Fantasy lessons learned

It’s time to wrap things up for the 2021 fantasy football season. If you won your league championship, congratulations! One of my three teams advanced to the championship round this year, but it was not my beloved home league team. In that league, my sister-in-law, Candace Ridinger, made a statement for women playing fantasy football across the country, defeating my son, Nathan Seltzer, in the finals.  

It was Nathan who got me started playing fantasy football just four years ago. He was able to invite me in his work league since he was the commissioner. The league later became our home league. In that first season, I lost my first four matchups and then won eight in a row. I had a first-round bye even though I lost my final matchup against Nathan. I won in the semifinals and finals to complete the unlikely season.

Since that time, I have managed multiple teams and have never missed the playoffs until this year when I missed the playoffs in one of my public leagues. I have won a total of six titles. While fantasy football is fun, it can also be frustrating. The past two years have been the most challenging with the cloud of COVID hanging over us.  Entering Week 16 of the NFL season, there were 241 players on the COVID-19/Reserve list.

In the past few weeks, I have shared some specific strategies I’ve employed in managing my fantasy football team. Now, I’m going to broaden the subject to include some of the lessons I’ve learned this season. No matter how long you’ve been playing this game, you should always be learning. I’m going to focus on six players who were on my home league team. Hopefully, you can apply some of these lessons to your team next season.  

NAJEE HARRIS, RUNNING BACK

I drafted the Steelers rookie in the second round with the 17th overall pick. In the first game, he carried the ball 16 times for 45 yards and caught one of three targets for four yards. Granted, Pittsburgh’s opponent was Buffalo, but I had a case of buyer’s remorse. The following week, he carried the ball only 10 times for 38 yards and caught five of five targets for 43 yards. One of those receptions was for a touchdown, which helped him get 19.8 FP.

After the second game, I was ready to move him. At that time, I feared he was going to be a bust.  Candy offered me Chris Carson, and it took a New York minute for me to hit the accept button on that trade. The Seattle running back was RB17 in 2020 in only 12 games. The previous year, he had been RB9 and had rushed for 1230 yards and had been targeted 47 times. In 2018, he also surpassed 1000 yards and had been targeted 46 times.

That trade turned out to be one of the worst ones I’ve ever made. Harris is currently RB7, while Carson is on injured reserve and hasn’t played since week 4. Injuries are difficult to predict, and no one knows how Carson would have finished the season if he had been healthy. But the point is that I was wrong about Harris. The fact that he didn’t gain many yards between the tackles had nothing to do with his ability to be a fantasy asset.

MYLES GASKIN, RUNNING BACK

Heading into the season, I loved Myles Gaskin and was thrilled to draft in the sixth round. The 24-year-old had come out of nowhere to be the lead running back for the Dolphins the previous year before he was injured. He had also targeted 47 times in only 10 games. Heading into the regular season, there was already concerns about him being mired in a committee in Miami. But I wasn’t worried because cream rises to the top.

My fears of the committee were well-founded. After four games, he had carried the ball only 29 times. In week 4, he had two carries for three yards and wasn’t targeted. That was worth 0.3 FP, and I dropped him. Ironically, he garnered 31.9 FP the following week, catching 10 passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay. I spent one-third of my FAAB dollars to claim him off waivers the following week.      

This was just the beginning of my strange love/hate relationship with Gaskin, who seemed to be good every other week. At one point, I traded him to Nathan for Matthew Stafford. Later, Nathan traded him to Candy and then I traded to get him back several weeks ago. Needless to say, his stock has dropped dramatically in the last three weeks. Miami is one of the most unpredictable backfields in the NFL, and I will avoid it in the future. 

JULIO JONES, WIDE RECEIVER

I drafted Julio Jones in the seventh round in my home league. Frankly, I couldn’t believe he was still on the board when I made the 64th pick. Granted, he was WR44 in 2020, but he had also played only nine games. Following his rookie season in 2011, he’d been no worse than WR7 in every year except 2013 when he played in only five games. Playing for a new team (Tennessee), I knew he was going to be a starter for me – if he could stay healthy.

In week 1, he drew six targets but only put up 5.9 FP. The next week, I started him against Seattle, and he had 6 receptions on 8 targets for 128 yards. That was 18.8 FP without scoring a touchdown. I was a genius. But since that time, he hasn’t put up double-digit points in any of the seven games he’s played in. And he missed five other games because of a hamstring issue.  I finally dropped him heading into his bye week four weeks ago.  

The lesson I learned with Jones is one worth noting. The NFL is a brutal place to make a living, and injuries take their toll. In 2017, my inaugural season playing this wonderful game, Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell were the top two running backs in fantasy football. Neither one of them is 30 yet, and both of them are washed up. Jones is 32, and he’s lost a step. If he was still getting separation, Ryan Tannehill would have been targeting him more. 

JAYLEN WADDLE, WIDE RECEIVER

I drafted Waddle in the 13th round, but I didn’t fully appreciate the ability of this rookie, the sixth overall draft pick in the 2021 draft. When the Miami rookie posted his third single-digit game in his first five outings, I dropped him. He’s had only one single-digit game since then. He’s WR22 on the season and is averaging 16.0 FP per game. He’s proficient at gaining separation from defenders and has chemistry with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.  

My decision to drop Waddle was based on a faulty assumption. The assumption was that he wouldn’t be successful because there were too many mouths to feed in Miami. After all, there was Devante Parker and Will Fuller V now on the roster. Parker exceeded 100 targets the two previous years, and Fuller had just arrived in town after a career year. If I had known Fuller was only going to make cameo appearances in two games, I would have help Waddle.

There was another faulty assumption that I based my decision on when I dropped Waddle in early October. If you read my wide receiver preview columns back in August, you might recall that I predicted the wide receiver position to be “extremely deep” in 2021. At that time, I believed there would also be an abundance of good fantasy options on the waiver wire. I was wrong about that, and I was wrong about Waddle.

BUY LOW, SINK LOWER

If you play fantasy football, you’ve heard it a thousand times – buy low, sell high. In reality, this is easier said than done. If you buy low, your player may never rebound. I learned this on two different occasions with trades I made on my home league team. The first one was buying low on Allen Robinson. I won’t spend a lot of time on him because I wrote a column on him back on October 28th, and you can look it up in the archives.

The second buy-low player I traded for was Terry McLaurin. I mentioned that I had traded Candy for Gaskin several weeks ago, but I didn’t mention that McLaurin was in that trade. Candy had been trying to get me to trade Keenan Allen all season, and I finally offer Allen in exchange for McLaurin and Gaskin. At the time, I thought this was a good trade because Allen’s target share had been dropping and McLaurin had a high ceiling.

Once again, I was wrong. If I had held on to Allen, I would have had a very solid WR2 to start each week next to Stefon Diggs, who I had traded for around that same timeframe. Instead, I wound up with a wideout who has posted five straight single-digit games through week 16. Rest assured that I started him in every one of those games, which mean that I had Amon-Ra St. Brown on my bench in pivotal week 15 when I lost my quarterfinals matchup.

As we close the book on the 2021 fantasy football season, I hope you will take to heart these lessons and my advice to learn from your own mistakes. As long as you’re playing fantasy football, you will make mistakes. It’s just like life. My belief is that mistakes are unavoidable. The difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person is that the former learns from his mistakes and the latter continues to repeat them.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Dealing with uncertainty

Last week, I told you that this has been the most stressful, frustrating and anxiety-driven fantasy football season I’ve ever experienced. And it’s only getting worse. The excitement of the fantasy football playoffs lasted but a fleeting moment as everyone’s attention has been dragged toward tracking the vast number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported throughout the NFL.

Suffice it to say, fantasy managers are scrambling. To understand how bad it is, consider that the 40 touchdowns scored in Sunday’s games were the fewest in a 10-game slate since November 27, 1994. Only nine of the 20 teams playing on Sunday scored even 20 points. Three offensive powerhouses, the Buccaneers, Bengals and Cardinals, combined for 27 points between them.

To make matters worse, many key players who were active in week 15 suffered injuries. The team hit hardest was Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers’ struggles against the Saints are well documented, but what happened to them on Sunday night is unbelievable. Tom Brady was shut out for the first time since 2006, as he lost his three best offensive skill-position players in the same game.

The loss of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (who will miss the rest of the season), or Leonard Fournette would have been tough enough. But to lose them all in the same game, while also still missing Antonio Brown, was a tidal wave of bad luck they couldn’t overcome. Fortunately for the Super Bowl Champions, Evans and Fournette, who suffered hamstring injuries, should return this season.

But the news isn’t as good for their fantasy managers. While Godwin suffered a season-ending torn ACL, Mike Evans is the only one who has a chance to play next week. Meanwhile, Fournette is in danger of missing the rest of the fantasy season. Hamstring injuries are tricky, and there’s no guarantee when he’ll be back. Ronald Jones was a hot waiver wire pickup heading into this week’s action.    

While every skill position has been hit hard in 2021, no position has been hit harder than running back. Christian McCaffrey, the No. 1 overall draft pick, played in seven games before being shut down for the season after week 12. Derrick Henry, drafted in the top five, was the best back in fantasy until he was injured in week 8. He should return sometime, but not in time to help fantasy managers.  

On Monday, it was announced that the No. 2 running back in fantasy was in danger of missing the rest of the fantasy season after being placed on the reserve/COVID-10 list. That would be none other than Austin Ekeler. Justin Jackson will surely be a popular roster add this week, after he carried the ball 13 times for 86 yards and caught his lone target for 13 yards for the Chargers Thursday night. 

What this means to you is that if you’re in the semifinals of your league playoffs, the waiver wire is thin. Whether fellow fantasy managers are being proactive and building up their bench depth or your league is both deep and competitive, there are few helpful names out there. But keep in mind that all managers are in the same boat (with some luckier than others with injuries and COVID cases).

With so much riding on fantasy playoffs matchups, managers should maximize roster spots. That doesn’t mean simply filling every spot with an active player, but rather, in the current COVID-19 environment, making sure every spot is utilized in a way that maximizes your ability to make lineup decisions at every game-block lock time. I can’t stress enough how important this is to your success.

Let me give you an example. Terry McLaurin is a starter on my home league team, regardless of who the Washington Football Team is playing, or what cornerback is assigned to cover him that week. If I am going to lose my quarterfinals matchup, I’m going down with Scary Terry in my starting lineup. Then the news broke Friday that The Football Team’s game had been moved to Tuesday.

This posed a problem because all of the other NFL games will have been played by then with the exception of the Seattle Seahawks/Los Angeles Rams game. McLaurin, who was still in concussion protocol then, was listed as questionable. If he was ruled out in a game-time position, I might not have a decent alternative on the waiver wire. So, I added Van Jefferson, Jr. to my roster.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have considered Jefferson for a roster spot. It’s not that he’s been bad. He’s averaged 16.4 fantasy points in the last three games. But he’s no better than the third receiving option for Matthew Stafford against a Seahawks defense that’s given up no receiving touchdowns and the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts over the last five weeks.    

The decision to add Jefferson was a supply-and-demand problem. If I had waited until Tuesday, it was likely that Jefferson would have been gone.  As it turned out, I was able wait up until the 6 p.m. CST kickoff on Tuesday to lock that lineup spot. I finally decided to start McLaurin, but I had a choice.   

Even without the COVID madness, it’s a good idea to have options for a player with a questionable designation that has a late start that week. But in these present times, with the virus and where each matchup is “win or go home,” it’s critical. You must be prepared for anything, so take action right now. Prepare for week 16 but also look ahead to week 17 and add players that might help you.

Step one is to cut a player now that is unlikely to start for you this week, or next. At this point in the season, there is no reason to hang on to those players. Step two is to add someone at the same position at the same start time (or later). Please note that league rules vary. In Yahoo leagues, you can drop a bench player even if his game has already been played. However, this is not true in ESPN leagues.  

I recommend that you always move your questionable player with a late start time to the flex position. This is what I did with McLaurin. In this way, I could start a wide receiver, running back, or tight end in place of him. Always avail yourself of the opportunity to put your last-playing player of the week in your flex spot, maximizing your ability to move in replacements as late news breaks.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Buy an RB lottery ticket

This has been the most stressful, most frustrating, most anxiety-driven fantasy football season I’ve ever experienced. Something as simple as choosing which player to start each week has felt like choosing the red or blue pill — and I am sure I’m not the only fantasy manager feeling this way. Heading into the playoffs, I am the No. 6 seed in my home league and No. 1 with one of my public league teams. In the other public league team, I missed the four-team playoffs with an 8-6 record.

It was two months ago when I wrote about how I went from having five solid running backs to having just one – Derrick Henry – on my home league team. When Henry went down with the broken foot in week 8, I had zero. First, let me define a solid running back. This is someone you count on for top 20 RB production each week. Myles Gaskin is the running back on my home league team with the most fantasy points in 2021, and he’s RB22.   He’s the best I’ve got, and he’s not solid.

Gaskin is the poster child of inconsistency. In 13 games, he has 12.6, 8.6, 10.4, 0.3, 31.9, 3.4, 17.7, 8.5, 15.7, 5.5, 18.6, 19.2 and 6.9 FP. Until week 12, it was a predictable pattern. He was good in odd weeks and bad in even. But then he had two good weeks before craping the bed last week. In spite of that, I have had him in my starting line-up every week. But he may not even be available this week (COVID).     During this six-week stretch, I’ve had different starting running backs each week

My phone rang last Thursday morning, and my son had no pleasantries to exchange before blasting me for picking up Bears RB Khalil Herbert. He has David Montgomery rostered, and he learned that Montgomery was listed as questionable. I had already added Herbert to my team. “What is your bizarre obsession with other people’s handcuffs?” he asked me pointedly, knowing the answer to his own question. Backup running backs can become valuable in the right scheme.   

The Bears are one of the right schemes because they are a “run-first” team. Lead back David Montgomery has carried the ball 144 times in the nine games he’s played. That’s an average of 16 carries per game. Recently, the Bears started targeting him more, which makes him even more valuable. When Montgomery was out in weeks 5-8, Herbert carried the ball 19.5 times per game. That’s why I added Herbert from the waiver wire when Montgomery was questionable.    

Cleveland is another run-first team. The difference between the Browns and the Bears is that they have two running backs who are widely owned – Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. However, when both of the were ruled out in weeks 7 and 10, a guy named D’Ernest Johnson carried the ball 41 times for a total of 245 yards and scored 23.8 PPG. Hunt is injured and looks like he’ll miss week 15, but Chubb is healthy. But if something happened to Chubb, Johnson could win you a championship.  

Still another run-first team is Minnesota. Dalvin Cook, who is 100 percent owned, is the workhorse. But when Cook was out in weeks 3, 5 and 22, Alexander Mattison carried the ball 73 times for 315 yards. If Mattison was on another team, he would be an elite running back that would be drafted in the first round. But in this situation, he’s just a player that could win you a championship if Cook gets hurt again. If you’re in the playoffs, you might want to add him from waivers if he’s available.

There’s one more team that’s running the ball more is New England. Bill Belichick has been directing rookie quarterback Mac Jones to pass less as the Patriots rack up wins. Consider that the rookie quarterback only threw three passes in the Patriots 14-10 victory over the Bills right before their bye.  In that particular game, Rhamondre Stevenson carried the ball 24 times for 78 yards. If Damien Harris is still out with a hamstring injury, Stevenson is worth starting this week.  

While Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota and New England are all run-first teams, the team that runs the most is Tennessee. That’s one of the reasons why Derrick Henry was the No. 1 running back in fantasy by a wide margin. The Titans are a committee backfield now, but things have been tilting to Foreman recently. He doesn’t get many targets, but he is the red zone back. Foreman will be in my starting lineup again this week. Check your waiver wire and see if he’s available.

If you’re like me, and your fantasy team is decimated by injuries, you’re looking for a running back that could be a difference-maker. They are still out there. With Montgomery’s delicate condition, you should acquire Herbert ASAP. With Hunt likely out, Johnson could be in for a much larger snap share in Cleveland. If Mattison is still on the waiver wire in your league, get him right now with the injury-prone Cook playing ahead of him. One of your lottery tickets could pay off.   

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Fantasy playoff edge

We’re heading into the final week of the fantasy football regular season, and many of you are looking ahead to the playoffs. Others are still in contention and need to go all out to win in week 14. For those who have already punched tickets to the rounds that matter, you should be looking for any edge you can find. That’s the purpose of this edition of Doubting Thomas.

One of the edges you can utilize in the playoffs is to roster and start players with easy schedules. Of course, you are going to start your studs regardless of the schedule. But others are less obvious, and you are probably going to be agonizing over who to start and who to sit. There’s no worse feeling in the world than to see a benched player explode for a big day.  

Consider the case of Jaguars running back James Robinson, who appears to have fallen out of favor in Jacksonville. Last Sunday, he was benched early after a fumble and finished with just eight carries for 24 yards. That amounted to 2.5 FP. Perhaps, you’re considering benching him – especially with a tough matchup this week against a tough Titans run defense.

But if you look ahead, you’ll find out that he has two dream matchups against Houston in Week 15 and the Jets in Week 16. He could be amazing in those two matchups. Week 17 is the Patriots, but if he helps you get to the Championship Game in your league, you’ll be thanking me. Of course, Robinson needs to stay healthy, and the Jags need to give him his touches.

Now, consider the case of DeVonta Smith. After two awful weeks (4.2 and 3.5 FP), you might be considering dropping him in the bye week. But Smith gets Washington twice and the Giants in the fantasy playoffs. As long as the Eagles don’t run the ball on every down, that’s a great setup for Smith. He just needs six or seven targets, and I think he’ll get them.   

Okay, let’s take a dive into some of the important stats at each position:

RUNNING BACK

Before you consider strength of schedule, you must evaluate the backfield situation for the respective teams. Most of the backfields are shared backfields. But what is the snap count percentages? Another consideration is whether the team is a run-first team like Cleveland, or Tennessee. Neither Nick Chubb, nor Kareem Hunt are going to be available on your waiver wire, but and Dontrell Hilliard of the Titans are rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.

As far as strength of schedule, the team with the easiest schedule for running backs is Pittsburgh. If you drafted Najee Harris, know that the Steelers face the Titans (21st against the run), Chiefs (32) and Browns (28). If you were fortunate enough to add Cordarrelle Patterson off the waiver wire in September, you won’t want to leave him on the bench since Atlanta has the second-best schedule. The Falcons face the 49ers (27th-ranked), Lions (21) and Bills (31).

On the other hand, the team with the hardest schedule for running backs is New York. If you drafted Saquon Barkley you may want to bench him if you have a better option. Not only is his volume down this year but the Giants have the Cowboys (8), Eagles (14) and Bears (2) in weeks 15-17. Assuming he’s cleared to play, it would be hard to bench D’Andre Swift, but know that the Lions face two top-5 teams during those weeks with game also likely to work against them.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The best wide receiver fantasy football playoff strength schedule rating belongs to the Pittsburg Steelers, who face the Titans, Chiefs and Browns in the weeks 15-17. This means you can count on Diontae Johnson, but you already knew that. Johnson has been averaging 13 targets per game if you take out the Denver game. And he still scored 15.2 FP in that game!

While Johnson is an obvious must-start, Chase Claypool is less obvious. Claypool has fallen out of favor after suffering three single-digit performances in his last six games. I was surprised to see him on the waiver wire in my home league, and I gobbled him up. He has the Vikings this weekend, but then he gets the Titans, Chiefs and Browns the following three weeks. 

Unfortunately, I also have Terry McLaurin rostered on that same team. Washington has the worst schedule in the fantasy playoffs. He faces both the Eagles and the Cowboys, who are both top-five teams, allowing just over 19 fantasy points per game to wide receivers.  He’s a hard name to bench but has some awful matchups, and I might bench him and start Claypool.

QUARTERBACK

The best-ranked team for QB points weeks 15 through 17 is probably not a QB currently on your radar.  The Jets face the Dolphins (30th-ranked), Jaguars (23), and Bucs (25).  You didn’t make it to the playoffs on the back of Zach Wilson, but he might be worth stashing on your bench.  The Steeler quarterback has the second easiest schedule.  Facing three of the bottom teams (Titans, Chiefs, and Browns) makes Ben Roethlisberger another sleeper worth adding.

On the other hand, the worst-ranked team for QB projected points weeks 15-17 is Carson Wentz. The Indianapolis quarterback faces the 6th ranked team as far as QB fantasy points is concerned, the Patriots, in Week 15. Then, his weeks 16 and 17 opponents are the Cardinals (No. 2) and the Raiders (No. 17). If you were counting on Wentz, look elsewhere. 

TIGHT ENDS

Since tight end is such a thin position, it’s unlikely that you will have to make a choice about who you start. You can find running back, wide receiver and quarterback replacements on the waiver wire, but you’re going to have to dance with the one you brought to the playoffs. Hopefully, you have one of the top five or six tight ends. If not, all I can say is “good luck.”

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Waiver wire gems

Last week, I told you about a way you could still improve your team as you head into the final two weeks of the fantasy football regular season – the waiver wire. If you’re 6-6, or better, there’s still a chance to make the playoffs. But you’re going to have to work the waiver wire and take some chances.

I’m going to give you the names of ten players who are rostered in less than half of the Yahoo and ESPN leagues I play in. But first, stop reading this column and see if by some chance Alexander Mattison is available to claim. He’s 50 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues and 33 percent in ESPN.  

If you claim players in your league with FAB bids, make a large bid on Mattison (at least $25). If you play in a league where claims are filled based on waiver order, good luck. I put in a claim in one of the waiver-order leagues, and I have the 8th priority in a 10-team league. In other words, it’s unlikely I’ll get him.

As Dalvin Cook’s direct backup, Mattison shouldn’t be on the waiver wire. The Cook manager should have drafted him and kept him on the bench. Mattison, who is averaging 7.0 PPR points per game, has more than 20 FP in two weeks where Cook was ruled out. But what is Mattison’s fantasy outlook for Week 13 and beyond?

It was announced Monday that Cook suffered a torn labrum and dislocation of his left shoulder during Sunday’s loss. The injury isn’t believed to season-ending. Cook sustained a labrum tear in his other shoulder in 2019, tried to play through it for two games and then was out for two games before returning in dominant fashion.

In other words, it’s likely that Cook will miss the next two weeks and possibly additional time. I project Mattison to be a top-five fantasy back for the next two weeks. If you need a couple of wins to make the playoffs, Mattison is sheer gold. After that, the outlook for Mattison is unclear. If Cook misses time, Mattison is an RB1.  

If you are unable to claim Mattison, there are some other decent running back targets to consider on waivers ahead of Week 13. Chubba Hubbard, Jamaal Williams, Boston Scott, D’Onta Foreman and/or Dontrell Hillard. If you’re looking for Week 13 help, Hubbard, Foreman and Hilliard aren’t the answer since they have byes.  

CHUBA HUBBARD, RB, CAROLINA (39%/33.4%)

Hubbard finds himself in line to have a heavy workload after Christian McCaffrey injured his ankle on Sunday. That is his second IR designation of the season, which means his season is over. The rookie also filled in for CMC when he missed five games due to a hamstring injury earlier in the season and averaged 13 PPG.  

JAMAAL WILLIAMS, RB, DETROIT (39%/46%)

Williams’ backfield mate, D’Andre Swift, left Thursday’s game against the Bears with a sprained shoulder. The injury isn’t considered a serious one, but he could still end up missing at least one game. Williams played 63% of the snaps in Thursday’s game with Swift leaving early and would be a top-15 RB this week if Swift is ruled out.  

BOSTON SCOTT, RB, PHILADELPHIA (19%/17%)

Scott is another waiver wire option, though that situation in Philadelphia is murky. Jordan Howard missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury and Miles Sanders was limited in the second half after limping off with an ankle/foot injury. Scott led the team with 15 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown, adding three targets as well.

D’ONTA FOREMAN, RB, TENNESSEE (46%/41%)

Foreman had 19 carries for 109 yards and one reception Sunday and wasn’t even the leading rusher for the Titans. He was in one of my starting lineups, and his 10.2 FP didn’t make my day. But if he has managed to get into the end zone once or twice, it would have been a different story. He’s a good add in spite of having a bye in Week 13.

DONTRELL HILLIARD, RB, TENNESSEE (29%/27.9%)

Hilliard rushed 12 times for 131 yards and a touchdown and put up 22.5 FP Sunday in the Titans’ blowout loss. In spite of the game script, Hilliard and Foreman had 31 rushing attempts. Tennessee has been a mess without Derrick Henry, but with the volume those two are getting, Week 14 against the Jaguars could be good for both.

VAN JEFFERSON JR., WR, LA RAMS (49%/42.8)

Jefferson saw nine targets in Week 12, behind only Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham, who each saw 10. Jefferson caught three of those targets for 93 yards and a touchdown, while playing 98 percent of the snaps. He’s seen at least seven targets in three straight and four of the past five games. He’s a field stretcher, meaning his upside each week is high.

LAVISKA SHENAULT, JR., JACKSONVILLE (41%/46%)

Shenault saw a team-high nine targets in Week 12, including three in the red zone. This marked his third straight game with at least five targets. The Jags are using him in the slot more after losing Jamal Agnew for the season. Jacksonville has a favorable schedule coming up and Shenault has upside if the offense around him can get going.

MARQUEZ VALDES-SCANTLING, WR, GREEN BAY (25%/12%)

Valdes-Scantling saw nine targets in Week 12, tied for the most on the team with Davante Davis. That is a week after he saw a team-high 10 targets. This week he caught four of them for 50 yards. A week ago, he caught four for 123 yards and a touchdown. He possesses great down-field ability, and he is clearly the second option in this passing game.

KENDRICK BOURNE, WR, NEW ENGLAND (23%/15.2%)

Did you know that Bourne was WR26 heading into Week 12? He’s moved up into WR2 territory after scoring two touchdowns and 23.1 FP Sunday in the Patriots’ 36-13 win over the Titans. Unlike Jason, this Bourne seems to know his identity after putting up his second 20-plus game in the last three. He’s another boom-or-bust option.    

JOSH REYNOLDS, WR, DETROIT (1%/1%)

The Lions have been desperate for a spark in the passing game, and Reynolds gave them one Thursday. Reynolds led the team with 70 receiving yards and a touchdown on three catches and five targets, and while the volume isn’t especially impressive, it did come out to a 20% target share. The ball has to go somewhere in this offense.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, also has a weekly column at CreativeSports. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Waiver wire wellspring

In the last two weeks, I’ve given you the names of a dozen players you can trade for to turn your season around. With time running out, I now want to turn to the last remaining way to improve your team as you head into the home stretch of the fantasy season – the waiver wire. I believe that working the waiver wire can win you a championship.  

Many people believe you need to have the best selections in their respective fantasy football draft to win their league. This is simply not true.  The top picks in a draft generally gets you the top players from the previous year. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara were drafted in the first round this year because of their track records.

I don’t want to minimize the importance of a good draft, but consider that after 11 weeks, McCaffrey is RB24, Cook is RB15 and Kamara is RB10. Meanwhile, James Conner is RB5. He was undrafted in some drafts. And Cordarrelle Patterson is RB12, and he was on every waiver wire during the regular season. These are based on PPR rankings.

Again, there’s no doubt that a good draft gives you a big boost heading into the regular season in fantasy football. But a fantasy championship is won through the waiver wire. Not only is the waiver wire a great tool on a week-by-week basis but also if you’re lucky enough, you can land the next Kamara and have him as a keeper for the following year.

In 2017, I had the first pick in my home league and drafted David Johnson. He was injured in the first quarter of the first game and never returned that season. I lost the first four matchups that year, while I scoured the waiver wire each week. In week 4, I picked up Kamara. The rookie RB had gotten off to a slow start but was emerging in New Orleans.

The same week that I got Kamara, I traded for Mark Ingram. This coincided with the surprising departure of Adrian Peterson that same week. Ingram, at age 28, set new career highs with 1,124 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Kamara added 728 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and led the NFL with a 6.1-yard average per carry.

And that’s just what the tandem managed as rushers. Adding in what Ingram and Kamara did as receivers shows just how great the duo now known as “Boom and Zoom” became in 2017. Kamara caught 81 passes for 826 yards. Ingram had 58 receptions for 416 yards. Kamara was AP Rookie of the Year, and my fantasy team won a championship.

Four years later, I found myself without either of my starting running backs. As I’ve shared in this column three weeks ago, I lost first-round pick Derrick Henry to an injury in week 8. The best-case scenario has him returning in week 17. Carson, who had a neck injury and didn’t play after week 4, opted to have season-ending surgery. It’s back to the waiver wire.

Without my top running backs, I have been looking for temporary solutions to win each week. I picked up James Conner on waivers on November 6th, Devonta Freeman on the 10th, Ingram on the 11th, D’Ernest Johnson on the 12th (for a second time), Jeff Wilson on the 17th, D’Onta Foreman on the 17th and David Johnson on the 24th.

All of those acquisitions were made in the last three weeks. Before that, I picked up Alexander Mattison and used him effectively on two different occasions. I also picked up A.J. Dillon back in October but foolishly traded him for Myles Gaskin right before Aaron Jones was injured. I had also acquired Devantae Booker while Saquon Barkely was out.  

My point is that you must always utilize an opportunity to make a transaction and better your team for the following week, or for the season. In my case, I have managed to win two of my last three matchups since the Henry injury to improve my record to 7-4 in my home league. I’m currently tied for second place, but I’ve got a long way to go for a title.

Breakout players are bound to happen. Be ahead of the curve and find them on the wire. Each year, many of the best fantasy players are not even drafted in most leagues. A great example is Patterson, the Atlanta running back who came out of nowhere to achieve RB1 status. He was averaging 17.6 fantasy points per before he was injured in week 10. 

Speaking of breakouts, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not even drafted in some leagues when he broke out in 2018. That same year, Nick Chubb broke out in a big way for Cleveland. He was available on the waiver wire before the breakout. Chubb was playing behind Carlos Hyde but got his chance after the latter was traded midseason.

If you’re still in contention in your fantasy league, don’t go to sleep at the wheel. Even though we’re entering week 12, it’s still not too late to find the next potential breakout player or fantasy stud. Always utilize the tools given to you to win in fantasy football. The best thing about the waiver wire is it costs you literally nothing to use it.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Trading places, part 2

Last week, I told you about three players you should trade for and three you should trade away, as your league trade deadline approaches. I suggested that you go beyond simply looking to buy low and sell high because sometimes it’s advisable to sell low, or buy high. Look at your roster, and then look at the roster of each team in your league before making any trade offers.

This week, I am going to offer another three players you should trade for and three you should trade away. However, before we get into that, there’s another important consideration – your team record. If you’re 8-2 or 7-3, you can make a trade that might benefit you more down the road. But if you’re 5-5, or worse, you’d better make a trade that will benefit you now.

Let me use the example of A.J. Dillon. If you were fortunate enough to have Dillon rostered before Aaron Jones was injured in week 10, consider yourself fortunate. Dillon went from behind an RB4 to an RB1 in an instant. But it’s likely that he will only be an RB1 for one or two games. When Jones returns, Dillon will return to a mere mortal, putting up RB3 numbers at best.

Again, if you’re the fantasy manager at 5-5, you might want to overpay and acquire Dillon. If you are deep in wide receivers and trade D.K. Metcalf, or CeeDee Lamb, it might be worth it. That’s assuming you need an RB1 that can produce 20 or more points per game. If you have two running backs that can give you at least 15 points, you may not want to make that trade.  

With only four games left in the fantasy season, your position in the standings matters a lot.  The two games Dillon is likely to start could make a huge difference if you’re fighting for a playoff spot. I think Dillon is a top-12 RB for Week 11, and I might be short-selling him. He’s got legitimate top-five upside. But if you’re 7-3 and can get Metcalf for Dillon, you do that deal. 

If you’re 7-3 and have Dillon, moving him may not be the worst idea. Jones’ injury could linger, of course, but chances are if he’s healthy, Dillon is going to go back to being a fringe starter in a few weeks. Which won’t mean all that much to you come the playoffs. So, trying to move him for someone like Metcalf might be a really, really good idea in the long run.

As I shared in a previous column, I lost Derrick Henry on my home league team. Earlier in the season, I had also lost Chris Carson. He has a neck injury. Although he resumed practice last week, he didn’t play in week 10. His status is still up in the air in week 11. If you have Carson rostered, you have to accept the fact that he may not be back at all in 2021.  

Suffice it to say that I’ve been scrambling to pick up running backs that I can start in recent weeks. In week 9, I put in a claim for James Conner. I was surprised to find Conner on the waiver wire, recalling that he had been dropped a week earlier (probably because of byes). I got him and stashed him on my bench, where he proceeded to put up 40.30 fantasy points.

I don’t blame myself for benching Conner because Chase Edmonds was still healthy and ahead of Conner in the depth chart. But Edmonds was injured in the first quarter of that game. Entering week 10, Conner was a hot topic and I sold him on the buzz. I threw in Odell Beckham, who was gathering dust on my bench, and was able to land a big fish – wideout Stefon Diggs.

This was not an easy trade to make because Conner will be an RB1 until Edmonds returns (or Conner gets injured). But I’m looking beyond the next three or four weeks. If Diggs stays healthy, he’ll be a solid WR1 the rest of the season. This is just another example of a timely trade – one you can make right now if you have Conner rostered. Sell high if you can afford to.

Here are three more players I suggest you consider trading for:

DARRELL HENDERSON, RB, LA RAMS

For managers looking to bolster their rosters by acquiring a top-tier running back, Henderson might just be the perfect buy-low option ahead of Week 11. The entire Rams team forgot to show up the last two weeks, and Henderson had two single-digit games. Game script worked against him, but better times are ahead. Trade Conner, or someone like Michael Pittman for Henderson.

D.J. MOORE, WR, CAROLINA

When it comes to Sam Darnold, things can only get better for the Panthers. Whether Darnold starts to play better, or P.J. Walker plays better in his stead, better quarterback play will boost Moore’s fortunes. He’s had three straight single-digit games, but do you recall how he started the season averaging more than 22 points in the first four games? Buy low on Moore now.  

JALEN HURTS, QB, PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles had a pass or a sack on just 28.6% of their snaps in Weeks 8 and 9. For context, the lowest rate in the NFL this season is 49.8%. I can buy the Eagles being more run-heavy than your average team, but Hurts is going to get back to around 30 pass attempts per game and he’ll keep rushing for 60 yards per game. Try trading Kyler Murray for Hurts and a back or receiver.   

Here are three more players I suggest you trade away:

JONATHAN TAYLOR, RB, INDIANAPOLIS

I remember when people were disappointed in Taylor, back in week 3. In seven games since, Taylor is averaging 25.4 PPR points per game. That’s Christian McCaffrey territory. However, he’s averaging 1.36 Fantasy points per touch in that stretch; the best McCaffrey has ever averaged was 1.17 per touch. See if you can trade Taylor for Dalvin Cook and a good wideout.

CHRIS GODWIN, WR, TAMPA BAY

The good news for Godwin is we don’t know when Antonio Brown is going to be back from his ankle injury. But we do know he’ll be back at some point because the Bucs would’ve put him on IR if he wasn’t. Godwin is an amazing player, but he’s been beyond amazing with Brown gone.

He’s averaged 14.7 PPR points per game with Brown active compared to 26.6 with Brown out.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, BALTIMORE

I don’t understand the hype surrounding Jackson. Other analysts are saying to buy Jackson now, but I guess I’m a contrarian. He’s QB5 right now for the season, and he’s got Chicago, Cleveland (twice), and Pittsburgh in the next four games. See if the disappointed manager with Aaron Jones wants to trade him for Jackson. If you have a winning record, do this deal right now.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Trading places

We’re heading into the 10th week of the regular season for fantasy football, and if you have a losing record at this point, it’s time to take action to improve your team – before it’s too late. There no quicker way to transform your team than to complete a good trade. Everyone knows you should buy low and sell high, but sometimes it’s reasonable to sell low, or buy high. The key to a good trade is timing. Look at your roster, and then look at the roster of each team in your league. You must understand what they need before you propose a trade. The trade deadline in most leagues is between November 20th and December 1st.  

Here are three players to trade for because I think their best days are ahead of them.

STEFON DIGGS, WR BUFFALO

It’s hard to believe that Diggs has topped 100 yards only once this season. His performance in a week 9 matchup against the Jaguars was expected to be a get-right spot for Diggs, but Buffalo had their worst game of the year in Jacksonville. Diggs still caught six passes for 85 yards on eight targets. But he’s yet to break out like he did in 2020. Still, he’s averaging more than 15 points per game. Now, the Bills get the Jets at home, and I expect Josh Allen & Co. to come out on fire. There are also other favorable matchups to come, so buy low on Diggs. Trade Saquon Barkley, or James Robinson someone desperate for a running back.   

JAMES CONNER, RB, ARIZONA

Conner has been dominating carries inside the five-yard line, but Chase Edmonds has split carries with him and has been getting several targets per game. Then the news broke Monday that Edmonds suffered a high-ankle sprain and is likely to miss 4-6 weeks. When Edmonds limped off the field Sunday, Conner went to work. He carried the ball 21 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught five passes for 77 yards and another touchdown. Conner has 11 touchdowns in his first nine games. If someone would trade Conner for Antonio Gibson, David Montgomery or Michael Carter, do the deal without hesitation.

DALLAS GOEDERT, TE, PHILADELPHIA

When Goedert missed week 6 because of COVID, someone in my home league dropped him. Suffice it to say that I broke the FAB bank to land him. The reason was because Zach Ertz had been traded, and Goedert finally had his chance to be THE tight end in Philadelphia. Your window to buy low on Goedert is still open because he hasn’t been dominant yet. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is having a difficult time getting on the same page with the talented tight end, but that could end soon. If you have George Kittle, offer to trade for Goedert and ask your trading partner to throw in a running back like A.J. Dillon or Alexander Mattison.     

Here are three players to trade away because I think their best days are behind them.

PATRICK MAHOMES, QB, KANSAS CITY

There are plenty of analysts who will tell you to “buy low” on Mahomes. I will take the contrarian view. No one can doubt the talent of Mahomes, who has led his team to two Super Bowl in a row. In my opinion, you’re not going to buy low on Showtime. But it’s noteworthy that Mahomes has slipped to QB7 in fantasy this year. I could be wrong, but I think Mahomes is a depreciating asset. It’s not unreasonable to think that there might be some kind of fatal flaw in the Chiefs offense that is going to derail them this season. If you have Mahomes rostered, try trading him for Elijah Mitchell, or Mike Evans. Then stream the position.

ANTONIO GIBSON, RB, WASHINGTON

Humility is a good quality, so humble yourself and admit you made a mistake if you drafted Gibson in the second round. If you listened to the pundits and traded for Gibson sometime after the draft, you still made a mistake. He’s average 6.8 fantasy points in the last three weeks. On Sunday, he carried eight times for 34 yards and caught three passes for 20 yards. Gibson was out-targeted by J.D. McKissic 8-3 and out-carried by Jaret Paterson 11. If you’re waiting on another good game so you can sell high, it’s unlikely to arrive soon with a tough schedule ahead. Try trading him for Chris Carson, who may return from the IR this week.

DALTON SCHULTZ

Schultz is currently TE5, but his target share has been declining in recent weeks. He possesses low weekly upside, and his offensive role will continue to shrink within the Dallas Cowboys offense. There are too many mouths to feed in Dallas. The Cowboys have the second-ranked rushing attack, fueled by the revitalized Ezekiel Elliot and the emergence of Tony Pollard into a playmaker out of the backfield. This should minimize a need for a high-volume passing attack. To make matters worse, Michael Gallup is expected to return this week. Trade Schultz to someone who needs a tight end and ask for Myles Gaskin, or Jerry Jeudy.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Oh, Henry lament

When Derrick Henry left Sunday’s game with a foot injury in the first half, I was concerned.   King Henry has seemed like Superman, and I’ve worried that the incredible workload he has shouldered had finally caught up with him. But when he returned to the game against the Colts, playing 74% of the snaps and logging 28 carries, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Less than 24 hours later, my worst fear became a reality. Henry had suffered a broken foot and would be out for 6-10 weeks. I know I’m just one of thousands of fantasy managers fortunate enough to have drafted Henry on my home league team. If Henry’s on your team, you can share my pain, and I can share yours. Simply put, you don’t replace Derrick Henry. 

Okay, let’s hug it out and move on. The first decision is whether to drop Henry, or hang on to him. If you have an open IR spot, you should keep him because he could be back in time for the fantasy playoffs (week 15). If you don’t, you can drop him – unless the player in your IR spot is deemed to be expendable or replaceable. This is a decision each manager must make.  

In my case, the player in my IR spot is Chris Carson. Carson is eligible to return in week 10 and plans to practice that week. Since I didn’t want to drop either Henry or Carson, I activated the latter and moved Henry into the IR spot. If Carson can’t return to action in week 10, I have the option of dropping Henry at that time and moving Carson back into the IR spot.

After you’ve decided what to do with the corpse of Henry, you need to look at your roster and make some decisions. There’s a gaping hole in the RB1 slot, so who do you have to fill it? If you just happen to be deep in running backs, bully for you. I only had five rostered in week 8 – Henry, Carson (IR), Darrel Williams, Devontae Booker and A.J. Dillon.

I had traded for Williams a two weeks ago and picked up Booker on the waiver wire a few days later. Both were in my starting lineup and helped me win in week 8. However, I don’t see either of them as a long-term solution for me since they are second on their respective team depth charts. My conclusion was that I needed to make a trade as quickly as possible.

If you were riding the Henry wave, you may also need to make a trade. If you need a back, you need to consider whether you can trade a wide receiver, a tight end, or a quarterback for a running back that could actually be started. Again, you’re not going to replace Henry, but if you can find another RB that can put up 12-15 points, that’s a step in the right direction.   

My trade target was Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin. I have had a love/hate relationship with him since I drafted him. He’s been wildly erratic in the first eight weeks. I traded him away, traded and got him back and finally dropped him. The problem was he was locked in a timeshare in Miami, but then Malcolm Brown, one of the other running backs, went on the IR.    

Instead of just sending a trade offer, I emailed my sister-in-law, who had picked up Gaskin off waivers. “Would you be interested in trading Gaskin?” Candy has been doing very well and had accumulated the most fantasy points of anyone in the league, so I had no idea about her level of interest in making a trade. I sent her the email first thing on Monday morning.

If you’re interested in making a trade in your league, you should target a player (or players) and then determine if the manager is interested in trading. Some managers won’t trade at all. Others will only trade if they can fleece you. If you find a willing trade partner, look for a win/win trade If you have only selfish interests, you’re unlikely to strike a deal with him/her.   

My sister-in-law responded to my query with a trade offer. She was willing to trade Gaskin and Terry McLaurin for Keenan Allen and Dillon. Candy has been trying to trade for Allen since the first week of the season. I wasn’t going to trade Allen for McLaurin, but I wanted Gaskin. When she refused to trade Gaskin for Dillon, I accepted her trade offer.

On Tuesday, I prepared for an active day on the waiver wire. I put in claims for eight players, dropping three. Keep in mind that this included multiple players in order of priority. For instance, I had Boston Scott, $12; Mike Davis, $6; and Jeremy McNichols, $2 attached to Kalif Raymond. If the Scott claim was filled, the other two claims would be cancelled.

On the above-mentioned claim, I was outbid on Scott but got Davis. I also claimed wide receiver Devante Parker and running back Alexander Mattison. The players dropped were Allen Robinson and Odell Beckham. Robinson was the topic of last week’s column, and I waited until the NFL trade deadline passed and I knew he was stuck for the season in Chicago.

Davis and Parker won’t win me a league championship, but Mattison has massive upside if Dalvin Cook gets injured. I had him rostered when he scored almost 50 fantasy points in the two weeks that Cook was sidelined. Otherwise, he’s going to give you very little. Check waivers and see if he’s available to add if you have a spot on your bench.

Being short on FAB money, I didn’t bid on Adrian Peterson, who was signed by the Titans after the Henry injury.  Peterson and McNichols were both hot waiver wire pickups this week. Peterson, the 36-year-old future Hall-of-Famer, hasn’t played this year, but last season in 16 games with the Lions, he rushed for 604 yards and seven TDs.

Peterson’s physical running style is similar to Henry’s, and perhaps the Titans will lean on him. Given that he’s going to a run-heavy team, Peterson has upside. McNichols is still likely to get touches, particularly on receiving downs, but Peterson might volume his way to RB2/flex-level numbers – especially since he’s the most likely to get goal-line touches.

Peterson has remained more productive than anyone had any right to expect into his mid-30s, rushing for 2,544 yards on 4.1 per attempt in his age-33 through 35 seasons. But it might be too much to expect a 36-year-old to be a lead back, and he certainly wouldn’t get Henry’s workload. So, I didn’t bid on him. But I did offer to trade for him on Wednesday.

As it turned out, my son had just completed a trade for Cook on the same day I claimed Mattison off of waivers. I offered to trade Mattison for Peterson. Peterson will never be as valuable as Mattison would be in the event of a Cook injury. But Cook is healthy right now, and Peterson could be a starter for me next week. This could be a win/win trade.    

The bottom line is that if you lost Henry this week, your season (like mine) is circling the drain. All you can do is try to do something which is very difficult – a midseason rebuild. Take it one matchup at a time, one week at a time, and try to make the playoffs. If you can make the playoffs, anything can happen. As Winston Churchill said: “Never give up!”

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

The bye week challenge

Season-long fantasy football is a challenge for any manager. As a manager, you must navigate through the injuries to your key players and the emotional ups and downs each week. Unlike DFS, you’re not out to win just one week. Of course, you want to win each matchup, but your goal is to make the fantasy playoffs. You want to be one of the four, or six teams that qualify.

In addition to injuries, there is another challenge to overcome – bye weeks. Two weeks ago, we moved into the part of the season where bye weeks occur. Navigating bye weeks can be a cause for anxiety. During the draft, it’s enough to make sure you’re drafting the best possible players without worrying about whether or not your two stud running backs have the same bye week. 

Some would argue that having multiple starters on bye in the same week increases your odds of winning your league. It’s worth taking the loss that week if you have all of your best players playing all of the other weeks. But what if your bye week comes in Week 10 when you need the win to make the playoffs? Even if I can afford to take the loss, I don’t want to lose any week.

One of the ways to mitigate the risk of having your best players on bye the same week is to not stack players. Again, there are two schools of thought on this. Some analysts argue that if you are able to stack good players, you have an advantage. For example, you might have drafted Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, believing that the Chiefs’ passing game is golden.

I disagree with the school advocating the stacking approach. Before I continue with this, let me delineate and differentiate between redraft leagues and DFS. I don’t play DFS, but I know enough about the subject to understand that stacking is an effective strategy – especially in a tournament – because you’re swinging for the fences and need massive upside to win.

Stacking players creates volatility, but you don’t mind that in DFS because it’s always one and done. If you finish last in a tournament because you guessed wrong on your player stack, you don’t care. You move on. But if you’re in a season-long league, you can’t afford to guess wrong and move on. In my opinion, it’s too risky to have too many starters on one team.

My philosophy in building a fantasy team is similar to a stock portfolio. If I had a crystal ball, I would have bought 1,000 shares of Amazon stock on October 27, 2008. On that date, Amazon closed at $49.58 per share. Amazon is now trading well above $3,000 per share, so my $49,500 investment would now be worth more than $3 million. But Amazon could have been Enron.

I also wished I had drafted Mahomes in the 10th round in 2018. I can’t predict the future, and that’s why I diversify my stock portfolio and my fantasy team draft and waiver wire picks. Hopefully, you can understand by now that there are more benefits to diversification in your roster across many NFL teams than just avoiding the stress of dealing with bye weeks.  

But this kind of sage device doesn’t help if you’re have a bye week problem now. You probably had one last week because it was the most difficult of the nine bye weeks because six teams have byes. No other week has more than four teams off. In week 7, Buffalo, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Chargers had byes, and many stars won’t be shinning.

Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, James Robinson, Trevor Lawrence, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen were just some of the players who were not available. They were home watching the games – just like you. If you didn’t plan for this, you probably had some holes in your starting lineup.

The best way to plan for bye weeks is to have at least five running backs and five wide receivers rostered. Five of your nine starting positions must be filled with an RB, or WR. If you carry two quarterbacks and two tight ends, be sure they don’t have the same bye week. Bye weeks are a problem for me because I normally carry only one quarterback and one tight end. 

For example, Dalton Schultz, my starting tight end on my home league team, was on bye last week. Since I don’t want to drop him, I needed to add a tight end off the waiver wire. Fortunately, Dallas Goedert had been dropped the previous week when he was put on the reserve COVID-19 list. During that time, to the surprise of many, Zach Ertz was traded to Arizona.

Goedert is finally the unquestioned No. 1 tight end for the Eagles. He has huge upside, and I bid $24 of my remaining FAB budget to secure him on my roster. The second-round pick in the 2018 draft has something to prove since he is in his walk year. If I am only looking for a bye-week replacement, why spend so much FAB money? The answer is that I view him as a top 10 TE.

I can’t start both Schultz and Goedert, but I might trade one of them for a starting running back or wide receiver. In week 7, Goedert put up a respectable 12 fantasy points. This week, I left him in my starting lineup and benched Schultz because Dark Prescott was questionable for the SNF game. With that much uncertainty, I went with Goedert. He rewarded me with 13.2 fantasy points.

It all comes down to planning. You can’t plan unexpected events like injuries, but you can plan for bye weeks. My advice would be to look at your lineup now if you haven’t already done so. Look at the next few weeks and see which key players are going to be off. Then check the waiver wire and see if any who’s available as replacements. Add them ahead of time and beat the rush.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.