The flex landscape is always shifting. Last week, it was the first heavy dose of byes that sent owners scrambling to the waiver wire. This week, it's injuries.
With Cedric Benson, Ryan Williams and Donald Brown all heading to the shelf, their owners will once again have to shuffle the pieces to make their starting rosters whole. In the cases of Benson and Williams, you've lost someone for the season who you were likely depending on helping you through the bye-week portion of the schedule. Brown should only be out a few weeks, but, unlike Benson and Williams, he's a guy who you were probably counting on to be an option no matter the time of the season. That can mean a bigger hit to your starting lineup and depth.
Luckily, all three have ready-made replacements, as we'll see below. The degree to which you'll want to trust their replacements differs, but that's what makes Flex Spending a constant challenge to navigate.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- With eight more targets in last week's loss to the Steelers, Jackson is up to 46 on the year, and clearly looks like Michael Vick's favorite target. Despite doing most of his damage from outside the red zone, Jackson has four targets inside the 20 this year. The 46 targets represent a quarter of Vick's passes this season, which is good for 15th in the league. You likely weren't benching Jackson any time soon, but the rest of the way I like him as a top-20 wide receiver. Even when bye weeks end, I'd have a hard time benching Jackson, even in leagues that only start two wide receivers. In standard 12-team leagues, meaning two running backs, two receivers and one flex, Jackson remains a guy you want in there every week.
Steve Johnson, Bills -- Is Johnson a top-15 wide receiver? Seems outlandish, but he just might be. Of all the passes Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown this year, 31 percent have been to Johnson. One-third of the Bills' red-zone targets have been to Johnson. He has 21 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns, which may not be anything to get too excited about, but the volume sure is nice. Like Jackson, you weren't even considering putting him on your bench, but it's always worth doing periodic audits and checking everyone's value. Johnson's is decidedly up since the start of the season. I'd treat him as a top-15 receiver.
Vick Ballard, Colts -- Donald Brown will miss the next two-to-three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery, and Ballard steps into his place as the starter. While the Colts expect to have Brown back before the calendar turns to November, Ballard could be a treat all the way up to Halloween. His matchup against the Jets this week isn't special, but it's not the death sentence it once was, and he has two juicy matchups waiting for him in the Browns and Titans. Scoop him up now if he's available in your league. Depending on how the Week 6 byes impact your roster, he could be worth starting this week, as well.
Alex Green, Packers -- Running second in the Week 6 waiver race is Green, who figures to be the main beneficiary after Cedric Benson suffered a lisfranc fracture. James Starks may be the nominal starter, but if last week is any indication, the Packers will turn to Green as their primary ball carrier. He racked up 63 yards on 10 carries in last week's loss to the Colts. The Packers have had a ton of trouble getting the ball downfield this year, and that could force them to rely on running the ball more than they have recently. We were already seeing that develop with Benson, and now it's Green who stands to get most of those touches. You should have better options to go with this week when the Packers visit Houston, but Green just might prove to be this year's big-ticket midseason pickup.
Steven Jackson, Rams -- We've been waiting for this day. Every year, the experts said it was going to happen, and every year they were proven wrong. But the party always has to end, the tab must always be paid, and it appears the time is nigh for Jackson. After churning out workmanlike, quality seasons year after year, it looks like all the hits have finally caught up with him. Jackson has carried the ball 77 times for just 271 yards and zero touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Daryl Richardson clearly has more burst and gives the Rams' offense a dynamic that Jackson simply does not, and they can't afford to keep him on the bench. At this point, Jackson is a fringe flex option at best.
Jordy Nelson, Packers -- The Packers have hit on just one pass of 40 yards or longer this season and nine of 20 or longer. Not surprisingly, Nelson has just 23 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. Last year, he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards, good for an 18.6 yards-per-catch average. That number is way down to 12.6 this year. Simply put, no one is more adversely affected by Green Bay's inability to stretch the field than Nelson. As such, we have to downgrade him here. It's hard to pinpoint what's causing this lack of firepower from the Packers, but until they turn it around, we have to consider Nelson as outside the top-20 receivers. Now you'll probably still be starting him. I own him in two of my three leagues, and I'll have him in there without hesitation. But temper your expectations for him in the near future.
1. Arian Foster2. Ray Rice3. LeSean McCoy4. A.J. Green5. Calvin Johnson6. Darren McFadden7. Trent Richardson8. Reggie Bush9. Victor Cruz10. Jamaal Charles11. Adrian Peterson12. Roddy White13. Marshawn Lynch14. Reggie Wayne15. Julio Jones16. DeMarco Murray17. Larry Fitzgerald18. Frank Gore19. Percy Harvin20. Wes Welker21. DeSean Jackson22. Demaryius Thomas23. Ryan Mathews24. Dwayne Bowe25. Miles Austin26. Mike Wallace27. Rob Gronkowski28. Vernon Davis29. Mikel Leshoure30. Stevan Ridley31. Michael Turner32. Ahmad Bradshaw33. Alfred Morris34. Torrey Smith35. Brandon Lloyd36. Doug Martin37. Tony Gonzalez38. Steve Johnson39. Eric Decker40. Brian Hartline41. Vincent Jackson42. Rashard Mendenhall43. Antonio Brown44. Andre Johnson45. Jordy Nelson46. Willis McGahee47. C.J. Spiller48. Fred Jackson49. Michael Crabtree50. Dez Bryant51. Malcom Floyd52. BenJarvus Green-Ellis53. Vick Ballard54. Steven Jacson55. Owen Daniels56. Anquan Boldin57. Jason Witten58. Alex Green59. Jeremy Maclin60. James Jones61. Nate Washington62. Chris Johnson63. Andre Roberts64. Donnie Avery65. Shonn Greene66. Golden Tate67. Robert Meachem68. Domenik Hixon69. Kyle Rudolph70. Heath Miller71. Fred Davis72. Kendall Hunter73. Brandon Bolden74. David Wilson75. Jackie Battle76. Toby Gerhart77. Jeremy Kerley78. Sidney Rice79. James Starks80. Jacquizz Rodgers81. William Powell82. Bilal Powell83. LaRod Stephens-Howling84. Daryl Richardson85. Andrew Hawkins86. T.Y. Hilton87. Dennis Pitta88. Ronnie Hillman89. Shaun Draughn90. Martellus Bennett91. LeGarrette Blount92. Pierre Garcon93. Randall Cobb94. Josh Gordon95. Jon Baldwin96. Donald Jones97. Rueben Randle98. Armon Binns99. Denarius Moore100. Danny Woodhead