Fantasy Football Week 7: What We Learned

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton
 Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton
Dec 30 2012 Indianapolis IN USA Indianapolis Colts wide receiver TY Hilton 13 celebrates as he scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the game at Lucas Oil Stadium Thomas J Russo USA TODAY Sports

The Injury Reaper cometh, and taketh our fantasy football studs on his wild steed back to hell, where the Reaper mockingly laughs at our Sunday afternoon anguish.

Dramatic, I know, but in the heat of the moment, when your fantasy quarterback — Jay Cutler — or your top receiver — Reggie Wayne — or perhaps your tight end slated to take on a prominent role in a top offense — Jermichael Finley — are ripped from your squad for what could be a very long time, it seems like the End Times.

Those three guys, plus Sam Bradford (lost for the year to an ACL tear), Arian Foster (re-aggravation of a hamstring injury), and Doug Martin (potentially serious arm injury) made for one of the most injury-riddled days in recent fantasy memory.

Adjusting on the fly, making moves that cover for the injuries that sometimes decimate a fantasy lineup, is all part of the game. That’s why it’s at this time that the savviest owners have a not-insignificant edge on the competition. To be able to piece together a viable lineup with masking tape and already-chewed gum requires an unnatural knowledge of undervalued players on the waiver wire, of which defenses to exploit, and which trade targets to acquire.

Anyone can roll out the studly squad they drafted in late August. That, in fact, should hardly be considered fantasy football. It’s when injuries chip away at the edges of your team — or tear out its bloody, beating heart — that you often learn how good you are. The time to scramble is now.

Anyone can play home run derby with their roster of superstars, but not many can play small ball on their way to a title.

  • T.Y. Hilton, with news of Reggie Wayne’s season-ending ACL injury, should be everyone’s top trade target this week. The speed merchant with a penchant for big plays will (finally) step into a full-time starting role, finally shedding the part-time role he’s had for most of the season. Hilton has run an average of 27.6 pass routes per game, fewer than 71 receivers, including guys like Riley Cooper and Marlon Brown. For Hilton owners: don’t deal your guy unless someone knocks off your proverbial socks with an offer for Hilton, who is averaging a hefty .23 fantasy points per snap (only 10 receivers average more). It’s not an overstatement to say Hilton could be a top-12 receiver for the final nine weeks of the fantasy football season.
  • Welcome to Helu, Alfred Morris owners. Morris wasn’t vultured once, or even twice against the struggling Chicago run defense. Roy Helu, Jr., scored three short-range touchdowns Sunday, and carried the ball 11 times total for 41 yards. It wasn’t an even timeshare, as Morris saw 19 carries, but it’s uncomfortably close to one. Morris, a big-bodied banger, doesn’t fit the archetype of a back who can’t carry the water near the end zone. That, however, is neglecting one very important factor: The Shanahans hate your fantasy team. They have for years. They might even be spawns of the aforementioned Reaper. No one should sell Morris, unless they’re stacked at running back in a six-team league. Helu is a solid flex player from here on out.
  • A quick statistical note that may or may not inform your flex spot decisions for the rest of the season: Through seven weeks, an average of four running backs per week have run for more than 100 yards. Three weeks have seen just two backs eclipse 100 yards. There are a good-sized group runners collecting more than 100 total yards — rushing and receiving — but the days of the 20-carry, 100-yard runner are fading, and fast. There were an average of 7.8 running backs per week who broke the century mark rushing through the first seven weeks of the 2011 season. The actionable advice here: Don’t hesitate to play a receiver over a top-20 running back in your flex spot. That’ll be an adjustment for those who used three of their first five draft picks in hopes of rolling with three runners every week.
  • Tampa Bay running back Mike James should be owned in every league come Wednesday. Doug Martin’s backup, who rarely left the field after Martin left with some sort of shoulder injury, tallied 45 yards on 14 carries against a soft Atlanta front seven. The Bucs play Thursday night, leaving Martin almost no time to get right. James could be a godsend for owners suffering through bye-week blues. Those who don’t own Martin should still prioritize James and hold Martin owners over the coals if his injury proves to be of the multi-week variety.
  • Vincent Jackson will be just fine. In fact, he might be better than ever with deep ball-loving Mike Glennon chucking the ball in Tampa Bay. I did a triple take when I came across this number: Jackson drew 22 targets against the Falcons. He caught 10 of those balls for 138 yards and two scores. Jackson, since Glennon stepped in for the banished Josh Freeman, is fantasy’s top receiver. He’s been targeted an amazing 34 times, collected 234 yards, and scored four times. He’s a top-5 option for the rest of the year.
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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.