Keep your head (up)

Some of you may still be reeling from the most brutal injury week in recent memory. I sat and watched the injuries pile up last Sunday and just shook my head. The injury list included three starting quarterbacks, two running backs who were the top two fantasy picks in most drafts and the No. 2 and No. 4 wide receivers, according to their ADP at the start of the season. Three first-round draft picks are out for Week 3, which sent many of you scrambling for waiver wire adds.

I hope I’m not rubbing salt in anyone’s wounds with a reminder that the No. 1 wide receiver, Michael Thomas, was lost for what may be multiple games in the first week with high-rankle ankle sprain. Joining Thomas on the missing-in-action list are Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. McCaffrey, who also suffered a high-ankle sprain, is expected miss 4-to-6 weeks. But Barkley won’t be playing through a torn ACL. He’s out for the season – a devastating blow for the Giants and fantasy owners.    

As far as the three quarterbacks are concerned, I can tell you this. Since Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are not on the list, it’s no big deal. If you’re counting on Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, or Tyrod Taylor to lift your fantasy fortunes, you don’t know much about fantasy football. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – a quarterback won’t make or break your team. I picked up Cam Newton off the waiver wire in Week 1. Do I really need to say more?

But there’s a good chance your fantasy team is still in turmoil as Week 3 starts. My first piece of advice is to go back and read (or reread) last week’s column, “Relax, it was only Week 1.” I encouraged everyone last week to not go on tilt if things were not going their way. Just to recap, going on tilt is a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their emotions affect the way they play. The poker player might have just had a bad beat on a hand and is playing recklessly, trying to get even.

If you lost Barkley, you also suffered a bad beat. But the season is not lost. Three years ago, I lost David Johnson, the No. 1 overall draft pick, in the first quarter of the first game. I still managed to win my league title – but it took a lot of work and a measure of luck. I picked up Alvin Kamara off the waiver wire and traded for Mark Ingram. Kamara and Ingram, teammates on the New Orleans Saints that year, were both weekly starters on my team. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to the aforementioned Barkley and McCaffrey, there was another star running back who went down last Sunday. Anyone who drafted Raheem Mostert had to be feeling good about things until the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. Mostert, who had put up 25.1 fantasy points in the first week for the San Francisco 49ers, had 18.7 when he went down with an MCL strain. He had rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries.

I had Mostert on my draft board but didn’t pull the trigger on him in the fifth round because I had already rostered three running backs. I admit I also had concerns about his volume with the committee approach in San Francisco. The 49ers have Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson vying for time, but Mostert is clearly cream of this crop. With Mostert likely out this week, you should consider trading for him. I made an offer myself but it was turned down.

One additional note on all of this madness. I hope you didn’t rush to the waiver wire to claim Devonta Freeman, who signed with the New York Giants Tuesday. Freeman isn’t going to rescue your season. And forget Dion Lewis, too. I bid $11 of my FAAB money and picked up Jerick McKinnon. He had three rushes for 77 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and Coleman is out for a month after suffering a knee injury. McKinnon’s stock value drops when Mostert returns.  

Another running back that I added in another league was Mike Davis, who went from being McCaffrey’s backup to a top target in free agency this week. He’ll be the Panthers’ primary running back until McCaffrey is able to return. Although Davis had eight catches last week on eight targets for 74 yards, he only had one carry. I don’t see him as a true handcuff for McCaffrey, and that’s why I didn’t draft him when I took McCaffrey as my No. 1 pick in that league. 

Let’s shift our focus now to the wide receiver conundrum. The top wide receiver who was injured Sunday was Adams, also on my fantasy team with McCaffrey. Did I have a bad day on Sunday, or what? Adams’ hamstring strain is considered minor, but he is questionable for Sunday night’s game at New Orleans. This is a situation that all Adams owners must closely monitor. We need to hope that Adams is either ruled in, or out, before earlier games are played on Sunday.

The other elite wide receiver fighting through an injury a hamstring injury is Julio Jones. Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said that his star wide receiver further strained his hamstring in Week 2 against the Cowboys, and the team will take his injury “through the week,” leading up to the game on Sunday against the Bears. So, there’s a good chance Jones won’t play this weekend. And, yes, I have Jones on one of my teams, and I do have a backup plan in place.

This leads me to an important point on the subject of team management. If you want to win your league, you must watch for injury reports and pregame news so you don’t get stuck with an inactive player in your starting lineup and take a zero. If you have a player labeled “Q” on the day of the game, and he is playing in a late game, you must be careful. You may not know if that player is going to play until after the early games have started so a lot of your bench may already be locked.

The Adams situation is a textbook example of this risk. If Adams is in a WR spot in my starting lineup after the other games are played, or lock, I could be forced to go to the waiver wire to replace him. My pool of players would be limited to Packers and Saints free agents, or those still available in the Monday night game. To make matters worse, I would have to drop someone. If all of my players are locked, I’m stuck taking a zero. That’s why I put Adams on my bench until I know he’s active.  

While Adams and Jones were the big-name wideouts injured last Sunday, there were others. Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos saw his season come to an end. Sutton suffered a torn ACL in the game against the Steelers. I called Sammy Watkins fool’s gold in a recent tweet, but he was a popular waiver wire target. The Chiefs wideout took a vicious hit to the head during Sunday and is questionable. Playing on Monday night, the first practice report from the Chiefs will be out on Thursday.

To sum it all up, I exhort you, while borrowing some words from the late, great Rudyard Kipling. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs (that’s Kipling), and blaming fate or a random draft order for their lot in life, you can win your league title and everything that comes with it. And – which is more – you’ll be a Man (or Woman) my son (or daughter). That’s a liberal mixture of Kipling and Doubting Thomas, but I encouraged you to heed these words. 

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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