The first few rounds of fantasy drafts took big hits Sunday as Jamaal Charles, Michael Vick and Arian Foster all went down with injuries along with Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger. While most of the pain on will be short-lived, the biggest loss was Charles, the Chiefs top running back and SI's No. 1 fantasy pick, who tore his ACL on a freak play in Detroit. Many fantasy owners are in panic mode as they scramble to find a suitable replacement, and their concerns lead week's mailbag.
The loss of Charles was a huge blow to the Chiefs, who had handed the keys to the offense to him. Thomas Jones had been moved to a true backup while Dexter McCluster was used sparingly as a hybrid multi-position player. Going forward, I'm placing my money on Jones to get the first call as Kansas City's workhorse with McCluster seeing an increase in touches, whether as a runner or receiver. A darkhorse candidate is Le'Ron McClain, the punishing fullback who ran for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Ravens four years ago and is always a threat to see more carries. The only other back on the roster is Jackie Battle, a fullback/special teams type with just 131 yards in five seasons. The Chiefs likely will kick the tires on the top remaining free agents (Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and Clinton Portis) while exploring the league's practice squads, which produced Dimitri Nance for the Falcons last year and Arian Foster for the Texans the previous season. But for now, go with Jones and McClain.
Normally I don't like to give advice to my direct competition (Deitsch and I are members of SI's fantasy football league), but with all of the worries surrounding Charles, I can offer some help to SI's media writer and social media editor.
The first thing I would do is check my roster to see if there are any logical trades to be made. If, like Deitsch, you are deep at WR, that depth should allow you to pursue an Ahmad Bradshaw, a Daniel Thomas, a Shonn Greene or even Frank Gore -- players who have yet to produce big, yet still have great potential. Barring a trade, the waiver wire has some intriguing possibilities. Packers fullback John Kuhn doesn't get many yards but has a knack for finding the end zone. Stevan Ridley was impressive for the Patriots in the preseason and is next in line for a big role should injury strike Benjarvus Green-Ellis or Danny Woodhead. The aforementioned McClain and Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers, a great speed contrast to Michael Turner in the Falcons backfield, are also worth looks. I hope that helps ... but not too much.
The logical choice on the surface is Kafka, who will play for the Eagles should the concussion Vick suffered on Sunday night keep him out for any time. The downside is not having the ability to avoid the situation altogether, which might be preferable if Vick is a gametime decision, or the two end up playing in a timeshare for safety's sake. That leaves Matt Cassel, who is losing weapons (and after a sideline blowup yesterday in Detroit, obviously patience), Jackson, who is proving he's not an NFL quarterback and the veteran Campbell, who is my choice of this bunch. After years of subpar wideout play the Raiders have amassed a solid, if not spectacular, set or receivers with Denarius Moore the budding star of the bunch. Campbell has never been a reliable fantasy quarterback, but given those choices, he's clearly the best of this bunch.
The main problem with the trade is that Bradshaw may be your most reliable runner at the moment. Foster's bad hamstring clouds the value of both he and Tate. Starks is battling Ryan Grant for carries and the Packers are a pass-first offense. Tolbert is still ahead of Ryan Mathews in San Diego's pecking order and should stay there. Still, he doesn't have the fantasy potential of Bradshaw, who, even after a slow start, could run for 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. I love Bryant, but with Britt and Jennings as clear weekly starters and Jones a budding talent I'm not sure you need him. Perhaps you can offer Starks instead.
Green may not be all that sneaky anymore after averaging 82.5 yards per game and developing good chemistry with fellow rookie Andy Dalton. He has become the Bengals' top receiver and is, at worst, a WR3 . That said, Nelson and the Bills offense may be more consistent point producers, especially now that Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish are slowed by injuries. Decker also is a solid choice as he has become one of the few healthy options for a WR corps that was forced to employ Tim Tebow in the slot for a while on Sunday. Maybe I'm not seeing him at his best, but I'm just not all that impressed with McCluster yet.
I like all three but I absolutely love Moore, who showed tremendous athletic ability and hands in his coming out party in Buffalo. Praised throughout the lockout and training camp, Moore has a bright future in fantasy this year and in the future. With Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens all plagued by injuries seemingly all the time, the opportunity is there for Moore to lock himself in as a starter along with the equally electric yet stylistically different Jacoby Ford.
With those two on your roster you did vwell to replace Manning, who will likely not see the field this season (why come back to an 0-8 or 1-7 squad, right?) I would elevate Fitzpatrick to the default quarterback of choice with Grossman only moving in when he has a much more favorable matchup. In any case, great job of waiver wire poaching.
If Davis is still available, he's the man after taking over top dog duties from Chris Cooley. If not, Dickson has been very impressive with the ability to get open downfield for big plays. At wideout Decker has moved up to the top of that list with Gaffney and the more inconsistent Doucet next.