Jamaal Charles’s injury doubtlessly sent his owners into a tailspin on Sunday. Now they’ll have to try to land a reinforcement on the waiver wire, though they should also explore the trade market. No one can adequately replace Charles, but buy-low targets like Lamar Miller and Jeremy Hill could do a much better job of at least providing RB2 value than anyone you can grab off the free agent scrap heap this week. Having said that, even buy-low targets will cost you an asset that you can hold on to if you’re replacement shopping for Charles on the wire. If that’s where you’re headed, consider the players below.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
Cutler wasn’t exactly efficient in the Bears’ win over the Chiefs last week. He completed less than 60% of his passes and got just 5.6 yards per attempt. Still, he racked up 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and did that without his top two receivers. Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal should both be back on the field soon, and that gives Cutler a really nice collection of weapons. Marquess Wilson has finally started to emerge for this team, and Cutler always knows what he’s getting out of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Adam Gase is putting Cutler in better spots than Marc Trestman ever did, and Cutler is responding to his new offense quite well. The Bears' upcoming schedule includes games with the Lions, Chargers and Packers, which are all teams that can be exploited through the air.
Charcandrick West, RB, Chiefs
West is likely to be the most popular player on the waiver wire this week. The second-year player out of Abilene Christian will take over as the starter in Kansas City now that Jamaal Charles is out for the year with a torn ACL. West was on the field for 18 snaps in the Chiefs’ loss to the Bears last week after Charles’ injury, while Knile Davis was out there for just four. It’s safe to say that West will be the primary runner in the Kansas City backfield, though they will also sign another back sometime this week. West had a good preseason and moved ahead of Davis on the depth chart because of his work in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker.
Even though West will be in the starter’s chair, however, it’s hard to view him as anything more than a RB3. Davis and the new-Chief-back TBA will be in the mix, and there’s a chance that DeAnthony Thomas gets some run in the backfield, as well. Charles owners need to make West a priority, but others should treat him like a typical RB3-type.
Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers
Doug Martin hogged the spotlight in the last two weeks, but Sims put together a huge game in Week 5, totaling 136 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches. He’s not coming anywhere near supplanting Martin as the starter, but his role is large enough to make him an intriguing player on the waiver wire this week. The simple fact that he’d have little-to-no competition in the event of an injury to Martin on its own makes him worth owning in deeper leagues. He’s averaging a bit more than 10 touches per game and remains a weapon for the Buccaneers’ passing attack. Like most running backs who emerge at this point of the season, Sims isn’t someone you’d want to lean on too frequently from week to week, but he provides depth at a position that always feels too thin. He also has a high ceiling if Martin, who missed 15 games in 2013 and 2014 combined, misses time this year.
Pierre Thomas, RB
Thomas is one of the backs the Chiefs are working out in the wake of Charles’s injury. The screen game is a huge part of Kansas City’s offense, and has always been a staple of Andy Reid’s offenses, going back to his days in Philadelphia. Thomas is on the wrong side of 30 years old, and had a terrible season in New Orleans last year, but he can still be a weapon in the passing game. If the Chiefs do indeed sign him, he’s well worth a dart throw. If he earns himself the snaps on obvious passing downs, he could have enough value to be a depth back that fantasy owners turn to in case of bye or injury. That’s not very exciting, and the suggested bid reflects that, but this is the sort of grind-it-out acquisition that is worthwhile if it pays dividends just once all season.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Bears
The Bears have been excited about Wilson since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, but he hasn’t been able to get on the field because of recurring injuries. He has managed to stay healthy this year, for the most part, and took advantage of injuries to Jeffery and Royal to have the best game of his career last week. Wilson caught six of his eight targets for 85 yards and a touchdown, helping the Bears rally for an 18-17 win over the Chiefs. The week before, with Jeffery still on the sideline, Wilson had six grabs on nine targets for 80 yards. Even when Jeffery and Royal are back, Wilson is going to have a significant role in the offense. In fact, the Bears may have found a new wrinkle for their passing game, with Jeffery and Wilson outside and Royal in the slot. Wilson carries WR3 value.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens
After the first quarter of Baltimore’s game with Cleveland in Week 5, it seemed Aiken was on his way to a career day. He had three catches for 73 yards on the team’s first three possessions, and was taking full advantage of being Joe Flacco’s top option in the passing game. He caught just one more pass all game, however, finishing with four receptions for 78 yards. Still, this Baltimore team is woefully short on players who can make an impact in the passing game, especially with Crockett Gillmore still banged up. Steve Smith should be back soon, but even when he returns, Aiken has to have a fantasy-relevant role in the offense. He’s not quite as valuable as Wilson, but there’s still WR3 upside here, especially now that we’re right in the middle of the bye-week portion of the schedule. Aiken is a big receiving at 6’2” and 215 pounds. He can be a real weapon for Flacco in the red zone.
Willie Snead, WR, Saints
Drew Brees might have his go-to receiver for 2015 and, despite solid numbers in Week 5, it’s not Brandin Cooks. Snead came on for the Saints two weeks ago, catching all six of his targets for 89 yards in the overtime win over the Cowboys. That helped earn him more time last week, and he capitalized with six more catches on 11 targets for 141 yards. Brandin Cooks may have scored and gone north of 100 yards, but he did nearly all his damage in garbage time. Snead, the rookie out of Ball State, garnered looks from Brees early and often, and clearly has the trust of both his quarterback and head coach, Sean Payton. With Marques Colston going for an MRI on his shoulder, and the Saints looking like a downtrodden team that will be trailing often for the rest of the season, there are going to be plenty of targets to go around in this offense. Snead should be universally owned, regardless of your league’s format.
Photos: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (Cutler, Wilson), Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images (Sims)