Week 2 saw the injury bug hit the NFL at a rapid pace. With the likes of Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and more going down, teams will be without some key pieces for varying amounts of time.
That also means plenty of fantasy teams are now down a major weapon, potentially even their first round pick. It’s never ideal to lose a cornerstone of your team, but having it come this early in the season can lead to some panic. Rightfully so, the first move when a player is lost to injury is to check on who is next in line for the touches. That’s no different heading into Week 3.
It’s fair to look around for options around the league, but with backups on teams that just lost a starter, drawing a line to a larger workload is a lot simpler.
Still, it’s important to not get carried away on the waiver wire and claim a name just because of his position on the depth chart. If football has shown anything, it’s that one can never truly predict who will shine on a week-to-week basis. In order to make sure the right players are added, here’s a look at the teams with replacements and whether they are worth a spot on your roster.
Replacing: Saquon Barkley (Torn ACL, out for season)
Options: Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Devonta Freeman
Best choice: Dion Lewis, but keep an eye on Freeman
The Giants won’t be able to replace Barkley’s production and neither will any fantasy owners. The versatile back’s work in the run and pass game makes him a uniquely high-scoring option every week. However, there is value in the Giants backfield due to Barkley missing the rest of the 2020 campaign.
Someone is going to get carries and touches for the next 14 weeks, and adding them could be the difference between a few wins and losses against co-workers. Based on what happened in Week 2 following Barkley’s departure, Dion Lewis is the best bet -- for now. He’ll never do too much on the ground, but his work as a receiver out of the backfield makes him a viable PPR flex play.
Some may look to Wayne Gallman, as he is a player that can get touches on the ground and through the air, but the running back was a healthy scratch against the Bears. That doesn’t bode well for his standing in the offense, even with the No. 1 option no longer available. Freeman, who signed with the Giants on Monday, is the wild card. His work in Atlanta over the years showed he can be a dual-threat, and running back is a position that allows a player to make an impact even before learning the whole system. He also noted he chose New York over more money because he liked the fit. It is definitely worth it to stash Freeman on your roster and see just how big his workload becomes with his new team.
That makes Lewis the safe bet, and Freeman the long-term potential option. Before moving on, it would be wrong to note an important factor: the Giants offense is just, well, bad. Daniel Jones has yet to show any sort of consistency and they lack weapons, meaning teams could stack the box if wanted. Therefore, it’s best to not expect Lewis, or even Freeman, to give you anything more than flex value to begin.
Replacing: Christian McCaffrey (High ankle sprain, 4-6 weeks)
Option: Mike Davis
Impact: Perfect fill-in (RB2)
The consensus No. 1 fantasy pick in 2020 was doing No. 1 pick things through two games before injuring his ankle. While McCaffrey will be back, fantasy players will be scrambling to try and find a way to get his production from someone else.
Davis won’t put up points like McCaffrey but he will get plenty of opportunities as the next man up in Carolina. The clear starter now, head coach Matt Rhule has already given him the stamp of approval and eight receptions for 74 yards in Week 2 helps his case. Now the carries will come, and in a system that uses the running back heavily, Davis and those who get him off the waiver wire stand to benefit for a few weeks.
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Replacing: Raheem Mostert (MCL Sprain, week-to-week) and Tevin Coleman (Knee, multiple weeks)
Options: Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson
Best Choice: Jerick McKinnon
San Francisco’s running back situation was always messy due to the numerous names getting touches. But with the top two options out for at least a couple of weeks, McKinnon becomes the clear choice. The dual-threat runner fits well in Kyle Shannahan’s offense and scored a touchdown in Week 2 when others went down. With Jimmy Garoppolo still ailing, the 49ers could look to run the ball and work the field with short passes, which only increases McKinnon’s value. Jeff Wilson will surely get some touches, but he’s not worth a waiver just yet.
McKinnon’s reign as the top back may not last long, but while it does, he can be a solid plug-and-play running back on your roster.
Replacing: Courtland Sutton (Torn ACL, out for season)
Options: Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler
Best Choice: Jeudy (if available)
Sutton had a ton of promise heading into the season with Drew Lock at the helm and many expecting Denver’s offense to take the next step. That all fell apart in Week 2 as Sutton was sidelined for the season and Lock will be out for multiple weeks with a shoulder injury.
In most leagues, Sutton was a WR2 or even a WR1, meaning many have a major hole to fill. The problem is, in this situation, backups aren’t going to really help. Jeudy is a great option, but he’s most likely owned in a majority of leagues. KJ Hamler will continue to emerge, but he’s hindered by the absence of Lock.
That right there is the main problem: the arm under center is going to be unreliable. Whether it’s Jeff Driskell or Blake Bortles, the passing game is going to drop in efficiency and big-play potential with Lock not in there. Unfortunately for those who had Sutton, help can’t be found in Denver.