As will be the case the rest of the year, backups in high-value roles are the key to fantasy success. Between bye weeks, mounting injuries, and changing roles, many of our early draft picks aren’t contributing points at the moment. I’ve belabored this point all year, but the key is securing these players before they’re thrust into a starting role. It varies with league settings, but most of the time it’s too late to get the preferred options when the starter in front of them goes down. Thinking a week or two ahead can separate you from your competition. This is a fairly thin week for immediately available help, so getting ahead of the game is even more important.
As always, all rostership levels are based on Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on your provider and league settings.
Jeremy McNichols, RB Tennessee Titans (8% Rostered)
With Derrick Henry set to miss the rest of the (regular) season due to a foot injury, McNichols is the next man up for the Titans. I regret not discussing (and picking up) McNichols weeks ago — former #2 RB Darrynton Evans is also out for the year. As soon as he went down, McNichols should’ve been scooped up. Derrick Henry, given his huge workload, was always likely to go down at some point.
Either way, McNichols is now the presumed lead back in a very solid overall offense. Don’t expect him to see Henry’s role, which is totally unique. However, McNichols is a better receiver, already seeing more targets than Henry on the season. The Titans would be wise to pass the ball more without the big dog anyway. Don’t expect to get McNichols unless you have the top waiver priority (or have and are willing to spend the most FAAB budget) in your league.
Adrian Peterson, RB Tennessee Titans (5% Rostered)
If you’re unable to get McNichols, Peterson makes a lot of sense. The Titans signed him on Monday, and the 36-year-old could be in for a major role. He and McNichols are the only backs on the roster. With McNichols profiling as more of a 3rd down/receiving back, Peterson could actually be the more valuable addition here. While he’s no Henry at this point of his career, Peterson was a very similar power-rusher in his day. If he’s at all effective, it wouldn’t shock me to see 15+ carries a week for Peterson.
Derrick Gore, RB Kansas City Chiefs (2% Rostered)
Gore (no relation) is a Week 9 special, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire eligible to return in Week 10. Gore (at the time of this writing during MNF) is serving as the Chiefs lead back in Week 8. Darrell Williams has been mostly ineffective in relief of CEH (3.4 yards per carry) so it made sense that the Chiefs are looking in a different direction. Gore looks good so far, rushing nine times for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Giants. With the Chiefs’ explosive offense, any effective rusher could be very valuable there. If you need a fill-in back due to byes or injuries in Week 9, you could do worse than Gore.
Justin Fields, QB Chicago Bears (22% Rostered)
Week 8 was finally the breakout that Fields fans had been hoping for. While he continued to underwhelm through the air (175 yards passing, one touchdown, and one interception,) Field added 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Hopefully, the Bears will continue to let him run when head coach Matt Nagy returns from COVID protocols. Fields isn’t going to be Tom Brady, but if he continues to run the ball with any regularity, he’ll be a solid fantasy option every week. The Bears have a tough Week 9 matchup against the Steelers, followed by a bye. However, rookies tend to perform much better after their team’s bye, so it could be a perfect time to get in on the Fields train if you can spare the roster spot for a couple of weeks.
WRs available in at least 50% of leagues:
I’ve mentioned most of these guys before, but here are some quick hits if you need a wide receiver to fill in for Week 9.
Devante Parker (35%): The Dolphins announced on Monday that Will Fuller won’t be practicing this week either. The Dolphins have a soft matchup with Houston in Week 10, and Parker will be the number-two option at worst.
Rashod Bateman (31%): The Rookie first-rounder saw six targets in each of his first two games. Bateman should benefit from being healthy during the bye week, giving him a chance to learn the offense. The Week 8 bye also likely depressed his popularity, he probably won’t qualify for this article again beyond this week
Elijah Moore (16%): The Jets offense looked way better with Michael White under center, scoring a season-high 34 points. Moore and the Jets take on a major pass funnel in the Colts on Week 9’s Thursday night football (1st in DVOA against the run, 22nd against the pass.) Top wide receiver Cory Davis “has a chance” to return according to head coach Robert Saleh, but the short week lowers that chance. IF Davis is back, pivot from Moore to Jamison Crowder (19%), who runs out of the slot and won’t compete as directly with Davis for targets.