By AJ Weinberg
Week 7 saw a series of long term injuries to relevant fantasy players (Doug Martin, Reggie Wayne, Jay Cutler, Jermichael Finley, Sam Bradford). Just like last week, these injuries could leave you scrambling for suitable replacements. Luckily, in many cases, injury creates opportunity, and some new players will be forced into the roles of their injured teammates. Besides those filling in for their injured counterparts, there were several players with impressive performances in week 7 that warrant a waiver claim. In this article, I’ll talk about the guys that could help your squad as we head towards the halfway mark of the season.
Mike James (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RB – 0.1%): It seems possible that Doug Martin will miss the remainder of the 2013 season after he suffered a torn labrum in the Bucs Week 7 loss to the Falcons. Coach Greg Schiano mentioned he believed Martin’s injury will not end his season, however you must take everything Schiano says with a grain of salt (maybe a few grains…). At the very least, Martin will miss several weeks leaving James as the lead back in Tampa. James, a rookie 6th rounder from the University of Miami, had not been featured much at all in Tampa’s run game up until Martin’s injury. When Martin was forced to leave the game, James turned in a mildly productive game turning his 14 rushing attempts into 45 yards (he added 3 catches for 8 yards). Without much competition for touches, (the mediocre Brian Leonard and the diminutive Jeff Demps and the newly claimed Bobby Rainey are the only other rostered RBs,) James should get enough work to be fantasy relevant. It remains to be seen how good James will truly be, but any RB with the potential to get 20+ touches is well worth the waiver claim.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (Indianapolis Colts, WR - 3.8%): Heyward-Bey is another player who, like James, becomes fantasy relevant as a result of an injury to his teammate. Reggie Wayne suffered a torn ACL during the Colts’ Sunday night victory over the Broncos opening up a chance for Heyward-Bey to see more targets going forward. Heyward-Bey has hands of stone but does possess elite speed as well as having a top quarterback in Andrew Luck slinging him the ball. He had 4 grabs for 44 yards and a touchdown (as well as 1 rush for 30 yards) this past week marking his first fantasy relevant week of the season. Unless the Colts sign or trade for another receiver, Heyward-Bey will have to be targeted quite often. Look for TY Hilton to become the main receiving threat in Indy, but Luck is good enough to put Heyward-Bey on the fantasy radar. Keep in mind though, that Colts 2nd year WR LaVon Brazill has recently returned from suspension and could be a darkhorse to see a larger role going forward.
Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins, TE – 3.8%): Reed was featured on this list last week, as I mentioned he was a good stash candidate who is worth holding onto until his breakout game. Well, that breakout performance came yesterday as Reed made a mockery of the Bears defense going off for 9 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Fred Davis is an absolute afterthought in the Redskins offense, and Reed has become the clear #2 receiving option behind Pierre Garcon. Reed has quickly developed strong chemistry with Skins’ QB Robert Griffin III and they looked like an especially in sync on Reed’s nice end-zone-fade touchdown. Look for the University of Florida product to continue to produce like a TE1 from here on out.
Roy Helu Jr. (Washington Redskins, RB – 37.5%): Raise your hand if you saw THAT game coming. If your hand is in the air, (in addition to looking pretty dumb sitting in front of your computer with your hand up,) you should probably put it down, since your pants are on fire. After having a relatively inauspicious start to the year as the backup to Alfred Morris, Helu Jr. exploded for 22.6 points in week 7 thanks in large part to his 3 touchdowns (he had 11 rushing attempts for 41 yards and 1 catch for 5 yards). Helu Jr. was a popular pick last year as many assumed he would be able to carry over his 2011 and lock up the feature back role in the nation’s capital. However, those of you who drafted Helu Jr. last year got Shanahan-ed and saw Morris dominate the Redskins backfield. While Morris is still very much a major factor at RB for the Redskins, it seems like Mike Shanahan is back up to his old tricks. Sure, Morris is still firmly entrenched as the starter but he clearly wants to get both backs involved. Scoop up Helu and hope Morris slips up allowing him to ascend to the starting role.
Andre Brown (New York Giants, RB – 18.1%): Brown is eligible to come off IR and return to the Giants in week 10. David Wilson completely flopped in his efforts to become the main rusher in the Giants offense, and the G-Men are essentially out of inspiring options. Brandon Jacobs had a nice game when he got the bulk of the carries in week 6, but he’s injured and wasn’t able to suit up for Monday Night Football. The Giants added Peyton Hillis who actually had a pretty decent game on Monday night, but keep in mind that he still only ran for 2.0 yards per carry and has averaged 3.6 yards per carry since 2011. Brown is still a few weeks away but it’s becoming clear that he could have a major role upon his return to the lineup. Add him now and enjoy having an extra starting running back down the stretch.
Jarrett Boykin (Green Bay Packers, WR – 1.4%): With Randall Cobb out until at least week 15, and now Jermichael Finley potentially missing significant time, Boykin has a chance to become a major fantasy player as a starting WR in an Aaron Rodgers led offense. After struggling with drops when he stepped into action in Week 6, Boykin looked sharp in Week 7, catching 8 passes for 103 yards and a score. He flashed devastating speed on 39 yard pass play, something that has to get fantasy players excited. He may be pretty raw right now, but he has too much opportunity to not be well worth a spot on your team.
Have a question about a hot free agent not covered here? Do you think we’ve got a player pegged all wrong? Ask your questions or give us your feedback in the Comments section below.
All players discussed here are owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues.