It had been a fairly quiet year for injuries on the fantasy front this year, until this week.
While none of the losses were quite LeSean McCoy or Peyton Manning, the pool for quarterbacks got a bit more shallow (pick up a backup this week if you don't already have one), one highly-rated running back bit the dust, and one of the most dependable fantasy receivers of the last decade is out for the year.
With every man down comes an opportunity for another, and that means waiver potential. But if you're really playing the long game, you can always try to stay a step ahead.
While you can't predict injury in the NFL, you can see how offenses work, which players take frequent risk, and have an idea of who's next up when someone goes down. If you can stash the backup before an injury, you'll save yourself a lot of hand-wringing and hoping come waiver Wednesday -- particularly with running backs, whose production is generally a bit easier to predict than receivers.
A few running backs to consider if you have free space on your roster and want to play the odds on an injury down the stretch: Roy Helu - Washington (more on him in a minute), Bryce Brown - Philadelphia, Knile Davis - Kansas City, Robert Turbin - Seattle, Michael Bush - Chicago.
(For our purposes, we'll be categorizing players each week as should be added, could be added, or if you're desperate. The number of players we take a look at will vary each week depending on injuries and their realistic usefulness in the weeks to come -- no adding players for the sake of meeting a minimum.)
Should be added
Mike James, RB, Tampa Bay
The big injury winner this week, James will take over for Doug Martin in the Bucs backfield -- potentially for a long time, depending on the severity of Martin's injury. There have been conflicting reports on Martin, but he'll likely miss at least a few weeks. However, there's no reason to expect James to become a team-carrying back down the stretch. Martin wasn't having a strong year for Tampa, and he was actually a good back. Now the very-untested rookie James will take over to face the Carolina and Seattle run defenses. He'll be the starter, so he's worth an add everywhere, but I'm not necessarily buying James as a fantasy starter quite yet.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Another injury add, D-Hey-Bey will benefit from more looks with Reggie Wayne out for the year. Outside of an 0-for-6 performance against Seattle, he's caught 18-of-28 targets on the year and has been a big-play threat in Oakland the last two years. He may not be as dependable as Wayne has been for Indy, but he offers a higher upside than most receivers available in Week 8.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Another of the young group of tight ends who have stepped to the forefront this year, Reed announced his ascension to fantasy-starter caliber by catching all nine of his targets Sunday for 134 yards and a touchdown. Prior to that, he had six targets in three of the previous four games. Fred Davis, the assumed starter at the beginning of the season, has six targets on the year. Reed may develop into the security blanket the Washington offense has needed to keep RGIII from running for no reason.
Could be added
Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets
Kerley now leads the Jets in receptions and receiving yards and is second in targets on the year. He pretty much maximized his potential Sunday, catching 8-of-10 targets for 97 yards and a score, but he's shown enough to be considered as a starter on teams weak at WR or in need on bye week help.
Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
Ivory's 34 carry day against the Patriots was just more confusing than anything else. He broke 100 yards, but any running back should with that many carries and he didn't seem particularly impressive. At least, no more so than Bilal Powell had been most of the year in the Jets' backfield. Maybe Powell was dinged up, or maybe Ivory will take over lead duties in the NYJ timeshare, but either way it looks like a split-carries situation at best. I might add Ivory just to see how the reps are divided against the Bengals next week.
Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins
Helu cemented his status as a must-own handcuff for Alfred Morris owners with his three-touchdown game against Chicago, but I'm not sure he's worth much more than that. If you really need a fill in Flex play for bye weeks, you could do worse. But Morris is healthy and producing, and so long as he doesn't cede every TD to his backup, is still a top-flight RB. Helu is a good stash just in case, if you could drop some dead weight from your bench.
If you're desperate
Peyton Hillis, RB, New York Giants
While Hillis did manage to sink my team in one league this week with his vultured touchdown in the win against the Vikings, to say he's undependable long term in an understatement. The only reason he was in the game to score the touchdown was Brandon Jacobs' injury, otherwise they're largely the same player (except we've seen Jacobs can reel off a 100-yard game on the ground). Hillis wasn't inspiring running or catching the ball, and his role will be greatly reduced as Jacobs, Andre Brown, and David Wilson return from injury. At that point, invest in tea leaves to predict the Giants' backfield roles.
Josh Davis is a WFAA.com web editor, formerly covered the Texas Rangers for WFAA.com. and is kinda obsessed with fantasy sports. He has no professional expertise in fantasy sports, but finds it funny that anyone claims they do.