Well, it finally happened. After including Alexander Mattison in both of my last two fantasy columns, Dalvin Cook was a slightly surprising inactive last weekend. Mattison did exactly what we expected, going for over 20 points in half-ppr scoring. If you were on him early enough, you likely picked him up for free. If you waited for Cook news, you were hoping for a successful waiver claim.
Backup backs with clear roles to production will continue to be the focal point of this article. I can’t stress enough how valuable they are. They may not project as well each week, but you know when you can play them. That trait is way more valuable than a boom-or-bust WR who might be on your bench when they explode.
As always, all rostership levels are based on Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on your provider and league settings.
Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers (26% Rostered)
I was kicking myself for not listing Hubbard in prior weeks columns when I saw Christian McCaffrey go down. Just like Mattison, Hubbard immediately stepped into a large role, getting 11 carries and three receptions in less than three quarters without CMC. You could’ve picked Hubbard up for nothing in most leagues from draft time until Thursday night.
Unfortunately, your whole league will now be making a claim on Hubbard if he’s available. McCaffrey is likely out for a minimum of two weeks, during which time Hubbard is likely a top 12 RB.
Depending on your league’s waiver settings (waiver priority, FAAB, etc.) you might not have a shot at him, but if you do, now’s the time
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (45% rostered)
Jones continues to disappoint as a passer, throwing downfield at the lowest rate in the NFL. However, he’s flashed surprising athleticism this year, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns in three games. To rephrase, he’s averaging more points from rushing alone, than Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathon Taylor are total.
Jones isn’t an every week go-to, but if he can get anything out of his (theoretically) talented receiver group, his rushing floor and ceiling keep him in consideration. He’s the QB10 right now. I expect him to finish lower than that, but have some solig games along the way.
Jones draws a tough Saints defense this week, so I’d only pick him up if you’re thinking longer-term. Week 5 in Dallas is a better spot for Jones.
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers (22% rostered)
I hesitate to include two qbs in this space, since only 10-12 are started weekly in most leagues. With that said, Darnold is the QB12 right now. It’s hard to say how losing McCaffrey for a couple weeks will impact Darnold. On the one hand, the ground game should be less productive. On the other hand, CMC racked up a lot of yards on easy throws for his quarterbacks.
I prefer Darnold to Jones if you’re qb needy this week. Darnold has a matchup in Dallas that should be fairly high scoring. How he looks without McCaffrey will be telling for his short-term prospects.
Evan Engram, New York Giants (39% rostered)
Tight end is pretty barren right now. With byes yet to start (forcing players to pick up a 2nd QB, defense, etc) most of the viable options are well over 50% rostership. Engram is the best of the bunch if you’re desperate though. He didn’t do much with it, but he saw six targets on 35 Daniel Jones passes in his return from injury. You won’t be excited about it, I’m not excited writing about it, but he might be your only choice
Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team (34% rostered)
Samuel is eligible to return this week, and Ron Rivera is cautiously optimistic about his chances. (Riverboat Ron doesn’t say much definitively.) He’s a bit of a lottery ticket, but Washington hasn’t gotten much out of any receiver other than McLaurin so far this year. In week 3, no other wideout had more than one catch.
Samuel is by far the most talented WR (after Terry) on the team. His value expands further if gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick finds his way back to the field, although the timetable there is murkier. If you’re interested in Samuel, you can probably still get him as a free agent after waivers run this week. Once he’s ruled in definitively, that likely won’t be the case. I will continue to preach the advantage of thinking one week ahead of our competition, and this is a chance to do just that.
Chicago Bears Defense (29% rostered)
The Bears posted back-to-back 5 sack games, and are still being overlooked by fantasy managers. They have a string of tough matchups after week 4, but in week 4 they get the Detroit Lions. While the Lions haven’t been quite as bad offensively as anticipated, they’re still starting Jarred Goff at qb. They also could still be without starting …left? Tackle Taylor Decker this week. Khalil Mack and the Bears can create a lot of havoc, especially against a team who’s starting tackles are a career backup and a rookie playing his 4th game.
Bonus: Josh Gordon (4% rostered)
No idea how anybody got Josh yet, but he’s now in the player pool. He’s reportedly signing with the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Gordon together?! The odds of him actually contributing are…pretty poor. But there exists a universe where he gets on the field in week 6 or so and scores roughly 2000 points the rest of the season, and that’s the universe I’m choosing to believe in.