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A lot of the time, injury replacements will be easy to sort out and can be waiver wire goldmines. Julio Jones goes down, pick up Harry Douglas. Randall Cobb goes down, get Jarrett Boykin. Doug Martin goes down, grab Mike James. When the injury replacement goes down though, sorting things out can be a bit tougher.
Bucs running back Mike James was carted off the field on Monday after suffering a fractured ankle, joining Martin and Mike Williams on the injured list. Brian Leonard came out in emergency relief and ran 20 times for 57 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 16 yards. Bobby Rainey, recently signed away from the Browns, got eight carries for 45 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for 11 yards.
This poses a lot of questions as to which one you should actually pick up from the waiver wire. Let’s take a look at which one figures to have the most upside and some other players that can be had in deep leagues.
Bobby Rainey (Owned in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues): Aside from an impressive 5.6 yard per carry performance on Monday, Rainey only got 13 rushing attempts for 34 yards and four receptions for 19 yards while on the Browns. We haven’t seen much of Rainey, an undrafted free agent last season who had since been dropped by the Browns and Ravens before signing with the Bucs a couple of weeks ago.
We do know that he was a killer in college, though. Playing in Western Kentucky, Rainey put up 1,649 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in his junior year and 1,695 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior year. There’s definitely ability and potential there and Rainey will likely get the bulk of early down work over the longtime third-down back Leonard. It’s not an ideal situation but if you’re only going to pick up one, it should probably be Rainey.
Brian Leonard (6 percent): Leonard has value as well, but his is likely relegated to deep PPR leagues. While Rainey is an inexperienced second-year player, Leonard is a seven-year veteran without a whole lot of rushing yards on his resume. A career 3.6 yard rusher, he hasn’t surpassed 106 rushing yards in any season since his rookie year in 2007. He is, however, a very solid pass catcher and has 12 receptions since Martin went down. He’ll likely get the bulk of the passing downs which means he should have decent PPR value with the increased opportunities.
Dennis Johnson (21 percent): With Arian Foster out for the season, Dennis Johnson is a Ben Tate tackle away from a starting job. He certainly didn’t impress anyone with his four carries for seven yards on Sunday against a tough Cardinals defense but Tate certainly looked ginger in his 15 carries. Playing through four fractured ribs, Tate is one bad hit away from joining Foster. Johnson isn’t startable in a backup role like Tate was but he makes for a great stash should something happen to Tate over the next seven weeks.
Nate Burleson (8 percent): Burleson, out since September 24 with a broken forearm, is expected to return on Sunday to face the Steelers. Burleson turned some heads over the first three weeks, putting up 19 receptions for 239 yards opposite of Calvin Johnson. The Lions have leaned on Reggie Bush in the passing attack in Burleson’s absence but have not found anyone that could help Calvin the way Burleson did. This past Sunday against the Bears, Calvin was targeted 17 times but caught just six passes. Once Burleson is back on the field, Calvin will get better looks and Burleson should see plenty of targets when Megatron draws his usual double coverage. The one negative about Burleson is that he didn’t score a single touchdown over his big three weeks and is not likely to see a lot of endzone targets so he’ll need volume to be startable.
Santonio Holmes (5 percent): Holmes has dealt with a foot and hamstring injury but he has been Geno Smith’s favorite and most reliable target when he has played. Holmes was targeted 21 times over his last three games (only five in the last one because he left early) and put up 230 yards and a touchdown over those three weeks. With Jeremy Kerley out with a dislocated elbow and Stephen Hill putting up just 40 yards over his last three weeks (zero targets in Week 10), Holmes figures to immediately step back into his role as the Jets’ top pass catcher.
Rishard Matthews (4 percent): After a quiet two receptions for 24 yards in his first game as Brandon Gibson’s replacement, Matthews broke out against the Bucs on Monday, catching 11 passes on 14 targets for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Wallace has only caught more than five passes three times all season and Brian Hartline hasn’t surpassed 69 yards since Week 1. Meanwhile, Gibson saw at least eight targets in four of his six full games before going down so Matthews is inheriting the most reliable receiver spot on the Dolphins.
Andre Roberts (5 percent): Michael Floyd played a mere 12 snaps on Sunday and left with a sprained shoulder. If he can’t start on Sunday, Andre Roberts figures to see plenty of looks against the Jaguars. Roberts caught five passes on eight targets for 72 yards and a touchdown in Floyd’s absence on against the Texans and could be in line for a similar effort once again.
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