Another week, another significant injury to a star player. This week, it was Aaron Rodgers, who broke his right collarbone and could miss the rest of the season. Brett Hundley will replace him, but he’s only of interest in superflex and two-quarterback fantasy leagues. The following players, however, should be on your radar, no matter your league parameters.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants
Darkwa took command of the Giants backfield in the team’s shocking win over the Broncos on Sunday night. The fourth-year player out of Tulane ran for 117 yards on 21 carries, the most rushing yards for a Giants back since Rashad Jennings piled up 170 in the final game of the 2015 season. Over the team’s last two games, Darkwa has 186 yards on 29 carries, good for 6.41 yards per carry. He held off rookie Wayne Gallman, who had 27 yards on nine carries in the win over the Broncos. Gallman should retain a role in the offense, and Shane Vereen will still be a factor when the game script calls for greater focus on the pass, but Darkwa finds himself atop the Giants depth chart heading into Week 7. He should be a priority add for all fantasy owners, no matter how deep they are at running back.
Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys
Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys
As the week progressed and the reality of Ezekiel Elliott’s likely suspension set in, momentum built in McFadden’s favor as the likely starter for the next six weeks. Adam Schefter reported on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that the Cowboys wanted to “lean on” McFadden in Elliott’s absence.
On one hand, that doesn’t make much sense. McFadden has been a healthy scratch for all five of Dallas’s games this season, while Alfred Morris has served as the No. 2 back behind Elliott. Morris, however, has just eight carries in those five games. The Cowboys, apparently, were burying McFadden by design, ensuring he’d be healthy in case the injunction were lifted and Elliott had to face the suspension. That looks like a well-executed plan now that Elliott is likely to miss the next six games.
McFadden got 24 carries last year, running for 87 yards. In 2015, though, he racked up 1,089 yards and three touchdowns behind the Cowboys excellent offensive line, and caught 40 passes for 328 yards. Assuming he handles the lion’s share of the work coming out of the backfield, McFadden has the look of an RB2 in Elliott’s stead.
Morris is absolutely worth claiming, as well. We’re all reading tea leaves at this point, and there’s no guarantee as to how the Cowboys will handle their backfield. Still, those tea leaves seem to be in McFadden’s favor as the Cowboys begin their first game week likely without Elliott. Make McFadden your priority, but keep Morris high up in your waiver mix, too.
Alex Collins, RB, Ravens
The Ravens continued their game of backfield see-saw in Week 6. Collins and Javorius Allen split the workload basically right down the middle, but it was Collins who led the team with 15 carries to Allen’s 13. Collins ran for 74 yards on his 15 rushes, showing legitimate burst on one 30-yard carry. Allen has the passing-game duties all to himself, and Collins again had zero targets in the Ravens loss to the Bears. Still, so long as he’s heavily involved in the rushing attack, he’ll be a worthy depth back in fantasy leagues. There are just two teams on bye in Week 7, six teams take a rest in both Week 8 and Week 9. Collins can help any fantasy teams dealing with byes, injuries, or both over the next month.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks
Prosise missed the Seahawks last two games with an ankle injury, but Pete Carroll has already said he will return in Week 7. Neither Eddie Lacy nor Thomas Rawls has taken command of the Seattle backfield with Prosise and Chris Carson on the shelf. In the one game the team played since Carson’s season-ending leg injury, Lacy ran for 19 yards on nine carries, while Rawls had 20 yards on eight totes. Prosise has just one game in his career with double-digit carries. He picked up 66 yards on 17 carries in a win over the Patriots last November. Prosise also caught seven passes for 87 yards in that game, and looked set to grab a stranglehold of the Seahawks backfield. The following week, Prosise got off to a hot start with a 72-yard touchdown run, but suffered a season-ending injury to his shoulder blade later in the game.
While Prosise has done most of his damage as a receiver, he has the ability to handle a serious workload as a runner. If anyone is going to take control of the Seattle backfield, the smart money is on Prosise. Now, in a week where they’re off the fantasy radar because of the Seahawks bye, is a great time to try to steal Prosise for free, or at least at a minimal cost.
Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
We’ve still yet to see Mack in Week 6, with the Colts playing the Titans on Monday night, but everything we wrote about him last week still applies. He’s set for a bigger role in the Colts backfield, one that he can certainly turn into flex-level fantasy value, especially with all the byes that still loom in front of us. It’ll be interesting to see how the Colts use him with Frank Gore against a Titans defense that is 20th against running backs in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed rankings.
Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots
Lewis is making a strong case that he should be the lead back for a team that notoriously hates designating a lead back. He led the Patriots in rushing yards for the second straight week, picking up 52 yards on 11 carries. What’s more, he led the team in both carries and snaps for the first time, with his 29 snaps a season high. Mike Gillislee has had plenty of opportunity to run away with the job, but he has been nothing more than a short-yardage touchdown scorer, failing to create any separation between himself and the other backs when he had the chance. Lewis, who looks as healthy as he has been since his breakout 2015 campaign, is back in the mix, and could be at the top of the depth chart. We know the shenanigans attendant to the New England backfield, and neither Gillislee nor James White are going away, no matter how effective Lewis. Still, he has likely earned a look as the team’s primary runner, and that should make him very attractive on all waiver wires this week.
Matt Breida, RB, 49ers
This is why we do not overreact to one game, regardless of what a coach might say, especially when there’s a player like Carlos Hyde in the mix. Hyde was back in total command of the 49ers backfield in Week 6, turning 13 carries and five receptions into 75 total yards and two touchdowns. Breida, meanwhile, had four carries and two receptions. Hyde remains the workhorse in San Francisco, with Week 5 nothing more than a blip on the radar. Still, there are reports that the team, is trying to trade him, and while Kyle Shanahan said there’s nothing to the rumors, their existence makes Breida an interesting waiver candidate. If there is some fire to go along with the smoke, Breida could find himself in a very lucrative role over the second half of the season.
Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins
Kelley has missed two of Washington’s last three games with an ankle injury, and the team’s bye week wasn’t enough to get him back on the field. His ownership rate has dropped to about 40% because of the injury, but I wouldn’t bet against him once he’s healthy. Samaje Perine has failed to make the most of his opportunity, running for 50 yards on 15 carries over the team’s last two games. Chris Thompson owns the passing game out of the backfield, but the Redskins are hesitant to give him a ton of work on the ground. They broke with that in Week 6, giving him 16 carries, and he turned those into just 33 yards. When Kelley returns, he will do so as the team’s primary runner, splitting the backfield with Thompson.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans
Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
We’re grouping together a couple of non-teammates because they’re both just-in-case pickups in fantasy leagues. Foreman racked up 59 yards on 12 carries in Week 6, but he did a lot of his work once the game was well in hand, with the Texans leading the Browns by three scores for most of the afternoon. Foreman does have enough of a role to be a mildly intriguing player during this heavy bye-week portion of the season, but Lamar Miller remains the top dog in Houston’s backfield. Leonard Fournette left the Jaguars game with a foot injury, and if he missed any time Ivory would take over as the starter. On Monday, though, both Fournette and the team stressed that the injury was minor, and he’s already expected to be on the field when the Jaguars visit the Colts in Week 7. Still, Ivory is worth a claim, especially if you own Fournette.
Looking for a second opinion? Check out the waiver wire breakdown from our partners at 4for4 Football.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out why Shepard is owned in just 52% of Yahoo leagues and 73% of CBS leagues. This is a guy who should be a free agent in a statistically insignificant number of leagues. His ankle injury isn’t going to cost him much time, with a Week 7 return possible. With Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall out for the rest of the year, he’s easily the Giants best receiver, as well as their most dangerous downfield weapon. He’s going to get fed plenty of targets, even with Evan Engram and Orelans Darkwa emerging in the team’s win over the Broncos. If Shepard is available in your league, make him a priority this week.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
Agholor found the end zone for the fourth time this season last Thursday, riding the Carson Wentz breakout train to a banner season of his own. Agholor deserves a ton of credit for putting the first two ugly years of his career behind him and turning himself into a key piece in the Philadelphia offense. He has double-digit standard-league points in three games this season, catching 20 passes for 321 yards, to go along with the four scores. He’s still a bit touchdown-dependent, which makes him hard to trust on a weekly basis, but there’s no question that he should be owned in all fantasy formats. At worst, he’ll be in the WR3 discussion most weeks for the rest of the year.
Ted Ginn, WR, Saints
Ginn is similar to Agholor in that he’s a semi-reliable fantasy player in a potent offense that leans heavily on its passing attack. Ginn had has best game of the season in Week 6, catching all four of his targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. He nearly had another score on an impressive run after the catch on a crossing route, but got pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line. Willie Snead is working his way back into the Saints offense, and while he was a non-factor in the win over the Lions, we have to assume that he’ll typically net more than three targets from Drew Brees. Ginn remains a high variance depth receiver but, as we stress so often in this space, there is value in that type of player with byes still a regular part of our lives through Week 11. Plus, Ginn has already had his bye, and he’s tied to one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
John Brown, WR, Cardinals
In three games since returning from a calf strain, Brown has eight catches on 18 targets for 136 yards and two touchdowns. In Arizona’s last two games, he has been second in snap rate among the team’s receivers, trailing only Larry Fitzgerald. In other words, so long as he’s healthy, he’s the team’s No. 2 receiver. You can probably guess where we’re going with the rest of this. Brown’s skill set makes him a boom-or-bust player, but part of that is modulated by the Cardinals pass-heavy ways. Brown gets more opportunities to boom than most players who are dependent on big plays to make their way in the fantasy game. He’s in the same class as Agholor, about a step ahead of Ginn, thanks to his role in the Cardinals offense.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
Smith-Schuster has played more snaps that Martavis Bryant for four straight games, and it appears the latter has had enough. Bryant requested a trade from the Steelers, a move that would increase Smith-Schuster’s profile in the offense. There’s no indication that the Steelers have any intention of meeting Bryant’s demands, and, even if they wanted to, making a midseason trade in the NFL is easier said than done. Still, the possibility exists, and that makes Smith-Schuster a worthy add in deeper leagues. He has 15 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Falcons
Gabriel stepped into a bigger role in the Atlanta offense with Mohamed Sanu out because of a hamstring injury in Week 6. He got eight targets from Matt Ryan, catching four of them for 39 yards. He didn’t fully break though the way many fantasy pundits predicted, but the eight targets are a good sign of where he’ll be if Sanu’s hamstring injury keeps him on the sidelines for a few more weeks. He’s one of the lowest-value receivers in this column, but still worth a claim if you miss out on some of the more desired targets.
Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins
Stills took advantage of DeVante Parker’s absence, catching all four of his targets for 49 yards and a touchdown in the Dolphins surprising 20-17 win over the Falcons. Stills’s fleeting fantasy value hinges largely on Parker’s health. In the two games before Week 6, he had five targets, catching four of them for 26 yards. He has just one game all season with more than five targets, and even in that game he had four receptions for a paltry 51 yards. If Parker is out next week, though, Stills can force his way into starting lineups in deeper formats. The Dolphins take on a Jets team that ranks 28th in receiver aFPA this season.
George Kittle, TE, 49ers
Kittle is starting to emerge in the 49ers offense. He has 17 targets over the last two weeks, catching 11 of them for 129 yards and a touchdown. What’s more, he’s quite familiar with the team’s new starting quarterback. Kittle and C.J. Beathard were college teammates, spending four years together at Iowa. Over their final two seasons in Iowa City, they connected 42 times for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns. Beathard looked good in relief of Brian Hoyer in Week 6, completing 19 of his 36 pass attempts for 245 yards, 6.81 YPA, one touchdown and one interception. Kittle was already on the rise in this offense, and the ascension of his college teammate to starting quarterback can’t hurt.
Brett Hundley, QB, Packers
These quarterback adds are only for owners in superflex and two-quarterback formats, where all starting signal callers have value. Hundley takes over as the starter in Green Bay, possibly for the rest of the season with Aaron Rodgers nursing a broken collarbone. Hundley went 18-for-33 in relief of Rodgers on Sunday, totaling 157 yards, 4.76 YPA, one touchdown and three picks in the loss to the Vikings. Those numbers don’t inspire a ton of confidence, but Hundley was in a tough spot, being forced into action against a strong defense on the road. Now that he’ll be getting starter’s reps in practice and playing in an offense that will be a bit more tailored to his skill set than the one he piloted in Week 6, there’s reason to believe in him as a decent enough QB3 with some QB2 upside. He still has Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb at his disposal, as well as a couple of capable pass-catching backs in the backfield.
C.J. Beathard, QB, 49ers
Beathard had a better debut than Hundley, though he doesn’t have quite the same weapons in San Francisco. Hundley also brings some mobility to the table that Beathard doesn’t. Add it up, and Hundley is the quarterback I’d be targeting first in superflex and two-quarterback leagues. Still, Beathard did have some impressive moments in the 49ers loss to the Redskins, and he should have a long leash from Kyle Shanahan the rest of the season. Beathard may not be the team’s quarterback of the future, but Brian Hoyer definitely isn’t the answer. At 0-6, there’s no reason for the 49ers not to give Beathard a chance to show what he can do.