Fantasy owners everywhere are panicking over the slew of injuries that ran through the NFL during Week 3. A few big names such as LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles missed time this week, but are looking like they'll be back for Week 4. Instead, it was a core group of role players who found themselves on the season-ending IR Tuesday morning. Despite being middle-round picks during fantasy drafts, these are the guys that earn victories with big weeks, and prove to be hardest to replace. Not sure where to turn on the waiver wire? We've got your back:
Danny Woodhead, RB (SD)
The tiny speed-back had a gruesome lower-leg injury on a run up the middle during the first quarter of this week's game. He has already undergone surgery on a fractured fibula and ankle and will be lost for the rest of the season. Ryan Matthews, who shared backfield duties with Woodhead in San Diego, is set to be out 3-4 more weeks with an ailing knee. Enter Donald Brown. The former UConn product was looking like a fruitless signing in the off-season, but is now thrust into a starting role. This seems eerily familiar.
Throughout his time in Indianapolis, Brown was called upon by struggling backfields on more than one occasion. He's had a good deal of success, averaging over 4 yards per carry for his career. He has a nose for the endzone too, crossing the goal line 6 times last year on just 102 carries. For the next couple of weeks at least, he'll be the go-to guy on a San Diego offense that has really been clicking. He's the obvious choice to replace Woodhead if necessary, but if you'd rather jump off the Chargers bandwagon, there are probably a few names out there that can put up respectable numbers on a weekly basis.
Recommended low-level RB targets: Donald Brown (SD), James Starks (GB), LeGarrette Blount (PIT), Khiry Robinson (NO), Lorenzo Taliaferro (BAL)
Dennis Pitta, TE (BAL)
Just as we recommend the Ravens' back-up RB as a nice pick up for next week, we have to break the bad news in Baltimore. Pitta suffered an ugly hip dislocation on the same hip he had surgically repaired last season. He'll miss the rest of the year, and could have a tough road back to the field. The tight end field is a barren wasteland in fantasy this season, so Pitta owners better buckle up for a tough year.
Owen Daniels, Baltimore's backup tight end, used to be a solid option when he was in Houston, but he's not really that guy any more. He could net a couple of touchdowns as the year goes on, but other than that, don't expect him to be involved much in the offense. You're better off getting away from the Ravens for this one. The one factor that may be working in his favor is his old head coach, Gary Kubiak, who's the new offensive coordinator. Still a risky play.
If we had to choose one guy who is probably available, we'd snatch up Heath Miller. He's the furthest thing from a boom-or-bust player. Miller is Ben Roethlisberger's safety blanket in Pittsburgh, and has racked up 4 catches in each of his games this year. Last season, Miller found the endzone just once, but secured at least five receptions in seven of his 14 games. We know, those numbers aren't exactly dazzling, but compared to what's on the wire, you should consider yourself lucky to get consistent production at this position.
Recommended targets: Heath Miller (PIT), Jared Cook (STL), Coby Fleener (IND), Dwayne Allen (IND), Owen Daniels (BAL)
DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert, RB (CAR)
Carolina's backfield completely imploded this week. DeAngelo Williams didn't play at all with a nagging hamstring injury. As if that's not bad enough for a 31-year-old running back whose best years are behind him, both of his backups went down as well. Stewart is perennially injured, and Ron Rivera told the Associated Press Monday that Stewart's already troublesome knee is "severely sprained." Mike Tolbert, the converted fullback, stepped into action when Stewart went down against Pittsburgh. He looked good too, until the injury bug bit again. An x-ray revealed a fracture in Tolbert's right leg, and he'll be out a while.
We can't stress enough to stay away from the Panthers' RB situation. Williams may return soon, so play him if you have him, but don't go out on a limb to pickup fourth-stringer Fozzy Whittaker. Just because he'll be on the field doesn't mean he'll offer production. In fact, Cam Newton will probably absorb most of those carries. Let's go off the board:
Of course, running backs get snatched up quickly, so if you can't grab any of the five guys we named above, you'll have to hope to catch lightning in a bottle. If you're going for boom-or-bust, speed backs are usually your best bet. If you're really that desperate, try to nab some of these guys...
Recommended targets: Dexter McCluster (TEN), Roy Helu Jr. (WAS), Jaquizz Rodgers (ATL), Jordan Todman (JAX), Antone Smith (ATL)
Nobody wants to rely on fantasy free agents to win weeks, but with BYE weeks coming, owners would be smart to put some time into their decisions. Every championship fantasy team generally has a well-chosen injury replacement on their squad. Give these moves careful thought, it could make or break your year.