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.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB Philadelphia Eagles (22%)
Gainwell is exactly the player I’m talking about in the intro paragraph. Sunday morning, you could’ve picked up Gainwell for nothing in 78% of roster leagues. Now, unless you hold the top waiver priority or are willing to spend an inordinate amount of FAAB, you won’t be able to get him. Starter Miles Sanders is out for at least a few weeks, and Gainwell should see the bulk of the running back action for the Eagles. Gainwell saw 80% of the running back targets post-Sanders, which was especially encouraging. If you want to go all 3D chess you could consider picking up Scott — he may be used more frequently with a full week to prepare. He’d also be the next man up if Gainwell were hurt. For now, take your shot at Gainwell, who will be a fantasy starter the next few weeks.
Sony Michel, RB Los Angeles Rams (42%)
Michel was supposed to get a ton of work in Week 7 with the Rams expected to run through the Lions. As you probably know, the Lions ended up leading much of the way so it didn’t work out. Michel’s current rostership levels reflect that optimism heading into the week — some of those 42% of players may drop him when waivers run this week. Regardless, Week 8 against Houston is another good matchup for the Rams. That could mean a lot of Michel late. He’s also the number two back behind oft-injured Darrel Henderson, so Michel may spend some time as the lead back at some point this year. Add him before that happens.
Rashod Bateman, WR Baltimore Ravens (33%)
Bateman has fairly quickly stepped as Baltimore’s number two option in the passing game. He’s seen essentially the same target share as Mark Andrews, but with a much deeper role. He’s only played tow games since returning from injury, so I expect his role to grow as he becomes more comfortable with the offense. The lack of viable running backs — and Baltimore’s poor defense — means an increase in pass rate in Baltimore too. His deep routes mean he’s not a safe option week-to-week, but his upside is tremendous. While there’s concern his role diminished upon Sammy Watkins’ return, I expect we continue to see a lot of the rookie. The Ravens have a bye in Week 8, so you can probably wait until post-waivers and pick him up for free.
Kalif Raymond, WR Detroit Lions (3%)
Raymond has been the lone bright spot in an awful Lions receiver corps. Injuries in front of him have cleared the path for him the past couple weeks, but he seems to have earned a larger role. The Lions will likely continue to face a ton of negative game scripts, so they’ll have to throw the ball downfield to somebody. Raymond has 15 targets the past two weeks, and he’s been effective with the, this season. His 8.6 yards per target is well above QB Jared Goff’s 6.5 yards per attempt. You’re unlikely to find seven or eight targets per game elsewhere on the waiver wire.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB Miami Dolphins (48%)
Tua’s return from the IR has been extremely encouraging. He’s averaging over 300 yards — and three touchdowns — over the past two weeks. Yes, they were easy matchups with the Falcons and Jags, but it’s still a good sign. He could potentially have both Will Fuller and Devante Parker back next week as well. Tua has been forced to throw at least 40 passes in each of the last two weeks. It’s hard to see that changing in Week 8 against Buffalo.
Evan Engram, TE New York Giants (31%)
Engram is averaging almost six targets per game for the injury-riddled Giants. They aren’t great targets — mainly checkdowns that have led to less than six yards each. Still, targets are targets. It doesn’t seem like the Giants will have their full complement of wideouts soon, or maybe ever. Even if they do, Engram provides a nice floor at a position that’s hard to find points from. Hopefully you won’t need ot rely on himn for more than a week or two, but Engram is very unlikely to leave you with nothing.
Deshaun Watson, QB (18%)
Regarldess of Watson’s off the field issues, he’s technically eligible to play at the moment. Trade rumors are swirling, focusing mainly on Carolina and Miami. Tua (see above) has played well lately, but Darnold was benched last week in a bad loss. The most likely option is that Watson doesn’t see the field this year. However, if he does he’s immediately a fantasy QB1. I’d only consider Watson if you have an open spot on your roster, and are streaming QBs or limited at the position. I’m fine with fading Watson for moral reasons — I won’t be picking him up (I do have Kyler Murray in my season long league) — but the upside is there.