Most fantasy football seasons last only 16 weeks, with a 13 week regular season. That being said, after this Mondays game we have finished NFL week 6 and have only 7 weeks left in the fantasy regular season, we’re essentially at the halfway point already. This is the time of the year I like to completely reassess my teams and see what I’m doing right, or wrong- and especially in the case of Dynasty leagues- decide if I’m going to make a run at the championship or start a fire sale and build for the future.
One thing I like to do is start to speculate about players’ futures and possible injuries (most leagues I play in have very deep benches and taxi squads, so there is room stash players). I will target a few guys I think might have a bigger role next season or will have a huge role this season for the playoffs if somebody ahead of them goes down with an injury. The injury replacements, in particular, can help you as both a new starter who can emerge for your roster during the second half of the season and as trade fodder for the owner of the injured player. Many of these names are not going to help you- ever.
Note: These guys are expected to be deep-end-of-your-bench-zombie-apocalypse-worst-case-scenario-types, but their upside is huge if you hit on any of them as they will cost you only $1 or less of your FAAB budget.
Mike Gillislee, Buffalo Bills: Last season, rookie Karlos Williams was a great backup running back for fantasy and real-life football purposes, then he ate and smoked himself out of football in a single offseason. So far this year, in Buffalo, the Bills are putting a heavy workload on the shoulders of Shady McCoy and should he suffer an injury, the Bills really have little competition behind McCoy making Gillislee a definite must grab for McCoy owners and a decent speculative add if you’re thin at RB.
DJ Foster, New England Patriots: Everybody is so enamored with Dion Lewis, who had done basically nothing in his NFL career before last year and has had 2 knee surgeries since then and will probably not be seen in New England until week 10 at the earliest. James White is Tom Brady’s preferred receiving threat out of the backfield and should he get injured, look for rookie DJ Foster to fill the receiving back role for the Pats. Foster is worth a stash in PPR Dynasty leagues and he might even have the highest long-term upside of all the New England backs.
Alfred Blue, Houston Texans: Not totally off the radar for most seasoned fantasy owners, but a player to grab right now if you have the bench space. The Texans brought in Lamar Miller over the off-season and have made him one of the few true bell-cow backs in the league. 2 problems though; he’s been inefficient and he’s never faced this type of workload as a pro. Should Miller suffer a setback or sustain an injury, Blue has filled in as the lead back under Coach O’Brian before. He’s not going to put up any monstrous RB1 numbers, but he’ll definitely be better than anybody else you can grab off of waivers and he costs nothing right now compared to what he’ll cost if Miller actually gets hurt. Not to mention, he’ll be one hell of a bargaining chip if trading with the Lamar Miller owner.
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs: Last year, when Jamal Charles was lost to injury, West came in and performed admirably. Over the off-season, he was supplanted in the #2 role by Spencer Ware. With Jamal Charles finally returning from injury and Ware being relegated to more of a change-of-pace role, while West recovers from injury himself, the door is open for a super buy-low opportunity. If anything happens to either Ware or Charles, West will slide right into the role vacated by either one and has already shown himself to be more than capable.
Ronnie Hillman, Minnesota Vikings: Gross I know. But, don’t forget it was only 1 short off-season ago when it was a real debate if Hillman or CJ Anderson would be the main ball carrier for the Broncos… and here we sit today with Anderson sitting atop of mountain of money with a new contract and Hillman was washing windows at an intersection until the Vikes lost AP. Hillman is still new to the team and by extension the system, and is being brought along slowly as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata carry the load, but as mentioned above, if either one of them happens to miss some time, expect Hillman to be able to fill the void. He’s made big plays in this league before and he only needs the opportunity to do it again.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: With David Johnson getting the lion’s share of the touches out of the backfield and CJ2K already out with injury, Andre Ellington is the main back up should we see anything happen to Johnson. Ellington has been an effective part of the offense in the past and with only guys like Stepfan Taylor to compete with, he could post some serious fantasy numbers to close out the season. He’s a must add for the Johnson owner and a decent stash if you’re looking for trade bait should something happen to DJ.
Benny Cunningham, Los Angeles Rams: I feel dirty even writing his name, but he’s all the Rams have behind Todd Gurley and he’s a Jeff Fisher favorite. There’s honestly not much good to say about him, except he’s gonna get all of Gurley’s touches if he gets injured. A decent grab for the Gurley owner and as mentioned before, a low value bit of trade bait.
Mike Davis, San Francisco 49ers: So, Carlos Hyde missed a decent chunk of last year with injuries and in his second full season has looked pretty effective. But should he get injured, look for Davis to get the bulk of the early down work for the ‘9ers. Shaun Draughn is only their change of pace back, and will still fill that role if Hyde is lost. Definitely worth a stash in Dynasty leagues, especially if Hyde ends up being Beanie Wells 2.0.
Robert Kelley, Washington Redskins: Kelley is an absolute must add in all Dynasty leagues if he’s available. In my opinion, the rookie is going to be the future RB for the ‘skins at some point. He’s everything Matt Jones is, only better. That being said, Jones is another costly fumble away from losing his job and Chris Thompson is entrenched as the team’s 3rd down back. Kelley is Jones’ handcuff and worth holding in Dynasty leagues if he’s still available.
Kenneth Farrow, San Diego Chargers: In case you haven’t noticed, the Chargers have been completely decimated by injuries. I’m not a religious man, but it’s been on the level of a biblical apocalypse type of stuff across the board and I have a gut feeling that it will continue all season too. Melvin Gordon is still bad, except he’s scoring touchdowns now, so people forget that he’s bad, but after already losing both Brandon Oliver and Danny Woodhead for the season at running back, only 1 man remains should something happen to Gordon…enter Kenneth Farrow. He’s not the best running back, but he’d be the only guy they could turn to if Gordon goes down. This is bottom of the barrel deep sleeper folks, like you’re carrying two kickers and are deciding to finally let one go kinda deep, but the production potential is there.
Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks: I’m no NFL Scout, but I do have 2 working eyeballs and I don’t need glasses, and from what I’ve seen in college and at the NFL level, Richardson is the most talented WR on the Seahawks. His inability to stay healthy has been the biggest thing holding him back up to this point. Tyler Lockett has his role carved out, but should anything happen to either Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse, expect a huge uptick in snaps & touches for Richardson and production to go along with it. He’s worth a stash in Dynasty leagues in particular.
Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots: The rookie WR looked really good in the preseason but is blocked on the depth chart by Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola & Chris Hogan- not to mention Gronk too. If any of those 3 go down with injury- and all have missed time in the past- Mitchell would be in line to fill the void. He’s a must add in Dynasty leagues, although I suspect in any decent dynos he’s already owned, but is certainly worth a stash in redraft, as it wouldn’t be unheard of to see both Ammendola and Edelman to go down with injury in the same game.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals: As mentioned with Mitchell above, Boyd is another Dynasty must own, but is probably already close to 100% ownership if your league is worth anything. He’s clearly well behind AJ Green and Brandon LaFell but if anything happens to either one of them, you can expect the rookie to be thrown into the starting line up.
Chester Rogers, Indianapolis Colts: Another rookie WR, but he might be available in all but the deepest Dynasty leagues. TY Hilton is clearly entrenched as the #1 in Indy, Moncrief is out with injury but should be returning soon and last year’s early pick, Phillip Dorsett, hasn’t lived up to the hype. Rogers has done more with less, relative to Dorsett and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pass him on the depth chart to start 2017, if not before the end of this season.
Rashad Greene, Jacksonville Jaguars: Here’s a guy with almost no value barring an injury ahead of him. Playing behind Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, Greene is a distant 3rd and will remain there for the foreseeable future. However, if either of the Allens’ go down with an injury, he instantly becomes a top 2 WR on a bad, pass heavy team that will be trailing often. You could do a lot worse, well, maybe not a lot.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs: Aside from the whole “assaulting his pregnant girlfriend” thing, he’s one of my favorite high upside players in all of football. Make no mistake, he is very raw, but has athleticism to the ceiling. He’s already passed DeAnthony Thomas on the KC depth chart and if he can continue developing, he has the raw athletic talent to become a top WR. He should probably cut back on beating pregnant women too (certainly a “No Bueno” thing to ever be doing), another incident will surely derail his career.
Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In case you haven’t noticed the theme here, Humphries is the #3 behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and will be a top 2 WR if anything happens to V-jax or Evans. With Jackson getting older, as of now, Humphries is the heir apparent to that top 2 role going forward. He’s not heavily owned, even in Dynasty leagues and is worth a stash in both Dynasty and redraft leagues.
Again, most of these guys are probably not going to do anything this season, and maybe not ever in their entire careers- but I bet you have other guys on your roster that fit that bill with none of the upside any of these guys have. Acquiring any of these guys is a purely speculative move, but if you happen to hit on any of them come the fantasy playoffs- or next year in Dynasty- you’re really going to have a leg up on your competition by gaining a viable fantasy asset for minimum expense, and that’s why they need to be targeted now for a $1 or so instead of the week a player ahead of them goes down and everybody else is spending up on them too.