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We are in the beginning of a two-week period that many fantasy football owners will soon come to call hell. To kick off the week, we learned of terrible long-term injuries to Doug Martin, Reggie Wayne, Sam Bradford, and Jay Cutler. Arian Foster, Nick Foles, and Jermichael Finley left their games as well. As if that wasn’t bad enough, 12 teams will have their bye week over the next two weeks. This week, prepare to be without any player on the Bears, Titans, Colts, Chargers, Ravens, or Texans. Ouch.
The one positive fantasy owners can take away from injuries is that it opens up opportunities for waiver wire free agents to suddenly be bumped up into big spots. Of course, only one team in your league can land Mike James or Darrius Heyward-Bey this week. For everyone else, there’s plenty of stash picks available so let’s look at the top Week 8 buys and some bye week desperation grabs.
Mike James (10%): At first glance, Mike James is a BenJarvus Green-Ellis type back without the explosive speed you’d like to see out of a feature back. That sort of impression doesn’t wow anyone but you have to consider the situation in Tampa. Doug Martin, despite not playing at the level he did last season, has been the sixth-most utilized player in the entire NFL this season with 127 run attempts and 12 targets. That ranks him only behind Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, and Arian Foster, all of whom have yet to have a bye week which basically means Martin has been more utilized per game than anyone except Jamaal Charles.
Will James get the same type of workload? Certainly not, and veteran back Brian Leonard could certainly factor in slightly as well, but they have to do something with those touches. Mike Glennon has thrown a consistent 44, 43, and 43 pass attempts in his first three starts. Over those starts, the Bucs have run 31, 21, and 28 running plays and Glennon has targeted a running back 20 times since taking over the quarterback job. He may not be overwhelming but James can definitely be a significant contributor on volume alone.
Chris Ivory (29%): With Mike Goodson out for the season, the Jets backfield situation was back to Ivory and Bilal Powell and then, as it turned out, just Ivory. Ivory carried the ball 34 times for 104 yards while Powell touched the ball just three times. His 3.1 yards per carry leave something to be desired but Ivory was consistent, moving the pile and fighting for yardage. After looking improved from his banged up preseason form in the last two games, this was the first time Ivory ran like he did on the Saints and saw the bulk of the carries. Certainly, it’ll be interesting to see how the Jets use Powell in the future but he’s only gotten 24 carries over the last three weeks so Ivory figures to be the go-to guy, at least for now.
Roy Helu Jr. (23%): Helu saw 11 rushes and one reception for a combined 46 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears on Sunday but Alfred Morris still saw 19 touches so it’s hard to get too excited about that three touchdowns unless you actually started him this week. Still, he now has 207 total yards and four touchdowns over his last three weeks and can certainly contribute in deep leagues, especially in a bye week pinch. With 11 targets over his last three games, he also has added value in PPR leagues.
Andre Brown (14%): Brown is back at practice for the Giants after breaking his leg in the team’s final preseason game and looks to be on pace for a Week 10 return. The Giants went into Monday Night with a combination of Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox, so they can’t get Brown back fast enough. Last season, Brown only got 73 rushing attempts and 12 receptions but ran for 385 yards (5.3 YPC) and eight touchdowns while adding 86 yards through the air. If you wait until after the Giants bye week, you’re very likely to miss out on this guy. Once he comes back, the Giants schedule looks great outside of one game with the Seahawks. They’ll face the Raiders, Packers, Cowboys, Redskins, Chargers, Lions, and Redskins again.
Shane Vereen (34%): Vereen is expected back at practice this week and his return looks to be on pace for Week 11, after the Pats’ bye week. Of course, I’m not sure I would start him in his first week or two back after the injury with the Panthers and Broncos on the schedule but he could be a healthy contributor during fantasy football crunch time and it’s never too early to start thinking about that.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (22%): With Reggie Wayne going down with an ACL tear, Darrius Heyward-Bey gets a bump to number one on the Colts depth chart. T.Y. Hilton will likely remain the better fantasy producer but Heyward-Bey steps into a highly targeted WR1 role. Wayne was targeted 58 times and DHB has seen 34 targets himself so the volume should definitely be there. The Colts are on a bye this week but you better grab him now or he’ll be gone.
Jeremy Kerley (9%): After catching just two of his seven targets against the Steelers in Week 6, Kerley caught eight of his 10 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown this week against the Pats. With 17 targets over his last two games and 26 targets and two touchdowns over his last three, Kerley should be a significant contributor in deep leagues, at least until Santonio Holmes returns.
Jarrett Boykin (32%): If you didn’t grab him last week, you missed out on a big eight reception, 103 yard, and one touchdown performance by Boykin, the beneficiary of Randall Cobb and James Jones’ injuries. Jones is fairly close to returning but even when he does, that leaves Cobb and Jermichael Finley out, leaving plenty of targets to go around.
Bye Week Desperation Grabs: Jerome Simpson (19%), Mike Tolbert (13%), Stephen Hill (12%), Brandon Bolden (9%), Kris Durham (7%), Cole Beasley (1%)
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