As we start to get a better handle on the valuable players in fantasy, injuries are starting to pile up. QB’s Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton, Tua Tagovailoa, and Tyrod Taylor all have fantasy implications. At the running back position, Darrell Henderson, and everybody in San Francisco, have the potential to miss time. It’s important to get ahead of your competition in situations like these where getting the “next guy up” can be extremely valuable.
As long as you haven’t started off 0-2, you should still be in value/upside mode at this point in the season. With most leagues having ⅓ to ½ of the field make it to the playoffs, I’m focused on building the strongest team possible for when I get there.
Let’s look at some of my favorites that can give you an edge on your competition, all rostered at less than 50% on Yahoo (your individual fantasy provider may vary). The list is in no particular order due to the player’s value being heavily dependent on your team’s roster.
RBs Kenneth Gainwell (36%) and Alexander Mattison (33%)
I’m grouping these two players together because the situation is similar. Neither guy is really startable while their team’s starters (Miles Sanders and Dalvin Cook) are healthy. However, both would have tremendous value as the lead back on potent offenses.
I prefer Gainwell if forced to pick, as he has a better passing game role. He’s seen three targets in both of the first two weeks, compared to one each game for Mattison. This gives him some slight value even while Sanders is healthy.
As we saw this week, injuries are plentiful in the NFL, especially to running backs. If I have a team that has an easily droppable player — and no immediate needs — I’m prioritizing players like these. They have the upside to win leagues if they get a full-time role.
Trey Lance (39% rostered)
Lance is a trickier player to include here, but I think it’s important to do so. If he were to get the starting nod, Lance immediately has a top 10 ceiling for quarterbacks. His rushing ability provides a solid floor and having YAC monsters George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk could help him rack up points without having to do much.
If and when he gets the QB1 role is the challenging part. While Jimmy Garoppolo struggled early in Week 2, he has done enough to have the Niners at 2-0 right now. It’s hard to see a situation where the Niners bench Garoppolo while they’re on this winning streak. But it has been done before, in fact, the Dolphins did it last year, benching Fitzpatrick in favor of Tagovailoa despite a winning record.
I wouldn’t bother with Lance if you already have a top-eight QB. However, if you’re streaming the position, or were one of the last in your league to draft one, he makes a lot of sense. He and fellow rookie Justin Fields (51% rostered, so just outside my article’s cutoff) could be weekly top 10 options in the back half of the season.
Teddy Bridgewater (17% rostered)
Essentially the inverse of the rookie QBs, Bridgewater is a solid pick if you need immediate help at the position. He’s quietly turned in back-to-back 20 point games to start the season and looks to have a firm grasp on the starting role in Denver. Without the rushing ability from earlier in his career, he’s not an incredibly exciting pick. However, even without Jerry Jeudy (IR, expected to return 4-6 weeks), the Broncos have a talented group of weapons around Bridgewater. His Week 3 matchup against the Jets is a good one, so he could provide some valuable points at the position if you don’t have a starter you feel good about.
DeVante Parker (40% rostered)
It’s hard to say what’s going on with Will Fuller, who was set to return from a suspension in Week 2 before being declared out due to “personal reasons” late in the week. If he continues to miss time, Parker is more valuable than his current scoring would suggest. He leads the team in targets with 16.
It also looks like we’ll be avoiding a backup QB situation in Miami, which would harm Parker’s value. Tagovailoa is currently listed as day-to-day, and will likely be back in Week 3. Parker has some value even if Fuller plays — I don’t expect Fuller to step in as the WR1 immediately. Tagovailoa seems comfortable with Parker and should look his way enough to make him a borderline starter in all fantasy formats.
Rondale Moore (34% rostered)
It’s absolutely baffling that Moore is still available in 66% of leagues. The Cardinals have fed him 13 targets through two weeks, many of which were short throws. The speedy Moore is 2nd among all receivers in yards after the catch on the season. Especially in PPR formats, the floor of easily catchable targets combined with his YAC ceiling should have him in starting lineups, not the waiver wire. He also plays on (in my opinion) the league’s best passing attack. As an added bonus, he’s the Cardinals’ primary return man, and judging by his Purdue career, he should run one or two back this season.
Carolina Panthers Defense (22%)
Defense is the one exception to my rule about hunting for long-term value. It’s too hard to project fantasy playoff matchups this early in the year, so I’m focused on maximizing the upcoming week. The obvious choice this week is the Panthers — who’ve played like a team that should be picked up regardless of matchup so far. They lead the league with 10 sacks and have added an additional three interceptions.
This week, they also happen to have a great matchup. They face the Texans, who were already expected to be one of the worst teams in the league. They’re now a bad team on their 3rd string QB, with Taylor expected to miss at least a few weeks, and no plans of playing Deshaun Watson. As 7.5 point underdogs, Houston will likely have to drop whoever is under center back frequently on Thursday. That’s a great situation for the Panthers.