Last week did not hit as hard as others in recent memory with injuries.
However, what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. Fantasy
managers lost Breece Hall (ACL) for the season and watched as DK Metcalf (knee) left early with a patellar tendon injury. Mike Williams
(high-ankle sprain) may not be his usual self again this season.
J.K. Dobbins (knee) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks following a knee
scope. Mark Andrews is struggling to play through a knee injury
and did not practice at all leading up to Thursday's tilt (Oct.
27) against the Bucs. Deebo Samuel also suffered a hamstring of
unknown severity. Allen Lazard (shoulder) showed up at the team
facility on Monday (Oct. 24) with his arm in a sling.
With last week in mind, I figured it would be helpful to identify
the next man up across the league at each of the different fantasy
positions and ascertain which ones are worth investing in as managers
begin to prepare for the second half of the season.
The "starter(s)" at each position will be listed first
and in CAPS, followed by their most likely replacement(s). I will
only write about the relatively few reserves who I feel has a
chance at becoming a fantasy starter if fortune favors their promotion.
An asterisk next to a player's name is an indication that the
player is injured.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? We have
already seen what Benjamin can do in two full games without Conner.
His first start in Week 6 did not bear fruit against what was
expected to be a soft Seattle run defense, but the combination
of a short week and a beat-up Saints' D proved Benjamin could
handle at least the same kind of role Chase Edmonds held before
he left for Miami. There is RB2 upside here for sure, although
Benjamin would be more of a matchup-based type considering how
bad the run-blocking has been in Arizona.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Much like Benjamin above,
we have already seen what Allgeier is capable of … or at
least what he is capable of this season. The ceiling is much higher
for him than he will be able to show in 2022 in large part because
the offense as a whole is being limited by HC Arthur Smith's refusal
to trust Mariota as a passer. It is probably not a coincidence
this offense became ultra-conservative once Patterson (knee) went
on IR, so there is a chance his expected Week 9 return will be
good for players such as London and Pitts. The problem with treating
Allgeier as anything more than a dicey flex option is that he
provides so little in the passing game.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Baltimore is the rare team
that has potential fantasy starters at three fantasy positions.
Look no further than what Huntley did at the end of last season
to see why he warrants starting consideration in the event of
a multi-week injury to Jackson. Hill probably is not going to
get a chance to show what he can do in a lead-back role with Baltimore,
but he looked incredibly explosive yet again in Week 7 despite
missing a lot of time over the last two weeks with a hamstring
injury. Likely just needs a chance and may not be too far away
from getting his shot with Mark Andrews (knee) ailing. He cannot
be expected to be everything Andrews is, but Baltimore loves what
he brings to the table. He would have low-end TE1 upside if Andrews
were forced to miss time.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Singletary has been a solid
RB2 at worst in close games and more of an RB3 in blowouts. Considering
Singletary's heavy involvement in the passing game this year,
it seems only natural that Cook would slide right into low-end
RB2 consideration (in projected close games) and flex consideration
(in likely blowouts) if the former was unable to go for multiple
Shakir stands a real chance to overtake McKenzie for top slot
duties at some point this season. It is not so much that McKenzie
has done anything to lose that job. Perhaps he does nothing more
than push McKenzie all season long, but Shakir has just performed
quite well in his limited opportunities and gives the offense
more versatility. Part of the benefit of stashing Shakir in fantasy
is that he is capable of playing - and is likely the top backup
at - all three receiver positions. That means he has three potential
paths to relevancy in perhaps the best offense in the league.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Blackshear is about the
only Panther reserve that has a shot to be a semi-big deal before
the end of the 2022 season, although there is virtually no chance
of that happening. Smith and Tremble are talented enough to contribute
at some point, but the quarterback play would need to improve
dramatically. Blackshear probably will not be able to push his
way past Hubbard or Foreman anytime soon, but he might be the
most capable receiver of the bunch on a team that figures to be
in negative game script most weeks. Furthermore, it is not as
if Carolina will go out of its way to give Blackshear any more
help than it did Christian McCaffrey before his trade to San Francisco.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? The only player of note
here is Ebner, who the coaching staff is reportedly very high
on for 2023 and beyond. Like Blackshear, there is almost zero
chance of him doing anything of note behind Montgomery and Herbert
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Perine is exactly the kind
of player fantasy managers should target over the next few weeks,
preferably after the majority of teams have made it past their
bye weeks. While the 26-year-old may not be a league-winner type,
he is already getting the majority of long down-and-distance work.
Although he is not an elite fantasy handcuff, he is also the clear
handcuff for Mixon, who just happens to lead all running backs
in carries inside the 20, 10 and 5. In this high-upside offense,
Perine would be the kind of player managers would probably be
forced to empty their FAAB for if Mixon missed significant time.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Watson is a known quantity
but will not have played a regular-season game in nearly two years
when he steps on the field for the first time in Week 13. Nevertheless,
I would strongly consider adding him in medium-sized or deeper
leagues if my primary quarterback has already enjoyed his bye
week (Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, etc.).
With Hunt a very strong candidate to be moved in the next week,
Johnson is a shrewd add. Chubb has not played a full season since
2019 and tends to leave the field in favor of Hunt already in
obvious passing situations whether or not it is warranted. Johnson
would inherit that role if Hunt is moved and become the obvious
handcuff in one of the best situations fantasy managers can ask
for at running back.
Bryant was already starting to see regular usage before Njoku
suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 7, so the former has legitimate
TE1 upside now for however long the latter is sidelined (expected
2-5 weeks). His promotion may not last long as Cleveland only
plays one game between now and Week 10 (Week 9 bye), which would
give Njoku a fair shot of being relatively close to 100 percent
if his injury is as minor as some have suggested.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Hendershot toyed with fringe
fantasy value while Rush was starting, Gallup was finishing his
rehab and Schultz was ailing, but it seems unlikely he will enjoy
any real fantasy value now.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Considering Gordon and
Murray's ages and injury histories, Boone (ankle) could return
to a sizable role when he returns from IR. How much that would
matter in this dysfunctional offense is another question, however.
Boone is worth a stash on your league's IR, but he is not the
kind of priority stash that Gus Edwards was, for example. (Think
more like Kyren Williams.)
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Craig Reynolds, Raymond
and Wright all flirted with fantasy value at different times last
season and could do the same in 2022, but the crown jewel of this
bunch is Jameson Williams. Unfortunately, reports surfaced Wednesday
(Oct. 26) that Detroit "hopes" it will get him back
in another month, which puts him out until around Thanksgiving.
Keep stashing him on IR if possible, but the odds of him making
a notable contribution this year are growing slimmer by the week.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Honestly, any of the backups
at receiver. My best bet would be Watson, but he has not been
able to get over the hump in his recovery from a hamstring injury.
If he can get and stay healthy, he should be able to play the
Marquez Valdes-Scantling role in this offense at the very least.
Expectations need to be kept in check, however, as he barely practiced
with the team before the start of the season.
Watkins has the best track record and may provide the veteran
Rodgers seems to be aching for, but his penchant for missing time
is almost legendary. Toure saw his first action last week and
made a name for himself at Nebraska in 2021 by stretching the
field. Given the options, I fully expect Green Bay to trade for
a veteran within the next week, and it would not surprise me at
all if that player ends up being Kendrick Bourne. (We can pray
for Brandin Cooks though.)
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Johnson may have just signed
Tuesday (Oct. 25), but he has the best shot of this group to be
somewhat viable down the road with Collins' groin injury expected
to sideline him for multiple weeks. With that said, it seems unlikely
many fantasy championship rosters will be carrying a Texan - outside
of perhaps Pierce and Cooks.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Jackson showed the Colts
are in good hands if Taylor is forced to miss more game action
this season, although a lot of his value came from Ryan dumping
the ball off to him in Weeks 5-6. That will no longer be the case.
Ehlinger has spent more time practicing with Strachan than any
of the other receivers listed above, so he is a player to monitor
However, the most impactful backup that has a chance to emerge
is the one that just found out he will start for the rest of the
season earlier this week. Ehlinger is highly unlikely to save
your fantasy season and could easily destroy the fantasy values
of the receivers. With that said, the receiving corps will not
be dramatically affected by his presence if he can come reasonably
close to Ryan's volume (42.4 pass attempts/game in 2022). Ehlinger
is not an elite athlete by any stretch, but he is a capable dual-threat
that is probably the right player at the right time for this team
- especially in light of its struggling offensive line. With his
ability to run for 30-40 yards per game, there is definite QB2
upside with Ehlinger.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? It sounds as though Hasty
will get a shot to handle at least some of the work left behind
by James Robinson. However, Hasty has struggled to stay healthy
throughout his three years in the league and probably needs to
be capped at 5-8 touches per week (which is all he will likely
see behind Etienne). Conner is the only back on the roster that
potentially gives Jacksonville the thump it loses with Robinson's
departure. While he may not be the hot pickup this week, Conner
could be the better long-term stash in case Etienne goes down.
Agnew has already proven himself on a couple of occasions and
is worthy of flex consideration in deeper leagues in any game
where one of the top three wideouts is out. Arnold is one of the
better backup tight ends in the league and would be worth starting
in a pinch if Engram misses time at some point.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Pacheco logged his first
NFL start in Week 7 and could be on the verge of establishing
himself as the lead back down the road, but it seems unlikely
to happen anytime soon. Kansas City appears committed to rotating
its backs for the time being - something that seems unlikely to
change until Pacheco begins running with more nuance.
As much as I want Moore to happen this year, it does not look
like it will. He has consistently played about 20-25 percent of
the snaps and is not doing himself any favors with his work in
the return game. Watson has done more with his opportunities and
could be the preferred option should one of the top three wideouts
go down. The name I like here the most, however, is Fortson. Kelce
has been an absolute ironman since entering the league, but I
think Fortson would be an automatic TE1 option in fantasy if that
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? There are several backups
to stash or monitor here. Kelley was already starting to separate
from the pack before his Week 5 knee injury. He is well worth
stashing on IR, as he figures to have some standalone value moving
forward and a huge ceiling if Ekeler gets hurt. I am still holding
out hope for Spiller, but it is also possible he missed too much
time in August and September and will not be able to make up enough
ground in time to be relevant this year.
It may not have happened in the way we want it to, but Palmer
is poised to be relevant over the next month - if not the rest
of the season. Maybe Allen's hamstring holds up with another week
to rest and rehab it after the Week 8 bye, maybe it doesn't. (He
had to check out early in Week 7.) We already know Williams (high-ankle
sprain) is not expected to play for at least a month, which leaves
Palmer in the position we thought he would have before Williams
re-signed with the club this offseason. Palmer made his name in
college as a vertical receiver and carried that over to his rookie
season (10.1 average depth of target in 2021). With Allen missing
most of the first half of the season, Palmer ended up becoming
more of a short-area target (6.0 aDOT). Carter and Bandy could
come into play if Allen's hamstring does not hold up and would
work closer to the line of scrimmage, although it is probably
just as likely Everett would see crazy volume in such a scenario
since Ekeler already is.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? The most obvious candidate
here is Jefferson, who adds a vertical element to this offense
that did not exist over the first six games. I will continue to
push back on anyone who believes Jefferson's eventual return will
affect Robinson's playing time until I see it with my own eyes.
The Rams' problems have very little to do with Robinson and much
more to do with the number of injuries on the offensive line -
and a lack of imagination in how to create favorable matchups
for Robinson - so far.
(Ask yourself two questions if you believe Robinson is a problem:
why is he ranked fourth in the league among receivers in red zone
targets with 10? Why is he second in targets inside the 10 with
eight if he is "washed"? The answer to both questions
is not "sunk cost.") He is who he always has been …
the Rams just have not been great with making him a regular part
of the offense for whatever reason. Furthermore, do you think
the same front office personnel that has nailed just about every
veteran receiver acquisition (dating back to Sammy Watkins and
Brandin Cooks) it has made over the last few years spent $15.5
M/year to miss so badly on Robinson?
Getting back to Jefferson, adding his speed back into the offense
might be the best thing for Robinson and help Kupp as well. Stafford
and HC Sean McVay have repeatedly stated how often defenses have
had a safety over the top on Robinson's side. Getting Jefferson
to threaten that safety may open things up. It remains to be seen
if the offensive line can protect Stafford long enough for Jefferson
to stretch the field, but the good news is there should be enough
volume in this offense for Robinson, Jefferson and Higbee to be
fantasy-relevant most weeks. (Kupp is a given.)
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? There has never been a
question in my mind about Jacobs' ability. However, I vastly underrated
HC Josh McDaniels' willingness to commit to one back this summer.
With that said, he is handling a workload he has rarely seen in
3 1/2 years as a pro. Jacobs has been about as durable as running
backs can be expected to be nowadays with at least 217 carries
(and 262 touches) in each of his first three NFL seasons, but
he has never played a full schedule. While White may not be in
Jacobs' neighborhood in terms of talent, he runs with the same
kind of power. Considering that is how Jacobs has done most of
his damage lately, White would have high-end RB2 upside if Jacobs
has to sit for a while.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Edmonds does not appear
to have any confidence in himself right now. Gaskin has not been
active the last two weeks because he does not contribute on special
teams, but he appears to be the most likely player to handle a
huge workload if Mostert succumbs to injury yet again. Even though
Mostert has proven to be a surprisingly steady option in the passing
game in 2022, Gaskin has more of a track record in that regard.
He could possess a slightly higher upside than Mostert is showing
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Fortunately, Mattison and
Osborn have already established themselves as potential fantasy
starters with their past work should something happen ahead of
them on the depth chart. Mattison is probably a low-end RB1 play
at worst if Cook gets hurt again, while Osborn would probably
be a strong flex option with WR3 upside if Jefferson or Thielen
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Bourne and Agholor, but
only if they are off the roster before next week's trade deadline.
Both players would be good fits in Green Bay, for example, although
I think Bourne would be significantly better. Otherwise, the player
to track here moving forward is Thornton. He appears to be pushing
for a full-time role, which is quite impressive considering all
the time he missed time earlier this season. His speed jumps off
the screen and he has already shown he can win at the catch point.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Seeing as how Hill is the
TE6 in PPR scoring this year, he is the obvious answer. The only
problem is he is already on most fantasy rosters. The player that
has likely turned the most heads in New Orleans over the last
two weeks might be Shaheed. He has turned both of his NFL touches
(one end-around and one catch) into big-play touchdowns. It is
no accident either; he appears to be one of the fastest players
in the league. Shaheed is highly unlikely to see much playing
time in the event Thomas (foot) and Landry (ankle) return from
injury, but there is also no guarantee of that happening anytime
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Breida might initially
find himself in the RB2 conversation if Barkley has to miss time,
although New York would probably opt for a committee if that happened.
With Robinson emerging as more of a full-timer in recent weeks,
Johnson is about the only other reserve worth monitoring.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Berrios is making the most
of his playing time, but he probably needs at least another injury
even if Davis misses multiple weeks with what is believed to be
a sprained MCL. With that said, he seems to have a better connection
with Zach Wilson than he does with Garrett Wilson or Moore.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Minshew and Scott would
be perfectly viable bye-week options should Hurts or Sanders miss
time, but it would be hard to get excited about either one long-term.
Watkins and Pascal probably have the most fantasy upside of the
reserves, although it feels like both are miles away from relevancy
for as long as Brown and Smith stay healthy. It is also entirely
possible that Brown or Smith would just see more targets if the
other missed time, leaving Watkins and Pascal as fringe plays
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? In part because I believe
Harris is a power runner stuck behind an offensive line that needs
its running back to run with more explosion right now, we are
not going to get a good idea of Harris' ceiling for a second consecutive
season. I also believe Harris still is not fully healthy, although
he has looked better since removing the device in his shoe that
he was playing with throughout September. With that said, as unenjoyable
as it has been for managers to slog through the season with Harris,
he is consistently delivering double-digit fantasy efforts. Warren
is his clear backup and would likely be featured if Harris misses
For that reason alone, it boggles the mind that Warren is so
far away from being universally owned in fantasy leagues, even
as we enter the bye-week crunch. Warren is explosive and healthy.
I have my doubts that Harris is (although he is better than he
was last month). Bourne has the explosiveness this offense needs
right now. This statement should not be taken as an indictment
of Harris' talent, but he is not a good fit for this edition of
the Steelers' offense. If Harris misses time at some point this
season, Warren would be a viable (and perhaps very good) RB2 option
in most leagues.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? While Goodwin should be
a good add in fantasy leagues this week as managers prepare to
be without Metcalf (knee) for a short time, I think there is a
higher-upside player on this roster. I am prepared to be loud
wrong on this, but Jones is still an intriguing talent to me.
He is no Rashaad Penny or Walker, but I was impressed enough by
him during the 2021 preseason (with the Saints) to believe he
is capable of filling in as a featured back. It seems unlikely
he will get that chance in 2022 since Seattle seems to trust Dallas
and Homer with passing-down duties, but we already know the Seahawks
can open up running lanes and do not mind pounding the rock.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? As is typically the case
with a Kyle Shanahan offense, anyone who plays running back. It
is unfathomable to me that Mitchell has been dropped in several
competitive fantasy leagues already - especially those that have
IR spots. McCaffrey's durability is an issue, which means San
Francisco is one CMC injury away from likely giving Mitchell 15-18
touches every week again (assuming he returns is expected following
the team's Week 9 bye).
The other player I will mention here is Jennings. Samuel is currently
dealing with a hamstring injury, although there is no indication
yet it is anything serious. Either way, Jennings is already getting
regular work in an offense that would not seem to have room for
him. An injury to Samuel or Aiyuk would make him a full-time player
and a viable flex option at worst.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? The obvious answer is White,
but he is rostered in most leagues and has been since the start
of the season. While Jones is not technically a reserve in the
traditional sense, he is available in many leagues because most
managers do not have the space to keep someone around when his
NFL team determines it wants to "play the long game"
with him. We are likely nearing the end of his recovery from the
knee injury that has hindered him since mid-September, but managers
already know not to count too much on his body holding up. With
that said, there is definite WR3 upside here. With Jones expected
to be a game-time decision in Week 8, now may be the time to stash
him if the bye-week crunch is not hurting your team too much.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Willis is not ready to
be a full-time starter in the league yet, but his raw athleticism
may allow him to push for high-end QB2 status right away if/when
Tannehill misses time. That time could be as soon as Week 8 with
Tannehill dealing with an ankle injury. Willis is not as far along
as Justin Fields, but the same kind of game plan Chicago laid
out for its quarterback against New England in Week 7 would be
a good blueprint for what Tennessee should do with its third-round
rookie if he is forced into action in 2022. In what has been a
down year for the fantasy quarterback position as a whole, Willis
could be one of the players that gives it a jolt.
Which reserve has a chance to emerge? Gibson is the obvious answer
here in any league in which he was dropped, but I doubt it happened
in many. Assuming that is the case, allow me to talk a bit about
Rogers. While he is highly unlikely to contribute in a meaningful
way in 2022, he is probably the future at the tight end position
for the Commanders. Rogers spent his college career at UNLV and
Ohio playing quarterback and only shifted over to tight end during
the college all-star game circuit. After making a splash play
in Week 1 on a screen, he barely saw the field again until he
logged his most extensive playing time by far in Week 7. Rogers
is a remarkably fluid and agile athlete who ran a 4.58 at about
230 pounds and posted a 34-inch vertical and impressive 10-foot-10
broad jump this spring. He needs to be monitored just in case
last week's playing time was not a fluke. (To that end, Thomas
has not played since Week 4 with a calf injury and Turner was
ruled out late in the first half of Week 7 after suffering a concussion.)
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.