Injuries can have as much of an impact to a fantasy roster, if not more so, than to an NFL team’s roster. As it applies to the former, several key offensive players went down this week, including C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford, Willis McGahee, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Laurent Robinson and Jared Cook.
Couple all of the injuries with the fact that bye weeks start in Week 4 (Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are both off) and it looks to be another busy week on the waiver wire. Here are some names worth considering if you are in search of an injury replacement, bye-week fill in or just looking to make a change.
Last week I mentioned Andy Dalton in this space mainly because of his upcoming schedule. Dalton was coming off of a 300-yard, three-touchdown game against Cleveland headed into his Week 3 match up with Washington. All he did against the Redskins was another 300-yard, three-score game and next up for the current No. 7 fantasy scorer at his position are dates with Jacksonville, Miami and another shot at the Browns.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Believe it or not, but Fitzpatrick is No. 5 among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring right now, even though he’s only thrown for 581 yards (28th in the NFL). How has he done it you ask? He’s tied with Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan with eight touchdown passes and he’s thrown just three interceptions so far. Fitzpatrick will have his work cut out for him next week against New England, but he does have a track record of getting off to strong starts. He has 17 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions in September games over the past two seasons.
Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
The Lions have yet to provide any official information, but the early word is that Matthew Stafford could be dealing with a hamstring injury. The Lions are off in Week 5, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would sit Stafford this week and let Hill get the start against Minnesota to maximize Stafford’s recovery time. Considering Hill (10-13, 172 yards, 2 TD) led the late fourth-quarter comeback that sent the game against the Titans into overtime, he may not be a bad option for your fantasy team either.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
And speaking of those Titans, Locker had a career day (413 yards of total offense, 2 TD) in leading his team to the exciting and much-needed win over the Lions. Locker’s two scores came on passes of 61 yards or longer and he connected with eight different receivers on the day. He clearly showed why the team took him in the first round of last year’s draft, but he also faces a daunting task with a trip to Houston on tap this week.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder has been mentioned here before, but after orchestrating Minnesota’s improbable victory over San Francisco, he deserves another endorsement. Ponder was flawless (no turnovers) against a 49ers defense that had allowed 22 or fewer points in their wins over both Green Bay and Detroit prior to giving up 24 to the Vikings. Ponder was responsible for all three Viking touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) against the 49ers and has yet to throw an interception this season. Combine Ponder’s continual improvement with a fairly appealing schedule (at DET, TEN, at WAS, ARI, TB being the next five) and at the very least, I think he’s more than worthy of consideration as a potential bye-week fill in.
What can (Andre) Brown do for you? Potentially quite a lot if his 113-yard, two-touchdown coming out party against Carolina on Thursday is any indication. Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) has been cleared to return to practice, but nothing’s been said regarding his availability for this week’s game in Philadelphia. Even when Bradshaw returns, there’s no reason to think that Brown won’t have some sort of role in the Giants’ offense. If anything, he’s a must-have handcuff for Bradshaw owners, that is if he’s still available in your league.
In Detroit, it looks like Mikel is the (Le)shoure thing when it comes to the Lions’ backfield. The Lions’ second-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft finally made his long-awaited NFL debut against Tennessee and promptly picked up his first career 100-yard game and scored a touchdown. Considering Kevin Smith didn’t get any carries, it appears that for the time being, Leshoure will get the lion’s share of carries.
Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills
First it was Fred Jackson and this week it was C.J. Spiller as the latest Buffalo running back felled by injury. Although it’s pretty certain Spiller will miss this week’s game against New England, the good news is his shoulder issue doesn’t appear to be serious. Jackson also is recovering quicker than originally expected from the knee injury he suffered in Week 1, but whether he will be able to play this Sunday or not remains to be seen. That leaves Choice with an opportunity to be the Bills’ lead back. He has started four games in his career and had 91 yards rushing on 20 carries after replacing Spiller in the Bills’ win over Cleveland.
Shaun Draughn, Kansas City Chiefs
Yes Jamaal Charles went off on Sunday in New Orleans, rushing for 233 yards, but some of this can be attributed to the fact that Peyton Hillis limped off with an ankle injury in the third quarter. Charles will continue to get his carries, and probably the vast majority of them moving forward, but as long as Hillis is sidelined or limited by his ankle, Draughn will assume the backup role. As it is, the second-year pro out of North Carolina has out-produced Hillis to this point with 107 yards rushing (5.9 ypc), six receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
While there may not be a quarterback controversy at the moment for the Jets, there could be one brewing at running back. Powell is faring better than current starter Shonn Greene on a per-carry basis (4.0 to 2.8 ypc) as Greene has struggled to start the season. In Sunday’s win in Miami, Powell out-gained Greene 45 yards to 40, and did so with nine fewer carries (10 compared to 19). Don’t be surprised to see number of the carries start to even out more moving forward, especially if Greene continues to get bottled up.
Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Last week it was Lamar Miller who got the mention here, but that was mainly due to the uncertainty surrounding Thomas’ status as he was recovering from a concussion. Well not only did Thomas play against the Jets, he ended up leading the team in rushing (19 carries, 69 yards) after Reggie Bush left due to a knee injury. Bush didn’t suffer any structural damage to his knee, which is good, but don’t be surprised if he still misses a few weeks. In that case it looks like Thomas will be in position to get the bulk of the carries as he received 10 more attempts than Miller against the Jets. For now anyways, it appears the Dolphins prefer the veteran over the rookie.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Out in the desert, Williams has gotten more carries and more yards thus far than Beanie Wells. While Williams has been more productive, the more important thing is he’s been more durable as Wells can’t seem to shake his injury-prone nature. First it was his recovery from offseason knee surgery, but now it appears that Wells suffered a possible turf toe injury this past Sunday against Philadelphia. It may just be a matter of time before Wells is backing up Williams even when he's healthy.
For the second straight week Cincinnati's Andrew Hawkins scored on a pass play that covered more than 50 yards, as he hauled in a 59-yard touchdown strike to help put the Redskins away. Nate Burleson also made his presence felt in Tennessee as he tied Calvin Johnson in both targets (12) and receptions (10) in Detroit's overtime loss to the Titans. Johnson did much more damage yardage-wise (164 to 69), but Burleson matched his All-Pro teammate on the scoreboard with a touchdown grab, making it a very productive day for the lesser known Lion wideout.
Ramses Barden, New York Giants
Don’t look now, but the Giants may have found their third wide receiver. No one knew what to expect from the G-Men’s passing attack headed into last Thursday’s game at Carolina with Hakeem Nicks sidelined due to a foot injury. Enter Barden who stole the show by catching nine passes for 138 yards, both game highs. Nicks is expected to be back for this week’s game in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean Barden’s going away. Remember, last season Victor Cruz started the season as the Giants’ No. 3 wide receiver. He finished it as the No. 4 player overall at his position.
Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens
Torrey Smith is the more known deep threat for the Ravens, but don’t forget about Jones. He and Joe Flacco have connected on seven of nine total targets thus far and Jones is averaging nearly 22 yards per reception. Sunday night against New England he caught three passes for 86 yards (28.7 ypc) and also drew a key pass-interference penalty on a third-down play that set up the game-winning field goal. If the Ravens continue to throw the ball down the field like they have been, Jones could see his opportunities and production continue to increase.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
Santonio Holmes has twice as many targets as the next Jets wide receiver, but Kerley and rookie Stephen Hill are averaging more yards per catch and have caught two touchdown passes apiece. Hill suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s game in Miami, so Kerley could be in line for even more chances starting this week. Kerley is averaging more than 23 yards on his eight catches thus far and has appeared to develop some chemistry with Mark Sanchez, especially when it comes to going deep. Half of Kerley’s receptions have gone for 20 or more yards.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Shorts has certainly done the most with what few opportunities he’s gotten. He leads the Jaguars in both yards (185) and touchdown catches (2) even though he’s fourth on the team with five receptions. Shorts is averaging a mind-blowing 30.8 yards per catch and his 80-yard touchdown grab with less than a minute left against the Colts turned out to be the game winner. Now with Laurent Robinson, the leader on the Jaguars in targets and receptions, having to go through the mandatory concussion tests before he’s cleared to play this week, Shorts could be in line for even more playing time.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
I’m surprised that Washington, who had more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns last season, needs to be mentioned here, but he’s currently owned is less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That said, Washington is averaging nearly 27 yards per reception this season and he had a 71-yard touchdown catch against Detroit. Although Jake Locker has been spreading the ball out to his various targets, there’s no reason to think Washington, provided he stays healthy, won’t get his fair share of opportunities.
Martellus Bennett continued his impressive start with six more catches for 73 yards and another touchdown against Carolina, while Heath Miller didn’t let a rib cartilage issue keep him off of the field and from catching two touchdowns of his own in Oakland. Bennett and Miller are currently the third and fourth top fantasy scorers at tight end, higher than the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finely, and a host of others.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
I really don’t know why Rudolph, who’s currently seventh among tight ends in fantasy scoring, is owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues. He is Christian Ponder’s second-favorite target behind Percy Harvin and he’s already caught three touchdowns, which is second only to the aforementioned Miller and Vernon Davis among tight ends. He’s averaging better than 10 yards per reception and has caught nearly 75 percent of the targets (13 of 18) thrown his way. What else are you looking for in a tight end?
Craig Stevens, Tennessee Titans
This is purely based on the fact that Tennessee starter Jared Cook left Sunday’s game with a shoulder issue. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but if for some reason Cook is sidelined for this week’s contest in Houston, Stevens would be the guy. He caught five passes for 63 yards against Detroit and for the season is averaging more yards per reception (16.3 to 14.9) than Cook. He’s worth consideration in deeper leagues or for Cook owners who are looking for some insurance.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 25, 2012