Injuries are forcing several NFL teams to shuffle the depth chart at the skill positions. This creates an opportunity for the fantasy owner to dig into the waiver wire and grab a player that will provide an immediate impact. We focus on the running back and wide out situations, as we talk about players that will have both a short term and long term fantasy impact. Plenty of options this week to cover a bye week.
RB Jackie Battle, Kansas City
Rare is the case where a player will end up in the week’s top category when he’s going to be spending the following week on a bye, but also rare is the case to get a starting running back off the waiver wire. The Chiefs are clearly disappointed with Thomas Jones, and their confidence in Dexter McCluster carrying the load is also down in the dumps. When Jamaal Charles went down for the season, many (self included) assumed that Jones and McCluster would divvy things up. A week five performance against the Colts that included 119 yards on only 19 carries suggests that Kansas City will go in another direction, and that direction is in unheralded Jackie Battle. He’s done little since coming into the league, but he now has a golden opportunity to prove himself on the big stage. The Chiefs won’t be playing the Indianapolis defense every week, but the indications are that Battle will be their running for the near future.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland
With defenses stacking the line to stop Darren McFadden, that has left opportunities for the Raiders to cash in through the air. Now two weeks removed from the knee injury that kept him out of the game in week two, Heyward-Bey has put together back to back strong performances (115 and 99 yards). He also found the end zone this past week. He’s traditionally been a trick or treat type of player that can just as easily disappear for a game or two. I like what I’ve seen in the past two games, combined with the strong running game in Oakland, I see his production continuing at a high level.
WR Greg Little, Cleveland
The Browns have announced that Little has been promoted to the starting squad, which is welcome news to fantasy owners. He’s been their best option for a number of weeks (six catches for 57 yards two weeks ago against the Raiders), now he’ll have starter reps so his fantasy numbers will see a sharp rise. Expect him to be a worthy WR2 coming out of the bye week, with the potential for even greater things as the season progresses.
RB Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay
Graham has been the ball-catcher in the Bucs backfield, racking up 22 catches in the first four games. In a week where LeGarrette Blount was hurt and Tampa Bay got blasted by San Francisco, Graham ended up with minimal numbers this past week. Reports are that Blount will not be able to suit up next week, that drops Graham onto the field as the starter and elevates him as a player that will have an immediate fantasy impact. Even when Blount returns, Graham’s ability to catch the ball will make him a possible flex play to cover a bye week.
RB Delone Carter, Indianapolis
I’d have Carter ranked a little higher as it appears that Joseph Addai will miss some significant playing time, but the presence of Donald Brown will limit his touches on the field. He was largely ineffective in a relief role, rushing for only 22 yards on twelve carries against Kansas City, though he did manage to find the end zone. Unless he can prove to be the better option, he and Brown will be sharing the load until Addai returns.
QB Tim Tebow, Denver
After another dreadful performance from Kyle Orton, the Broncos are finally going to start Tim Tebow. He created some excitement this past week in a relief effort, nearly bringing a lifeless Broncos’ offense to a comeback victory. Much in the way that Michael Vick and Colt McCoy generate fantasy points, Tebow’s value will be in his feet. Any deficiencies in his passing game (low passing totals, interceptions) can be covered up with high rushing numbers and his ability to take the ball into the end zone on his own. He’s a viable backup fantasy QB, worth owning in all formats to use to cover a bye week.