By Jared Clifton
The world has turned and left me here
Just where I was before you appeared
And in your place, an empty space
Has filled the void behind my face
Now those are the opening lyrics to one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite albums of all time. The critically acclaimed and still essential debut “Blue Album” by Weezer. So what can a poppy rock album released some 26 years ago tell us about our fantasy teams today, you ask. I’m a tell you.
That list is just a partial accounting of fantasy building blocks that we as fantasy managers have had to endure multiple missed games or worse, season ending injuries, in the nine weeks where records are formulated and playoff runs are built.
But, unlike Rivers Cuomo and his angsty four piece alt ensemble, we can’t leave an empty space. We have to find that void filler to keep our world turning and our roster complete.
So, let’s dig into the voids that were and take a deep look at who can make your team whole as we enter the true stretch run to get each and everyone of you into a good spot for the playoffs.
The Easy Ones
We all play in different league type and sizes, so although these guys should be long gone by now, there is enough percentage of leagues where these guys aren’t snatched up, that their names bear mentioning; either by waiver or trade.
Tee Higgins (23.8% available)
So, I looked and there’s not a picture of anything under league winner in the dictionary, because when is the last time you actually saw pictures in the dictionary…or picked up a dictionary for that matter. Either way, for the handful of remaining leagues that have Higgins available, he’s the type of guy that can set you apart. Outside of book end match ups vs. the Steelers in Weeks 10 and 15, he gets Washington, NY Giants, Miami and Dallas to end the season. All match ups where he isn’t going to go up against the alpha CB and all line up as continued double digit point games for him. If you can get someone to bite on the names of Juju Smith-Schuster or Amari Cooper, I’d gladly acquire Higgins at that price.
Mike Davis (30.2% available)
Davis was jettisoned by nearly 28% of ESPN leagues following the return of Christian McCaffrey from extended absence, but now with the news that an sprained AC joint could limit or again sideline CMC, Davis becomes a must start back again. Even with a blow up return from McCaffrey, Davis still contributed and remains FLEX relevant even if CMC weren’t to miss time. Take full advantage of league mates impatience to rid themselves of the RB9 and if you have CMC shares, it is of the utmost importance to make sure you have Davis somewhere on your team.
Eric Ebron (32.3% available)
It hurts to have some guys on your roster and Ebron is near the pinnacle of the McGill Pain Index chart. But, tight end is a vast wasteland and Ebron is one of the few guys that at least has some semblance of consistency and a situation that allows for a not insignificant floor. Steadily climbing into TE1 territory, I’d much rather try my chances during a stretch run with a guy that I feel confident can get me 10-ish points, then pay the price for premium or stomach a 2.9 from my starting lineup.
Others to eye: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenyan Drake, Darius Slayton
Have a Little Faith
There’s a track record with these guys, so it’s really about picking your spots on when and where to play these guys, but they’re above replacement level in most leagues at this point.
J.D. McKissick (65.6% available)
They can’t all be world beaters, but as Matthew Berry always says, fantasy is a game of minimizing risk and McKissick falls narrowly into that category at this point in the season. There is no ceiling to breach with this play, but when I’m navigating the doldrums of bye week hell, I find great solace in James White-lite in my FLEX. The Football Team has been much more competitive than I ever imagined they would in this lost season, but the fact remains that they are still going to trial in every game and tailing teams have a fantasy friendly tendency to check down balls and McKissick the guy that gets the bulk of those throws.
Allen Lazard (69.4% available)
Lazard hasn’t played a snap since Week 3 of this year and he is still 3rd in WR points on the Packers team. So, yeah, there’s a hole there for him to fill. He could be back as soon as this week against Jacksonville, but he’s likely close to retuning even if it’s two weeks from now. When he does return, he returns to a situation that see Aaron Rodgers yearning for a big play receiver to not only absorb targets that are currently limited due to lack of weapons, but also to provide protection for their best playmaker in Davante Adams. Think of the emergence of Christian Kirk in Arizona as a reasonable avatar for Lazard and what that kind of boost could do for your squad. Don’t be bashful when looking to move a guy like Hollywood Brown for the potential boost of a Lazard return.
Sterling Shepard (35.8% available)
Don’t look now, but Daniel Jones has been serviceable the past three weeks and a one reason is regaining the oft injured Shepard. With over 9 targets a game over the past three weeks, opportunity breeds comfort and comfort is key when plugging away at the created voids of a tumultuous season. With a tasty matchup against the Eagles before his BYE, he comes back on the other side of his rest to get the Bengals, Seahawks, Cardinals and Browns. All games that will require aerial catch ups and Shepard is healthy lock for significant usage each game. Don’t expect much in the way of booms, but he’s also a certainty for a hard left on bust games, as well.
Others to eye: Corey Davis, Mecole Hardman, Jakobi Meyers
Just Close Your Eyes
Be not afraid…but be smart with these guys. They won’t cost much, but it is up to the most discerning of fantasy manager to see where/if they fit your squad.
Jalen Reagor (85.6% availability)
Of all the low owned guys to take a shot on, why wouldn’t it be this years Eagles first rounder and a guy that can easily fill in to an offense that so desperately needs playmakers? He probably slots in above some of the guys mentioned above, so if he is still available in your league (and according to the numbers he should be), go ahead and open another tab and get him added. I’ll wait…
Ok, with that done, Reagor is a must add to give your roster a potential league winner, while parting with that back up TE you’ve been holding since week 4.
David Moore (98.2% available)
If it isn’t enough that he’s now gone two straight over 13 points, with four such games on the year, think of it this way: how else are you going to get your hands on a piece of that offense. If 2020 were to get Metcalf or Lockett, he would shoot up the must add section of nearly all waiver articles, so do yourself a favor and out-speculate your league mates, while still grabbing a FLEX worthy addition. This is another player where schedule is a huge factor as he draws at least three plus matchups in the stretch run and with Wilson and Co. showing no sign of slowing the passing attack (largely due to inability to slow down opposing offenses) think of Moore as we thought of Michael Gallup in Dallas pre-Dak departure. Steady and solid, with huge potential if given a greater role.
Salvon Ahmed (99.9% availability)
What business does an undrafted rookie on his second team of the season, have on this list? Well, as I’ve mentioned so many times before: opportunity. With Gaskin sidelined for awhile, Matt Breida banged up and Jordan Howard only relevant from the half yard line, Brian Flores needs balance for his new quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa to succeed. Ahmed was not a heavy workload guy in college, so he is relatively fresh and proved to be quite dynamic when given the ball as a Washington Huskie and last week in limited duty. We’ve seen James Robinson come out of nowhere in the first half to be outstanding and this is a better offense with a better coached team. Dig deep on this one and get to say I told you so while you’re running through the playoffs with a back you got for virtually free.
Others to eye: Alex Collins, D’Onta Foreman, Eno Benjamin
Jared Clifton – Host of Cover 3 Podcast, Editor, Writer
Ride or Dynasty