This is not a drill. Time is running out and circumstances are becoming more and more dire. Injuries are mounting at just about every position. Players drafted near the top of your draft post a total of -1 (thanks, Eddie Lacy). Depending on your league settings, you likely only have a few more games to make a final playoff push, fend off feisty teams with such aspirations, or at least salvage your season with an upset or two. As such, I’ll cut the narrative stuff this week in a special, one-of-a-kind “quantity over quality” emergency reboot column, where I throw it all at the wall to see what sticks. Let’s get to it.
Big Ben and Andrew Luck are now out for at least a few weeks. Peyton Manning is unreliable and Russell Wilson has not put up the numbers expected of him. Philip Rivers is running out of people to throw to. We live in a world where Blake Bortles has been killing it and Andy Dalton (who likely went undrafted in your league) is a legitimate MVP candidate and a fantasy stud. How did we get here? In this chaotic world, here are a few QBs that could either reinforce a depleted roster or at least provide some insurance in case your guy goes down.
Blake Bortles (JAX) - He’s been putting up great numbers but just falls short of winning games for the Jags. That doesn’t matter, all he needs to do is win games for you. He’s got a shot to do both for the rest of the season. Just go take a gander at the Jags’ remaining games and tell me I’m wrong.
Kirk Cousins (WAS) - Just this week, Cousins could serve as a one-week rental given that he has Desean Jackson back and the Saints defense looks worse than I did after writing a 16-page rough draft of a legal memo in one night last week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ) - Assuming he’s healthy and doesn’t have any setbacks resulting from a hand surgery, Fitz isn’t a flashy name, but he’ll get you 15+ points each week, and that might be just enough in this volatile fantasy season.
Jay Cutler (CHI) - Cutler is greatly benefiting from the Adam Gase treatment and former Gamecock Alshon Jeffrey’s assertion of dominance. The bad plays will be there, of course, but you could do worse.
Perhaps no position is more volatile than that of the fantasy RB. The wear and tear eventually catches up to these guys, and their workload can also be subject to the coach’s whims and game plans. Great players can inexplicably become terrible, and then return to dominance a few weeks later . Here are some RBs you might be able to get off waivers to shore up any holes in your roster.
James Starks (GB) - While I crossing my fingers for a Lacy resurgence, I can’t deny Stark’s effectiveness. He’s proven to be a good pass-catcher, and playing in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense always helps.
Jeremy Langford (CHI) - I picked up Langford in advance of the bye week anticipating a Matt Forte trade, but was rewarded with a wonderful effort by Langford on Monday night. Dude looked like Matt Forte out there. He’s got a rough matchup against the Rams this week, but it’s clear the Bears will feed Langford until Forte returns and possibly afterwards.
Karlos Williams (BUF) - 6 TDs in 5 games. Lesean McCoy can’t stay healthy. That’s all you need to know.
Brandon Bolden/James White (NE) - Take your pick here. Those in deeper leagues would do well to add one of these backs, but you never know who Belichick will favor on a given week. The injury to Dion Lewis obviously makes LeGarrette Blount the No. 1 RB, but the Patriots’ penchant for splitting carries means that the door is open for either Bolden or White. Word on the street is that Bolden is the preferred next man up, though.
Antonio Andrews (TEN) - Yes, he’s got a tough matchup against the Panthers this week, but it’s clear that Tennessee’s plan under their new coach is to feed Andrews rather than Bishop Sankey. This could certainly change when and if David Cobb gets healthy, but I’d expect the Titans to ride the hot hand.
Marcel Reece (OAK) - Latavius Murray might have suffered a concussion last week, meaning the veteran fullback might take on a temporary role with a heavier workload. I wouldn’t count on Reece as anything more than a desperation play with high upside for those in deeper leagues.
Matt Jones (WAS) - I already mentioned how bad the Saints’ defense is, didn’t I?
There are so many more options at WR, which makes replacing guys like Steve Smith or Keenan Allen a little easier.
Dorial Green-Beckham (TEN) - DGB looks to be trending upward, and this might be a result of the Titans coaching change. He didn’t have a monster game against the Saints last week, but he is finally starting to see a significant workload. His monster day will come though, and you want to be the one benefiting.
Stevie Johnson/Dontrelle Inman (SD) - With Keenan Allen out for the season and Ladarius Green and Malcolm Floyd out temporarily, Philip Rivers has to throw to someone, right? Johnson is clearly the favorite here, but WR-needy teams in deeper leagues can give Inman a look.
Kamar Aiken (BAL) - I’ve mentioned Aiken here before, but it’s worth a reminder since the Ravens return from their bye this week against…..drum roll…..Jacksonville. Remember the rookie Breshad Perriman too.
Nate Washington (HOU) - Lost in former Clemson standout Deandre Hopkin’s (albeit massive) shadow is Nate Washington. He’s put together a few really great games and is a solid add in deeper leagues. It’s also worth noting that the Texans have a great schedule during the fantasy playoffs.
Cole Beasley (DAL) - Beasley has really stepped up in the absence of Tony Romo and benefited from the return of Dez Bryant. Things are only going to get better when Romo returns in Week 11.
Taking your best shot with the TE market
Tight end is usually a crapshoot given its unpredictable nature, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway.
Ben Watson (NO) - In case your leaguemates have been too oblivious to pick up the former Northwestern Trojans star, you should. The man has stepped into the big shoes left by Jimmy Graham and experienced a career resurgence as Drew Brees has taken on gunslinger form yet again.
Richard Rodgers (TGB) - That Aaron Rodgers guy likes to throw a lot. Chances are that this Rodgers guy will catch a few TDs like he did against Carolina this past Sunday.
Plan for the future - the art of the fantasy handcuff: Jeremy Langford, Karlos Williams, James Starks, and Charchandrick West. These are players that no one would have even considered drafting at the season’s start. But now, they’re “so hot right now.” (I tried to write that in my best Will Ferrell from Zoolander voice). Anticipating an injury (like I did with picking up Langford) is a way to suddenly land a great player without having to trade for them. Granted, this is all speculation here, so proceed with caution.
However, there are some general rules we can use to guess what RBs to handcuff now. We can look to players who are relatively old and therefore are more likely to be injured. This would indicate that Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerrick McKinnon and Jordan Todman might all be good options since they are currently backing up running backs that are getting up there in age. We can also look at teams that run often and therefore run the risk of injuring a running back. That makes Tevin Coleman, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jerrick McKinnon, Jay Ajayi, Christine Michael and Shaun Draughn candidates for a roster spot.
The last criteria is to handcuff runners that back up star players with a history of injuries. Sadly, most of those usual suspects (Arian Foster, LeVeon Bell and Jamaal Charles) have already suffered such a fate. Again, this is all guesswork, but in a state of fantasy emergency, desperate times call for desperate measures. Besides, “fortune favors the bold.”