touchdown, Lewis was incredibly inefficient on the ground, rushing 10 times for only 20 yards. He caught 4 of his 5 targets for 36 yards. This is not entirely his fault as the Bears boast one of the toughest defenses in the league. Still, unless the Giants can’t bring in Freeman or anyone else, I don’t love adding Lewis.
Verdict: Add Freeman in 10-12+ team leagues as a low-floor RB3, fade Lewis.
Darrell Henderson Jr., RB Los Angeles Rams
Last week I said the Rams were likely to ride the hot hand, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. After rushing 3 times for 6 yards week 1, Henderson had 12 carries for 81 yards and a TD, along with 2 receptions for 40 yards. Malcolm Brown, who looked great last week, only had 11 carries for 47 yards. Cam Akers left early with a rib injury, opening the door for more work in the running game. Henderson took advantage and Malcolm Brown dealt with a finger injury towards the end of the game, according to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. Even if Brown is fine in the end, I like Henderson’s chances to retain control of this backfield for a few more weeks. Once Akers is back in the mix, the split will hurt his volume but for now he’s a solid RB2/3 who unfortunately gets a tough matchup in week 3.
Verdict: Add in 10+ team leagues, but don’t expect this to last.
Jerick McKinnon, RB San Francisco 49ers
Raheem Mostert has a sprained MCL that will keep him sidelined for at least a week, and likely longer. Tevin Coleman injured his knee and may miss multiple games. McKinnon is one of few skill position players left on this injury-plagued 49ers team, with seemingly everyone dropping in the win against the Jets. While George Kittle may end up playing, QB Jimmy Garropollo may miss the game, leading the way for Nick Mullens to take over. This team is competently coached so I expect McKinnon to stay in the game plan, and for the offense to be just good enough to be relevant. Past week 3, I don’t know how confident I feel about starting him when his value so far has been reliant on TDs.
Verdict: Add only if you’re desperate this week, otherwise fade.
Keelan Cole Sr., WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Through 2 weeks, only 10 players have at least 15 PPR points in all of their games. Jaguars wideout Keelan Cole is one of them. Averaging more points than Mike Evans, D.J. Moore, Robert Woods, and Julio Jones, Cole is certainly a player to keep your eye on. So far he leads the lead in targets and receptions, and perhaps that won’t stop. Not every week will be a close shootout like the Colts and Titans games, but with how porous this Jaguars defense is, they should be throwing it most weeks. This Thursday night matchup against the Dolphins may allow Minshew to relax for a second but with teams like Houston, Detroit, Green Bay, and Cleveland on the horizon, Cole should have plenty of opportunities. Chark is getting back in the mix, so he’s not a guaranteed stud but he’s a solid bench player, especially with elite wideouts getting injured.
Verdict: Add in 12+ team leagues
Russel Gage, WR Atlanta Falcons
Putting the comeback aside, this Falcons offense looks great. Calvin Ridley is a machine and probably won’t stop soon. Hayden Hurst is finally getting involved. Julio Jones had a solid week 1, and then only had 4 targets and 2 receptions. I am not expecting this every week, but as long as teams continue to focus on Julio, the rest of the offense has the chance to make big plays. Gage has been getting a ton of targets, and his performances seem indicative of the future. Sure, you expect more than 46 yards against a team you put 39 points on, but you also need to realize his upside is immaculate. He is going to face playoff teams all year in this competitive division, which means Matt Ryan will need to throw. He is a bit worse than what some thought Ridley would be this year, which is to say a WR2 or solid FLEX most weeks.
Verdict: Add in 12+ team leagues if you’re dealing with injuries as a WR3/4 with low-end WR1 upside
Mo Alie-Cox, TE Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were without starting tight end Jack Doyle, and Alie-Cox took advantage. 111 yards on 5 catches is what you love to see from a player in a shallow position (despite how “deep” it has felt in the offseason). Unfortunately, I feel like this kind of production is unsustainable. Doyle will be back in week 3 or 4, and even if he doesn’t take over the role again completely, Alie-Cox will be hindered by his presence. Rivers lost a target in Parris Campbell, but someone like rookie Michael Pittman Jr. (who tied Alie-Cox for the most team targets) or Zach Pascal, who had 4 targets and a TD, may get the increased workload instead.
Verdict: Fade unless Doyle continues to miss time
Others to consider: QB Joe Burrow, RB Myles Gaskin, WR N’Keal Harry, TE Dalton Schultz, TE Drew Sample
Others to fade: QB Daniel Jones, RB Chris Thompson, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Adam Humphries, TE Jordan Reed
Why are they still on the waiver wire?: QB Gardner Minshew II, RB James Robinson, WR Robby Anderson, TE Mike Gesicki