Fantasy football: Injuries, bye weeks test mettle
Lost in all the angst over the rash of injuries that dominated the Week 4 headlines is the approach of the perennial bane of fantasy owners: The Bye Week Blues.
So while we scramble to find replacements for Derek Carr, Dalvin Cook, Ty Montgomery, Chris Carson, Jordan Matthews and others, we also have to factor in the inconvenient absence of our Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins during the weekend ahead.
It’s a rough double whammy that will strain the bench depth and waiver-wire savvy of fantasy owners in virtually every league.
Cook’s loss appears to be the most balance-shifting, as the talented rookie is gone for the season and there’s no quick fix. Latavius Murray will be pressed into the starting role, but nobody expects him to equal Cook’s production.
Atlanta lost both Julio Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring), but at least they’ll have an extra week to recover. The bye couldn’t come at a better time for the Falcons, because without their top two receivers, all bets are off for Matt Ryan and the running game would face a stiffer challenge as well.
And, of course, Raider Nation is preparing to forge on without their starting quarterback for at least a couple of weeks. Oakland’s passing attack has been disappointing to date, but you had to figure Carr & Co. would turn things around soon enough. Now their revival will be delayed.
It’s going to be a busy week on the waiver wire. Fortunately, intriguing options abound.
CATCH ‘EM WHILE YOU CAN
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans: Yeah, he’s got “it.” I called him my “Flier of the Week” in Friday’s column, but he won’t be considered a flier any longer. Watson impressed last week in Foxborough, then silenced any remaining skeptics with a masterful, five-touchdown performance against the Titans.
Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings: Following the season-ending injury to dynamic rookie Dalvin Cook, Murray will assume the lead backfield duties in Minnesota. The former Raider has been a competent workhorse in the past, so he’s a worthy add for Cook’s owners. Just don’t expect RB1 production.
J.D. McKissic, RB, Seahawks: If you stayed up and watched the Sunday nighter, you not only witnessed Chris Carson being carted off with a serious ankle injury. You saw Eddie Lacy running strong and unknown rookie McKissic dazzle on just a handful of touches, scoring TDs both rushing and receiving. McKissic reminded me of Kareem Hunt, and for that reason alone, I’m scooping him up and waiting for Seattle to give him a chance to start.
Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: The rookie entered the Thursday nighter as the third stringer, but he’s expected to get the starting nod in Week 5 against the Cowboys. Ty Montgomery’s injured ribs and Jamaal Williams’ sprained knee open the window for Jones to build on his unexpectedly early, yet solid, NFL debut.
Will Fuller, WR, Texans: If Watson is legit – and he is – then we should take notice when his No. 2 wideout scores twice in his first game since returning from injury. Fuller benefits from all the attention paid to DeAndre Hopkins, and now that he has an accurate passer under center, the second-year receiver has a chance to soar consistently.
John Brown, WR, Cardinals: The speedy wideout made his 2017 debut on Sunday and flashed signs of his explosiveness and value to the Arizona passing game. He did not appear to aggravate his tender quad, so Brown should be scooped up if he’s still available.
Charles Clay, TE, Bills: The sure-handed tight end is still available in roughly half of all leagues, and now that Buffalo’s offense appears to have found its groove, he’s worth an add. Clay has become Tyrod Taylor’s go-to option when he looks downfield, and that role will be amplified by Jordan Matthews’ absence.
Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams: Tired of mediocre production from your kicker? You could do a lot worse than switching to the cleanup man for the league’s most prolific offense. Not only did Zuerlein nail all seven of his field goals on Sunday, but he hasn’t missed one all season.
DON’T BE FOOLED
E.J. Manuel, QB, Raiders: Oakland’s offense has been sputtering even with Derek Carr at the controls. Don’t expect the underachieving Manuel to succeed where Carr hasn’t.
Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers: It was good to see Cam Newton break out of his miserable slump, even if it came against the NFL’s most pathetic pass defense. Funchess prospered as well, but he has been the embodiment of mediocrity since he entered the league in 2015.
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).