Injuries are pretty much the biggest news of any week for fantasy football owners, but some major opportunities opened up after the bumps and bruises in Week 6 – and more could be opening up in the near future for another reason.
First, the injuries. Green Bay WRs Randall Cobb (knee) and James Jones (shin) both left Sunday's game early, which created playing time for Jarrett Boykin and more targets for Green Bay's established WRs. Dallas' DeMarco Murray injured his knee, and despite his struggles, Joseph Randle punched in a touchdown and would be next in line for carries until Lance Dunbar returns. Patriots' WR Danny Amendola suffered a concussion, creating renewed playing time for Julian Edelman. Cecil Shorts injured his shoulder and rib, which led to a boatload more targets for Justin Blackmon. And the big one, Saints' TE Jimmy Graham suffered a foot injury, which meant Ben Watson took over TE duties.
It's unclear how serious any of these injuries are (we know Cobb is out 6-8 weeks), but picking up guys like Randle (or Dunbar), Watson and Boykin isn't a bad move. There's always a domino effect with injuries, so it might just mean more targets for guys like Kenny Stills in New Orleans or Jermichael Finley in Green Bay, but you want to cover all bases.
Potential trades are another thing to watch for over the next couple weeks. Giants WR Hakeem Nicks and Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew are reportedly on the market, and if moved, they might see bumps in value. More important, their backups, Rueben Randle and Jordan Todman/Justin Forsett, respectively, could gain more value. Obviously, the Jaguars' RB situation would be messy if Jones-Drew left, but it's still worth watching.
This time of year is all about keeping your eyes open and trying to stay one step ahead of your opponents. And that's why we're here to help, so let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 6.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's Fantasy Mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
If there was a theme to Week 6, it was the “Week of the Disappointing Quarterback.” Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford reminded everyone why they were high-round picks (36.68 and 32.52 fantasy points, respectively), but virtually every other drafted starter, including Peyton Manning (17.1 points vs. JAC), Robert Griffin III (13.54 vs. DAL), Tony Romo (10.8 vs. WAS) and Andrew Luck (7.98 vs. SD) in very favorable matchups, disappointed.
Naturally, fantasy owners will overreact -- it's what we do best. In some instances, the grass might look greener with guys like Andy Dalton (31.18) or Joe Flacco (24.28), but you have to remember if you had been playing them every week, you'd be eve more disappointed. Some drafted backups are worth considering (Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, maybe even
Notable Riser: Speaking of rash decisions, it's probably going overboard to think of Nick Foles as a potential QB1 just because of his big 2013 starting debut against Tampa (36.04 fantasy points), but considering the offense he plays in, he deserves more attention than, say, Buffalo's Thad Lewis (26.34 vs. CIN). Foles is clearly not the running threat that Michael Vick is, but he passes efficiently on both intermediate and downfield throws. Philadelphia's creative play calling, tempo and plethora of playmakers gives him more opportunities than the average quarterback, so it's possible that he'll continue putting up points, even if it's in an “ugly” way. If nothing else, Foles proved he should be owned, as this could be a legit QB battle even when Vick (hamstring) returns.
Notable Faller: Aaron Rodgers had a tough road matchup against Baltimore and lost two of his top three receivers (Jones and Cobb), so it's not a shock that he had a mediocre game. What is shocking is that he's had three mediocre games in a row. All three matchups were tough (at CIN, vs. DET, at BAL), but obviously we expect more from Rodgers. Right now, Green Bay isn't throwing downfield much, and if Rodgers continues to lose playmakers, he'll have a tough time getting yards after the catch from his receivers. He's also running less. Rodgers is still an every-week starter, but he might not be a top-three -- or even top-five -- QB like we all assumed he'd be.
Brandon Jacobs (23.4 fantasy points) and Stevan Ridley (23) had two of the more surprising performances of Week 6. Jacobs looked like his old self rumbling through the Bears' defense, and Ridley came back from a leg injury to set a season high in carries (20) and yards (96). If Ridley is truly back to being the Pats' go-to ball carrier, he'll have the value we expected in the preseason.
The window to “buy low” on Ridley might have closed, but Jacobs can likely be had at a reasonable price. David Wilson (neck) is the real wild card. If he returns soon, Jacobs is just a “goal-line” back; if he doesn't, Jacobs has real fantasy value. The risk for fantasy owners is worth it considering the delicate nature of Wilson's injury -- not to mention his underwhelming performance this year. Rookies
Notable Riser: Oakland's Darren McFadden had just 52 yards rushing on 16 carries, but he added 31 receiving yards and showed no ill effects of his bum hamstring. Considering he did it all against one of the NFL's top defenses in Kansas City, that's a positive day for his owners. Alfred Morris (ribs), Marshawn Lynch (hip) and the aforementioned Ridley (knee/thigh) and Stacy (chest) weren't slowed by their past injuries either. Even C.J. Spiller (ankle), who was slowed in the sense that he had just 10 carries, averaged 5.5 yards per tote, so that's a good sign. McFadden is obviously the most worrisome given his injury history, but it looks like he's healthy -- for now. However, don't drop Rashad Jennings just yet.
Notable Faller: We're all waiting for the Doug Martin breakout, but when will it come? Martin couldn't take advantage of a good matchup against Philadelphia last week, instead having another “decent” game (9.1 fantasy points). He now has four games with between 9.1 and 14.4 points, which, again, is “decent,” but it's not what you expect from a top-three pick. Martin has tough matchups in his next three outings (at ATL, vs. CAR, at SEA) before getting a brief break with Miami. Atlanta, Detroit and Carolina are next, with only Detroit being “favorable.” It's tough to advocate trading Martin when he hasn't had a big game yet, but more RB2-level performances might be in his future. DeAngelo Williams and Frank Gore, both whom often get taken out inside the 10-yard line, are in the same boat, but at least both of them were actually drafted as RB2's.
At least for one game, Josh Gordon wasn't slowed by Brandon Weeden taking over at QB for Brian Hoyer, and Justin Blackmon continued his ascent up the WR ranks with a big effort against Denver. These sophomore pass-catchers both started the season late because of suspensions, but they're making up for lost time by being among the most heavily targeted receivers while on the field.
Blackmon was helped this week by Shorts' injury, but 20 targets are 20 targets, and Blackmon should continue producing all year, particularly with the high likelihood of garbage time in each Jaguars' game. Gordon will have to share end-zone targets with TE Jordan Cameron, but he's had at least 12.6 fantasy points in three of four games. Right now, both Blackmon and Gordon look like must-start WR2s with plenty of upside.
Notable Riser: There were concerns about both Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson because of their teams' recent quarterback changes, but both scored twice and finished in the top five in WR fantasy points this week. Vincent had a great matchup and running mate Mike Williams (hamstring) was inactive, but nonetheless, he's had double-digit targets in both games with Mike Glennon under center. DeSean's performance was more impressive considering he saw a lot of CB Darrelle Revis on him, but the Eagles are great at findiing ways to get their best playmkers open in space. DeSean once again took advantage. Both Jacksons continue to be must-starts.
Notable Faller: San Diego's Vincent Brown remains on the fantasy radar because of how often San Diego throws, but on Monday, QB Philip Rivers was only looking for rookie WR Keenan Allen, TE Antonio Gates and RB Danny Woodhead. Brown had just four targets, catching two. He's done very little in four of five games. He'll pop up with a big performance every now and then, but it doesn't look like he's someone you need to keep on your roster.
Perhaps even more than wide receivers, tight ends can really inflate their numbers in “garbage time,” and that's exactly what Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph and Cleveland's Jordan Cameron did last week.
With Cameron, we don't worry about the inflation since he's been so good this year, but Rudolph might have provided false hope to owners still holding onto him. Five of his nine receptions, 52 of his 97 yards and his lone TD came in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's blowout loss to Carolina. It all counts the same for fantasy owners, but it doesn't mean Rudolph is going to get as many easy looks next week. His outlook is no better than it was prior to Week 6.
Notable Riser: Detroit's Joseph Fauria has been a touchdown machine this year, with all three of his catches against the Browns going for scores. For the season, five of his seven catches (nine targets) have been touchdowns. Fauria has a big frame and great hands, so it's possible his role might expand beyond red-zone specialist, but for now, it's tough to trust him in fantasy leagues because of his boom-or-bust nature. However, he does offer slightly additional upside while Tony Scheffler (concussion) is hurt and Calvin Johnson (knee) continues to play through injury. He's worth an add as a free agent, but don't use a waiver claim on him.
Notable Faller: Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) didn't play again, and that's precisely why his stock continues to fall. Various reports have surfaced regarding Gronk's health and ability to play, and at this point, it's anyone's guess as to when we'll see him. He's obviously a difference-maker when he's in the lineup, but if you're a team fighting just to stay in the playoff hunt, Gronk is probably more trouble than he's worth. On the flip side, if you're undefeated or only have one loss, then bringing him aboard and having him in reserve for the fantasy playoffs could be a shrewd move.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Stat to know: Only one Seattle WR had more than four targets last week, and as we've pointed out before, QB Russell Wilson traditionally struggles on the road. Arizona is allowing just 15.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to WRs (30th) and 19.6 FPPG to QBs (18th), so it's tough to trust any Seahawk other than Marshawn Lynch and the D/ST.
Sleeper: Cardinals' D/ST (Seahawks allowing 13th-most FPPG to D/STs.)