Week 5 came and…well that’s it because at the time of this writing, the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans had yet to play their matchup. It was rescheduled for Tuesday after the Titans had a self-inflicted outbreak of COVID. Similarly, the New England Patriots had their game against the Denver Broncos pushed from Week 5 to Week 6.
That’s all besides the point though because we’re here to find some help for out ailing fake football teams. Injuries have the quarterback of a high-octane offense, a rookie wide receiver that looks like a tight end, and a backup running back making the case for more time all available on the wire.
Dallas Cowboys – QB – 99.8% Avail
First and foremost, let’s send wishes for a speedy recovery to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. While trying to fight for more yardage on a scramble he suffered a compound fracture and will miss the rest of the season. He has a long recovery ahead and the Cowboys will have to try and regroup with their backup.
Fortunately for them, Andy Dalton has nine years worth of starting experience in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the AFC North. Dalton threw just under 3500 yards in 13 games last season with a far less talented group. Putting him under center may not cure what ails the Cowboys (hint: it is ailments) but he could do wonders for you if you’re hurting at QB.
Dalton hasn’t been a top-12 fantasy quarterback since 2016, but this is by far the most offensive talent he’s played with. He also doesn’t need to be elite, just get you through a bye week. But the fact that a 30-something quarterback carries the kind of upside Dalton does in this offense is rare for a backup quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings – RB – 58.4% Avail
Dalvin Cook is one of the most talented backs in the NFL right now. Unfortunately, staying healthy has been his biggest hurdle. That’s why the Vikings took Alexander Mattison out of Boise State in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. All he did in relief was take 20 carries for 112 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in a losing effort.
Cook is expected to miss Week 6 against the woeful Atlanta Falcons with his abductor injury; a predictable move given the Vikings Week 7 bye. Cook becomes a plug-and-play option in this situation. He’s only averaging 68 yards in the five games he’s handled double-digit carries, a figure aided by his output last week.
Still, Atlanta is 0-5 and dealing with an interim head coach while Minnesota is third in rushing yards and fourth in attempts as a team. There is a risk this becomes a shootout, and Mike Boone is a threat to vulture any week. But finding 18-plus carries on the wire isn’t anything to sneeze at, even if it’s likely only for one week.
Arizona Cardinals – RB – 53.5% Avail
We head to the desert to find another back on the wire. This one carries more long-term potential but is far more speculative. Whereas a Cook injury opens a brief window for Mattison, it’s the ineffective play of Kenyan Drake that has many hoping that Kliff Kingsbury opts to move on from a player they’re paying $8 million on the transition tag.
Arizona’s big-money, short-term commitment plodded his way to 60 yards on 16 carries against the lowly New York Jets, scuffling to 3.3 yards per carry; up from 2.7 the week before. Edmonds only had 36 yards (and a touchdown) on three carries but that’s 12 yards per tote. The former Fordham runner also had five catches for 56 yards, another aspect of Drake’s game that’s been lacking.
Again, this is speculation with a hint of hope. Drake was a part-time player in college and with the Miami Dolphins. It would make sense that Edmonds at least eats into his workload regardless. But the Alabama alum might be forcing his coach’s hand. Even though an injury didn’t knock Drake out of last week’s game as some had expected, his poor play just might.
Pittsburgh Steelers – WR – 91.2% Avail
Ok, so maybe you don’t need this guide to realize that Chase Claypool should be added. Anytime a receiver goes for 110 yards on seven grabs and three touchdowns you take notice. When that player also gets three carries and scores a rushing touchdown you make them a priority. And when that player is but a rookie you get the types of hyped headlines we have seen this week.
Claypool stepped in for Diontae Johnson (back) and proceeded to shine so brightly he overshadowed Philadelphia Eagles wideout Travis Fulgham who had 10 catches for 152 yards and two scores of his own. His 11 targets were nearly double those of the next pass-catcher, Eric Ebron. They were also the second-most looks a Steelers receiver has gotten in a game this season.
It was Ebron’s drops, a recurring issue throughout his career, that made way for Claypool who looks more like a tight end than a receiver. Johnson’s injury seemingly opened the door for Claypool and Ebron being himself held it there. It was the rookie’s own performance though that could have him looking like a modern version of Plaxico Burress.
Los Angeles Chargers – WR – 65.4% Avail
From one big-bodied wide receiver to another, Mike Williams was a popular player before the season but early passing struggles and a strong ground attack left Williams’ owners feeling burned. Perhaps his two touchdowns and 109 yards on five catches will get some investors back in the fold.
Williams has battled injuries and he actually got hurt at the end of Monday Night Football but was able to walk off the field under his own power. Just keep an eye on it. He wasn’t the only receiver to go down as top-option Keenan Allen also left early with a back injury. If Williams was just banged up, he could be in for a big role if Allen (who has also battled injuries) misses time.
The injury risk this season has been devastating and even worse for the Chargers. Keep that in mind with Williams. But even if he misses time, he could be useful as we continue through the bye weeks. Any concerns about the offense should have already been laid to rest with the announcement that Justin Herbert would start at quarterback the rest of the season.
Green Bay Packers – TE – 51.4% Avail You may have forgotten but the last time we saw the Green Bay Packers they were being carried by third-year tight end Robert Tonyan. Okay, “carry” may be too strong for an offense featuring Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones. Tonyan put on a show nonetheless. Six grabs, 98 yards, and three touchdown catches is one way to get your name out there.
What was most notable about Tonyan’s performance was that it was his third-straight game with a score and second with 50-plus receiving yards. He’s just one target shy of his 2019 total and has already surpassed his catch and yardage totals from last season. Aaron Rodgers playing lights out right now is the cherry on top.
The elephant in the room here is Davante Adams. He missed the game against the Falcons and left early in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions. His imminent return will put a dent into Tonyan’s production. But, despite investing draft capital at tight end in each of the past two drafts, Tonyan appears to be the best option the Packers have at the position.