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.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR Cleveland Browns (13% Rostered)
With the release of Beckham, DPJ stepped into the starting outside role for the Browns in Week 9. Fair warning: it’s going to be a bumpy road for Peoples-Jones. The volume isn’t spectacular — he only drew three targets in the first game post-Beckham. However, they’re extremely valuable targets. He turned two of them into 86 yards receiving. While the total volume should improve in closer games, expect most of his looks to be deep downfield, leading to catch rates on the lower side. This makes Peoples-Jones a stronger play in non or half PPR leagues, but he’ll have a few big games down the stretch.
Rashod Bateman, WR Baltimore Ravens (36% Rostered)
We’ve been over this one a few times, but Bateman should have a big role down the stretch. The first-round rookie is just getting into the swing of things, having only played three games so far. Rookies tend to improve as the season goes on, particularly following their bye week. This held true for Bateman, who drew eight targets in Week 9. He should be a solid WR3 the rest of the season.
DeSean Jackson, WR Las Vegas Raiders (5% Rostered)
Jackson signed with Las Vegas this week, and will presumably replace the now-released Henry Ruggs as the primary deep threat. Much like Peoples-Jones, Jackson will be boom-or-bust at best. It’s always going to be tricky to capture those “boom” weeks (if they come at all) but he has a higher weekly ceiling than almost any player available.
Jordan Howard, RB Philadelphia Eagles (14% Rostered)
With Miles Sanders out, Howard has (perhaps surprisingly) served as the Eagles’ top running back the past two weeks. Howard rushed 29 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games. With Sanders set to miss at least one more game, Howard will be of use in Week 10 at a minimum. His pass-catching role is literally zero, so he’s better in standard leagues. However, his goal-line work gives him some upside regardless of format. I wouldn’t break the FAAB bank on Howard, since he’ll be at best in a three-way committee once Sanders returns, but if you need a Week 10 fill-in he’s your man.
Devonta Freeman, RB Baltimore Ravens (21% Rostered)
Freeman seems to have emerged as the lead back in Baltimore, recording 13 carries and two catches last week. It will never be a huge upside role, with Lamar Jackson siphoning off so much of the rushing production, and Le’Veon Bell mixing in at the goal line. However, this is a strong offense that wants to run the ball as much as they can. Ideally, you wouldn’t rely on Freeman on a weekly basis, but as a fill-in option during the final stretch of bye weeks. Expect double-digit carries and a catch or two most weeks moving forward.
Tyler Conklin, TE Minnesota Vikings (38% Rostered)
Conklin is the Vikings’ clear-cut starter at tight end, having seen seven targets on consecutive weeks. That tied for the team lead in Week 10, making Conklin a very strong option moving forward. The Vikings face the Chargers in Week 10, with the Chargers allowing the fifth-most points to the position on the season. Conklin is a back-end starting option on a weekly basis, with the chance for more this week.