FANTASY FORECAST: Coping with injury loss
MINNEAPOLIS — Winter is coming, but injury season has already arrived.
ACLs are tearing like there is no tomorrow in San Diego. Cleveland can't keep a quarterback upright. Minnesota, Miami and Tampa Bay had their feature backs go down in Week 2.
And someone named Jacoby Brissett is the quarterback for the New England Patriots. Who?
Roster spots become a treasured item when your team gets hit with the injury bug, especially if you have a Keenan Allen or Adrian Peterson on your squad and play in a keeper format. How do you find that balance between short-term relief and long-term success?
In most standard formats, a good way to free up space is to simply drop the guys you're not starting. Sure, it's nice to have Tyrod Taylor available on your bench, but when you're starting Ben Roethlisberger every week, it makes more sense to shore up your running back or wide receiver depth. Anyone carrying two kickers must've never played fantasy football before—drop one, right now. Defenses/special teams options are perfect to stream week-to-week, so having two makes no sense. Tight ends are a little tougher, but in leagues with a flex spot, you probably should be playing a back or receiver, not a tight end.
In short: Go ahead and mortgage your future, because there will always be a next guy up to give you production.
Here comes help
Now that you've got the roster space, who should you add to help give you a fighting chance this weekend? Here's one backup at each position I think will help fill the gaps on most rosters:
• Quarterback: Brian Hoyer, Chicago: Jay Cutler will be missing the next couple weeks with a sprained throwing thumb, and Hoyer will take his spot in the starting lineup. Hoyer has great targets in Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Zach Miller, and the veteran has enough time in the system to know how to find them. Don't forget 2013, when Josh McCown looked really good—maybe even better than Cutler, who he replaced when Cutler was having hamstring and groin issues.
• Running back: Dwayne Washington, Detroit: Ameer Abdullah was placed on the injured reserve, thereby elevating Theo Riddick as the top Lions running back. But Riddick hasn't exactly been productive throughout his career, and Washington brings a big, physical presence Riddick and Abdullah don't have. He'll get his chances, especially as a touchdown vulture near the goalline.
• Wide receiver: Tyrell Williams, San Diego: Last week, I wrote how Danny Woodhead would see an increased role in the Chargers offense with Allen's knee injury. Well, Woodhead went out and tore his own ACL, and Philip Rivers will distribute the ball elsewhere. Williams caught half of his six targeted throws for 61 yards and a touchdown, and that should only go up with Travis Benjamin being the only other viable volume receiver.
• Tight end: Jacob Tamme, Atlanta: This guy has been around forever, and is constantly on teams looking to replace his production with someone younger and more promising. But, despite fighting for time with Austin Hooper, Tamme has been the clear, top option for targets and scored a touchdown last week. You can do much worse than eight targets a game at tight end, and that with modest yardage is what Tamme brings to the table.
• Kicker: Brandon McManus, Denver: If for whatever reason, you don't like your kicker, look at McManus. He kicks half his games from high altitude and hasn't missed an attempt yet this season—but he's only owned in a quarter of Yahoo leagues. What more could you want?
Don't do it
The Patriots are trying to keep the smokescreen going, listing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as just "limited" in practice this week. But most signs are pointing to the rookie Brissett getting the nod on Thursday night against a tough Texans defense.
Coach Bill Belichick is a complete genius. He turned a sixth-round draft pick into a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady. He has prepared Garoppolo in the off-season to carry the team during Brady's suspension.
But there is no way Brissett has been given enough attention from the quarterback whisperer to be a solid fantasy option this week. Just don't do it.
Conversely, if you have Julian Edelman on your roster and were considering starting another wide receiver over him, think again. Edelman could be called on to reprise his Kent State University role as quarterback if something happens to Brissett. Heck, his 51-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola on a trick play in the 2014 playoffs was a thing of beauty. If there was ever a must-start-receiver-who-could-throw-for-a-score situation, this is it.
A couple others to avoid:
• Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Minnesota: I was leaning toward including these guys on this list Wednesday morning, then coach Mike Zimmer announced mid-morning that the Vikings had signed veteran back Ronnie Hillman. Add in an offensive line that guard Alex Boone said "(has) to be big boys and grow up" after underperforming the first two games, and none of these guys merit fantasy consideration while Peterson is on the mend.
• Devin Funchess, Carolina: The savior of the Panthers receiving corps last season has only three catches in two games. His lone score was deep into Carolina's 46-27 rout of San Francisco, and he was out-targeted by third-year guy Corey Brown. He'll likely match up against Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes, who was pass interference prone but provided mostly blanket coverage against Green Bay.
Last week's picks: Abdullah, Arian Foster, Melvin Gordon. Abdullah only had six carries for 38 yards before being injured. Similarly, Foster only had three carries for 9 yards before straining his groin. Gordon, though, broke the century mark in rushing while also finding the end zone, partly because he was the only real backfield option after Woodhead's ACL was torn.