There's never a perfect week for several fantasy studs to succumb
to injury, but the start of the fantasy playoffs is about the worst
time for it to happen. The notion that a fantasy team can earn a
bye week due in part to good injury luck and get decimated during
a week that doesn't really matter to them seems like a cruel way
to potentially end a season. Likewise, losing players to injury
during a first-round matchup when your team has done nothing but
overcome adversity all season leaves a bitter taste in your mouth
for weeks after the season is over.
Like it or not, time stops for no one. Neither does fantasy football.
Perhaps the sooner we learn we are lucky to get to this point
of the season without dealing with major injury issues, the saner
all of us will be when it comes to this hobby. (A boy can dream.)
At any rate, it's usually a good idea to take a closer look at
the next men up on the roster whenever carnage strikes to the
degree it did last weekend.
For those wondering, I chose not to break down Jameis
Winston (hand), Josh
Jacobs (shoulder), Will
Fuller (hamstring) or Greg
Olsen (concussion) in this discussion for various reasons.
Winston is expected to play through his fractured thumb. DeAndre
Washington appeared to make his case in Week 14 as the lead
back in Oakland if Jacobs can't play, although the rookie reportedly
got good news on his MRI earlier this week. Fuller had yet another
setback with his hamstring and should be expected to miss the
final two weeks of the fantasy season at the very least given
his history. Olsen returned to a limited practice this week, suggesting
he is on course to return to action in Week 15.
Just about the time most people were about to write off Perriman
yet again, he's delivered back-to-back performances that remind
us why he was a first-round pick in 2015. It seems pretty clear
as he comes to the end of his fourth pro season that he's not
ever going to be much more than a deep threat. Fortunately for
owners in deeper leagues, that might be enough when it comes to
reaching the finish line in their fantasy leagues with extremely
favorable matchups against Detroit (Week 15) and Houston (Week
Ever since he set the analytics community on fire with his extraordinary
measurables at Penn's Pro Day last year, Watson has been a bit
of a dynasty darling who hasn't had much of a chance to show himself
off. He appeared to be in line for Perriman's role before Perriman
caught the eye of the coaching staff this spring and was subsequently
mothballed until Week 14. It was then he became the second outside
receiver that Perriman has been for the better part of the season,
and he delivered a 5-59-1 line against the Colts in the first
real opportunity he's been given on offense in his career.
Miller has been sidelined since Week 12 due to a hamstring injury.
He must be getting close to returning after getting in a limited
practice on Wednesday (Dec. 11), although it may not matter if
Watson has another good game in Week 15. The only "advantage"
Miller seemingly has at the moment is that he appeared to be higher
on the depth chart than Watson was prior to going down.
Predicted outcome: Perriman will almost certainly
slide into Evans' full-time role as the primary outside receiver.
Given the offense he's attached to and his upcoming matchups,
a case can be made to start him in leagues where owners feel they
need considerable upside to win their matchup and can handle the
risk of his equally low floor. Watson is probably already a more
well-rounded receiver than Perriman, but it's going to be up to
Winston as well as the coaching staff to give him the opportunity
to prove it. Since the fantasy season will be over by the time
we really know if Watson has really earned their trust, he's probably
best left on the waiver wire in redraft leagues. Dynasty leaguers
could do much worse than stash him in the likely event Tampa Bay
moves on from Perriman in the offseason. Pretty much everything
I just said about Watson also applies to Miller.
There obviously isn't another player of Ridley's caliber on the
roster, but that doesn't mean Atlanta doesn't have capable replacements.
It seems unlikely the Falcons will move Gage out of the slot to
cover for Ridley. One of the main reasons the team was reportedly
OK with trading Mohamed Sanu was because Gage made the staff feel
comfortable his replacement was already on the roster.
With Julio Jones sidelined on Thanksgiving night, Blake stepped
into a full-time role and performed well, finishing with six catches
on nine targets for 57 yards. It was also the second time in as
many games he saw nine targets. Naturally, after seeing his offensive
snap percentage rise from 14 to 44 to 90 over a three-week span,
Blake played only 17 percent of the snaps in Week 14 and was not
Zaccheaus saw the most snaps of the Falcons' "other"
receivers (not including Jones, Ridley or Gage) in Week 14 and
converted one of his two targets into a 93-yard touchdown catch,
but his 22 snaps hardly suggest he is the clear next man up. Zaccheaus
is not a new name to college football fans - many of whom know
he set the all-time receptions record at Virginia. He also is
the only player in school history with three career catches of
Predicted outcome: Gage seems like the most obvious player to
benefit from a fantasy perspective due to more volume, although
I don't expect his actual role to change much. I can see owners
in deeper leagues using him as a first or second flex option in
three-receiver leagues but probably not in more traditional formats.
Blake, who is the more prototypical outside receiver at 6-1 and
181 pounds, makes the most sense to inherit the actual starting
role. At 5-8 and 190 pounds, Zaccheaus is probably not a candidate
to emerge as a full-time starter in Ridley's absence. It seems
more likely than not his long-term future will be as a big-play
field-stretcher who will be featured on the occasional trick play
given his background as an RB/WR hybrid in college. I'm sure the
coaching staff cares more about developing Blake AND Zaccheaus
at this point than which one starts. As such, I expect Blake and
Zaccheaus to split snaps on the outside.
Conley may be the most experienced player of the group, but his
production this season has been ridiculously inconsistent - especially
for someone who has started all year long and played an average
of over 50 snaps. Chark's absence - however long it may be - doesn't
figure to have a significant impact on Conley because a) he has
continually shown throughout his career he cannot consistently
raise his game when a teammate higher on the depth chart is sidelined
and b) it's not as if he'll slide into Chark's role in the offense
Westbrook is well on pace to set career highs in catches and
receiving yards for the third time in as many pro seasons. Unlike
Conley, Westbrook has shown the ability to be the lead receiver
(or at least produce like one) on a somewhat regular basis. Unfortunately,
the Jaguars have scored 20 or fewer points in five straight games
and averaged fewer than 12 during their five-game losing streak,
so guessing that Westbrook might score the one touchdown they
get in a given week is a losing proposition.
Cole has flashed at various times throughout his three-year career,
although he still seems to be paying the price for a pair of fumbles
that landed him in the doghouse around midseason last year. Why
he hasn't been able to bypass Conley on the depth chart or given
more snaps remains a bit of a mystery. Either way, he's the most
likely of this bunch to be asked to assume Chark's role in the
Predicted outcome: HC Doug Marrone recently told the media Chark
is pushing to play - presumably in an effort to reach 1,000 receiving
yards and 10 touchdowns (he is 44 yards and two TDs shy of those
marks) - so his season may not be over just because Jacksonville
has no playoff aspirations. At any rate, Westbrook is the most likely
candidate to see double-digit targets for however long Chark is
sidelined, but he is already owned in most leagues. Perhaps the
offense becomes little more than the Leonard
Fournette and Westbrook show in the interim, but this is also
is a grand opportunity for Cole to prove he needs more playing time.
With upcoming games against Oakland (Week 15) and Atlanta (Week
16) as well as Conley's inability to push for a bigger role in this
offense, Cole would be my choice over Conley as the better addition
to fantasy rosters.
Ford is a former seventh-round draft pick who may not have much
of an NFL resume, but that doesn't mean he lacks for talent -
even if Miami has cut and re-signed him multiple times. The biggest
knocks on him coming out of Virginia Tech were speed (4.61) and
lack of bulk (sub-190 pounds at the time), but that didn't stop
him from setting most of the major receiving records in only three
years as a Hokie. Perhaps a 6-92-0 line on nine targets - even
if it did come against the struggling Jets' secondary - in Week
14 will wake up some personnel folks across the league and maybe
even get the Dolphins to acknowledge him as someone who needs
more time on the field. "Average" NFL talents don't
typically perform that well because they were given a chance;
they usually had it all along and were blocked from showing it
for one reason or another. Unfortunately, once Preston Williams
returns next season, Ford will likely find himself no higher than
fourth on the depth chart no matter how well he finishes 2019.
Hurns has seen more snaps in the slot in each of the last two
weeks than at any other point during the season. (He had spent
the bulk of his first three games following Williams' season-ending
injury playing on the perimeter.) It's unlikely his allotment
of snaps and where he sees them will change all that much for
however long Parker sits. At this point in his career, he is what
he is - a player who will attract about six to seven targets,
catch about four or five passes and average a shade over 10 yards
on those receptions with little chance of finding the end zone.
Hurns did not practice Wednesday (Dec. 11) due to ankle and knee
injuries, so his situation needs to be monitored for the remainder
of the week.
I don't want to totally discount Davis' chances of contributing
on offense, but he was added in the middle of the season in large
part because of his ability on special teams. He might stretch
the field a bit if Parker sits, but it's hard to imagine him making
much of an impact.
Predicted outcome: Obviously, if Parker can play this weekend,
he and Hurns are the primary plays and both can be started in
deeper leagues. If he cannot go (and Albert Wilson is also ruled
out with his concussion), then we should see another heavy dose
of Ford - likely against Delicious Dozen favorite DeAndre Baker
- versus another weak secondary in the Giants. Most owners in
traditional leagues will have better upside options with much
higher floors, but fantasy owners of Parker in deeper leagues
that want a little peace of mind in the event of Parker being
ruled out could do a lot worse than starting Ford. If there is
such a thing as a safe play among Miami's receivers, it would
be Hurns. The upside play, however, is Ford.
Injury: Torn ACL; out for the season In-house replacement candidates:C.J.
I admittedly was not a big fan of Penny coming out of San Diego
State, but it would have been hard to imagine him getting off
to this kind of start in his NFL career. There have definite flashes
followed by long stretches of his disappointment - usually due
to injury. Just as it finally appeared he was on the verge of
an extended breakthrough, he tore his ACL on his first play of
Week 14. While his fantasy owners won't have to experience the
grueling rehab he needs to go through in order to play in 2020,
it was still a punch to the gut for any owner who believed he
finally hit the jackpot after sitting on him all season long.
Likely outcome: Prosise figures to get a bit of run now on certain
passing downs, but this will likely be the Chris Carson show for
the remainder of the season. With upcoming matchups against Carolina
(Week 15) and Arizona (Week 16), Carson could easily be one of
a handful of players who ends up being a league-winner.
There's not a ton that needs to be said here, as Guice has been
off the field more often than he's been on it during his two seasons
as a pro.
Predicted outcome: Peterson will push for 20 carries as long
as the game is relatively close. Given how the Eagles (Week 15)
and Giants (Week 16) are playing at the moment, it's not a big
ask. Meanwhile, Thompson is also worthy of flex consideration.
He caught seven passes on eight targets in Week 14, suggesting
a return to the role that usually saw him handle about five carries
and five receptions per game earlier this season is a distinct
Perhaps the most surprising development of the week to this point
is that the Eagles came out of practice Wednesday (Dec. 11) and
have yet to add a receiver after finding themselves in danger
of playing 40-year-old QB Josh McCown at receiver on Monday night.
It's a pretty clear indication one or two of the three wideouts
on the practice squad (Davis, Green and Michel) will get promoted.
Even if Agholor was the kind of receiver Philadelphia could build
its passing attack around, itís a depth chart that looks
pretty lean. As we know, he is neither that kind of talent nor
is he healthy.
As a result, Arcega-Whiteside could easily enter this weekend
as the top receiver on the depth chart. This is the same rookie
who was hyped for his ability to win contested balls but hasn't
been able to convince the coaching staff to play him more than
40 snaps in all but four games this season despite Agholor's up-and-down
play and the absence of DeSean Jackson.
Ward is a converted college quarterback who is probably the closest
thing the Eagles have to a receiver who can run pro routes if
we don't include Agholor. Philadelphia apparently has not thought
so, mostly keeping him on the practice squad while only giving
him somewhat significant playing time in the last three games.
Davis is the only one of the practice-squaders I will discuss
in part because I think he's far and away the most obvious player
of the three who should already be on the 53-man roster and contributing.
A preseason leg injury ruined his 2018 campaign, but he made Washington's
roster out of camp this summer before getting released. At 6-3
and 210 pounds with 4.4 speed, he fits the profile of an NFL perimeter
receiver. Considering Jeffery is the player Philadelphia needs
to replace, he is the most natural choice to fill the void he
Predicted outcome: In my opinion, Arcega-Whiteside isn't ready
to be a full-time NFL receiver yet. (I'm not sure if he'll get
there anytime soon either, but I tackled that topic during my
draft evaluations this spring.) Ward is probably the safest bet
for fantasy purposes if Agholor cannot play, but I think Philadelphia
has made it pretty clear it prefers Agholor, so he will be the
top option if he can play. The wild-card is Davis. No one should
expect him to replace Jeffery or his production, but if the Eagles
have any desire to make things slightly easier on Carson Wentz,
giving him a big receiver who can stretch the field might be a
place to start. None of the receivers need to carry the offense
- Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert can do most of the heavy lifting
- but they do need to be able to contribute. The overwhelming
majority of fantasy owners should avoid all of Philadelphia's
wide receivers for the remainder of the year, but if I had to
roll the dice on one of them breaking away from the pack and doing
something special this month, it would be Davis.
If ever there was a player who could be considered a bust and
a stud in the same season, Cook might be that guy. His first four
games as a Saint sent him to the waiver wire in many leagues.
Just about the time it appeared he was ready to become a thing
in Weeks 5 and 6, he hurt his ankle and did not play again until
Week 10. Whether his slow start was merely a matter of happenstance
because Brees got hurt in Week 2 or more that it took Cook half
of the season to feel comfortable in the offense, the fact of
the matter is he has been one of the best options at the position
since Week 10.
Like the other players on this list who suffered a concussion
last week, it will be a longshot for any of them to return to
action in Week 15. Josh Hill has already turned in career highs
with 21 catches and 186 yards, telling us everything we need to
know about his limited upside. Taysom Hill is not technically
a tight end, but he does see a snap or two per game there - and
everywhere else, for that matter - every so often.
Predicted outcome: In the likely event Cook sits this week, owners
can't turn to Josh Hill in the hopes he'll score a touchdown for
the second straight game. Taysom Hill is listed as a quarterback
in just about every fantasy league known to man, so it would take
some promise that he'll score twice and run for 50 yards in order
to start him in traditional leagues. Cook is a good bet to return
in Week 16.
While Philadelphia can claim it has experienced the worst injury
luck at receiver this season, Cincinnati certainly has a case.
No A.J. Green. Ross misses most of the season after blowing up
early. Now, Tate is done. I suppose the Bengals can find some
comfort that fate waited for Ross to get healthy before Tate got
hurt. Ross made his return after more than two months on IR in
Week 14 and finished with two receptions for 28 yards - very comparable
production to the final two games he played before injuring his
collarbone in Week 4. With Andy Dalton back under center and Tate
no longer in the picture, a strong case could be made that Ross
could finish the season on a high note. Pretty much everything
just said about Ross could also be said for Erickson, who has
done relatively little since enjoying a Ross-like burst in Weeks
7 and 8. Unfortunately, a Week 15 matchup versus the Patriots
eliminates whatever chance either one had of building enough trust
in fantasy owners to be used in Week 16.
Predicted outcome: It's not as if Tate was blowing up the joint
prior to getting hurt, but he was seeing enough targets and doing
enough with them to be considered a low-end starter in a lot of
leagues. Ross and Erickson could easily enjoy huge games in Week
16 versus the Dolphins, but this is not a passing game that will
support three receivers regardless of the matchup. Wasting a roster
spot for a week in the hopes you snagged the right one for your
championship game doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't make
it there - especially if that spot could have been used on a better
streamer at quarterback or defense. The most likely outcome is
Tyler Boyd seeing a huge target share the rest of the way. Only
Boyd should be in lineups this week - and even that is a stretch.
Desperate owners willing to accept a four-point floor in PPR leagues
so they can hit a 20-point ceiling in Week 16 should go with Ross
over Erickson. The safer (and probably smarter) play is just to
avoid every non-Boyd receiver in Cincinnati over the final two
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.