Injuries play a big part in fantasy football each year, and the 2013 has been no exception. Fantasy owners saw multiple quarterbacks and running backs go down with long-term injuries, and starters at the WR and TE positions weren’t safe either. If you own any of the sidelined players and are looking for replacements, the good news is that there are plenty of fantasy free agents worth owning that are available to be snapped up in many leagues.
TB Mike James
NYJ Chris Ivory
WAS Roy Helu Jr.
NYG Peyton Hillis
NE Brandon Bolden
ATL Jason Snelling
NYG Andre Brown
CAR Jonathan Stewart
TB Brian Leonard
HOU Ray Graham
James checks in at No. 1 as he is expected to take over feature back duties with Doug Martin out with a torn labrum. He could even remain the top back on the Tampa Bay depth chart all season, although there is ambiguity surrounding how long Martin will be out. James may not break off any huge fantasy performances, but the Bucs line hasn’t been quite as bad as you think. While Martin has only rushed for 3.6 yards per carry, he managed 4.2 yards-per-carry average or better in four of his six games. There’s potential for James to turn in some 80-yard, one-TD performances.
Ivory had only received 34 carries over his first five games heading into Week 7 action before doubling that total with one 34-carry performance Sunday. The Jets claim they were riding the hot hand with Ivory, who barely topped 100 yards despite the high-volume performance while averaging 3.1 yards per carry. He’s my No. 2 claim based on the potential to serve as a feature back for multiple weeks, though I wouldn’t be willing to start him until we see the Jets continue to lean on him.
Helu scored three TDs Sunday, but make no mistake: he’s not the team’s goal-line back. His production was more of a case of schematic randomness, as the team decided to employ a hurry-up package that kept him on the field when they got close to the goal line. While the potential is certainly there for him to add a few more quality fantasy lines as the team’s passing back, I wouldn’t burn a high claim chasing Helu’s Week 7 production.
Hillis led the Giants in carries Monday night but only managed 36 yards on 18 carries while rushing for a touchdown. He did add 45 yards on five receptions, but it’s very possible Week 7 will be Hillis’ best line of the season. However, with Brandon Jacobs’ status up in the air, Hillis will likely be a quality add-and-start in Week 8 with six teams on a bye. Just be warned that he’s probably not going to have any fantasy value after this week, as the Giants are off in Week 9 and the backfield will be healthier when they come out of a bye.
Bolden and Snelling are solid adds as committee backs who should continue to see touches for the foreseeable future. Brown and Stewart could soon be back from injuries and factor into their teams’ RB plans. Leonard and Graham are decent deep-league options, as Leonard is now the No. 2 back in Tampa Bay behind an unproven starter and Graham, who is on the Houston practice squad, would likely start for the Texans if they played Thursday, though he may not play much at all with the backfield having two weeks to heal thanks to a bye.
GB Jarrett Boykin
TEN Kendall Wright
IND Darrius Heyward-Bey
NYJ Jeremy Kerley
MIA Brandon Gibson
DET Kris Durham
CIN Marvin Jones
BUF Robert Woods
IND LaVon Brazill
PHI Riley Cooper
Boykin shined in his first extended action as a starter in Week 7, catching eight of 10 targets for 103 yards and a TD. It turns out that Aaron Rodgers is pretty good at helping WRs fulfill their potential — who knew? With James Jones’ status unclear for Week 8 and Jermichael Finley looking at an extended absence after a scary injury, Boykin will likely continue to be a key piece in the passing game for at least a few weeks, if not the entire season.
Here are Wright’s target totals over the last six weeks: 11-6-9-8-8-12. He’s racked up between 50 and 100 yards in each of those weeks, with Week 7 representing season highs in catches (nine), targets (12) and yards (98). With Jake Locker back in the fold, Wright is certainly one worth clearing space for on benches to stash through Tennessee’s Week 8 bye.
Heyward-Bey steps up as the team’s nominal No. 1 receiver in the wake of Reggie Wayne’s season ending ACL tear, though it would seem likely Andrew Luck spreads the ball around to multiple targets on a weekly basis, including deep-league option LaVon Brazill and deeper-league possibility Da’Rick Rogers, the latter of whom is on the practice squad. Heyward-Bey should be owned in most leagues moving forward, and depending on the league size, he may be available to pick up after the initial waiver period as he’s off in Week 8.
Kerley, like Wright, saw season highs in catches (eight), targets (10) and yards (97) in Week 7, thanks in part to the Patriots’ injury woes on defense and part to the continued absence of Santonio Holmes. Unlike Wright, Kerley added a touchdown to post a top-notch fantasy line. His Week 8 matchup got easier when Bengals CB Leon Hall went down with an injury, and he’s definitely worth considering as a starting option this week for WR-needy teams.
Gibson racked up two scores in Week 7 and has been targeted eight times in three of his last four games. He’s a unexciting option that’s good for a solid fantasy line most weeks. Durham continues to see a lot of targets with Nate Burleson out, with 29 targets over his last three games. Jones has picked up TDs in back-to-back weeks, but his targets will likely continue to be limited. However, he’s a quality add in deeper formats. Woods has deep league value with Thaddeus Lewis holding his own. Cooper is coming off two good games, but they’ll likely be his two best performances all season.
OAK Terrelle Pryor
MIA Ryan Tannehill
TEN Jake Locker
ARI Carson Palmer
HOU Case Keenum
TB Mike Glennon
JAC Chad Henne
CHI Josh McCown
BUF Thad Lewis
MIN Geno Smith
Pryor is coming off a bye week and a mediocre performance in his last appearance, when he completed just 53 percent of his passes for 216 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. However, it’s important to note that this dud came against a ferocious Chiefs defense that has caused problems for plenty of quarterbacks this season. With his added value on the ground and his bye behind him, Pryor makes for the best add for teams looking to replace a QB or find a one-week starter in Week 8, even in a poor matchup against the Steelers.
One game after throwing for 300 yards against the Ravens, Tannehill tossed three TDs in his team’s loss to the Bills Sunday. He’s too inconsistent to be relied upon as an every-week starter, but averaging 263 passing yards per week keeps him in the QB2 conversation. If Aqib Talib is out for the Patriots again in Week 8, Tannehill represents a quality fill-in with so many teams on the bye. However, he’s not someone you want to be relying on come playoff time.
Locker returned this week to rack up 326 passing yards and two TDs while rushing for 29 yards and throwing an interception. That pick was his first of the year, giving him an 8:1 TD:INT ratio on the season. Unfortunately, a conservative gameplan has stymied his fantasy production much of the year, resulting in less than 150 passing yards in three of his five starts. Still, the upside is there for Locker to provide nice stats after his Week 8 bye.
Palmer has looked pretty ugly this season, throwing multiple interceptions in each of his last five games. After dealing with some tough matchups over the last few weeks, it gets easier for Palmer in Week 8 when he faces the Falcons. He’s worth consideration as a one-week option before his Week 9 bye, but there’s also a chance the Cardinals bench him after his poor play over the first half of the season.
Keenum showed some upside in his first start, racking up 271 yards on just 15 completions and throwing a TD against a great Chiefs defense. Though the Texans are on a bye this week and could choose to turn back to Matt Schaub in Week 9, Keenum did well enough that I’d add him as a potential Sam Bradford replacement in the hopes that the team sticks with him.
Glennon and Henne should throw a ton of passes each week as their winless teams continue to play from behind. Both have quality receiving options to lean on as well, making both of them at least intriguing bye-week fill-ins. McCown takes over a quality passing attack for the next few weeks. Lewis has shown enough that he can be considered a solid option while starting. Smith is locked in as a starter and has shown at least some promise at times.
WAS Jordan Reed
TB Tim Wright
ARI Rob Housler
NO Ben Watson
BAL Dallas Clark
Reed has become one of Robert Griffin III’s top weapons, catching all nine of his targets in Week 7 for 134 yards and a touchdown. Fred Davis, who was owned in more Yahoo leagues than Reed heading into the week, has fallen completely out of favor. Reed makes for a much better option than highly-owned tight ends like Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph. He also has the benefit of already taking his bye week, leaving his owners with no need to scout secondary options over the remainder of the season, provided the hip pointer Reed suffered in Week 7 is no big deal.
Wright couldn’t continue his stretch of quality performances, but he’s locked in as the team’s passing-game tight end, which should continue to be profitable with Mike Glennon under center. Housler caught all seven of his targets for 53 yards last week and has a good matchup on the horizon. Watson could be a great Week 8 option depending on Jimmy Graham’s health. Clark has been hit or miss but does have TDs in each of his last two games.
The Saints have done a great job on defense this season, giving up less than 17 points per game while forcing two turnovers per game. They’ll get to face an inexperienced QB in the Superdome in what should be a quality performance for this well-rested team. The Dolphins take on the Patriots, who have given up four sacks or more in each of their last three games. Even better, the Dolphins got Cameron Wake back last week. While Wake didn’t have a sack of his own, the team did take down Buffalo QB Thad Lewis four times. The Pats are always a danger to rack up points on the scoreboard, but Tom Brady has looked as bad as I can remember over the last few weeks. The Raiders are rested and have played pretty well on defense. They get to face a Steeler team that has curbed their turnover problems from the first four weeks. The Eagles take on turnover machine Eli Manning, who finally ironed things out against a bad Minnesota defense at home. A road game against a division rival could be another story. I hate the Bills matchup against the Saints about as much as I love how well the Bills are playing on defense. That means I probably won’t be using them this week, but they’re definitely on the radar moving forward.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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